Travel / Travel Tips

7 Must Know Tips before Travel to the UK from USA

Updated November 7, 2023

Are you’re ready to travel to the UK from the USA?

As a dual American/British citizen, I understand what an American traveler needs to know before you go!

  1. Do you need a visa to enter the UK
  2. UK Passport entry requirements
  3. What you can bring into the UK
  4. What currency should you bring
  5. Luggage allowance
  6. Landing in the UK
  7. Transportation

US citizens traveling as a tourist or visitor are entitled to stay in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa.

If you’re traveling to England from the US for the first time, I’ve written about my best tips here. Ready? Let’s go.

Travel to the UK from USA

Looking up Cheap Street, Frome Somerset

1. Do You Need a Visa to Enter the UK?

  • As a tourist you can stay up to 6 months in the UK without a visa.
  • With some business or academic activities you won’t need a visa, but…
  • If you plan to work in the UK you must have a work visa. Check to see if you need a visa to work in the UK
  • As a student you can stay for up to 6 months without a visa; longer than 6 months you’ll need a Student visa.
  • If you have a criminal record or have previously been denied entry you should apply for a Standard Visitor visa
  • More information on Work, Student and Standard Visitor Visas.

2. Entry Requirements for the UK

  • Your current passport must remain valid for the entire length of your stay
  • Once you arrive in the UK, show your passport at airport border control
  • Travelers from the US may use the automatic ePassport gates (with a few exceptions)
  • Wales, Scotland and N Ireland are all part of the UK, entry requirements are the same
  • As of June 2023, no Covid test requirements are in place

3. Traveling to the UK from USA : What Can You Bring?

When you bring goods from the US for personal use or as a gift, you don’t have to pay UK customs tax or duty.

If you’re bringing in any commercial goods – as a business for example – you must declare those goods because they’ll be subject to tax and duty charges. Declare commercial goods before crossing the UK border.

Here’s more info on what’s allowed and how to declare your goods online.

Travel to the UK from USA

The Kennet Avon canal in Bradford on Avon Somerset

4. What Money Should You Bring?

The United Kingdom uses pound Stirling GBP currency which is approximately $1.25-1.28 per pound.

  • Don’t bother with Travelers checks as most places don’t accept them. Same is true for the AMEX card.
  • Don’t bother exchanging more than a small amount of US to UK cash in the US.
  • Use a US debit card at UK ATMs to withdraw local currency
  • Check your daily withdrawal limit. Visit your bank before you travel to update.
  • Credit/debit cards and Apple /Google Pay are widely used
  • Add your US credit card to Apple Pay, so you don’t have to sign for each purchase.
  • Most contactless purchase limits have been raised up to £100 ($125.)
  • Use a US credit card that does NOT charge a Foreign Transaction Fee!
  • Consider notifying your bank online or in person, of your travel plans.

5. Luggage Allowances for Travel to UK

Checked Bag Allowance
Luggage allowances for international travel are different than for domestic flights. Your class of ticket may include a luggage allowance and or you may be eligible for a baggage upgrade through frequent flier or credit card program status.

Average checked bag allowed:

  • Size: 62 in/158 cm = total of width + height +length
  • Weight of checked bag: 50 lbs./23 kg

Carry On Bag Allowance

  • 1 personal item such as a purse or laptop bag, not to exceed 18″ x 14″ x 8”
  • 1 carry on bag not to exceed 22″ x 14″ x 9”
  • Carry on details from American Airlines

6. Landing in the UK

Most international flights from the US are overnights landing during early morning hours. Heathrow and Gatwick airports are outside of London and handle the majority of US arrivals.
Heathrow airport is west of London: about an 1- 1.5 hour drive and 18 miles
Gatwick airport lies south of London: about 1.5 hour drive and 30 miles

I go over all transportation options from both Heathrow and Gatwick airports into central London here.  Ground transportation options include private taxi service, rental car or public transportation.

It’s a good idea to stay over the night before an early flight or book into a hotel if you are too tired to travel long distances once you arrive!

Travel to the UK from USA

Oxford Circus on a beautiful sunny May day in London

7. Getting Around London and the UK

It’s easy to get around England and the UK by public transportation. Hire or rent a car if you want more flexibility. London is best navigated by public transport or taxi.

  • For travel in London, look up the TFL (Transport for London) map to familiarize yourself. TFL includes tube (subway) and buses.
  • Pay by “tapping on” when you go through the ticket barrier in Tube stations, remembering to “tap off” when you leave through the ticket barrier at your destination. Always use the same payment method to pay in and out.
  • Or purchase an Oyster card at any station good for tubes, buses and boats. You add money to it and use it as a debit card.
  • London has 12 major railway stations with connections all over the UK for travel outside the city.
  • For train travel (not Tube) use the Trainline app to buy tickets up to 6 weeks in advance. With updates on strikes or delays it’s worth the small booking fee. Learn all about train travel here.
  • How to get around London and to and from Heathrow and Gatwick.

London makes an ideal base for taking cheeky day trips to explore the country and get the full experience of all this lovely country has to offer and yes you can do it all by train!

Travel requirements may change so please check the links I’ve provided to make sure you get the most up to date information before you travel.

Get specialized travel advice and guidance


About Author

With over 30 years in a creative role in advertising and publishing, and a lifetime of journeys between the US and UK, I've created Hipoverfifty for you. I hope my journey and perspective will guide you on yours.