15 Things to Remember When Travelling to London
Plan Your Itinerary in Advance
Planning your itinerary in advance allows you to make the most of your time in London. Research the attractions, landmarks, and activities you want to experience and create a schedule that accommodates them. This helps you avoid missing out on must-see sights and ensures a smoother and more organised trip.
Get an Oyster Card for Public Transportation
It is an extremely cost-effective and convenient way to travel on public transportation in London. It is a reusable smart card that allows you to pay for buses, Tubes, DLR, London Overground, trams, and some National Rail services. With an Oyster card, you can enjoy discounted fares compared to buying individual tickets, and it saves you the hassle of carrying cash or purchasing tickets each time you travel.
Use the Tube for Efficient Travel
The London Underground, or Tube, is an extensive network of underground trains covering most London areas. It is the quickest and most efficient way to travel around the city, avoiding traffic congestion and reaching your destination on time. The Tube operates from early morning until late at night, with frequent services and well-connected stations that make navigating and exploring various parts of London easy. It’s worth familiarising yourself with the Tube map and understanding the different lines and connections to make your journeys smoother.
Explore the South Bank for Great Views
The South Bank of the River Thames offers stunning views of some of London’s most iconic landmarks. Take a leisurely stroll along the riverside promenade and enjoy breathtaking views of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, and Tower Bridge. The area is also home to cultural institutions like the Tate Modern and the Southbank Centre, where you can catch art exhibitions, live performances, and festivals. With its lively atmosphere, street performers, and numerous dining options, the South Bank is a popular choice for both locals and tourists.
Try Traditional British and International Cuisine
London is a culinary hub with a diverse food scene. Don’t miss the opportunity to try traditional British dishes like fish and chips, pie and mash, or a full English breakfast. Explore the city’s vibrant food markets, such as Borough Market, where you can sample a variety of local and international flavours. London also boasts numerous Michelin-starred restaurants, trendy gastropubs, and ethnic eateries offering cuisines from around the world. Whether you’re craving Indian curries, Chinese dim sum, Middle Eastern mezze, or fusion delights, London has something to satisfy every palate.
Attend a Theatre Show in the West End
London’s West End is famous for its vibrant theatre district, known for showcasing some of the best stage productions in the world. From classic plays to blockbuster musicals, there is something for every taste. The district is home to historic theatres like the Lyceum, the Apollo Victoria, and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where you can immerse yourself in the magic of live performances. Whether it’s the timeless brilliance of a Shakespearean play or the spectacle of a big-budget musical, attending a theatre show in the West End promises an unforgettable evening of entertainment.
Explore Local Markets for Unique Shopping and Food
London is famous for its markets, offering diverse products, delicious street food, and a vibrant atmosphere. From the bustling Borough Market with its fresh produce and artisanal goods to the eclectic Camden Market known for its alternative fashion and vintage finds, there’s something for everyone. Other notable markets include Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, known for antiques and clothing, and Covent Garden Market, which offers a mix of crafts, fashion, and speciality shops. Exploring these markets provides an opportunity to discover unique souvenirs, try different cuisines, and soak up the lively ambience of London’s market culture.
Enjoy City Views from The Shard or the London Eye
Head to either the Shard or the London Eye for breathtaking panoramic city views. The Shard is Western Europe’s tallest building and offers a stunning 360-degree view from its viewing platform, which allows you to see London’s iconic landmarks and sprawling skyline. On the other hand, the London Eye is a Ferris wheel on the River Thames. It provides a bird’s-eye view of the Buckingham Palace, the River Thames and Big Ben. Both attractions offer a unique perspective and memorable photo opportunities, especially during sunset or in the evening when the city lights up.
Take a Boat Ride Along the River Thames
Exploring London from the water is a delightful experience, and a boat ride along the River Thames offers a different vantage point of the city’s landmarks. You can choose from various options, including river cruises or commuter boats, to enjoy a leisurely journey. The boat ride allows you to glide past famous sights like Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, and the Tower of London. It’s a relaxing way to appreciate the architectural beauty of London’s riverside buildings while learning about the city’s history from informative commentary. Whether you opt for a short or longer cruise, a boat ride along the River Thames adds a touch of charm to your London visit.
Prepare for Changing Weather Conditions
London weather is highly unpredictable and can change in a short time, so it is better to be prepared for anything. Carrying an umbrella or raincoat’s always a good idea, as rain showers are common. During the colder months, it’s advisable to have a warm coat, hat, and gloves. On the other hand, during summer, you should have sunscreen and sunglasses. Being prepared for changing weather ensures that you can enjoy your time in London comfortably, regardless of the conditions.
Respect Local Customs and Etiquette
When visiting London, being aware of and respecting local customs and etiquette is important. Londoners value politeness, so remember to say “please” and “thank you” when interacting with locals. It is customary to queue politely in various situations, such as when waiting for public transportation or entering a popular attraction. Avoid loud or disruptive behaviour in public places and be mindful of personal space. Respecting cultural diversity and being open-minded towards different customs and traditions is also important. You can have a positive and harmonious experience in London by showing respect and consideration.
Tipping in London is Not Customary
Unlike in some other countries, tipping in London is not obligatory or expected. However, leaving a small tip is always welcome if you receive exceptional service or want to show appreciation. In restaurants, it’s common to round up the bill or leave a 10% tip if you are satisfied with the service. Some establishments may include a service charge in the bill, so check before tipping. In bars, you can leave a small amount as a gesture of gratitude. Tipping taxi drivers is not mandatory, but rounding up the fare is common. While not customary, tipping is a personal choice based on the level of service received.
Carry a Universal Adapter or Type-G Plug
In London, the standard electrical outlets use type-G plugs with three rectangular pins. If your devices use a different plug type, it’s important to carry a type-G adapter or a universal travel adapter to ensure you can charge your electronics and use your appliances without any issues. This way, you can keep your devices powered up and stay connected during your time in London.
Be Familiar with Traffic Directions
In the United Kingdom, including London, traffic moves on the left-hand side of the road. If you’re used to driving or crossing streets in countries where traffic moves on the right-hand side, it’s important to be mindful of the traffic direction and adjust accordingly. Take extra caution when crossing roads, and pay attention to traffic flow to ensure your safety. Also, if you plan to rent a car or use other forms of transportation, familiarise yourself with the local traffic rules and regulations.
Take Benefit of Bike-Friendly London
London is a bike-friendly city with a well-developed cycling infrastructure. Renting a bike or using a bike-sharing scheme is a fantastic way to explore the city and discover its hidden gems. Numerous cycling routes, bike lanes, and cycle hire stations are available throughout London. You can pedal through picturesque parks, along the river, or explore different neighbourhoods on two wheels. Just follow traffic rules, use designated cycling paths when available, and wear appropriate safety gear. Biking around London allows you to experience the city at your own pace. It offers a unique perspective on its sights and attractions.