Everything you’ll ever need to know for planning your trip to London, with helpful London travel tips and trick you’ll need during your visit.
Whether it’s your first time in London or your hundredth, this blog has you covered on exploring the city in the most memorable and cost-effective way possible.
These top travel tips for London covers all that you need to know for the trip of a lifetime, ticking off major landmarks as you go along.
The United Kingdom received close to 38 million visits from foreigners in 2018, of which London received just over 19 million — mind-blowing right!
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that London ranked in the top three most-visited cities in the world.
Here are London travel advice to know before your visit to London and help you plan your trip to London.
London Travel Tips – Best Time To Visit London
London’s climate is temperate all year round, and the city enjoys mild summers and cold winters. Many people joke about the high number of rainy days, but this adds to the romantic and magical character of the city.
However, if you want to avoid getting drenched while exploring the city, then the best time to visit London is during spring which runs from March to May.
During this time, the temperatures are mild, and the trees begin to bloom. The great weather continues into the summer ( June – August), but this is also the peak tourist season, and the prices get higher. Read My Guide Best Time To Visit London.
Tips for Travelling to London for the First Time
There are a few London travel tips that will make your life a lot easier and more convenient once you’ve landed in the city.
Visa for London
With Brexit updates still regularly in the news, the requirements for a United Kingdom visa may have travellers a bit concerned.
There are no visa requirements for travellers visiting from the United States for up to six months.
However, when visiting without a U.S. passport, a visa is required. Visa-free travel is still available for those holding a Swiss passport and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals.
Check if you need this visa if you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
Essential Information For Visiting London
Once you’ve arrived in London, there may be a few mental checkpoints that you need to adjust to get around effectively.
Firstly, London fits within the Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT) time zone, so you may need to update your watches and other time-telling devices. Also, the time in London is told using the 24-hour military time method. This means that you could look at a clock and see it reading “23:22” instead of “11:22”.
The United Kingdom officially uses the metric system and measures distances using meters, and weight using kilograms. However, the imperial system sneaks in now and then so don’t be surprised if you see road signs in miles.
Speaking of which, if you come from a country where the cars drive on the right, make sure that you check the roads extra carefully before crossing. In London, the cars drive on the left-hand side of the road and approach from the opposite direction.
When budgeting for your time in the United Kingdom, be prepared to spend a little bit more than in your hometown. The British Pound (£) is one of the top five strongest currencies in the world, and the cost of living in London is a reflection of this.
For example, an average pint of beer in London will cost approximately £5.19, which is almost double the cost of other places in the UK. You should also budget for the 12.5% tipping fee (service charge) that is added to the bill by many restaurants.
Helpful London Travel Tips
Once you’ve booked your accommodation, mapped out your itinerary and touched down on London soil, you’ll have to find your way around. Here are a few additional travel tips for travelling to London.
Make Use Of The Internet
There are various options to use the internet when visiting the city. You can buy a prepaid sim card with roughly 2GB of data for as little as £10 from the airport, small kiosks and vending machines throughout the city.
Another option is to get a SKYROAM or other portable WiFi device which allows you to have internet access at all times.
With the internet in hand, you can go online to confirm the opening hours of various places before visiting and navigate your way around the city with an online map. Speaking of which, a map of London is a useful tool to help guide your time in the city.
Handy tip: Always check the London transport website for planned works on weekends. This will prevent long, inconvenient delays in your travel plans.
Best Apps To Download When Visiting London
Now that you have easy access to the internet, you can use it to take advantage of various London travel apps. If space on your phone allows, the following apps can be an asset in refining your travels:
- AccessAble app — to help plan your route and explore attractions, venues and areas
- Citymapper London – simplifies public transport in London with up-to-date information
- Santander Cycles – will allow you to unlock the public bikes and cycle around the city
- Velocity – gives you access to London’s fine dining options, allowing you to make reservations
- Detour – offers off-the-beaten-track audio tours of the city
Safety In London
London is a relatively safe city to visit. Violent crime is rare, but they do happen. However, your most significant risk is opportunistic petty theft. To combat this risk, remain vigilant at all times, especially in busier, more crowded areas.
In the tragic event of a firearm or weapon attack, there are specific actions to take. If you want to be extra prepared before arriving, you can read about these emergency processes beforehand.
Staying in Contact in London
Get a UK Sim Card
Depending on how long you’ll be staying in London, you may choose to get a British sim card. Or perhaps you meet someone special on a night out and decide to exchange numbers. The country dialling code is +44, so make sure that you add these digits if you want your messages to go through. BEST PREPAID UK SIM CARDS FOR TOURISTS
Get UK Adaptor
To keep your electronics charged so that you can remain online, make sure that you pack the correct plug for charging your appliances. UK appliances are all fitted with the three-pin plug. The average UK voltage is 230v, and power plugs and sockets are ‘G’ type. If in doubt, you can always opt for an EU/UK adaptor.
READ MY GUIDE ON UK SIM CARDS FOR TOURISTS
How To Get Around London
One thing that you don’t have to worry about when you travel to London is how you’ll get around. The historical city has a variety of different public transport systems that are both affordable and convenient.
Zones in london
One of the best travel tips for London, England that I can share is to familiarise yourself with the different zones in the city.
The city is divided into nine ring zones. Central London is Zone 1, and home to many of the tourist attractions, and the zones expand outwards from there.
The transport network expands from zones 1-6. The zone that each area lies inside will determine the route and ticket price for the tube/underground/overground (but not buses). The further out you go from the centre, the more expensive the ticket prices are.
You can see the zones and stations that are within them in the tube map below.
The price ceiling, or daily price cap, of an Oyster card, is:
- Zones 1-2 – £7.20
- Zones 1-3 – £8.50
- Zones 1-4 – £10.40
- Zones 1-5 – £12.30
- Zones 1-6 – £13.20
Travelling outside of peak hours (between 6:30 – 9:30 am and 4-7 pm) is more affordable and a great way to save money.
Getting from london airports to central london
London has six major airports, namely London City, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Stansted and Southend.
The quickest way to get from Heathrow Airport to Central London is on the Heathrow Express. These non-stop trains run to Paddington station every quarter of an hour.
The trip is a short 15 minutes and can cost up to a whopping £25 for a single journey any time of the day. From Heathrow Airport, the first train leaves at 05:12, and the last train is at 23:48.
Gatwick, the second largest airport in London, is located in the South.
To get to the centre quick and easy, you can take the Gatwick Express which will get you to London Victoria Station within 30 minutes non-stop.
Trains run every 15 minutes from 5:00 am to 00:30 am, and a one-way ticket will cost you £19.90 at the station.
London City Airport
If you arrive via London City Airport, then the best way to get to central London is on the DLR train which runs every 15 minutes from 5:30 am until midnight.
The trip takes approximately 22 minutes and costs around £4. This is one of the cheapest and closest airports to Central London, however, its one of the smallest airport and is mainly used for business travel to Europe and specialised flights to New York.
One of the best travel tips for flying to London is to book your train ticket in advance. By doing so, you can save yourself a lot of money.
For example, booking your Heathrow Express ticket 90 days in advance means that your ticket will only cost around £5.5, which is a bargain.
The trains are the cheapest ways to get from the London airports to central London, however, if you prefer private transport, you can catch a taxi for approximately £34+, and it will take a few minutes longer.
Stansted Airport mainly received low-cost airlines from Europe and is about 70km north of Central London.
London Southend Airport
The smallest of the airports in terms of passengers is London Southend Airport. Only a few airlines use this airport, and mostly from Europe as well.
Luton Airport is 50km north-west of London Central, and may also be your entry point if you’re coming from Europe.
If you’re staying in that direction from the centre of the city, and you have the option, it might save you some travel time.
READ MY GUIDE ON UK SIM CARDS FOR TOURISTS
London Public Transport
Once you’re in London, all that you’ll need is a London tube map and an Oyster card. This card makes travelling in London easier, more efficient and significantly cheaper than paying in cash. Currently, most London public transport is contactless — its the future.
Get an oyster card
Oyster cards ensure that you get the best prices when travelling around the city. You can buy your card online before you arrive in London, at one of the TFL Visitor Centres, stations or Oyster ticket shops. These cards will give you quick and easy access to the tube, buses, the river bus, London Overground and most National Rail services.
An alternative is using your contactless debit card which works the same as an Oyster card but has weekly capping on fares. In general, these cards are more expensive unless you plan on making three or more journeys for six days or more.
So, which card to choose? As a foreigner visiting the UK, you can avoid hefty foreign exchange fees by using an Oyster card. If you plan on staying five days or more, then you can save a lot of money by using the Oyster card which allows you to make several journeys a day.
If crowded public transportation is not your cup of tea, then you can also choose private transport to get around. Uber is readily available in the city, and you can take advantage of Uber share/pool to save a couple of pounds.
There are also taxis waiting to take you where you need to go, but they are significantly pricier than public transport.
Another great, affordable way to travel around London is to use your trusty feet — yes, those two things god gave you for free ;). The city is big, but there’s a lot to see, especially in the tourist zones. Walking from one attraction to the next is a fun and engaging way to see the city and discover hidden gems along the way.
London Sightseeing bus tours
The original London hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus gives you unlimited access for your choice of 24, 48 or 72 hours to see as many of the capital’s attractions as you can.
There are six different bus routes that take travellers from one hotspot to the next. These buses offer an easy and care-free way of discovering the history, culture and layout of the city.
Make sure that you book your London hop-on hop-off bus in advance.
If you want the same experience, without the cost, then you can also use the local London self-guided bus tour. Full-day access to the bus will debit £10 off of your Oyster card.
Popular routes include:
- Bus route 11 which goes from Fulham Broadway to Liverpool Street. A few spots that you’ll see on Bus 11 are luxurious King’s Road in Chelsea, chic streets of Belgravia, Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in quick succession.
- Bus route 24 which goes from Pimlico to Hampstead Heath. Passes by Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street and Trafalgar Square, and
- Bus route 453 which runs from Deptford Bridge and Marylebone stations. Passes by Westminster, Whitehall, Regent Street, Oxford Street, Regent Park and Bakerloo Station.
Top Attractions In London
What you can’t miss in London
Things to do in London
There are so many amazing things to do in London that you can easily get wrapped up in its beauty and history. To help you get started, here are some of the unmissable attractions and activities.
London must-do activities
There are several activities that you have to do when visiting London.
- Big Ben – an iconic structure in London
- Coca-Cola London Eye – for an a fantastic bird’s eye view of the city
- The Tower of London – the Medieval castle that houses the crown jewels and was a sixth for some major beheadings
- Tower Bridge – an iconic, Victorian structure
- Buckingham Palace – home to the British Queen and staterooms
Things to book in advance for london
If I can share one of the best attraction-focused travel tips for going to London, it’s to make sure that you book in advance for main sights.
Popular attractions such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral can get very busy. A London Pass will give you access to these sights, and others, at a discounted rate.
If you research London budget travel tips, you’ll find a long list of free activities to do in London. In addition to saving some bucks by enjoying free activities, I’d also suggest that you avoid touring during busy times. For example, visit Oxford Street during a weekday is far better than doing so on the weekend.
Free viewpoints in london
Some of the best free viewpoints in London include Primrose Hill, Parliament Hill, the Royal Observatory Greenwich and Alexandra Palace.
There are also several free museums that share memorable glimpses into the history, art and culture of the city. Museums such as the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Natural History Museum are all free to visit.
Visit a london park
Finally, if you want to kick back and relax after a day of exploring the beautiful city, then you can do so in one of the many free parks. Popular favourites are St James’s Park, Hyde Park and Richmond Park.
For a detailed list on the top things to do in London read my ultimate London Bucket list guide.
Unusual things to do in London activities
If you’re looking for some experiences to enjoy off the tourist beaten track, then London will not leave you disappointed.
Here are a few to get you started:
- East London Street art walking tour
- Brick Lane Market
- Royal Botanical Kew Gardens
- Hampstead Heath pond
- Emirates Air Line cable car
Activities to do as a solo traveller in london
All of these suggested activities are great to be done in a group, or as a solo traveller. However, if you want to meet some friends along the, way then you can join one of the free city tours or strike up a conversation with locals.
What Are You
Where to Stay in London
The most popular areas to stay in London are in the inner borough, which is home to many tourist attractions. This will ensure that you remain in the middle of the action.
The outer-borough typically has more affordable accommodation prices, but where it saves you money, it costs you in time and can take up to an hour to reach central London.
One of the top travel tips for London is to stay as central as you can without breaking the bank. Here are three of the most vibrant and culturally rich areas to choose from in the inner borough.
How can I help you?
The beautiful area of Covent Garden has a reputation as the theatre district and is home to many markets, shops, quirky tourist attractions and amazing brunch spots. Located in London’s West End, the entertainment hub promises hours of entertainment — both inside the theatres and outside on the cobblestone streets.
If you are planning on staying in this area of the city, then here are 24 amazing things to do in Covent Garden.
KENSINGTON AND CHELSEA
These two areas go hand-in-hand and are the top choices to stay for those interested in British history and the royal family. The area is home to London’s Quarter Museum, The Victoria & Albert Museum (my favourite), The Science Museum and the Natural History Museum is very close to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
If you’re looking to stay in a vibrant, trendy area, then Soho is the place to be. You could spend an entire day dedicated to exploring the things to do in Soho. The popular area pulses with nightlife, offering options for live entertainment and is one of the most risqué areas in the city.
Popular attractions nearby Soho include Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.
Best Places to Eat in London
Regardless of how many times you’ve visited the city, you can spend hours discovering the amazing local spots to eat.
London food markets
London may be a historical city, but its food is revolutionary. One of the best ways to experience the foodie culture is by visiting one of the many vibrant food markets in London.
Some of the best markets include:
- London Borough Market – which first opened in the year 1014 and has been popular ever since,
- Camden Market – which is also home to countless aspiring, busking musicians,
- Brockley Market – a hot spot for locals and great market off the beaten path. I love this market because I live in Brockley and this is my local market. Plus the food and produces are spectacular, and the vendors are all locals. So, I’m a bit basis about this one.
- Spitalfields Market – Is the one stop destination for food, fashion, art, and events in East London.
Grab and go food
While there are many great restaurants and cafes, there are also plenty of chain restaurants that are stocked with tasty and nutritious food for you to grab and go. Most of them are kitted out with tables so that you can also choose to sit and enjoy your meal.
If you’re touring the city and looking for a spot to grab a healthy and nutritious snack (or meal) then keep your eyes peeled for:
3 Inexpensive places to eat in London
- Pret A Manger – great for nutritious protein bowls, sandwiches and organic coffee,
- Leon – great for natural on the go breakfasts and lunch boxes.
- Joe & the Juice – great for their freshly pressed juices, shots and mouthwatering Tunacado (a tuna and avocado goodness).
A significant aspect of London is how ancient British culture blends with a variety of different ethnicities. This makes for a very interesting and varied choice of cuisines to enjoy.
There’s a very strong Indian presence in London, and it would be a sin not to enjoy some curry. A top Indian curry restaurant to visit for a casual dining experience is Bombay Bustle in Mayfair.
Other casual restaurants that promise a delectable dining experience include the Philipino Romulo Café in West Kensington. Another top suggestion is CookDaily in Hackney, which serves incredible vegan food.
Other Indian restaurants to try while visiting London is Dishoom a popular chain located throughout London and Darjeeling Express a family-owned eatery with all-female team in Kingly Court, Carnaby Street.
Darjeeling Express was named by the Evening Standard as one of the 15 best London restaurants of 2015. If you eat here you’ll be eating at one of London’s best restaurant.
One of the best travel tips for London, UK, is to look out for the service charges on your bills. Some places add these charges in advance.
Fine Dining in London
If you want to treat yourself, then you’ll be pleased to know that there is no short supply of excellent fine dining restaurants in London.
Some of the most popular fine dining restaurants in London include Michelin Star ‘Marcus’ in Knightsbridge and the Ritz Restaurant located in the heart of Piccadilly.
If an entire meal is a bit out of budget, but you still want to dress up and enjoy a bit of luxury, then you can indulge in afternoon tea and scones at Sketch in Mayfair.
I’ve had the afternoon at Sketch and think it lives up to the hype, and each tea room is beautiful and different. You will not only be having afternoon tea but also a dining experience of the highest calibre.
Keep in mind when planning on enjoying fancier or posh restaurants, that you make a reservation in advance.
Best London Tours!
There are tons of walking tours to be had in London from historical walking tours, the best London walking tour for your interest and some excellent free walking tours, which are a great way to see the city. These guided tours offer a wealth of knowledge for someone wanting to learn more about London, England or just the UK in general.
You will not be bored on these tours trust me, I’ve been on a few and even thought I went to school in the UK and live in London. I still learnt a lot.
Suggested London Trip Itineraries
With so much to do and see in London. I’ve put together a few itineraries to help you fit in the most important activities, depending on how long you visit.
One Day in london
To see the best of London in a day, I’d suggest that you focus on central London, and tick off as many attractions as possible. Make sure that you stop off at one of the many cosy coffee shops between visiting top attractions such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the House of Parliament.
A weekend in london
The trick to really enjoying London is to visit the tourist attractions, but take the time to experience the beauty of the city. If you only have 48-hours in the vibrant city, then you’ll want to follow this weekend guide to London and 1 day in London itinerary.
Expect to discover Shoreditch Street art, enjoy a show at the theatre, and visit St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the UK’s most iconic churches.
London travel tips for three days
The more time that you spend in London, the better. The ultimate 3-day London itinerary will include the likes of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, among many other sights.
When spending 72 hours in London, I’d recommend that you get the London Pass. This will allow you to visit many different attractions for a fraction of the cost.
Travel tips for visiting london over five days
If you spend four days in London (or more), then you get the chance to live like a local.
This 5-day itinerary is a great place to start, and shares not only the main attractions, but also some of the lesser-known tourist sights such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the district in Surrey.
Best Day Trips from London by Rail
The train connects London to some amazing nearby destinations that promise a memorable experience.
The following destinations have direct train connections from London:
- Cambridge – an hour away, the university town has beautiful architecture and stunning streets.
- Oxford – an hour away, Oxford is also a university town and a stunning destination.
- Bath – an hour and a half away, Bath is a romantic destination full of beauty.
- Brighton – one hour away, a trip to Brighton is a great seaside escape from the city.
- Winchester – an hour away, Winchester is full of history and heritage.
- Whitstable – an hour and a half away, a quintessential seaside town on the North coast of Kent in South-East England.
- Stonehenge – 2 hours away from central London, you’ll find these pre-historic stones.
- Dover– only 2 hours away from London, you’ll be greeted with white cliffs and the English Channels.
- Canterbury – an hour and half from London, you’ll find the historic Canterbury Cathedral.
- Rye – Only 2 hours from London, you’ll find one of the cutest place in East Sussex.
- The Cotswolds – You’ll find the rolling hills and wildflower meadows have led to its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- York – 2 hours away from London, York is steeped in stories of days gone by, a day trip to York from London promises a rich experience and a day full of exploration
- Windsor – Only 45 minutes from London by train Windsor is home to the Royal Family for 900 years, it is still an Official Residence of the Queen.
- St Albans – Visit one of the nearest city to London, St Albans a cathedral city in Hertfordshire, England.
Group tour day trips from london
If you want to make friends and explore London’s surrounds at the same time, then a group tour option is a great idea.
While many of the destinations can be connected via train, some popular group tours also include:
- Stonehenge – home to one of the oldest standing structures in the world.
- White Cliffs of Dover – offering breathtaking views of the English coastline.
- Cotswolds – for a rural escape from the city.
- Seven Sisters Cliffs – three hours away, you get to view these series of stunning chalk cliffs by the English Channel.
Let’s get down to business
FAQs When Visiting London For The First Time
Hopefully, this post has provided you with the best travel tips for London. Although I’ve done my best to cover all bases, here are a few frequently asked questions and their answers.
What’s The Difference Between London Bridge And Tower Bridge?
Although both cross the Thames River, London Bridge and Tower Bridge are two completely different structures. London Bridge has been around for almost 2,000 years has very few architectural details, and is the focus of the nursery rhyme London Bridge is falling down.
Tower Bridge, on the other hand, is a Victorian bridge that has changed very little since it was opened in 1894. It is beautiful in design, boasting two neo-gothic towers.
Can You Drink London’s Tap Water?
Tap water in the United Kingdom is rated among the best in the world, and London’s tap water is safe to drink. So, get a reusable bottle and avoid buying single-use plastics when touring London.
How Many Days Should I Spend In London?
If travelling to London for the first time, then try to dedicate at least 3 – 4 days in the city. This will allow you to see the main attractions and enjoy some of the popular experiences without having to rush or burn yourself out.
What Is The Distance From London Eye To Tower Bridge?
One of the best Tower of London travel tips that I can share is to first view it from the air. And what better way to do so than the London Eye which is 2 miles away. The distance can easily be covered by the 381 bus which costs a small amount of £2.
How Much Should I Tip Tour Guides?
The normal amount to tip a tour guide in London is between £2 to £4 per person per day. However, if the tour guide really impressed you, then you can tip more. As a rule of thumb, you’re never expected to tip more than 10%.
Which Tube Station For Buckingham Palace?
If you want to get as close to Buckingham Palace as possible, then make sure that you hop onto any line that will take you to Victoria Station (which is on the Victoria Line). From Victoria Station, Buckingham Palace is an 11 minutes walk.
How to see london in a day?
Final Thoughts On How To Enjoy Your London Trip
London is a magnificent travel destination that is filled with history, inspiring architecture and progressive culture. Having lived in the United Kingdom for more than a decade, I’ve had the opportunity to discover all the beauty that lies behind the regal area, and I’m excited to have shared my London travel tips with you in this post.