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Facts at a Glance
 Area: 129,720 sq km (50,085 sq mi)

Population: 51 million

Capital city: London

People: Anglo-Saxons, Scots, Welsh, Irish, West Indians, Pakistanis, Indians

Language: English

Religion: Church of England, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh

Government: Parliamentary Democracy

Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II

Prime Minister: Tony Blair


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 29km (18mi) 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, known as the Pennines, to the west are the Cumbrian Mountains and the Lake District. South of the Pennines is the heavily-populated Midlands, and in the south-west peninsula, known as the West country, is a plateau with granite outcrops, good dairy farming and a rugged coastline. The rest of the country is known as the English Lowlands, a mixture of farmland, low hills, an industrial belt and the massive city of London.

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 - snowdrops, daffodils, bluebells, primroses, buttercups and cowslips all lend a touch of colour to the English countryside. On the moors there are several varieties of flowering heathers.

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 grey 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. Birdwatching is a popular pastime in Britain, but while the numbers and diversity of coastal bird species do not appear to be in danger, the same cannot be said for other British birds - a number of species that were quite common only 25 years ago are rapidly dwindling because of habitat destruction.

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 - they also tend to be privately owned and provide an antidote to the hectic pace of many cities.

England's climate is mild and damp, with temperatures moderated by the light winds that blow in off its relatively warm seas. Temperatures inland don't get much below freezing in winter (December to February), or much above 30°C (86°F) in summer (June to August). The north is the coldest area; London, the south-east and the West Country are the warmest. Rainfall is greatest in hilly areas and in the West Country. You can expect cloudy weather and light drizzle in any part of England at any time.

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$1254 billion

GDP per head: US$22,800

Annual growth: 1.7%

Inflation: 2.7%

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

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: EU citizens may live and work free of any immigration controls. Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are generally allowed to stay six months without a visa

Health risks: None

Time: GMT/UTC or BST (British Summer Time), which is GMT/UTC +1

Electricity: 240V, 50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric (except beer, which is measured in pints)

Money & Costs
 Currency:Pound sterling
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$5-10
  • Mid-range: US$10-25
  • Top-end: US$25+

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$15-50
  • Mid-range: US$50-100
  • Top-end: US$100+
  • England can be extremely expensive and London in particular can be a big drain on your funds. While in London you will need to budget at least US$50 for bare survival (dorm accommodation, a one-day travel card and the most basic sustenance). Even moderate sightseeing or nightlife can easily add another US$30 to this. If you stay in a hotel and eat restaurant meals you could easily spend US$100 a day without being extravagant. Once you get out of the big smoke the costs will drop, particularly if you have a transport pass and if you cook your own meals. You'll still need at least US$45 a day, and if you stay in B&Bs, eat one sit-down meal a day and don't stint on entry fees, you'll need about US$110 a day.

    Travellers' 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 travellers' cheques for free. Cashpoints (ATMs) are very common in Britain: most are linked to major credit cards as well as the Cirrus, Maestro and Plus cash networks, but if a machine swallows your card it can be a nightmare. Most banks insist on chopping it in half and sending it back to your home branch - very helpful.

    If you eat in an English restaurant you should leave a tip of at least 10% unless the service was unsatisfactory. Waiting staff are often paid derisory wages on the assumption that the money will be supplemented by tips. Some restaurants include a service charge on the bill, in which case a gratuity is unnecessary. Taxi drivers expect to be tipped about 10%, especially in London.

    When to Go

    Anyone who spends any extended period of time in England will sympathise 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 undoubtedly the best months, and this is, unsurprisingly, when most sights are open, and when most people visit. July and August are the busiest months, and best avoided if at all possible. The crowds on the coast, at the national parks, in London and popular towns like Oxford, Bath and York have to be seen to be believed.

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