Just in case you’re too lazy to flip through a guidebook…
Here’s a quick rundown of etiquette, Wi-Fi info, cash exchange, SIM cards…and more!
5 Things to avoid:
- Don’t refer to kilts as skirts, the traditional garment has evolved from a long robe with an interior cloak to a shorter version that we see in the present day.
- Be careful of what you say about England, there’s a long political and religious history between the Scotland and its neighbor in the South. Hence getting into a heated argument about Scottish Independence might not be a good idea either.
- Avoid midges – small biting flying insects that look like mosquitoes. They’re prevalent in damp areas and mostly in Western Scotland. They tend to bite men more than women, so bring a bug spray!
- The Scots refer to mountains as hills, so if you’re recommended to visit a hill, be sure to know that it’s probably more massive than you think.
- Don’t forget to pack a raincoat, the sporadic rain in Scotland is no joke.
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In general, expect the weather in Scotland to be colder than where you’re from and it’s also wet all the time.
Spring/Autumn: It may be the best time for dry weather (but still expect rainfall), and daylight will extend until late into the evening, close to 11 p.m.
Late Autumn/Winter: There will be snow, and daylight will end around 4 p.m. Expect the weather to be extremely cold and wet.
Summer: Although it’s the warmest time of the year, there will be rain. Midges (small flying insects) are the worst especially in the Isles and Highlands.
Scotland follows the same UK time zone, which is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) during most of the year, and British Summer Time (GMT+1) when there’s daylight savings.
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Scotland follows the same visa/immigration regulations as the UK. There’s no border control when traveling between Scotland and England and Northern Ireland.
If you’re a EU, EEA, Swiss citizen: no visa necessary. You can enter Scotland with a national ID card or a passport.
If you’re a citizen of other countries (including most of North America, Central America, South America, Asia): you’ll need a passport and do not need a visa for a trip lasting less than 6 months. If you wish to stay more than 6 months, then you’ll need to apply for an entry clearance or a visa before entering the UK. See here for a full list of countries that falls under this category.
If you’re a citizen of Oman, Qatar and the UAE: you can apply for Electronic Visa Waiver (EVA) that can be used for six months with the purpose of tourism and study.
If you’re a citizen of China and India with an Irish Short-Stay Visa: you can visit the UK visa-free until your current permission to enter or leave Ireland expires.
English is the main language in Scotland. There’s also Scottish Gaelic which is the traditional language spoken by 33% of the population mainly in the Highlands and Western Isles. There’s also “Scots” which is a community language in the Lowlands and it’s akin to English depending on the thickness of how it’s spoken.
Although the Scots are known to be extremely friendly, do not confuse Scotland as part of England. They’re not anti-English, they’re just very proud of Scotland as a nation and differentiate themselves with a separate identity than that of the English.
Try not to say everyone sounds like Sean Connery when they speak.
Be sensitive when it comes to discussions regarding the Scotland Independence since the referendum was rejected by 55% of voters in September 2014.
There’s strong football clubs rivalry in Scotland, which can lead to a sensitive subject. Try not to wear the wrong colors in the wrong place to avoid conflict. For examples, the Celtics wear green and white while the Rangers wear blue and white. Orange can also be often associated with Northern Ireland.
Keep in mind that cars in Scotland drive on the left. So beware when you’re crossing streets.
For emergency, dial 999 or 112 for ambulance, police, coast guards, mountain rescue or fire. For the police on non-emergencies, dial 101.
Scotland is very safe, and pickpockets don’t occur as often as they do in Southern European countries. Just use your common sense and intuition.
When hiking, make sure you carry: a compass, a map, waterproof clothes, a flashlight, great boots, an extra battery for your cell phone.
Just like the rest of the UK, Scotland uses the British pounds: £.
Some stores in touristic areas will accept euros, but try not to abuse it since the exchange rate is so bad that it’s not worth it.
In Scotland, the more north you go, the more expensive spending will be since supplies are harder to reach there.
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The arrival of ATMs from 1967 onwards was one of the ways banks changed to fit a 24-hour lifestyle. People’s lives were getting busier and popping into a branch during opening hours was no longer convenient for everyone. The early machines were quite different from a modern ATM. Customers were given a set of punched cards; to withdraw cash, they would put a card in the slot, type in their PIN and receive £10 in cash. The card would be retained by the machine, processed manually by bank staff and returned to the customer for re-use. It seems a far cry from today’s world where you can withdraw cash with your mobile. #Throwback #TBT
Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted. Most places will accept credit cards and ATM machines can be found in many places.
It’s best to exchange your money at the airport.
It’s customary to tip 10% at restaurants. If you LOVED your meal, you can tip more but it’s not expected.
You can buy a SIM card at the airport, and folks at the store will advice you about which card is the best for your trip. The best may be a pay-as-you-go card so you can add time whenever you need more. Any SIM card you buy in the UK will have a UK phone number.
It is an offense in the UK to use wireless internet without being given the permission of the administrator. Wi-Fi is quite prevalent throughout Scotland, so you won’t have a problem being connected.
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It’s between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
You can safely drink the tap water in Scotland. If you’re in the Highlands, make sure to let the water run for a few seconds before drinking it since the color might first come out as a bit beige due to soil that’s not considered dangerous. But the more north you venture, the better the water will taste.
Photos: Wendy Hung
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