United Kingdom

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 29 July 2015.   This advice has been reviewed and updated. It contains new information on visa requirements for Australians travelling to the UK (see Entry and exit). The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in the United Kingdom.

United Kingdom overall

Summary

  • We advise you to a exercise normal safety precautions in the United Kingdom (UK). You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
  • We assess there is a heightened threat of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including the UK. This threat is posed by those motivated by the current conflict in Iraq and Syria. On 29 August 2014, UK authorities raised the threat level from international terrorism to ‘severe’ (level 4 of 5). Australians should remain vigilant in public places and report any suspicious activities to police. See Safety and security.
  • 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
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. You should contact the nearest UK High Commission for the most up to date information.

Generally, Australians travelling to the UK as tourists for a period of up to six months do not require a visa. However, it is ultimately the prerogative of the UK authorities to determine who is granted entry. Any individual they believe is entering the UK for any non-tourist purpose and does not hold the corresponding visa, may be refused entry. Australians planning to do paid or unpaid work, to volunteer or get married in the UK are required to obtain a visa before they depart Australia.

Australian Government officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements and are refused entry.
Australians planning to visit the UK for more than six months, or for any purpose other than tourism, should consult UK Visas and Immigration website to ensure they apply for the appropriate visa.

If you hold any class of UK visa, you are eligible to apply for the UK’s Registered Travellers Scheme (RTS). The RTS entitles you to use electronic passport gates (or the UK/EU passport queue) at most UK airports and Eurostar stations – a considerable time saving when clearing immigration. If you are a regular visitor to the UK without a visa, you may also be eligible. See the UK Visas and Immigration website for the most up to date information.

UK airports administer extensive security screening for passengers. If you are flying to the UK, you should allow extra time for extended screenings and luggage checks at your airport of departure. Additional screening of electronic devices is currently in place and you should ensure your electronic devices are charged before you travel. If your device doesn’t switch on when requested at a security checkpoint, you won’t be able to take to the aircraft. Further information on this and on current hand luggage restrictions at UK airports can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration website.

You must declare cash of 10,000 or more (or the equivalent in another currency) if you take it between the UK and any non-European Union (EU) country. This includes notes and coins, money orders, cheques and traveller’s cheques. Failing to declare cash or giving incorrect information can lead to fines of 5000 or more. More information can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We assess there is a heightened threat of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including the UK. This threat is posed by those motivated by the current conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

On 29 August 2014, UK authorities raised the threat level from international terrorism for the UK overall, from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ (level 4 of 5). This higher threat level means that a terrorist attack is highly likely. For more information on the UK’s terrorism threat level system, see the UK Government’s official website.

In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of UK and European cities, including Paris, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Madrid, Moscow, Oslo and Volgograd. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. In addition, a number of planned attacks have been disrupted by UK and European security services in recent years.

UK authorities have urged members of the public to remain alert to the danger of terrorism and to look out for suspicious bags on public transport or in public places as well as any other signs of possible terrorist activity.

Northern Ireland: The threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism, which is a separate indicator, is unchanged at ’moderate’ in England, Wales and Scotland, meaning that the risk of a terrorist attack is assessed as “possible but not likely”and ‘severe’ in Northern Ireland. In recent years, Northern Ireland-related terrorist groups have used firearms and explosives to target police and military, and occasionally commercial interests such as banks and local businesses. Civilians have been injured in these attacks.

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

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

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. You should avoid them wherever possible, including by carefully monitoring 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, 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, purse snatching and mobile phone theft, occurs in busy areas and tends to increase during the summer months. You should remain vigilant in tourist areas, airports, restaurants, pubs and bars, as well as on public transportation. You should avoid carrying large sums of money and ensure personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are kept secure at all times.

Credit card and ATM fraud, often involving sophisticated equipment, is increasing in the UK. When using an ATM take care to shield your PIN and be alert to anyone behaving suspiciously or who tries to distract you. If you notice any items attached to the ATM that look unusual do not use the machine.

There have been instances of drink spiking reported. Do not leave drinks unattended in bars and nightclubs, or accept drinks from strangers.

For more extensive safety and crime prevention advice consult the UK Metropolitan Police website.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Care should also be taken when travelling on public transport services, especially late at night. Passengers using unlicensed taxis have reported sexual assaults and robberies. Use only officially marked taxis and consult the Transport for London and UK Metropolitan Police websites for more information and advice.

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

See also our road travel page.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the UK.

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

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of the UK. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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

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

A reciprocal healthcare agreement exists between Australia and the UK. This allows for free NHS hospital and GP treatment where an unexpected need for medical care arises during your visit. It may also cover 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. 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 you take out comprehensive travel insurance before arriving in the UK. 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.

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 first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

For criminal issues, contact the local police on 101 or 999 in an emergency or if a crime is taking place. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

To complain about tourism services, 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
Strand
London WC 2B 4LA, UNITED KINGDOM
Telephone: (44 20) 7379 4334
Facsimile: (44 20) 7887 5559
Website: www.uk.highcommission.gov.au

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to the UK, 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.

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.

Additional Information

For other useful information to assist travelling in this country, see:



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.