Keep reading to discover my top London travel tips for first time visitors.
You may have a few questions before your trip to London but who do you ask? Lucky for you, you’re in the faithful hands of a local Londoner with 10 years of experience living, working and enjoying the city. Below are a variety of questions you may have before your visit to London. If I haven’t answered something you would like to know please drop me an email and I’ll do my best to get back to you.
Here are my top London travel tips for first time visitors
What’s the best way to travel around London?
There are so many different ways to travel around London depending on your preferences and your budget. For everything you need to know about getting around London check out my ultimate guide to London transport.
What’s an Oyster Card?
An Oyster Card is London’s ultimate travel tool. It is an electronic card that allows effortless travel around London. You ‘top up’ this card with credit either online, at a machine at an underground station or at selected London convenience stores where you see the Oyster Card symbol. It works by ‘tapping’ it on the yellow card reader as you enter and leave the tube/train station. The card costs £5 to buy and you have to put a minimum of £5 on the card when you purchase.
Your Oyster Card is charged per journey and a journey is classed when you tap in at one station and tap out at another. For example, your Oyster Card will charge you £2.40 for a single journey in zone one when you tap out at your destination (See below for an explanation about zones) This is also known as ‘pay as you go’. However, Oyster cards have a very clever function called a cap. For example, If you continue to travel around zone one all day, your Oyster Card will cap at £7.40 meaning you can do 100 journeys in zone one that day and never pay more than £7.40. Please see here for TFL’s 2021 Oyster Card capping prices.
What can I do for free in London?
There is so much you can do in London for free. I have a list of 100 free things you can do in London that you can download right here.
My hotel doesn’t have breakfast, where can I find somewhere good to eat?
I have lots of recommendations for great breakfast spots in London split out by area. Check them out here.
What kind of plug do I need to buy for my electricals?
You will need 3 prong plug just like this one.
I’ve heard the weather isn’t always great in London. What would you recommend I bring?
The weather in London is a bit temperamental so you’ll want to make sure you are prepared as possible. I have put together a comprehensive guide here where I’ve recommended the perfect shoes, coats, umbrellas, bags and electricals for your trip.
What are the Coronavirus guidelines for travelling to/from London?
The Coronavirus situation here in the UK is changing all the time so it would be silly for me to provide any advice or information. For all Coronavirus updates please check the UK government website here.
Is London Coronavirus safe?
London establishments are doing their utmost to put the proper guidelines in place. I would recommend that you contact the particular hotel/restaurant/bar/attraction/theatre/shop beforehand if you are concerned or want to know more information on their precautions. Of course, I cannot speak for everyone and every situation you may face in London so the best piece of advice is to always refer to the official government guidelines here. I also have a blog on tips for staying safe in London during Coronavirus here.
London is so big, where do I start?
My comprehensive area guide will give you a good idea of London and the different areas.
What currency do you use?
Great British Pounds.
WHAT’S THE ONE THING I NEED FOR MY TRIP?
You absolutely have to download CityMapper. It will effortlessly navigate you around London like a pro!
Where should I stay?
Comparison sites like Expedia and Hotels.com are excellent for finding places to stay at the best prices and with the best customer ratings. I would always suggest doing a second check of reviews on Trip Advisor. Air B & B is also a great way to experience the city as a real Londoner if you’re looking to rent an entire house.
Should I tip?
Tipping is not mandatory but is appreciated. Some restaurants and bars add will automatically add on a 12.5% service charge to your bill however it is your choice to pay it or not. Some restaurants don’t add it on at all and you can add this on top if you choose to.
Can I smoke indoors?
No. Smoking indoors is illegal in the UK and you can be fined if you are caught doing so.
Do you have any general advice about travelling to London?
I’m looking for great places to eat, where should I start?
You’re in the right place! I’ve got lots of recommendations of London’s best places to eat here.
What things must I see when I visit London?
To get a good idea of London’s main attractions and landmarks check out my attraction guide here
I’ve heard London is famous for theatre, where should I start looking at tickets?
You’re in the right place. I a great guide here explaining everything you need to know about getting your hands on theatre tickets.
Is London safe?
Like all big cities, there are good parts and bad parts. The Metropolitan Police have some great tips on staying safe in London here.
I’m on a budget, any tips?
Sure. Check out London on a Budget; Great Money Saving Tips
I’m travelling alone, any advice?
London is a great city for solo travellers and there are plenty of things to do by yourself or in meet up groups. Check out lots of tips for travelling alone here and lots of ideas of things to do alone here.
We want to see some Harry Potter attractions, where should we go?
I wrote about the must-see Harry Potter attractions in London on my attraction guide here.
I want someone to plan my trip for me! Where can I find someone?
WHATS THE DIFFERENT BETWEEN AN OYSTER CARD AND VISITOR OYSTER CARD?
A visitor Oyster Card is very similar to a regular Oyster Card. The main difference of the visitor card is that it offers a few discounts to London attractions and you can have it delivered to you before arrive in London. The regular oyster can only be purchased in London. You cannot add travelcards to a visitor oyster which means you will pay per day. If you’re here for more than 6 days you are better off getting a regular Oyster Card when you arrive in London and put a weekly travelcard on there for £37 rather than paying £7.40 a day to travel. If you’re visiting for 5 days or less, the visitor oyster card is a good option. You can pre-order your visitor Oyster card here or read more info about it here.
AM I ABLE TO DRINK FROM THE TAP IN LONDON?
Yes, you can.
I’m on a budget. Can I still have a good time in London?
WHERE SHOULD I BUY MY CURRENCY?
The question really should be where you shouldn’t buy your currency. You shouldn’t buy it last minute at the airport. The rates at the airport are not great. Plus, they usually take a hidden commission.
Is the London pass worth it?
Yes, it is providing you meet the criteria. What are the criteria you ask? Check out this blog post to find out.
Do I need a visa to visit London?
You may require a visa to visit the UK. To find out see the UK Visas and Immigration website, or check with your local British Embassy before you travel. The rules change regularly, so make sure you check you have the most up-to-date information before you travel.
I’M A VEGAN. DOES LONDON CATER FOR THAT?
Absolutely. I’d recommend checking out The Little London Vegan
WHAT SIDE OF THE ROAD DO YOU DRIVE ON?
We drive on the right side of the road
WHERE’S THE BEST PLACE TO GO FOR BASIC ESSENTIALS?
If you need things such as milk, bread, toilet paper etc you will find them in most local supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl and Co-Op. You will find these on most high streets. If you need things like tablets, shampoo or toothpaste you can usually find these in most supermarkets too, however, you may want to go to a pharmacy like Boots or Superdrug.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON SCAMS TO LOOK OUT FOR?
Unfortunately, there are a few scams you have to look out for in London. Check out this list of thirteen common scams.
WHAT LANGUAGE DO YOU SPEAK IN LONDON?
The majority of Londoners speak English, however, London is incredibly diverse and multicultural with over 100 languages spoken.