Practical information about Scotland
The travel tips in this section have been put together in order to ensure that visitors to Scotland are familiarised with important information on their destination. Just click on one of the items on the right-hand side menu to find out more.
We hope these tips will go some way to making your trip that bit more enjoyable.
- Banks and changing currency »
- Credit Cards »
- Driving in Scotland »
- Gratuities »
- Medical Assistance »
- Public Holidays »
- Pubs and Restaurants-What to Pay? »
- Restaurants and Bars »
- Shops and Shopping Hours »
- Tax refunds on goods »
- Telephones »
- Using mobile phones in the UK »
- Visas,Passports and Customs »
- Voltage and Electrical equipment »
- What to wear »
The main Scottish banks include Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank, with many other UK and international banks also based here. Banks open Monday through Friday at 9:00am or 10:00am and close at 4:00pm or 5:00pm. Some banks open late on Thursdays and a few also open on Saturday mornings. All Scottish bank notes, though different than English notes, are normally accepted in the rest of Britain, while Northern Irish bank notes are also accepted in Scotland.
In Scotland, banks usually give the best exchange rate for foreign currency and most banks offer this service. It is also possible to change money in airports, larger railway stations, travel agents and some larger hotels (if you are a resident). Bureau de Change often charges a handling fee and commission.
For further details on banking in Scotland and information on currencies, please check out Bank of Scotland.
Scotland's roads include a motorway network in central Scotland, with dual carriageways to key places further north such as Aberdeen and Inverness. In some areas of Scotland, particularly the Highlands and Islands, there are often single-track roads, which demand extreme caution.
Driving is on the left-hand side of the road, with overtaking only permissible on the right-hand side. Visitors should also remember to give way to the right on roundabouts. Speed limits are 70mph on motorways and dual carriageways, 60mph on single carriageways and 30mph in built up areas, unless otherwise stated. It is also compulsory to wear seatbelts (front and back) in Scotland.
Visitors who become ill while in Scotland are eligible for free emergency treatment at National Health Service Accident and Emergency hospital departments. If however, you are admitted to hospital as a patient, or referred to an outpatient clinic, you will be asked to pay unless you are a citizen of a European country or a resident of a country, which has a reciprocal health-care agreement with the UK.
You are therefore strongly advised to take out adequate
insurance cover before travelling - although it is unlikely that anything
will happen, it is best to be covered. You do not need an International
Certificate of Vaccination for entry to the UK but you should check if one
is required for re-entry to your own country. Scotland does have midges
(small flies) that bite, so if you intend spending time out of doors, you
should pick up some insect-repellent at a chemist.
In Scotland, bank holidays generally apply only to banks and some financial and commercial offices, whereas in England and Ireland, they are usually public holidays. Christmas Day and New Years' Day are,of course, usually taken by everyone. Scottish towns and cities normally have a spring and autumn holiday and while the dates of these holidays vary from year to year and sometimes place to place, they are always on a Monday.
For details of bank holidays in Scotland through to 2015 please visit the Scottish Government's website.
Pubs are generally cheaper than hotel lounges when purchasing alcoholic drinks. A measure or "nip" of whisky costs minimum £1.50, while a pint of beer costs around £1 or more. One should note that Scottish draught beers are usually ordered by the pint or half-pint, while some of the recommended local brews include Belhaven, Tennants and McEwans.
For details on recommended restaurants, check out the
VisitScotland guide to eating and drinking in Scotland at EatScotland.
Scottish restaurants, including those in hotels, usually open from 12:00 noon to 2:30pm for lunch and from 6:00pm to midnight for dinner, although these times do vary greatly. Country establishments however, often tend to close that bit earlier so it is important to pre-check. Last orders are often taken up to 45 minutes before closing.
Many restaurants, bistros, cafes and pubs remain open throughout the day for morning coffee, afternoon tea and beverages. One is also likely to come across the widely held Scottish institution of high tea, particularly in the smaller establishments in rural areas. This is a meal served between 4:30pm and 6:00pm approximately and consists of a simple main course accompanied by bread, cakes and tea or coffee.
The standard opening times for licensed premises are from 11:00am to 2:30pm and 5:00pm to 11:00pm Monday through Saturday, 12:30pm to 2:30pm and 6:30pm to 11:00pm on Sunday. Many pubs however, open all afternoon, while somehave a late license, particularly at weekends.
Shops generally open Monday to Saturday from 9:00am to 5:30pm or 6:00pm. In popular visitor areas, many shops stay open until later in the evening during the summer, while in larger towns and cities, there is usually late night shopping until 7:00pm or 8:00pm on Thursday evenings throughout the year.
Scotland also offers Sunday shopping in most towns, though shops in smaller communities sometimes tend to close on Sunday and also may close on a particular afternoon during the week.
Telephone numbers comprise an area code (always beginning with 01) and then the local number. A typical Scottish phone number would be (01224) 908123. Whenever dialling another UK phone number from within Scotland, one should always dial the complete number (both the area code and local phone number).
Should you encounter any difficulties, the local operator can be contacted toll free by dialling 100.
If calling a Scottish number from outside the United Kingdom, dial your own country's international access code for the UK, followed by the code for the UK (44) and then the area code, dropping the first 0. Taking the above number as an example, the number would be:
International Code +UK Code +Area Code +Phone Number ** 44 1244 908123
If you do not own the correct type of cell phone for the
UK (one which uses GSM technology on either the 900 or 1800MHz
frequencies), and need one for your visit, you have two main options -
buying or renting - but which is best for you?
Buying your own GSM international mobile phone is more convenient than renting if you frequently travel (not just to the UK, GSM phones work in over 120 countries). Once you have bought the phone, you will have it ready for future trips, plus, you the same number each time, no matter which country you are in.
However, buying traditionally has a higher financial commitment - the initial price to buy the phone is high, and you are charged a monthly or yearly fee on top (even when you are back home and not using the phone).
Renting, by comparison has a lower financial commitment because you only pay for the period that you use the phone. However, renting is inconvenient when compared to buying if you make frequent trips - you must go through the order procedure, credit checks, give deposits and get a different phone number, every time you travel. www.mobalworldphone.com/visitscotland
Visitors to Scotland (and to the rest of the UK) must hold a valid passport before starting their journey. Please note that children may require their own passports.
As for staying here, if you're from the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, you can stay as a visitor for up to six months, as long as you've got a return ticket and sufficient funds to cover your stay. If you are visiting from anywhere else you'll need a visa. If you are not from an European Union nation and intend to do any form of work while you are in Scotland, you will need to obtain a work permit to work legally.
All overseas nationals who wish to enter the UK must satisfy the immigration officer at the port of arrival that they meet the requirements of the UK immigration regulations. Application forms to download, lists of visa nationals and information on how to apply for a visa, as well as guidance written especially for visitors coming to the UK are available online from the UKVisas website. The Immigration Advisory Service offers free advice for anyone applying for entry to the UK.
Customs and Duty Free - Travelling From Outside the European
You are entitled to an allowance of goods only if you travel with the goods and do not plan to sell them. Make sure that you don't bring anything into, or take anything out of, Scotland, that you shouldn't. Check the HM Customs list of prohibited and restricted goods, for example, drugs, weapons and live animals, if you are unsure.