North Wales is certainly one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and it’s people are warm, kind, and considerate. But we’re sure that you know this. We’re sure that you’ve researched your holiday. We’re certain that you know about the mountains, the sea, and the sheep. So we went around and gathered some tips from locals from North Wales of a few things that tourists are not often told before they get here.
Tipping in Wales (and the rest of the UK) isn’t mandatory.
In the UK, tipping is liked, but isn’t required. Unlike North America, an employee’s wages, (no matter the sector) is at minimum an amount considered conducive to a decent living standard. Reflective of this, by law, an employer is not allowed to use tips to top up an employee’s wages to this legal minimum. The employer pays a basic wage, tips are on top. That’s not to say that all businesses will not try to appeal to your habits (and your change) with a conveniently placed jar by the till!
Likewise, there may be marked boxes indicating good causes and charities (most local) that would benefit from your unwanted change. Even with these, a donation of any kind or amount is not required, but appreciated.
The weather’s just as changeable as every stereotype suggests.
We’re not trying to be cute when we describe our weather in Wales. It’s much like the rest of the UK, rather grey and bleary. What can appear to be a glorious day – sun beating down, not a cloud in the sky, with the smallest, slightest breeze in the air can quickly turn into torrential downpour, high winds and chill. That’s not to say that it’s always that way! The weather here works both ways, and often the most miserable looking morning can turn into glorious, glorious summer in a few hours. Of course, this means dressing is difficult. Keep a thin parka or rain jacket on you if you’re venturing far away from civilisation, just in case of sudden shower.
Buy your SIM card here, to save money.
When you arrive, get yourself a prepaid SIM card (we call it the Pay as you Go or PAYG) for about $25. Stick it into your cell, put your own SIM away safely, and you’re off. There’s absolutely no reason to pay ridiculous global roaming charges from your carrier, so don’t fall into the trap of racking up a gargantuan phone bill! Coverage in North Wales is generally good, though internet coverage can suffer thanks to the hills and mountains dotted about the region. Fortunately, larger towns such as the seaside resort of Llandudno have 4G mobile internet, so don’t panic. You’ll be able to upload your images and video for your friends sitting at home without hitting an internet café. Mostly.
Do not pay with £50 notes.
From someone who can count on one hand the amount of £50 notes they’ve seen in their lifetime: When you get your currency, the most worthwhile thing you can do is not ask for £50 notes. If you get them anyway, ask for £50s to be turned into £20s or £10s. Why? A £50 note is a very rare sight to us. Very rare, actually. It’s pretty easy to tell that something’s fake if you’re used to handling them. The rarity of the £50 means it’s difficult to tell that it’s fake. That makes it the most counterfeited British banknote there is. Even if your £50 is perfectly legitimate, some smaller store owners have been known to state that perfectly good £50 notes are suspect, or they don’t have the means to check the legitimacy of one to get out of having to provide change…
Also, common sense is prevalent. If you’re spending more than £50, by all means, use a £50 note. You’ll likely surprise someone, but that could mean the start of a nice conversation. As a rule of thumb, something which requires a return of more than £20 in change is considered about as annoying as someone in the US using a $100 bill to pay for a pack of gum.
Stay In B&Bs.
The typical American motel exists because of road trips – a concept that never took off in the UK. Drive for any longer than a day or two in a straight line here, and you’ll end up in the ocean. So, low-cost hotels never became relevant here. We do have Holiday Inns and Travelodges, but they’re uniform.. What we have to provide decent accommodation is the B&B – or “Bed & Breakfast”. Imagine your home. Imagine having guests overnight. You set out a room, you cook for them, and you make sure they’re comfortable. You’re welcoming to them, and you hug them as they leave. That’s essentially what a B&B is… only the guest has a lock on their door. And pays a set rate.
Obviously, when you open your house to your friends, you’re not going to sit at a makeshift desk by the front door all night, waiting for them to arrive from a night out. As such, they’re not full-service and there may only be a couple of people working within, meaning you can’t come and go as you please – but they’re an absolutely a great way of interacting with British culture in a very real, non-packaged way, and are clean, comfortable, and hospitable.
That’s not to say that there isn’t any British culture within hotels! The North Wales town of Llandudno in particular has a series of particularly interesting and quaint hotels in Llandudno, including St Tudno, that has a historical link to Alice Liddel, the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s much beloved classic Alice in Wonderland. Highly recommended for those who would like a little bit of history included within their stay, pet friendly, and ideal for those that aren’t quite ready to commit to anything less than full 24 hour service!
Queue jumpers are not treated kindly.
Like the English over the border, the Welsh people are known for queuing for absolutely everything. The stereotype is absolutely true, it’s very much a case that everything and anything is a queue. Even the most disorganised looking scenario imaginable (pubs!) is actually the height of organisation. It might not look it, but even that is a queue. Cut in, start ordering, and you’ll pay the price – with tuts and disapproving looks, mostly. Or even bar staff asking you to wait your turn.
We stand in lines at railway stations. Supermarkets. Post offices. Festivals. Many British people will happily join the back of a queue just to see what is in front. It’s in our blood. And barging in is solely the worst crime any tourist from any country, anywhere in the world, can ever commit. The second worst sin? Being in a queue and not moving your half-inch forward when the rest of the queue in front of you moves their half-inch forward. Infuriating!
That’s about it. We’re aware that North Wales might sound somewhat scary after reading this article, but we’re sure that after reading it, you’ll be fine and the error of trial and error has been suitably removed. We hope you enjoy your time here, and we hope that we’ve been able to help eliminate any awkwardness that might have happened during your trip!
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