Hop across the pond and you’ll arrive in lovely London. Yes, Londoners may speak the same language as us, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to uncover the many splendid differences between the states and the UK. For example, did you know that in England, “coach” is a term for a bus? Or that “lift” is their word for elevator? There are countless little differences and so much to learn!
To help prepare you for your upcoming trip, we’ve gathered some of the best London tips. Whether you’re interested in better understanding their currency or navigating the public transit system, we’ve got you covered. Our London travel tips detail everything from top attractions to must-try cuisine.
When is the best time to visit London?
London is great any time of year, but the spring can be especially pleasant. You’ll find that late spring and summer tend to be the busiest (and more expensive) seasons, as the weather is usually the warmest—and sunniest! March through May temperatures are, on average, in the 50s and 60s F. December, around the holidays, is another popular time for tourists. The city is certainly festive at this time of year, but be sure to dress warmly! Winter temperatures often hover around 30 to 40 degrees F.
Do I need a passport to travel to London?
When it comes to traveling to London passport requirements, we’ve got you covered. First and foremost, you will need a valid passport to visit the country. If you’re visiting as a tourist for fewer than six months, you don’t need a visa. American visitors only need visas if they plan to work or stay longer than a six-month stint in the country.
What’s the best airport to fly into when visiting London?
If you’re looking to fly into the heart of the city, book flights to London via Heathrow Airport. This airport is conveniently located near the majority of the must-see London attractions. From Heathrow, you can hop on the Heathrow Express, which takes just 15 minutes to arrive at London Paddington station. Depending on your travel plans and itinerary, you could also consider other nearby airports, including Gatwick Airport, London Luton Airport, and London Stansted Airport.
What should I know before visiting London?
- In the UK, they use the British Pound. One hundred pence make up one pound. When you find yourself with change, you need to know that they’re not all pence! You’ll find £1 and £2 coins in addition to 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, and 50p. Pro tip: Locals often call £1 a “quid,” and £5 notes “fivers” and £10 notes “tenners.”
- The rain here is no myth. Regardless of when you decide to visit, pack an umbrella. You never know when it’ll decide to rain cats and dogs!
- When riding the public transit escalators, stand on the right if you intend on standing, and keep the left side open for commuters to pass you. People in a hurry will appreciate this gesture, as it keeps the escalators from getting congested.
- You’ll quickly realize that cars drive on the left side of the road (yes, that means steering wheels are on the right side of a vehicle). Even if you don’t plan to get behind the wheel, it’s important to remember this, especially when crossing the street. Always look left! If you need a reminder, you’ll often see it written on the ground at crosswalks.
What are some tips for getting around London?
It’s time to ride the Tube. Also known as the London Underground, the Tube is London’s public transit system. It has 11 lines that serve nine zones throughout London and neighboring Buckinghamshire, Essex, and Hertfordshire. Many of the tourist attractions are located in zone one and two.
- Unlike the complicated subway systems of other cities (we’re looking at you, NYC), London’s is remarkably easy to navigate. Simply pick up a map and follow the line to where you want to go.
- Before hopping on the Tube to the next station, find out how far away it is. Many stations are within walking distance of one another, which could save you time and
- It’s high time you hear the words, “Mind the Gap” for yourself! Heed the warning and watch out for the gap between the station platform and the train doors.
- For the best rates on travel, purchase a Visitor Oyster card. Instead of buying a single ticket, you can pay as you go. It’s also a great option if you plan to ride public transportation for several days at a time. You can use the card on the Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL rail, buses, and trams.
What should I do on my first trip to London?
- Take a spin on the London Eye. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s so cool! From your seat in the sky, you’ll have one of the best views of some of London’s most popular landmarks, from the Houses of Parliament to Big Ben. One rotation on the famous Ferris wheel takes 30 minutes.
- Eat a plate of fish and chips. Known as chippies, this meal is your choice of battered fish (cod or haddock) with a side of French fries. If you want to fit in with the locals, douse your entire meal with malt vinegar.
- Don’t miss the Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. During this ceremony, the New Guard takes over the responsibilities of the Old Guard. The iconic event occurs at 10:45 a.m. outside the palace—get there early to score a good spot!
- Sip tea. Any time of the day is an appropriate time to have a cup of breakfast tea. Don’t be surprised if you hear people calling it a “cuppa” (cup of).
- As for beer, step into a traditional pub and order a pint of something local. See for yourself if Londoners really drink warm beer!
- Some of London’s finest museums are free. For starters, check out the British Museum, Natural History Museum, and the National Gallery.
Do you tip in London?
When it comes to dining out in London, it’s suggested to tip 10 to 15% on the bill. Some places may automatically include a service fee on your bill, so be sure to review it before leaving change. Also, it’s not customary to tip on fast food or takeout.
Tipping is uncommon at bars and pubs, but if you have an exceptional experience or perhaps know the bartender, you may leave a tip and say, “And one for yourself.” The bartender may use the money to make a drink for themselves to enjoy with you, or they may save it for a drink later.
What are some British words that mean something different in the U.S.?
Yes, we speak the same language, but there are some words both countries use that have completely different meanings! To avoid confusion, check out our quick checklist:
- Coach means bus
- Trolley means shopping cart
- Chips mean French fries, but crisps mean potato chips
- Lift means elevator
- Biscuit means cookie
- Boot means the trunk of a car and bonnet means the hood
- Flat means apartment
- Chemist means pharmacy
- Mate means friend
What are some British words I should know?
Some British terms don’t get used at all in the states. Here are a few that may help during your travels:
- Underground is the subway (also called the Tube)
- Rubbish is garbage
- Dustbin is a trash can
- High street is main street
- Knackered is tired
- Chuffed means pleased
- Ta and cheers both mean thank you
Where should I stay in London?
Now the fun part: Picking one of the many hotels in London. There are countless neighborhoods and deciding where to stay may come down to your personal preferences. For example, Soho, Camden, and Shoreditch are great places to stay if you’re after a great nightlife. Meanwhile, neighborhoods like Covent Garden and Kensington place you near a lot of the tourist attractions.
London is a frenetic city with endless excitement around every corner. Use our tips to help guide you on your first big adventure to the UK.