I need to understand a little about UK address before I travel to there. I have this:

locality: KINGS HILL, 
county: KENT
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My questions are:

is district inside county (a county has a few district)?

What is locality?

When I write a letter to that address, do I have to write every line of above?

  • 11
    To travel within the UK, you don't need to know any of these terms. To put it more strongly, I'm British and 39 years old and I've never once needed to know what the Post Office means by either "locality" or "district". Feb 10, 2017 at 9:53
  • 8
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because none of the terms actually has anything to do with travel in the UK. The question is actually about terminology used in official Royal Mail databases, and this terminology is of no concern to the traveller. Likewise, how to address a letter isn't a travel question. Feb 10, 2017 at 9:55
  • Which part of the UK? Some parts still have counties, some have regions and districts. Feb 10, 2017 at 12:22

3 Answers 3


The historical "county-based" system of local government in the England started to become unworkable in the 19th century, because of the growth of big cities outside London, such as Manchester, Birmingham, etc.

Various changes were made starting from that time, but in the late 20th century the structure was completely redefined.

The original 48 counties have been replaced by 83, some of which are divided into several "districts." Some, but not all, of the old county names have been retained in the new list of counties. The names that no longer have any local government status, but are still used informally and in historical references, are now called "ceremonial counties". (These include the largest county in the original list of 48, Yorkshire.)

At the same time, the Post Office also changed the its system for addressing letters (which was based on the original 48 counties), but moved a different system that does not match the new local government counties and districts. The key element of the new Post Office system is the Post Code (equivalent to USA Zip Code).

The only essential parts of a mailing address in the UK are the house name or number, the street name, and the post code. The post code on its own is enough to find a location using SatNav systems, etc.

In practice, it is usual to include additional information giving the town or village name, and the postal district if that is different, as a cross check if the postcode becomes illegible. It is usually fairly easy to guess the district name (or the main town/city in the district) from the first two letters of the postcode - for example the postal districts around Nottingham have codes NG1 to NG35. For example an address in the city of Nottingham would just be

house number + street name

but an address in the nearby village of Gotham (yes, it really does exist!) would be

house number + street name

If you know some of the information, you can do a search to get the "correct" postal address from this website: http://www.royalmail.com/find-a-postcode

If you need to give a UK address to use on a website, usually you only need to type the minimum amount of information (number, street, postcode), and the rest will be filled in automatically using the Post Office's search function.

  • 1
    "The only essential parts of a mailing address in the UK are the house name or number, the street name, and the post code. The post code on its own is enough to find a location using SatNav systems, etc." ==> This is the key in the answer. Maybe you should highlight it. Feb 10, 2017 at 10:04
  • Actually, "Yorkshire" isn't a ceremonial county. The ceremonial counties (officially referred to as "Lieutenancy areas" and most recently defined by the Lieutenancies Act, 1997) are North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. Feb 10, 2017 at 10:54
  • @ShantnuTiwari but it is not 100% true e,g, not all postcodes are correctly mapped to GPS - it is good in most cases
    – mmmmmm
    Feb 10, 2017 at 12:18

I need to understand a little about UK address before I travel to there.

No you don't, if you are a normal visitor. Lots of people travel to the UK with little or no comprehension of how UK postal addresses work. I expect a large number of UK citizens have no comprehensive understanding of the structure of UK postal addresses according to Royal Mail. Most people just effectively copy and paste addresses.

When I write a letter to that address, do I have to write every line of above?

Normally you would copy whatever you are given, but you would omit all the classification words ending in a colon

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As others have said, in 99% of cases, the first and last lines are sufficient but most people just copy whatever they are given without worrying about it.

Useful references


Translating it with an Americanized point of view ...

  • county = state
  • district = county
  • city = city
  • locality = neighborhood

Personally I would write out everything just to be safe. My address in Thailand has numerous districts, sub-districts, etc and have had some mail come through without every line and some that got sent back.

  • 7
    This is a waste of time in the UK, since the Post Office scans the package to find the postcode and prints it on the package as a machine-readable barcode. After that operation, the only human who will read the address is the postman/woman who actually delivers the item, and (from personal experience) they don't bother to check anything except the house number.
    – alephzero
    Feb 10, 2017 at 8:55
  • 2
    The translation into "American" is inaccurate. Of course, it can only ever be approximate since the countries are organized in completely different ways. But, for example, every correct US postal address includes the state, whereas the vast majority (all?) of UK postal addresses don't require the county. Feb 10, 2017 at 9:57
  • +1 to @alephzero's comment about the actual road being effectively irrelevant for postal delivery. I used to live in a house that was number 2 xxxx 8FQ. A nearby road had a number 2 xxxx 8EQ and I would typically receive about 4 or 5 items per week for that address. It's possible that the fact that the occupant's surname (Smith) was the same as one of the residents of my address didn't help matters... Feb 10, 2017 at 10:52
  • @alephzero no they need more than the house number, most postmen will know the oddities on their route but I agree some don't - I rarely get post for the flat across the road - about once every 2 years - so take all the info. When you get near and have to ask someone where the address is - they will use different parts of the address to the post office
    – mmmmmm
    Feb 10, 2017 at 12:21
  • US States are not equivalent to UK Counties. The 4 sub-countries of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) are closer in status to US States, and when you consider that then UK Counties (well, unitary authorities) seem equivalent to a US State's Counties.
    – Dai
    Feb 10, 2017 at 12:48

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