*All Photos are of my own*
There’s a lot I could say about London, but nothing would really present everything that it’s about!
London is a destination many people from around the world want to visit and there is so much I could say about it, so if you have any specific questions about visiting London (Attractions, Transport, Anything) just contact me via the form. This is more of a guide for visitors to London, made up of my knowledge from all the times I’ve been through London.
Well, I think a good place to start this post is a few general hints and tips for first time visitors:
- Just like ANY place in the world, don’t look like a tourist! I see so many of you come to London and just get that map and camera out like you think no one notices. Believe me, many of us frankly couldn’t care but there is a LOT of pickpockets in London. Fortunately for you, the British Transport Police are hot on it, and also Welcome to the country with the most CCTV 😉 If you need help, basically anyone will help (within reason).
- Please! Please! Try to pronounce places correctly, the best you can, and have a bit of background knowledge before coming to the city, it will help out a lot by not having locals look at you weird, for example Leicester Square, it’s not ‘LIE-SESS-TER’ or ‘LIE-CHESS-TER’ – It’s ‘Less-ster’. Even if you can’t pronounce just point to it on the map, usually works!
- Don’t think you can complete London in a ‘weekend’ or even a week! No one that says that is truthful to you. Especially don’t think you can hop around Europe! There is so much to do in London, even events that go on every day throughout the year, it’s just covering it all that’s the issue so I’m going to suggest that you stay away from the tourist traps, but I’ll detail that later.
- Be aware of all transport options and research them before you come. In fact, just research EVERYTHING before you come, even your hotel that you got a ‘deal’ on, because London is well known as a city that is happy to rip everyone off. Things in London tend to cost double or triple that of everywhere else in the country.
So you’re deciding to visit London, great to hear! Now if you’re planning on flying it’s easy to find the flights at the right price, but just check which London airport you are flying into. There is actually 6 designated London Airports and below I’ll detail as much as I can about them:
London Heathrow (LHR): This is the largest airport in Britain, and if you’re flying from outside of Europe here then this is most likely your gateway, with a few exceptions. Major international carriers fly from here, but it’s a hub for British Airways, at their home Terminal 5. There are currently 4 terminals, although 5 in total. Terminal 1 is currently a demolished site, of which is being rebuilt, so I wouldn’t recommend trying to get there! Terminal 2 is the newly rebuilt, ‘Queens Terminal’ serving mainly Star Alliance carriers. Terminal 3 is home to Virgin Atlantic, Delta and other carriers, as well as a few British Airways flights. Terminal 4 is mainly home to SkyTeam carriers (Air France, Alitalia, KLM etc…). CHECK THE LATEST INFO FROM YOUR AIRLINE OR HEATHROW AIRPORT FOR UP TO DATE TERMINAL CHANGES. Be aware, if flying around Europe, Heathrow is generally the more expensive airport due to higher flight taxes. It’s also the most congested airport, and circling to land or queueing to takeoff at some times of the day will be up to 45 minutes. To get into London from Heathrow, the Piccadilly Line (Tube) serves all terminals and also major tourist destinations in Central London (Kensington, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Kings Cross). It will take about an hour into Central London. Alternatively, you can take the Heathrow Express into Paddington which will take 15 minutes, but cost a LOT if you buy a ticket on the day, please pre-book this if you plan to use. The Heathrow Connect is a slower stopping train into Paddington taking 25 minutes, and costs less. A taxi into London will be expensive and not exactly recommend unless very convenient for your final destination. Heathrow Central is a bus and coach station at the airport, for National Express coaches across the country. Be aware pickpockets do operate in the Heathrow area and trains to/from the airport.
London City (LCY): If you’re flying into London City then you are probably a high flyer! This is the airport for all things business related. They advertise short times on everything for uber convenience of all involved. You won’t wait long at all, and in no time you can be Central London on the DLR, around 25 mins (Docklands Light Railway – Part of the TFL network). You land right in the city area, you fly right past skyscrapers on a steep approach to a small airport surrounded by water. Nearly all flights that arrive here are European flights, except for the BA 1/2 all business class A318 service to JFK. Really quite a convenient airport and doesn’t have to lie about it’s London name.
London Gatwick (LGW): Britain’s second largest airport, and the world’s busiest single operation runway airport. Gatwick is a bit of an oddball, it tries to cater for all markets with long haul flights and short haul, full service carriers and low cost. It’s located around 30 miles South of London in Crawley. It’s got 2 terminals, North and South. BA, Virgin, easyJet, Thomas Cook, Thomson, Monarch, Norwegian have bases here. BE AWARE OF MAJOR TERMINAL CHANGES EARLY 2017, SEE CARRIER OR GATWICK AIRPORT FOR INFORMATION! The best way to get to Gatwick is via the train, Southern or Gatwick Express, they operate similar pricing properties and neither have the most amazing service reliability record, they both take 30 minutes from London Victoria. Alternatively you can take a National Express coach between London and Gatwick or even Heathrow and Gatwick, or anywhere else in the country for that matter. A taxi is NOT recommended.
London Southend (SEN): This is a small airport, based in Southend, Essex. Very far out of London, around 40 miles East. European flights operate from here, mainly FlyBe and easyJet. It’s often rated the best airport in Britain with the shortest queues, and best customer satisfaction. Albellio Greater Anglia operate a train directly from the airport into London Liverpool Street. Be wary of late arrivals, as trains may not be running.
London Stansted (STN): This is the larger of the two low-cost airports in London. It’s around 40 miles North of London and is the main base for the renown Low Cost Airline, Ryanair. There is a bus station at the airport with coach services from a variety of operators into Central London taking around an hour. Alternatively passengers can take the Stansted Express into London Liverpool Street, taking around 45 minutes.
London Luton (LTN): Luton is the smaller Low Cost Airport of London, although still larger that London Southend. easyJet, Monarch and Thomson Airways have their headquarters at Luton. Other major carriers here are Wizz Air and Monarch Airlines, along with a few others including the all – business class 757 service to Newark with La Compagnie. To get into London you can take buses/coaches from a variety of companies, along with taking a bus to Luton Airport Parkway Station and taking a First Capital Connect or East Midlands Train into London St Pancras. Both will take around an hour.
Now, you may be arriving into London by the Eurostar from the continent, this arrives into London St Pancras and tickets are compulsory to book in advance, unless you have money to throw away. Trains come from Paris, Brussels, Marseille, Avignon, Marne La Vallee (Euro Disney), and soon Amsterdam! There are some good train fares to be found, and the best thing with taking these trains is that they take you right into the city centre, give you a higher luggage allowance and you save time with not having to turn up 2-3 hours before departure, only 45 minutes.
Right! So you’ve made it into Central London! Now it’s time to get to know the public transport system, as it’s incredibly efficient and totally safe (Give or take a few pickpockets, but don’t let that put you off!). Firstly, you’ll probably want to get an oyster card, all you have to do is get one from a ticket machine, and top it up with some money, and you receive highly discounted fares in comparison to cash only fares. Remember to tap in and out at the readers. Alternatively, you can buy travel cards which will last for a day. Nearly all transport in London operates under TFL (Transport for London), this includes the London Underground, Overground, Some National Rail Services, River Services, Cable Car, DLR and Buses. Night Tube on Fridays and Saturdays is also starting on certain lines towards the end of 2016, check out the TFL website for exact dates. Also for live status updates, trip planning, engineering works and fare prices visit the TFL website: https://tfl.gov.uk/
In terms of places that you should visit, I can’t force you to experience certain attractions, I can only encourage you off my honest opinion, based off personal, non profit experiences. Surprisingly, the best things in London are those which are free! Don’t visit the London Eye for example, it’s got LOADS of pickpockets and as a traveller from the UK, I can just spot the groups of them following unsuspecting tourists around. Furthermore at £30, it’s the most expensive moving wheel in many places around the world! That’s around £1 a minute, never mind a queue you must join unless you pay extra for fast-track! Believe me when I say there is nothing special about it, even better would be to take a river service as part of TFL past Westminster. Furthermore, don’t go up the shard, it’s the most expensive view in London, and that’s all it is, a view, nothing special. There is so much more you can do with your time, like visit City Hall, Tower Bridge, St Pauls Cathedral, Covent Garden or The Globe Theatre! There is so many events going on in London, don’t be a typical tourist, walk around and explore the places, which many others don’t! That’s the great thing about travelling!