You’ve got The Clash’s “London Calling” queued up on repeat to get you pumped up for your upcoming stay in London. For many Americans, including myself, London is the gateway to Europe. The appeal comes not only because it’s truly a cosmopolitan city, but also because it has the familiarity of home. English is the national language; and well, there’s that bit of obsession in America with everything English – from the Beatles to Downton Abbey. When you’re finally on your way, keep these first time London travel tips handy. It’ll make your trip more enjoyable and less overwhelming.
Top 3 First Time London Travel Tips
Tip#1: Understand the City
London is huge! It’s made up of several zones and neighborhoods far enough from one another that it can take an hour from point A to point B. It’ll be helpful for you as a first-timer to do some research and have a general understanding of how the city operates. Know when the bank holidays are, identify the transport options, and figure out the neighborhoods where the must-see attractions on your bucket list are. Planning a visit to a museum just to arrive and find out it’s closed is a bummer. Familiarize yourself with some local lingo too. When you hear folks talk about “The City,” they aren’t exactly talking about London itself. They are referring to the City of London where big banks and remnants of old Roman London can be found.
Tip #2: Take the Tube
The English capital happens to have one of the best public transportation systems anywhere in the world. The iconic red double-decker bus might be a useful way to get some inexpensive sightseeing in, but it’s definitely not the most efficient. Also, I certainly won’t recommend you to take a rental car especially if you plan to stay within the city confines. Traffic can be horrendous and parking rates are through the roof. Not to mention that in England, people drive on the right side of the road.
If you want to maximize your time while visiting however, take the Tube instead. Formally known as the London Underground, the Tube is the city’s subway network that connects the suburbs to Central London. There are 11 lines servicing 270 stations (including Heathrow and King’s Cross) and transports up to five million passengers a day.
Tip#3: Get an Oyster Card
On this list of first time London travel tips, this third one is likely the most important. But first, let me explain what an Oyster card is. If you plan to take the Tube while staying in London, you’re going to need an Oyster card. It’s a reloadable smartcard that works on various forms of transport including the Tube, the London Overground, buses and the National Rail. It provides discounted rates for single fare rates by as much as 49%!1 You can purchase an Oyster card at any station or you order a Visitor Oyster to be delivered prior to your trip.
Do you have other first time London travel tips you’d like to share? Let me know below.