|First things first||
Population: 7.2 million
Time Zone: England follows Greenwich mean time (5 hr. ahead of Eastern Standard Time), For most of the year, including summer, Britain is 5 hours ahead of the time observed in the eastern United States. Due to Daylight-saving time practices in the two nations, there's a brief period (about a week) in autumn when Britain is only 4 hours ahead of New York, and a brief period in spring when it is 6 hours ahead of New York.
Area: 609 sq. miles
New Year's Day Jan. 1
Good Friday (Varies: it is the Friday before Easter)
May Day First Monday in May
Whitsun Bank Holiday last Mon. in May
Bank Holiday last Monday in August
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Dec. 24 and 25
Boxing Day December 26
New Year's Eve Dec. 31
Business Hours: Business hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. In general, stores are open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5:30pm. In country towns, there is usually an early closing day (often on Wed or Thurs), when the shops close at 1pm.
Drugstores: In Britain, they're called "chemists." Every police station in the country has a list of emergency chemists. Dial "0" (zero) and ask the operator for the local police, who will give you the name of one nearest you.
Electricity: British electricity is 240 volts AC (50 cycles), roughly twice the voltage in North America, which is 115 to 120 volts AC (60 cycles). American plugs do not fit British wall outlets. Always bring suitable transformers and/or adapters : if you plug an American appliance directly into a European electrical outlet without a transformer, you'll destroy your appliance and possibly start a fire. Tape recorders, VCRs, and other devices with motors intended to revolve at a fixed number of revolutions per minute probably won't work properly even with transformers.
Taxes: To encourage energy conservation, the British government levies a 25% tax on gasoline (petrol). There is also a 17.5% national value-added tax (VAT) that is added to all hotel and restaurant bills and is included in the price of many items you purchase. This can be refunded if you shop at stores that participate in the Retail Export Scheme (signs are posted in the window).
In October 1994, Britain imposed a departure tax. It is included in the price of your ticket.
Telephone: To call England from North America, dial 011 (international code), 44 (Britain's country code), the local area codes, and the seven-digit local phone number. For calls within the same city or town, the local number is all you need. For directory assistance in London, dial 142; for the rest of Britain, 192.
Tipping: For cab drivers, add about 10% to 15% to the fare on the meter. However, if the driver loads or unloads your luggage, add something extra.
Customs & Duties
Arriving in the United Kingdom
Like other nations belonging to the EU, the UK has a two-tier customs system: one for goods bought duty free and one for goods bought in another EU country where taxes and duties have already been paid.
Duty-free sales to those travelling from one EU country to another were abolished in July 1999. For goods purchased at airports or on ferries outside the EU, you are allowed to import 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 2L of still wine plus 1L of spirits over 22% or another 2L of wine (sparkling or otherwise); 50g of perfume, 250cc of eau de toilette; and other duty-free goods to the value of £145.
Tax and Duty Paid
Although you can no longer bring in duty free goods from another EU country, you can bring in duty-paid goods that cost less than you'd pay for the same items in your destination country. The items are supposed to be for individual consumption but a thriving business has developed, with many Londoners making day trips to France to load up their cars with cheap alcohol and cigarettes.
If you purchase from a normal retail outlet on the continent, customs uses the following maximum quantities as a guide to distinguish personal imports from those on a commercial scale: 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 1kg of tobacco, 10L of spirits, 20L of fortified wine, 90L of wine (of which not more than 60L is sparkling) and 110L of beer.
ATMs are conveniently located throughout London in banks, large hotels, and shopping centers.
Britain's decimal monetary system is based on the pound (£), which is made up of 100 pence (written as "p"). Pounds are also called quid by Britons. There are £1 and £2 coins, as well as coins of 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p. Banknotes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20, and £50.
The Euro: Since the euro's inception, the U.S. dollar and the euro have traded almost on par (i.e., $1 approximately equals 1€).
To encourage energy conservation, the British government levies a 25% tax on gasoline (petrol). There is also a 17.5% national value-added tax (VAT) that is added to all hotel and restaurant bills and is included in the price of many items you purchase. This can be refunded if you shop at stores that participate in the Retail Export Scheme (signs are posted in the window).
In October 1994, Britain imposed a departure tax. It is included in the price of your ticket.
Passports & Visas
Entering the United Kingdom
Passports should be valid until at least six months after the intended departure date. Required by all visitors, as the UK is not a signatory of the Schengen Accords allowing EU citizens to enter without a passport.
Visas are required by all, except nationals of North America, Australasia, Japan and other EU members. For further exceptions and advice visit www.ukvisas.gov.uk/ (includes application forms). All visas must be applied for before travelling.
In 2003, the UK introduced a requirement for visas for Jamaicans entering the UK.
At present, citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA are given, at their point of arrival, 'leave to enter' the UK for up to six months but are prohibited from working unless they secure a work permit. If you're a citizen of the EU, you don't need a visa to enter the country and may live and work here freely for as long as you like. Visa regulations are always subject to change, so it's essential to check with your local British embassy, high commission or consulate before leaving home. Immigration authorities in the UK are tough - dress neatly and be able to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself. A credit card and/or an onward ticket will help.
Tourist visas can only be extended in clear emergencies (e.g. an accident, death of a relative). To extend your stay in the UK, ring the Visa & Passport Information Line (Tel: +44 (0)870 606 7766 or +44 (0)20 8649 7878; the Home Office's Immigration & Nationality Directorate, Lunar House, 40 Wellesley Rd, Croydon CR9 2BY; rail East Croydon; 1000-noon and 1400-1600 Mon-Fri) before your current visa expires.
Nationals of EU countries can enter the country to study without formalities. Otherwise you need to be enrolled in a full-time course of at least 15 hours per week of weekday, daytime study at a single educational institution to be allowed to remain as a student. For more details, consult the British embassy, high commission or consulate in your own country.
Dial 999 for police, fire, or ambulance. Give your name, address, and telephone number and state the nature of the emergency.
In England, pubs can legally be open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 11pm, and on Sunday from noon to 10:30pm. Premises with a restaurant license can continue serving until midnight (11:30pm Sun), provided the sale of alcohol accompanies a table meal.
Police: Dial 999
At £162 billion, London's economy accounts for 17% of the UK's GDP. Known as 'the City', the square mile located on the eastern side of central London, the City of London, is the epicentre of British financial life and one of the world's leading international financial centres. It boasts an impressive concentration and variety of banks, insurance companies and other business services. In fact, financial and business services throughout London employ around a third of the Greater London workforce. Over the last few years, the British government has delegated greater responsibility to the Bank of England (website: www.bankofengland.co.uk), while the London Stock Exchange (website: www.londonstockexchange.com) has floated itself.
However, the City and the stock market in particular suffered badly in 2002, continuing into 2003. The September 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq have had an impact on investor confidence and the stock market has reached a six-year low. Major companies seem to be feeling the pinch, which has a knock-on effect on jobs. Beyond the financial heart of London, law, computing, design, media, arts and fashion are all struggling to avoid the global slump, with the advertising sector being worst hit.
After a record year for tourism in 2000, the Foot and Mouth epidemic and the September 11 terrorist attacks hit the industry badly in 2001. Tourists, however, came back to London in 2002 and in 2003, despite the war in Iraq, 28 millions visited the capital. London accounts for just under 50% of all overseas visits to the UK (11.6 million in 2002, with direct visitor expenditure equalling £5.8 billion). The tourism sector employs approximately 350,000 people, accounting for 10% of all jobs in London.
London is Europe's most successful city at attracting overseas companies, and there are currently 13,510 overseas owned companies from 92 countries in the capital. The list of companies based in London is almost endless as most major international companies have offices here, including IBM, Sun Microsystems and Warburgs. London in the 1980s and 1990s saw a decline in production and manufacturing jobs and a growth in the service sector. However, strengths remain in modern product-based manufacturing (specialist firms producing niche products) and high-tech companies. New light industry parks have sprung up out of town, although many businesses (such as computing) still prefer to stay closer to the City. For the more fashionable industries, such as media and design, a West End address is the most sought after, especially one in Soho. To the east of the City, the Docklands has come of age and is now a credible and popular business location with good public transport links and modern office complexes. The centrepiece is Canary Wharf, Britain's tallest building, which has been joined recently by two neighbouring skyscrapers. A stone's throw away from Canary Wharf, the state-of-the-art ExCel is increasingly giving traditional conference venues a run for their money, with the world's largest travel exhibition, World Travel Market, now calling ExCel home.
Unemployment in Greater London is low by European standards but slightly higher than the UK average at 6.6% (2002 annual rate) compared to a national average of 5.2% (2002 annual rate).
Business hours are officially Monday to Friday 0900 or 0930 until 1700 or 1730, although in practice many companies have much longer hours. Business in London is intense and fast paced. Extended business lunches and post-work drinks were regarded as part of the modern working environment until relatively recently. Nowadays, the emphasis is increasingly on hard work and long hours. Some older establishments could be strictly formal, however, meetings are (as a rule) relatively relaxed and first names are often used after the initial introduction. However, British businesspeople are unlikely to be overtly demonstrative - hand gestures and the use of expressive body language will be minimal and apart from shaking hands, physical contact should be avoided. Standard dress code is a suit and tie for men and a suit (or equivalent) for women but varies greatly depending on the company, with those in the new technologies sectors especially tending towards informality.
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