United Kingdom

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Monday, 04 August 2014.   This advice contains updated information in the Summary and under Safety and security: Crime (increasing theft of mobile phones and other valuables). We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in the United Kingdom.

United Kingdom overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in the United Kingdom.
  • Always pay close attention to your personal security, and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security threats.
  • The United Kingdom (UK) remains a potential target for terrorist activity, with terrorist attacks occurring in 2005 and 2007. Local authorities continue to assess a high threat in Northern Ireland.
  • The UK introduced heightened security screening for passengers from some countries in July 2014. If you have a direct flight to the UK, you should allow extra time for extended screenings and luggage checks at your airport of departure, and make sure electronic devices can be powered on. Powerless devices will not be permitted on board aircraft (see under Safety and security: Terrorism for more information).
  • See also our advice for business travellers and living and working overseas.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
    • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. You should contact the UK High Commission in Canberra for the most up to date information. Visa information is also available from UK Visas and Immigration . Australia's High Commission and Honorary Consulates in the United Kingdom (UK) cannot provide assistance with visas or if you are refused the right to enter the United Kingdom.

The British Government administers a very strict entry regime and you are likely to be refused entry upon arrival if you fail to comply with visa requirements. As a general guide, visas are not required if you are entering the UK for a tourism stay of up to six months. Any stay over six months or for any other reason, including study, paid, unpaid or voluntary employment, or to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK, requires a visa. In most instances you will need to apply for your UK visa from Australia and you should check whether you require a visa in advance of your planned departure.

If you are suspected of entering the UK for any purpose other than tourism, and do not have the relevant visa, you may be refused entry. Australian travellers who are refused entry into the UK may be required to return to Australia. There is also a risk that other countries may also refuse admission on the basis of the British Government’s decision, which in all cases is recorded in the traveller’s passport.

UK Immigration advises that if you are refused entry into the UK then you will be informed in writing of the reasons why you have been refused entry; if you have a right of appeal; and when you will be removed from the UK. The UK Visa and Immigration advises that if you have the right to appeal, you will be given details of who you should contact.

The most up-to-date information on UK immigration changes can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration website.

All applicants for a UK visa, including Australians, must now have a finger scan and a digital photograph taken as part of the visa application process. Please note that the majority of Australian citizens who visit the UK each year for a holiday or business trip do not require a UK visa, and are therefore not affected by this change. Applicants for a UK visa need to complete an application online. You will then have to make an online appointment to visit a British Consulate so they can take a scan of your fingers and a digital photograph.

People travelling directly to or from a country outside the European Union (EU) who are carrying 10,000 Euros or more (or the equivalent amount in another currency) are required to declare the cash at the place of their arrival or departure from the EU. Under the legislation, the term "cash" includes cheques, travellers' cheques and money orders. Travellers failing to declare the cash or providing incomplete or incorrect information will incur a fine. There is no requirement to declare cash for people travelling to or from another EU country. Information on carrying money directly to or from another country outside the EU can be found on the HM Revenue and Customs website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry two copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

The UK introduced heightened security screening for passengers from some countries in July 2014. If you have a direct flight to the UK, you should allow extra time for extended screenings and luggage checks at your airport of departure. As part of the screening process, security officers may ask that owners power up some electronic devices, including mobile phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted on board the aircraft. The traveller may also undergo additional screening. Travellers should make sure their electronic devices can be powered on. For further details on enhanced electronics screening measures, see the Department for Transport website, also see information about hand luggage restrictions at UK airports.

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security threats.

The UK remains a potential target for terrorist activity, with terrorist attacks occurring in 2005 and 2007.

Local information on public safety issues is available from the British Government's Civil Contingencies Secretariat website or the British Home Office's website.

Civil unrest/political tension

You should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent. Instances of civil disorder can rapidly escalate into violence and you should avoid them wherever possible, including through careful monitoring of the media and following the advice of local authorities.

Northern Ireland: Since the 1998 peace agreement, the political situation in Northern Ireland has improved. However, incidents of terrorist activity related to Northern Ireland continue to occur. In recent years, Northern Ireland-related terrorist groups have used firearms and explosives to target police and military targets, and occasionally commercial interests such as banks and local businesses. Civilians have been injured in these attacks.

UK authorities assess that the Northern Ireland-related terrorist threat in Northern Ireland remains “Severe”, meaning that the risk of a terrorist attack is assessed as “highly likely”. The Northern Ireland-related terrorist threat to the UK Mainland (Great Britain) is “Moderate”, meaning that the risk of a terrorist attack is assessed as “possible but not likely”.

We advise you to avoid the annual parades which occur in Northern Ireland during the months of April to August, especially the weeks leading up to the ‘Twelfth’ (also called Orangemen’s Day) on 12 July when tensions may be heightened. These parades may turn violent with little warning. Australians could inadvertently be caught up in violence directed at others.

Crime

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and street theft occurs at many tourist destinations, hotels, pubs, restaurants, food outlets, on public transport, including the London Underground, and at airports. Pickpocketing occurs more frequently during the summer months in the UK but care should be taken at all times. Thieves will often operate in teams, and will use various techniques to distract you while they attempt to steal from you.

Police also report that there has been an increase in mobile phone theft in the UK. We recommend that you avoid displaying your phone and valuables unnecessarily and take extra care when carrying and using your mobile phone in public. Don’t keep cash, cards and valuables in one place. Spread them out among your pockets and clothing, using pockets secured by zips/buttons or in pockets inside jackets where possible. Be aware that in a crowded environment, where contact with other people is unavoidable, thieves will try to unzip/unbutton pockets and bags.

Do not leave any valuables unattended in motor vehicles.

You should ensure that your personal belongings are kept secure when staying in hostels.

Credit card and ATM fraud, often involving sophisticated equipment, is increasing in the UK, as is the incidence of identity theft. Take care to shield your PIN when using ATMs and when using internet cafes, particularly for internet banking. Always exercise particular caution when using ATMs. If you are suspicious of any items that are stuck to ATMs or look unusual, do not use the machine. Thieves may attempt to distract you while you use an ATM. If approached while using an ATM, cancel the transaction before speaking to anyone.

There have been instances of drink spiking reported; do not leave drinks unattended in bars and nightclubs.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe abroad.

Local travel

You should only use licensed taxis and minicabs in the United Kingdom, as sexual assaults and robberies have occurred in unlicensed minicabs. Unlicensed taxis and minicabs are illegal and often target high traffic destinations such as airports, train stations, theatres and nightclubs. Only black cabs are licensed to be hailed to pick up passengers on the street, any minicab driver who picks up customers without a booking is acting illegally. You should only use a prebooked minicab or if hailing a taxi, it should be a black cab.

Assaults have also occurred on public transport services late at night.

Seasonal weather conditions can be extreme, including flooding in warmer weather and snowstorms in the colder months. This can affect travel arrangements, including the cancellation of airline, bus and train services. The local emergency services in affected areas will provide up-to-date information and advice to travellers.

See also our page on road travel page.

Airline safety

See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the United Kingdom.

Please also refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in the UK be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of health facilities in the UK is comparable with that in Australia.

A reciprocal healthcare agreement exists between Australia and the UK. This allows for free NHS hospital and GP treatment in cases such as an accident or illness, where a need for medical care arises during your visit. It also covers treatment for pre-existing conditions that get significantly worse while you are in the UK, or that a doctor believes will significantly worsen if you are not treated promptly.

To visit a GP while visiting the UK, you will need to ask to be registered as an NHS patient at a practice near to where you are staying. Once registered, your GP treatment will be free of charge; however, costs associated with prescriptions may still apply. You should note that medical practices in the UK have wide discretion in accepting people as NHS patients.

If you require urgent medical care or hospital treatment, you should attend your nearest hospital. The hospital will assess your eligibility for treatment as an NHS patient and determine if any charges apply in line with the healthcare agreement.

To access medical care you will need to provide proof of your Australian residency and we recommend that you carry evidence, such as your Medicare card, with you.

Routine and pre-planned treatments are not included under the reciprocal agreement.

If you need to be medically repatriated the NHS will not cover this cost. We recommend that you are covered by full travel insurance before arriving in the UK.

To locate your nearest GP surgery or hospital while in the UK, you should call the NHS on 111 or visit the NHS website.

Further details are available on the Medicare Australia website.

This agreement does not cover other countries in the European Union.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police on 101 from within the UK.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian High Commission, London

Australia House
The Strand
London WC 2B 4LA, UNITED KINGDOM
Telephone (44 20) 7379 4334
Facsimile (44 20) 7887 5559
Website www.uk.embassy.gov.au

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours.

Limited assistance may be obtained from the Australian Consulate, Edinburgh, which is headed by an Honorary Consul. The Honorary Consul can be contacted through the Australian High Commission in London.

If you are travelling to the United Kingdom, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.