Are you’re ready to travel to the UK from the USA? Here’s what to know before you go! I’m a dual American/British citizen who understands the questions you might have as a American traveler.
US citizens traveling as tourists or visitors are entitled to stay in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa. Just make sure your passport is up to date for travel both in the US and UK.
If you’re traveling to England from the US for the first time, I’ve written about my best tips here. Ready? Let’s get started!
1. Visa and Border Requirements 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
- You must have a current passport that will remain valid for the entire length of your stay
- Once you arrive in the UK, you’ll 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 your 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 as they’re subject to tax and duty charges. These types of goods must be declared before crossing the UK border.
Here’s more info on what’s allowed and how to declare your goods online.
4. What Money Should You Bring?
The United Kingdom uses pound stirling GBP currency which as of writing is approximately $1.25 per pound.
- Don’t bother with Travelers checks as they won’t be accepted at most places.
- Don’t bother exchanging more than a small amount of cash in the US.
- Use your US debit card at ATMs in the UK to withdraw any local currency cash you need.
- Keep in mind you’ll have a daily withdrawal limit unless you change that (with a visit to your bank) before your trip.
- Since the pandemic, credit/debit cards and Apple Pay are used more widely than cash.
- Add your US credit card to Apple Pay, otherwise you may have to sign for each purchase.
- Most contactless purchase limits have been raised up to £100 ($125.)
- Be sure the credit card you take does not charge a Foreign Transaction Fee!
- Consider notifying your bank (either 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 arriving from the US are overnights landing at UK airports during early morning hours. Heathrow and Gatwick airports handle the majority of US arrivals.
Heathrow airport is closest to London: about an 1- 1.5 hour drive and 18 miles west of the center of London (Westminster)
Gatwick airport lies south of London: about 1.5 hour drive and 30 miles
Ground transportation options include private taxi service, rental car or public transportation.
London Heathrow Airport
Best routes into London using public transportation
Heathrow Express – underground train to London Paddington station from Terminals 2,3 & 5
Driving and Parking at Heathrow
Taxis and Mini Cabs
RAIL: No Heathrow train/rail station. Take Heathrow Express or Elizabeth line underground/tube service to London Paddington. London Paddington is both a rail/tube station, make connections onward from here.
London Gatwick Airport
Best routes into London using public transportation
Gatwick Express – faster more direct trains from Gatwick station to London stations however service is suspended until further notice.
Driving and Parking at Gatwick
Taxis at Gatwick
RAIL: Gatwick Airport has a dedicated rail station adjacent to the terminals. Make connections by rail to all points in the UK
7. Getting Around London and the UK
Getting around England and Great Britain via public transportation is entirely doable.
- Look up the TFL (Transport for London) map before you leave and familiarize yourself with the layout and each “line” on the underground/tube system.
- Pay by mostUS credit or debit cards by “tapping on” when you go through the ticket barrier and remember to “tap off” when you leave through the ticket barrier at your destination. Use the same method to pay in and out.
- Apply Pay and Google Pay also can be used.
- If your US CC doesn’t work, purchase an Oyster card at any station. You add money to it and use it as a debit card, then top it up as needed.
- The same payment methods work on London buses.
- London has 12 major railway stations with connections to the entire UK. Most train/railway stations also have at least one underground/tube station for connections to the city.
- Each London railway/train station is hub for connections to different parts of the UK. For example, Paddington station serves the southwest, Victoria the southeast.
- Use the Trainline app to pre-buy train tickets both in the UK (and parts of Europe) up to 6 weeks in advance. This app provides updates on any strikes or delays so super handy even with the small booking fee. Learn all about train travel here.
- More on 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
Marshal NosaDecember 7, 2021 at 2:42 AM
Nice article you got here. I was actually looking up for information on how I could travel to the UK before I came across your tips.