Great Britain

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When people think of Great Britain they often can't get past the red london busses, the stiff upper lip and, of course, the Queen. When you visit, you can find all the stereotypes at any tacky souvenier shop in London. Pick up your "Mind the Gap" T-Shirt and leave it at that. If you make the effort and scratch past the surface, you'll find the true treasures of Britain lie in the history, landscape and people of this great nation.

It is hard to believe that this tiny island once ruled half of the world's population. Those were the days when Britainia Ruled the Waves. Today, Great Britain consists of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland - Each a country its own right and each moving towards a shift in governing its own affairs.

If you are looking to get a suntan while on your British leg of the trip - think again. You will definitely need to bring a "jumper" and perhaps even a "kagool". To most British this means a jersey and a rain jacket. The average summer temperature is between 17C and 21C. If you are going to Scotland, knock about four points off of each of those.

Britain, although part of the European Union (EU), has yet to adopt the Euro as their currency. This is probably because of the strength of the British Pound. Good for the British - not so good for the traveller. See the currency converter for current rates. Each of the major banks produces their own notes and all notes are legal tender throughout Great Britain. However, with several different variations of the same note, you may find that not all notes will be recognized. For example, you may have difficulty using a one pound Bank of Scotland note in some parts of England as England has replaced the one pound note with a one pound coin.

As you may expect, Britain has some great places to eat and drink. In terms of food, there are many excellent dishes to try but few of them are authentically British. The multicultural atmosphere has taken over most cities and you will find an abundance of curry houses and chinese restaurants. That said, you can still find some good ol' British pub grub - often a filling and inexpensive option for the backpacker. A typical pub menu will include among other things: steak pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, and the hearty English breakfast which is usually served all day. While in Britain be sure to try:

1. Fish & Chips.
2. Any type of Vindaloo.
3. Haggis, Neeps 'n' tatties.
(If you don't know what haggis is - don't ask!)

You will not find a culture like that of Britain's anywhere else in the world. Football is a religion that is worshipped every Saturday and few dare to attend an old firm clash in Glasgow. If you can get tickets to a game, it is well worth the effort to see how the game is played at a British level.

You would think that there would be little variation of accent and culture in a region where you can drive 40 minutes and be on the opposite coast; Well think again. Cockney, Scouser, Welsh - they all have a unique sound. Most foreigners will be able to understand the softer Edinburgh accent, but meet a Glaswegian and you will wonder if it really is English they are speaking!

Been there before? What was great? What was not so great?
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