These tips are probably nothing that hasn’t been printed somewhere else but it is stuff I learned the hard way and if you’re not smarter or more experienced than me I would save you the trouble.
Travel Tips Specific to England:
- For most of England you don’t need a car. I repeat you DO NOT need a car. Americans want to drive but fight that desire you will be glad you did. The trains are easy to figure out and the English people are helpful. The Tube in London is also easy to figure out, I haven’t ridden a bus yet but they look pretty easy too and they go everywhere. Taxis are also easily available. I think the only reason to get a car is to drive around the countryside but if you plan well you can find bus tours for that. I am glad I had the car for the places I went in Wales and to a lesser extent the Cotswolds, but I noticed what appeared to be bus stops in what I would consider the middle of nowhere in Wales and it seemed almost every town I went to had a train station. So again I probably didn’t need a car.
- If you think you have to rent a car. Be aware the driving on the left thing is a big pain. I drove around GB for four days and was a nervous wreck the first two. I never got comfortable with it. Not only does driving on the left go against your deeply ingrained driving habits; you will naturally after making turns etc. want to go to the wrong side of the road. Road signs are different here, while you can figure most of them out, a few were not intuitive to me and I never figured them out. There is one that is a blue circle with a red “X” in it which seems to mean “Do not enter” but that is not what it means. Turns are a pain, the left turn here is like the right turn at home and visa-versa, in that here when you turn right you have to worry about oncoming traffic. Also you have a natural tendency to look the wrong way first when entering traffic. Streets here also tend to be much narrower than the US and often there is not room for two cars at one time, again this is something that is hard to get used to. The last issue I noted with driving is that people here park on the streets pointing both directions. In the US if you are confused about whether you are on a one way street or not you can tell by the way the cars are pointing, that doesn’t work here and in fact is often misleading. Personally unless I am going to stay here for an extended time period I would not drive here or rent a car again.
- Related to driving is crossing streets. You have to be careful here because you naturally want to look the wrong direction for oncoming vehicles. This can lead to disaster when you step out in front of one of the many buses. Also related is walking on the sidewalks, stay away from the street side as again you will be looking for oncoming traffic the wrong way. I about got beaned in the head with a wide rearview mirror on one occasion and that cured me of walking close to the street.
- Pack for the weather. I think I can be excused for this since I came here from the desert and it was a last-minute decision. However, be aware that it is probably going to rain while you are here. I think it rains here more than is doesn’t. Bring at least a light waterproof overcoat of some sort and a water-resistant hat. Your shoes should also resist the water. Although it rains a lot the temperature was usually pleasant if a bit cool. I would definitely bring a sweater of some sort that you can take off easily. The rain here also seems pretty intermittent, it will mist, then rain lightly, then rain hard, then mist, then clear up. Deal with the rain, you won’t melt and if you wait for good weather to do anything you will be in your room the whole time.
- I found the English people to be for the most part very friendly and willing to help. Although we speak the same language I have a hard time understanding a lot of them and even the ones I could understand use a lot of phrases that didn’t compute with me. You have to remember you are the one with the accent and this is their country but communication can be a challenge. I notice they seem to understand me just fine for some reason though, I was corrected on my pronunciation of “tomato” and “potato,” and “Gas Station” seems funny to them. One of the hosts at a B&B I stayed at seemed very troubled that I didn’t have a favorite “football” team.