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General Info about Belfast, Northern Ireland

Visa Requirements
UK and Irish nationals do not require a visa to enter Northern Ireland but they do require photographic identification. Nationals of other EU countries don’t require a visa but do require a passport and can stay indefinitely. Others can stay up to 3 to 6 months but require a visa for longer stays.

Nationals of Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and South Africa don’t require a visa for a holiday but do if they are going to work.

Currency
The currency used in the UK is the Sterling Pound which is divided into 100 pennies. The coins in circulation are 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. Notes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.

Language
The native language in Belfast is English.

Climate
It’s extremely difficult to generalise when talking about the Irish but Belfast’s weather is generally mild and temperate. Winters are cold but snow falls seldom. Summers are warm but not necessarily sunny.

Medical Care
UK nationals don’t documentation and can receive treatment as they would at home. Visitors travelling from the EU should obtain an E111 form from the post office prior to departure. Visitors from all non-EU countries will require to pay for any medical attention required. It is strongly required that you take out medical insurance before travelling.

Time Zone
Belfast is in Greenwich Mean Time.

Opening Hours
Shops generally open between 9.00am and 6.00pm but many now open until 7.00pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Up until recently, most shops closed on Sundays but this is no longer the case. Office hours are between 9.00am and 5.00pm from Monday to Friday and banks generally open at 9.30am and close at 3.30pm.

Tourist Offices
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s main tourist office is located on at 59 North Street, Belfast. It opens from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday and is the best source of information for travellers in the city.

Tax
A 17.5% sales tax (VAT) is levied on all goods and services in Belfast. It does not apply to books or food. By law it must be included in your hotel or restaurant bill. With regards to shopping, this tax can be claimed back on goods taken out of the country by non-nationals but not all stores participate in this 'Retail Export Scheme' so, before purchasing, look for a sign or enquire.

Currency Exchange
Traveller’s cheques are widely accepted and can also be exchanged in banks and bureau de changes. Bureau de Changes tend to open later than banks which is good to take note if you need to change foreign currency/travellers after banks close. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted but some of the smaller hotels, restaurants and B&Bs may require cash payment.

You can use your credit card or your regular bank card to obtain money from ATMs. Remember, however, that you do pay a charge every time you withdraw cash. ATMs are available throughout the city.

Electricity
Electricity in the UK is 240 volts AC (50Hz).

Telephones
If you wish to call abroad from the UK dial 00, followed by the international calling code for the country and then the local number. It is worth noting that you also need to drop the first zero from the local area code when dialling.

Post Office
Post offices in Belfast are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5:30pm and from 9:30am to 12.00pm on Saturdays. Belfast’s main post office can be found on Castle Place.

Tipping
A service charge of 10% is usually added on to bills in restaurants

Public Holidays.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day.

In the UK they are New Years Day (January 1st), Easter (March/April), May Bank Holiday (first Monday in May), Spring Bank Holiday (last Monday in May), Summer Bank Holiday (last Monday in August), Christmas Day (December 25th) and Boxing Day (December 26th).

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