You’ve got your passport and your plane ticket, and you’re ready to head off on your overseas vacation to the United Kingdom.
Although the country speaks your language — in fact, they invented it — there are plenty of other things to do to prepare yourself for your trip.
Whether you’re heading to London, the Cotswolds, Bristol, Brighton, Stonehenge or Stratford-Upon-Avon, here are five must-dos when you travel to England:
1. Branch out from London
London is the city that draws so many tourists to the United Kingdom. There are endless things to do in The Big Smoke, and you could spend an entire week there without getting bored. But London isn’t the be-all, end-all of English tourism. In fact, some might argue that the metropolis is its own body, hardly representative of the rest of the country.
As such, your travel plans for the U.K. should include visits to places outside of the city, too. These can be as simple as day trips outside of London, to places like beachy Brighton or the famous university town of Oxford. Because London is so well-connected to the rest of the country by train or bus, you can make longer journeys around the country, too.
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2. Set up a WhatsApp account
The text messaging plan on your phone won’t work once you reach foreign soil, which means you won’t be able to keep in touch with friends and family as easily as you did before you left. Many places in England, including trains and buses, give you access to free Wi-Fi. With a messaging app like WhatsApp — which uses Internet instead of cellular data for texting — you can keep loved ones updated on your travels without worrying about huge roaming fees.
If you can’t live without Google Maps, social media and messaging, consider buying an English SIM card once you arrive. Cellular companies like ‘Three’ sell cards for as little as £10, and they provide you with data to use your phone on local English networks.
3. Try the food
For some reason, there’s a myth that English food is boring and bland, but that’s simply untrue. Pubs and restaurants have livened up their offerings with fresh, local ingredients and modern culinary techniques, meaning you’ll have no trouble finding a delicious meal. This is especially true in London, where the foodie scene is alive and well — you can find just about any type of food you could want, and it’ll be delicious, too.
Of course, your menu should also include some of the English classics, which aren’t nearly as boring as they were probably billed to you. A classic English breakfast, afternoon tea and a fresh plate of fish and chips are all must-eats.
4. Get souvenir smart
Especially in London, local businesses expect lots and lots of tourists to pass through. And, because of this, you’ll find plenty of shops selling kitschy, Union Jack-covered souvenirs to out-of-towners. But these products hardly represent the country or the people who live there — you’d be hard-pressed to find an English person with a cupboard full of coffee mugs plastered with the queen’s face.
Steer clear of these types of shops when picking out what to bring home. A nice box of English tea would be a simple enough souvenir, though you could bring a handmade teapot home to go with it. There are also countless antique shops across the country — England has been inhabited for hundreds of thousands of years, after all — and there you can find items that are recognized worldwide as being beautiful, valuable and one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
5. Pack lots of layers
Finally, the English are known for small-talking about the weather, and there’s good reason for that: The country’s weather is often unpredictable, even with a weather forecast at your fingertips. You should plan accordingly and bring clothes that are easy to layer should you feel too warm or too cold all of a sudden.
It’s also important to bring water-resistant shoes and a rain jacket with you on your trip. An umbrella could work, too, but it’s easier to walk around and see the sights without holding an umbrella all day long.
These are just five of the many ways to prepare yourself for your trip to England.
When you take these five steps into account, you’ll be well on your way to a comfortable, authentic, unforgettable overseas vacation — and there’s not much better than that.