10 Things to Know Before Visiting London
London, London, London. Often put next to two of the most iconic cities in the world; New York and Paris, but I can’t lie to you, as much as you must see London in your life time simply because of the British city feel – it shouldn’t be at the top of your list.
Sure there is some ‘wow’ factor but not nearly as much as New York and Paris. If you’re not really a royalist nor have any historian interest then London isn’t quite the place for you.
But if you’re interested in seeing the city at least once then there are a few things you should know, and how to handle them.
1. London is NOT all together
They’ll be plenty of travelling involved as many of the landmarks are fairly spaced out and walking (even in the odd bit of sunshine they may receive) isn’t as good as you’d expect and you will get lost, you will.
Therefore always make sure that when booking a hotel it is close to a tube station (unless, you’re rich and staying at the Ritz; then you can have your limo)! Taking a cab or car is not the way to go, getting involved with the other tourists and locals makes up for the British feel and you get to experience the real culture.
Walking is certainly an option and sometimes the only one, so make sure you bring your walking boots as you will need them at some point- your best Louboutin’s just won’t do! Beauty is comfort as far as London is concerned.
2. Where am I going again?
In the tube station you’re not all by yourself; it’s very good when you’re in a struggle and completely lost. Information desks and members of the Tube staff are always on hand to help, whether they want to or not. But you have to keep up with them and keep a tube map handy to refer to (available in all stations).
If you’re planning on visiting a few places in one day a day ticket is the thing for you (around £7.50- go anywhere at any time) or if you are planning to do a lot of travelling on the tube an Oyster card will be very beneficial (just ask at info)! But don’t forget even if you get a single ride ticket you must keep hold of it as you need it to get out!
3. Shopping? Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nick?
Browsing the isles as you open your mouth in owe at the Tiffany diamonds and Cartier watches; the Louis Vuitton bags and Prada purses. The pushing and shoving to make sure you seek the best busy store experience while grabbing a map from the doorway and pretending you know how to read it as you walk aimlessly left and right, hopping on the escalators to what seems like a whole new world.
But you don’t need to shop in the biggest stores to feel like you’ve got the best buys. I can almost guarantee whatever stores you go in you won’t leave empty handed. Westfield shopping mall, Oxford Street and Kensington High Street are all popular shopping destinations and some of the best at that, but don’t forget your more simpler stores alongside the streets.
4. Ah, the weekend - it’s finally here!
If you’re a tourist in London the weekend is not especially the best thing. As soon as Friday flees, Saturday and Sunday commence; the streets line up with busy shoppers both of which are tourists and locals, the tube stations fill and finding a seat on any of the train lines can be none existent.
The London eye and attractions that surround it (Westminster Abbey, Sea life centre and London Dungeons) will leave you queuing for hours waiting for your turn to enter. So if you can, avoid the landmarks at all costs at the weekend; but if you can only make a weekend trip be sure to pre-book everything either direct or through partnership websites (you can thank me later).
You may think that the slightly less iconic places won’t be as busy, but you can think again- London Zoo, Regent’s Park, and Kensington Palace all fill up faster than you think! And be sure to schedule your departing times wisely on the tube, people can get very pushy if they’re in a hurry because remember- city people don’t stop- for anything and getting lost in the crowd or even pick pocketed can be surprisingly easy at peak times.
5. Close to the Equator, right?
What? NO. British weather may draw you in at first- the snow filled streets in winter, the rainy Sunday afternoons and sunny summer months all of which seem magical on the tin- because getting a taste of all seasons in one place can be exhilarating. However just remember- the track history of determining the weather is not always accurate so pack layers for all different occasions; mainly rain. Depending on what season you are going in your clothing options may vary around that however a coat is always advised as ‘just in case’ seems to catch on more in England than anywhere else.
6. Local travellers
If you’re used to the British weather and their calm way of life then you shouldn’t be hit too hard when visiting London. However as much as you expect that the British will have taken over don’t be deceived, they’re a lot of other cultures which inhabit in London. The Italians take over food, very well in fact but be sure to starve yourself of pizza and pasta before going. Simple, classic pub food is great for a night but plan other types of restaurants further in advance.
7. A must do
Want to escape the inclement, grey, dull weather for an afternoon or evening? Then there’s nothing else better to do that go and see a show! You don’t have to be young or old, whatever your age, a show has to be a must do. The acting? Fabulous. The scenery? Fantastic. The prices? Let’s go twice. And the enjoyment? Endless. They offer so many great shows throughout the London theatres, such as Billy Elliot, Mama Mia, Lion King, Les Miserable’s, Matilda, To kill a Mocking Bird and Wicked (to name a few). Take your pick and buy tickets online or at the box office (during busy seasons be sure to pre-book).
8. Pounds, Dollars, Euros - all the same to me!
You may be quite surprised when arriving in London to discover that they are quite an expensive city whether you’re dealing in any currency. If you’re on a budget then booking online for attractions is best and as for restaurants; search up vouchers and the best places to eat for lower rates also your hotel may provide certain offers for you which are always something to look for when booking a hotel also.
9. Picture perfect!
Whenever I go anywhere, one of my all time favourite things to do is go to the zoo! And even though London may lack in more exotic animals and even the simple elephants, they do make up for it in how close you get to the wildlife and animals around you.
Walking through the monkeys; coming face to face with the tigers, stroking the goats; confronting the giraffes and getting splashed on by the penguins. London zoo does not disappoint and if you have a good camera neither will your memories. You won’t even believe the pictures you have taken; not only in the zoo but throughout the city, capturing the outer beauty.
It’s so important when travelling to have the best camera you can, so you can look back on them and feel like you’re still there, smelling the roasted chestnuts, hearing the roar of the wind and capturing the icy cold breeze while walking along the London bridge.
10. And... ‘Bob’s your uncle.’
Who’s my what now? Ah the infamous British slang, in which all too often sounds like they’re insulting you or being sarcastic so you nod and pretend that it’s like you’re first language! If you’re going to get in on the lingo then you’re going to have to be able to use it right, we don’t want you looking like a dimbo. You want to look like the dog’s bollocks because nothing can be better than that, all the locals will be so chuffed that you’re British slang is ace and corking! So even though the weather might be corky, don’t fanny about-learn your stuff and gen it up!
Refresh on your knowledge and be prepared! London is a strange city but it’s somewhere you’ll never forget!
By Laura R Murgatroyd
‘You will never be completely at home again, because park of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and letting yourself explore a place.’
- Tours in the UK
- Volunteer in the UK
- Internships in London
- Learn English in London
- TEFL Courses in London
- Gap Year in the UK