The red double-decker buses. The classic telephone booths. The pubs on every corner. Oh how I love London.
Having live in London over the past few years, I decided it was about time to put together a list of things I wish I had known before visiting. These 9 Essential Tips for Visiting London will get your trip off to a great start! We’ve also provided additional resources from Instagram Guides to Where to Stay to make the most of your time in London.
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If you need affordable luggage storage for your next trip we recommend Eelway
#1. Fear Not the Public Transport
As someone from a town with absolutely zero public transportation, the idea of living in a city with red double-decker buses and tubes was intimidating. Of course, now that I’m back in the States and I’m actually forced to drive, I miss the ease of public transportation.
Public transportation in London is some of the easiest to use and understand in the world, not to mention those who work at the tube stations are always more than happy to help. Make sure you have some sort of map app downloaded as this will make it easy to figure out how to use public transport.
Read More: How to Use Public Transportation in London
Stay Connected: If you want mobile data while you’re in the UK or Europe, I recommend ordering an EE pay as you go sim card. Have it sent to your accommodation for an easy and affordable way to stay connected.
#2. Booze is $$$ – Download Dusk
Never have our bank accounts screamed so loudly as when we spend $10 on a gin and tonic. If you plan on drinking in London, be prepared for an angry text from your bank. You’ll have better luck getting discounts if you’re a student, but even still we recommend downloading the app Dusk. I don’t remember how I stumbled across this app but it kept Jack and I from spending too much money on alcohol while living in London! Essentially, you can get a free drink and a discounted drink from one bar/pub every day.
#3. London is Not the UK
If you’re planning on visiting England and only seeing London before heading off to a new country, please think again! London is an incredible world hub of diversity, complete with amazing food and outfits on every corner, but there truly is so much more to the UK. Consider visiting other places in England that aren’t London to get the true UK experience. We highly recommend the Lake District.
#4. Dietary Restrictions? You’ll eat well!
Vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free folks alike will eat well in London. From incredible high tea experiences to some of the best street food you’ve ever had, London has no shortage of incredible eats that will satisfy everyone in your travel group. I wish I had known this essential tip before visiting London because I was worried about what a vegan would have to eat.
Read More: Vegan Guide to London
#5. A Tap to Pay Society
Don’t bother worrying about atm fees or getting pounds before or while traveling in London. The city seems to be almost completely cashless, meaning that you should either have a card that is contactless or add your cards to your phone wallet to make them contactless. You’ll even be able to pay like this at markets and many vendors prefer this so they don’t need to deal with cash money. It also makes it easier than using a non-contactless card because you won’t need to sign or present ID.
#6. Museums are Free
This is a bit of a given if you’ve already done research on essential tips for visiting London, but the museums really are worth a visit. I recommend Checking out Rick Steves Audio Europe App for some free guided tours of London museums. London museums, like the incredible British Museum or Natural History Museum, are a must-visit stop during your London itinerary.
#7. West End Shows Aren’t Always Expensive
If you’re willing to take a gamble, you might be able to see a show for up to 75% off. I got to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for 50 pounds!
#8. London’s Parks are Epic
One tip for visiting London that I wish I had known upon arrival is that London’s parks are incredible. Not only are they beautiful and well maintained, but they’re also often completely undiscovered by tourists. If you’ve got kids, are looking to exercise outside, or just want to have a nice picnic, be sure to check out some of our favorite gardens in London.
Read More: Hidden Gems of London – Garden Edition
#9. Borough Market is Not the Only Market
Borough Market is, without a doubt, an incredible market. But it’s also a major tourist destination so no matter when you arrive, you’ll find it crowded and overpriced. It certainly is a must-visit, but especially if you’re claustrophobic, don’t plan on coming back here more than once. Instead, explore Victoria Park Market, Broadway Market, and Old Spitalfields Market.