SCOTLAND TRAVEL TIPS
Scotland is a nation in northwest Europe and one of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom. It occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shares a land border to the south with England. Apart from the mainland, Scotland consists of over 790 islands. Edinburgh, the country’s capital and second largest city, is one of Europe’s largest financial centers. Scotland’s largest city is Glasgow, located on the banks of the River Clyde, in West Central Scotland. The population of Scotland numbers over 5 million with over 1 million living in Greater Glasgow.
Scotland is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) which is one hour behind Central European Time and five hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time
Currency in Scotland is the Pound Sterling. One pound is comprised of 100 pence and coins can be obtained in 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2 denominations. Bank notes are commonly divided into £5, £10, £20 and £50 amounts. Scottish banks also issue a £1 notes which can be used as legal tender anywhere in the United Kingdom. Money can be exchanged in banks, at foreign exchange bureaus and hotels. The exchange bureaus are generally open for longer than banks are but charge higher commission rates. Banks are usually open from 9:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday. Some banks are also open on Saturdays. If you plan to use American Express, MasterCard or Visa Cards, you will find that credit cards and debits cards are widely accepted. There are also a multitude of ATMs available throughout Scotland so you will have easy access to cash.
Valid passports are required by Canadian & U.S. citizens traveling to Scotland. Remember to bring your passport with you and keep it safely on your person – not in your suitcase. You will need it at the airports on departure and arrival and when changing travelers checks. We recommend that you keep a separate note of your passport details (number, expiration date, place and date of issue) in a separate place in case of loss or theft. A visa is not required for Canadian and U.S. citizens to enter Scotland.
United Kingdom – EDINBURGH
Consulate of Canada
Address: 50 Lothian Road, Burness, Edinburgh
Tel: 44 (0) 7702 359-916
Emergency toll-free to Ottawa: 00-800-2326-6831
Electricity in Scotland is 220 volts, 50 cycles per second. An adaptor is needed. Most hotels will supply hair dryers and irons.
Scotland’s climate is generally cool and wet. It is influenced by the North Atlantic Drift, a warm sea current from the Caribbean, which keeps Scotland’s coast ice free in winter. The climate is oceanic, with no extreme variations or exceptional events like tornadoes, droughts or widespread floods, but the day to day weather can vary enormously and unpredictably. The average temperatures in May range from 43-59 degrees F. The average temperatures in September range from 46-61 degrees F.
What to Pack
Travel light, dress comfortably, and pack easy care items. It’s best to dress in layers so you can shed items if you get warm during the day. An all-weather coat with a removable liner is excellent for traveling. Make sure you have strong, comfortable shoes. Casual clothes are appropriate but something dressy for dinner in hotels. Bring a bathing suit as some hotels have indoor swimming pools. It may be advisable to bring a washcloth as not all hotels provide these.
Baggage and Porterage
The cost of porterage for one large suitcase per person is included on coach tours (size should not exceed 30x20x10 inches). Please ensure that all baggage is clearly labeled and that baggage tags are completed correctly and attached securely to each piece of luggage. We suggest that you also put identification inside each suitcase, in case the outside tag becomes detached. Hand baggage (including purses, coats, umbrellas etc.) is entirely in your own care. All baggage is carried at owner’s risk. Luggage carts are available at most airports.
Tips to Driver and Guide
Tips to the Tour Director and Driver are not included in your tour cost and are left to your discretion. A gratuity to your coach crew is an individual expression of your appreciation and is usually presented in a sealed envelope at the end of your tour.
Suggested tip guidelines are as follows:
Driver/Guide(one man) $6.00 per day
Guide $5.00 per day
Driver $4.00 per day
There is, of course, no obligation whatsoever on you to tip-it is a matter left totally to your own discretion.
Smoking is not allowed on motorcoach tours. However, frequent rest and sightseeing stops are made when there are opportunities to smoke.
Manners and Customs
Scotland is a forthright and friendly place with a long tradition of hospitality which has not faded. Residents of countryside hamlets and the western islands may overwhelm you with their warm and enthusiastic welcome. Tipping is part of the way of life and is expected by most who provide service (e.g. taxi drivers, hotel doormen, and airport and railway porters.) As a general guide 10-15% of the cost of the service should be considered. In hotels and restaurants it’s worth checking whether a service charge has been added to the bill.
Food and Drink
Haggis is probably the best known Scottish delicacy. It is rich in flavor, however some people are put off as it is made from sheep’s offal. Fresh salmon, trout, herring, game and potato are also commonly featured on menus. Scottish Whisky or Scotch is world famous and is sold around the globe. It has been distilled in Scotland for centuries and was originally referred to as the water of life.
Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5:30pm. Some stores may be open on Sunday mornings.
Scotland makes some of the world’s best clothing you’ll find a very good selection of tartans, woolens and tweeds. Edinburgh crystal, shortbread, Edinburgh rock (candy), bagpipes, sheepskin clothing, china, silver jewelry, crystal and whisky are also good buys.
Open Mondays to Fridays 9am to 5:30pm, and Saturdays, 9am to 12 noon.
The country code is +44 (dialing in) and international access 00 (dialing out).
‘Public Conveniences’, ‘WC’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’ symbols identify toilets throughout Scotland.
MUST GO IN SCOTLAND
‘The Highlands’, is renowned for its breathtaking lochs (Loch Ness, Loch Maree), magnificent mountains (Ben Nevis) and tranquil glens (Glen Coe). This beautiful northern region has plenty to offer sport enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. From skiing/snowboarding down the slopes of CairnGorm Mountain to discovering Scotland’s native birds and fauna – capercaillies, red deer, Scottish wildcats – at the Highland Wildlife Park.
If the great outdoors isn’t your thing, then visit the region’s ancient castles such as Eilean Donan, made famous in cult film, “Highlander”. Alternatively, head over to the Black Isle and take a tour of one of the local distilleries or organic breweries.
Scotland’s largest and liveliest city, Glasgow is the place to visit for shopping, art galleries, restaurants and nightlife. The city is also famed for its energetic live music scene ranging from traditional Celtic music to twee indie pop. Make sure you catch a gig at one of Glasgow’s iconic venues.
St. Andrews may be the “Home of Golf” but there’s a lot more to this seaside town than the Old Course. This royal burgh boasts one the oldest universities in the English-speaking world, as well as a clifftop castle and gothic cathedral ruins.
Wander through St. Andrews’ cobbled streets and narrow alleys and explore the university’s stunning old stone buildings and quadrangles. Once finished in the town centre, indulge with an ice-cream from award-winning Gelateria ‘Janettas’ (try Scottish specialities, Irn Bru sorbet or the tabletice cream) and take a stroll along West Sands beach.
Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh is a bustling hub full of culture and history. Known as the ‘Athens of the North’ because of its striking neo-classical architecture, this cosmopolitan city features an array of art galleries, museums, grand cathedrals, 17th-century tall houses, and of course, Edinburgh Castle, perched high on volcanic rock.
As Edinburgh is a very compact it is best explored on foot. Get lost amongst the city’s winding streets and close passageways within the medieval ‘Auld Town.’ The more touristy sights are here such as Mary King’s Close, John Knox’s House and St. Giles Cathedral.
Then head to the Grassmarket for a look round the many quirky independent shops (‘Armstrongs’ is a must for vintage lovers). Venture down to the bohemian neighbourhood of Stockbridge, where you can sample Scottish produce at the Sunday market. Bring the evening in with a drink along the Leith shore, home to some of the city’s finest restaurants, bars and pubs.
MUST DO IN SCOTLAND
ATTEND ONE OF THE CAPITAL’S MANY FESTIVALS
Edinburgh is the world’s leading festival city, playing host to twelve major festivals annually. The biggest of which is the Edinburgh Fringe in August, attracting thousands of performing artists and even more spectators, to the capital.
The Fringe has thousands of shows, ranging from cabaret to children’s theatre and many free events such as street performances on the Royal Mile. Other highlights of Edinburgh’s festivals include Science Festival (April), Film Festival (June), the Book Festival (August) and the International Festival (August). Whether you’re a film fanatic or a bookworm Edinburgh’s festivals offer something for everyone.
A ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay’lee’) is a social gathering, where people come together to participate in traditional Scottish country dances, accompanied by a local live band. Don’t worry if you have two left feet, the locals will be sure to keep you right!
‘Hogmanay’, which takes place on the 31st December, is the Scottish equivalent of New Year’s Eve. In Scotland’s main cities, i.e. Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen and Glasgow, this is celebrated with large-scale street parties which include live entertainment and stunning midnight firework displays.
Elsewhere in Scotland, Hogmanay is marked in a more traditional manner with local events such as bonfires and torch processions; reel balls; and informal get-togethers. This is the perfect time to try a wee dram of whisky and sing-along to ‘Auld Lang Syne’! However you wish to ‘bring in the bells’, it will no doubt be an unforgettable experience.
MUST EAT IN SCOTLAND
The humble haggis may seem like an obvious choice but there are plenty of different ways that this Scottish staple can be enjoyed! This is a savoury pudding, made of offal with oatmeal, onions and spices, and prepared in a sausage casing (originally in a sheep’s stomach.
Traditionally it’s served with turnips and potatoes “neeps and tatties.” Modern alternatives, however, include haggis burritos, pakoras and deep-fried in batter, served with chips “the haggis supper.”
The perfect dish for a wintery Scottish day. Cullen skink is a rich, creamy soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes, onions and shellfish.
Scotland is well-known for its assortment of sugary delicacies, stodgy puddings and desserts. One of my personal favourites is Cranachan – a lighter, truffle-like dessert, made up of fresh raspberries, whipped cream or ‘crowdie cheese’, honey and toasted oats and whisky.
CULTURAL TIPS FOR TRAVEL IN SCOTLAND
Be respectful. Scots are generally known for being friendly and welcoming. That said, it is important to be mindful when referring to nationality so as not to cause offense – “English” is not synonymous with “Scottish”.
TIPS FOR CHEAP TRAVEL IN SCOTLAND
Buses are generally cheaper than trains between towns. For further savings on longer journeys try budget coach services such as Megabus.