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General Info about England

Currency
The currency used in England is the Sterling pound and it’s divided into one hundred pennies. The coins in circulation are 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2 and £5 and notes are in denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.

Language
Strangely enough, the native language in England is English.

Climate
England experiences a temperate climate which means that summers are warm and wet with average temperatures ranging between 12 and 21 degrees Celsius. Winters are cool and wet, temperatures range between 2 and 7 degrees Celsius. It is quite variable, however, but in general the west coast receives the most rain while the east coast is colder and windier. Overall, it is agreed that the southwest has the mildest climate all year round.

Time Zone
England operates on Greenwich Mean Time but summer time which takes place from March to October places it one hour ahead.

Opening Hours
Shops are generally open between 9.00am and 5.30/6.00pm from Monday to Saturday. This is changing all the time, however, with Sunday opening and late night shopping on Thursday or Friday in the larger towns and cities. Bigger supermarkets also open later, usually until 8.00 or 9.00pm from Monday to Saturday and from 10.00am until 4.00pm on Sundays. When you reach more rural areas, many towns still observe an early closing day when shops shut at 1.00pm. This usually takes place on Wednesday. Office hours are usually between 9.00 and 5.00/5.30 and banks open between 9.30am and 4.30pm from Monday to Friday but this may vary slightly from branch to branch.

Electricity
Electricity in England is 240 Volts AC (50Hz).

Tax
In England value added tax (VAT) is calculated at a rate of 17.5%. This is usually included on a quoted price but you should confirm this prior to purchasing anything to avoid any confusion when it comes to payment. For non-EU residents, however, the good news is that you can get the tax back on certain items. Because it is a voluntary programme many stores may ask you to make a minimum purchase. Furthermore, this incentive only applies in stores which state that they participate in the ‘Retail Export Scheme’. In order to avail of this incentive, you need to complete a form when you are making your purchase. When you are leaving the country, you present both the item and the cheque at customs, the officials will stamp it for you and you can then cash your cheque at any of the booths with the Tax-Free logo and Cash Refund sign. This is only applicable where you are leaving the country within three months.

Visa Requirements
Citizens of EU member states are free to live and work in the UK without a visa. Visitors from the Republic of Ireland do not even need a passport to enter the country. American, Canadian, Australian, South African and New Zealand nationals are allowed to stay for up to a period of six months without a visa. All you will need is an up to date passport which is valid until after the date on which you plan to leave the country. Visitors from all other countries should contact the British Embassy in their area for entry details.

Currency Exchange
While traveller’s cheques are widely accepted in larger towns and cities, they may prove difficult to use in the more remote parts of the country, particularly for cheques worth over £20. If you heading to further flung destinations, you should obtain cash before you go. Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday, some also open on Saturday mornings. Bureau de Changes tend to open later than banks but these are only to be found in the larger towns.

Visa and Mastercard are also accepted but some of the smaller hotels, restaurants and B & Bs in the north will probably want cash payment. You can also use your credit card to obtain money from an ATM if you have the pin. Remember, however, that you do pay a charge every time you withdraw cash. ATMs are available throughout the country.

Telephones
To call England from abroad you first dial 00, followed by 44, the local area code and the local number. If you wish to call abroad from England again you dial 00, followed by the international calling code for your particular country and then the local number. It is worth noting that you also need to drop the first zero from the local area code for both types of call.

Thanks to the world of cinema, most people associate bright red kiosks with British public telephones. Today, however, these are very rare and have been replaced by smoked glass kiosks which will usually have the British Telecom (BT) logo. Most take coins and phonecards. Cards can be purchased in newsagents, tourist offices, train stations and a variety of other outlets. They come in denominations of £5, £10 or £20. The cheapest time to make international calls is after 8.00pm on weekdays and all day on Saturdays and Sundays.

Tipping
Tipping in England is not compulsory, but as with everywhere else it is greatly appreciated. If you are happy with the service you should leave some amount, however big or small. In some restaurants a fifteen per cent service charge is included in the bill. Where this is the case, you will probably feel less obliged to leave a tip. Taxi drivers and hotel porters are usually paid a small amount for their services.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In England they take place on January 1st, Good Friday and Easter Monday, the first and last Monday in May, last Monday in August and December 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.

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