Before you go, you can obtain general information from Visit Britain (www.visitbritain.com):
- In the United States: 551 Fifth Ave., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10176-0799 (tel. 800/462-2748 or 212/986-2266).
- In Canada: Call tel. 888/VISITUK (847-4885).
- In Australia: Level 2, 15 Blue St., North Sydney 2060 (tel. 02/9021-4400).
- In New Zealand: Fay Richwite Blvd., 17th Floor, 151 Queen St., Auckland (tel. 0800/700-741).
For a full information package on London, write to Visit London, 2 More London Riverside, 6th Floor, Bermondsey SE1 2RR (tel. 020/7234-5800; www.visitlondon.co.uk).
Wales, like England, has a number of regional tourist offices, but the Visit Wales Centre is at the Brunel House, 2 Fitzalan Rd., Cardiff CF24 0UY (tel. 08701/211-255; www.visitwales.com). Detailed information is also available in London from the Wales Desk at the Britain Visitors Centre, 1 Regent St., London SW1Y 4XT (tel. 0207/808-3838).
The most useful site was created by a very knowledgeable source, the British Tourist Authority itself, with U.S. visitors targeted. A wealth of information can be tapped at www.visitbritain.com, which lets you order brochures online, provides trip-planning hints, and even allows e-mail questions for prompt answers. All of Great Britain is covered.
Go to www.baa.com for a guide and terminal maps for Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, and several other airports in the U.K., including flight arrival times, duty-free shops, airport restaurants, and info on getting from the London airports to downtown London. Getting around London can be confusing, so you may want to visit www.tfl.gov.uk for up-to-the-minute info on transportation.
You may also wish to check out one of the following websites. AOL members can type in the keyword "Britain" and find a vibrant guide to the U.K. that gives you the skinny on arts, dining, nightlife, and more. To access the AOL London guide, type in the keyword "London."
At www.britannia.com, you'll find much more than a travel guide -- it's chock-full of lively features, history, and regional profiles, including sections on Wales and King Arthur.
English Heritage (www.english-heritage.org.uk) has trip planning information, accommodations, and an attractions finder that allows you to search by region. The National Trust (www.nationaltrust.org.uk) provides a similar service with a searchable online attractions finder featuring castles, museums, natural wonders, and more. Many hotels and sites that don't have their own Web pages can be found in one of these two directories.
For the latest on London's theater scene, consult www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk.
Upon arriving in London, you should arm yourself with a detailed street map if you plan to do a lot of walking. London is a maze of narrow streets and "villages" within a vast city, and many addresses are obscure and hard to find.
Plot where you're going before setting out, or otherwise just walk and enjoy discovering London at your whimsy. It's amazing what you'll come across if you have endless time. Otherwise, plot your course so you can cram as much into a precious day as your limited time will allow.
If you plan to motor through England, arm yourself with a road atlas, especially one of the large format ones produced by AA, RAC, Collins, and Ordnance Survey. Virtually every motorway gas (petrol) station in England stocks one or more of the big road atlases.
At www.multimap.com, you can access detailed street maps of the whole United Kingdom -- just key in the location or even just the postal code, and a map of the area with the location circled will appear. For directions to specific places in London, consult www.streetmap.co.uk.