UK and Ireland travel guide: what you need to do

Visas, vaccinations, phone roaming, SIM cards, internet, power adaptors, money, travel insurance, handy apps and more.

UK and Ireland planning and preparation

Get the best cash rate, phone rates, phone apps for maps and currency conversions, and why you should spend all your Scottish pounds in Scotland - download the UK and Ireland travel guide.

Visas and passports

Australian passport holders can visit the UK without a visa for up to 180 days, and Ireland for up to 90 days.

If you're visiting for any reason other than tourism, or if you have concerns (for example, if you have a criminal record or you've been denied entry to the country before), check the rules at or


Specific vaccinations are generally unnecessary for travel to the UK and Ireland, but The Travel Doctor recommends you make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date. The risk of contracting a dangerous disease in the UK is comparable to the risk in Australia.

More about health and safety in the UK and Ireland.

Phone and internet

Global roaming and coverage

Australian mobile phones are compatible with Britain and Ireland's GSM networks, so they'll work by pairing up with local carriers, but if you use your phone a lot you run the risk of receiving some frightening bills.

Check with your telco for roaming prices:

Tip: Switch off data roaming on your phone before you leave Australia. Likewise, switch off your voicemail and ask friends and family to text you rather than calling (you'll be charged if you answer incoming calls).

Local SIM

Buying a local SIM is a better option if you're planning to use your phone for more than just the odd text message. Pre-paid SIMs (called 'pay-as-you-go') can be purchased in phone shops or at airports, or even online before you leave Australia. Remember, your phone will need to be unlocked to accept a different SIM.

Tip: If you travel to Ireland with a UK SIM, or to the UK with an Irish SIM, you are likely to be charged international roaming rates.

Travel SIM

Pre-paid travel SIMs can be bought from some Australian travel stores, phone stores and post offices, or ordered online before you leave the country. Rates won't be as good as a local SIM, but they can be a smart option if you're travelling to multiple countries and don't want to buy a local SIM every time.

Remember: Your phone will need to be unlocked to accept a SIM from another network.

Beat global roaming bill shock - our guide to unlocking your phone and changing your global roaming settings.


Wi-Fi should be easy to find in cafes, hotels, airports and even on some public transport. McDonald's, Starbucks, Pret A Manger and Coffee Republic all offer free Wi-Fi. To search for other free hotspots, try or, or download an app such as WeFi (Android or PC) or Wi-Fi Finder (Apple or Android). The Cloud is a widely available pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi provider.

Power plugs

Standard voltage: 230V

Frequency: 50Hz

The UK and Ireland run on the same voltage and frequency as Australia, so your appliances will work fine without getting fried.

Power sockets:

The type G power sockets and plugs are different to Australia's type I, so you'll need an adaptor.


UK currency: Pound sterling (£)

Irish currency: Euro (€)

Check for the latest exchange rates.


  • You won't be able to use British pounds in Ireland or euros in the UK, except in some hotels and tourist shops.
  • Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own pound sterling bank notes. These are worth the same as notes printed in the rest of Britain, but some shopkeepers in England and Wales may refuse to accept them.

Important: Tell your bank about your travel plans two weeks before you leave. Card activity in a foreign country could be mistaken for fraud and you could find your account frozen.

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are very common across the UK and Ireland. If you use an Australian card, remember that you'll be charged a foreign exchange fee and a withdrawal fee for every transaction.

Tip: Westpac customers can avoid the $5 withdrawal fee by using Barclay's Bank ATMs.

Credit cards are widely accepted, but again, you'll be charged a conversion fee of 2-3% every time you make a purchase. Ask your bank about a traveller's card with no, or low, fees.

Money changers

You can buy euros and pounds from an Australian bank before you leave, or you can change Australian dollars at currency exchange outlets or at some UK or Irish banks. Avoid changing money at the airport – it's unlikely you'll get the best rate.

Travellers' cheques

Travellers' cheques aren't so common these days, but some UK banks and retailers will still cash them. If you're concerned about money security you could take a pre-paid travel money card, which works in a similar way to travellers' cheques but can also be used like a debit or credit card (there will be fees, of course).

Tip: Carry at least two cards and more than one currency (Australian dollars, pounds, euros). Split your money and cards between separate bags. That way if you lose one, you have a back-up.

VAT (Value Added Tax) is applied to many goods and services in the UK and Ireland. Unlike in some other countries, this will almost always be included in the advertised price, so you won't get any nasty surprises. You may be eligible for a VAT refund on some goods when you leave the UK or Ireland.

For more advice, see our travel money guide.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Buy your insurance at the same time as you book your trip, that way you'll be covered if you have to cancel for some reason before you go.

The good news is that insurance for the UK and Ireland is slightly cheaper than for many other destinations, thanks to lower risks and a reciprocal health care deal with both countries.

For more information read our buying guide and to choose the best cover, see CHOICE's travel insurance reviews and comparisons.

If you're planning on driving during your holiday, make sure your insurance covers it. You should also be aware that anything that happens to you while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is unlikely to be covered by insurance, so go easy on the lagers.


  • Keep a print out of your travel insurance details with you at all times while on your trip.
  • Share your insurance details with family or friends before you leave.

Handy links and apps

Consider adding these links and apps to your phone, tablet or laptop before you go.

Tip: If possible, choose apps that work offline so they won't chew up your mobile data or stop working when you're in remote places.

  • City guides for London, Manchester, Dublin and Edinburgh include maps and self-guided tours of popular destinations. The apps work offline, so they won't chew up your mobile data. Search around for recommended travel guide apps for other destinations on your itinerary.
  • Currency conversion apps help you work out costs in Australian dollars.
  • Unit conversion apps translate imperial measurements into metric.

Tip: To save a map onto your mobile device for offline use, select the area on Google Maps then select 'Save offline map' from the menu and follow the directions on the screen. Your GPS positioning will still work on the saved map, even when you don't have access to the internet. Alternatively, go to 'Offline maps' in the menu and select a city.

Public transport trip-planners by city

Got a travel tip about the UK or Ireland? Or spotted something in our guide that needs updating? Add a comment below.

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