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Planning Your First Trip to the United Kingdom - Ten Questions to Answer

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Dress-Up or Casual: Which Do You Prefer?
Do you enjoy dressing for dinner or are you more of a jeans and t-shirt traveler? There are very few occasions when you really have to pull out all the stops when going out in the UK. In most cases you can wear whatever you are most comfortable in when dining out. There are a few exceptions. Here's what to expect:
  • Some of the most exclusive restaurants and hotel dining rooms in London require men to wear a jacket and tie (the Ritz, for example) but that kind of formality is on the wane.
  • What the British call "smart casual" which basically means you've made an effort and it shows, but you haven't gone "over the top" is acceptable in most nicer restaurants.
  • If you like to go clubbing and you want to get into the best clubs, you have to look the part. Bring your hippest club gear or buy some when you arrive. If you think you can get into a nightclub in jeans and a t-shirt, plan on being Paris Hilton or Elle McPherson.
  • Some country house hotels will expect you to "dress for dinner" but most won't. Smart casual is usually more than acceptable. If you are planning to stay at a very grand country house hotel, it is worth asking about dressing for dinner before you leave home - just in case.
  • Going to the theatre or a concert does not require dressing up unless you feel like it.
  • If you are heading for the races at Ascot, the Henley Regatta, Glorious Goodwood, very smart dress is the rule. For women a smart skirt suit or a flowery dress (and on Ladies Day, a hat); for men, suit and a tie. Many men choose to wear formal morning suits and top hats on Ladies Day at Ascot - but if you have not been invited to the Royal enclosure, don't worry about it.

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