Your Trip to England: The Complete Guide

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England is more than just the iconic sites in London, and planning a trip to the country can be overwhelming thanks to its many destinations and famous attractions. Whether you're looking to enjoy England's beaches, its historic sites or to pub hop through the countryside, there's a lot to consider before arriving in Blighty. From what to eat to where to stay, here's everything you need to know about visiting England.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: England makes for an amazing holiday destination any time of year, but take advantage of the warmer weather and long days during the summer, especially July and August, to make the most of your trip. If you prefer to avoid crowds, visit in May or September. Christmas is also very popular all over England, with celebrations, lights and holiday markets taking place throughout December.

Language: English is the primary language spoken in England, however many residents hail from all over the world, so it's not surprising to hear multiple other languages spoken, especially in bigger cities like London.

Currency: The currency in the U.K. is the pound sterling, also known as GBP or just "the pound."

Getting Around: England has a vast network of trains, which connect both the major cities and smaller towns. While trains are the easiest way to travel, visitors can also rent a car or opt for cheaper buses. Within major cities, look for public transportation, like the Tube in London or the trams in Manchester. Taxis and Ubers are also plentiful in more populous destinations.

Travel Tip: There's a lot to see and do in England despite it being a relatively small country, so plan your itinerary to maximize a particular region or activity. Be sure to give yourself at least two days in London and then venture onward to another area, whether it's the beaches of Dorset or the excitement of a northern city like Manchester.

Coastline of Jurassic Coast in Dorset.

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Things to Do

There are a considerable amount of things to do around England and what you choose to do depends on your preferences. Consider visiting a town like Brighton or Whistable if you want to hang out on the beach, or drive through the picturesque Cotswolds to enjoy the famed English countryside. Historic sites, like Winchester Cathedral and Whitby Abbey, are popular with visitors, as are museums like the Tate Modern in London and Manchester Art Gallery in Manchester. Lovers of literature will also find a lot of interesting attractions, from Jane Austen's House in Hampshire to the birthplace of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon.

  • Pay a visit to Stonehenge, which is a great day trip from London or a stop on the way to Bath or Bristol.
  • Take a day trip to Windsor Castle, located in Windsor. Other popular royal sites include Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  • Experience the real Downton Abbey at Highclere Castle, which can be found in Hampshire, not far from Winchester or Newbury.
  • Embark on a hiking trip in the Lake District or Peak District, or stroll along the Dorset Coast on the South West Coastal Path.
  • Venture southwest to Cornwall, a scenic coastal area with lots to do, like the Tate St. Ives and the Eden Project.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the best things to do in England and the best beaches in England.

What to Eat and Drink

English food is a lot better than you might assume, especially in the bigger cities where there's a vast range of international options. For a truly classic experience, dine in a local pub, which can be a great way to try favorite British dishes like a Sunday roast or bangers and mash (as well as a refreshing pint). The country is dotted with Michelin-starred pubs, like The Crown in Bray and The Hand & Flowers in Marlow, and it's worth seeking out a higher-end pub experience.

  • In the seaside towns, seek out fish and chip shops for the freshest catch. When in doubt, ask a local for their favorite shop.
  • Enjoy afternoon tea, a traditional experience in England. Visitors can find it at any number of local tea rooms or hotels. Some of the best include Cliveden House Hotel, Fortnum and Mason, and most National Trust properties around the country.
  • Indulge in a full English breakfast, which can be found on most breakfast menus around England. It's a good way to fill up for a day of sightseeing, too.
  • England may not be famous for its wine, but there are many wineries around the countries, most in the south. Look for vineyards like Rodington, Chapel Down, and Greyfriars.

Learn more about English cuisine with our article on the best foods to try in England.

Where to Stay

Deciding where to stay in England depends on your destination. There are plenty of hotels throughout the country, both in the cities and in rural areas, but some spots, like beach towns, are better experienced with a holiday rental. In the cities, opt for a hotel near the center of town, like Covert Garden in London, to make your trip more walkable. Many pubs also offer accommodation, which can be a cheaper option in small towns. For a splurge, look for luxury country house hotels, like Chewton Glen, Clivden House Hotel, and Lime Wood Hotel.

Getting There

Most travelers coming from the U.S. arrive in London by plane, flying into nearby airports like Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, and City. However, England has numerous airports, some of which are international and have flights to and from the U.S. Visitors from Europe can take the Eurostar train into St. Pancreas from Paris, Brussels, or Amsterdam.

  • Heathrow International Airport: Heathrow, located west of London, is the primary airport used by international travelers coming to England. It can be accessed by Tube, train, bus, or taxi, and it's recommended to look into public transportation when arriving during rush hour. The Heathrow Express gets passengers from the airport into Paddington Station in only 15 minutes. Travelers can catch trains to the rest of England from Paddington, as well as Kings Cross, Euston, Waterloo, and Victoria.
  • Manchester Airport: Manchester Airport is a large international airport with three terminals, serving the areas around Northwest England, including Liverpool and the Peak District. It's accessible to central Manchester by Metrolink tram service, train, bus, or taxi.
  • Birmingham Airport: Birmingham Airport is an international airport located near Birmingham, Coventry, and Leicester, with transportation links to most of central England. Most airlines connect to the U.S. via Europe.
  • London City Airport: Located centrally, London City is popular with short-haul flights to Europe, but also services the U.S. via New York City. Taxis or public transportation are both good options to head into London, which has connections to the rest of England via train.

Explore our article on how to get to Heathrow, as well as our guide to London's airports and our guide to England's airports.

Great Court, British Museum, Bloomsbury, London, England, United Kingdom, Europe
Chris Hepburn / robertharding/Getty Images

Culture and Customs

While England, especially international cities like Manchester and London, can feel similar to the U.S., there are a few differences, notably when it comes to tipping and service. All restaurants and bars will include a service charge (usually 12.5 percent) on the bill, so there's not need to leave extra cash. If you do want to leave a cash tip, 10 to 15 percent is customary. It's also nice to tip food delivery people, taxi drivers and bartenders, although they don't expect large tips the way service people do in the U.S.

If you encounter a long queue, and you likely will, it's considered polite to stand patiently in line without complaint or cutting. The English also have a reputation for being fairly reserved in public, especially on public transportation, so be mindful of your volume, particularly when traveling in a group or with kids. Of course, all of that polite behavior goes out the window at a pub, especially during a sports match.

If you decide to rent a car, there are some important road rules to learn when driving in England, including driving on the opposite side of the road. Read our guide to driving in the U.K. before you head out.

Money Saving Tips

  • Take advantage of free museums as much as possible. London and Manchester have many museums that are free to enter, including the British Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery, and there are great free attractions throughout England. It's a good way to see iconic spots without spending any of your travel budget.
  • Long-distance buses (called coaches in England) are the cheapest way to get around, although they may not be the most exciting. Those on a budget can opt to take a coach between cities. Look for good options with National Express when journeying to and from London.
  • To save money on meals, look for holiday rentals or self-catering accommodations that have kitchens. It's easy to find local grocery stores or markets anywhere in England, so why not try your hand at some bangers and mash at home?
  • England is full of beautiful parks and gardens, many of which are free to enter. It's a good way to spend time outside, especially if you bring along a picnic. During the warmer months, take advantage of the country's outdoor spaces for quick and cheap lunches and nice strolls.
Article Sources
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  1. Visit England. "Practical Information and Advice." https://www.visitengland.com/plan-your-visit/practical-information-and-advice

  2. Visit London. "Tripping in London." https://www.visitlondon.com/traveller-information/essential-information/money/tipping

  3. Visit London. "Best 25 free attractions in London." https://www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/budget-london/free-attractions-in-london

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