Once a colonial powerhouse, the United Kingdom (formed in the year 1800) is composed of England, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland and is located just north of France. It is a constitutional monarchy and is governed by a parliamentary system. Due to its colonial heritage, many immigrants from ex-colonies and other countries in the European Union have settled in the United Kingdom, which creates a unique tapestry that has changed the face of food, style of dress, and the phenotype of the inhabitants. All four countries have a unique, rich, and, at times, a contentious history, but do not let the latter dissuade you from enjoying such lovely and diverse countries.
The United Kingdom has internationally renowned private hospitals and clinics with the latest technology, highly trained physicians, and some of the best medical practices. Although prices in the United Kingdom are not as competitive as Asia and Latin America, medical tourists still go there for quality dental and cosmetic procedures.
In fact, the United Kingdom is among the most active health travel destinations, with London being of particular interest to medical travelers. On the other hand, very few hospitals in the United Kingdom have gone through independent international accreditation, and the country only has mandatory registration through the Care Quality Commission.
On the other hand, medical care in the United Kingdom is considered world class, with specialized clinics, internationally renowned private hospitals, integrated care, and cutting edge technology, and comprehensive services readily available
The official language of the United Kingdom is English (Welsh is also an official language in Wales).
Winters in Great Britain tend to be cold and wet (max temperature in the mid 40’soF or about 8oC), while July and August are the driest and hottest months (max temperature is 72oF or 22oC). The best period to travel is between late April to September, but note that holiday traffic is greatly increased during July and August because schools are on break.
U.S. and Canadian citizens do not require a visa for stays in Great Britain up to six months; however a valid passport is required.
Great Britain has many airports but the ones most pertinent to medical tourists are:
The following airlines have flights to Great Britain:
A private room in a hostel in London ranges from $35 to $50 USD per person per night. A 3 star hotel in London starts at $65 USD and can go as high as $200 USD per night. Note that habitations in London are more expensive than elsewhere in Great Britain. Also, there are 82 highly rated 5 star hotels with impressive design and amenities. The cost starts at $400 in London and $187 elsewhere.
The currency of the United Kingdom is the Pound.The exchange rate of U.S. dollars to United Kingdom pounds is $1 USD to £0.61 GBP (exchange rate subject to change).
Because Great Britain encompasses four countries, a few paragraphs on sightseeing don't do justice to the amount of leisure activities available for tourists to enjoy. Popular sightseeing spots in England include the ancient megaliths of Stonehenge, the space-age domes of the Eden Project in Cornwall and the ultra modern city of London in which contemporary edifices are juxtaposed with historic buildings and monuments. England also has activities for the athlete in all of us that include rock-climbing in the Peak District, cycling in Norfolk, and surfing off of Newquay.
Despite the fact that at times Wales is overlooked by its neighbor to the east, the country is rife with nightlife and outdoor activities. Hiking and biking enthusiasts will enjoy the Pembrokeshire Coast National park, which has stunning scenery and a coastal trail. The Gower Peninsula is home to limestone cliffs and beaches, and Llandudno is a seaside resort built in the Victorian era, which is now a haven for adventure seekers looking to participate in extreme sports.
Although Scotland has been part of Great Britain since 1707, it has maintained a separate and distinct culture that can be discerned in its food, accent, and music, just to name a few.
The cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are perfect for history buffs, while Dumfries and Galloway are a must for foodies who enjoy good salmon. Also, Aberdeen is the place to go for Angus beef, while Isle of Islay or Oban is good for malt whiskey. For naturalists, the Highlands and the Northern Islands are excellent for wild mountain scenery and whale, dolphin, and eagle watching.
Despite its tumultuous history, Northern Ireland has recently become a more peaceful place for both tourists and natives. Unfortunately, its past has at times overshadowed the many attractions that Northern Ireland has to offer. Popular sites include Belfast City Hall which is an impressive Edwardian building, Dunluce Castle, Tyrella Blue Flag Beach, Armagh Planetarium, and Dundrum Castle.
Despite the exchange rate, shopping in the United Kingdom does not have to eat you out of a house and home. In England, the Freeport Designer Shopping Village near Braintree, Essex offers designer fashions including shoes and sportswear at great bargains. For people who prefer natural products, check out Lush, which sells natural soaps, shampoo bars, ballistic bath bombs, etc. Note that Lush does not offer these products at a bargain, but it is definitely worth the buy. Another great buy for kids and the young at heart is a make-your-own-teddy bear from the Bear Factory. The chain allows buyers to choose an animal, filler, outfit, and even its voice for a surprisingly low price (about $24 USD) and after your animal is stitched you will get a birth certificate.
In Scotland, the Deans of Huntley Factory Shop in Aberdenshire is famous for its delicious shortbread biscuits. Deans of Huntley biscuits are sold throughout Scotland but the factory shop offers them at half of the price. The House of Beauty just north of Ullapool is a great place to buy the best of Scottish produce as well other goods from wedding dresses to whiskies. For bargain seekers, the Livingston Designer Outlet is a huge complex just west of Edinburgh, with over 90 designer and high street stores.
In Northern Ireland, the Bow Street Mall located in Lisburn has over 60 stores including 6 food outlets and is still expanding! On the more high-end side, Victoria Square is filled with designer shops, and on the top floor you can get a panoramic view of the new multicultural Belfast.
Aside from the usual shopping malls, Wales has a more unconventional popular shopping venue: The Cellar, which sells merchandise for all of your medieval needs including armor replicas and swords. For a high altitude shopping experience, check out the Ponderosa Café Complex, which is located 1,400 feet (427 meters) above sea level. Aside from having cafes, craft and souvenir shops, the complex also offers stunning views.