Eating and drinking
Tipping in Britain is not expected, but if you’ve had decent service 10-15% of the total bill is about right. A service charge will automatically be added to the bill in most restaurants for larger parties – but you can ask for this to be removed, it is purely optional.
Always ask who gets the tip, especially if you’re settling by card. Unscrupulous restaurant owners have been known to pocket tips when paid in this way. Give cash to your server, if they’re worth it.
Take afternoon tea at The Chester Grosvenor and Spa (£22.50, or £29.50 with Champagne and strawberries). It’s a bit posh, it’s a bit expensive, but hey, this is quintessential England.
If you’re planning on going DIY, go independent. Chester has a wealth of often family-owned independent food stores. Yes, it’s often cheaper at the supermarket, but you’re buying into a slice of England. My guide to DIY food will follow soon.
See Cheap restaurants in Chester for my top picks of budget bites.
Take a tour of the walls as soon as you arrive; it’s the best way to get your bearings.
It’s a doddle to get around compact Chester and public transport is not necessary. But it is good fun to hop on the heritage bus. More information can be found here - How to get around Chester.
Avoid subways at night. The occasional usage as a urinal and presence of beggars is one thing, but you don’t want to set yourself up as a potential mugging victim. As with any city, be vigilant and use your common sense.
Don’t even think about trying to dodge your train fare to Chester. Automatic barriers block your exit (and entrance for that matter), so you’d better have a ticket.
If you’re hiring a car (see Chester car hire) or bringing your own vehicle, don’t expect much courtesy on the roads. I can’t tell you what it is about Chester, but you’ll rarely get acknowledgement for letting someone out at a junction/being let in/letting a driver through a narrow street and so on. Not even a nod or bend of the finger – it’s infuriating, but get used to it.
Sights and attractions
Much of Chester’s beauty is free to view. The Rows, the city walls, the river...it’s easy to keep your cash in your pocket.
Other useful tips
Don’t be put off by first impressions. The two main gateways into Chester (Hoole Road from the M56/M53 by car and City Road – the trek from the train station into the city centre) are a bit uninspiring and at times dismal (near the train station). But your patience will be rewarded.
If you’re not coming to Chester for the races, avoid race days entirely. Hotel prices can double (at least), restaurants are booked up, and normally free-to-enter bars sometimes charge. See here for this year’s fixtures and visit Chester Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Chester to get your room booked now.
Nothing will single you out as a tourist more than mispronouncing English place names (the most common tricksters are counties ended with “shire”: it’s not like The Shire where the hobbits live; it’s pronounced “sheer” – unless you’re posh, then say “shar”). You can’t go wrong with Chester, but just remember it’s in the county of “Che-sheer” (posh: “Che-shar...darling”).
Be careful all ye Welshmen after sunset. An ancient by-law states that men from across the border caught hanging about on the walls after the sun goes down can be decapitated or shot!
Forget Hollyoaks. Though the soap is set in a fictional suburb of Chester, they rarely film scenes in the city any more.
Bring an umbrella AND sunglasses...this is England, you just never know.