Whenever you visit a new place it’s always good to get tips from a local of things you need to know. Especially if you want to have as less ‘touristy’ experience as possible. Well, you’re in good hands because I’ve lived here 10 years and have built up a lot of knowledge about the city. Here are 20 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting London.
1. Don’t stand in the middle of the escalator!
There’s a rule in London that when you go on an escalator you stand on the right and walk on the left. If you don’t, people are not afraid to let you know and you’ll hear a very loud ‘EXCUSE ME’ behind you.
2. You can get cheap theatre tickets with this trick
Some theatres in London offer a great day seat scheme where they offer tickets at a reduced rate if you queue at the venue on the day of the performance. See more about cheap London theatre tickets here.
3. Travel during commuter hours gets very busy
Travel between 7:30am – 9:30am and 5pm – 7pm gets very busy. Avoid travel between these hours if you can.
4. There is so much free stuff to take advantage of
If you do your research beforehand and you can find loads of free stuff to do in London including museums, galleries and parks. Alternatively, you can just check out my guide to 100 free things to do in London. I’ve done all the hard work for you!
5. Central London is totally walkable
While public transport is good, Central London is very walkable and you’ll get to see loads of things on your route rather than wasting it on the tube. I have created a self-guided sightseeing walking tour that takes you past 20 of London’s iconic landmarks. Check it out here.
6. … and whatever you do, don’t get the tube from Leicester Square to Covent Garden!
I made this mistake once. It takes about 4 minutes to walk or a stuffy and pointless 5-minute tube ride. There is a map on my London transport guide that shows you which stations are easier to walk between.
7. Avoid tourist traps like Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus for restaurants
It’s touristy, crowded and overpriced. Walk a few minutes down the side streets or to surrounding areas for a better less touristy experience.
8. Don’t wait until you get to the gate to find your ticket
Sorry, but there is nothing more frustrating than people fumbling at the gate to get their ticket out and delaying the people behind them. Us Londoners get very frustrated by that.
9. Don’t drive in Central London if you don’t have to
There really is no point driving in Central London because you’ll spend more time in traffic than actually getting anywhere. Plus, the transport is excellent! If you do drive, remember we drive on the left.
10. Go to Camden Market and Borough Market during the week not the weekend if you can.
Camden and Borough Market are two of the busiest markets in London so if you can, go in the weekday, not the weekend. They are so much less crowded and completely different places Monday to Friday. Check out my guide to London’s best markets here.
11. Don’t take cabs.
I’ve got nothing against cabs but London traffic is insane and you’ll end up racking up a lot of time and money getting nowhere.
12. Book everything in advance or use WalkUp.
You will thank me for this tip when you’re not stuck waiting in queues rather than enjoying yourself. Book as much as you can in advance and that includes attraction tickets, travel tickets and restaurant bookings. You may even save some money if you book early on. Alternatively, if you’re interested in a restaurant but it doesn’t take bookings have a look if it’s on the WalkUp App. WalkUp allows you to get in a virtual queue without going to the restaurant. You do have to be near though. Even if you’re in the pub next door.
13. When the weather is nice, London is a totally different place.
The sunshine makes London sparkle even more than it already does. You’ll notice people seem happier, stay out later and eat & drink alfresco.
14. Public transport is actually really good.
London has a lot of transport options and it’s usually very frequent and easy to navigate. Check out my guide to London transport.
15. It can be expensive
If you’re visiting from other parts of England you’ll notice London is more expensive than most other parts of the UK. Especially alcohol which can be double the price to what you’re used to. Budget accordingly. Here are some great money-saving tips.
16. Contactless is just like an Oyster Card.
If you have a contactless debit or credit card you can use it just like an Oyster rather than buying one for £5. The only difference is you can’t top it up, it just debits from your account.
17. CityMapper will change your life.
I cannot tell you how much you need to download CityMapper to help you get around on your trip to London. It is SO easy to use, really detailed and comprehensive. It even will give you alternate routes if there are problems and delays.
18. Avoid school holidays if you can.
School holidays are hellish and everywhere is busy x 10000000. Avoid if possible or do everything as early in the morning as you can.
19. Don’t just ask for ‘tea’
If you ask for ‘tea’ you’ll get the answer ‘which one?’ because London has so many different types available. If you want a good old cup of tea ask for an ‘English Breakfast’.
20. We’re not rude … just not that talkative!
You’ll notice on public transport we keep ourselves to ourselves … probably because we’re on our way to or from the office. Don’t be offended if we don’t chat much, that’s just us.
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