You'll encounter few health problems while in Scotland. If you need a doctor, your hotel can recommend one, or you can contact your embassy or consulate. Note: 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 (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 United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (tel. 800/232-4636; www.cdc.gov) provides up-to-date information on health hazards by region or country and offers tips on food safety. Travel Health Online (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 medical clinics overseas at the International Society of Travel Medicine (www.istm.org).
Okay for a Wee Dram, but Not for a Fag — Pub devotees in Scotland had to give up smoking in 2006, so no more fags (the slang term for cigarettes). A wee dram—or a lot more—is still acceptable, of course. The ban, which applies not only to pubs but also to restaurants, workplaces, and public transport, was designed to protect fellow workers, other diners, and even bartenders from inhaling secondhand smoke. The British Heart Foundation proclaimed that the day the ban took effect was a "historic day for Scotland."
Like all big cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow have their share of crime. Compared with most large European cities, however, they are relatively safe, and violent crime against visitors is extremely rare. The same precautions prevail in these larger cities as they do elsewhere in the world. Rural Scotland is quite safe.
Crime, however, has increased over the past few years. Tourists are typically prey to incidents of pickpocketing; mugging; "snatch and grab" theft of mobile phones, watches, and jewelry; and theft of 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, trains, and the Underground (subway). Unattended cars are targeted, too. Visitors in Scotland are not expected to produce identity documents for police authorities and thus may secure their passports in hotel safes or residences.
Medical 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 UnitedHealthcare (www.uhcsafetrip.com) or Travel Assistance International (www.tailimited.com; for general information on services, call the company's Worldwide Assistance Services, Inc., at www.worldwideassists.com.
Canadians should check with their provincial health plan offices or call Health Canada (www.canada.ca/en/health-canada.html) to find out the extent of their coverage and what documentation and receipts they must take home in case they are treated overseas.
Travelers from the U.K. should carry their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which replaced the E111 form as proof of entitlement to free/reduced-cost medical treatment abroad (www.ehic.org.uk). Note, however, that the EHIC covers only "necessary medical treatment."
Travel Insurance — 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 (www.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 that an annual travel insurance policy works out cheaper. Check www.moneysupermarket.com (www.moneysupermarket.com), which compares prices across a wide range of providers for single- and multitrip policies.
Most big travel agencies offer their own insurance and will probably try to sell you their package when you book a holiday. Think before you sign. Britain's Consumers' Association recommends that you insist on seeing the policy and reading the fine print before buying travel insurance. The Association of British Insurers (www.abi.org.uk) gives advice by phone and publishes Holiday Insurance, a free guide to policy provisions and prices. You might also shop around for better deals: Try Columbus Direct (www.columbusdirect.com).
Trip-Cancellation Insurance — Trip-cancellation insurance will help retrieve your money if you have to back out of a trip or depart early, or if your travel supplier goes bankrupt. Trip cancellation traditionally covers such events as sickness, natural disasters, and Department of State advisories. The latest news in trip-cancellation insurance is the availability of expanded hurricane coverage and the "any-reason" cancellation coverage—which costs more but covers cancellations made for any reason. You won't get back 100% of your prepaid trip cost, but you'll be refunded a substantial portion. TravelSafe (www.travelsafe.com) offers both types of coverage. Expedia also offers any-reason cancellation coverage for its air-hotel packages. Travel Guard International (www.travelguard.com); Travel Insured International (www.travelinsured.com); and Travelex Insurance Services (www.travelexinsurance.com).
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.