British Trip Tips

By Patricia Ann McMorrow Premium

Even though you can do much of your English genealogy right here in the former colonies, there’s nothing like visiting in person to get in touch with your roots. To make sure you have a jolly good time in England, consider these details as you plan your trip:

PASSPORT US citizens need passports valid for a minimum of six months beyond their planned length of stay.

BRITISH TOURIST AUTHORITY Contact the New York City office of the British Tourist Authority for hugely helpful tourist information packets. 551 Fifth Ave., 7th floor, New York, NY 10176, (212)986-2200, <>.

BRING LOTS OF MONEY England, particularly London, is among the most expensive destinations in Europe. Expect to spend at least 30 pounds sterling per person each day — and that’s for modest accommodations and no-frills meals.

POUND STERLING/EURO While the Euro is encroaching, the pound sterling is still around. A pound is divided into 100 pence, with paper bills in denominations of £5, 10, 20 and 50 and coins worth £ 1 and 2, 5,10, 20 and 50 pence.

BRITRAIL PASS There aren’t many bargains in England, but the BritRail Pass qualifies. Passes must be purchased before you go — call your travel agent — and are available for unlimited travel on consecutive days or a specified number of days in a two-month period. Seniors and students ages 16-25 get additional discounts; kids ages 5-15 are half price, <>

NATIONAL TRUST If your trip will include visits to Britain’s historic castles and gardens, definitely get a National Trust membership. (Non-members pay entrance fees of about £6.) Contact the American affiliate of the National Trust: The Royal Oak Foundation, 285 W. Broadway, Suite 400, New York, NY 10013, (212)966-6565.

THINK METRIC Here’s a silly verse for thinking like you’re European: “A meter measures 3-foot-3, it’s longer than a yard, you see. Two-and-a-quarter pounds of jam weighs about a kilogram.” A mile equals 1.6 kilometers.

BRING AN ADAPTER If you want to use your hair dryer or laptop, remember that the current is 240 volts AC, 50 Hz. Buy a plug adapter before you leave home.

BEHIND THE WHEEL Drive on the left, pass on the right. And the steering wheel is on the right side of the car.

TIME ZONE The United Kingdom runs on Greenwich Mean Time, which is five hours ahead of New York City and eight hours ahead of Los Angeles.

UMBRELLA? Nah. The average January temperature in London is 40 degrees (F); in July, 64. You always hear about London’s fog and rain, but it’s generally less overcast than Seattle.

TIPPING Plan on tipping in England much as you would in the United Stages. General rules: 10-15 percent at restaurants and for taxi drivers; £1 per suitcase for bellhops.

From the June 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine