Attracting over 30 million international visitors each year, London is the most popular tourist destination in the world. It has a rich history and cultural heritage, palaces and museums, renowned theatres and world-class shopping. Home to more than eight million people, and the capital of the United Kingdom, London is also a working city with more than just sightseeing to offer its visitors. Get to know the real London with these practical tips that will help you make the most of your trip.
1. Be prepared!
When it comes to packing, there’s a fine line between travelling light and coming up short-handed. Toiletries, magazines and snacks (preferably healthy and energising options such as nuts) can easily be picked up en route, but you’ll want to make sure you pack the following from home:
• Make sure to bring comfortable, sturdy shoes, as you’ll be doing plenty of walking when you explore the city
Central London is surprisingly compact, and the best way to see the city is on foot. If you plan on checking out London’s nightlife, be aware that athletic shoes (trainers or sneakers) are not allowed in many clubs, so make sure you bring along a pair of “smart” shoes for going out in the evening.
• British weather is famously fickle and can change instantly
No matter what time of year you travel, it’s best to bring a compact umbrella and waterproof jacket. The British don’t let a little rain disrupt their plans – they “keep calm and carry on!”
• Documents – don’t leave home without them!
Make sure you have your travel documents ready and at hand in your carry-on luggage, including passports for everyone in your group and any necessary visas or medical information.
2. Immerse yourself in pub culture
In Britain, the pub is not just for drinking – it’s a family-friendly social hub, with great food, music and conversation. It’s a great way to get to know the real London, and the best way to find affordable, authentic London food. “Pub grub” has improved in recent years, with an increase in the number of trendy gastropubs. Although classics like fish and chips and steak and ale pies are still available, you can usually find more diverse offerings, like curries, pasta and gourmet burgers. Vegetarian and vegan options are increasingly mainstream.
3. Get to know Transport for London (TfL)
Although the London Underground or ‘Tube’ with its colourful map is a London icon, it’s not the only way to travel around the city. The Transport for London system also includes London buses, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground, TfL Rail, London Trams, London River Services, London Dial-a-Ride, Victoria Coach Station, Santander Cycles and the Emirates Air Line. Using a prepaid top-up Oyster card is a convenient way to pay your fare, and it can even save you money. The Thames Bus river cruises offer a fun and affordable way to see the city from a new perspective, as you sail under Tower Bridge and past St Paul’s Cathedral.