Useful local information
- Money - Britain's currency is the pound sterling (£). Credit cards - especially Visa and Mastercard - are widely accepted in restaurants, bars, cafés and shops. American Express and Diners Club cards are less commonly accepted. There are plenty of cash machines (also known as cashpoints or ATMs) available in and around Birmingham.
- VAT - Value-added tax (VAT) is a 20% sales tax levied on most goods and services except basic food items, books and children's clothing. Restaurants must, by law, include VAT in their menu prices. If you are travelling for leisure or business purposes, you may be eligible for a VAT refund. The VAT refund scheme is called the Retail Export Scheme or Tax-Free Shopping. www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/sectors/consumers/overseas-visitors.htm
- Electricity - UK appliances are fitted with three-pin plugs that can be connected to the UK mains supply through wall sockets. Unlike the sockets in many other countries, these have a switch to turn the power supply on and off - make sure you've turned it on if you're trying to charge your appliance. UK power sockets deliver an average voltage of 230v, although in practice this can be slightly higher. To charge devices that are compatible with this voltage, simply buy the appropriate adapter from the airport or from high street shops. If your device runs on a lower voltage, however, then you will also need a converter to stop it from over-heating. Even if your country uses lower voltages, remember to check whether your device is dual-voltage (look for the 110-240v notation) before buying a converter.
- Telephone - If you're visiting the University of Birmingham from abroad, don't forget that the UK dialling code is +44 (which replaces the 0) and to check your own country's code before you travel. If you are travelling to Birmingham from abroad, using your mobile phone may cost you more than it does at home. Check your network's roaming charges before you travel.
- Climate and weather - The UK has a changeable climate, Birmingham has a temperate maritime climate, like much of the British Isles, with average maximum temperatures in summer (July) being around 21.3 °C (70.3 °F); and in winter (January) around 6.7 °C (44.1 °F). Like most other large cities, Birmingham has a considerable urban heat island effect. For the latest local BBC weather report click here.
- Health services - The National Health Service (NHS) is the main healthcare provider in the UK. NHS treatment is free for UK residents. Overseas nationals are not eligible for free NHS treatment except if they need emergency treatment while in the UK. You are strongly advised to take out travel insurance to cover any medical expenses. If you come from a country that holds a UK healthcare agreement, you are entitled to free or reduced-cost medical treatment if needed immediately for a condition that started after your arrival in the UK. If you're visiting from Europe, you need to carry a valid EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) in case you need immediate and necessary medical treatment in an NHS hospital. Without this you can be charged for treatment. Travel insurance is still advisable as it offers greater flexibility over where and how you're treated, and can cover expenses not paid for by the NHS. Find out more on the NHS website www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad
- Emergencies - Visitors should be aware of their personal safety. Call 999 for the emergency services (police, fire and ambulance) which is a free call from any phone. You can also call 112 for non-life threatening assistance and to report crimes. To report non-urgent crime, call the police on 101 from within the UK.