As international travel opens up once again, planning that long awaited trip to Europe is getting much less complicated and easier to plan. I thought I’d try to answer your questions about travel to the UK from the USA. Isn’t it time you started putting some dates in your calendar?
Major airports for flights into the UK from the USA:
- Heathrow greater London
- Gatwick greater London
- Manchester middle of England
- Edinburgh capital of Scotland
- Bristol far south west near Wales
Major airlines with direct flights from US to UK
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
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.
Do I need a passport to enter the UK?
- You’ll need a valid passport good for the entire length of your stay and with at least 6 months left before expiration.
- 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.
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.
- A criminal record or if you’ve previously been denied entry, means a passport won’t do. You’ll need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa
- Additional information on Work, Student and Standard Visitor Visas.
Have Covid restrictions been lifted?
As of March 18, 2022 you won’t need to take any tests, complete a passenger locator form or quarantine when you arrive in England.
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.
What can I bring into the UK?
You won’t need to pay UK customs tax or duty on any personal use items or gifts. Here’s the skinny on what to expect from UK customs aka border control.
However you must declare any commercial goods because they’ll be subject to tax and duty charges. Declare commercial goods before crossing the UK border.
Get information on what’s allowed or how to declare your goods online ahead of time.
Luggage allowance for travel to the UK
Checked Bag Allowance
Luggage allowances for international travel varies depending on the class of ticket. Check if you’re eligible for an upgrade through a frequent flier or credit card program.
- Average checked bag allowed as follows:
- 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 like 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
What to expect once you arrive in the UK
Most international flights from the US fly overnight and 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
These are the best routes into London using public transportation such as Heathrow Express.
Heathrow Express is a dedicated train service from Terminals 2,3 & 5 to London’s Paddington station. Once you arrive in Paddington you can book a taxi to take you to your hotel or use buses or the tube (subway). All connections are signposted within Paddington station. Because Paddington station is north of central London, it can be inconvenient to journey onward, depending on your destination.
- Rental Cars
- Driving and Parking at Heathrow
- Taxis and Mini Cabs
- Rail/Train: there’s no direct rail/train service to Heathrow other than Heathrow Express underground service
London Gatwick Airport
I’ve explained the best routes into London using public transportation here. One of the main attractions to landing at Gatwick is it has it’s own train station from where you can catch a train into central London or anywhere in the UK. One rail option is the Gatwick Express. It’s a faster more direct train service from Gatwick to London stations. Service is said to resume April 3,2022.
- Rental Cars
- Driving and Parking at Gatwick
- Taxis at Gatwick
- Rail: Gatwick Airport has a dedicated rail station minutes from the terminal. Book train travel.
Should I Stay in London?
London makes a wonderful base to explore from and surprisingly it’s often warmer than elsewhere in the country. All the major train routes have connections here and London is the hub for connections all over the UK. Alternatively if you plan to drive, then staying outside the city is probably a better option. It’s easy to travel into London for the day by train.
The best times to visit London depend on what your travel goals are.
My recommendations for getting around central London 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?