Planning a trip to England? Great idea! England has a lot to offer, from its bustling cities to its remote coastlines in the South. With so many international influences, England does not have one widespread culture but is instead a melting pot of cultural identities. This can be seen in its cuisine, architecture, and heritage.
While most travelers bee-line straight to London, there is plenty of beauty to be found around the country.
England is one of the four countries that makes up the United Kingdom and is the largest country on the island of Great Britain. It is a country rich in history and is the birthplace of many notable historical figures, including William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, The Beatles, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking.
- Quick facts for your trip to England
- England Regions
- How to travel to England
- The best way to travel around England
- What to pack for England
- The best time to travel to England
- What to eat in England
- Famous events in England
- Bank holidays in England
- Cultural customs to be aware of in England
- Where to stay in England
- Don’t forget travel insurance
- Safety in England
- The use of cash and cards in England
- Calling abroad, WiFi and data use in England
- Tipping in England
- A brief history of England
Quick facts for your trip to England
Size: 130,279 km2 or 50,301 sq mi
People living there: 55,619,400
Governmental structure: constitutional monarchy
Time zone: UTC (Greenwich Mean Time)
Currency: pound sterling
Power voltage and socket type(s): 230V, plug types G. If these plug types don’t match your devices, make sure to pack a universal adapter.
Official religion(s)/Freedom of religion: Freedom of religion with 59% Christian and 25% with no religion, the rest classed themselves as Muslim, Jewish, and other religions
Official language(s) and general knowledge of English: English is the official language.
Drives on this side: left
International driver’s licence accepted? yes
Phone code: +44
Vaccinations needed? none other than those needed in your own country for daily living
Can you drink the tap water? yes, so bring a reusable water bottle!
1. South East
The most populated of all the regions in England, the South East of England is home to a number of pulsing cities, including Southampton and Brighton. There are numerous historically significant landmarks in the South East. The confusingly named Leeds Castle, which is in Kent and not in Leeds, is one prominent highlight.
The White Cliffs of Dover, which sit along the coastline at Dover, facing France, are another important feature of this region. This natural phenomenon became iconic as a symbol of hoMe during times of war. Those seeking action and nightlife need look no further than Brighton, England’s LGBTQ capital, where you can eat chips on the beach during the day and party all night.
By far the most densely populated region in the entire country, London is the smallest region and exclusively encompasses the national capital. If you are looking for a city with round the clock excitement, London is the place to be. Spend your days exploring its renowned museums, including, The Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and V&A Museum; or strolling through its beautiful parks – Hyde Park and Holland Park are popular choices.
London is also home to some fascinating historical and cultural landmarks. These include Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s Column, and St Paul’s Cathedral. In the evening, enjoy some of London’s finest cuisine and boutique shopping around Covent Garden before heading over to Shoreditch for drinks and parties.
3. North West
Manchester and nearby Liverpool are where the action is at in the North West. These pulsing cities in England offer entertainment in all shapes and sizes. One popular activity in either of these cities is to go and see a football game. You could be cheering on Manchester City or Manchester United in Manchester; or Liverpool or Everton in Liverpool.
If you want to escape the city vibe, the Lake District is in the northern section of this region and is one of England’s most beautiful patches of nature. The park is the largest of its kind in England and is renowned for its abundant lakes, forests, and mountains. If you’re a fan of hiking, there are dozens of trails you can follow through the Lake District.
4. East of England
The East of England, also known as East Anglia, sits to the North and East of London. It is home to the city of Cambridge, which boasts one of the world’s most prestigious universities. Whilst in Cambridge, be sure to spend an hour two on the punts, long flatboats that are pushed along using a long stick. You might also want to get a dose of culture at the magnificent Fitzwilliam Museum.
For your nature fix, head to the eastern part of the region and you’ll hit the seaside town of Great Yarmouth, where you can enjoy the beach and the laidback vibe. Around here, you will also find the Norfolk Broads, a national park carved up by numerous waterways and boasting some spectacular natural scenery.
5. West Midlands
In the West of England, bordering Wales is the West Midlands. The largest urban area in this region is the city of Birmingham, which is home to some of England’s best shopping outside of the capital. It is easy to while away an entire day perusing the shops in and around the iconic Bullring shopping center and the more high-end Mailbox.
For a quintessentially English experience, check out the beautiful Spetchley Park Gardens, with its collection of rare and exotic plants. Or, head over to Sarehole Mill, a wonderful old building that inspired J.R.R Tolkien’s depiction of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings books. Over the adjoining pond, you might catch a glimpse of kingfishers and herons.
6. South West
The South West region is arguably the most scenic part of the country. Here, you will find a wealth of natural beauty, including the Exmoor National Park, Cheddar Gorge, and the curious Durdle Door. You will also find England’s most beautiful beaches in Cornwall, Devon, and Salcombe.
In addition to the South West’s natural features, there are also some fascinating historical places to visit in the region. Stonehenge is among the most famous landmarks in Europe, partly due to the fact that the stone structures still baffle scientists as to how they were constructed. Longleat House is another must-see, comprising a stately home and adjoining safari park.
7. Yorkshire and the Humber
Home to the cities of Leeds, York, and Sheffield, Yorkshire and the Humber is a big region with a lot to see. Each of these cities has its own distinct personality, but York is most certainly the most picturesque. This quaint city has a wall running around its edge that dates back to Roman times. Once you’ve explored the city itself, you can take a walk along the wall and enjoy some fabulous views.
If you fancy a big breath of fresh air, then swing by the Yorkshire Dales National Park, commonly referred to as ‘The Dales’. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the hidden waterfalls and secret caves that make up the astounding landscape here.
8. East Midlands
The East Midlands is often left off England’s tourist trail, which is a shame as there is a lot to see and do around the region. In Leicester, the region’s biggest city, you will find the National Space Centre, a beautiful cathedral, and the gorgeous Abbey Park, which sits just a mile out of the city center.
Out of the city, the Heights of Abraham is another popular destination for visitors. This park sits atop a hill and is accessible by cable car. Once you’ve got your feet firmly on the ground, you can explore the park’s caverns, walking trails and fossil exhibitions.
9. North East
Finally, we head to the northernmost part of the country and take a look at the North East region, which shares a border with Scotland. If you are a fan of castles the North East will not disappoint. Choose between the spooky Whitby Abbey, or the stately Bamburgh Castle and Alnwick Castle, or dozens of other castles and ruins in the region.
If you’re brave, take a trip over to Whitley Bay and dip your toes in the icy water that laps against the beach. Alternatively, head inland and give your hiking boots some exercise in the dramatic Pennine Mountains. This mountain range separates the North West, North East, and Yorkshire regions.
How to travel to England
At the time of writing, England is still a member of the EU and therefore EU citizens may enter freely without the need for a visa. American citizens are permitted to enter the country for up to six months without a visa and Canadians can enjoy a stay of up to 90 days visa-free.
How to go to England
Fly to England
England has a number of major international airports. Most international travel comes into either London Gatwick or London Heathrow, but there are other large airports outside of the capital that receive international passengers, such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.
There are direct flights to England from the majority of countries around the world and a large number of budget airlines connect England to mainland Europe.
There are buses that go to England from all over Europe. Some of them pass through the Channel Tunnel and others cross to the island by way of ferry. Buses run from France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain and most other countries in western and central Europe. Megabus and Flixbus are the best companies for booking international bus travel.
The only train that runs into England is the Eurostar. This arrives at London St Pancras station from France and Belgium.
There are a number of different ferries that cross the English Channel and other stretches of water to get to England. Ferries leave from France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, and Sweden. Ferries carry passengers as well as vehicles.
The best way to travel around England
Getting around England on your own
It’s incredibly simple to travel within England on your own. The country is well connected by both a train and bus network. Trains can be booked on the day or in advance to secure cheaper fares. Bookings are done online and tickets can usually be presented on your phone. Megabus offers low-cost bus travel around the country in reasonable comfort.
Outside of the cities, England is also a great country for road tripping. Driving on the left side of the road takes a bit of getting used to but it’s easier than you might think. If you want to simplify the matter, make sure to rent an automatic car.
What to pack for England
England is known for being rainy and it often lives up to this reputation. The best advice to give to someone traveling to England would be to pack for all eventualities. This means taking rain gear, layers, sunglasses etc.
In summer, England can get very warm although it rarely gets hotter than the high 20s. In winter it can go the other way and become quite chilly so tailor your suitcase to the season.
What to pack for England in summer
- good walking sandals
- light clothing
- a light sweater
- a rain jacket
- a reusable water bottle
- light hiking trousers if you plan on going into nature
What to pack for England in winter
- a merino woolen baselayer
- merino woolen socks
- a warm wind and waterproof coat
- warm layers
- a hat
- a warm scarf
- a reusable water bottle
What to pack for England in fall and spring
Fall and spring are the moodiest seasons so packing layers is essential. You won’t need a thick winter coat but make sure to bring a relatively warm yet lightweight jacket that you can easily stow away, like this one.
The best time to travel to England
The best time to visit England is during the late spring, summer and early autumn. This is when the days are long and the weather is pleasant. However, July and August can sometimes get uncomfortably hot and children are out of schools, meaning tourists spots are busier than usual. The ideal months from travel are May and September.
What to eat in England
- Fish and chips – beer battered cod or haddock served with a side of chunky chips doused with salt and vinegar
- Steak and ale pie – a puff pastry pie shell filled with chunks of beef in a thick sauce made with ale
- Roast beef – traditional to eat on Sunday with roast potatoes and vegetables
- Yorkshire pudding – light, fluffy dough in the shape of a cup, often filled with gravy and beef
- Chicken tikka masala – although it sounds and looks Indian, this dish actually originated in England and is a mild curry with a tomato based sauce
- Scones – round bread-like pastries served with clotted cream and strawberry jam
- Toad in the hole – sausages covered with Yorkshire pudding batter and baked together
- Bangers and mash – sausages with mashed potato, covered in gravy
- Full English breakfast – eggs, sausages, beans, bacon, toast, mushrooms, and fried tomato
- Shepherd’s pie – mince meat cooked in tomato sauce with peas and carrots, under a layer of mashed potato, topped with grated cheese
Famous events in England
- BAFTA Awards – British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards show in London (February)
- The Boat Race – a rowing competition between Oxford and Cambridge Universities that dates back to 1856 (March)
- The Grand National – the biggest horse racing event in the country (April)
- Glastonbury Music Festival – one of the world’s best-known music festivals with global superstars performing over five days (June)
- Summer Solstice – people gather at Stonehenge to celebrate the longest day of the year (21st June)
- Wimbledon – the biggest tennis event of the year and it is traditional for spectators to eat strawberries and cream (June/July)
- Gay Pride Brighton – England’s LGBTQ capital hosts huge pride celebrations with parades and festivities, open to everyone regardless of sexual orientation (July)
- Notting Hill Carnival – a street party in celebration of Caribbean culture in Notting Hill, London (August)
- Camden Fringe Festival – England’s version of the Scottish Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with comedy, theatre, dance, and music performances for a whole month (August)
- Bonfire Night – fireworks and bonfires light up the country to remember Guy Fawkes being burned at the stake for treason (5th November)
Bank holidays in England
- New Year’s Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- May Day Bank Holiday (first Monday in May)
- Spring Bank Holiday (last Monday in May)
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day (December 26)
Cultural customs to be aware of in England
English people are generally very reserved, particularly in London, and it is unusual for people to strike up a conversation with strangers on a bus or train for example. In the North, people have the reputation of being much more friendly so don’t be surprised if northern strangers are chatty with you.
In London, there are various rules regarding the underground. When it comes to escalators you should stand on the right and walk on the left. You should also walk at a fast pace in general or you might encounter a chorus of tuts from behind you.
On Sunday, the English have a roast. It’s a thing!
Where to stay in England
Booking.com is my go-to place for booking hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts. It has a bunch of filtering options so I can easily get a list of only the hotels that meet my criteria. If you’re looking for accommodation in England, I highly recommend you check there.
When I want to stay at an apartment rather than a hotel, I look for place on airbnb. If you don’t have an airbnb account yet, you can sign up using my link to get a discount on your first stay.
Don’t forget travel insurance
No matter how well you plan and research a trip, there are always things that happen beyond your control. Something might get canceled, you can get ill or hurt while traveling or one of your electronics might break or get stolen. When misfortune strikes, travel insurance has got you covered.
I’ve had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I’m covered for every trip I go on. Don’t have insurance yet? You can get a free quote here:
Safety in England
Generally, England is a safe place to visit but in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, there has been an increase in hate crimes against foreigners. While these are still very rare it is something worth noting. Furthermore, when in busy places it is sensible to keep an eye on your belongings as pickpocketing occurs, particularly in big cities. Violent crimes are extremely rare against tourists.
The use of cash and cards in England
Both cash and cards are used all over England. It is very easy to spend weeks in England without ever needing to use cash but it is handy to have a small amount on your just in case. There are ATMs in every town and city and most supermarkets and post offices so it is easy to withdraw cash should you need it.
Calling abroad, WiFi and data use in England
Those with a SIM card from an EU country don’t have to pay roaming charges when calling, texting, or using data in England. Well, at least not until Brexit. We’ll have to wait and see what happens after that. The same goes for some global phone plans.
If you don’t have a EU SIM but still want to have unlimited WiFi, check out Skyroam.
Skyroam offers both day passes and monthly subscriptions providing you with 4G throughout your trips. I’ve been using their daily passes not just when I travel outside the EU (no roaming charges for me in the EU) but also as a backup for when I think I’ll go over my phone’s data plan.
Check out Skyroam here.
Tipping in England
In England, a service fee is usually included in the bill and so it’s up to you to decide if you want to tip and how much, based on the service you’ve received. In upmarket hotels and restaurants, tips will be expected and it’s always appreciated if you’re discrete about leaving a tip. Check this for more specific guidelines on who to tip what in England.
A brief history of England
England’s early history is exceptionally turbulent and what is now England was invaded first by Julius Caesar in 54 BC and then by Claudius in 43 AD. Then came the Saxons, the Vikings, and the Normans. By the Middle Ages, the country was almost perpetually at war under its ruler William I of England. In 1349, the Black Death arrived and wiped out roughly one third of the population.
From 1485 was the Tudor era and this saw the reign of Henry VIII who split from the Roman Catholic Church so he could divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon. This led to a time of a religious upheaval and instability. Later, in the 1600s, came the reign of the house of Stuart and the English Civil War.
In the 18th century England went through an agricultural revolution, followed by an industrial revolution and this completely transformed the country. Over the course of the 19th century technology developed at an unprecedented rate and reached a climax during World Wars One and Two in the early to mid 20th century.
England continues to be one of the leaders in technological and socio-economic progress. Its capital, London, is a hub of world-leading business, finance, law, and technology firms. Currently, England is in a period of uncertainty due to the Brexit negotiations that are hanging over Parliament. It is still unclear what kind of exit the country will have from the EU or whether it will even leave at all.
And that’s it for our guide about England! If you’re traveling to England for the first time, I hope this will take some of your questions away and if you’re planning a return trip, I hope it’s inspired you to visit some new places.
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