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Questions about Travel to the UK from the USA Answered!

Ready to travel to the UK from the USA? Here’s the basics to get you started on your trip!

International travel is now at 90% of pre-pandemic levels and I can tell you from personal experience, deals are getting more challenging to find. Of course if you’re willing to travel off or shoulder season you’ve got a better chance to snag a bargain. In 2023 I flew round trip London to Boston for about $650 in April. However in February of 2024 a round trip from London to Dallas was considerably more, even during “off season”. The flight back to London was full even in early March!

Your departure airport can make all the difference. Boston and NYC have more airlines competing for your business than Dallas-Fort Worth. Of course it’s also a shorter flight from the east coast to Europe, so that factors in too. Just be aware when you start looking. Start with Google Flights and check out the calendar feature for an overview of flight costs. My recommendation is always go with non-stop but you can often do better price wise with a connecting flight if you’re traveling into the mid west or west.

Major airports for flights into the UK from the USA:
  • Heathrow Airport is about an hour from central London
  • Gatwick is south of London about 1-2 hours
  • Manchester is main hub for mid and north of England
  • Edinburgh International is in capital of Scotland

Birmingham (west Midlands) and Glasgow (Scotland) also have international flights to the US.

Major airlines with direct flights from US to UK

Most international carriers “code share” so you may book with American but fly British Airways. But don’t worry; luggage, ticketing and seating are shared seamlessly, although interior cabin services can vary depending on what type of plane is used. I can attest to this, as I booked my flight on British Airways, but I wanted a later flight which was shared with American. I didn’t feel the service or meals were on a par with BA!

travel to the UK from the USA

View from pretty Nunney castle in Somerset

Do I need a passport to enter the UK?

  • You’ll need a valid passport  good for the entire length of your stay that has at least 6 months left before it expires.
  • 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 (although there are a few exceptions)
  • Because Wales, Scotland and N Ireland are part of the United Kingdom, entry conditions remain the same to any UK country.

Do I need a visa to enter the UK?

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

If you’re traveling to another country besides England, these links may be helpful. Keep in mind Ireland is part of the British Isles but not the United Kingdom.

travel to the UK from the USA

The quaint town of Avebury, home to historic stone circles

What am I allowed to bring into the UK?

  • Personal use items or gifts are exempt from UK customs tax or duty on any. Here’s the scoop on what to expect from UK customs aka border control.
  • However you must declare any commercial goods as they are subject to tax and duty charges. Be sure to declare any commercial goods before crossing the UK border.
  • Get information on what’s allowed or how to declare your goods online ahead of time.
travel to the UK from the USA

Cafe and outdoor dining in Bath

What to expect when you travel to the UK from the USA

Most international flights from the US are overnight which means they land at UK airports in the morning hours.

Heathrow and Gatwick airports are the busiest UK airports for 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

From either airport there are many transport options to continue on your journey, including private taxi service, rental car or public transportation.

London Heathrow Airport
Go here to find all the best routes into London from Heathrow.

London Gatwick Airport

I’ve explained the best routes into London using public transportation here. One of the reasons I appreciate landing at Gatwick is Gatwick train station is steps from the terminal. You can catch a train into central London or anywhere in the UK.

The Gatwick Express is a faster more direct train service from Gatwick to London stations, but costs a bit more than regular trains into London.

Should I Stay in London?

London makes a wonderful base to explore from and surprisingly it’s often warmer here than you’d think.

London is the hub for connections all over the UK.

Staying in London? You won’t need a car and in fact it can be a major hassle not to mention expensive. Congestion charges are levied by the day and can cost up to £15 per day. If you plan to drive, then staying outside the city is probably a better option for lots of reasons and getting into London by train makes more sense than taking a car in.

The best times to visit London depend on what your travel goals are. Sport? Taylor Swift concert? Theatre or shopping, it’s all here and I’ve got the best times to see it all!

Looking for more tips on  getting around central London – these are fairly straightforward.

Why not book a home from home? I’ve found having a base to explore from is so much less tiring than schlepping and unpacking every few days.

When you decide to venture further outside London, one of the best ways to see the country is by train.

London also makes an ideal base for taking a cheeky day trip to explore the surrounding countryside. Brighton is a popular destination and is known as London by the Sea. Lewes is one of my favorite smallish towns where it’s possible to experience real English life away from the usual touristy haunts! 

Bath is another wonderful option for a long day trip or a very civilized long weekend. Bursting with period charm and character, it’s a favorite destination for Jane Austen and Bridgerton fans alike. Surprisingly Bath also has a major rugby stadium which is centrally located if sport is your preference! Take advantage of Bath as a base for day trips to the surrounding countryside.

Are you ready to open up your horizons and get away from the usual tourist spots to discover your favorite part of England and the UK?

My local expertise can help you make the most of your UK trip!
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.

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