UK and Ireland travel guide: what you need to do


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


  • 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 gov.uk/check-uk-visa or dfa.ie/travel/visas.
  • 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.

Global roaming

Will Australian mobile phones work in the UK and Ireland?

You can continue using your Australian phone and phone number while in the UK or Ireland, but you might face some very expensive bills because of global roaming charges, particularly if you use data to access the internet.

  • Australian mobile phones are compatible with Britain and Ireland's GSM networks, so they'll work by pairing up with local carriers.
  • Check with your telco for global roaming prices. Some offer a set daily rate in Australian dollars. This isn't always the cheapest option, but at least you won't get any nasty surprises on your next bill.
  • 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.
  • Your phone will need to be unlocked to accept a different SIM.

Do 'roam like at home' rules apply to tourists?

Surcharge-free roaming is available throughout the European Union (EU) for residents of the EU.

While tourists from outside of the EU aren't included in the rules, it's likely that local operators aren't going to distinguish between residents and travellers. But before you rely on this free EU-wide roaming, check with the provider.

Post-Brexit? It's still to be decided whether the exemption will continue to apply to UK residents (and UK SIMs) once the UK leaves the European Union.

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.
  • 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.

Internet access

  • Wi-Fi should be easy to find in cafes, hotels, airports and even on some public transport.
  • If you need a more reliable connection, consider a portable Wi-Fi dongle (for your laptop) or a pre-paid data SIM (for your tablet or phone).

What type of adapter do I need for the UK and Ireland?

The UK and Ireland use type G power sockets and plugs. These are different to Australia's type I, so you'll need an adapter.

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.

UK currency: Pound sterling (£)

Irish currency: Euro (€)

  • 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 could be charged a foreign exchange fee and a withdrawal fee for every transaction.
  • Credit cards are widely accepted, but again, you could 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.
  • 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.

Tip: Certain Australian banks have agreements with overseas counterparts to allow you to avoid ATM withdrawal fees. Check with your bank before you go.

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).

Travel money cards

Travel money cards work in a similar way to travellers' cheques, only they're more versatile and are used just like debit cards. They can be pre-loaded with foreign currency and cancelled if lost. If you're planning on doing a lot of shopping, they can work out cheaper than using your credit card.

Check our travel money card reviews to be sure you're getting the best one for you.

Looking for a travel money card?

See our travel money comparison.

Travel Money reviews

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.

For more advice, see our travel money guide.

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. (See below for more).

Refunds for the 20% VAT on eligible goods (not services) bought from retailers that offer tax-free shopping can be claimed at international UK airports and train stations upon departure.

The rules

  • The goods must have been bought within the last three months.
  • You can't get a refund if you've bought something online and had it delivered outside of the UK.
  • The goods must be unused and, unless they cost less than £600, must be bought for personal (not business) purposes.

What to do at the shop

  • If the retailer offers tax-free shopping, ask then for a VAT 407 form.
  • You may need to show your passport to prove you're eligible for tax-free shopping.

What to do at the airport

  • Carry your goods in your hand luggage.
  • Before you check in, show your purchases, the completed VAT 407 form and your receipts to customs at the point when you leave the EU (note – this may not be in the UK!).
  • If everything is fine, customs will approve your form.
  • If there aren't any customs officials available, you can leave your form in a customs post box (but keep a copy of it, just in case). Once your form gets checked, customs will contact the retailer to arrange the refund.

Refunds

  • You can either claim your refund straight away at a refund booth at the airport or train station, or send the form to the retailer or their refund company.
  • Some retailers or companies will charge a fee for processing your refund, which will be deducted from the amount you get back.

You can get a refund for the 23% VAT on eligible goods (again, not services) from shops that participate in the Irish Retail Export Scheme.

The rules

  • You must take your purchases out of the EU within three months of the end of the month in which you bought them.
  • You must show proof that the goods have been taken out of the EU, such as a voucher stamped by customs at your last point of departure from the EU (which may not be Ireland).
  • You must pay for the items by credit card.

What to do at the shop

  • Check the shop operates the "retail export scheme". If they do, ask whether they do this in their own right, or in partnership with a VAT refund agent.
  • If the retailer does participate, you'll get an export voucher for each item you buy, or get a special swipe card to use.
  • You'll need to show proof that you're a tourist by presenting proof of where you live, your passport, your inbound and outbound flight dates, and a signed declaration.
  • In some shops, you can buy items tax-free right at the shop. In that case, you'll need to fill out the tax-free form and have it signed in the shop. You'll then need to take the form to the airport, attach your receipt and return it to the agency.
  • What to do at the airport

  • If your items cost more than €2,000 including VAT, you'll need to show them to customs and get a stamp at the airport.
  • If your items cost under €2,000, you can just pop your voucher or swipe card into the drop box at the airport (but make sure you keep a copy of all the documents, just in case).
  • The certified voucher will then be sent back to the retailer or the agent.
  • If you bought your goods tax-free at the shop but don't hand in your documents at the airport, the retailer will charge the tax to your credit card.
  • Refunds

  • You can get a VAT refund from the airport straight away if each individual form is for purchases that cost up to €2,000 (including VAT).
  • If your items cost more than that, you can get a refund from the retailer or agent within 25 business days.
  • Agents may charge an administration fee.
  • Note: It's not Ireland's tax office that provides refunds, but retailers and VAT agents.
  • 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 travel insurance 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. 
    • Remember: 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.
    • Consider downloading any apps, city guides and maps to your phone, tablet or laptop before you go to allow you to view them offline to save on data.
    • To save a Google Maps map onto your mobile device for offline use, open the Google Maps app (make sure you're signed in) > search for a place > at the bottom, tap the name or address > tap 'More …' > select 'Download offline map'. Your GPS positioning will still work on the saved map, even when you don't have access to the internet.

    Looking for the best travel insurance?

    See our travel insurance comparison.

    Travel Insurance reviews

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


    Leave a comment

    Display comments