A little local know-how goes a long way in Scotland. Here you can find all the essential advice and information you will need during your stay.

Personal Security

Pickpockets work crowded tourist areas and busy streets such as Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and Princes Street and Glasgow's Buchanan Street. Use your common sense and be alert to your surroundings. If you have anything stolen, report the crime as soon as possible at the nearest police station. Get a copy of the crime report in order to make a claim on your insurance. Contact your embassy or consulate immediately if your passport is stolen or in the event of a serious crime or accident.


For minor ailments go to a pharmacy or chemist. These are plentiful in towns and cities and in most villages. If you have an accident of medical problem requiring non-urgent medical attention you can find details of the nearest non-emergency medical service on the NHS website. Alternatively, call the NHS 24 helpline number at any hour on 111, or go the nearest hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. You may need a doctor’s prescription to obtain certain pharmaceuticals. The pharmacist can inform you of the closest doctor’s surgery or medical centre. EU citizens can receive medical treatment in the UK free of charge. Visitors from outside the EU may have to pay for medical treatment and reclaim on their insurance.

Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs

Smoking and “vaping” are banned in all public spaces such as bus, train stations and airports and in enclosed areas of bars, cafés, restaurants and hotels. However, many bars and restaurants have outdoor areas where smoking is permitted. Alcohol may not be sold to or bought for anyone under 18 and may not be sold before 10am, except in airport departure lounges.

Alcohol can only be purchased between the hours of 10am and 10pm, and 12:30pm and 10pm on a Sunday. The consumption of alcohol or possession of an open container of alcohol on the streets and in public places (excluding a liscenced venue) is illegal. The drink-drive limit is strictly enforced.

Possession of all recreational drugs, including psychoactive substances formerly known as “legal highs” and now classified as illegal, is a criminal offence.


Visitors to the UK are not required to carry ID on their person at all times, but passports are required as ID at airports, even when taking internal flights within the UK. Anyone who looks under 18 may be asked for photo ID to prove their age when buying alcohol.

Visiting Places of Worship

Show respect by dressing modestly, especially when entering churches and religious buildings. Do not talk loudly or use cameras, phones or other mobile devices without first asking permission.

Mobile Phones and Wi-Fi

Do not rely on mobile phones or other devices for navigation or emergency communications in remote areas such as Ben Nevis or the Cairngorms where reception can be intermittent. Free Wi-Fi hotspots are widely available in city centres. Cafés and restaurants will usually give you their Wi-Fi password on the condition that you make a purchase.

Visitors travelling to the UK with EU tariffs are able to use their devices abroad without being affected by data roaming charges. Users will be charged the same rates for data, SMS services and voice calls as they would pay at home. This situation may change once the UK has left the EU. Pay-as-you-go SIM cards are available at newsagents and supermarkets.


Main post offices are found in the centres of major towns and cities. In suburbs and villages, post office counters are often embedded in supermarkets and newsagents. In small communities the Post Office is often also the only shop. Post offices are generally open 9am–5:30pm Monday to Friday and until 12:30pm on Saturday. You can buy 1st class, 2nd class and international airmail stamps in shops and supermarkets (in books of 12) and at post office counters.

Taxes and Refunds

Stores offering tax free shopping display a distinctive sign and will provide you non-EU residents with a VAT 407 form. This is validated when you leave the UK and allows you to reclaim value added tax (VAT) on certain products. VAT is charged on most goods and services and is included in the price shown.

Discount Cards

If you plan to visit as many of Scotland’s castles and stately homes as possible, the Historic Environment Scotland Explorer Pass provides access to over 70 attractions over a 3-or 7-day period. For those planning to travel extensively within Scotland, Scotrail’s Spirit of Scotland pass offers unlimited train, bus and ferry transport over an 8-or 15-day period. The Scottish Citylink Explorer Pass offers 3-, 5- and 8-days unlimited travel on its extensive coach network, as well as discounts and special offers on accommodation.

Historic Environment Scotland Explorer Pass

Scottish Citylink Explorer Pass

Spirit of Scotland

Need to know Getting Around

At a Glance


Need to know Practical Information

Time zone

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British Summer Time (BST) runs late March to late October.

Tap water

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Unless otherwise stated, tap water in the UK is safe to drink.


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Need to know Practical Information


Traffic Scotland

Use this app for real-time traffic conditions and road journey times anywhere in Scotland.

Scotland’s official tourist board website

A useful tool for planning walks and hikes anywhere in Scotland

Weather forecasts provided by the Mountain Weather Information Service

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