American Express -- The American Express office in Edinburgh exchanges money and traveler's checks as well as performing other services for cardholders. It is at 69 George St. (tel. 0131/718-2501; Bus: 13, 19, or 41). It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5:30pm and Saturday from 9am to 5pm; on Wednesday, the office opens at 9:30am. In Glasgow, the office is at 66 Gordon St. (tel. 0141/225-2905), Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm and Saturday 9am to noon.
Area Codes -- The city code for Edinburgh is 0131, and for Glasgow it's 0141. These codes cover some of the surrounding towns. Regional area codes in Scotland are 5 digits long (including the zero). The country code for Scotland is 44. When phoning from outside the U.K., you drop the zero from the local code.
To make international calls from Scotland, dial 00 and then the country code, local code, and telephone number. The U.S. and Canadian country code is 1, Australia is 61, and New Zealand is 63. If you can't find a number, a directory is available by dialing a variety of numbers (thanks to privatization of the service), including tel. 118-118 or tel. 118-800 for domestic numbers and tel. 118-505 for international numbers. To make collect calls outside the U.K., dial 155 for an international operator.
Business Hours -- Most businesses are open Monday through Saturday from 9 or 9:30am to 5 or 5:30pm, with some exceptions. Many businesses and shops are closed Sunday, although several shops in the cities open on Sunday afternoons. Most cities also have extended shopping hours on Thursday until 8pm. Outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow, businesses may close for lunch, generally from 12:30 to 1:30pm.
Banks are normally open from 9 or 10am until about 5pm on weekdays. Banks are good places to exchange currency and get credit card cash advances.
Dentists -- If you have a dental emergency, go to the Edinburgh Dental Institute, 39 Lauriston Place (tel. 0131/536-4900; Bus: 35), open Monday through Friday from 9am to 3pm. In Glasgow, go to the Accident and Emergency Department of Glasgow Dental Hospital, 378 Sauchiehall St. (tel. 0141/211-9600). Its hours are Monday to Friday 9:15am to 3:15pm and Sunday and public holidays 10:30am to noon. For additional assistance, call the National Health Service line (tel. 0800/224-488).
Doctors -- You can seek help from the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, 1 Lauriston Place (tel. 0131/536-1000; Bus: 35). The emergency department is open 24 hours. In Glasgow, the main hospital for emergency treatment (24 hours) in the city is the Royal Infirmary, 82-86 Castle St. (tel. 0141/211-4000). For additional assistance, call the National Health Service line (tel. 0800/224-488).
Drinking Laws -- You can drink legally on your own at 18. Children with parents can have a low-alcohol drink such as beer or wine with a meal. Beer, wine, and spirits are sold at off-licences (the equivalent of U.S. liquor stores), small groceries licensed to sell alcohol, and supermarkets. By law, off-licence shops can only sell alcohol from 10am to 10pm.
Electricity -- The electric current in Scotland is 240 volts AC, which is different than the U.S. current, so most small appliances brought from the U.S., such as hair dryers and shavers, don't work (and the current could damage the appliance). If you're considering bringing your laptop or iron from home, check the voltage first to see if it has a range between 110 volts and 240 volts. If the voltage doesn't have a range, the only option is to purchase an expensive converter. If the voltage does have a higher range, then you still need to buy an outlet adapter because your prongs won't fit in the Scottish sockets. You can buy an adapter for about $10 at an appliance store or even at the airport. Wherever you go, bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable—or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.
Embassies & Consulates -- Embassies are located in London. Edinburgh has consulates and high commissions for Australia (69 George St.; tel. 0131/624-3700), Canada (30 Lothian Rd.; tel. 0131/245-6013), and the United States (3 Regents Terrace; tel. 0131/556-8315).
Emergencies -- For any emergency, contact the police or an ambulance by calling tel. 999 from any phone. You can also call the National Health Service Helpline (NHS Direct), tel. 0845-4647, which offers health-related advice and assistance from 8am to 10pm daily. For emergencies, treatment is free, although you will be billed for long stays.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- Like pretty much everywhere in the world, the price of gas and diesel in Scotland has risen considerably in the 2000s. As of mid-2010, the prices were nearly £1.30 for a liter. Taxes are already included in the printed price. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters or .85 imperial gallons. That should put U.S. drivers' complaints about expensive gas into context. It's much more costly in the U.K. If you're not venturing outside Edinburgh or Glasgow, don't bother getting a car and save some cash.
Holidays -- Public holidays vary slightly between Scotland and England. In general, they share Christmas, New Year's Day, and Easter.
Hotlines -- Edinburgh & Lothian Women's Aid is at tel. 0131/229-1419. Lothian Gay & Lesbian Switchboard (tel. 0131/556-4049) offers advice from 7:30 to 10pm daily; the Lesbian Line is tel. 0131/557-0751. The Rape Crisis Centre is at tel. 0141/331-1990. In Glasgow, the Centre for Women's Health is at Sandyford Place, Sauchiehall St. (tel. 0141/211-6700). Gays and lesbians can call the Strathclyde Gay & Lesbian Switchboard at tel. 0141/847-0447. The Rape Crisis Centre is at tel. 0141/331-1990.
Insurance -- For travel overseas, most U.S. health plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) do not provide coverage, and the ones that do often require you to pay for services upfront and reimburse you only after you return home.
As a safety net, you may want to buy travel medical insurance, particularly if you're traveling to a remote or high-risk area where emergency evacuation might be necessary. If you require additional medical insurance, try MEDEX Assistance (tel. 410/453-6300; www.medexassist.com) or Travel Assistance International (tel. 800/821-2828; www.travelassistance.com); for general information on services, call the company's Worldwide Assistance Services, Inc., at tel. 800/777-8710.
Canadians should check with their provincial health plan offices or call Health Canada (tel. 866/225-0709; www.hc-sc.gc.ca) to find out the extent of their coverage and what documentation and receipts they must take home in case they are treated overseas.
The cost of travel insurance varies widely, depending on the destination, the cost and length of your trip, your age and health, and the type of trip you're taking, but expect to pay between 5% and 8% of the vacation itself. You can get estimates from various providers through InsureMyTrip.com. Enter your trip cost and dates, your age, and other information, for prices from more than a dozen companies. U.K. citizens and their families who make more than one trip abroad per year may find an annual travel insurance policy works out cheaper. Check www.moneysupermarket.com, which compares prices across a wide range of providers for single- and multi-trip policies.
Internet Access -- The advent of Wi-Fi means that many cafes, hotel lobbies, and other public buildings will have Internet access. There is an EasyInternet Cafe at 58 Rose St., between Frederick and Hanover streets (www.easyeverything.com; Bus: 42), is open daily from 7:30am to 10:30pm. It has some 448 terminals. In Glasgow, try EasyInternet Cafe, 57-61 St. Vincent St. (www.easyeverything.com; Underground: Buchanan St.). This outlet offers more than 350 computers and good rates. Open Monday to Friday from 7am to 10pm; Saturday and Sunday 8am to 9pm.
Laundromats -- In Glasgow, the most central service is Garnethill Cleaners, 39 Dalhousie St. (tel. 0141/332-2387; Underground: Cowcaddens), open Monday to Saturday from about 7:30am to 6:30pm and Sunday from 8am to 5pm.
Lost & Found -- Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen, and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Both Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street police stations have lost property departments.
Mail -- The Edinburgh Branch Post Office, St. James Centre, is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5:30pm. In Glasgow, the main branch is at 47 St. Vincent's St. (tel. 0141/204-3689; Underground: Buchanan St.). It's open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5:45pm and Saturday 9am to 5:30pm. Smaller branches are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturday from 9am to noon. Often, however, they will close early on one day of the week. For general postal information, call tel. 0845/722-3344.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Published since 1817, The Scotsman is a quality daily newspaper with a national and international perspective, while its sister publication, the Evening News, concentrates more on local affairs. In Glasgow, published since 1783, The Herald is the major newspaper with national, international, and financial news, sports, and cultural listings; the Evening Times offers local news. The Daily Record is for tabloid enthusiasts only. For comprehensive arts and entertainment listings and reviews of local shows, buy The List magazine, which is published every other Wednesday—and weekly during the Festival. Metro, a free daily (Mon-Fri) available on buses and in train stations, also gives listings of daily events.
Public Toilets -- Usually costing 20p at rail stations and free in department stores. A few public toilets, often marked WC, are still found in Edinburgh and Glasgow. They're safe and clean but likely to be closed late in the evening.
Smoking -- In April 2006, a ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces—including business offices, restaurants, and pubs—went into effect. Smoking was already prohibited on all trains and buses.
Taxes -- A consumption tax of 17.5% is charged on pretty much all goods and services. It's called VAT (value-added tax) and given the U.K.'s budget woes, it may go up after 2010. Tourists from outside the European Union are entitled to a refund, however, VAT is nonrefundable for services such as hotels, meals, and car rentals.
Telephones -- Both cities still have pay phones that accept coins and credit cards.
Time -- Scotland follows Greenwich Mean Time, which is five time zones ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States (8 hours ahead of the Pacific Coast). So, when it's noon in New York, it's 5pm in Glasgow. The clocks are set forward by 1 hour for British summer time in late March, which expires at the end of October. The high latitude blesses the country with long days in the summer, with sunset as late as 10 or even 11pm. But the opposite is true in winter, when the sun sets as early as 3:30 or 4pm.
Weather -- For weather forecasts and severe road-condition warnings, call the Met Office tel. 0870/900-0100. An advisor will offer forecasts for the entire region and beyond.
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.