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No trip is complete without a spontaneous adventure or two. Nevertheless, it’s nice to be prepared with some tips and tools to make your overseas’ stay more fun. We’ve come up with 13 pieces of British intel to help you cross the pond with ease.

The Tube

Known as “the Tube,” the London Underground is the best way to get around the city in a jiffy. One-day, 7-day, monthly or annual travelcards, or the handy pay-as-you-go Oyster Card, will save you time and money. Find maps, timetables and ticket options for the Tube, buses, trams, rail lines and ferries at Transport for London.

Half-Price Show Tickets

London’s weekly entertainment guide, Time Out Magazine, and the London Theatreland website both list current shows for London’s busy theater and musical schedule. Discounted or half-price tickets are available at the tkts booths in the center of Leicester Square and Brent Cross Shopping Centre, on the day of the show or up to a week in advance.

London 2012

London plays host to the Summer Olympics in 2012. But now is the time to start planning your journey to combine a trip with events. Tickets go on sale via authorized ticket resellers in the spring of 2011, depending on your country of residence. Details are still forthcoming. Sign up for ticketing news and information as it becomes available at London 2012.

Capital Sleep Savings

To save on accommodations in London, venture away from the city center and stay in a suburban B&B within walking distance of a Tube station. If you must stay in the city center, do so over the weekends when rates are lower (rooms are more expensive mid-week because of the number of business travelers).

Rainy Days

Precipitation is always on the horizon in the U.K., no matter the season. Dress in layers, take a sturdy umbrella (like our Flat-Pack Umbrella) and pack the appropriate raingear: a long raincoat for traversing city streets (Women’s Packable Shawl-Collar Raincoat) or a waterproof windbreaker for jaunts in the country (Women’s Anorak Rain Jacket).

English Terms

  • The first floor in England is what we know as the second story in North America
  • An orderly line is known as “a queue,” and the British take them seriously
  • A “fortnight” means two weeks
  • Terms of endearment are common. Expect any of the following in different parts of England: dear, dearie, flower, love, son, mate, duckie, guv, chick or chuck

Credit Cards or Cash

While high-end and chain hotels, retailers and restaurants accept credit cards in England, many other businesses do not. Carry enough cash to cover payments at smaller B&Bs, restaurants, shops, pubs, and markets, as well as for cab fare. ATMs offer the best conversion rates, but you’ll likely incur bank fees each time you withdraw.

Pub Grub

English pubs offer cheap fare and a good brew for all walks of society. Thousands of these welcoming establishments dot the country with all manner of flavor and ambience. The Good Pub Guide sorts pubs by location and name as well as by beer, wine, stay, food and price award.

Traditional Bed & Breakfasts

Generous breakfasts, affordable rates and local flavor make B&Bs a great choice for lodging in England. Some things to know:

  • Quoted rates are usually per person, not per room
  • “Double rooms” have one double bed, while “twin rooms” have two beds
  • Proprietors prefer renting double rooms to two people. Single travelers pay more to occupy a double room if no single rooms are available
  • Expect bathtubs in most B&Bs, not showers
  • “En suite” rooms have a private bathroom; traditional rooms share a bathroom in the hall
  • B&Bs may only take cash for payment


Known as soccer to Americans, football in England is rowdy and rich in tradition. It’s worth attending a match for a sense of England’s spirit and pride, as well as a glimpse of world-class sport. To see the top-tier clubs, visit the Premier League’s website for schedules and ticket information—and be sure to book in advance. The season runs from August to May.

Things to Know about Pubs

  • Most pubs in England open at 11 a.m. and serve alcohol until 11 p.m. (Sundays: noon to 10:30 p.m.).
  • Always order drinks at the bar and pay in cash after each round.
  • Indicate the type of beer you want (stout, bitter, lager) and the quantity: a pint (approx. 19 oz., known as an “Imperial pint”) or a half-pint (approx. 9 1/2 oz.).
  • It’s not customary to tip bar staff—if you’d like, ask if you can buy the bartender a drink. If accepted, the drink will be added to your total.
  • Table service for food exists at some pubs, but not always—and almost never for drinks.
    A “bar snack” is not really a snack, it’s a one-item meal.


Drive outside of the major tourist destinations for a sense of the real England. Almost every town in England has a Tourist Information Center with maps and suggestions for local B&Bs, pubs and sights to see. Take a walk on one of the many networks of public footpaths in the countryside and around villages for local flavor.

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