Scotland is a spellbinding country full of incredible sights, both natural and manmade. In our opinion, it should be on everyone’s bucket list. Especially when compared to other countries, Scotland is extremely safe and the people are friendly and easygoing about a lot of things. In many ways, Scotland is a hassle-free destination where you only have to worry about enjoying yourself (and possibly the consequences of eating too many deep-fried Mars bars).
Still, there are a few things that you should know before you go so you have the best possible time on your trip! Keep reading to find out what you need to realize about Scotland before you arrive.
10 It Is Not Part Of England
Brushing up on your geography is always important before heading anywhere in the world. The last thing you want to do is make yourself look like an ignorant tourist in front of locals who are known for being quite proud. A lot of Americans are confused by the concept of the United Kingdom, with many only ever traveling to London when they visit.
If you’re going to Scotland, make sure you never imply that it’s just another part of England. Although it’s part of the United Kingdom along with England, it is its own country. And Scottish-English relations haven’t always been the friendliest, so this isn’t a mistake you want to make.
9 The Currency Is British Pounds
This is where it gets confusing for foreigners. Scotland and England are two separate countries, but they are both part of the United Kingdom. Along with Northern Ireland and Wales, both Scotland and England use British Pounds. While many places will take a credit card or travel card, it’s a good idea to also bring some cash with you just in case.
It’s also a good idea to be aware of the exchange rate. For example, something that costs 50 pounds would currently cost 62 USD. The U.K. isn’t the cheapest vacation destination, and keeping track of the exchange rate can help you to avoid blowing your budget.
8 Be Careful When Hiking
One of the best things to do in Scotland is hiking. The landscape is truly breathtaking and it isn’t always enough to admire it from afar through the window of a tour bus. You’ll probably be inspired to get out there and see the stunning hills up close.
The Ordinary Traveler advises taking care when hiking in Scotland. Due to unpredictable weather conditions, the largest hills in the country can be extremely dangerous.
Unprepared or inexperienced hikers are at the greatest risk. If you are going to hike, make sure you take all the proper safety precautions.
7 Buy Your Tickets Online
In the main cities of Scotland, there are endless sights to see and landmarks to visit. To avoid long lines, it might be an idea to book some of your tickets online in advance. That way you can walk straight into the museum or castle and spend your time enjoying it. There is a lot to see, so you won’t want to waste time lining up.
Although Edinburgh doesn’t typically get as crowded as London, it is still extremely busy during the summer months. This is especially true in August when the Edinburgh Festival takes place.
6 Always Walk On The Left
This rule applies not just to Scotland but to all of the United Kingdom. When you’re walking on the sidewalk, it’s generally expected that you’ll walk on the left. This is because all traffic flows to the left. The right is for overtaking. If you don’t follow this rule, you could get in the way of locals who are in a hurry.
Remember that the same applies to traffic if you are planning to drive while in Scotland. You’ll sit on the right side of the car, and you’ll drive on the left side of the road.
5 You Have The Freedom To Roam
In Scotland, you have what’s called the Freedom to Roam. This means that when you’re in the countryside and you pass by a farm, you’re allowed to access the property. The World Pursuit travel blog explains that the public has the right to access even privately owned land for recreational purposes.
You won’t be able to walk into someone’s house, garden, or a military base. But you are free to explore the land and lochs as long as you’re doing so safely. When you arrive in Scotland and see how magical the landscape is, you’ll be thankful for this rule.
4 Consider Staying In The Isle Of Skye
A lot of travelers to Scotland choose to visit the Isle of Skye as part of their itinerary. This is a great choice, as the Isle is one of the most mesmerizing places on the planet. But it might be an idea to visit for longer than a single day.
There is so much to explore on the island, and you’ll get more out of it if you don’t rush it and take your time. As Marquestra points out, the main reason why you shouldn’t limit your time on the Isle of Skye to a single day is because the weather in Scotland is unpredictable. If you get a rainy day, it could really spoil things.
3 Bring Bug Spray With You
You might not have thought that you need insect repellant in Scotland. While the country isn’t typically an insect’s paradise, it is the home of midges. These tiny flies are mostly found in the Western Highlands, though they can appear right across the country. They usually cause a nuisance between late spring and summer.
Although they’re only tiny, these insects are attracted to the skin, nose, eyes, and mouth. And yes, they bite. To make it more terrifying, they also fly in swarms. Bring bug spray.
2 Driving Around The Country Is One Of The Best Ways To See It
Depending on what you want to do in Scotland, renting a car and driving might be one of the best ways of seeing the country. While there is adequate public transport in the main cities, and the Jacobite train is worth experiencing, nothing gives you freedom and flexibility like driving.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re going to be driving in Scotland, though. The first is that, again, the traffic might flow in a different direction from what you’re used to. Always remember to stick to your left. Also, many of the roads in the countryside are only single-track roads.
1 Dress For The Rain
You might have guessed this one. The stereotype of rainy Scotland is usually quite accurate. You’ll probably encounter some rain on your travels, especially if you’re traveling in late summer. Rain can add another dimension of beauty to the Highlands, but you’ll want to be prepared.
Always remember to pack waterproof shoes so you’re not sloshing around in drenched footwear. The winds in the Highlands can be strong as well, so it’s a good idea to invest in a raincoat that’s windproof. Bring warm clothes too, especially if you’re not used to cold weather.