Practical Information

Accessible Scotland

Accessibility guides are a useful tools to keep an eye out for when searching for accessible businesses: they give you all the information you need to know about the physical layout and accessibility features of a venues. This enables you to assess whether the venue would suit your clients’ needs.

You can search for key accessibility features such as hearing loops, level access and parking, on our main website: (but we do recommend you check with venues that all the information on there is accurate).

Emergency Information

Emergency Services

The three most commonly used emergency services in the UK are the police, fire service and emergency medical service. Other services available include mountain rescue, cave rescue, coastguard and lifeboat.

If your clients need to contact any of the services in the case of an emergency, they must dial 999 or 112. These calls can be made from any phone and are free of charge.

For local police information visit:

For local medical services visit:

Foreign Consulates

While London contains most embassies and high commissions from around the world (phone Directory Enquiries on 118 500 for contact details), there are a number of foreign consulates based in Scotland, primarily in Edinburgh.

Quality Assurance

VisitScotland’s quality assurance schemes help you arrange your clients’ days as well as  nights. In addition to accommodation, we assess visitor attractions ranging from castles and museums, to tours and leisure centres.

VisitScotland works all year round to assess in an impartial and objective way the standard of accommodation, visitor attractions and places to eat in Scotland. The five-star grading schemes take the guesswork out of planning a client’s accommodation.

Our assessments of accommodation give a clear idea of the standards of hospitality, service, cleanliness, accommodation, comfort and food provided. The five-star grading schemes give you all the reassurance you want – quickly and clearly.

Our schemes help you distinguish between the quality of the accommodation and the range of facilities on offer. They also demonstrate the variety of accommodation types – from B&Bs, self-catering and holidays parks through to hotels and restaurants with rooms.

We aim to cater for every budget and every preference. Specialised schemes like the Welcome Schemes for walkers and cyclists and the Green Tourism Business Scheme give you even more help in planning your client’s trip.

Scottish Laws

Smoking Laws

The legal age to smoke and/or buy tobacco in Scotland is 18.

Scottish laws prohibit smoking in public places which are ‘wholly or substantially enclosed’. It is an offence to smoke or to knowingly permit smoking in no smoking premises. Vehicles used for business purposes are also affected by the law. These include light and heavy goods vehicles, and public transport such as taxis, buses, trains and ferries, but exclude cars (private or company-owned).

Further information on the smoking laws in Scotland.

Drinking Laws

The legal age to drink and/or buy alcohol in Scotland is 18.

Currently it isn’t illegal to drink in public. However many areas have alcohol-free zones that target town centres and/or residential areas where there is a particular issue with drinking in public.

Driving and Alcohol

Driving with more than 22 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath is a criminal offence, as is failing to give a sample.

Further information on Scotland’s alcohol laws.


In Scotland there are many different types of shopping experiences for your clients. There are, of course, big chain stores in the main streets of the cities and larger towns. Glasgow and Edinburgh offer some high quality shopping malls. Then there are the smaller, individually owned shops in quieter streets, which can make interesting shopping as well as exploring. Many of Scotland’s visitor attractions and VisitScotland iCentres have good shops which make them an excellent place to buy gifts.

Some suggestions of the types of products, exclusive to Scotland, that your clients should look out for include; Harris or Border tweeds, designer and hand-made knitwear, cashmere, Shetland and Fair Isle woollens, tartan rugs, Edinburgh crystal, Caithness glass, hand-made jewellery and Celtic silverware.

Reclaim the VAT

The British sales tax (Value Added Tax or VAT) is currently 20%. This tax is almost always included in quoted prices in shops, hotels and restaurants. Your clients can reclaim the VAT on goods by using the Foreign Exchange Tax Free Shopping arrangement. This is only available in participating shop, hotels and restaurants, so advise your clients to ask before they purchase any items. To get a VAT refund, they must complete a Tax Free Shopping form at the shop where the goods are purchased (passports are needed at this point). Then your clients should present the form and the goods to HM Customs and Excise as they leave the UK.

Travel Insurance

A travel insurance policy providing cover for the loss of baggage, tickets and – up to a certain limit – cash or cheques, as well as cancellation or curtailment of your clients’ journey, is highly recommended. If your clients will be participating in so-called dangerous sports, such as scuba-diving, windsurfing and skiing, an extra premium may be required.

Health Insurance

No vaccinations are required for entry to the UK. EU citizens are entitled to free medical treatment at National Health Service hospitals on production of an E111 form. Australia, New Zealand and several non-EU European countries have reciprocal health-care arrangements with the UK. Citizens of other countries will be charged for all medical services except those administered by Accident and Emergency (A&E) units at NHS hospitals. Health insurance is therefore extremely advisable for all non-EU nationals.

Visa and Customs Requirements

This section provides outline information (and links to sites offering further details) relating to the passport and visa requirements for visitors to the UK plus customs and duty limits.

Visitors to Scotland (and the rest of the UK) must hold a valid passport before starting their journey. Please note that children may require their own passports.

As for staying here, EU citizens can stay as long they want; other Europeans up to three months; if you’re from the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, you can stay up to six months, as long as you’ve got a return ticket and funds to cover your stay. If you are visiting from anywhere else you’ll need a visa. If you aren’t from an EU nation, you’ll need a work permit to work here legally.

All overseas nationals who wish to enter the UK must satisfy the immigration officer at the port of arrival that they meet the requirements of the UK immigration regulations. Application forms to download, lists of visa nationals and information on how to apply for a visa, as well as guidance written especially for visitors coming to the UK are available online from the UK Border Agency website. The Immigration Advice Service offers free advice for anyone applying for entry to the UK.

Customs and Duty Free

Travelling Within the European Union

You do not have to pay any tax or duty in the UK on goods you have bought in other EU countries which are for your own use, and which have been transported to the UK by you. ‘Own use’ includes goods which are for your own consumption and gifts. You cannot bring back goods for payment, even payment in kind, or for re-sale. These goods would then be regarded as held for a commercial purpose.

If the Officer is satisfied the goods are being brought into the UK for a commercial purpose, and are not for own use, the goods, along with any vehicle used to transport them, will be liable to seizure and may not be returned. For serious offences you could also be liable to imprisonment, heavy fines or driving disqualification.

Travelling From Outside the European Union

You are entitled to an allowance of goods only if you travel with the goods and do not plan to sell them. Make sure that you don’t bring anything into, or take anything out of, Scotland, that you shouldn’t. Check the HM Customs list of prohibited and restricted goods, for example, drugs, weapons and live animals, if you are unsure.


It doesn’t always rain in Scotland

In fact, rainfall varies widely, ranging from over 3,000mm per year in the western Highlands (similar to rainfall over the mountains of the English Lake District and Snowdonia in Wales) to under 800mm per year near the east coast (similar to the Midlands of England).

The number of thunderstorms in Scotland, around three to nine days a year, is relatively low compared with an average of up to 15 days over England.

Measurable rainfall (an amount of 0.2mm or more) occurs on over 250 days per year over much of the Highlands, decreasing to around 175 days per year on the Angus, Fife and East Lothian coasts.

In comparison, the driest part of Britain, along with the Thames Estuary in south-east England, averages around 150 days per year with measurable rainfall.

Average summer temperatures

Temperatures in Scotland are generally a few degrees cooler than in England. For example, the average daily maximum temperature at Glasgow in July is 19°C compared with 22°C in London.

July and August are normally the warmest months in Scotland. The highest temperatures normally occur inland.

The highest air temperature recorded in Scotland was 32.9°C at Greycrook in the Borders in August 2003.


Average winter temperatures

To a large extent, winter temperature in the British Isles is influenced by the surface temperature of the surrounding sea, and as the North Sea is cooler than the waters off the west coast, the east coast is generally slightly cooler in winter than the west coast.

January and February are the coldest months. The daytime maximum temperatures over low ground in January and February average around 5 to 7°C, but can reach up to around 15°C when an airflow warms up after crossing the mountains, an Alpine effect known as the föhn.

The lowest temperatures occur inland, away from the moderating influence of the sea. In 1982 the temperature fell to -27°C, the lowest recorded in Britain, at Braemar in Aberdeenshire. Coastal areas do not experience such cold nights.

The average number of days with sleet or snow falling in Scotland ranges from around 20 or less near the west coast to over 100 days in the Cairngorm Mountains and some other high peaks.

On Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, snow cover can last for six or seven months of the year.

Find out more on weather around Scotland