When you are planning a move to London, and you are going to London for the first time, there are ten important tips you will need before you arrive. If you follow these suggestions then will you save yourself some grief and your trip to London will be a lot more relaxing.
First – the British drive on the left side of the road. If you do not intend to drive yourself then this may not seem important, but just crossing the street, that’s the scariest thing. Fortunately, Londoners are smart and have placed signs on the floor at every crossing point so you know exactly if you need to look left or right. So watch out when you cross the street, first look at the clues to see which way to look.
Second, there are a few names and words that are not pronounced as they are spelled. Here are a few examples that you will probably use:
1. the most popular tourist attraction in London is LESSter square (not Leicester) and then you also have gren-itch (not Greenwich) a popular area where many tourists come. And it’s called Wes-min-ster Abbey not West minister. So there is no extra “i”. And my English husband told me not to forget this: Buck-in-em palace It looks like buck-in-ham, but you pronounce it as BuckingEM. And that beautiful brown river that flows through London is called the “Temz”, not the “Thames” (or “Thames”). I know, I also said it all wrong when I first came to London. But now you know it!
2. If you decide to go to a pub and order a beer or cider (which I definitely recommend) then you order it as a pint. If you order a drink on tap, they will ask you “Do you want a whole or a half-pint?” A half-pint is, of course, half a pint. Remember that many English beers and ciders stronger than beer in America be careful when you drink alcohol.
3. When you go to a restaurant in London you have to double-check when you get the bill whether the tip is already included. This is often around 12.5%. If this ‘service charge’ has indeed been added then you don’t have to tip again. If no service is included then it is common to tip between 10 and 15%. This is not mandatory, but it is unusual to give anything unless the service was really bad.
4. Use the CityMapper app to find your way around London. This app is GREAT It is also what Londoners use themselves and even better than Google Maps because it offers many more options. There is even a ‘rain safe option’ (rain-free option) which ensures that you get the rain as much as possible. That is very handy in London because it rains there all the time. If you try to get from point A to point B. and you have access to WIFI or 3G then I recommend using CityMapper for all routes.
The app even indicates how much the journey will cost and there is a possibility to save routes offline so if you are without the internet, you can still have access to the route on your phone.
5. England uses the pound as a currency. 100 pence or 100 “p” together is 1 pound. And when you hear someone say “quid” then that means a pound. A bit like we used “peak” for guilders. So when they talk about 100 quid then it’s 100 pounds. The smallest note is 5 pounds. There is no note for 1 pound (like in America). Coins come in 2 pounds, 1 pound, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p and 1p.
6. When it comes to transportation in London, it’s best to buy an Oyster card. You can get two different Oyster cards: the first is a ‘Visitor’s Oyster Card’ for tourists, but you can only order this in advance and have it delivered at home. The second option is a regular Oyster card, that you can buy in different places in London. For example at the airport (in a vending machine). To be able to use these Oyster cards you must first put a balance on it.
Especially if you travel a lot then it’s smart to take an Oyster card because that is a lot cheaper then when you buy single tickets or pay in cash. There is also a daily limit per carrier, above that limit, you pay nothing extra. With the visitor Oyster card is the limit £ 6.40 On a regular Oyster card does it vary a bit, around 7 pounds, but if you are in London for a week and you want to travel a lot, then you will notice that it is cheaper to buy a 7-day travel card and load it onto your Oyster.
7. Take the bus when you have the opportunity. Those classic English double-deckers are a nice way to get through your drive-thru London. Certainly if you manage to get a spot upstairs (and especially in the front of the bus) then it’s very cool and you will See London from a completely different angle. And: it only costs 1.5 pounds. You have to take a bus just check-in at the front of the bus. Please note, you do not have to check out. If you have to take the bus, use your Citymapper app and view the best route and what the nearest station is.
8. If you want to exchange cash to pounds, then you will be the best rate get it at the post office. You see them everywhere if you search for this little red symbol on the signs or look on Google Maps and you will find more than enough.
9. Be careful if you take black taxis because they can very expensive and the amount can run up considerably without you noticing. So if you have to travel far or you’re in the middle of the rush then I wouldn’t take a taxi, because you will see the meter tick without you being able to do anything about it.
10. If you really can’t use public transportation then I recommend Uber. If you don’t know Uber, it’s an app that lets you can request a car that you pick up where you stand and they often come very quickly. Especially when you are in the center of London you never have to wait long. It is also very useful if you do not have cash with you because some black taxis do not accept cash, but Uber does. You connect the app to your credit card in advance and if you use Uber for the first time you even get a discount. Make sure to give it a try.
The first common mistake is trying to see so much in six days that you spent a lot of time going traversing from one end of London to the other daily. Part of the solution is that when you’re planning out your itinerary for a day and you want to get between each of the things you want to do and see, use the ‘Citymapper’ app, to figure out how long is going to take you to get in between each of the things you want to do. Also, make sure that you adjust for the time that you’re going to be traveling, because it will likely take you longer during rush hour, so just adjust that in the map so it can give you a bit more accurate timing. The absolute best way to make sure you’re not spending a lot of time on public transportation each day in London is to pick one or two close by areas to explore. That way you can just walk to each of them and do your exploring that way, instead of having to hop on the tube or on a bus and spend loads of time on that every day.
The second common mistake is not pacing yourself. On one hand, you can see a ton of sights. However, you can be exhausted by the time the day is over. Pace yourselves, London isn’t going anywhere! It is important not to over-plan your visit to London. When you get here, there are so many amazing things you want to make sure you do and see and you only have a limited amount of time, However, when you first get here it is likely you will be dealing with jetlag, if you’re on public transportation all the time, that’s going to wear you out. If you’re also walking lots of miles, you’re going to be really tired. And that’s not going to be so enjoyable. Don’t forget that this is also your vacation and you want to have a good time and be relaxed, not exhausted.
Another reason I say not to over plan is you want to make sure you leave time for things that you discover once you arrive. You might be walking around, one day and see a museum that you’d actually like to spend a couple of hours in or a shop that you want to go check out. If you’ve over planned your visit and you have to get from place to place pretty quickly, you won’t have any time to find these little hidden gems that you’ve discovered along the way. In my opinion, those are some of the best parts of London! So give yourself a chance to experience some of these great moments.
Another common mistake is to plan an activity on the first day of your visit. Especially if you arrived on a red-eye flight in economy and a 7 am arrival at Heathrow. This can be a bit rough. It’s better to just explore the first day and play it by ear. If you’re going to be flying internationally across a few time zones and landing early in the morning at the airport, give yourself a break, don’t have anything crazy planned for the day. You will want to do things so that you motivate yourself to stay awake so you can get acclimated to London time, however, don’t plan anything that you would be really upset that you didn’t really enjoy because of your jetlag.
This city can be super overwhelming when you first get here and I think a lot of times when people come to visit, get a little uncomfortable and they stick to things that they know. For example, if they see familiar restaurants or clothing brands, shops or stuff like that that are familiar, they end up only visiting and checking out those things. Instead of exploring beyond these familiar things and really seeing more broadly what London really has to offer.
This can be especially true if you’re going to be in very “touristy” areas like Piccadilly circus, Leicester square, or Trafalgar square. You will want to do your research ahead of time so that you know some really good places to eat, to have a drink or if you want to do any kind of attractions around there.
On that note, if you’re trying to find a good place to eat or to drink in one of these areas, I don’t recommend relying on the trip advisor app. Sometimes it can be helpful and I know it’s easy to go to when you’re in a pinch but I’ve had a look there and there are some really amazing food spots around these areas that don’t even crack the top 20. In addition, there are some places that don’t really look nice at all that are present on the app and are frequented a lot by tourists because just they’re high up on trip advisor. It’s important to know that trip advisor the algorithms can be skewed because they can be easily manipulated.
The point is that you’ll miss out on some amazing hidden gems here if you only stick with trip advisor recommendations. So make sure you do your research, and see if you can get some recommendations from local Londoners who actually know good food spots around the area because they live here.
If you’re visiting London for at least three days These are things that you must do while you’re here. First off start with the London classics. Even if you’re one of those people that want to get more off the beaten path when you’re in London, I think everybody still wants to at least see some of those most famous attractions like the London Eye and Tower Bridge. They are absolutely amazing to see from the outside. If you’re on a budget even just seeing them from the outside is great or of course, you can purchase tickets and go into almost anything that is around the city.
One of my favorite British Traditions is afternoon tea, so I would definitely try to take it while you’re in London. Afternoon tea consists of your choice of hot tea but you’ll also get three tiers of snacks and treats starting with sandwiches, which are usually at the bottom of a tiered tray. Then you’ll get nice hot scones with cream and jam in the middle. And on the top will be a sweet treat.
It’s really fun and also, very filling, so do not eat before or after you have afternoon tea. There are options all around London for getting tea for all types of budgets and there are also lots of themed ones. So if you want to do something a little bit different, then you’ll be able to find something that you love.
If you’re into museums London has tons of them and a great feature of London is that lots of museums have free entrance. If you like modern art, I would recommend trying out the Tate Modern art gallery or if you like artwork, that’s a bit older, there’s also the National Portrait Gallery, which is in Trafalgar Square. People who love history usually end up loving the Churchill War Rooms and there are tons of smaller niche museums like the Photography Gallery.
In addition, London has tons of great markets You’ll definitely want to visit while you’re here. Borough Market, of course, is the most famous one. It’s definitely worth a visit but there’s plenty of other markets as well. A couple of my favorites include Maltby Market, which is located in Bermondsey and also the old Spitalfields market, which is in Spitalfields.
The London skyline is absolutely beautiful, so it definitely recommended to head to one of the city’s many viewpoints so you can see it from above. The most famous Viewpoints in the city include places like the London Eye and of course the Shard which is the tallest viewing point in the EU. However, there are plenty of alternatives. The Tate Modern actually has a free viewing platform on the tenth floor and the sky garden is another beautiful option for a great view of the city. Of course, those two places aren’t as high as the shard but they’re still fantastic and they’re free to visit
People who visit London are always surprised at how green the city is and Londoners are so good at taking advantage of all the green spaces here, even when the weather isn’t perfect. So even if you’re here in the winter and you get a cloudy or rainy day, definitely check out one of the parks. A couple of suggestions are St James’s Park and is not far from Buckingham Palace and first stars parade. There is also the Victoria Tower Gardens, which is what many people don’t take the time to see even though it’s right next to the House of Parliament. It’s a great place to sit and relax and also it has a nice view of the London Eye.
If you want to go shopping while you’re in London and pick up some good souvenirs, then there are plenty of options in the city. If you want to shop local and boutiques, there’s a great alternative souvenir store that I love called We Built This City. It’s a great option or if you want you can go to one of the many famous department stores like Liberty London and Selfridges, you can pick up something special from one of those places. Finally, if you love vintage you’ll want to go to the East End of London where you will find tons of great vintage shops.
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