London Travel and Visitor Tips

I was born in the London suburbs and still have family living in the area, and whilst I’ve spent most my life living elsewhere, I do revisit the capital and suburbs, so I thought I would write a blog post full of tip for travel and visits, whether you intend to fall out of a nightclub at 2am, else want to take in the history or other activities, hopefully you will find this article helpful.

Warning: You use advice and information in this article at your own risk!!

My London experiences have always been pretty good, apart from two bombs scares, avoiding fights in the early in the morning or leaving a new dvd on a train that just departed! I’ve worked in London, but I’m not a city person and enjoy occasional trips.

Buckingham Palace LondonMy best experiences have been with my better half and family. I used to spend each Sunday for a year in London with my wonderful girlfriend. Other times I’ve visited London for shows or to see the Christmas lights, museums etc with my girlfriend and family. London has a lot to offer and is a great place to visit.

Tip 1 – London Tube Trains

London is famous for its underground train network, which is pretty impressive. However if you’ve never used it, make sure you have an underground map with you. I never seem to keep my small pocket maps, so last time I put a map on my mobile phone, then at the first tube station with underground pocket maps, I picked one up. Also some stations outside of the capital with fast trains into the capital might have free London tube station maps in the booking office area.

London tube travelYou really don’t want to be the person, along with a few others trying to work out your route on the large map boards during a busy period at an underground station. Before you enter the station, try and know which line you need and the destination station. It is pretty hard to get on the wrong train, as most stations clearly outline which stops are serviced from that platform before you walk onto the platform, plus on the tunnel wall opposite where you stand.

There are often delays or underground work with stations being temporarily closed. I should pay attention to work going on, but I don’t. If already in London and travelling around London, my solution has always been to leave a bit earlier than planned, then if I bump into an issue I either go another train line route to my destination, else walk to another station.

If you are in London for more than a few days, you might want to pick up a ‘oyster’ card, but truthfully I don’t know how good those are, as I always just ask for a card for the specific zone(s) I’m using. Example: Look at the London underground map which will divide stations into zones (numbers), then you can buy a ticket for that zone or zones, which means for that day you can hop on and off tube trains for that zone(s).

Avoid rush hour during the weekday!! I’ve commuted into London for work from above and below the capital. Plus I’ve journeyed into London as part of a route elsewhere. I’ve learnt when possible avoid the rush hour, which alas more often than not, I can’t. Also during summer the underground stations get very hot, so make sure you have a bottle of water with you.

If you are in London on a relaxing break, you don’t want to try and get onto a tube train during peak rush hour, whilst two hundred other people are trying to, because there was a small delay to the service, then to find yourself crammed into a carriage. I once saw a lady elbowed in the face in that very scenario, pushed my way to her and protected her from being squashed, whilst she wept to her next stop.

Obviously there are buses and taxi cabs as well as trains, but I love walking in central London within daylight hours, though there are some areas I will not stroll around even in daylight, be careful. Often I will walk instead of use the train for short trips, but that is rarely possible, but sometimes I find it better to walk for thirty minutes, taking in bridges, buildings, the many statues and strolling through a park.

A London Building

Take a nosey at Google Maps if you are planning on a very short journey or two around central London during daylight hours, you might find a walking route that takes in a few sights between your destinations. Though if any ladies are trying to convince you to come into their building to get out of the rain… a) don’t b) you’ve probably strolled into the red light area of soho by mistake.

Tip 2 – Light night partying

I don’t club in London anymore, so I can’t advise too much on this, but I will give some limited advice. If you are intending to go to a nightclub late at night, make sure you know how you are going to get back to your lodgings afterwards! Don’t expect to walk out the club, flag down a cab, a driver to say ‘Where to guv?’ and to drive off.

I wish! A friend and I ended up walking a few miles back to the hotel in the early hours of a Sunday morning, after almost getting into a fight, because we took the wrong turn… into a road with a group of angry people. Running was the solution to the problem on that occasion!

Another occasion I got into an illegal taxi with a Korean colleague I was supposed to be looking after. The beat up BMW went almost sideways around a corner going too fast in the rain, whilst just before the taxi driver had been trying to convince me, to go to a nightclub he happened to have a discount card / voucher for. My colleague looked terrified whilst holding the seat in front. Funnily enough I never used another illegal taxi ever again.

There are night buses, but make sure you know times, routes etc. London is like any city in the world, you don’t want to be wandering the streets late at night!

Tip 3 – Tipping

When eating in a cafe or restaurant you do tip for the service in London (and elsewhere in the UK). Depending on how much I spent, and where I am eating I will tip between 15-20%, within reason. I won’t leave tips over five pounds though when in London, but then I don’t eat at places that warrant it. I enjoy good food in London, but not expensive food and it is never the reason for my visit.

Tip 4 – Have a local food experience!

London is full of franchises and chains of restaurants that you will find across the world. You see a Pizza Hut, then go around a short distance and wait…. is that a Pizza Hut? The same for Starbucks, McDonalds etc. I will put my hands up and say I’ve eating a lot of McDonalds and Pizza Hut food in London (I love McDonalds chocolate milkshake), but I’ve also gone out the way to visit cafés and restaurants that are one-off’s. For instance a real British breakfast is visiting a ‘greasy spoon’ for a fry-up, which I did on my last trip to London.

Inside Shepherdess Cafe LondonI will also buy lunch to eat out, such as eating in the gardens of a Church at Covent Garden, or whilst watching street performers there. Back in the day I would pop into Henry’s for a dessert.

There are some fantastic restaurants in China town and I’ve eaten great British, Italian and other cuisines elsewhere in the capital. I never book a table, but try to visit slightly off season and then just what is nearby and eat slightly early for a lunch or evening meal. Which is normally fine with my plans.

There is great food for a reasonable price in London, though if you are on a very tight budget, I do admit you might find the Pizza Hut deals worth looking at.

Tip 5 – There are free things to do

In central London you can visit the British Museum, Science Museum and some other locations for free.

Imperial War Museum LondonI once stood outside 221b Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes), when the shop owner then popped outside with a deerstalker hat for me to wear for a photo! You could spend a whole day visiting free locations, but also there are some great paid attractions to visit such as Westminster Abbey.

Tip 6 – Take a moment to breath!

If you try to go non-stop in London you will get tired quickly, and you need to make sure you have some pit-stops.

Sitting along the Thames or in a Park with an ice-cream or lunch during a late morning or early afternoon is a great way to relax as well.

To be continued…

I could write many more tips, but frankly it is time to finish this blog post.

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