English is the official language across the United Kingdom, although Welsh is also spoken in North Wales and Scottish Gaelic (Gallic), is the tongue of the northern regions of Scotland and its islands. In Orkney, a dialect based on Old Norse is used, as the islands have a strong Viking inheritance.
Although the UK is part of the European Union, it does not belong to the Eurozone, with the pound sterling the official currency, divided into 100 pence. Banks, ATMs and currency exchange stores are found everywhere except in remote villages and rural areas. Major credit cards are accepted in almost all stores, restaurants and other service outlets, but Amex is frowned upon due to the high processing costs.
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is based at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich on the River Thames just south of the city center.
Electricity in the UK comes as 220-240V/50H, and standard sockets take three-square-pin plugs, making an adapter necessary for most visitors. If your appliances are configured for 100-120V, you will need a voltage converter or transformer to ensure your laptop and other devices will work. Electricity supplies are safe and well-protected and outages rarely ever occur, even in remote districts.
The dialing code for the UK is +44, with numbers inside London central area prefixed with 0207 and outside the center 2028. If dialing from overseas, the ‘0’ is dropped. Other cities and regions have their own prefix numbers to which the same rule applies. Mobile phone coverage across the UK is generally good, although in mountainous regions it may be somewhat patchy. Cell phone providers include 02, Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile, with 02 the cheapest for pay-as-you-go. Internet cafes are easily found in UK cites and most hotels provide internet access.
Duty-free limits for citizens from outside the EU including the USA are 200 cigarettes, two liters of wine or one liter of spirits and goods up to the value of £390. For visitors from EU countries, there is effectively no duty-free restriction. Customs allowances for those returning to the US has limits of 200 cigarettes, one liter of alcohol and gifts totaling less than US $400.
London: +44-207-971-0027 or www.londonby.com/tourist Edinburgh: 0845-859-1006: not available from overseas, or http://www.edinburgh.org/ Cardiff: +44-292-087-3573 or www.visitcardiff.com/ Belfast: +44-289-024-6609 or www.gotobelfast.com/
Embassies in the UK
Australian Embassy: +44-207-379-4334 Canadian Consulate: +44-207-258-6600 US Embassy: +44-207-499-9000 New Zealand High Commission: +44-207-930-6422
Emergency services: 112