International Travel to Scotland

Our apologies up front to those of you who are already international travelers; this is old stuff for you.

Passport

If you don’t already have a passport, you should order it immediately; in the U.S., it can take several months to receive a new passport. If you already have a passport, but it’s expiring within six months of your travel date, you should consider renewing it early; some countries will not allow you to enter if your passport will expire within six months. Although one source that says Scotland does allow entry with less than six months to expiration if you live in certain countries, it still seems a bit dicey.

Insurance

  • Travel Insurance insures your financial investment in your trip.  Typically it covers such things as the cost of your lost baggage, cancelled flights, and trips cancelled due to unavoidable emergencies, but it may or may not cover costs of medical attention you might need while abroad. Some trip coverage might be offered by your credit card; for instance, Penny’s card includes travel coverage for common carriers such as airlines and cruise ships but not hotels, auto rental, or non-refundable Gathering fees.
  • Travel Medical Insurance covers the cost of various levels of overseas medical treatment. U.S. travelers should be aware that Medicare will not cover the cost of health costs outside the borders of the U.S. Neither will some (many?) private health insurance plans. Credit cards often offer coverage only for accidents. Thus, you should consider travel medical insurance. Many such plans require you to pay for health care costs up front and then apply for reimbursement after the fact, which could be very expensive for a serious medical emergency. Penny used United Health Care in 2016 because it instead promised that “most” health care providers would honor the plan without up-front payment. At the time, the plan reviewed well.  However, Penny did not have any health issues while on the trip, so she cannot verify how well it would have actually worked. A long list of travel insurance providers is here, but research all company reviews carefully—Penny found many such providers had very bad reviews back in 2016.
  • Medical Evacuation Services provides air ambulance, medical evacuation, or medical escort service coverage for overseas travelers. Again, check here .

Driving in Scotland

Check here and here for rules and the driver’s licenses that Scotland accepts. Those of us who are used to driving on the other side of the road should seriously consider renting a car with an  automatic transmission; it’s tough enough to concentrated on staying on the other side of the road without having to shift, much less shift with the “wrong” hand as well.

You might not need auto insurance if your credit card or personal auto insurance covers auto rental in foreign countries. Do decide if you want to risk having to pay a deductible, however. Again, those of us who are used to driving on the other side of the road are highly prone to getting what the UK and Ireland car rental companies politely call a “ding in the wing,” a smashed in front left quarter panel.

Converting Currency, Credit Cards

The standard advice is to avoid using airport currency conversion kiosks, which generally offer the worst rates and fees. Your bank card is a better option if it is recognized at Scottish ATMs, but you might want to pick up at least a few pounds at your bank before you leave. The very best option seems to be a credit card, such as Chase offers, that uses the current market price and does not charge a fee for the conversion. See xe.com for help on currency conversion.

A second backup credit card is a good idea, too. A number of years ago, Penny’s daughter lost her credit card in Taiwan. Yes, American Express did indeed replace it in two days, but only after calling her home phone to make sure she was a legitimate card holder. Had Penny not been home to answer the phone, American Express would not have replaced the card. If no one is available at the phone on record for your account, you might not get a lost card replaced.

Finally, be sure to notify your credit card company of the dates that you will be in Scotland, so that the company  doesn’t shut down your card on the assumption that some crook has absconded with your card and is having a high old time at your expense.

Luggage

“Smart luggage,” with built-in device chargers is the latest trend in luggage. Some of the batteries are built-in and cannot be removed, while others use your own battery charger. The problem is that batteries are now banned in checked bags (not in carry-on luggage). Even if you remove the battery, security officials might require you to open the bag to prove it. Or (horrors!) they might open the bag themselves after it’s out of your hands.

Emergencies

The emergency phone number in Scotland is 999.

You should make at least two copies of your travel documents and credit card numbers, leaving one copy at home with a trusted friend or relative.

U.S. citizens might want to enroll in the U.S. State Departments STEP program, and Australian citizens should check the government’s Smart Traveller website, both of which alert you if there is anything in your travel area that might affect your safety.  In addition, the Australian program will contact your family in case of emergency. Those of you from other countries should check your government equivalent to see if there is a similar program for you.