United Kingdom Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our United Kingdom Traveler Information guide.
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Note: Always check that your destination country is one approved for travel by your travel insurance provider.
PASSPORT VALIDITY: Must be valid for the duration of your stay in the United Kingdom (At least six months remaining validity is required for onward travel to many other countries).
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: Must have at least one page.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Not required for stays less than six months.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: None.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: None.
Embassies and Consulates
33 Nine Elms Lane
London, SW11 7US
Telephone: +(44)(20) 7499-9000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(44)(20) 7499-9000
Fax: +(44) (20) 7891-3845
U.S. Consulate General Edinburgh, Scotland
3 Regent Terrace,
Edinburgh EH7 5BW
Telephone: 013-1556-8315 / from the United States: 011 (44)(13) 1556-8315
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 020-7499-9000 / from the United States: 011 (44)(20) 7499-9000
Fax: 0131-557-6023 /from the United States: 011 (44) 131-557-6023
U.S. Consulate General Belfast, Northern Ireland
Danesfort House, 223 Stranmillis Road,
Belfast BT9 5GR
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Telephone: 028-9038-6100 / from the United States: 011 (44)(28) 9038-6100
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 01253-501106 / from the United States: 011 (44) 1253-501106
Fax: 028-9068-1301 / from the United States: 011 (44)(28) 9068-1301
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on the United Kingdom for information on U.S. - UK relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
- To enter the United Kingdom, your passport must be valid for the entire duration of your planned stay.
- Starting June 2019, U.S. passport holders will be able to use the ePassport Gates upon arrival in the United Kingdom. U.S. citizens who had previously registered for the UK’s Registered Traveller Service (RTS) should now also use the ePassport Gates on arrival in the UK.
- If you are planning onward travel after departing the UK, note that many other countries require at least six months’ remaining validity on your passport to enter. If you are bound for Continental Europe, please see our U.S. travelers in Europe page for additional details.
- Visas for specific categories of visitors must be obtained prior to travel. Visit the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) websiteto determine if you need a visa to enter the United Kingdom. We cannot intervene on your behalf when you apply for a UK visa, nor can we advocate for your admission into the UK if you are denied entry.
- Students and prospective students should visit the UKVI website to determine if they need a visa.
- Unpaid and paid workers, interns, volunteers, charity workers, and temporary workers can find information about obtaining a visa on the UKVI website.
- Visitors traveling to the United Kingdom to get married, even if they do not plan to reside there, must obtain a visa in advance. See the UKVI website for visa information.
- Surcharges apply to certain categories of visas, generally those involving work, study, or residency for more than six months. More information is available on the UKVI website and in our Health section below.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the United Kingdom.
Safety and Security
Terrorist groups continue plotting possible near-term attacks in Europe. The UK Security Service publishes specific reasons for any changes in the threat level and recommended actions for the public via its UK threat levels website.
There is the potential for isolated violence related to the political situation in Northern Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland assesses there is a continued threat of violence from dissident groups in Northern Ireland, focused primarily on police and military targets, and may involve the use of firearms and explosives. Tensions may be heightened during the summer marching season (April to August), particularly on and around the July 12 public holiday.
Avoid areas of demonstrations if possible, and be careful within the vicinity of demonstrations. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate to violence.
The phone number for police/fire/ambulance emergency services is 999 in the United Kingdom and 112 in Gibraltar. You should also use these numbers to report security threats or suspicious packages. Also see information for contacting police from abroad.
- Be cautious and aware of your surroundings.
- Be vigilant, as pickpocketing, mugging, and “snatch and grab” theft of mobile phones, watches and jewelry can occur.
- Do not leave bags unattended in restaurants, pubs, hotel lobbies, and parked cars.
- Be alert to other criminal schemes, such as impostors posing as undercover police officers and “fining” tourists for bogus minor offenses. A legitimate Metropolitan Police Services officer will never demand an immediate cash payment.
- Use only licensed Black Cabs or pre-ordered car services (minicabs). Unlicensed taxis or private cars posing as taxis may offer low fares, but in some instances, travelers have been robbed or sexually assaulted while using these cars. See Transport for London for additional information on cabs and car services.
- Avoid using ATMs that look temporary in structure or location or are located in isolated areas – they may not be legitimate. Use ATMs located inside a bank branch.
Scams: Before sending any money to individuals you have never met in person, visit the Embassy London website for more information about internet financial scams and how to protect yourself.
Victims of Crime: Report crimes to the local police at 999 (United Kingdom) or 112 (Gibraltar) and contact the U.S. Embassy at +(44) (20) 7499-9000.
- Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim compensation programs in the United States
- provide information on victim compensation and support in the United Kingdom
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support if you are destitute
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas/activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
- You will be arrested if you bring pocket knives, blades, mace or pepper spray canisters, or any part of a gun into the United Kingdom. Please refer to the UK government publication Travelling to the UK, which details the items visitors are prohibited from bringing into the United Kingdom.
- Penalties against alcohol-related and other in-flight crimes committed aboard aircraft to and from the United Kingdom are stiff and are enforced with prison sentences. Please also see our information on U.S. customs regulations covering your return to the United States.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained in the United Kingdom, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
- The legal drinking age in the United Kingdom is 18. Parents and organizers of school trips should read our Students Abroad website to help plan a safe and enjoyable experience.
- Scotland’s “drink drive limit” law was amended to a lower level (roughly .05 BAC) and is stricter than the rest of the United Kingdom (roughly .08 BAC). This means that driving after even one drink can result in a charge of driving under the influence.
- The United Kingdom has very strict gun control laws, and importing firearms is extremely complicated. Information on applying for a firearm and/or shotgun certificate can be found on the London Metropolitan Police Firearms licensing webpage. Licenses from England or Wales may not be valid in Scotland; please check with the appropriate authorities. For firearms certificates for Scotland, please check with Police Scotland.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- International Religious Freedom Report – see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in the United Kingdom.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance:
- UK law requires that all public service providers (except in the transportation sector) make “reasonable adjustments” to ensure their services are available to persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, code exemptions permit many older buildings to have steps up from the street.
- Getting around in cities may be difficult at times because sidewalks can be narrow and uneven.
- Most London Underground and UK National Rail System stations are not readily accessible for people with disabilities. Many stations do not have elevators, and have stairways and long corridors for changing trains or exiting to the street. Many UK buses are equipped with lowering platforms for limited-mobility or sight- or hearing-disabled travelers.
- Many taxis have swivel-entry seats or retractable ramps to ease entry.
- Disabled parking permits (known as “blue badges”) are issued by local government councils throughout the country. Visit the UK government website for contact information. Some councils may not offer permits to temporary visitors.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for women travelers.
While medical services are widely available, free medical care under the National Health System (NHS) is allowed only for UK residents, certain EU nationals, and some visa holders.
An NHS surcharge is assessed on certain visa applicants at the time of application. Tourists and short-term visitors will not be assessed the surcharge, but will be charged 150 percent of the cost of any medical treatment they receive from the NHS. Unpaid balances of £1,000 or more can result in being barred from return to the United Kingdom.
- The U.S. government does not pay medical bills, and U.S. Medicare is not valid overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
- We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Certain prescriptions available in the United States are classified as narcotics in the United Kingdom and are not available. Traveling with sufficient supplies to last the duration of your trip is recommended. Mailing prescriptions is prohibitive and may be delayed or rejected by British customs.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended for international travel by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Road conditions in the United Kingdom can differ significantly from those in the United States.
- In contrast to the United States, UK traffic drives on the left. Read the Highway Code before driving.
- Emergency call boxes (orange telephone booths with “SOS” printed on them) are found at half-mile intervals along motorways. White and blue poles point in the direction of the nearest call box. Call boxes dial directly to a motorway center. Use these phones rather than a personal cell phone, because motorway center personnel will immediately know your exact location.
- Generally, pedestrians do not have the right of way and should not expect vehicles to stop for them.
Many U.S. citizen pedestrians are injured, some fatally, every year in the United Kingdom, because they forget that oncoming traffic approaches from the opposite direction than in the United States. Exercise extra care when crossing streets; remain alert and look both ways before stepping into the street.
- UK penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are strict and often result in prison sentences.
- Using a hand-held cell phone or similar device while driving is illegal in the United Kingdom. Only hands-free phones may be used. You will be fined, or in the case of an accident, arrested and serve time in prison.
- The speed limit on highways/motorways in the United Kingdom is 70 mph, or lower when posted.
- You will be detained and arrested if you cannot provide a UK address to receive a subpoena or are about to depart the United Kingdom and have to be brought to court quickly for a motoring offense.
- In Central London, a congestion charge is levied on all drivers who pass through the congestion zone. You will be fined or arrested if you do not pay the charge. See Transport for London for more information about driving in London.
Public Transportation: Public transport in the United Kingdom is extensive.
- Information on disruptions to London transportation services can be found on the Transport for London website.
- Information about the status of National Rail Services can be found on the National Rail Enquiries website.
- Bus and train service information in Northern Ireland can be found on the Translink website.
- Bus and train service information in Scotland can be found on the Traveline Scotland website.
See our Road Safety page for more information. For specific information concerning UK driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, refer to the UK Department for Transport website or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency website.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of United Kingdom’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to the United Kingdom should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts at www.marad.dot.gov/msci. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website and the NGA broadcast warnings website (select “broadcast warnings”).
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in the United Kingdom. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.