Woop! The London Olympics are here and the whole of the UK is struck by Games Fever! Having been in the crowds for beach volleyball yesterday I (Will) was lucky to be part of all the fun and, in typical London fashion, got soaked in the rain in the process. Anyway, how apt is it today that we’re publishing our first ever UK-based travel tips article to coincide with London 2012? Yes TraveLinkSites is in on it too!
Thanks to the lovely Amanda, a Canadian expat living in Liverpool, we get to learn all about what it’s like to live and travel in the Great British Isles and find out more about Amanda’s site A Crafty Traveler in the process. Let’s see what she has to say!
1. Hello Amanda! Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experiences travelling and living in the UK?
I moved to England in the summer of 2010, more due to circumstance than choice really. I had just finished my undergrad degree and I came over to rejoin my boyfriend, who was studying in Liverpool at the time. We’ve lived together in three countries now, Australia, Canada, and England, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last!
I started my blog, acraftytraveler.com, to put years worth of travel stories and photographs to better use. I love taking photos and I always come home from trips with hundreds – some good, some not so good. If it wasn’t for the blog they would all be languishing in the depths of my external hard drive.
My transition to living in the UK wasn’t always easy. I moved from Canada to Liverpool, which is a city that even many Britons would struggle to settle into. The accent is unique, to say the least, and I spent a lot of time during my first few months here being completely flummoxed by it. Go to YouTube and find a clip of the footballer Jamie Carragher talking and you’ll see what I mean.
We travel at every opportunity and one of the best parts of living in the UK is the close proximity to the rest of Europe. I sometimes still can’t believe that it is possible for me to visit Paris for the weekend! We travel within the UK quite a lot too – we’ve taken road trips down south, climbed mountains in Wales, and had our car broken into in Edinburgh. Living as an expat isn’t always pretty but it is always an adventure!
2. How does the UK compare to the rest of Europe in terms of things to see and do, its food and its culture? Is it very similar to other countries or very different?
The UK might be part of Europe geographically, but culturally it is just as different to continental Europe as North America is. The UK doesn’t have the same type of rich artistic history that Italy does, or the food of France and Spain, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth visiting. If you are looking for picturesque castle ruins, country estates a la Downton Abbey, and rugged coast lines than the UK is a great place to visit.
3. How much money can someone travel around the UK for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?
In comparison to most other Western countries, Canada, Australia, the US, most things will be on par. There will always be things that are more expensive in one country compared to others, but for the most part the UK isn’t any more expensive. A pint of beer in Canada can set you back more than $7 or more, while in the UK you’ll often find bars offering similar fare for £2.50. On the flip side, you’ll never find twelve cobs of corn straight from the field for $3.00!
If you’re comparing travelling in the UK to South East Asia or Poland you’re going to find it expensive, it’s all relative really.
As with travel in general, stay away from major tourist areas when you’re looking for accommodation and food, it will always be more expensive. There is a lot of self catering accommodation in the UK and it’s a great cheap alternative.
4. What are your favourite destinations in the UK and why?
It’s hard to narrow it down to just a few! North Wales is a great place to visit if you want to escape the crowds of the south and Snowdonia National Park is a great place for climbing. Cornwall gets some of the best weather in the country and the Eden Project is one of the coolest visitor attractions I’ve been to anywhere in the world. Edinburgh, Scotland was just as beautiful as I expected and everyone should head outside of England to learn about what makes the other parts of the UK unique. Last but not least, don’t forget Northern Ireland. Even after living with a Northern Irish lad for 5 years I learned a lot about the history of The Troubles on the Black Taxi Tour we took in Belfast, and The Giant’s Causeway is a fascinating natural phenomenon. Just make sure you bring a rain coat with you to the causeway, it has rained every time I’ve been there!
5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in the UK and why?
I could say something like the Changing of the Guard in London, or Morris Dancing in the Cotswolds, but if you want to see some real English culture head to Primark on a Saturday afternoon – this is where you’ll experience real England.
6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?
I find the regional differences in the UK fascinating. Considering how huge Canada is there are nowhere near as many regional differences as in the UK – and we have a whole province that speaks a different language! There are multiple accents even within the same city, and some of the dialects are so unique that even other people in the region don’t understand them. This always makes travelling in the UK unique.
I hate to be clichéd but the British weather does live up to its reputation, never more than this summer! It rains a lot, and even when it doesn’t actually rain it is often overcast. I love taking photographs but when it’s always grey and cloudy it can make for some pretty disappointing shots – especially with so many UK cities being dominated by grey stone buildings.
7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about this country? Why do you choose these things?
Coming from a country that is barely 200 years old I find the ancient history of the UK, and Europe in general, fascinating. Vikings, Romans, the Plague, the Industrial Revolution – negative and positive I find it all really interesting.
8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around the UK without?
My camera. I never leave home without it!
9. If you could have lived/travelled anywhere else in the country (but for some reason you couldn’t) where would it have been and why?
I would love to spend more time in Scotland and I think Edinburgh would be a great city to live. It’s really vibrant and there always seems to be so much going on even though it isn’t huge. I don’t think I’d be too keen on the weather, but that is true of the whole of the UK. I would also love to live in London for a while and have the time to explore more, but the cost of living just makes it impossible.
10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone had told you before you started travelling in the UK what would it be?
You can, and will, suffer immense culture shock even though it doesn’t seem that different from Canada. This probably wouldn’t be a problem for a casual visitor, but living here is a completely different story. I spent my childhood watching Coronation Street and Monty Python movies, listening to The Beatles and Oasis, and knowing that the Queen is our head of state (for better or for worse), but the cultural differences I encountered once I settled in the UK were greater than I ever expected. I’ve settled in now, but it took at least a year to feel comfortable and to ‘get’ jokes on a regular basis!
Oh, and don’t try to out drink the English. You will fail and then you will vomit.
Big thanks to Amanda for sharing so many cool tips!
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