This post was most recently updated on March 15th, 2019
So, you’re going (or thinking of going) to London!
Right now, you might be a bit overwhelmed with all the preparations but fret not, this guide will give you a couple tips that may come in handy on your trip to London.
1. Pack Appropriately
The things you pack for your trip to London has EVERYTHING to do with the temperamental weather.
British fashion is predominantly revolving around the country’s highly unpredictable weather. But, here’s the rule of thumb: never trust the weather forecasts. When they say it’s going to be warm and sunny all week, prepare for rain and cold anyway.
One item that you can confidently bring is a scarf because it is exceptionally versatile. When it’s sunny, you can use it to protect yourself from the sun or when it’s cold, it will keep you warm.
2. Fly into low-cost airports
One of the oldest tricks in the book to save money when booking flights is to fly into an alternative airport.
Don’t rule out the possibility of landing in slightly further away from the city center because even with the added cost of the train or bus, it might work out a lot cheaper than flying into major airports.
Use the “nearby airport” option available on most booking sites such as Skyscanner and Expedia to see the fare difference to fly into various airports.
Most budget airlines offer low-cost flights to alternative airports such as Gatwick and Stansted with cheaper landing fees.
3. Use an Oyster Card
The Oyster Card is a pay-as-you-go electronic smartcard which can be used to pay for all public transportation in London. If you plan to stay in London for a couple of days, then this is your cheapest option to travel in and around the city.
Fares vary depending on the type of transport you use, the zone(s) you travel in, the time and day you travel. Just load your Oyster Card and your good to go.
You can buy it before you leave and get it delivered to your home address so you’ll be ready as soon as you arrive in London.
4. Learn the language
Sure you speak English but the question is, is it British? They have tons of words that means completely different with what you might have known. If you’re an Aussie, you might give them a laugh when ask to borrow a thong.
Also, don’t get into argument when they say it’s autumn season during your visit but you actually insist that it’s fall. It pays to read and learn a few words and phrases to be aware of the British terminologies.
5. Walk between tube stops
Walking is life in London. Besides, you will see much more of the city when you walk along its multitude of streets.
Soon you’ll realize that places are a lot closer than they seem and you never know what you might stumble upon just wandering the streets.
For example, from Leicester Square to Covent Garden, the walk will take less than 3 minutes, which is a lot faster that going underground on the tube and most of all, it’s free! You’ll get yourself some exercise, too.
6. Drive on the left
Personally, I would not advice for you to drive in London because the transport system is sufficient enough to visit the top attractions.
But, should you want to drive to visit the outskirts of the city or avoid the rush hour in the tube or bus, you can navigate the streets with a little insider knowledge: they drive on the left. Not only that, they use roundabouts where traffic continually flows around a center island.
You won’t run into trouble as long as you remember that traffic in roundabouts always has the right-of-way, while entering vehicles yield.
7. Take an umbrella
London weather is notoriously unpredictable. As the locals would say, it isn’t London if it isn’t raining. But, people are genuinely delighted when the sun is out. Londoners get used to carrying both an umbrella and sunglasses to be prepared for rain and sunshine.
Save shopping for rain gears in London by bringing your own collapsible umbrella or raincoat. At the very least, check the weather forecast on the BBC before you leave your hotel room every day. If it starts raining cats and dogs, you can also duck into a shop, café or museum and get out of the rain.
8. Museums and art galleries are FREE
The best things in life are free indeed. The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum, The British Museum and many more are free for anyone to visit.
You easily spend all your days in London by visiting tons of popular attractions around the city.
Spend a day drifting through the many historical artefacts and enjoy the rich heritage the city has to offer. Of course, donations are most welcome, but in no way mandatory.
9. Buy your theatre tickets on the day
If you are looking for classic entertainment, London’s West End Shows are the best way to go.
Pay as much as half of the ticket price when you buy on the day or even a few hours before show time. Just head over to Soho or Picadilly Circus area and pick which show you want to see. There are tons of registered, reliable ticketing agents that can offer you a good price for unsold seats.
This is one of those times where “late is better than early”. Contrary to flight sales, the closer to the show time, the cheaper the tickets are. You can even grab highly discounted front or VIP seats for a fraction of the price!
10. Watch out for 12.5% service charge
Most restaurants and bars in London add on a 12.5% service charge to your final bill, especially in the higher end or touristic areas. Although, this charge is optional but it’s expected to be paid unless you had the worst service. When ordering food from restaurants or drinks from bars, always consider 12.5% on top of your order to avoid embarrassment especially when you are on a tight budget.
And Bob’s your Uncle! Or rather, there you have it!
With tons of amazing places to visit, a prospective trip to London can be seriously overwhelming. But with these tips, I hope you will have a more enjoyable and convenient trip.