Before we dive in to our visit to Paris on our next post, here are 14 tips to help your trip to London go smoother!
Preload a Visitor Oyster Card
An Oyster Card will save you time and money when it comes to travel related costs that seem to go through your cash. Grab an Oyster Card (which is FREE, with a small refundable deposit) from a Tube Station and preload a given amount onto the card. You can use this card for any mode of public transportation in London simply by tapping it as you enter and exit (except for on buses – only tap on entry otherwise you’ll be charged twice). If you run out of credit, you can easily add-on to the card at any station. When using an Oyster Card, your journey is not only discounted but you’ll also have a maximum daily capped amount that you can spend in one day. This means that after doing 3 or 4 journeys, the rest of the day’s travel will be totally free around the whole of London!
Purchase a London Pass
Pre-purchase a London Pass and you’ll be able to get into 70+ London attractions, with transport included, for a heavily discounted price.
Rent a Santander Bicycle
Located all around London are Santander bicycle docks where you can use their app to enter your credit card details and then take a bike to explore the city. For the first 30 minutes, you will be charged £2 ($2.61). After that 30 minutes is up, return it to any bicycle dock, wait a few minutes and then request another bicycle. This time it will be free, as long as you return it after 30 minutes. You can continue to do this for a whole 24 hours so basically you pay £2 ($2.61) a day as long as you only use the bicycle for up to 30 minutes at a time.
Buy a London Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Pass
If you’re only in London for a day or two, the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tours are fantastic for getting around to all the London attractions you want to see without being limited to a set schedule. For £26 ($33.98), you can purchase a day pass, hopping on and off the bus as much as you want. The buses do 3 different routes and they stop at each of their 70+ attractions every 20 minutes. Also, a number of London walking tours and a Thames River Cruise is included. You may also check out several London landmarks if you hop on the 24-hour bus number 453 from Marylebone Station. You’ll pass Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and The London Eye – where you can hop off and experience London’s Southbank by foot.
Purchase a Power Adapter Before Arriving at the Airport
These types of things always cost more when you buy them at the airport. Either purchase one before you arrive in London or purchase one from a local shop once you’ve arrived. The British power plug is “Type G” and has 3 pins. Voltage is 220-240V. Also, some hotels have a USB port in the hotel rooms or lobby, so you can use your USB cord to charge your devices.
Purchase a Prepaid British SIM Card when you Arrive
Instead of being sucked in to purchasing one of those global SIM cards before you travel, just buy a local prepaid SIM card when you arrive in London. They work out to be cheaper and it’s always easy to find somewhere to add credit. Some of the best providers for cheap SIM cards when it comes to value is Giff Gaff and Three.
Tipping In London Is Not Mandatory
If you want to tip, you can, but they won’t make you feel bad if you don’t. Sometimes a 10% service charge is included in the bill at hotels and restaurants, but they’ll usually tell you if that’s the case. There’s also no need to tip when hailing a cab, though it often makes sense to round up the amount to the nearest pound.
Cars Drive on the Left in the UK
Remember, when crossing the road in London, you need to look right. This also goes for walking – always walk on the left side of the road.
You Must Stand on the Right at Tube Stations
The escalators at the tube stations have standing and walking lanes on them. Always stand on the right if you intend to stand and use the left if you plan on scaling the stairs.
Emergency Phone Number
The emergency number isn’t 911, it’s 999.
Order a Fry Up (A Traditional English Breakfast)
The British love their full English breakfast’s and you can find some of the very best in London. Usually consisting of fried eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, hashbrowns, baked beans, mushrooms, grilled tomato and toast, breakfast is likely to become your favorite meal of the day.
Take Advantage of the Free London Walking Tours
There are FREE walking tours in London. Used in conjunction with the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tours, you can set up some pretty great days of sightseeing. Tours include:
*Royal London & Changing of the Guard
*Harry Potter Tour
*London’s Ghostly Haunts Walk
*Fire, Pestilence & Plague
*Jack The Ripper!
London Museums are Free
For the upkeep of the museums and to show that you are appreciative of the amount of hard work that has gone into creating them for tourists to visit in the first place, it is recommended that you leave a donation as you enter or exit.
Carry a Map
The underground system can be confusing (as with any city), which is why the Tube Map London Underground App is so helpful. The app also calculates where you need to get to and shows you the best route to get there (with thorough instructions) without the need for an internet connection. If you don’t want to use a smartphone, simply carry around one of the free maps that you can usually pick up from your hotel. They normally have a London Underground map on the back.