Travelling from Spain to UK: Things to Know When Planning a Trip
If you’re planning a trip to the UK from Spain, there are a few things you should bear in mind. We all know that the weather in Britain is unreliable, but bringing a raincoat isn’t the only tip for travellers.
To make the most of your visit to the United Kingdom, it’s a good idea to know how to get around the country and to know which places are worth seeing, as well as what you need to enter the country in the first place.
Here are 6 things to know when planning a trip to the UK.
You Might Need a Visa or ETA
The first step of planning a trip should always be making sure you have the right paperwork to reach your destination. It’s not the most exciting part, but it is very important to ask the question: do I need a visa for the UK from Spain?
If you’re a Spanish national or a citizen of any other EU member country, you don’t need a visa and you’ll be able to enter the UK using only your passport. At least for now. However, in the near future, the rules are going to change. Just as the EU plans to introduce a travel authorisation system for visa-free visitors, the UK is preparing its own digital platform.
These electronic travel authorisations (ETAs) are not visas, but an extra security measure for passengers who do not need to apply for a visa and therefore do not need to provide their details to border authorities. The upcoming ETIAS for the Schengen Area and the planned UK ETA are based on the US ESTA, which has been in force for over a decade. It is still unclear when the UK ETA will be introduced, but it is expected that it will be a requirement for Spanish citizens by 2025.
The UK Is More Than Just England
A lot of people from other countries seem to think that “the UK”, “Britain”, and “England” are the same thing, but the Scottish, the Welsh and the Northern Irish would beg to differ!
To break it down, the UK — the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland — is one independent state made up of 4 smaller countries that each have their own identity and traditions.
3 of these 4 countries are on the island of Great Britain. These are England, Scotland, and Wales. The 4th part of the UK is Northern Ireland. As its name suggests, it is found in the northern part of the island of Ireland.
The rest of Ireland (the Republic) is a separate country. If you want to visit Dublin or Cork, gaze at the Atlantic from the Cliffs of Moher, or kiss the Blarney Stone, those are not in the United Kingdom! This means that if you’re planning a trip to the UK, you can see so much more than just England.
You can also head up to the wilds of the Scottish Highlands and visit historic cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh, wandering around and eating at restaurants hidden in charming, paved streets or overlooking the castle. You could take a trip through the beautiful Welsh countryside and explore its iconic castles. Or head across the Irish Sea to see where the Titanic was built in Belfast and the wonder of nature that is the Giant’s Causeway. All of this is part of the United Kingdom.
Brits Drive on the Left
The UK is famously one of the countries that drive on the left-hand side of the road. If you’re used to driving in Europe, this might come as a bit of a culture shock if you’re thinking of hiring a car.
However, this shouldn’t put you off driving in Britain or Northern Ireland. As a rule, roads are in good condition and the accident rate and road deaths are among the lowest in Europe.
British Trains Aren’t the Most Reliable
Although the UK has a vast railway network. After all England was the birthplace of rail transport as we know it. It is not always the most reliable way to get around the country. The advantage of train travel is that you can get pretty much anywhere — even to small towns and villages have a station.
But as anyone who experienced a weekday rush hour will tell you, the British railway system is a mess. Often with delayed and overpriced journeys and lots of cancellations.
The London Underground is a notable exception — the tube is frequent and an easy way to zip around the capital. Sadly, the rail system outside of London feels somewhat neglected compared to the road infrastructure. It’s usually more reliable and affordable to book a coach and it’s certainly more convenient to hire a car.
If you do decide to travel by train, it’s a good idea to accept that the journey may take longer than expected and try to enjoy the sight of rolling fields and hills fizzing past the window. If you need to arrive somewhere punctually, maybe just drive instead.
The UK Has 33 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The United Kingdom is home to a whopping 33 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ranking 8th in the world in terms of countries with the most sites.
There are 4 in London alone: the Tower of London; the Palace of Westminster; Westminster Abbey; the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew; and Maritime Greenwich are all on UNESCO’s list due to their cultural value.
Other World Heritage Sites in the UK include Stonehenge, Edinburgh, Canterbury, the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and Devon, the Giant’s Causeway, the City of Bath, the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd, and the frontiers of the Roman Empire (such as Hadrian’s Wall). You may want to put some of these on your to-do list when planning your trip to the UK.
London Is Not the Center of the Universe
Much like England is not the whole UK, it’s worth mentioning that London is not the whole of England. Sure, the capital is well worth a visit. There are so many iconic buildings to see, from Big Ben to the Tower of London. But by only visiting London, you’ll miss out on so much of England and the UK as a whole.
Some of the most beautiful scenery in the country can be found in Northern England. The Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and Peak District are all well-known for their natural beauty and great hiking opportunities.
Then, there are the Northern cities. Historically industrial, most have now regenerated into vibrant modern hubs of culture and entertainment. Manchester and Liverpool are well-known for their electric music scenes and are must-visit locations for sports fans, while the old streets and city walls of York and Chester give you a glimpse into England’s past.
The South-West of England gives you rural beauty and rugged coastlines, as well as the authentic cider made in Somerset. If you prefer something a little stronger, take a trip to the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. The islands of Islay and Jura are famous for their numerous whisky distilleries, many of which you can visit and enjoy a sample.
London’s great, but why limit yourself when you can experience so much more?