Dining, drinking, tipping and other local advice from our local travel experts
Make your holiday in Scotland and Northern England even more pleasant by brushing up on the local etiquette and other practical travel tips below.
It is perfectly safe to drink cold water from the tap in Scotland and Northern England. Save some money and be kind to the environment by using a refillable water bottle!
LOCAL INFORMATION & NEWS
For general daily and local news, the largest newspapers of Scotland are The Scotsman (www.scotman.com) and The Herald (www.heraldscotman.com). To find cultural events, live music events or restaurants near you while visiting Edinburgh or Glasgow, pick up a free The Skinny or Time Out city guide, available at coffee houses, book stores and tourist centres.
Otherwise you can keep up on local events, activities and attractions in all areas of Scotland with the free Visit Scotland booklets, available at tourist offices in most towns around the country. Likewise, if you’re travelling through Northern England, look for the Visit England booklets.
Check-in time at most accommodations is between 14:00 and 16:00. If you will be arriving at your accommodation later than 18:00, please call to let them know. Likewise, if you would like to eat dinner at your accommodation, it is recommended to call ahead, particularly if you are staying in a rural area.
TIPPING IN THE UK
Who you tip and how much you leave depends on the service:
Dining: At a restaurant with table service, check the menu to see if service is included in the bill. If it isn’t, a tip of 10 percent is standard. But at self-service cafes (i.e., where you order at the counter) staff are not expecting to be tipped.
Hotels: Tips depend on the level of service, but it’s common to tip concierges for hiring a taxi, making dinner reservations, etc. As for porters, about £1 per bag is standard. And while not required, leaving a few pounds for the housekeeping is always nice.
Taxis: People usually round the fare up to the next pound.
If you’re just ordering drinks at a café or pub, you don’t have to tip. Also, if you receive extraordinary service from a tour guide, leaving a small tip is appreciated but not expected.
DINING & NIGHTLIFE
Restaurants in Edinburgh tend to be busiest between 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM for lunch and 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM for dinner (these times can be a bit later on weekends). Restaurants and coffee houses are usually open on Sundays in Edinburgh, but in the countryside this may not be the case. Outside the main cities you will often find more limited opening hours.
In all of the UK, smoking is banned in all eating and drinking establishments. Oh, and don’t forget to tip about 10% for table service!
Though Scotland and Northern England attire is fairly casual, it might be smart to bring a nicer outfit (e.g., suit jackets for men, no jeans or sporting shoes) if you’re going out on the town in Edinburgh or dining in finer establishments in countryside manors.
PUBS & ALCOHOL
Scottish and English pubs are often social gathering places and are good for mingling with the locals. If the pub serves food and has a children’s license, kids are welcome with their parents until 8 PM. Pubs are usually open 11 AM – 11 PM, or until midnight or 1 AM in Edinburgh. Some bars and clubs (mostly in the cities) may stay open until 3:00 AM on weekends.
Aside from bars, restaurants and some hotels, alcohol can be bought at grocery stores and various specialty shops until 10 PM. The legal age to drink and/or buy alcohol in the UK is 18.
Oh, and don't forget that driving after consuming even a small amount of alcohol is illegal, so plan on walking back to your hotel or calling a taxi.
FOOD & SNACKS
Tesco and Sainsbury’s are among Britain’s most popular grocery chains. Stores are typically open from 9 AM to 6 PM, though weekend and holiday hours vary. In Edinburgh and other major towns you’re likely to find some supermarket branches open until 10 PM and even a few 24-hour shops.
In small towns and villages in rural Scotland, the most common grocery chain is Scotmid. Please note that in some part of the Hebrides, such as Lewis, Harris and Skye, many establishments are closed on Sundays. Hotel restaurants are usually open to guest. In these areas we recommend asking the reception staff at your accommodations for advice about nearby options and pre-booking restaurants, especially in July and August when tourism is busiest.
At some accommodations you can also pre-purchase picnics for the days out in the countryside. You might also come across good delis, farm shops and specialist food shops. And keep a look out for farmers markets (www.scottishfarmersmarkets.co.uk) on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
PUBLIC TRANSIT IN EDINBURGH
It’s not so big for a capital city. That means it’s easy to navigate by foot, but if you prefer a bus or taxi, here’s what you need to know: Public transport is provided by Lothian Buses (www. lothianbuses.com) and the main station is at Waverly Bridge. A single fare is 1.70 GBP and drivers don’t issue change, so be prepared with the exact amount. You can also buy a day tickets, night tickets, multi-day passes and family passes at the Waverly Bridge Station.
TAXI SERVICE IN EDINBURGH
The main taxi companies in Edinburgh are:
- City Cabs: 0044 (0) 131 228 1211
- Central Taxis: 0044 (0)131 229 2468
You can call a taxi to your location or go to a taxi queue at the Royal Mile, Waverly Station, and The Balmoral on Princes Street or Lothian Road. We recommend having cash available as not all taxis accept credit cards.