If you’re planning a trip to London for the first time, you can get the most out of your visit by getting organised and being prepared. But while there are many guidebooks and websites dedicated to visiting London, most of them don’t usually let you in on those secret titbits of information that can help you getting the most out of your trip and stop you from standing out like a sore thumb as a tourist.
To help you out, we’ve compiled this list of London travel tips to keep in mind so you can navigate the city like a local.
1. Public Transport is the Best Way to Get Around
Don’t bother with taxis – they’re very expensive and you’ll just get stuck in traffic. Instead, pick up an Oyster card and use the Tube to get around. It connects all parts of the city and is easy and relatively comfortable to use (although best avoided at rush hour!)
Your Oyster card is also valid for use on London’s bus network and a trip on an iconic double-decker bus is a “must do” experience, as well as being a great way to see the city. London buses don’t accept cash so you’ll need to buy an Oyster card first (they’re available at any Tube station) and add credit as you need it.
London is also a very walkable city and some of its best sights can be seen on a stroll, so don’t just automatically hop on the tube without checking a map. Many stations are located within a few minutes walk of each other. For example, Leicester Square and Covent Garden tube stations are so close, it takes just 37 seconds to travel between them on the train.
2. Most of London’s Museums are Free
London has a reputation as being one of the most expensive cities in the world for visitors, but it is possible to enjoy a trip to London on a tight budget.
In fact, you could happily spend at least a couple of weeks in London without spending anything on activities. London is home to some of the best museums and art galleries in the world and most of them are completely free.
If you’re looking for some more ideas for cheap and free activities, check out our list of the top 10 free things to do in London.
3. The Weather is Unpredictable
Brits have made a national sport out of talking about the weather for good reason. It’s a good idea to take an umbrella with you and bring a few extra layers, even if you’re visiting in summer.
4. Etiquette is Everything
Britain in general, and London specifically, has its own unwritten rules of etiquette, which you must follow if you don’t want to risk receiving some hard stares.
Some of the most important London etiquette rules to remember are that you must stand on the right of escalators (people in a hurry pass on the left and they won’t be happy if you’re blocking their way) and queuing is taken very seriously. Don’t push to the front, as this is considered the height of rudeness.
5. Some of the Best Food in the City is Served up on the Street
London has some of the best cuisine in the world. While it’s definitely worth checking out some of London’s restaurants, sampling street food is not only delicious, but easy on the budget too.
Borough Market is one of the best places to start, with artisan food stalls representing world cuisine from across the globe. Brixton Market, Chinatown, and Camden are other good spots to explore if you’re feeling hungry.
6. London is More than Just the City Centre
If you think London just means Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, think again. London’s various neighbourhoods all have their own culture and vibe and are well worth exploring.
Shoreditch is a hip and trendy area with lots of restaurants and bars; Notting Hill is a favourite of Instagrammers with its attractive pastel buildings and pretty cafes; and Greenwich is a must-visit for history buffs, with some beautiful green spaces and markets to explore.
It’s also worth remembering that you can travel to many places in the UK from London in a very short time (you can get to historic York by train in under 2 hours, for example). If you’re travelling to London from outside the UK, make the most of your trip by planning a day trip or two.