Here are some tips for traveling to the UK — what to bring with you, what to avoid, vacation plans, cell phones, groceries and other things.
Laptops, smartphones, blow dryers, etc. — The European voltage system is different from most of the world. It operates on a 220 voltage system as opposed to 110. Happily, most electronic devices are now capable of “feeding off” 220 volts without being damaged. Always check the device itself or with a manufacturer (and the more expensive the device, the more reason for you to check), but laptop computers, cell phones, tablets and so on should all be just fine. Also, the UKplug system is very different from everyone else — you’ll need to go to a travel store to get plug adapters for all your devices. They should be relatively cheap since they don’t have to convert the voltage anymore. Unless you want to keep plugging and unplugging all your devices, you’ll probably want more than one. (The countries of Europe have ANOTHER plug system, but most adapters are Euro-friendly and will work in either socket.) Just don’t expect to come here and plug your items directly into the wall. One item that typically DOESN’T work in the UK is your blow dryer. They operate on an extremely high voltage and can easily short circuit. If you need a blow dryer, that will be one item you’ll want to pick up when you’re here.
Mobile phones — For most people with mobile phones from overseas, using your current service while in the UK isn’t an option. The rates are invariably outrageous. You’ll want to get a UK phone number so that incoming calls are free and outgoing overseas calls are quite moderate. You can do this in several ways. If your phone takes SIM cards, you can swap out your current one for a local UK SIM card. (When you get back home, just pop back in the original.) If that’s not an option, you can get a pay-as-you-go mobile phone from countless outlets. The phones are typically very inexpensive or even free.
Groceries — Until fairly recently, large supermarkets like you are probably used to simply didn’t exist in the UK. Now, chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s are more and more common; in major areas they’re even open 24 hours a day. One of the delights of traveling is diving into new dishes and eating what the locals eat. But almost everyone has one or two favourites they can’t live without — and chances are they might not be available here. Feel free to ask us if your personal indulgence is available in the local shops. Whether it’s a particular coffee brand, crisps like Twisties, biscuits like Tim Tams and Oreos, or even just vegemite, it’s a good idea to bring a stash of a favourite food for a taste of home.
Clothing — It’s wise to pack at least one or two outfits for all types of weather — the nights can get pretty cool depending on where you’re based. And who knows where you might travel to on weekends, holidays or between assignments? Thermal underwear is never regretted.
Money/ATMs/Credit Cards — Check with your local bank before coming to see what they charge for accessing your account from the UK. Most companies give you that day’s exchange rate and only a modest fee for taking out cash. The same is often true for credit cards, but again, check with your provider if you’re uncertain. It’s best to avoid the airport or local currency exchange stores if possible since they often charge a premium. As you know, Continental Travelnurse will help you set up a UK bank account for the depositing of your pay-checks. But it’s nice to know what you can access from your home account at minimal cost. Also, be sure to obtain a modest amount of British pounds before traveling — it’s always nice to be able to buy a newspaper or coffee (or pay for a taxi) without having to look around for an ATM. Of course, if you fly into London, Continental Travelnurse will typically be there to greet you, but having some local currency on hand is a smart way to travel.
Public Transport — Once here, you’ll find the UK public transport ranks with the best in the world. You’ll be able to get to your job and just about anywhere with a system that is safe, clean, accessible and quite wonderful. Weekly and monthly passes are available and are the right option if you’re not within walking distance and will be using public transport every day.
Medical — If you are a Commonwealth national or you intend on staying in the UK longer than six months, you and your dependants are covered by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) from the moment you arrive on our British Isles. In the case of an emergency, everyone is treated without question.
Medication — If you’re on medication, getting a supply to last your expected time in the UK is a good step to take. Certainly, you can check if your brand is available locally but there’s also the time-lag between arriving and getting a prescription provided and filled to consider. On the other hand, in the UK medication is heavily subsidized, as is your health care, so it’s possible you might find the same prescription is much cheaper here. When you arrive at your destination, we’ll walk you through the easy steps to getting a doctor. Remember to bring copies of your medical records with you.
Dentistry — While the UK’s subsidised health care has much to recommend it, the country does lag behind when it comes to dentistry. It’s basically free from the government, but it’s much more difficult to obtain since dentists are in short supply. An increasing number of locals go to private dentists and pay for their care, despite its being technically available for free — that should certainly tell you something. Get a check-up before you leave and have any pressing needs taken care of — that’s standard operating procedure even before a short trip overseas.
Budget Airlines — Whether planning a long weekend getaway or a major trip between assignments, you’ll be thrilled to discover that the UK has a large and growing number of budget airlines that make travel around the UK and Europe extremely affordable and easy — even on short notice. Talk to us and we can provide all sorts of tips on where to look for cheap tickets.
Important Documents – To travel, you’ll need a passport and other basic documents related to your nursing. When traveling anywhere, it’s a good idea to make a folder of your important documents and make copies of all of them, such as your passport, nursing license, driver’s license if you have one, birth certificate and other crucial documents you may travel with or want access to in an emergency. Leave a copy with friends, carry another copy with you separately from your actual documents or if you’re tech savvy you might store them online in a very secure location for easy access. In case your passport or other documentation is lost or mislaid in any way, having copies of them on hand or accessible with a phone call will prove a lifesaver.