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Having lived in the UK all of my life (well, apart from travel) I’ve seen quite a fair bit of it, especially the north. Whether that’s been through days out, local holidays or working. I feel I have lots of relevant knowledge and experiences to share with anyone who wishes to visit the UK. I’ll try my best not to be bias!!
With the pound being weak at the moment due to Brexit, now could be the best time to visit the UK that there will be for many years.
In 2016, over 36 million people visited the UK from overseas, spending 22 billion and this is expected to grow to over 57 billion by 2025. The UK is ranked 6th in the world for tourist spending.
I find this pretty unbelievable as a resident of the UK, when I spend my time trawling the net for places to visit I tend to be drawn to sunshine, beaches and cheap exotic food. Not cold, rain and expense. So why do people visit the UK!? It seems one pretty big driving factor is HISTORY! And history is the one thing that the UK is steeped in. Anywhere you go, England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales… You’ll find history where ever you look.
Now, my younger self was never really one for history but the older I get the more intrigued I become. There’s something about the way that our ancestors before us scraped a living from the land, the architecture, the invasions from other civilizations and the remnants they left behind. It all just fascinates me.
Another amazing factor that drags people to the UK has got to be our unique landscape. From the beautiful beaches of Cornwall, the majestic waters of the Lake District to the rugged mountains of the Highlands in Scotland and everything in between.
With all that said, I shall be spending the next couple of months travelling around Britain sightseeing. Some of it I have seen before and not appreciated and some of it is completely new to me. Before we get into all that, I’m going to run through some important things you should know before you visit the UK.
Getting the right visa, tourist vs working holiday.
As per the heading above, when visiting the UK there are two main visas to be looked into. Here’s a quick gist of what there about so you can decide which will suit you best:
Standard visitor visa:
For most “holiday makers” this is the one to go for. It allows you to travel around the UK for up to 6 months and costs £89. The earliest you can apply for this visa is 3 months before you’re due to arrive and it can take up to 3 weeks to be processed, so don’t leave it until the last minute.
You’ll need 2 blank pages in your passport for your visa and your passport must be valid for all the time you plan to stay in the UK.
Working holiday visa:
This visa, for someone who wishes to carry on travelling after visiting the UK or at least fund their UK trip is the one to go for. Get the right job in the UK for 2 years and you’ll be able to travel around and still save a fair chunk of money to fund future travels.
As it stands at the minute if you’re from the EU then visas don’t matter as you have the right to work in the UK. That could all change in the future, with brexit!!! For people outside of the EU, the only countries that can apply for the UK working holiday visa are:
- Hong Kong
- Republic of Korea
- New Zealand
Also, known as the “youth mobility scheme”. This visa allows you to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years.
You must be between the ages of 18 and 30. If you turn 31 while in the UK you can still stay for as long as your visa is valid.
You must have at least £1890 in your bank account upon arrival to prove you can provide for yourself until you manage to find work.
The UK working holiday visa costs £235 to apply. Applications can be done a maximum of 6 months before the date you arrive and again, take up to 3 weeks to be processed.
On this visa you can do pretty much any job that you can get into, the only limitations are, you can’t be a professional sports person or doctor/dentist. Even setting up your own business is a possibility, just as long as you don’t have assets worth in excess of £5000 and you don’t have any employees.
For all visa information and to apply for your visa click here.
Cost of living – Not as cheap as you’d hope!
As far as countries go, the UK is far from the cheapest! Especially if you want to stay in London or any other major city for that matter. Like anywhere else, you can visit the UK on a backpacker budget of dorm rooms and super noodle butties or you can throw caution to the wind and decimate your life savings in a few months. Everyone has their own preference, so for this article I shall try to cover as many bases as possible:
- Hostel dorm: Between £10 and £20 per night.
- Bed and breakfast: Start at £20 per night in places like Blackpool and run all the way up to around £100 per night in the countryside.
- Hotels: Hotels like the premier inn chain start at around £60 per night (book early to get cheap deals) all the way up to £300 per night for a posh boutique hotel in London.
- House share: For £75-110 per week you can rent a bedroom in, say a 4 bedroom house. Most landlords normally want you to stay for at least 3 months, so only really works for people on a working holiday visa once you’ve found a steady job.
- Cafe: For your standard “greasy spoon” cafe a “full English” will set you back around £5-10
- Pub Dinner: Your average pub dinner will set you back between £10-20
- Mid-range restaurant: A decent meal with starter, pudding and a couple of drinks in a middle of the road restaurant will cost you between £35-60.
- Pint of lager: Depending on what you like to drink, you’ll be looking around £2.80-3.50 a pint. £1.50 per pint if you’re drinking at home.
- Glass of wine: Again, depending on what and where you drink it’ll be around £3-8 a glass. 700ml bottle starts at about £5.
- Shorts: for example a vodka and coke will be in the region of £2.50-7. 700ml bottle of vodka for £15 and a 2l bottle of coke for around £2.
- Taxi: Taxi’s in the UK are not the cheapest, to go 5 minutes/2 miles through a city you’ll be looking at around £5-8 depending on what time of day it is. Late nights and weekends being the most expensive.
- Bus: The bus/coach infrastructure in the UK is pretty good. Fly into any of the major airports and you’ll be able to get to any destination via bus or coach without too much hassle. Local buses cost around £2-3.50 to get from the suburbs to the city centre.
- Train: The train network in the UK is pretty good but also pretty expensive. Find yourself on one of the main routes at rush hour, you may not be getting that seat that you paid for. I must admit the train is my least favorite way of getting around, late, overcrowded and fairly expensive are just some reasons I’ll avoid the train like the plague.
- Hiring a car: You can hire a small car for around £40 per day. Great if you want to go on a road trip or travel the UK for a few weeks. Throw in a tent and stay on campsites (£5-15 per night) is probably the cheapest way to see the UK.
- Hire a campervan/motorhome: If you’re just planing to stay for a month or two and wish to see as much as possible, then this is the way to do it! Well, as long as it’s not winter that is. -5 in a campervan is no fun. You can rent a 4 person motorhome from as little as £420 a week, split that between four of you and it’s pretty good value for money, plus it gives you much more freedom.
Weather – And this is where it all falls down!!
What to say about the British climate!? In a word…. CRAP!
I recall growing up as a kid, England still, sort of had seasons. Frosty in winter and well, tepid in July. Now all we get is anything in any month. Especially this week, as I’m writing this the UK is still recovering from the worst weather we’ve had in years. The beginning of spring where we should be seeing 10c+ it’s been -5c and 7 foot snow drifts, carnage across the UK.
Trying to book a good time to visit the UK weather wise, is just simply impossible! If I was held a gun point and had to say a period of best weather I would hesitantly say between May and September. It’ll probably still rain but at least it shouldn’t be too cold and you never know if you’re extremely lucky it could be glorious, sunny and 20c+.
Things to experience:
There are many things that make the UK wonderful, too many to mention in fact so here’s just a few that you must experience when you visit the UK:
- A Sunday roast: Head to any of 275 Toby Carvery pubs across the UK on any day, at anytime pay £5.99 for your choice of roast beef, honey and mustard glazed gammon or slow cooked turkey. All served with wholegrain mustard mash, “roasties” (roast potatoes), Yorkshire pudding, gravy and unlimited veg!!
- Fish and chips strolling down the promenade: Just watch out for them seagulls, like chip assassins they are! Brazen enough to snatch food straight out of your hands.
- The British sense of humor: Just talk to us, you’ll be subjected to it alright!
- Tea and scones: Well that’s what us Bits do isn’t it!? Go to tea rooms, eat scones and drink tea… I don’t even like scones but they certainly are British so go try them out!
- London Hackney Carriage: You can’t go to London without taking a black cab ride. Odds are you’ll experience the British sense of humor at the same time. Win! Win!
- Guest Ales: Go to any British pubs and try some guest ales. Normally from small breweries, they have a very distinct taste and some weird names, “Waddle it be”, “Back, sack & quack” etc.
Is it safe to visit the UK?
On the whole the UK is a pretty safe place to visit. One of the safest places in the world in fact. Looking at the statistics, between 2000 and 2017, 126 people were killed by terrorists compared to 1800 that die on the roads each year. Over the last couple of years there has been a few terrible terrorist attacks that have shaken the confidence of some travellers but the numbers of foreign holiday makers is up year-on-year.
The thing I would say to watch out for is pick pockets in places like subway stations, shopping centers, basically anywhere that is busy with lots of crowds. Keep pockets zipped and backpacks locked.
To sum up…
All in all, the UK isn’t the cheapest place to visit, nor is it the sunniest. The one ace up our sleeve is the history, more history than most places I would say. Also I have to say some of our landscape is second to none! So bring plenty of money, visit in late summer and you’ll have a fantastic time.
I hope that this post has answered a few questions you have about living/visiting in the UK.
Over the next 2 months I shall be visiting a few places dotted around the UK starting next week in the Lake District. Prepare for many reasons you should visit the UK.