Are you planning to travel to London soon? After coronavirus? Being a local of London, I know a lot of things that a usual tourist won’t know but these things might be very helpful for people visiting London for the first time. Therefore, I want to mention some important things that one needs to know before travelling to London.
Popularity and Currency
London is the capital and largest city of England. It is extremely popular amongst tourists so expect lots of crowd all year long. With so many tourists in the city, traffic naturally is busy in London. The currency of UK is Pound Sterling (£). Make sure you check the exchange rate before travelling to London.
Safety and Scams
London is relatively safe, but it is highly recommended to take precautions specially at night from crowded areas as there are many pickpockets around.
It can be tempting but don’t fall prey to scams and don’t buy local attraction tickets in black (from people selling cheaper tickets on streets). All the attraction tickets are available from their own websites online or from well-known sites like Visit London. Although buying online tickets is slightly cheaper option but buying your attraction tickets from the official ticket office (mostly outside the attraction) is another way if you have decided to visit the attraction as a last-minute plan.
In case there is an emergency, dial 999 or 121. However, if you want to contact police in London in a non-emergency situation, dial 101 and for medical services dial 111. Make sure these numbers are on your instant dial before you travel to London.
If you have heard about London’s unstable weather, you have heard it right. London has the world’s most unpredictable weather. Although it rains most of the year in London, the wettest month is October, so pack an umbrella. The best season to travel is summer (May – August). However, Spring (Mar – Apr) and Fall (Sept to Oct) are fine to travel too as these are the warm and dry months. Also, you would find the best rates on accommodation and flights in these months.
December is a popular travel month too for Christmas. Unfortunately, some news has been circulating that this year, there won’t be any Christmas lights or New Year fireworks due to the unfortunate situation of coronavirus. But, better safe than sorry.
In terms of where to stay in London, the prices vary. If you want to stay in the central which would be close to most, if not all the attractions – the prices are going to be high. But if you find an accommodation a little on the outskirts of the central London, you might get one on much affordable price. Other factors affecting the accommodation prices in London are the type of hotels/hostels/Airbnb and the time of your booking; one reason it is suggested to visit in Spring or Fall season.
If you are worried about wasting time to travel back and forth to the central London from the outskirts, London underground (TFL) is one of the best underground systems in the world. It is easy to travel on, including buses, black cabs, and Uber. You can easily travel almost anywhere in London.
There are 5 major airports in London, and all the airports have easy access to central London via underground. If you are travelling to London Heathrow airport, you can get the central London within 40 min via underground or within 15 min via the Heathrow Express – a fast train to London Paddington station, from where you can take any means of transport to your destination.
Read more: Top 25 places to visit in London in 1 week
You need an Oyster Card to travel in the city on underground, buses, and trams. Usually the locals use their contactless bank cards for travelling as cash is not accepted anymore. Tourists from Europe can still use their contactless bank card for travelling in London, however, overseas transaction fees or charges may apply for non-UK cards. This will be one charge per day, not each time you travel. Please check with your card issuer.
Make sure you are aware of the peak and off-peak times for travelling in London as this affects the price of the underground tickets.
Hop on/hop off bus is another great option for the tourists in London. If you want to visit multiple attraction, the London Pass is your best choice to save money and avoid the ques on famous attractions and to get discounts on restaurants too.
Power plugs in UK are different than the rest of the world, so make sure you get one.
WIFI and Apps
There is free WIFI available in many places in London, like pubs and restaurants and even on London underground. Some of the useful apps to use in London are:
- TFL – best for travelling in the city (underground, buses, trams, and Santander bicycle)
- Yelp – best for finding food near you according to your budget.
- TripAdvisor – best for deals on tourist attraction, where to go and where to eat/drink
- AccuWeather – best for checking the weather in advance to help you plan your trip well
- ATM Hunter (IO) and ATM Locator (Android) – best for locating nearby cashpoints
- Uber and Ola – best for cab/taxi service