London is a vibrant city, and a must-see on any European adventure. It is the perfect location for both a history buff, and a foodie. But there are some differences to this magnificent city that you must know before you land.
Check the Weather
The weather in London can be temperamental. When preparing to pack, make sure to check the weather days, not months before packing. Even in the summer, you may find yourself needing a warm coat. And in the cold months, you may find that a t-shirt would have been a better suit than your turtle neck.
Typically, January is the coldest at about 5º C (40ºF), while July is the hottest at 21ºC (70ºF).
But, when I was last there in July, it reached 36ºC (97ºF)!
Get a Visitor Oyster Card
An Oyster Card is used at any mode of public transportation in London. You simply tap the card on a yellow card reader every time you enter and exit a metro station, or once when entering a bus.
The benefits of purchasing your Visitor Oyster Card: discounted fares, discounts are at certain restaurants and venues, and that you can request a daily cap (which means as much travel as you’d like in a single day with a capped cost).
You can pre-order a Visitor Oyster Card at £5 (plus postage), add prepaid credit, and have it shipped to you before leaving home. You can use it straight from the airport! It is much cheaper than buying a single paper ticket or Day Travel-card.
Public transportation can be daunting. Yes, you have your Visitor Oyster Card, but how do you actually get to where you need to go?
This app will help you navigate the public transpiration system with easy. It provides real-time departures and disruption updates. And best yet, it can be used off-line (international data plans can be expensive).
Purchase a London Pass
While London offers free entry to some of its museums, the most popular attractions come at a cost.
The London Pass will allow you to visit the popular attractions in London all at one fee. The London Pass allows entry into 70+ attractions. Spend the day gazing up at the buildings from the Hop on Hop off Bus Tour, and strolling through St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Westminster Abbey. The cost of admission for these three attractions alone surpasses the cost of an adult day pass.
This Pass can also be pre-order. From the moment you land, you’ll be ready to begin your journey!
Splurge on Accommodations
London is a big city. While staying on the outskirts of the city may save you money on accommodations. Your commute will make up the difference.
Staying in a centrally located hotel or Airbnb, will put you closer to the main attractions.
And with your London Pass (access to the Hop on Hop off bus tour) and pre-loaded Visitors Oyster Card, you will pay very little to get where you want to be.
Not to Rent/Hire a Vehicle
For one, cars drive on the left in London. Though it may be an experiences as an American to take on this feat, I do not recommend it. London traffic is comparable to New York City. Imagine trying to cut three lanes of traffic to get to a parking spot with a high fee on the opposite side of the road. Vacations aren’t meant for that kind of stress.
Stay central, use public transportation, or walk. It will cost you less in the long run.
Fly into the Smaller Airport
Heathrow airport is a sight to see. Beautiful, but just an airport.
Gatwick on the other hand is less grand. But usually cheaper to fly into. And cheaper to get out of.
Check the pricing for both airports, and keep in mine Gatwick offers an express train ticket into London with a 2for1 offer (round trip, for the price of a one way). Heathrow does not.
Supermarkets are the Best Places to Eat in London
One, you can get pre-made, hot food at the cost of a McDonald’s happy meal.
Two, London is known for comfort food (or pub food), so take on a light lunch here.
Three, you can easily turn this quick meal into a picnic in the park.
While tipping in London is appreciated, it is not always appropriate.
When eating out: it is customary to leave 10-15% of the bill. But sometimes the restaurants apply a service charge onto of your total without telling you. So always look at your bill.
When drinking out: it is not common to tip at a bar or pub.
When riding in a taxi: it is polite, but most just round to the nearest pound.
When staying at a hotel: leave a tip at your own discretion.
There is more to the UK than London
Though there are tons of attractions within the city lines.
There are also plenty a train ride away.
Plan ahead. Scope out the best day to take a train to Salisbury and the bus to Stonehenge.
Or to Windsor, to see it’s famous Windsor Castle.
And an extra tidbit, for good measure.
- “Whats the number for 911?” – Little Rascals
Well, in the UK, it isn’t 911. Or 000. It’s 999!