Area Codes — The telephone country code for Britain is 44. The area code for Edinburgh is 0131; for Glasgow, 0141; for Aberdeen, 01224; and for Inverness, 01463. 

Business Hours — With many exceptions, business hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. In general, stores are open Monday through Saturday from 9:30am to 5:30pm, and on Sunday from 11am to 5pm. In country towns, there’s usually an early closing day (often on Wed or Thurs), when the shops close at 1pm, and most shops don’t open at all on Sundays.

Customs — Non-E.U. nationals can bring into Scotland duty-free 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars, or 250 grams of smoking tobacco. You can also bring in 4 liters of wine and either 1 liter of alcohol over 22% proof or 2 liters of fortified wine under 22% proof. In addition, you can bring in up to £390 of other goods (including perfume) without having to pay tax or duty. Check www.gov.uk/duty-free-goods for further details. 

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There are no restrictions on the amount of goods (including alcohol and tobacco) that E.U. nationals may bring into Scotland. However, you must transport the goods yourself, the goods must be for your own use or intended as a gift (any form of payment received invalidates this claim), and the goods must be duty and tax paid in the E.U. country where they were acquired. Failure to meet any of these conditions may result in the goods being seized.

Drinking Laws — The legal drinking age is 18. Children 15 and under aren’t allowed in pubs, except in certain rooms, and then only when accompanied by a parent or guardian. Pub opening hours are generally from 11am to 11pm, but within these limits there’s wide variation, according to the discretion of the pub owner. Licensed premises in certain areas are allowed extended opening hours—up to 4am, on a “local need” basis. On Sundays, some pubs, particularly in city centers, are closed; those that do remain open usually do so from noon to 10:30 or 11pm. Restaurants are allowed to serve liquor during these hours, but only to people who are dining on the premises. The law allows an additional 30 minutes for “drinking-up time.” In hotels, liquor may be served from 11am to 11pm to both guests and non-guests; after 11pm, only guests may be served. Supermarkets sell beer, wine, and liquor. Wherever you choose to drink, don’t drink and drive—alcohol limits for drivers are much lower in Scotland than they are elsewhere in the U.K., and stiff penalties include license suspension, fines, and jail time.

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Drug Laws — Scotland, like the rest of Britain, takes a fairly relaxed view of the recreational use of marijuana in private, though possession of hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine may carry stiff penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

Drugstores — There are very few 24-hour pharmacies in Scotland. Some large in-store pharmacy counters in supermarkets remain open until very late. Police station in the country has a list of emergency chemists. Dial “0” (zero) and ask the operator for the local police, who will give you the name of one nearest you.

Electricity — British electricity is 240 volts AC (50 cycles), roughly twice the voltage in North America, which is 115 to 120 volts AC (60 cycles). American plugs don’t fit British wall outlets so you’ll need an adapter to plug an American appliance directly into a European electrical outlet. While most electronic gear, phones and laptops included, are dual voltage, you’ll also need a transformer to use a gadget that is not equipped with dual voltage.

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Embassies & Consulates — All embassies are in London. However, there’s a U.S. Consulate in Edinburgh at 3 Regent Terrace (www.uk.usembassy.gov; tel. 0131/556-8315), open Monday through Friday from 1 to 5:30pm; appointment required. The Canadian High Commission is at 50 Lothian Rd. (www.travel.gc.ca; tel. 0131/473-6320), open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm. The Irish Consulate is at 6 Randolph Crescent (www.dfa.ie/irish-consulate/edinburgh; tel. 0131/226-7711), open Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 1pm and 2:30 to 5pm. 

Emergencies — For police, fire, or ambulance, dial tel. 999.

Family Travel — Families are well catered to in Scotland. In fact, with such an abundance of outdoor scenery and activities, and a generally casual, family-friendly atmosphere prevailing even in the large cities, Scotland is unusually welcoming to young travelers. Many restaurants serve lower-priced child-size portions; many hotels are geared to accommodating families in large rooms with multiple beds or in family suites, often with kitchenettes; and museums and other attractions usually charge children 15 and younger a lower admission fee and have special rates for family groups.

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Gasoline (Petrol) — In Scotland, pumps dispense in liters, not gallons.The British Imperial gallon is about 20% more in volume than the gallon as measured in the United States. One British gallon is about 4.5 liters. Most gas stations in Scotland are self-service, and most of them also accept major credit cards.

Family Travel — Families are well catered to in Scotland. In fact, with such an abundance of outdoor scenery and activities, and a generally casual, family-friendly atmosphere prevailing even in the large cities, Scotland is unusually welcoming to young travelers. Many restaurants serve lower-priced child-size portions; many hotels are geared to accommodating families in large rooms with multiple beds or in family suites, often with kitchenettes; and museums and other attractions usually charge children 15 and younger a lower admission fee and have special rates for family groups. 

Health — Travel in Scotland does not pose any extraordinary health risks. If you need a doctor, your hotel can recommend one, or you can contact your embassy or consulate. U.S. visitors who become ill while in Scotland are eligible for free emergency care only. For other treatment, including follow-up care, you’ll be asked to pay. Contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT; www.iamat.org) for tips on travel and health concerns, and for lists of local doctors. 

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Holidays — The following public holidays are celebrated in Scotland: New Year (Jan 1–2), Good Friday and Easter Monday, May Day (May 1), spring bank holiday (last Mon in May), summer bank holiday (first Mon in Aug), St Andrew’s Day (Nov 30), Christmas Day (Dec 25), and Boxing Day (Dec 26). Almost everything is closed on Christmas Day, and most businesses (except pubs) are closed on New Year’s Day. Many shops remain open on other public holidays.

Insurance — For big ticket items, like home rentals, and medical emergencies, it’s smart to get travel insurance. Chances are your Scottish travels won’t be putting you at any special risks, but accidents do happen—lost luggage, scraped bumpers, emergencies that require a change of plans. You may want to inform yourself about trip cancellation insurance, travellers’ medical insurance, and general travel insurance, and good places to do so before heading to Scotland are SquareMouth.com and InsureMyTrip.com. Both are online marketplaces for travel policies that allow you to pick and choose which policy best suits your needs and budget.

LGBTQ Travelers — Same sex marriage is legal in Scotland, and Edinburgh and Glasgow have thriving gay communities, with bars, clubs, shops, and gyms. Gay and lesbian visitors may sometimes still experience bigoted attitudes in rural areas, but generally, visitors will find the Scots open and welcoming to all comers.

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Liquor Laws — The legal drinking age is 18. Children 15 and under aren't allowed in pubs, except in certain rooms, and then only when accompanied by a parent or guardian. Don't drink and drive; the penalties are stiff. Basically, you can get a drink from 11am to 11pm, but this can vary widely, depending on the discretion of the local tavern owner. Certain licensed premises can have hours extended in some areas up to 4am, on a "local need" basis. Not all pubs are open on Sunday; those that are generally stay open from noon to 3pm and 7 to 10:30 or 11pm. Restaurants are allowed to serve liquor during these hours, but only to people who are dining on the premises. The law allows 30 minutes for "drinking-up time." A meal, incidentally, is defined as "substantial refreshment." And you have to eat and drink sitting down. In hotels, liquor may be served from 11am to 11pm to both guests and nonguests; after 11pm, only guests may be served.

Mail — Most post offices and sub post offices are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5:30pm and Saturday from 9:30am to noon. British mailboxes are painted red and carry a royal coat of arms. All post offices accept parcels for mailing, provided they’re wrapped properly and securely.

Newspapers & Magazines — While most towns of any size publish their own newspapers, and these are a good way to key into local concerns, The New York Times and USA Today are also widely available in major cities.

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Packing — Bring robust footwear and some waterproof clothing just about anywhere you’re going in Scotland, whatever the season. You’ll want to bring a light jacket, even in summer, when evenings can be nippy. Scots dress well when they go out, and many smarter restaurants request that customers don’t wear jeans or trainers (sneakers). So bring nice clothing; a jacket for men and skirt or dress for women is not out of place in many restaurants.

Passports — All U.S. citizens, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans must have a passport with at least 2 months’ validity remaining.

Police — The best source of help and advice in emergencies is the police. For non-life-threatening situations, dial “0” (zero) and ask for the police; dial 999 for emergencies. If the local police can’t assist, they’ll usually have the contact details of a hospital or other agency that can. Losses, thefts, and other crimes should be reported immediately.

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Safety — Although rural Scotland is quite safe, the big cities are no more immune from crime than any other European city. If visitors do find themselves victims of a crime, it’s likely to be one of pickpocketing; mugging; “snatch and grab” theft of mobile phones, watches, and jewelry; or theft of their unattended bags, especially at airports and from cars parked at restaurants, hotels, and resorts.

Pickpockets target tourists at historic sites and restaurants, as well as on buses and trains. Unattended cars are targeted, too. Visitors in Scotland aren’t expected to produce identity documents for police authorities, so feel free to secure your passport in the hotel or room safe.

Smoking — Smoking has been banned in public places, including pubs, restaurants, workplaces, and public transportation. Ignoring the ban may incur a fine of £50.

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Student Travel — The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) qualifies students for substantial savings on rail passes, entrance fees, and more. It also provides students with basic health and life insurance and a 24-hour helpline. The card is valid for a maximum of 18 months. You can apply for the card online or in person at STA Travel (www.statravel.com; tel. 800/781-4040 in North America; 132-782 in Australia; 087/1230-0040 in the U.K.). Check out the website to locate STA Travel offices worldwide. The agency Travel CUTS (www.travelcuts.com; tel. 866/246-9762) also issues the ISIC Card and offers services and discounts for U.S. and Canadian residents. 

Taxes — A standard value-added tax (VAT) of 20% is imposed on most goods and services, and hotel rates and meals in restaurants are also taxed at 20%; the extra charge will usually show up on your bill. For non-EU residents, the VAT amount can be refunded if you shop at stores that participate in the Retail Export Scheme (signs are posted in the window). When you make a purchase, show your passport and request a Retail Export Scheme form (VAT 407) and a stamped, pre-addressed envelope. Show the VAT form and your sales receipt to British Customs when you leave the country—they may also ask to see the merchandise, so keep them handy in a carry-on bag. After Customs has stamped the form, mail it back to in the envelope the shop has provided before you leave the country. Your VAT refund will be mailed to you. Or, in some larger airports you may be able to go to a VAT counter and receive your refund on the spot (Travelex offers this service in many U.K. airports).

Telephones — To call Scotland: If you’re calling Scotland from outside of the U.K.:

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1. Dial the international access code: 011 from North America; 00 from Ireland, Europe, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia.

2. Dial the country code 44.

3. Dial the local 3- or 4-digit area code (drop the initial “0”).

4. Dial the 7-digit number. The whole number you’d dial for a number in Edinburgh would be 011-44-131-000-0000.

To make calls within Scotland: Cities and localities have area codes. If you’re calling within the same area code, simply dial the local 7-digit number. However, if you’re calling from one area code to another, you must dial 0 and then the area code.

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To make international calls: To make international calls from Britain, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64, South Africa 27). Next, dial the area code and number. 

For directory assistance: For U.K. directory enquiries, dial tel. 118-500; for international directory enquiries, dial tel. 118-505. Note that these are premium-rate numbers. Consult www.192.com for a free online service.

For operator assistance: If you need an international operator or to call collect, dial tel. 155.

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Time — The United Kingdom follows Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, with British summertime lasting (roughly) from the end of March to the end of October. For most of the year, including summer, Britain is 5 hours ahead of the time observed in the eastern United States. Because of different daylight-saving-time practices in the two nations, there’s a brief period (about a week) in autumn when Britain is only 4 hours ahead of New York, and a brief period in spring when it’s 6 hours ahead.

Tipping — For cab drivers, add about 10% to 15% to the fare shown on the meter. If the driver personally unloads or loads your luggage, add 50p per bag. 

You should tip hotel porters at least a pound or so even if you have only one small suitcase; give £5 if you have substantial amounts of luggage. Leave maids £1 per day. 

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In many restaurants, a 15% service charge is often added to the bill. To that, add another 3% to 5%, depending on the quality of the service. Tipping in pubs isn’t common, although in cocktail bars the waiter or barmaid usually gets about £1 per round of drinks.

Barbers and hairdressers expect 10% to 15%. Tour guides expect £2, but it’s not mandatory. 

Toilets — Public toilets are clean and often have an attendant. Hotels can be used, but they discourage nonguests. Garages (filling stations) don't always have facilities for the use of customers. There's no need to tip, except to a hotel attendant.

Water — Tap water is considered safe to drink throughout Scotland.

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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.