- Quick Facts
Area: 129,720 sq km (50,085 sq mi)
Population: 57 million
Capital City: London
People: Anglo-Saxons, Scots, Welsh, Irish, West Indians, Pakistanis, Indians
Religion: Church of England, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II
Prime Minister: David Cameron
GDP: US$1254 billion
GDP per head: US$22,800
Annual Growth: 1.7%
Major Industries: Banking and finance, steel, transport equipment, oil and gas, coal, tourism
Major trading partners: EU (Germany, France, Netherlands, Ireland) & USA
Member of EU: yes
Euro zone participant: no
- Country Facts
March: The traditional Oxford/Cambridge University Boat Race, held in London on the River Thames.
April: The gruelling Grand National steeplechase at Aintree, Liverpool.
May: Chelsea Flower Show, London’s Royal Hospital.
June: The Trooping of the Colour pageantry on the Queen’s birthday in London.
July: Cowes Week yachting extravaganza, Isle of Wight.
Travelers’ cheques are widely accepted in English banks and you might as well buy them in pounds to avoid changing currencies twice. Change bureaus in London frequently levy outrageous commissions and fees, so make sure you establish any deductions in advance. The bureaus at the international airports are exceptions to the rule, charging less than most banks and cashing sterling travelers’ cheques for free. ATMs are very common in Britain.
If you eat in an English restaurant you should leave a tip of at least 10% unless the service was unsatisfactory.
Isles of Scilly
The balmy Scilly Isles, 28 miles southwest of Land’s End, comprise of 140 rocky islands slap in the middle of the warm Gulf Stream. The mild climate enables plants and trees that grow nowhere else in Britain to flourish, and growing flowers for the mainland is an important industry. The pace of life on the five inhabited islands is slow and gentle, and there’s no need for a car because the largest island (St Mary’s) only measures around three by two miles. Most of the islands have white, sandy beaches, gin-clear waters and a swag of shipwrecks, making it attractive for divers.
This is one of the wildest and least-spoilt counties in England. There are probably more castles and battlefield sites here than anywhere else in the country, testifying to the long and bloody struggle with the Scots. The most interesting and well-known relic is Hadrian’s Wall. The Northumberland National Park has a windswept grandeur that is distinctly un-English in character. The grassy Cheviot Hills, part of the park, are a beautiful and challenging hiking area.
According to historians, the first-known inhabitants of England were small bands of hunters. But Stone Age immigrants arrived around 4000 BC and constructed the mysterious stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury. They were followed by the Bronze Age Celts from Central Europe who began arriving in 800 BC, bringing the Gaelic and Brythonic languages.
The Romans invaded in 43 AD and within just seven years had most of England in their control. They brought stability, nice and straight paved roads and Christianity. The Romans were never defeated; they just sort of faded away around 410 AD as their empire declined.
Tribes of heathen Angles, Jutes and Saxons began to move into the vacuum, absorbing the Celts, and local fiefdoms developed. By the 7th century, these fiefdoms had grown into a series of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which had come to collectively think of themselves as English. By the mid-9th century, Vikings had invaded northern Scotland, Cumbria and Lancashire and the Danes were making inroads into eastern England. By 871, only Wessex – the half-Saxon, half-Celtic country south of the Thames – was under English control. At this low point, the English managed to neutralize the Vikings’ military superiority and began a process of assimilation.
The next invader was William of Normandy (soon to become known as William the Conqueror), who arrived on the south coast of England in 1066 with a force of 12,000 men. After victory at the Battle of Hastings, he replaced English aristocrats with French-speaking Normans.
The next centuries saw a series of royal tiffs, political intrigues, plague, unrest and revolt. The Hundred Years War with France blurred into the domestic War of the Roses and enough Machiavellian backstabbing among royalty to make the present foibles of the monarchy seem even more trifling than they already are. In the 16th century, Henry VIII’s matrimonial difficulties led to the split with Catholicism. Henry was appointed head of the Church of England by the English Parliament and the Bible was translated into English. In 1536, Henry dissolved the smaller monasteries and confiscated their land as the relationship between Church and State hit rocky times.
The power struggle between monarchy and Parliament degenerated into civil war in the mid-17th century, pitching Charles 1st’s royalists (Catholics, traditionalists, the gentry and members of the Church of England) against Cromwell’s Protestant parliamentarians. Cromwell’s victory segued into a dictatorship, which included a bloody rampage through Ireland, and by 1660 Parliament was so fed up that it reinstated the monarchy.
A period of progressive expansionism followed, as England collected colonies down the American coast, licensed the East India Company to operate from Bombay and eventually saw Canada and Australia come within its massive sphere of influence. At home, England exerted increasing control over the British Isles. The burgeoning empire’s first setback occurred in 1781 when the American colonies won their war of independence.
Meanwhile, Britain was fast becoming the crucible of the Industrial Revolution as steam power; steam trains, coal mines and water power began to transform the means of transport and production. The world’s first industrial cities sprung up in the Midlands, causing severe dislocation of the population. By the time Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837, Britain had become the world’s greatest power. Its fleet dominated the seas, knitting together the British Empire, while its factories dominated world trade.
Britain bumbled into the stalemate of WW I in 1914, resulting in the senseless slaughter of a million Britons and a widening gulf between the ruling and working classes. The latter set the stage for 50 years of labour unrest, beginning with the 1926 Great Strike and growing throughout the 1930s depression. Britain dithered through the 1920s and ’30s, with mediocre and visionless government, which failed to confront the problems the country faced – including the rise of Hitler and imperial Germany.
Britain’s never-say-die character was forged in WW II under the guidance of Winston Churchill. Britain bounced back from Dunkirk, the relentless Luftwaffe air raids and the fall of Singapore and Hong Kong to win the Battle of Britain and play a vital role in the Allied victory. Despite the euphoria, Britain’s resources and influence were exhausted and its empire declined as first India (1947), then Malaysia (1957) and Kenya (1963) gained their independence.
It took until the 1960s for wartime recovery to be fully completed, but by then Britons had supposedly ‘never had it so good’, according to their prime minister, Harold Macmillan. The sixties briefly repositioned swinging London back at the cultural heart of the world, as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Mary Quant, David Bailey, Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton and Co strutted their stuff on the world stage.
But factionalism in Northern Ireland became overtly violent, leading to the deployment of British troops in 1969. The Troubles, as they are euphemistically known, have been dogging the British and Irish governments and ruining Northern Ireland ever since. The 1970s’ oil crisis, massive inflation, the three-day working week and class antagonism also brought reality crashing into the party, and in 1979 the Brits elected matronly Margaret Thatcher to come and mop up their mess for them.
Thatcher broke the unions, privatized national industries, established a meritocracy, sent a flotilla to the Falklands and polarized British society. She became the longest-serving prime minister this century and left such a deep mark on the Brits that even now, going on for a decade after her political party dumped her; Baroness Maggie looms large over any discussion of domestic affairs. The ever-so-nice John Major, PM from 1990, failed to rally the nation to the Conservative cause, and was booted out in no uncertain terms in elections in May 1997.
Asylum seekers, farming, education, health, Northern Ireland and the European Union still polarize opinion, but cautious optimism prevails. How England responds to the increasingly assertive nationalities of Scotland and Wales, and to the changes caused by closer interaction with Europe, will be primary factors in the future identity of the country.
England’s greatest artistic contributions have come in the fields of theatre, literature and architecture. The country is also a treasure house of art and sculpture, from every age and continent. Modern architects like Sir Norman Foster and Richard Rodgers have created dramatic and innovative structures like the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and Lloyds of London building.
Anyone who has studied English literature at school will remember ploughing through Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens and Morrissey, and painful though it might have been at the time, no one can deny England’s formidable contribution to the Western literary canon.
Perhaps England’s greatest cultural export has been the English language, the current lingua franca of the international community. The majority of English who profess religious beliefs belong to the Church of England, which became independent of Rome in the 16th century. Other significant protestant churches include Methodist, Baptist and Salvation Army. One in 10 Britons consider themselves Catholic, and there are now over a million Muslims and sizeable Hindu, Jewish and Sikh populations.
England is the largest of the three political divisions within the island of Great Britain. Bound by Scotland to the north and Wales to the west, England is no more than 29 km from France across the narrowest part of the English Channel. Much of England is flat or low-lying. In the north is a range of limestone hills.
England was once almost entirely covered with woodland, but tree cover is now the second lowest in Europe (after Ireland). Since early this century the government has been planting conifers to reverse this situation, but the pines have turned the soils around them acid and destroyed large areas of ancient peatland. Other common trees include oak, elm, chestnut, lime (not the citrus variety), ash and beech. Although there isn’t much tall flora around, you’ll see plenty of lovely wildflowers in spring.
The red deer is the largest mammal in England, and there are plenty of them (as well as fallow and roe deer) around. Foxes prosper, and if you’re lucky you may see a badger or hedgehog. Introduced American gray squirrels are forcing out the smaller local red variety. Rabbits are everywhere, while smaller rodents such as the shrew, harvest mouse and water vole are less common (but frightfully cute). England’s only poisonous snake, the adder, is rare and protected.
England’s national parks cover about 7% of the country and include Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Lake District, the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors, the New Forest, the Broads and Northumberland. English national parks are not wilderness areas, but they do include areas of outstanding national beauty.
England’s climate is mild and damp, with temperatures moderated by the light winds that blow in off its relatively warm seas. The north is the coldest area; London, the southeast and the West Country are the warmest.
London is one of the most important air-transport hubs in the world. There are five international airports servicing London (Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and London City). Britain has a land link with mainland Europe. Two services operate through the Channel Tunnel. You can also get a bus or train connection to mainland Europe with a short ferry or Seacat ride thrown in. The boat trip on the shortest routes (from Dover or Folkestone to Calais or Boulogne) takes about 90 minutes.
Public transport in England is generally of a high standard, but can be expensive. Buses or coaches are the cheapest but slowest way to get around. On longer journeys they are also the least scenic way to travel. England has an impressive rail network, which includes a couple of beautiful lines through sparsely populated country.
- When to Go
Anyone who spends any extended period of time in England will sympathize with the locals’ obsession with the weather, although in relative terms the climate is mild and the rainfall is not spectacular. The least hospitable months for visitors are November to February – it’s cold and the days are short. March and October are marginal – there’s more daylight but it can still be very cold. April to September are the best months.
- Explore Attractions
London is a cosmopolitan mixture of the Third and First Worlds, of chauffeurs and beggars, of the establishment and the working class.Much of London looks unplanned and grubby. But it has world-class museums, monuments, buildings, churches and historical sites. The city is so enormous and so jam-packed with attractions, visitors will need to make maximum use of the efficient underground train system. Doing some traveling by bus helps fit the city together. Traveling above ground is also a great way to soak up the sights and sounds of this diverse, multicultural city.
Area: 607 sq mi (1572 sq km)
Population: 12 million
Time Zone: GMT/UTC & BST (British Summer Time)
Telephone area code: 207/208
January: New Year’s Day London Parade, in which the lord mayor of Westminster leads a parade of 10,000 musicians and street performers.
April: London Marathon.
May: Chelsea Flower Show, held on the last week.
June: Trooping the Colour, the Queen’s birthday parade.
August: The raucous Notting Hill Carnival takes over the streets.
November: The Lord Mayor’s Show, complete with floats, bands and fireworks.
The main geographical feature of the city is the River Thames. It meanders through central London and divides it into northern and southern halves. The central area and the most important sights, theatres and restaurants are within the Underground’s Circle Line on the north bank of the river. The trendy and tourist-ridden West End lies within the western portion of the loop, and includes Soho, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Regent St.
The East End is a cultural melting pot. There are interesting inner-city suburbs in North London, including Islington and Camden Town. South London includes a mess of poor, dirty, graffiti-ridden suburbs like Brixton, which have vibrant subcultures of their own.
Accommodation in London is very expensive and in short supply in July and August. There’s the usual mix of hostels, university colleges, B&Bs and hotels. Earl’s Court is a major center for cheap hostels and hotels, but there are other good centers in Bloomsbury and Notting Hill.
When to go:
London is a year-round tourist center. But the best chance of good weather is at the height of summer in July and August, but there’s certainly no guarantee of sun even in those months – plus it’s when you can expect the biggest crowds and highest prices.
April/May and September/October are good times to visit London: there’s a better than average chance of good weather and the queues for popular attractions are hours shorter. During these periods the cost of getting to London is cheaper and you might even find some decent accommodation.
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Hampstead Heath is home to woods, meadows, hills, bathing ponds and, most importantly of all, lots of space. After a brisk walk on the heath, pop into the Spaniard’s Inn for a tipple or have a look at Robert Adam’s beautiful Kenwood House and wander around its romantic grounds.
Highgate Cemetery can’t be beaten for its Victorian Gothic atmosphere and downright eeriness. Its extensive and overgrown grounds include cypress trees and Egyptian-style catacombs. Kensal Green and Brompton cemeteries are also Victorian delights, complete with catacombs and angels.
Holland Park is a residential district, full of elegant town houses. It is also an inner-city haven of greenery, complete with strutting peacocks and scampering bunnies, the restored remnants of a Jacobean mansion (now set aside for the world’s backpackers), two exhibition galleries and formal gardens. Nearby, the Arabesque splendor of Leighton House is full of pre-Raphaelite paintings.
Hire a boat for an hour or two and go boating on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Docklands has jet-skiing, water-skiing and windsurfing. London’s parks – especially Hyde Park and Regents Park – are delightful for walking. There are also bike-hire joints all over the city for cyclists. You can even go horse riding. Inline skaters should head to Hyde Park. And London is littered with gyms, sports centers and even climbing walls.
It was the Romans who first developed the square mile now known as the City of London. They built a bridge and an impressive city wall, and made Londinium an important port and the hub of their road system. The Romans left, but trade went on. Few traces of London dating from the Dark Ages can now be found, but the city survived the incursions of both the Saxons and Vikings.
William the Conqueror found a city that was, without doubt, the richest and largest in the kingdom. He raised the White Tower (part of the Tower of London) and confirmed the city’s independence and right to self-government.
During the reign of Elizabeth I the capital began to expand rapidly – in 40 years the population doubled to reach 200,000. Unfortunately, medieval Tudor and Jacobean London was virtually destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666. The fire gave Christopher Wren the opportunity to build his famous churches, but did nothing to halt the city’s growth.
By 1720 there were 750,000 people, and London, as the seat of Parliament and focal point for a growing empire, was becoming ever richer and more important. Georgian architects replaced the last of medieval London with their imposing symmetrical architecture and residential squares.
The population exploded again in the 19th century, creating a vast expanse of Victorian suburbs. As a result of the Industrial Revolution and rapidly expanding commerce, it jumped from 2.7 million in 1851 to 6.6 million in 1901.
Georgian and Victorian London was devastated by the Luftwaffe in WW II – huge swathes of the center and the East End were totally flattened. After the war, ugly housing and low-cost developments were thrown up on the bombsites. The docks never recovered – shipping moved to Tilbury, and the Docklands declined to the point of dereliction. In the heady 1980s, that decade of Thatcherite confidence and deregulation, the Docklands were rediscovered by a new wave of property developers, who proved to be only marginally more discriminating than the Luftwaffe.
London briefly regained its ‘cool’ reputation in the 1990s, buoyed by Tony Blair’s New Labour, a rampaging pound and a swag of pop, style and media ‘names’. The face of the city changed with the construction of the £1bn white elephant Millennium Dome, the London Eye observation wheel, the Tate Modern and the creation of the British Museum’s Great Court.
Heathrow Airport is accessible by bus, London Underground (Piccadilly line) and the Heathrow Express. A cab to or from the airport will cost around US$65. For the first time since the ice ages, Britain has a land link (albeit a tunnel) with mainland Europe. Two services operate through the Tunnel: Eurotunnel operates a rail shuttle service (Le Shuttle) for motorbikes, cars, buses and freight vehicles and the railway companies of Britain, France and Belgium operate a high-speed passenger service, known as Eurostar. Even without using the Channel Tunnel, you can still get to Europe by bus – there’s just a short ferry/hovercraft ride thrown in as part of the deal.
London’s immense tube (consisting of 12 lines) is legendary. Still, it’s usually the quickest and easiest way to get around. If you’re not in a hurry, buses are more pleasant and interesting, as long as the traffic’s not gridlocked. Several rail companies now run passenger trains in London, most of which interchange with the tube.
London’s famous black cabs are excellent but expensive. Minicabs are cheaper competitors, with freelance drivers, but you can’t flag these down on the street. If you’d rather drive yourself, you’re in for a parking nightmare – it’s almost impossible to get a park in the city center, and the punishments for parking illegally are cruel and unusual indeed.
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England is crisscrossed by footpaths and just right if you want to take a short stroll. The more energetic should tackle at least one long-distance walk. The best of the hikes include the South-West Coast Path and the picturesque Cotswold Way. Cycling is another great way to get off the beaten track. The best beaches for swimming are in Devon and Cornwall.
Click below to see more information on UK visa.
UK/Bahamas Tourist Visa Requirements
Indian Nationals now need visa for Bahamas. The same can be applied at The British High Commission
Visa Application form duly online filled and singed as per passport. (Note – If thumb impression is there on the passport of child then on visa form along with thumb impression signature of both parents is required)
Valid passport for 6 months from date of return from UK with minimum two blank pages.
2 photo (Size 35 mm X 45 mm, matt finished, pure white background, 80 % portion of snap should be covered by face)
Passenger covering letter addressed to – Visa Officer, British Deputy High Commission, Mumbai
SOTC Covering letter addressed to – Visa Officer, British Deputy High Commission, Mumbai
If employed – Proof of employment (Leave letter for duration of tour)
If Businessman – Proof of business (Business IT papers for last 3 years and Current account statements for last 6 months).
Chairman, Director or MD – Memorandum of Association
Partner in business – Partnership Deed
Sole Trading Concern – Registration proof with BMC / Local Municipal Authority
Last 3 years personal IT papers
Last 6 months personal updated bank statements with healthy balance
Documents of assets
If Retired – Retirement proof or pension papers
If Student – School / College ID I vacation and bonafide if term is going on.
If Honeymoon couple – NOC on Rs. 20 Stamp Paper from bride’s parents along with identity and signature proof of both parents and wedding cards
All documents should be in original.
UK visa is processed at British Deputy High commission, Mumbai through UK VFS
As per new procedure passengers need to come personally for biometrics on i.e. finger printing.
Imp Note – Request your passenger not to apply Mehandi while going for biometrics. There should not be any cut or stain mark on both palms.
BDHC Mumbai’s Jurisdiction – States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, MP
Time taken: – 10 to 15 working days.
Time: In Summer 4 1/2 hours behind India and in Winter 5 1/2 hours behind India
Electricity: 240V, 50Hz
The climate of Europe is of a temperate, continental nature, with a maritime climate prevailing on the western coasts and a mediterranean climate in the south. The climate is strongly conditioned by the Gulf Stream, which warms the western region to levels unattainable at similar latitudes on other continents. Western Europe is oceanic, while eastern Europe is continental and dry. Four seasons occur in western Europe, while southern Europe experiences a wet season and a dry season. Southern Europe is hot and dry during the summer months. The heaviest precipitation occurs downwind of water bodies due to the prevailing westerlies, with higher amounts also seen in the Alps. Tornadoes occur within Europe, but tend to be weak. The Netherlands and United Kingdom experience a disproportionately high number of tornadic events.