Know Before You Go: Scotland

By Amanda Little

You're off to the wild Highlands of Scotland. You are preparing to traverse its stunning cities and windswept moors. So why not brush up on the culture, customs, and local life to make your tip go as smoothly as possible?


Here you’ll find a warm and enthusiastic people welcoming you to their homeland. Be it sitting in a pub with a pint, asking for directions, or shopping for the perfect souvenir, you’ll find smiling faces and friendly conversation. Not only that, but you’ll find the party. The Scots know how to throw a rager, and you’re invited. Attend any of their amazing festivals or head there for their big holidays like Hogmanay, known to others as New Years Eve, St. Andrew’s Day, and even Highland games! Share in the fun, “have a blether”, and enjoy yourself with the locals.


Like Britain, the currency of Scotland is the pound sterling, which amounts to 1.28 in US dollars. This makes shopping in Scotland less tricky than it would have been with a greater exchange rate, but a few tips on how to spend you money could come in handy! Like tipping your servers. In bars of pubs where table service hasn’t been provided, tipping isnt expected. Usually, only a 10% tip is expected, or a little more at a fancier restaurant. A meal under £10 is cheap, and anything over £20 is expensive. If you spend a night out and catch a taxi home, the tip is just your total rounded up to the nearest pound.
While ATMs can be found in cities and credit card is usually accepted, its still a good idea to have a few £20 notes on hand.


While the welcome is warm, the weather is very likely not. Scotland has copious amounts of rain and snow, and frigid winters. Their summers are sweltering as well, but the days can be hot or cold seemingly at random. No matter when you visit Scotland, bring your umbrella, your shades, a warm sweater, and a tank top.


The Scottish diet used to be made up of sugar, chocolate, red meat, salt, and butter, but the country has seen a change in their palate, expanding to veggies, fish, and whole-meal bread as elite chefs, like Gordon Ramsey, keep coming out of the country. Of course, there is always the old-fashioned classics you can find, like haggis, the unusual yet legendary softdrink called Irn Bru, scones and fudge at tea time, and a hearty Scottish breakfast, which includes porridge, toast, a halved tomato topped with broiled cheese, bacon, hashbrowns, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, eggs, and black pudding. Good luck walking away from the breakfast table!


On an escorted vacation, you may not need to worry about transportation, since they usually cover that, but if you’re on your own, you’ll need a way to get around!
If you’re looking to go out to the Highlands, it’s best to remember gas is incredibly expensive in Scotland, ranging from $5 - $7, and it only gets more expensive the further into the Highlands you go. Since there isn’t too many public transit lines that run out there or taxi’s that go that far, your choices are limited to driving yourself or booking an escorted tour.
If you plan on staying in cities, utilizing taxis or simply walking from place to place is the easiest way to go! In fact, most people in Edinburg or Glasgow walk to where they need to go.


Communications remains easy for those who speak English, since it is the main language spoken in Scotland as well. While many locals are bilingual and understand Gaelic, there are few people who don’t speak English. However the further you go into the Highlands, the more likely it is you will encounter someone who only speaks Gaelic. Although trying to understand their English through their notoriously thick accents is another accomplishment.


Scotland is a very safe country, but like any large city comes the risk of crime. Situational awareness will be your best friend. Many of the locals are welcoming and friendly, but being aware will keep your trip pleasant. If you truly find yourself in need of assistance, their emergency number to call is not 911, but 999.

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