When you’re traveling to England from the US – west to east – you’ll find many differences in culture, food and language.
Be prepared for just how different English can sound with regional accents and expressions as even the most common words may sound foreign.
Not everyone talks like the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey! But don’t let that bother you for a minute. You’ll fit in just fine.
I’ve found Brits are fascinated with Americans, our views and accents. I consider my accent to be non-existent yet I’ve had several Brits gush “I love your accent”!
Most Brits are very in touch with American culture and politics. In fact they may know more about American news than we do. The UK and US still enjoy a very “special relationship” despite any politics especially after the death of the Queen. We’ll always be linked through culture, history and genetic heritage. Don’t forget how many Brits sailed across the Atlantic to make the US their new home!
You may have heard of Brexit. This only affects travel for EU or British citizens. It has no affect on your travel to the UK or England.
Once you’ve packed your bags and decided what to wear, I know you’ll have the time of your life exploring the beautiful British Isles. Be prepared to be dazzled by lyrical scenery, bottomless culture and lashings of gorgeous food and drink!
What to Know: Is It Great Britain or the UK?
- Great Britain (or Britain) is England, Scotland, Wales (and islands such as the Isle of Wight)
- UK or United Kingdom is really a political name for Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- Ireland refers to southern Ireland
- British Isles includes all of the above!
Traveling to England from the US
What to Know: USA to UK Travelers
- US citizens can travel within the UK for up to 6 months without a visa.
- You need a valid US passport
- Renew your passport before traveling if there’s less than 6 months on it before it expires
- As of June 2019, US passport holders may use the ePassport gates on arrival in the UK; simply scan your passport for entry
- Bring your US driving license in case you decide to rent a car
What to Know: USA to UK Flights
Get a non stop flight to England if possible. Weather can create havoc on connecting flights. The majority of west to east flights from the US to Europe are overnight so nonstop flights are less stressful and more relaxing.
- New York to London average flight time is 7:55 hours
- Denver to London average flight time is 8:55 hours
- London to New York average flight time is 8:10 hours
- London to Denver average flight time is 9:50 hours
Flights from east to west – London to New York – take a little longer due to prevailing winds and are usually scheduled during the day.
What to Know: What to Wear Traveling to England
Here’s what I wear on my overnight flights, but your packing list will depend on time of year. Take a hoodie or poncho to keep warm on the flight. Overnight flights can get chilly, especially if you’re seated in a window or exit aisle seat.
No it doesn’t rain all year long in England, but it can seem that way if you travel November through March!
Packing for Colder Weather
England doesn’t feel that cold if you’re used to northern latitude in the US. In fact it’s a fairly temperate climate and the days highs and lows are usually within 10 degrees.
The further north you go the colder it will feel. Scotland for example will be just that bit colder than anywhere in England. Late fall and winter is the coldest and wettest. It’s rarely a hard driving rain, but a lengthy slow descent. This is why pubs and tea shops were invented!
- Layers are your secret weapon.
- I don’t bother with an umbrella but buy a packable one here if you find you need it.
- Find a waterproof or water resistant long jacket or coat with a hood. Or if like me, you to like to wear hats, skip the hood. A longer jacket keeps your legs dry.
- Take a pair or two of waterproof or water resistant shoes or boots that are comfy and stylish enough to wear with almost everything in your suitcase.
- Thin wool socks or liners keep feet warm.
- I pack lightweight gloves for travel during the cold months (good to wear to avoid touching germy surfaces too).
- A pretty scarf that’s lightweight and warm will keep your neck warm when the wind blows.
Packing for Spring, Summer or Early Fall
During warmer days, I use a tote bag to carry my glasses, phones, maps etc plus a light jacket or poncho in case temps drop while I’m out exploring.
ABP – always be prepared! Temps can be in the 60s in August.
You can always shop for an extra sweater or scarf once you get to England. Isn’t that half the fun of traveling?
What to Know: Staying In London
Traveling from the USA you’ll likely land at either Heathrow or Gatwick. Here’s how to get into central London from either airport. I highly recommend setting aside at least a few days either at the beginning or end of your trip to explore London.
Consider using London as a base for your entire stay as I’ve done. You can skip the hassle of renting a car and get around on the Tube, trains and taxis. Hop on a train for longer trips out of the city.
We stayed at Dolphin Square for two weeks as a base. During that time we explored London, took the train up to Edinburgh for an overnight visit and hopped over to Paris for three days. It was SO nice to have a base to come back to and not have to schlep bags except a carry on.
Dolphin Square is several blocks of flats close to Westminster. Politicians, actresses and spies infamously lived here at one time. I recommend booking a studio or one bedroom flat; much nicer than the single rooms. You can eat breakfast in the morning in the small bistro and get pampered at the end of the day in the spa. Or have a swim in the pool.
Want to get a taste of Scotland or more specifically Edinburgh? Take a train up from London’s Kings Cross or Euston stations; stay overnight and come back the next day as we did. Yes you can take an overnight train but for me it’s worth relaxing and seeing the countryside during the day.
What to Know: London Day Trips
- The direct fast train from London Paddington to Bath takes about 1:20. Browse the streets where Jane Austen used to live.
- London Paddington to Oxford is an hour. Visit the film settings for Harry Potter, Endeavor, Inspector Morse and The Golden Compass.
- How about Windsor Castle? A direct train from Paddington will have you gazing upon the Queen’s residence in less than an hour.
Traveling to England: Getting Around
Decide if you’re comfortable driving OR if you prefer to use public transportation and trains to get around.
Driving? Research car rentals before you leave the US. The standard rental here is a manual or stick shift. I’d recommend hiring an automatic to make driving on the left side easier if your budget allows.
What to Know: Travel by Car and Train Options
- Use trains, tubes and taxis to get around London and then rent a car to head out to the countryside for an extended visit.
- Hire a car at the airport if you’re staying outside London. Drop off at the airport when you’re ready to return to the US. It’s challenging, but to see places that are otherwise inaccessible by train or bus, it’s the only way. You’ll find Alamo, Hertz and Enterprise rentals here. All you’ll need is your US driving license.
- Base yourself in London, use trains, tube, taxis to get around central London and then hop on a train for day trips like Bath, Oxford and Brighton.
Traveling to England: Money
Don’t bother bringing American Express travelers checks. No one takes them! Since the pandemic, almost everything is paid for with a card. All you need is a US credit card and debit card. I believe you’ll get a better exchange rate here using your debit card at any ATM to withdraw pounds as needed. Your bank may charge you a fee. Wells Fargo charges me $5. each time I make a cash withdrawal so I make it count.
Credit cards here are all contactless. If you have an iPhone, add a credit card (preferably one without a foreign transaction fee) to Apple wallet. You’ll be able to charge purchases without signing. Which is a big plus when you’re on the go.
Traveling to England: Food & Drink
You’ll find the culture here is a little more laid back than in the US. Smaller shops may not stay open past 5-6 PM and Sunday hours are 10-4. Some pubs don’t open until 5 PM. London is open all hours, but restaurants, bars and stores in smaller towns may have shorter opening times than you’re used to.
In the bar, you ask for “a half” or “a pint” of beer or cider. Draft is more common but bottled is also available. A glass of wine may be ordered in three different measures. Small, medium or large.
A gin and tonic can also be ordered as a single or double, and if the pub has a selection of tonic waters, you can choose since the bottle is served on the side. Ask for ice if you want it.
Water is not usually given at meals or the bar unless you ask for it. It’s not usually charged for. Don’t expect it to be iced.
Meal times are similar to the US, however dinner is often called “tea” if served early. Just to be confusing, lunch may also be called dinner!
When you’re ready to order, look at the menu and you may need to order your drink and meal at the bar to be served to your table. When you’re finished, you can often pay your bill at the bar if there’s no wait staff.
English food can swing the gamut from severely unhealthy all the way to vegan and gluten free! If you’re vegetarian you’ll have no problem finding something tasty to eat. American fast food has made it’s way to Europe and the waistlines of the natives may never recover. If you’ve absolutely got to have your McD burger or Pizza Hut you’ll find it. Ditto Indian and Chinese food are widely available for takeaway or takeout.
Traveling to England: Best Time
My favorite time to visit England is late spring or early fall.
By late April all the lovely flowers and green leaves are bursting out; the weather becomes a little dryer and warmer too. By missing the busy spring break or Easter period you should be able to get some good deals on hotels and flights. London will still be packed with tourists but you won’t be fighting the lines as much as during summer.
September is the perfect month to travel to England. Weather is mild and sunny with less rain. With most schools back in session, popular spots will be a little less crowded and easier to book.
Even into late October the weather can be nice and mild.
Traveling to England: Culture
One of the reasons I enjoy traveling by train is the chance to strike up a conversation. Although Brits don’t typically walk around smiling, they’re quick to get a joke and laugh. The witty sense of humor is dry and sarcastic but not usually bitter. Unless you happened to be here when Brexit was being dissected! Politics and religion aren’t usually offered up for conversation.
You’ll find they’re happy to talk with you about the US and get your opinion on the lates state of the union.
Not everyone is a Boris Johnson or Lady Mary. You’ll find a wide range of characters, accents and eclectic personalities. It’s what makes England so unique. Whether you’re a Monty Python or Downton Abbey fan, you’ll find England is a bit of both. A dynamic creative country full of history and gorgeous scenery. I know you’re going to love your travels to England!