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Staying Healthy

Traveling to England doesn't pose any health risk. The tap water is safe to drink, the milk is pasteurized, and health services are good. The crisis regarding mad-cow disease is long over, as is the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic.

England has some of the greatest medical services in the world. And, get this, all the doctors speak English. It is easy to get over-the-counter medicine, and general equivalents of common prescription drugs are available throughout the British Isles.

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. Outside London, dial tel. 100 and ask the operator for the local police, who will give you the name, address, and telephone number of a doctor in your area. Note: U.S. visitors who become ill while they're in Britain are eligible only for free emergency care. For other treatment, including follow-up care, you'll be asked to pay.

In most cases, your existing health plan will provide the coverage you need. But double-check; you may want to buy travel medical insurance instead.Bring your insurance ID card with you when you travel.

If you suffer from a chronic illness, consult your doctor before your departure. For conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, or heart problems, wear a MedicAlert Identification Tag (tel. 888/633-4298 or 209/668-3333; www.medicalert.org), which will immediately alert doctors to your condition and give them access to your records through MedicAlert's 24-hour hot line.

Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage and carry prescription medications in their original containers, with pharmacy labels -- otherwise they won't make it through airport security. Also bring along copies of your prescriptions, in case you lose your pills or run out. Don't forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.

Safety

Like all big cities, London has its share of crime, but in general it is one of the safer destinations of Europe. Pickpockets are a major concern, though violent crime is relatively rare, especially in the heart of London, which hasn't seen a Jack the Ripper in a long time. Even so, it is not wise to go walking in parks at night. In London, take all the precautions a prudent traveler would in going anywhere, be it Los Angeles, Paris, or New York. Conceal your wallet or else hold onto your purse, and don't flaunt jewelry or cash. In other words, do as your mother told you.

The same precautions prevail in larger cities such as Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester. However, in rural Britain you are relatively safe, though if you watch a lot of murder mysteries on TV or read about them in paperbacks, there seem to be a lot of murders going on. Nonetheless, Britain is one of the safer destinations of the world, but the sensible precautions you would heed anywhere prevail, of course. In these uncertain times, it is always prudent to check the U.S. Department of State's travel advisories at http://travel.state.gov.

Motorists should know that sleeping in your car is not only potentially dangerous but also illegal in the U.K., and there are always perils linked to hitchhiking, which is not recommended.

Any unrest or protest demonstrations around London's Trafalgar Square should not concern the usual visitor, who is advised to stay out of the area during any demonstrations.

Local law-enforcement officials in Britain have a long history of being fair and impartial to visitors, even those from Third World or Middle Eastern countries. Unlike Germany, England seems to practice great tolerance, more so than parts of America. There is little racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination, including that of sexual orientation.

Women traveling alone encounter less aggressive or so-called macho behavior than they will find in such countries as Spain and Italy. Of course, discretion is always advised -- that is, don't get in a car with three lager louts at 2 o'clock in the morning.

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.