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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for United Kingdom

United Kingdom and Gibraltar - Consular Information Sheet
December 4, 2000

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The United Kingdom is a highly developed constitutional monarchy comprising England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory. Tourist facilities are widely available.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. Tourists are not obliged to obtain a visa for stays of up to six months in the United Kingdom or to enter Gibraltar. Those wishing to remain longer than one month in Gibraltar should regularize their stay with Gibraltar immigration authorities.

Further information on entry requirements may be obtained from the British Embassy at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel.: (202) 588-7800. Inquiries may also be directed to British Consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. The web site of the British Embassy in the United States is http://www.britainusa.com/consular/embassy/embassy.asp.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The United Kingdom is stable and modern. Political demonstrations are well policed and, except at times in Northern Ireland, generally orderly. There is, however, a history of terrorist violence related to the political situation in Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kingdom).

Numerous incidents of terrorist violence have occurred throughout England and Northern Ireland. U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted, but some have been injured when caught up in disturbances. In the last year, a major suburban London bridge was damaged by a bomb, various explosions occurred in high-density London neighborhoods, and an explosive device discovered on a London subway line caused major public transport delays.

In recent years, there has been widespread civil unrest throughout Northern Ireland during the summer marching season (April to August). As a result, American citizens traveling in Northern Ireland have experienced delays and disruption. Some degree of civil unrest may continue for the foreseeable future.

During the fall of 2000, fuel refinery blockades by the transport industry caused fuel shortages that curtailed emergency services, public transport (including airlines) and slowed or halted distribution of food and other vital commodities. Gas pump lines caused major traffic jams throughout the U.K. Further protest and resultant disruptions - even to tourists - cannot be ruled out if there is continued concern about high fuel prices.

CRIME: While the United Kingdom and Gibraltar benefit from generally low crime rates, The U.K. has recently experienced an increase in crime, including crimes involving violence. Incidents of pickpocketing, muggings, "snatch and grab" thefts of watches and jewelry and theft of unattended bags are extremely common. According to U.K. government reports, these have increased significantly over the last year.

Pickpockets target tourists, especially at historic sites, restaurants, on buses, trains and the London Underground (subway). Thieves often target unattended cars parked at tourist sites. In London, travelers should use only licensed "black taxi cabs" or car services recommended by their hotel or tour operator. Unlicensed taxis or private cars posing as taxis may offer low fares, but are often uninsured and may have unlicensed drivers. In some instances, travelers have been robbed while using these cars.

Due to the circumstances described above, visitors should take steps to ensure the safety of their U.S. passports. Visitors in England, Scotland and Wales are not expected to produce identity documents for police authorities and thus may secure their passports in hotel safes or residences. In Northern Ireland, however, passports or other photographic I.D. should be carried at all times. The need to carry a passport to cash Travelers Checks is also minimized by an abundance of ATM’s able to access systems widely used in the U.S. and offering more favorable rates of exchange.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND INSURANCE: While good medical services are widely available, free care under the National Health System is allowed only to U.K. residents. Tourists and short-term visitors can expect charges roughly comparable to those assessed in the United States.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provisions for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Generally, travel insurance cannot be purchased once you have departed the United States. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at tel.: 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the United Kingdom is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Excellent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Excellent

U.K. penalties for drunk driving are stiff and often result in prison sentences. Visitors uncomfortable with or intimidated by the prospect of driving on the left-hand side of the road may wish to avail themselves of extensive bus, rail and air transport networks that are reasonably inexpensive. Roads in the United Kingdom are generally good, but are narrow and often congested in urban areas. If you plan to drive while in the U.K., you may wish to obtain a copy of The Highway Code, available in the United Kingdom. The Automobile Association (AA) of the U.K. provides information and updates on travel and traffic-related issues on its web site at http://www.theaa.co.uk.

Public transport in the United Kingdom is excellent and extensive. However, poor track conditions were thought to have contributed to train derailments resulting in some fatalities. Repairs are underway and the overall safety record is excellent.

Many U.S. citizens are injured every year in pedestrian accidents in the United Kingdom, forgetting that traffic moves in the opposite direction than in the United States. Care should be taken when crossing streets.

In Gibraltar, as in the U.S. and Continental Europe, driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Persons traveling overland between Gibraltar and Spain may experience long delays in clearing Spanish border controls.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning United Kingdom driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, refer to the United Kingdom’s Department of Environment and Transport web site at http://www.detr.gov.uk; the Driving Standards Agency web site at http://www.dsa.gov.uk, or consult the U.S. Embassy in London’s web site at http://www.usembassy.org.uk.

The phone number for police/fire/ambulance emergency services - the equivalent of "911" in the U.S. - is 999 in the United Kingdom and 12 in Gibraltar.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority as Category One - in compliance with international aviation standards for oversight of the United Kingdom's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: British customs authorities may strictly enforce regulations regarding the import or export of certain items, including material deemed likely to incite racial hatred, firearms and personal defense items such as mace or knives. It is advisable to contact the British Embassy in Washington or one of the United Kingdom's consulates in the U.S. for specific information regarding customs requirements. Customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call 212-354-4480, send e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating British law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in the United Kingdom are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Air travelers to and from the United Kingdom should be aware that penalties against alcohol-related and other in-flight crimes ("air rage") are stiff and are being enforced with prison sentences.

CHILDREN’S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at: http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html, or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting the United Kingdom may register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in London, or at the U.S. Consulates General in Edinburgh or Belfast and obtain updated information on travel and security within the United Kingdom.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE; Telephone: in country 0207-499-9000, from the U.S. 011-44-207-499-9000 (24 hours); Consular Section fax: in country 0207-495-5012; from the U.S. 011-44-207-495-5012. The embassy web site is http://www.usembassy.org.uk.

The U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, Scotland, is located at 3 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh EH7 5BW; Telephone: in country 0131-556-8315, from the U.S. 011-44-131-556-8315. After hours: in country 0131-260-6495, from the U.S. 011-44-131-260-6495. Fax: in country 0131-557-6023; from the U.S. 011-44-131-557-6023. The web site is http://www.usembassy.org.uk/scotland.

The U.S. Consulate General in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is located at 14 Queen Street, Belfast BT1 6EQ; Telephone: in country 01232-328-239; from the U.S. 011-44-1232-328-239. After hours: in country 01232-241-279, from the U.S. 011-44-1232-661-629. Fax: in country 01232-248-482, from the U.S. 011-44-1232-248-482.

There is no U.S. consular representation in Gibraltar. Citizen services questions should be directed to the U.S. Embassy in London. Passport questions can be directed to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, located at Serrano 75/Madrid, Spain; telephone (34)(91) 587-2200, and fax (34)(91) 587-2303.

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