Scotland poses no particular health risks. The crisis over so-called mad-cow disease has passed and in fact it apparently never affected cattle in Scotland. Restrictions have been lifted, but it has been suggested that it's safer to eat beef cut from the bone instead of served on the bone. Avian flu remains a concern here as almost everywhere, but the country is not particularly vulnerable.
In general, contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT; tel. 716/754-4883, or 416/652-0137 in Canada; www.iamat.org) for tips on travel and health concerns in the countries you're visiting, and for lists of local, English-speaking doctors. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (tel. 800/311-3435; www.cdc.gov) provides up-to-date information on health hazards by region or country and offers tips on food safety. The website www.tripprep.com, sponsored by a consortium of travel medicine practitioners, may also offer helpful advice on traveling abroad. You can find listings of reliable clinics overseas at the International Society of Travel Medicine (www.istm.org).
What to Do If You Get Sick Away from Home
If you need a doctor, your hotel can recommend one, or you can contact your embassy or consulate. If you need an ambulance, dial 999. Remember: U.S. visitors are eligible for free emergency care. For follow-up care, you should expect to be asked to pay.
If you suffer from a chronic illness, consult your doctor before your departure. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels -- otherwise they might not make it through airport security. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
Staying Safe -- Like most big cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow have their share of crime. Handguns are banned by law, however, and shootings are exceedingly rare. Knives present a problem but one largely confined to youth gangs. Fights can flare up unexpectedly in either city, but in Glasgow, particularly, during heated soccer matches; exercise caution if any are being played during your stay. Marches of the Orange Order in June and July can also be scenes of random aggression.
In general, however, compared to most large cities of Europe, Edinburgh and Glasgow are equally safe, and violent crime against visitors is extremely rare. The same precautions prevail in these larger cities as they do elsewhere in the world. Tourists are typically prey to incidents of pickpocketing; mugging; "snatch and grab" theft of cell phones, watches, and jewelry; and theft of unattended bags, especially late at night, in poorly lit areas of the city. Also avoid visiting ATMs if it is late and there aren't many people around.
Visitors should take steps to ensure the safety of their passports. In Scotland, you are not expected to produce photo identity to police authorities, and passports may be more secure in locked hotel rooms or safes.
Dealing with Discrimination -- Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are progressive cities and, in Scotland, discrimination is punishable by law. Racial flare-ups have occurred in housing projects on the cities' outskirts where asylum seekers have been sent. Travelers are unlikely to experience any discrimination, although gay and lesbian tourists do occasionally report cool receptions at smaller hotels and B&Bs.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.