Wales

Introduction

Being an historic land of castles and mountains, stunning beaches and with a strong national identity that dates back to pre-Norman times, Wales is a great and interesting tourist destination. It is also famous for its great outdoors, so make sure you explore its national parks and remote villages.

Places to go in Wales

History

After a referendum in May 1999, Wales was granted its own Assembly which meant significant autonomy for the country. However the Welsh Assembly does not have the same degree of power and responsibility as is enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament, for example, the Welsh Assembly is not able to raise taxes. Still, the Welsh do have more say regarding their own destiny than they have had at any time in the previous 900 years.

Politics

Wales is one of the four constituent countries of the UK. Since the late 1990s Wales is under a system of devolution (or home rule). The Government of Wales Act 1998 established devolution in Wales and the National Assembly for Wales was put in charge of certain executive and legislative matters.

In 1969, following the strengthening support emergence for Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Government set up the Royal Commission on the Constitution which investigated the UK’s constitutional arrangements and eventually proposed some devolution of power in a White Paper of 1974. At that time however the idea was comprehensively rejected by the people when it was put to a referendum.


It was the election of a new Labour Government in 1997 which re-invigorated moves towards welsh devolution amd in 1999 the National Assembly for Wales (Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) was created. Further authority in relation to specific areas of Welsh Law was devolved to the Welsh Assembly in 2007.

Geography

Wales extends over 21,000 sq km with extensive tracts of high plateaux and mountain ranges that are dissected by river valleys especially in the centre of the upland area. The lowland area is characterized by relatively narrow coastal belts and the valley floor. The highest mountain is Snowdon which reaches 3,650 feet.


Northern Wales is more sparcely inhabited and largely rural in comparison to the more industrial and heavily populated areas in the South which include the capital Cardiff, as well as Swansea and Newport.

Economy

The issues the coal-mining industry was facing during the 1980s strongly affected the Welsh economy, but the areas that were affected then, particularly in the south of the country, have largely recovered.


Cardiff in particular has flourished in recent years and has seen major improvements both in the city centre and in the Cardiff Bay area, which has developed into a major entertainment and administrative centre. The area has benefited from EU grants as well as from the development associated with the Welsh Assembly.


The north is more rural, and farming and tourism are still the main sources of income. The North is home to popular seaside resorts like Llandudno and Rhyl, the island of Anglesey and the Snowdonia National Park.


South Wales is also very popular amongst visitors, with the capital Cardiff, the cities of Swansea and Newport, Carmarthen Bay and two national parks, Pembrokeshire Coast and Brecon Beacons all situated there. The highlights of mid-Wales are the Cambrian Mountains and the coastal resort of Cardigan Bay.

Country Information

CurrencyPound Sterling
LanguagesEnglish, Welsh
GovernmentConstitutional monarchy
TimezoneGMT
Population2.9 million
ATM availabilityAvailable
CapitalCardiff
Dialing code(00) 44
Emergency servicesAmbulance, police and fire 999/112
WeatherWales’ climate is largely maritime, dominated by shifts in Atlantic air masses, which often cause local conditions to vary greatly from one day to the next. Rain is rather frequent and averages at around 1,500mm per year. Winter snowfall can be heavy in the uplands and the weather more unpredictable, where the average annual temperature is 10°C, ranging from 4°C in January to just 16°C in July and August. Wales tends to be slightly wetter than England, with a bit less sunshine on average. However, the coastal areas, can be quite warm in summer.
Tourist boardhttp://www.visitwales.com
Famous forCastles, Mount Snowdon, Daffodils, Leeks
Useful phrasesWelsh - Bore Da (good morning), Hwyl nawr (goodbye), Os gwelwch yn dda (please), Diolch (thank you)
Accommodation forThere is a wide range of hotel rooms starting from cheap, tiny pub rooms to more luxurious types of hotel rooms, with all the well known hotel chains in between such as Ibis, Premier Travel Inn or Holiday Inn Express. Hostels are a cheap alternative to hotels and a fun way to meet other travellers. Besides the usual dorm rooms, larger hostels now also offer private rooms and breakfast that is included in the price, just like their independent competitors do. Since not all hostels are open all year round, make sure you book in advance. A lot of universities offer accommodation during Christmas, Easter and summer holidays. This can be more cost-effective than comparable rooms in the private sector. Bed and Breakfasts are often the best value accommodation; they’re not as expensive as hotels and have the added benefit that you get the chance to get to know the locals. Bear in mind that some guesthouses/B&Bs charge per room per night, while others charge per person.
Business hoursBanks are open Monday - Friday 09.30-16.30(some close later and are also open Saturday mornings). Smaller shops are open Monday - Saturday 09.00-17.30, but supermarkets/off license shops are open longer, often until 22.00. Many shops in larger towns and cities are open on Sundays from 11.00 - 16.00 and some very large supermarkets are choosing to open 24 hours.
VisasAmericans, Canadians, Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders, Irish nationals and EU nationals do not require a visa for stays up to 90 days. Other nationalities should check before travelling as visas are likely to be required.
TippingUsually, service charge is not included in rates. In restaurants you would generally tip around 10%, unless a service charge has already been added to the bill or in case you were not satisfied with the service. Tipping in bars is rare and therefore you are not expected to leave a tip.

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