Visiting London for the first time can be a daunting experience, particularly if you aren’t all that familiar with city travelling. That said, London is also an amazing place which is full of history, culture and heritage; the perfect place to head if you want to experience a little bit of everything. Whether you like your city breaks to be orientated around relaxing and pampering or you like to keep active, there is no limit to what you can get up to whilst in the city.
As with most cities, unless you have been before or you have insider knowledge, it can be all too easy to fall into the typical tourist pitfalls which often end up costing you more money than they needed to and sometimes time as well. To help you avoid being faced with exactly that sort of situation, we have gathered some important tips to bear in mind when you are visiting London, which might not otherwise have occurred to you:-
London is very walkable…
A lot of emphasis (especially in first time visitor guides) is put on the public transport network in London but actually you might be surprised to learn that it is entirely possible to walk around much of Central London without ever needing to board a bus or a tube train. Don’t let the complex tube maps confuse you; they are not to scale and distances which might seem great can really be pretty achievable on foot. Not to mention you get to see all of London as you wander around, rather than only getting snapshots depending on which tube stations you enter and leave from. There are lots of maps and tourist information pillars placed all over the city and if you get lost you will find that Londoners are more than willing to help (but more on that later)
…but is more than just zone one and two
That said, many tourists make the mistake of focusing only on zone one and two, or the very heart of London when they come to visit when in fact there are plenty of wonderful attractions and landmarks located outside of this area. They are usually a whole lot quieter too. The London Wetland Centre, Eltham Palace, Wimbledon, Syon Park and Greenwich are all a little further afield but all well worth a visit. If you have booked accommodation near Hyde Park London Paddington then you will need to plan out your transport for the day but the journey will definitely be rewarded.
Oyster Cards are a must…
If you plan on using public transport at all during your visit to the city then it makes the most financial sense to purchase a pre-paid Oyster card. You can use the Oyster card on buses (which don’t accept cash as payment) or on the tube as well as some of the city’s overground rail services as well and you simply swipe your card. Travel fees are capped on an Oyster card and you will generally be offered the best fare for each journey you make.
…but beware the tube!
The majority of London’s commuters use the tube so if you plan on travelling before 9.30am or between 5-7pm then you might want to avoid the tube altogether unless you know what you are doing. Commuters generally have very little patience for people milling around looking at maps or standing on the wrong side of the escalator and you will also find trains to be extremely crowded during main commuting hours as well. In this case it might be better to stick to getting from the Grand Park London Hyde Park Hotel to your chosen destination on foot or by catching a Hackney cab (which may prove cheap if you are travelling in a larger group). Be aware that only Hackney cabs can lawfully pick passengers up from the street; don’t just flag down any passing taxi as you will often end up paying far more than you would have otherwise. If in doubt, ask the concierge at your hotel to call a licensed taxi for you.
The theatre is world class…
London’s West End offers some of the best theatre performances in the world and any trip to London would be well complemented with a visit to one of the city’s top theatres. You can see classic theatre, musicals, comedy performances as well as a whole host of other shows. Alongside this there are also a number of fringe theatres, particularly in Soho, which offer more alternative and risqué productions if that is more your thing.
…but know where to buy your tickets!
Buying theatre tickets can prove expensive, particularly if you leave it to the last minute. Unless you know where to go of course. There is a designated discount ticket booth located in Leicester Square known as TKTS which often has great discounts on ticket prices or alternatively you could try the box office of the theatre directly. They often will be selling returned tickets or day seats at a significantly reduced cost.
Leicester Square in London
The international cuisine is a real must…
London has been home to many different cultures for hundreds of years; as a city built on trade it was always going to be so, and this means that there are literally endless choices when it comes to fine international cuisine. You can find everything from traditional British fare to exotic Caribbean dishes and practically everything else in between.
…but avoid tourist spots
To avoid paying through the nose for your food (and London can be a very expensive city to dine out in) you need to head off the beaten track. You could head to one of London’s markets instead to purchase food from a street vendor, or if you prefer somewhere to sit down then try to avoid anywhere which is bustling with visitors and tourists. Simply walking two or three streets away could see you discovering a very reasonably priced establishment, with quality food to boot.