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

mikhaila edinburgh castle
Mikhaila Friel at Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland.Mikhaila Friel/Insider
  • I was born and raised in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, UK.

  • Scotland is beloved by many Americans, and I have met several US-based travelers in my time here.

  • 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 Friel photographed in Inveraray in Scotland in 2017.
Mikhaila Friel during a visit to Inveraray in Scotland in 2017.Mikhaila Friel/Insider

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.

Scotland is beloved by many Americans, and, according to data collected from the tourist organization Visit Scotland, more Americans visited Scotland than any other nationality in 2017, with 566,000 visits.

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.

Some people assume you have to travel to the Highlands to see beautiful scenery, but there are magnificent lochs and mountains all over Scotland.

mikhaila at loch fyne
Mikhaila Friel at Loch Fyne in Inveraray, Scotland, in 2017.Mikhaila Friel/Insider

It's common for travelers to spend one or two days in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland's two major cities, before traveling to Loch Ness in the Highlands to catch some of the country's natural scenery. According to Google Maps, it can take up to four hours to travel to Loch Ness from Glasgow or Edinburgh.

But many people don't have the time (or the cash) to make the journey, and that's okay.

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.

I've seen some American friends dress inappropriately for the Scottish weather — you need to prepare for changeable conditions.

Mikhaila Friel wearing a raincoat during a visit to the Isle of Skye in the summer of 2018.
Mikhaila Friel wearing a raincoat during a visit to the Isle of Skye in the summer of 2018.Mikhaila Friel/Insider

A friend who lives in Texas came to visit me in Glasgow in June. His biggest regret was not packing a rain jacket, and he had 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.


Other tourists 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, or around $1.20, from the British supermarket chain Asda.

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

The sun sets behind Edinburgh Castle as people wander in front of it
Edinburgh Castle is pronounced "Ed-in-bu-ru," not "Ed-in-bu-ro."Kevin Shalvey/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.

When my American friend visited in June, we went to a local bar, 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.

Fares start at £52, or around $62.

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