A living museum set to awe-inspiring, sprawling landscapes and bustling, illustrious cities; it’s no surprise that England is one of the world’s most visited destinations. From the Neolithic monument of Stonehenge to the multicultural melting pot of 21st century London, a trip to England offers insight into a culture that has shaped a large portion of the modern world. City life is best experienced in the capital, Manchester, Newcastle, and Leeds, while country living is offered up by the plateful in the Cotswolds, the Peak District, the Lake District, and Norfolk.
Renowned for their extreme politeness, but also rather reserved attitude, the English are revered for their hospitality, particularly in the countryside where a trip to the local pub guarantees a good gossip over a pint of hand-pulled real ale. Most country inns are likely to serve up healthy portions of what is fondly referred to as ‘pub grub’, with all the trimmings, while the cities seem to offer every haute cuisine imaginable. London is home to some of the finest restaurants in the world and is rapidly becoming Europe’s food capital even though their local delicacies aren’t much to write home about.
Deciding when to visit England depends on the type of vacation you have in mind. Although the English weather, especially over the last few years, is unpredictable at best, the winter tends to be wet and cold, while the summer is warm and dry, especially in July and August. Some of the best times to visit tend to be in the spring (February to May) and fall (September to November) months when the surrounding countryside is in a permanent state of change and a myriad of colors, smells, and brooding skies transforming the landscape. The high-season falls between the months of April and September, so make sure to book well in advance if traveling during this period.
Currency: Sterling Pound
Official language: English
Around the turn of the 1st millennium, the ever-expanding Roman legions made their way from modern-day France to the shores of England. While some of the natives initially put up a fight against the domineering forces of Rome in what is now England and Wales, the then Britannia was firmly under the control of Emperor Claudius by CE 80. For more than four centuries, the Romans ruled the land, introducing wealth, stability, and structure to the young nation. However, the declining strength of the empire’s stronghold in mainland Europe meant that by CE 410, Rome abandoned Britannia, leaving it essentially without a commander-in-chief and throwing it back into the hands of feudal, power-hungry warlords.
Over the next two centuries, tribes from the modern-day Germany, known as the Angles and Saxons, sailed the English Channel and picked up where the Romans left off. The impact they had on the country was huge, pushing out the Christian religion initiated by Rome and replacing it with Paganism, and instilling the Anglo-Saxon dialect, from which the English language stems. Christianity did, however, slowly begin to reemerge over the coming years.
Due to its long and prestigious history, England’s culture is rich, recognizable, and has been exported to most corners of the world. The nation has, for centuries, been one of the world’s epicenters for fantastic art, literature, theatre, music, and the birthplace of industry. Even within this small country, the culture is divided regionally, with the heart of the economy located in the south, primarily in London, and the north traditionally serving as the heart of industry. Yet in the past 30 years, considerable deindustrialization has affected the north, resulting in a great deal of significant music, art, and film. During the same period, immigration from former British colonies has started to change the face of traditional England, especially in major cities, such as London and Manchester. The British are known for being prim and proper people, fiercely loyal to their heritage and proud of their crown, highly competitive in sports and academia alike.
Although it has a reputation for being gray, rainy, and generally drab, weather in England has a diverse climate considering its size and in reality, London on average experiences less annual rainfall than New York City. During the summer, temperatures can reach high 80s °F, while in the winter they can plummet to around 15°F. Naturally, the further north you travel, the colder and wetter it gets, while the warmest climates are found in the southeast and southwest of the country.
Indian passport holders can apply for a UK short-term visa that allows stay for a maximum period of 6 months.
Taxis and minicabs are extremely common in England, and one of the best ways to get around towns and cities. Every taxi (public rental vehicle) and minicab (private rental vehicle) operates via a meter, and while they tend to be more expensive than public transport, they are often a more convenient way to travel, particularly in groups. Although London is famous for its ‘black cabs’, which can be flagged down on the street, minicabs are more common outside of the capital. Minicab firm minicabsinlondon.com (+44-20-8900-5555) operates throughout London and to and from the airports. Due to England’s comprehensive road network, one of the most economical ways to explore the country is with a rental car. Most major car rental companies operate in all of the major cities, although you may be able to find a better deal with a local rental firm. However, while car rental is affordable, fuel expenses in England are notoriously high.
Inner-city buses are the most common and inexpensive way to travel to England’s major destinations. Most routes are operated by Stagecoah and, depending on the area, run regularly day and night. In the capital, the London Underground (or the “tube” to locals) was the first metro subway system in the world and is still the most efficient way to get around. Just look for the iconic red circle with the blue line through it to identify stations. The other metro system in the country is the Tyne & Wear Metro, which runs between Newcastle and Sunderland. Inter-city bus/coach services with the likes of National Express are reasonably priced when compared to traveling via train, especially if the trip is only a couple of hours in length. However, for long distances, the country’s impressive rail network is recommended. Tickets tend to be expensive when bought the day of, so if your agenda is prearranged, it is a good idea to book tickets in advance online.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
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