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UK Business Travel - Overview

UK Business Travel is dominated by visitors from the United States, France, and Germany.  Due to the rich UK history, the area is a major draw for tourists around the world.  Whether you are an exporter from China or a banker from the United States, you'll want your trip to be hassle free.  As a business person wanting to conduct business dealings with the British, here are some key UK Business Travel tips to get you started on the right track.

UK Business Travel

Nine UK Business Travel Tips

  1. Entry Requirements

    Citizens from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa do not need a visa to travel to the UK.  You do require a valid passport from your home country with proof of a return ticket and sufficient funds for your stay.  Citizens from these countries can stay up to six months.

    Citizens from the European Union as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland also do not require a visa. To be certain, check your embassy or online
    www.ukvisas.gov.uk for the latest rules and regulations on entering the UK from your country. Visa requirement will vary by country.
  2. Best Time to Go

    The peak season for UK travel is the summer months from June to August.  Spring (Apr. to May) or fall (Sept. to Oct.) are other options with cheaper flights.  The low travel season is Nov. to Mar. with the lowest fares but some tourist attractions during this time may be operating on limited hours.  Be aware that it seems that it never stops raining in the UK even during the so called driest month of April.
  3. Getting to UK

    The major airport for arriving from North America is Heathrow (LHR) just outside of London.  This is a major HUB for British Airways and airlines from America.  If you are a visitor from the European continent, you may be arriving at some of the smaller airports such as London City, London Southend, London Stansted, and London Luton.

    Travelers who book their tickets long in advance, stay over a Saturday night or fly midweek can expect to pay significantly less than the full fare price.  The big three websites www.travelocity.com, www.expedia.com, and www.orbitz.com sell most of the tickets from America to the UK.  You can set up your account to receive a notice when a lower fare becomes available.  Be sure to check the airline's website directly too.  Sometimes you get a better deal by booking direct.
  4. Hotel Classifications

    Unlike other countries, UK does not have a strict hotel rating system. Instead, the tourist board rates hotels by number of crowns.  The hotels are also judged on standards, quality and hospitality which then turn into an "approved," "commended," "highly commended," and "deluxe" classification.  A five crown, deluxe hotel is the highest rating possible.  Many older hotels still lack private bathrooms for all rooms. So if you don't want to share a bathroom, you need to ask the hotel prior to booking.

Photo Credits: ZS_01- Zsolt Dreher; Half past three - Katinka Kober

5.   Safety

As with most major cities in the world, stay away from bad neighborhoods and any dark areas.   Beware of attacks on tourists in Britain in the form of pick pocketing and mugging especially at night. Places such as King's Cross in London are dangerous places at night. Stay away.  They are full of drugs and prostitution.

6.   Taxes

There is a national value added tax (VAT) of 17.5% that is added to all restaurant and hotel bills.  It is also applied on everything that you purchase.  As a foreigner, you can get a VAT refund if you buy from retailers who participate in the Retail Export Scheme.  Signs are usually posted on the store window.  If you rent a car in UK, be advised that there is a 25% VAT on gasoline.  This is the government's way of encouraging energy conservation.

7.   VAT Refunds

As a foreigner traveling to the UK, you are entitled to a VAT refund upon your departure.  Ask the store clerk if they participate in the VAT refund program and what is the minimum purchased required for participation.  Once you purchased the minimum amount of goods, ask for the paperwork.  The retailer will have to fill out a portion of the paperwork.  Unlike other countries where forms can be picked up at the airport, this is not the case here.  So make sure that you get them from the retailer.

The completed forms need to be stamped at the airport.  The customs officer can also ask for evidence of the purchased goods. Once your forms are approved, you can either mail them or go to the Cash VAT Refund desk at the airport to receive your refund in cash. The best method is to mail the form and ask for a refund on your credit card.  Do not ask for a check.  Cashing the check in your home country can be complicated. You will lose money on the conversion if you get the refund back in cash from the airport VAT refund desk.

8.   Drug Stores and Pharmacies

They are not called "pharmacists" but they are referred to as "chemists".  Every police station has a list of the local drugstores. Dial "0" and ask for the local police to get the location of a drug store near you.

9.   Electricity

They are 220 volts instead of the North American 110 volts.   Be sure to bring adapters to run your electrical items.  Most modern day laptops don't require a converter. Be sure to check just in case.

UK Business Travel can be quite an educational and pleasurable experience. The country has so many things and opportunities to offer the business traveler.  If you are visiting UK looking for import from China or from any other country ideas, keep these nine UK Business Travel tips in mind and you will be sure to enjoy your trip and come back over and over again.