20 Things Americans Need to Know When Traveling to Britain

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traveling to Britain

If you’ve been following my Instagram feed, you’ve likely caught on that we just returned from an awesome 10 days in the UK. Our trip started by flying into Heathrow, taking a train to Glasgow, driving, taking a ferry and more driving into Islay (where we actually stayed in Bruichladdich Distillery instead of a hotel!), then back south to Moffat, Sheffield, Gorleston on the Sea, and finally back to London. It was a wonderful whirlwind that I’ll share with you over the next few weeks. Since it had been several years since I’d been to Britain, there were a few things that I had forgotten which would be helpful for any American traveling there for the first time, or as a refresher. Here’s my running list of “need to knows.”

What to know about traveling in Britain

 

  1. There are sheep everywhere. No seriously, everywhere.
  2. Americans travel with way more luggage than Brits. Most of the cars on the road wouldn’t hold one piece of a traveling American’s luggage.
  3. Brits all carry backpacks. If you see someone in the train station without a backpack, they are not a native Britton.
  4. It rains every other minute. Don’t wait to take that photo until a more convenient time because you’ll be juggling an umbrella as well as a camera and wondering what filter you can use to make it look like it did 30 minutes ago when the sun was out.
  5. “Service stations” (gas stations) have baristas. Ferries have baristas. Britain is barista-friendly.
  6. Even with a converter plug, your American hair dryer will short out upon the initial 2 seconds of use.
  7. The Brits don’t believe in putting outlets in areas of convenience, like next to mirrors, in the bathroom, or where you can reach them without getting on all fours and rearranging the furniture.
  8. If you think you have enough maps, you don’t. Everyone wants to look at YOUR map. Don’t even get it out because someone in your car will want to look at it and will not give it back. This includes the people in the car who can barely read.
  9. Don’t bother using a flat iron on your hair. Between the double team of the wind and the rain, you will be donning a hat within a few minutes of stepping outside. It is fruitless.
  10. Prices seem quite reasonable until you factor in the exchange rate. Americans get screwed on the conversion. Expect that you are actually paying double for everything. And of course that varies day by day. Good luck with keeping up.
  11. When making reservations in a hotel, make sure they are “en suite” or your potty will be down the hall and shared by the other guests as well, reminiscent of your younger days at camp.
  12. When asking for a child’s rollaway or cot, you will receive a pack-n-play crib. If your six year old is too big for such, be sure to request a “travel bed.”
  13. Brits don’t tip as high as Americans. 10% is still considered perfectly acceptable in Scotland. In England we were told people don’t really tip, although we never had one refused.
  14. There are no fans in the bathroom. This is apparently how the Brits heat the hotel rooms. They do have radiator type things in the bathroom but it’s beyond me how they even work.
  15. Furthermore, there are no thermostats in hotel rooms so you have no idea how cold you actually are.
  16. The shower faucets have considerably more controls and are accompanied by zero instructions, much like the radiator thingies. You might figure out how the contraption works after you’ve sprayed yourself with water and completely drenched the pajamas that you have to put into your suitcase in the next 30 minutes.
  17. Brits do not use washcloths. Weird. Especially when trying to remove makeup.
  18. “Lemonade” to the Brits is the equivalent of our Sprite, which they also call, “fizzy juice.”
  19. Another thing they don’t have? Ice. I only recall one instance where we received ice with a drink and I suspect that was because they knew we were American.
  20. They will call you out as American just by the clothes you wear, possibly because your jeans are not painted on and your dress falls somewhere thigh length. I’m sure the DSLR hanging around your neck has nothing to do with it. 🙂

Sheep on Islay Scotland

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2 Comments
  1. karen spicer says

    Fantastic !!! Very funny……and true!

    Can’t wait to read your next instalment…..

    1. Trista Perot says

      LOL, Thanks Karen! We had such a great time!

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