By: Sarah Stone
Are you ready to visit London for the first time? Could you use some advice from an expert? We’re here to help guide you and make your London trip worthwhile! Go ahead and read the short 6-point beginner guide to visiting London below:
1. When to visit
The last thing you want is to visit London during peak seasons, because the city can get extremely crowded. You are seeing the city for the first time, so you should have the freedom to visit as many places and take as many pictures as you wish without having to constantly rub shoulders with other tourists. And prices during peak seasons tend to skyrocket.
Note: July and August are the most crowded months in London, so avoid them both. Also, try to avoid holiday seasons like Christmas if you want to avoid the crowds.
Before you board your flight to London, ensure that you’ve planned your visit in advance. Start by booking your accommodation and tickets to the attractions and activities that you want to experience, which will save you money and unnecessary hassles.
2. Where to stay in London?
Because every part of the city is safe for tourists, you can live anywhere you want depending on your budget. If your budget is tight, you may want to avoid hotels in Central London. But again, staying on the outskirts of London will be cheaper at first, and then get unbearably expensive once you factor in transport costs to and from the city center. Our advice is that you stay in Central London because that is where most important attraction sites are—most of them are walking distances away or short drives from Central London.
3. Where to tour while in London?
There is obviously a lot to see in London, but don’t burn yourself out by trying to see everything. It is best if you can visit 3 attractions or less per day, then find time to rest and interact with the locals. You won’t believe how many hidden treasures you can unearth in London if you spare some time for that. It’s best to find a local who can give you a free walking tour around London.
Which places should you visit?
- Free museums such as the Natural History Museum, British Museum, and the National Gallery
- Gardens, parks, and playgrounds
- Shopping streets such as Oxford Street and farmers’ markets
- Show theaters
4. The best transportation mode in London?
If you will be staying in the city center, take a London free walking tour around the city. If you can’t walk, rent a bike. Only take a tube or a bus when visiting a faraway attraction, and be ready to miss out on seeing the finer details of the city. Walking and bike tours are arguably the best way of combing the city without having to spend a fortune.
If you don’t have the time to explore London on foot, then the hop-on-hop-off buses would be ideal for you. They aren’t as convenient as bikes, but at least they are cheap and faster—they’re very popular among the locals. River cruises are also great options.
Another quick—and to a greater extent convenient—way of exploring London is using the metro, which is fondly referred to as the London Tube by the locals. If you want to get to the other side of London fast and on a budget, this is your best option. The tube doesn’t waste any time in the crazy London traffic.
5. What to pack?
Your travel documents—passport, visa, and driver’s license—are must-packs. If you are planning on exploring London on foot, remember to pack several pairs of comfortable shoes. If you will be visiting London during winter, remember to pack enough gloves, sweaters, raincoats, and ankle boots. During summer, remember sunglasses, light pants, and sandals. If you plan to buy them in London, plan ahead that you will spend a lot, as the prices in London are a bit higher than usual.
Tip: Pack an umbrella even when visiting London during summer because it rains a lot in London.
Because Type G plugs are the most common in London (they aren’t common in the rest of Europe or in the US), remember to bring your own travel adapter. If you will need to use your smartphone, remember to acquire a local SIM card in order to save on the overly expensive roaming charges.
6. What to eat?
London is the unofficial foodie hub in Europe. Fish and chips, salads, sandwiches, and many other delicious packed foods will be good to try. What’s more, there is a classy restaurant for every budget. Make sure to check Tripadvisor for the best places to eat.