England Tourist Information and Tips
Currency is Pounds Sterling (GBP). Euros are sometimes accepted as well (particularly in larger stores), but it is best to assume otherwise. Note that although Bank of England notes are accepted all over the United Kingdom, you may have trouble with using Northern Irish and Scottish notes in England due to shop staff being unfamiliar with them.
Credit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted, though debit cards with the Maestro logo are also taken. American Express cards are accepted in fewer establishments, but most restaurants will accept it. Credit cards with a Chip and PIN have become nearly compulsory. Credit card agreements mostly require merchants to accept cards with a swipe and signature, however, it is wise to carry enough cash in case the retailer does not comply.
One thing to keep in mind, is that due to credit card surcharges, some establishments and shops will only allow cards to be used (including debit cards) over ?5 or 10
Students from countries within the European Union do not require a visa to study in England. Most cities have at least one institute of higher learning. Home and EU students have to pay tuition fees (presently capped at ?3225 + inflation/year. Students from outside of the EU have to pay fees that can reach several times those for home students.
Options for short-term employment include bar tending and waiting tables as well as more specialised work such as in the high tech / computer industry. Visitors from Commonwealth countries will have a much easier time getting a work permit, especially those under 30 as there are several programs.
Citizens of countries belonging to the European Union (Germany, France, Spain, etc) do not require a permit and are free to live and work in England, however, certain restrictions currently apply to certain new EU member states (such as Bulgaria, Romania, etc), so you will need to check this out before travelling.
In any emergency call 999 or 112 (from a land-line if you can) and ask for Ambulance, Fire, Police or Coast Guard when connected. If you need more than one service that includes an ambulance (e.g. a road collision) then ask for Ambulance and they will contact the relevant services themselves.
England, by and large is a safe place to live and visit, violent crime against tourists is rare, however you should always use general common sense to ensure you keep out of trouble. In most of the major cities, you will find outlying suburban and inner city areas where poverty, crime and gang violence are common. These areas can be particularly dangerous and should be avoided. Again, common sense is the best way to stay safe. Having said that, it is unlikely a visitor would end up in such areas anyway.
Crime rates are generally very low in rural areas, although some small poorer towns can be surprisingly rough. Take care when driving on country lanes as they can become very narrow and the lesser travelled ones are often in poor condition.
It is worth taking extra care on public transport, particularly at night, as pickpockets and drunks can be a problem. Also, it should be noted that in some cities, there have been incidents of street gangs carrying out robberies on buses and trains at night. Visitors should not be too concerned, however, as these are very rare occurrences.
In the United Kingdom, there is no cost to a patient at point of service, due to the welfare state system. In a medical emergency, dial 999 or 112. These numbers are free of charge from any telephone. For advice on non-emergency medical problems, you can ring the 24 hour NHS Direct service on 0845 4647 or check their website or advice. However, hospitals are wary of health tourists and if obviously not from England, may ask where you are from and if within the EU, for your EHIC card (previously known as E111).
Emergencies can be dealt with under the NHS (National Health Service) at any hospital with an A & E (Accident & Emergency) department. At A&E departments, be prepared to wait for up to 2-3 hours during busy periods before being given treatment if your medical complaint is not too serious. Obviously, more serious ailments are usually treated immediately. Evenings are normally busiest, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays and in city centres.
When an English person says "Meet me at half five", they mean "Meet me at five thirty". If the directions say "go to the top of the road", that means the end of the road.
Some words mean one thing to Americans and something else entirely to British folks. When an English man says he shared a "fag" with his "mate" that means only that he smoked a cigarette with a friend. If he adds that they also had a "gorgeous" meal, it means it was followed by a nice dinner. If they had a "shag" it means they had sex afterwards.
Then there are the words unique to British English; a sneaker or tennis shoe, for instance, is called a "trainer."
Moreover, the diverse history of the country, and the influx of various cultures over the centuries (e.g. Vikings, Normans, Romans, Celtic peoples), have produced a very wide range of accents, and there are still traces of regional dialects (vocabulary and grammar). Best not to imitate the accents, you will be seen as mocking.
A few useful words which may help you understand the English (particularly in the Midlands and North): "ta" = thank you, "ta ra/ta ta" = goodbye, "summat/summit/summink" = something, "nowt" = nothing, "owt" = "anything", "dunna/dunno" = don't know, "canna/cannit = cannot.
Be prepared to have to use English to make yourself understood. Few people here speak a second language fluently. However, most people were taught one second language (usually French, German or Spanish) at school, and may remember enough to be willing to help a stranger in difficulties (if they can get over the embarrassment of being seen to "show off").
Because of immigration, especially from Commonwealth countries, many languages are spoken in the big cities. There are also smaller places where particular languages are common. Expect to hear (and even see signs in) Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Polish, Greek, Turkish and varieties of Arabic. Because of links with Hong Kong, many Chinese people live here (London and Manchester in particular have thriving communities).
You will hear English people say "sorry". This is not down to guilt or self-consciousness but simply because it is synonymous with "excuse me", and is used to get somebody's attention. Alternatively it can be synonymous with "pardon". Any comments along the lines of "What are you sorry about?" are pointless.
The English are in general very polite people, and like most other places it is considered bad manners not to say "please" or "thank you". A nod or a smile are also often the response. Sometimes strangers and friends address each other by "mate", the same as they do in Australia. Thus it is common to hear "Cheers mate" or "Thanks mate" "you alright, mate?", etc.
The English are said to be reserved, and this is often thought to mean that they are reluctant to communicate with strangers. This is a misconception. You will find that most people are happy to talk to strangers; it probably won't be a deep conversation, but mostly small talk about where you come from, if you're enjoying your visit, etc.
It is said that the English invented queueing, and they become very annoyed if anyone jumps the line, although this is probably the same for most countries. Don't be surprised if you get shoved to the back of the line. (The same "patient queueing" applies to waiting in traffic jams as well: don't use the horn excessively as most people in England seemed to have grasped that it doesn't make the traffic go any faster and it is seen as impatient and rude.)