More tips and tricks for travelling to London

Monday, August 10, 2015 Unknown 0 Comments

London: Top Tips for Experiencing London From TripAdvisor


A list of top tips for visitors who want to get more of a "feel" for London than they may get if they follow the tourist trails.

1. Explore London's Lungs.  London has more open space and green space than most major capital cities and the parks vary hugely in flavour. Many are away from the centre but are well worth the journey. Of particular note are Hampstead Heath – a large slice of countryside in a hilly part of the city, with some stunning views, tube at Hampstead; Regent's Park – a large formal park in the Victorian tradition near to Baker Street, with an excellent open-air theatre; Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens – a huge open space right in the centre of the West End; Wimbledon Common – wild open countryside perfect for cycling, next to a picture perfect "village"; and the myriad tree-lined squares of Bloomsbury and Finsbury.

2. Walk!  Londoners moan about the Tube. A lot. It is easy to forget that this is one of the most extensive, most frequent urban rail systems in the world, and easy to forget how convenient it is; for getting from A to B across town, there is no faster way (well, maybe motorbike or cycling is quicker, but that is not reasonable for visitors or very safe!) BUT by using the Tube too much you can miss an awful lot. One of the best things about London is the different flavour of the neighbourhoods and how quickly you can move between areas of very different types – the City and Spitalfields, for example; or Bloomsbury, Mayfair, and Soho. If you do all your travelling undergound, you miss all that. OK, so London is a very big place, but there are a lot of major attractions you can easily walk between and it will open your eyes. Do not be tempted to get off at Covent Garden station to visit Covent Garden! Nearly all the stations within two stops from it are only a ten minute walk away. Last but not least, if you go to visit Camden Town, jump off at Chalk Farm, not Camden Town station; this way you avoid the sardines.

3. Keep off the main drags.  Related to the above recommendation really; the main roads, down which 99% of the traffic and 90% of the pedestrians travel, can be a noisy, dirty mass of chain stores and stalls selling cheap tourist tat. Walk just a couple of streets away and you can see a completely different London. Like the "mews" (back streets formerly for stables) in Kensington and Knightsbridge; the rabbit warren of lanes in Soho, away from Regent and Oxford Streets; the winding medieval lanes of the old City, which are still mostly there; even Westminster has quiet backstreets away from Victoria Street and Whitehall.

4. Understand a little of the history.  London is, and always has been, a trading city and an agglomeration of nationalities and people from all walks of life, and this is what has made it what it is. Understand some of the history of the neighbourhoods – and the people who built them and you'll begin to understand why some of the districts look as they do. Take Notting Hill, for example: In Regency times (early 19th century) this area was developed in an attempt to catch the coat tails of the riches of Kensington across the park, but it never really took off. Throughout the early 20th century, the area declined and the large villas were split into many small flats. In the 50s and 60s, this was the cheapest place to live in London, and was settled by Afro-Caribbean immigrants brought over to the UK for cheap labour after WWII, and they created the Carnival, one of the biggest street parties in the world. Their legacy still lives on, and many still live in the area, but these days you'd need to win a lottery to afford a house in the neighbourhood. It has shot up in popularity, and gentrified and changed in just 25 years into one of the most expensive areas of town.

5. Do not blitzkrieg sights.  Some people come to London and spend all of their time rushing to one site after another without actually seeing anything.  Rather than rushing from Harrod's to Big Ben to Buckingham Palace to the London Eye, trying to fit every tourist sight into your stay, take the time to enjoy London's neighborhoods: Window shop in Old Bond Street, check out the crafts market in Covent Garden, walk along the South Bank. Slow down, relax and enjoy...

6. Do not try too hard to find the "real" London.  As mentioned above, London is a mish-mash. Any attempt to find the "real" London, or "real" Londoners, is probably doomed to failure, especially in a short trip; you will be better off trying to wander, watch and absorb. If you want to go to "Tourist" things, that is cool; so do Londoners. Just enjoy yourself, and try to mix not trying too hard to "do" everything, with an appreciation for the noisy and sometimes frenetic pace of life here.

7. Buy an Oyster Card.  London's transport is pretty expensive, so unless you are going to make one single journey on public transport in London, then you should really be looking to either purchase an Oyster or Travelcard and not pay for single tickets. In this way you're gonna save some money. This is an absolute MUST. You will always get the cheapest available fare for the time of day and your route; you will save lots of time by avoiding the massive queues at ticket offices. And it works on the tube, buses, suburban trains, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) etc. Once you've bought one and loaded it (cash or credit card) there is no time limit on your Oyster credit and it is easy to top up at any station (cash or credit card). Pay-as-you-go Oyster is ideal for visitors; Travelcard is best for residents.

Tips from Travel US

The English writer Samuel Johnson famously said, "You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." More than two centuries have passed since Johnson's era, but his words still ring true. Life in London is invigorating, and travelers find that one visit isn't enough to experience everything this two-millennia-old city has to offer.

Keep in Mind...
You'll need to time your tea
If you want to do high tea in London at the Ritz, the Dorchester, or other posh spots, you need to book your place months in advance.
You'll most likely see rain
A rain jacket, rain boots (or Wellies as they're called in the UK), and an umbrella are useful accessories.
You'll most likely encounter tipsiness
Pub culture thrives in London, so expect to see some inebriety after about 9 p.m.

Here, the antiquated clasps hands with the contemporary. You'll find the historic Tower of London and the avant-garde Tate Modern both considered must-sees. Shakespeare's sonnets are still being uttered by actors who don modern garb. Londoners most certainly still revere the royals, but they also rock out to Coldplay and Lily Allen. And while they still sip tea, they now drink Starbucks, too. A current leader in everything from politics and banking to fashion and music, London's culture compass is always attuned to what's next.

How To Save Money in London
Find the free attractions
Many of London's top things to do, including the National Gallery, Hyde Park and the Portobello Road Market, are absolutely free to enjoy.
Ride the Tube
Taking taxis will add up quickly, so buy a pay-as-you-go Oyster Card and hop on London's Underground system, nicknamed the "Tube."
Dine smart
Corridors like Brick Lane offer fantastic ethnic food for bargain prices; fish-and-chip shops are a cheap standby (not to mention, a cultural must), and takeaway food costs less than dine-in.
London Culture & Customs
The British aren't being rude when they ask to bum a fag in the queue for the loo, but they might be if they ask to snog. To avoid misunderstandings, here is some British slang to add to your repertoire: To snog is to kiss; a fag is a cigarette; the loo is the restroom; bollocks means "that's wrong," queuing means to form a line, and quid is slang for pounds, or money. However, for the most part, Americans find the city accessible because of London's official English language.

Although the language is the same, the exchange rate most definitely isn't. London's official currency is the British pound (sterling). Since the pound to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates, be sure to check what the current exchange rate is before you go. Major credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and shops.

London is one of the fashion capitals of the world, and its residents tend to reflect that, donning if not trendy, classy attire, even for a trip to the local grocery store. If you don't want to stick out as American tourists, leave the fanny packs and visors at home. Practically, pack an umbrella for the rainy days and a scarf or some layers for the chilly ones.

As for tipping, restaurants and cafes will usually add a 10 to 15 percent service charge to the bill. If a service charge is not allotted, it's customary to tip the same (between 10 and 15 percent). If you're drinking at a pub or wine bar, tipping is discretionary. And in a taxicab, tip the driver to the nearest pound or about 10 percent of the cost.

London Dining
London used to be highly criticized for its heavy and uninspired menu items. Fish and chips (fried cod and French fries). Bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes). Mince meat pies. You get the picture. Now, London is hailed as one of the more gourmet cities in the world. And with its melting pot of cultures, it's not difficult to see why. London offers everything from Modern British to Malaysian.

Reviewers recommend checking out Chinatown for dozens of Chinese restaurants. For Indian food, we suggest visiting the curry houses on Brick Lane. If you want a real high-tea experience, book reservations at the Ritz, at Fortnum & Mason, or at the Dorchester—but be sure to dress the part. Chef Gordon Ramsay is a celebrity in London, and a handful of his restaurants Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's, and Murano, are well loved by foodies and critics alike. Each offers a fine-dining experience and serves up Modern British meals. Pub culture is still alive and well, so if you've a hankering for fried fish and salty chips (or French fries), you'll still find them here. And for a quick bite, exchange a few pounds for a kebab, a quick sandwich or some to-go sushi, which can be found in eateries throughout the city.

Tips and tricks for family travel to London


Many of you have asked how our 3-week European Odyssey came together so I’m going to spend a few posts breaking it all down for you. It took a ton of planning, but it all paid off because overall, everything went really smoothly. Heck even Mother Nature blessed us with flawless weather. Let’s get started with tips for the flight out and our first stop, London:Travel to London

1. Take the morning flight to eliminate jet lag. Typically, from here in Chicago anyway, you have the choice of a morning or early evening flight to London Heathrow. In theory the evening flight sounds good because you can sleep and arrive in London fresh and ready to start a new day. Unless you are a bionic plane sleeper, the ability to do this is rare. Even when I manage a few hours of airborne shut-eye, I’m still nodding off the next afternoon. I highly recommend the morning flight, ESPECIALLY if you’re traveling with kids. You basically fly all day, add the time change and you arrive in London in time to go to sleep. Head straight to your hotel, hit the sack, and you’ll be fresh and truly ready to go the next morning. NO JET LAG!

2. Take the Heathrow Express train from the airport to Paddington Station in London. Comfy, cheaper, and more reliable than a taxi. Get these tickets ahead of time to make your trip smoother.

travel Paddington

3. Book your hotel near Paddington Station. We used for all of our hotel reservations throughout Europe. Even though we each dragged a bag or two, the 2-minute walk to our hotel was completely manageable. Note: we only stayed in London a couple of days. If you’re staying longer, there are many other great hotel locations to consider.

travel family big ben

4. Use the tube. London has a great subway system that will take you to all the sites. Buy a pass for unlimited rides all day.windsor castle

5. Get the London Pass for touring. We saw the Tower of London (you must see the crown jewels!), cruised the Thames, saw Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, rode the London Eye and more, all included, with a fast track feature to skip lines.

6. See a show or two in London’s West End. We took the kids to see Phantom of the Opera. The London Pass also gives you theater discounts so take advantage. Buy your tickets well in advance as they can be limited. We bought our tickets before arriving in London.

Anthony Bourdain's London Travel Tips

Tony calls London his “home away from home” and is happy to have the chance to visit, even if it’s only for 24 hours. He spends his trip catching up with celebrity chefs Marco Pierre White and Fergus Henderson, and has just enough time for a few pints of beer and a visit to a “little shop of horrors” in between a series of incredible meals. We’ve collected our favorite tips from the London episode of The Layover -- be sure to check them out before your next trip across the pond.

Misconceptions of London
“Bastion of good manners? Not really. Nah, not the London I know. In fact, how English is London anyway? The national dish, more popular than fish and chips by far, is chicken tikka masala.”

Where to Stay: St. John Hotel
“Newly opened by my friend and spiritual leader, chef Fergus Henderson. The small restaurant downstairs serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service in the same quirky, wonderful, old-school British vein as the mothership St. John Restaurant in Clerkenwell, my favorite restaurant in the world.”

English Food
“Any notion you might have that English food is bad? That’s hopelessly outdated thinking. In fact, London has long been a food capital. Pubs, you know about them. And they are truly as fine and wonderful as they are said to be. People here like to drink, often too much, and sometimes … admittedly … not well. You can understand then, perhaps, why London is one of my favorite cities. Often, a home away from home.”

Where to Eat: Sweetings
“One of the great institutions of what’s called “The City,” meaning London’s financial district. Your waiter is your waiter for life. You wait until he, and only he, has a table. It’s a relationship that outlasts some marriages.”

London’s Pubs
“Socializing in London revolves around pubs, and any time of day is fine. Personally, I prefer late afternoon when they’re quiet.”

If the Bar’s Too Crowded
“Something wonderful about London. When it’s too crowded inside, you can always drink outside.”

Taking a Cab
“Something you should know: never take a minicab. Only black cabs. Black cabs have the meter so you know how much you’re paying. Plus, not only do they know where they’re going but they know alternate ways to get there. Minicabs, they pretty much charge whatever the hell they like, and the likelihood that they know where they’re going is remote in the extreme.”

The Tube
“London’s subway. Older, cleaner, but no more efficient than New York’s. But it still often beats driving, and taxis here are a very expensive proposition.”

Riding the Tube
“Do use good manners as some citizens of London are likely to take offense at being jostled or disrespected, and would love nothing more than to put the boot into your skull. Also avoid the Tube at all costs during rush hour. It is a [expletive] nightmare.”

When to Take the Tube
“Travel cards for the day are more expensive in the morning because Londoners don’t want tourists on the subway when they’re rushing to work. It clogs them up. After 9 a.m. they get cheaper.”

Navigating the Tube
“Everyone will tell you to get an Oyster card, but get a travel card. A day travel card lasts 24 hours and you can go anywhere. But please, move quickly, do not bring a backpack on a rush-hour train. Always stand up for pregnant ladies … whether it was you that put the bun in the oven or not. Then the Tube might, just might, be your friend.”

Another Way to Get Around
“Traffic can be really, really bad here, so a quicker, more effective way to see things might well be the relatively touristy boat ride.”

Leicester Square
“Frankly… a freaking slaughterhouse.”

Bond Street
“Where refined gentlemen, such as … well … not me, buy their shoes and shirts and things.”

Handmade shoes
“Handmade shoes are expensive. They are, therefore, expected to last in good condition for a lifetime. Once they have an impression of your feet, they keep it forever. And you can, presumably, continue ordering shoes to your exact fit for the remainder of your years … wherever you are.”

The 2 Sides of Soho
“Soho during the day bears no resemblance to what it becomes at night. At night it can be both fun and, unfortunately, douche-apocalypse. You never know. If you stay at a hotel on Frith Street, you want a back room, let’s just put it that way. It’s loud.”

The London Eye
“It’s the most popular tourist attraction. Why? I have no idea.”

Borough Market
“Artisanal bakers, dedicated pork producers … every variety of delicious English food to stuff in your gob. Surrounding the market are some of the best specialty food shops in the country, like the legendary Neal’s Yard Dairy, where everybody who loves cheese gets their cheese. And the English, by the way, make some of the best cheeses in the world.”

The Price of London
“You should know that it’s extremely expensive here. You get into a cab and it’s basically going to cost you about $30 just to get in. A beer? About, what, $7 or $8? It’s good beer.”