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Questions about Travel to the UK from the USA Answered!

Updated April 25, 2024

Ready to travel to the UK from the USA? I’ve got the answers to your questions!

International travel is now at 90% of pre-pandemic levels and I can tell you from personal experience, the deals are getting more challenging to find. If you’re willing to travel off or shoulder season you’ll have a better chance to snag a bargain.

In 2023 I flew round trip London to Boston in April for about $650. 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 though it was early March!

Your departure airport can make all the difference.

Boston and NYC for example have more airlines competing for your business than Dallas-Fort Worth. It’s also a shorter flight from the east coast to Europe, so that factors in too. I’d suggest you start looking 3-6 months in advance unless you’re traveling in peak season and then start 6+ months out. Start with Google Flights and check out their calendar feature to get an overview of what days/weeks are the best fares. I always choose non-stop but a connecting flight can be cheaper especially if you’re traveling from London to Dallas, Chicago or LA for example.

Q. Which major UK airports get flights from the USA?

A.

  1. Heathrow Airport is about an hour from central London and the largest hub in the UK
  2. Gatwick is south of London about 1-2 hours
  3. Manchester is main hub for mid and north of England
  4. Edinburgh International is in capital of Scotland

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

Q. Which major airlines fly direct from US to UK

A.

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 as I wanted a later flight it was “shared” with American Airlines. Unfortunately I didn’t feel the service or meals were on a par with BA!

travel to the uk from the usa

Town of Arundel in West Sussex

Q. Do I need a passport to enter the UK?

A.

  • Yes, you’ll need a valid passport that’s good for the entire length of your stay and 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.

Q. Do I need a visa to enter the UK?

A.

  • 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 a country besides England, the links below may be helpful. Keep in mind Ireland is part of the British Isles but not the United Kingdom but Northern Ireland IS part of the UK.

Q. What am I allowed to bring into the UK?

A.

  • 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 because they are subject to tax and duty charges so be sure to declare any commercial goods before you cross the UK border.
  • Get information on what’s allowed and how to declare your goods online ahead of time.
travel to the UK from the USA

Cafe and outdoor dining in Bath

Q. Are Heathrow and Gatwick Airports in London?

A.

Heathrow and Gatwick airports are the busiest UK airports for US arrivals and Heathrow has the majority of US flights but neither airport is in London!

  • Heathrow airport is west of 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 south of central London

From either airport there are many transport options to continue on your journey, including private taxi service, rental car or public transportation. Also keep in mind,  international flights from the US are overnight which means they land at UK airports in the morning hours so be prepared for your flight to land the day after you leave!

Q. What’s the best way to get from the airport to London?

A.

Depending on which airport you fly into you’ll have these options for travel into London and beyond.

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.

travel to the UK from the USA

Buzzy Carnaby Street

Q. Where Should I Stay in London?

A.

London makes a wonderful base to explore from and conveniently is the hub for transportation connections to the rest of England and the UK. Although it can be more expensive than other parts of the UK, plan on spending at least a few days in the capital city to get acclimated and to see the best the city has to offer.

London is made up of a total of 9 zones. Central London is in Zone 1. This is where most of the tourist sights are such as Houses of Parliament, Millenium Wheel, Tower of London etc. Think of Zone 2 as the ring around Zone 1. Both are considered central  London and make a convenient  ( if more expensive) base to explore the city without having to travel very far.

If you are staying in London, I’d pass on renting a car. 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 want to get a car and drive, then I recommend staying outside London. You can always park your car where you’re staying and take a train into central London.

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.

Q. What day trips from London can I take?

A.

London 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! Let’s find a cozy place to spend the night and make it a day/night trip!

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. Find the perfect pad to stay here.

How about popping by an ancient castle or two? Arundel is easily accessible by train from London and Hever Castle is also close to a train station. Both make a wonderful day trip to explore a bit of the countryside around the city

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

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.