I often get questions from friends outside London about things they should know before visiting the big smoke. Its difficult because I forget myself after being here for so long, so I thought I would compile a list over my personal best tips. Easy for me to look back on, and easy for you! This one is for you London newbies out there as well as you well-travelled globetrotters. Maybe you’ll learn something new!
- Crossing the road– They drive on the wrong side of the road on this island, which is fine unless you wanna get run over. But if you don’t, just look down at a crossing and it will say “<- LOOK LEFT or LOOK RIGHT ->”. (with an arrow in case you struggle with your left and rights)
- Pronunciation– Learn how to pronounce the places you’re going – it’s Leicester Square, pronounced Lester Square. If in doubt, Google it.
- Tipping– Tipping isnt mandatory in the UK but sometimes in London, specially at fancy restaurants or if you have a large party the final bill will often include a service charge. If it does you don’t need to add tip. If it doesn’t, leave some where between 10-12%. So remember, check for service charge on your food bill
- Citymapper– Before you come to London download the app Citymapper. I dont know anybody in London who doesn’t have this installed on their phone. It shows your the quickest routes to get from A to B. But it also shows you lots of alternative routes, prices, how long the different routes will take and which of them are rain safe! Remember everything in London takes a lot more time than you think so Citymapper could save you lots of time.
- Currency– You have your pence (referred to as ‘p’) and pound (referred to as ‘quid’). There are 1-pence, 2-pence, 5-pence, 10-pence, 20-pence, 50-pence, 1-pound and 2-pound coins. £5 notes, £10 notes, £20 notes and £50 notes. I’m not sure if there is higher than £50 notes… I’ve never seen any!
- Oyster card– Get yourself an Oyster card – You can order a visitor oyster but it must be ordered ahead of time. It has a daily cap of £6.40, which is cheaper then the regular pay-as-you-go oyster cap. You top it up with credit as you use it and when you use public transport you tap it on the yellow reader. If you’re staying for 7 days, I recommend getting a 7-day travel card. It could save you money in the long run and time not having to constantly top it up. Remember to return your oyster when you leave, and get £5 back!
- The Tube– On the underground escalators – STAND ON THE RIGHT,
walk on the left. Now repeat this to yourself several times.
- Stand in line– Don’t mess with the English queue system. No cuts!
- Weather– Bring cloths for all types of weather. Prepare to layer, London weather is very unpredictable and it can be boiling one day, freezing the next.
- Take the bus– Avoid the tube during rush hours, which are during 6am-9am and 4pm-7pm. You can use your oyster on the bus but you only need to tap the yellow reader when you get on the bus. I really recommend taking the bus over the tube. It’s a wonderful way to experience the city, especially if you are able to get the front seat on the top floor.
- Exchange– Apparently the best rate is at the post office if you need to change your currency
- Cabs –I know they look fun and fancy but avoid jumping into black cabs, they cost a fortune, and prices go up during rush hour + most of them is cash only. Use UBER instead, it’s an app for your phone, which lets you pay with card or with PayPal. You can use the code m1g1h for £10 off your first ride!
- Learn the Lingo – To avoid confusion learn some of the lingo.
Chips = Fries
Crisps = Chips
Pants = Underwear
Restroom = toilet
- Outlets/plug sockets – trying to charge your electrical device but nothing is happening? English outlets have switches next to them. Flip the switch and off you go.