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Guide to the UK

The United Kingdom (UK) is an island nation situated off the northwestern coast off the European mainland and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. The island nation of 65 million people is a union of four home nations or countries that include England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This union is more than 300 years old and today a high-income country with the world's fifth largest economy. Separated from the European mainland by the English Channel, the UK's nearest neighbours across the channel are France, the Netherlands and Belgium. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with the sovereign state of the Republic of Ireland.

The UK is one of the world’s most visited countries receiving more than 35 million visitors from around the world each year. In addition, Brits make over 50 million domestic holiday trips each year visiting various parts of the country. The UK is all about variety with so much to see and do that few countries in the world pack so much as a travel destination. The country has a rich and long history, diversity of cultures, fantastic sceneries, thriving cities, enchanting seaside towns and charming villages. Furthermore, the Brits are awesome and always welcoming toward visitors.

British Airways aircraft at Heathrow Airport by Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

The UK as a Travel Destination

The focal point and main travel destination is London, the largest city and capital of England as well as the UK. London is a cosmopolitan, vibrant, dynamic and engaging city offering visitors its rich heritage, scenic skyline, entertainment, shopping, nightlife and cuisine to name a few. The English city of Liverpool is the birthplace of many British pop groups including the famous Beatles. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and host to a number of festivals. The Welsh capital of Cardiff offers visitors shopping, parks, nightlife, culture and history. Belfast is Northern Ireland's capital and once associated with violent conflicts for nearly 30 years but today a city of hope.

London's Piccadilly Circus by Jimmy Baikovicius

There are also the picturesque countryside, beautiful coastlines, scenic forests and breathtaking lakes from the north to the south of the country. The Cornish coastline in southwest England features rugged coasts and beautiful beaches. Scotland is famous for its scenic mountains, river valleys, highlands and striking coasts. Wales is a fantastic outdoor destination, especially the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park with its scenic coastal trails and awesome limestone cliffs. The tracking trails of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland passes lakes, rivers, woodlands and many fine peaks.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales by Manfred Heyde

Shopping in the UK

The UK is heaven for shoppers where you can practically find anything you want. Shopping in the UK includes the street market stalls, independently owned stores, retail chains, department stores and large shopping centres. It may not necessarily be a cheap shopping destination but undeniably offers variety, quality and availability. London is the ultimate shopping destination presenting plenty of shopping opportunities ranging from cheap bargains to luxury brands. There is a 20 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) for most purchases but visitors residing outside the European Union (EU) can claim VAT refunds for purchases at designated stores.

Harrods department store in London by Another Believer

The Crown Dependencies

The Isle of Man is an island situated in the Irish Sea and the Channel Islands (Bailiwick of Jersey and Bailiwick of Guernsey) in the English Channel. These islands are Crown Dependencies i.e. associated but not part of the UK with their own governments, laws and manage their own affairs. However, they are not sovereign nations but under the British Crown with the UK government managing their foreign affairs and defence. These islands offer visitors charming towns, delightful villages, picturesque coastlines and exquisite countryside. Entry requirements for tourists to the Crown Dependencies are the same as the UK.

Along the coast in Jersey by Man Vyi

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