NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: London
Population: 60.6 million
Area: 93,278 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 44
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 United Kingdom Pounds = $1.57 US Calculate Other Amounts
GOOD TO KNOW
Contrary to Chirac's assertion, there is such a thing as good English cooking. Bangers and mash, fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, and all manner of puddings (such as Spotted Dick) are all traditional dishes that sound vaguely disgusting, but are surprisingly delicious. When in England, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to have a customary English tea—more a smorgasbord than a beverage—with scones, finger sandwiches, clotted cream, tarts and, of course, tea. More refined fare is available in London—by some accounts the world's best restaurant city—and in the rest of the biggest cities around the country. At night, find a small local pub for a pint or two of some of the best ale you have ever tasted. After a evening of drinking and getting to know the locals, follow them out for some excellent Indian curry, the new de facto national dish.
The British pound may be nearing two dollars, but this is no time to worry about your pocketbook. England is teeming with exquisite—if pricey—merchandise. For any whim, head to Harrods, the landmark London department store that lives up to its motto: Omnia Omnibus Ubique—Everything for Everybody Everywhere. Those who don't want to be compared to "everybody" head instead to Harvey Nichols for a couture fix. Unabashedly British wares like Wedgwood china, and tea are always best buys in their home country, along with labels like Burberry, Daks, and Aquascutum.
A Value Added tax (VAT) of 17.5 percent is added to most purchases in England, but tourists may get a refund at the airport or by mail.
Many restaurants and bars will add a service charge to your bill. It is customary to round up to the nearest pound when paying and to provide an extra 15 percent for truly exceptional service when a service charge is not included.
January: 1, New Year's Day
May: First Monday, Early May Bank Holiday; last Monday, Spring Bank Holiday
August: Last Monday, Summer Bank Holiday
December: 25, Christmas Day; 26, Boxing Day
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday