What Is Needed for Travel to England?

American tourists can enjoy a visa-free visit to England for short stays.
American tourists can enjoy a visa-free visit to England for short stays. (Image: Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Visiting England causes the fewest headaches for North American visitors, says Frommer's travel website, as the trip demands little -- in most cases -- in the way of documentation, customs and travel paraphernalia. Nevertheless, a little advanced preparation from home can help keep the costs down once in England.

Documents and Money

Visitors from the U.S. do not require a visa to visit England, but do need a valid passport with at least two months’ validity remaining. Typically, you will need a return or onward ticket, too. Make sure the passport has at least one blank page for the stamp. While some travelers still put their faith in travelers checks, U.S. credit and debit cards are widely accepted and will work for cash withdrawals from ATMs, called cashpoints in England. However, the Huffington Post recommends warning your bank first about travel plans to avoid transactions being declined. No inoculations are necessary for visiting England. For updates and guidelines on airport security requirements, check the Transportation Security Administration.

Car Rental

Renting a car allows greater freedom for exploring the countryside, but proves the most expensive option in London, due to fees. Driver’s will need a valid license, held for at least a year, with some companies requiring 36 months’ driving experience. While it is possible to hire a car from 17 years or older, most companies charge additional fees for drivers under 25. European travel guru Rick Steve warns, too, that drivers over the age of 70 may have difficulty renting a car in England. Typically, you will need a credit or debit card to pay and cover the deposit, or the card used to make the transaction if pre-booking the rental from the States. England does not require an International Driving Permit, although it is worth having if continuing travel to continental Europe.

Weather and Activities

Despite the stereotype of a rain-lashed, wintry country, England has a remarkably benign climate. Avoid the temptation to overpack with unnecessary winter clothing unless heading out to the more challenging conditions of the Lake District or Pennines, for example, for hiking in winter. By packing light and fitting everything into a carry-on case, not exceeding 22 by 14 by 9 inches for U.S.- based airlines, you can pass quickly through arrivals and won’t find yourself lugging cumbersome luggage around public transport. Because most flights from the U.S. arrive early in the morning, a refresher kit will be useful, with wet wipes, eye drops, toothpaste and hand sanitizer. If you have a clear itinerary, it is also worth booking activities ahead online before arriving, essential for securing a ticket to a West End show and reaping significant savings for train travel, for example.

Electronics and Communications

The sight of a three-pin socket with an on/off switch is a regular source of bemusement to international visitors to England, but also the cue to whip out a universal adapter, essential for charging phones, laptops and cameras on England’s 240-Volt system. Bear in mind that using your own U.S. cellphone will rack up extortionate roaming charges, so it is also worth bringing a second cell phone and buying a pre-paid chip with a local number for the duration of your stay in England. SIM cards and top-up credit can be bought at newsagents, gas stations and other convenience stores.

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