Wales is a country in itself but is part of the United Kingdom (UK) and the island of Great Britain. It borders England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west and the British Channel to the south. It’s a member of NATO and the United Nations (UN) as it’s part of the UK.
This Wales Holidays Guide aims to help you plan your trip to this beautiful destination. With continuous coastal paths hugging 870 miles of shoreline and over 600 castles, Wales is a hiker’s paradise. The extensive network of paths and rolling hills make it perfect to explore. Despite not having tropical weather, there’s still plenty of beaches to visit and wilderness to soak up.
- Wales Holidays Guide: quick facts
- Council or “principal” areas of Wales
- How to get to Wales
- How to travel around Wales
- What to pack for Wales
- The best time to travel to Wales
- What to eat in Wales
- Famous events in Wales
- Bank holidays in Wales
- Cultural customs to be aware of in Wales
- Where to stay in Wales
- Don't forget travel insurance
- Basic phrases and their pronunciation
- Safety in Wales
- The use of cash and cards in Wales
- Calling abroad, WiFi and data use in Wales
- Tipping in Wales
- A brief history of Wales
Wales Holidays Guide: quick facts
Size: 20,735 km² or 8,005.8 mi².
People living there: 3,187,203.
Governmental structure: The current Welsh government is a Labour-led administration. The Welsh Government is made up of Assembly ministers and headed by the First Minister of Wales.
National day: St. Davids Day on March 1
Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Currency: pound sterling (GBP).
Power voltage and socket type(s): 230V, plug type 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. About 30% of Welsh citizens are not religious followed by Christianity, Islam and other religions.
Official language(s) and general knowledge of English: Welsh and English are the two official languages of Wales.
Drives on this side: left.
International driver's licence accepted? yes.
Phone code: +44.
Vaccinations needed? no.
Is it safe to drink the tap water during your holidays in Wales? yes.
Council or “principal” areas of Wales
Wales is divided into 22 principal areas. The elected councils for each area are responsible for all local government services.
1. Blaenau Gwent
Blaenau Gwent’s largest town is Ebbw Vale at the head of the valley formed by the Ebbw Fawr of the Ebbw River in Wales. The Ebbw Farw valley is filled with fable and folklore and has a number of scenic hiking trails to keep you busy. Take a stroll around the lake at Parc Bryn Bach or visit the Abertillery Museum and Tredegar Local History Museum.
Situated west of the capital in the heart of South Wales, the region occupies the Llynfi, Gary and Ogmore valleys. Visit Coity Castle, the castle ruins are perched on a hill so offer up some fantastic views of the countryside. Another great thing to do in the area is to experience one of the oldest working pottery in Wales. Head to the Ewenny Pottery for true Welsh history and take home your very own piece of pottery.
Located in southern Wales, the largest town in the region is Caerphilly. The town’s name originated from Caerphilly cheese and is home to Caerphilly castle, one of the largest fortresses in Europe. Top places to visit include the Blackwood Miners Institute, Cwmcarn Forest, The Winding House Museum and the Sirhowy Valley Country Park.
Cardiff is the capital of Wales and also the biggest city in Wales. The port city on the south coast of Wales has lots of shopping, museums, entertainment and dining options. Explore the area by foot and visit the National Museum Cardiff and Cardiff Castle. Cardiff Bay is a hotspot for restaurants, bars, and the Wales Millennium Centre, a world-class venue for music, theatre and live performances. It’s easy to hire bikes in the area to explore Cardiff on two wheels with several trails to choose from.
Located in southwest Wales, Carmarthenshire is one of the most historic counties in Wales. While in the area, be sure to visit Llyn y Fan Fach, a dammed lake in the Brecon Beacons surrounded by beautiful landscape. Other top sites to visit include the Kidwelly Castle, Pendine Beach, National Botanic Garden of Wales and the National Wool Museum.
Ceredigion is considered to be a center of Welsh culture with more than half of the population speaking Welsh. Cardigan Castle is one of the top tourist attractions in the area. From wildlife to museums, you’ll find plenty to do. Be sure to visit the RSPB Ynys-hir Nature Reserve, Aberystwyth Arts Centre and the National Library of Wales.
The town of Conwy in the county borough is traditionally known as Conway in English. The walled market town is situated on the north coast of Wales. Explore Conwy Castle, the smallest house in Britain, Bodnant Gardens, Conwy Moutain and RSPB Conwy Nature Reserve.
In north-east Wales, the county is the longest known inhabited part of the country. Bordering the Irish Sea, the region is populated with no fewer than five formidable defense structures including Denbigh Castle, Bodelwyddan Castle, and Ruthin Castle. If you’re looking for a beach holiday then the resort towns of Rhyl and Prestatyn are perfect for a relaxing getaway.
Located in north-east Wales, Flintshire borders the English county of Cheshire. There’s plenty of activities for children including indoor climbing, ice skating, and swimming. The family-friendly destination is a great place to relax with attractions such as Greenfield Valley Museum and Heritage Park, Loggerheads Country Park and Wepre Park.
Home to most of Snowdonia National Park, the area attracts a lot of walkers and explorers. The largest national park in Wales, Snowdonia is the highest mountain in England and Wales. Other places to visit include Caernarfon Castle, Slate Mountain, Harlech Castle, and Llyn Peninsula.
11. Isle of Anglesey
The island of Anglesey is located on the northwest coast off of the mainland. The area is most well known for its ancient sites and beautiful beaches. Historic attractions include castles and old harbors as well as ancient burial chambers. For the more adventurous, take part in a number of water sports from sailing to scuba diving.
12. Merthyr Tydfil
With rich culture and heritage, the town of Merthyr Tydfil used to be the largest town in Wales. Visit the Cyfarthfa Park and Castle or Rock UK, the largest indoor climbing center in Wales. For panoramic views and natural beauty, head to the Parc Taf Bargoed in the Taff Bargoed Valley.
Home to the Brecon Beacons National Park and the wooded valley floor of the River Wye, there are so many beautiful areas to visit. With crisp and clean air, spend your days walking through the region and relaxing with a hot chocolate by the fire in the evening. Attractions to visit include the Nelson Museum & Local History Centre, Raglan Castle and Chepstow Castle.
14. Neath Port Talbot
Experience world class mountain biking at Afan Forest Park or head to the seaside at Aberavon Beach and Waterfall Country. The Afan Forest Park has five adrenaline fuelled mountain biking trails. Go walking or cycling through canal towpaths, disused railway lines, and trails.
Located on the River Usk, the city of Newport has a number of activities and attractions. The small city can be explored easily by foot and you can stop off at the cathedral, museum, art gallery and traditionally covered market. Other popular attractions include the Tredegar House, RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve, and the National Roman Legion Museum.
The area of Pembrokeshire is surrounded by sea on three sides. The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park was established in 1952 and is the only coast in Britain to have been designated because of its gorgeous coastline. If you’re in the region, be sure to visit the Folly Farm Adventure Park, Oakwood Theme Park, and St. David’s Cathedral.
Situated in mid-Wales, the landscape is stunning and provides a backdrop for all the activities you could want. Home to the Pen Y Fan, the most popular peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park. For sports such as canoeing, white water rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing and kayaking head to the Black Mountains Activity Centre.
18. Rhondda Cynon Taf
The county in the south of Wales consists of five valleys: the Taff, Ely, Cynon, Rhondda Fawr, and Fach valleys. Go on a tasting tour at the world famous Penderyn Whisky Distillery or spend the day at the Royal Mint Experience, Welsh Mining Experience or the National Lido of Wales.
The city and county of Swansea in south Wales is a great place to visit with a waterfront and bay leading to Mumbles on the Gower peninsula. For history buffs, visit the Wales National Waterfront Museum celebrating maritime history dating back to the 1800s. In the seaside village of Mumbles, you’ll find several shops, restaurants, and pubs on the west side of Swansea Bay.
Located within the historic boundaries of Monmouthshire, the area is well-suited to museum lovers. Visit the Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Blaenavon Community Museum, Blaenavon Heritage Railway, and Blaenavon Ironworks.
21. Vale of Glamorgan
Often referred to as The Vale the region is home to the 6000-year-old Twinkinswood Burial Chamber and St. Lythans Burial Chamber. The Restaurant James Sommerin is a Michelin star eatery with fantastic food. For walking trails and family-friendly fun, explore the Porthkerry Country Park.
Situated between the Welsh mountains and the lower Dee Valley, bordering England. The 16th century gothic Parish Church, St. Giles, is one of the most enchanting attractions in the area and the largest medieval church in Wales. Other places to visit include Erddig, Alyn Waters Country Park and Plassey.
How to get to Wales
So, do you need a passport to go to Wales? Wales is part of the United Kingdom so at the moment, you will not require a passport if you’re traveling from England, Ireland or Scotland but you will if you're coming from elsewhere. UK visa and immigration requirements are enforced in Wales. Visitors from the US or Australia can visit visa-free for up to six months with a valid passport.
Getting to Wales: transportation
You've got your passport, now how do you get to Wales? You have four transportation options.
Fly to Wales
Cardiff airport has over 900 connecting destinations worldwide with direct flights to a number of countries. With London being a two-hour flight away, flying into London before continuing your journey to Wales is a good option. Cardiff airport is the only airport in Wales with international flights. In the summer you can fly to Anglesey Airport from the Isle of Man and Belfast.
Air travel to Wales is generally more expensive than flying into London and then traveling onward, so make sure to compare your options.
You can easily reach Wales from England by bus. The National Express coach network links a number of England’s major cities with direct routes to Wales. For low-cost travel throughout the UK, Megabus provides budget options from London and Bristol to Cardiff, Swansea and Pembroke Dock.
The most frequent and fastest direct train routes to Wales leave from London Paddington, Reading, Bath and Bristol. You can travel from London to Wales, and more specifically to Cardiff, in about two hours by train. Newport and Cardiff are the main cities in Wales to travel to from London but there are also great connections to Swansea, Carmarthenshire, and Pembrokeshire.
Unless you need to be somewhere in the countryside, taking the train is probably the best way to get to Wales from London. You'll avoid London traffic and the train is generally quicker than the bus.
There are several daily ferry services from Ireland to Wales. You can reach Holyhead from Dublin in just under two hours. Ferry companies to book with include Irish Ferries and Stena Line.
How to travel around Wales
Independent travel around Wales
It’s easy to get around Wales by bus, car or train. The South and West Wales rail line runs pretty much parallel to the coast. There are several scenic routes to take to see the country with the Heart of Wales Line running from Shrewsbury to Llanelli cutting across the rolling hills in the middle of Wales.
National Express has a number of long-distance intercity coach services throughout the country. Megabus also offer low-cost services but with fewer routes. Traveling by coach is a more cost-effective option but takes more time. The local buses cover most towns and villages even in rural areas of Wales.
If you prefer to drive yourself, getting around Wales by car is fairly straightforward. The routes are winding and picturesque with plenty of picnic opportunities on the way. Rural Wales is also a fantastic cycling destination. You can follow the National Cycle Network to explore Wales’ country lanes and forest paths.
What to pack for Wales
Wales has four seasons summer, winter, fall, and spring. The Welsh country has a moderate and somewhat unpredictable climate. The mountainous landscape and coastline mean the weather can change quite dramatically within a short distance and time frame. More rain tends to come in October to January.
July and August are usually the hottest with temperatures ranging from 15℃ to highs of 25℃. Weather conditions on Snowdon and the Brecon Beacons can be a challenge all year round so dress appropriately and check the weather ahead of any hiking.
Below are some tips on what tip bring on your trip to Wales.
What to pack for Wales in summer
- light hiking trousers
- a reusable water bottle
- sturdy hiking boots
- good walking sandals
- light, layered clothing
What to pack for Wales in winter
- a merino woolen baselayer
- merino woolen socks
- a long, warm, wind- and waterproof coat
- a reusable water bottle
- waterproof hiking boots
- a warm scarf
- layered clothing
What to pack for Wales in fall and spring
- comfortable hiking trousers
- a reusable water bottle
- sturdy hiking boots
- layered clothing
- a light yet warm jacket
The best time to travel to Wales
In terms of weather, it’s hard to say without any sliver of a doubt that you’ll get sun or rain on any given month. If you’re planning on heading to the beach or go camping, the best time to go is in the summer between June and September. To try and avoid the busy crowds and school holidays, head to Wales in April, May, September or October. If you’re looking to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors then June to October is usually the warmest and driest time for climbing and walking.
What to eat in Wales
- Bara Brith – traditional Welsh tea loaf made using dried fruit, spices and yeast
- Caerphilly cheese – the cheese is described as having a mild, salty type of flavor
- Welsh cakes – a sweet, traditional treat with a sugary coating similar to a scone
- Glamorgan sausages – a vegetarian sausage made using herbs, breadcrumbs, leek, and cheese
- Welsh rarebit – a Welsh staple made using cayenne pepper, ale, mustard and Worcester sauce
- Welsh cawl – a national dish, it’s known as a soup and tends to include salted bacon or beef, carrots, seasonable vegetables and potatoes
- Laverbread – a national delicacy made from laver, a variety of seaweed, which is minced
- Conwy mussels – from the northern fishing village of Conwy, the mussels are known for their rich flavor and colorful shells
- Welsh lamb – Wales is known for having exceptional lamb of the highest quality
- Leeks – an emblem of Wales, leeks will often be cooked into soups and broths with traditional meats
Famous events in Wales
- Six Nations, Cardiff (February, March) – Cardiff usually hosts two or three games at the Millennium Stadium during the European rugby championship.
- Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye (May, June) – one of Britain’s best literature and arts festivals, the 10-day Hay Festival is a must for bookworms with readings, workshops, book signings, and concerts.
- International Musical Eisteddfod (July) – the international music festival attracts around 50,000 visitors from all over the world with folk music, dancing competitions and gala concerts.
- Big Cheese, Caerphilly (July) – the event attracts more than 80,000 people over three days and includes a Cheese Olympics and a Tommy Cooper tent.
- Pembrokeshire Fish Week, Pembrokeshire (June) – the annual celebration brings together everything fishy with over 150 events for families, anglers and food lovers.
- Abergavenny Food Festival, Abergavenny (September) – one of Wales biggest culinary events, experience demonstrations, courses, and stalls.
- Three Peaks Yacht Race, Abermaw (June) – the race runs from Barmouth to Fort William with two members of each team running up Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike, the highest peaks in Wales, Scotland, and England.
- World Bog Snorkelling Championships, Llanwrtyd Wells (August) – one of Llanwrtyd’s wacky events, competitors have wetsuits, snorkels, and flippers to traverse a trench cut out of a peat bog.
- Green Man Festival, Crickhowell (August) – the four-day music festival attracts A-list indie acts and is well suited for adults and children.
- HowTheLightsGetIn, Hay-on-Wye (May, June) – the large festival of philosophy and music features diverse speakers and is held alongside the Hay Festival.
Bank holidays in Wales
- New Year’s Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- May Day
- Late May Bank Holiday
- August Bank Holiday
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
Cultural customs to be aware of in Wales
There aren’t really any strong cultural customs to follow in Wales but be sure not to confuse being British with being Welsh. Despite Wales being part of the UK, the Welsh are a proud nation with a long cultural heritage and being British is more equated to Englishness.
Where to stay in Wales
I always use Booking.com to book hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts when traveling. This booking platform 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 the best places to stay in Wales, I highly recommend you check there.
On the occasions that I want to book an apartment rather than a hotel, I use Airbnb.
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:
Basic phrases and their pronunciation
Nice to meet you
Where are you from?
I don’t understand
I can’t speak Welsh
How do you say?
What’s this called in Welsh?
What’s your name?
My name is
How are you?
In the pub, I’d like a pint of…
Where is the toilet?
Bore da (bo-rre dah)
Noswaith dda (noss-waith thah)
Cwrdd â chi yn foddhaus (crew thv ar Key un Vothv house )
Os gwelwch yn dda (os gwel-ookh uhn thah)
Esgusodwch fi (ess-gi-so-dookh-vee)
Mae’n ddrwg gyda fi (main thrroog guh-da vee)
Nac oes (nag oyss)
O ble ydych chi’n dod? (oh ble uh-deekh kheen dohd?)
Dw I ddim yn deall (doo ee thim uhn deh-ahhl)
Alla i ddim siarad Cymraeg (alh'a ee thim sharad kym-RYE-g)
Sut mae dweud? (sit mai dwayd?)
Beth yw hwn yn Gymraeg? (beth yw hoon uhn guhm-raig?)
Beth yw eich enw chi? (beth yu uhch en-oo khee?)
Fy enw i yw (vuh an-oo ee yu)
Sut ydych chi? (sit uh-deekh khee?)
Ga i beint o (gah ee beint o)
Ble' mae'r toiled? (Blay my'r toy-led?)
Safety in Wales
Wales is generally safe to travel with its people being welcoming and hospitable. You’re unlikely to experience any problems traveling in Wales. Cardiff is a popular destination for a weekend of drinking and rugby so if you’re not into the sport, its best to avoid the capital during games. As with any popular tourist spots, use your common sense and use basic precautions when in crowded areas.
The use of cash and cards in Wales
Credit, debit and contactless payment are widely used throughout Wales with Visa and MasterCard being the most common type of cards. Some smaller shops, hotels, cafes, and markets may not accept cards or at least have a minimum spend so it’s worth having some cash on you. Be careful of oversea bank charges and ATM fees when withdrawing money. ATM’s are easily available throughout the country.
Calling abroad, WiFi and data use in Wales
Those with a SIM card from an EU country don't have to pay roaming charges when calling, texting, or using data in Wales. 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 Wales
There is no obligation at all to tip in Wales. Tips are left if you feel the service has been particularly good or at least satisfactory. Tipping is very much appreciated but not a requirement. Pay up to 10% for good service in a restaurant or cafe for a sit-down meal.
A brief history of Wales
The landscape of Wales was forged by the last Ice Age. Evidence suggests that humans have inhabited the country for at least 230,000 years as a Neanderthal jawbone was found in North Wales. By the Bronze Age, parts of Wales had farms and settlements had been established. The Celts began migrating from central Europe around 1000 BC and started to influence the region with weapons, chariots, tools, and pottery.
The first recorded history of Wales began in 48 AD with the arrival of the Romans on Welsh borders with the invasion of Britain. At the time, the people spoke a Celtic language which would eventually evolve into Welsh. In 550, the Saxon advance resumed in Wales and the legend around the great King Arthur began. It’s believed he was first mentioned in Welsh poetry around 594. The Normans invaded England in 1066 and by 1100 the Norman’s had been driven out of the Welsh regions.
In 1283, Edward I ordered the building of castles and eventually built or repaired 17 castles. To this day, Wales has over 600 castles. Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at Bosworth in 1485 and became King of England. Later, the first Act of Union was passed between England and Wales in which Wales became united politically with England and governed by English law. During the 19th century, the Welsh Rugby Union was established to become the guardians of Wales’s national sport.
In 1955, Cardiff becomes the capital city of Wales and Europe’s youngest capital city. Towards the end of the 20th century saw the opening of the Millennium Stadium in the heart of Cardiff. In the 2000s, the Ryder Cup came to Wales for the first time and Wales voted to leave the European Union in the United Kingdom EU Referendum.
And that's it! I hope this guide has given you some ideas of what to do in Wales and will help you plan your trip there :-)
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