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I was born and raised in Scotland. Here are the 7 biggest mistakes I see Americans make when they travel here.

I was born and raised in Scotland. Here are the 7 biggest mistakes I see Americans make when they travel here.
  • I was born and raised in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, UK.

  • More Americans visited Scotland than tourists from anywhere else in recent years.

  • There are mistakes tourists should avoid, such as not dressing appropriately for our dreary weather.

I've lived in Scotland, UK, for most of my life and have hosted several American friends during their travels, taking note of their most common mistakes.

mikhaila in barra, scotland
The author is photographed in Barra, Scotland.Mikhaila Friel/Business Insider, Getty Images

I was born in Scotland and currently live in Glasgow, the country's largest city, but I've also spent short periods living in the US and London. During my travels, I've made friends with people from all over the world, particularly those from the US.

With 693,000 US visitors in 2022, more Americans visited Scotland than tourists from any other country, according to data gathered by the national tourism operator Visit Scotland. And more recently, different areas in Scotland have become sought-after destinations thanks to their appearances in TV and film, including "Outlander," and more recently, Netflix's "One Day."

Over the past few years, I've offered myself as a tour guide for many of my American friends, but they've still made a few mistakes while visiting. Here are some of the most common.

Edinburgh is great — but don't visit Scotland without a trip to its neighboring city, Glasgow.

a young man cradles a woman's neck and jaw as they look intensely into each others' eyes face to face, standing outdoors in a picturesque village
Emma and Dexter in "One Day," filmed in Edinburgh.Ludovic Robert/Netflix

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. With its ancient cobblestone streets, a magnificent castle, and museums, who wouldn't want to visit?

But I kindly suggest you also stop in my home city, Glasgow, which takes less than an hour to travel to by train from Edinburgh. The two cities are famously pitted against one another, and I often see tourists neglect visiting Glasgow completely to spend more time in Edinburgh. But there's room for both.

Where Edinburgh has beauty, Glasgow has character. It was recently named one of the best cities in the world by Time Out, which praised its sense of community, food, music scene, and the locals themselves.

"Plenty of cities boast world-class food, beautiful scenery and popping nightlife. Only one is full of Glaswegians," the Time Out ranking reads. I couldn't agree more.

My favorite things about Glasgow are the food and nightlife. Some of my favorite restaurants include Sugo (which was mentioned in the Time Out ranking) and the East End Fox. For nightlife, I'd suggest Sloan's Bar in the city center, which hosts a weekly Friday night ceilidh (a traditional Scottish dance).

 

 

 

Some people assume you must travel to the Highlands to see beautiful scenery, but that's not the case.

mikhaila at loch fyne
Mikhaila Friel at Loch Fyne in Inveraray, Scotland in 2018.Mikhaila Friel/Business Insider

It's common for travelers to spend one or two days in central Scotland before traveling to the Highlands to catch some of the country's natural scenery.

But it can take up to four hours to travel to Loch Ness, one of the most popular tourist spots in the Highlands, from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Many travelers simply don't have the time  (or the cash) to make the journey.

A more accessible alternative would be to base yourself in Glasgow, where you won't have to travel far to see lochs and mountains. Loch Lomond is less than an hour's drive from Glasgow and is around 50 minutes from Glasgow via train. Train fares start at £6.20, or approximately $7.38.

You must prepare for changeable weather conditions.

mikhaila easdale ferry
Mikhaila is pictured on the ferry to Easdale Island in Scotland.Mikhaila Friel/Business Insider

A friend who lives in Texas came to visit me in Glasgow a couple of summers ago. His biggest regret was not packing a rain jacket — he assumed it wouldn't rain much since he was visiting in June.

He ended up having to buy one near the end of the trip due to some heavy rainfall we experienced.

Scotland is usually pleasant in the summer months, with the average temperature in Glasgow in June at around 65°F, according to the Weather and Climate website.

That said, Scottish weather is unpredictable, and those who live here joke that we have "four seasons in a day."

 

Some Americans assume haggis is the only Scottish food you should try, when, in fact, Scotland offers many traditional foods and drinks.

burns supper
Haggis, neaps, and tatties.Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images

Haggis is a famous dish that consists of spiced meat — sometimes including sheep lung — encased in animal intestine.

Haggis is delicious, despite what the recipe might lead you to believe. But many Americans that I've met don't realize there are so many other traditional Scottish food and beverages.

I'd recommend our sweet treats, including tablet, a type of candy, and shortbread, a sweet cookie.

 

Others will spend money at expensive tourist shops when you can find cheaper alternatives in supermarkets.

Edinburgh's Old Town
Edinburgh's Old Town.pawel.gaul/Getty Images

Those who discover tablet and shortbread while in Scotland usually purchase them from tourist shops. But you'll likely be able to find similar products in supermarkets at a lower price.

For example, a box of Paterson's Clotted Cream Shortbread Fingers cost £1.30, or around $1.65, from the British supermarket chain Asda. In my opinion, you can't get much cheaper than that.

Many people mispronounce the names of Scotland's most famous cities, and you stick out as a tourist when you do.

mikhaila and scott stand in front of a christmas tree in glasgow
The author and her partner are photographed on George Square in Glasgow, Scotland.Mikhaila Friel/Business Insider

Several Americans I've met over the years have mispronounced Glasgow and Edinburgh.

While Glasgow is pronounced "Glaz-go," many travelers will pronounce it like "Glass-gow," emphasizing the "s" sound. They often pronounce the end of the word "gow," like the word cow.

Similarly, Edinburgh is pronounced "Ed-in-bu-ru," but I can't tell you how many times I've heard Americans wrongfully pronounce it as "Ed-in-bo-ro."

Americans tip too much.

bartender larger
A bartender pouring larger.John Lawson/Getty Images

In Scotland and the UK as a whole, tipping culture is much more relaxed than in the States.

A general rule of thumb is to tip 10% in restaurants or more if you have received excellent service or are dining in a large group. It's not common to tip at bars.

I took one of my American friends to a local bar during his visit, and he tried to tip our bartender. She kindly told him it wasn't necessary to tip for just one drink and refused to accept the money, saying she didn't feel it was right.

While there's nothing wrong with tipping more than the average Scot, it's important to know that you don't have to, as this could save you some cash during your travels.

Some American tourists assume you must rent a car to see the country.

Jacobite steam train
The Jacobite steam train.Getty Images

A Scottish road trip is undoubtedly a fantastic experience due to some of our scenic routes. Still, it's not for everyone, as driving on our narrow, windy roads can be intimidating.

An alternative would be traveling by train or bus. The great thing about Scotland is that everything is very close together and accessible due to our fantastic transport links. You can access trains from both big cities and small towns alike.

If you want to try something a little different, I'd recommend the Jacobite Steam Train, famously used as the Hogwarts Express in the "Harry Potter" movies. The train route starts in Fort William, ends in Mallaig, and includes incredible views of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the arched bridge the Hogwarts Express crosses in the films.

Or, if you're looking for a luxurious train experience, I'd suggest Belmond's Royal Scotsman train, which has various routes across the Highlands. Passengers can stay in lavish suites with butler service, and you can also experience fine dining and spa treatments on board.

 

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