Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting London
Updated: Feb 2
London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and receives around 30 million tourists every year.
However, despite its popularity, and its place in the global culture, London, and England in general, the people have their own rules, laws, practices, and social customs in their everyday lives, some of which can be confusing as a tourist.
10. Ubers Vs Black Cabs
Although there is ample public transport in and around the UK, depending on the time of day or night that you are traveling, they might not be available.
If this is the case, then there are two options available to you: calling for an Uber, or using one of the famous black cabs located around the city.
Black cabs are a London institution and are one of the cultural phenomena that are associated with the city. However, they can be quite expensive depending on how far you want to go.
Uber can be a great and financially viable alternative to taxis, and to use them you just need to download the app and make an account.
9. Changing Currency
It is fairly common for people to be on vacation and run out of their exchanged currency, but depending on the circumstances, this can be a stressful occurrence for many.
Luckily, however, changing currency in the UK couldn’t be easier.
All you need to do is go to the local post office with your relative cards and information, and they will be able to change as much of your banked money as you would like for a (usually) fair exchange rate.
8. City Tours
One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with your surroundings is to take a city tour. These can be great ways of seeing the sights, as well as hopping on and off at the various famous landmarks around the city.
Similarly, if you don’t want to book an actual tour, normal buses are available, many of them double-deckers, allowing you to take in the sights (on the selected route).
Remember though, when paying for buses in the City of London, many of them do not accept coins or cash and require you to either use an Oyster card or use contactless card payment.
7. Public Transportation
Of course, the main mode of transportation is the world-famous London Underground (or ‘tube’).
It is one of the best and oldest underground railways in the world, and aside from its storied history and urban legends, it can provide you with a simple and easy method of getting to your chosen destination.
Most districts have at least one underground station and can be easily recognized by the striking, circular red symbol hanging from the exterior.
The best method of payment on all public transport is the Oyster card. This is widely used by locals and tourists alike, and is a versatile card that can be used on buses and trains, and topped up as and when you need it.
The currency in the United Kingdom is British Pounds and Pence and comes in a variety of notes and coins.
Pounds are available as £1 coins, £2 coins, £5 notes, £10 notes, £20 notes, and more rarely £50 notes. Other coins come in denominations of 1 pence, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, and fifty pence coins.
5. Apps & Maps
When traversing London, there are many tools you can use to help you find your way.
Tube maps can be found at every station, showing you the layout of the underground to help you reach your destination.
Similarly, many streets in central London have maps located at varying points to help you plot your route.
Major tourist attractions will also usually have a building marked ‘Tourist Information’, and they will be able to provide you with maps, directions, or advice.
Similarly, apps like CityPlanner can be useful in finding your way. All you need is a smartphone and an account.
In London, as in the rest of the UK, there is not the same established culture of tipping as there is in other countries like the US.
Most bills in restaurants come with a service charge, and employees are paid a minimum wage, based on their age and the area they live in.
That being said, some restaurants encourage it, and on those occasions, you can tip to your heart’s content.
In the United Kingdom, the legal drinking age is 18 years old, although identification will usually be requested if the person in question appears younger.
Also, when ordering a drink in the UK, such as beer or cider, the measurements come in pints or half pints. The British pint (20 oz) is bigger than the American pint (16 oz), so expect slightly more alcohol when it comes.
Whilst British people obviously speak the English language, they can pronounce things differently to people from the US, Canada, and other English-speaking countries.
This is not overly important on the whole, but it might be an idea to look at the area you are staying in and learn how to properly pronounce it, e.g. Greenwich is pronounced GREN-ICH.
For safety’s sake, it is important to remember that in the UK, people drive on the left-hand side of the road. This is the opposite of most countries around the world and can be confusing to some.
It is also worth remembering that the driver sits on the right-hand side of the car as well, which can be handy when getting into a black cab, or a hire car.
So there we are, everything you need to know before visiting London.
Foreign travel can be stressful at the best of times, but with planning and the proper research, you will soon get your hang of things.
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