First Time in London? Read These Essential Travel Tips
If it’s your first time in London, these Travel tips to London will help you navigate the exciting city without wasting time and money.
You might have everything in your head or on your planner about the things you want to see in London. But how can you reach all those unique attractions?
In my 9-day London itinerary, there was a lot of walking involved because I love walking and find it the best way to know the city.
Sometimes, distances can be too long, and you need to know how to use buses and the London TUBE.
Regardless, using the London TUBE is an attraction in itself, in my opinion. I find it extremely entertaining. You will tell me.
In this post, I will help you find your way around and inspire you to plan your next vacation to London. You may also want to read these interesting travel quotes about London to make your planning more inspired.
FIRST TIME IN LONDON – ARRIVAL BY PLANE
There are 3 main airports in London, Gatwick, Heathrow, and Stanstead, all of which are very easily connected to the city. We arrived at Gatwick, and with the Gatwick Express, we reached Victoria Station in 30 minutes. It’s a little expensive (18 GBP) but worth the money.
Here below a quick overview of the three airports:
HEATHROW AIRPORT TRANSFERS TO LONDON
Located about 14 miles from London city center, Heathrow is the most important and biggest hub in Great Britain and most probably the busiest in Europe. Its 5 terminals connect England with the most important international hubs.
No matter which terminal you arrive at, you can get from Heathrow airport to the heart of the city in a blink of an eye:
- Heathrow Express train that gets to Paddington station in about 20 minutes at the cost of about 22 GBP
- The less expensive underground (tube) (5.80 GBP) on the Piccadilly line will take about 1 hour. More info here.
FUN FACT: Heathrow Terminal 5 won the Skytrax price as the world’s best airport terminal in 2014.
GATWICK TRANSFERS TO LONDON
Gatwick is the second most important airport in Great Britain, where the majority of low-cost companies have their hubs. That’s where we arrived. It’s never been so easy to move around.
From Gatwick to London you have plenty of choices as well.
The Gatwick Express takes you to Victoria Station from where it’s easy to get to wherever you need to go. It’s located at the terminal South, and it’s the fastest way to get to London from Gatwick. It’s quite expensive, around 18GBP, if you take the express line, the regular line is about 16GBP, and it takes a little longer.
Keep in mind that this is the line to Brighton, so make sure you ask which direction the train is going before getting on so that you won’t find yourself in Brighton instead. Not that it’s an unpleasant city.
You should check on their site to know more about Gatwick express and purchase your ticket.
If you buy it online, you usually get a discount. If you are on a budget, you can use the National Express bus, whose cost varies depending on the time. You can check out prices and purchase your ticket online here.
STANSTEAD TRANSFERS TO LONDON
This underestimated airport is actually one of the busiest in Great Britain and used mainly by low-cost companies.
From Stanstead to London, you can either use the Stanstead Express train that will take you to Liverpool Street in 45 minutes for 20 GBP, or if you are not in a hurry, the Terravision buses will take you to Victoria Station in 120 minutes for 8 GBP. Not bad!
HOW TO MOVE AROUND LONDON
Moving around London is the easiest thing to do once you learn the basics of how its incredible and efficient system of transport works. And that’s what I am going to explain in a bit. Follow me here.
All the means of transportation in London become an icon of the city and something Londoners are most proud of.
The most efficient and fasters TUBE, whose colorful map has become the most popular souvenir theme, is the traditional black cabs, a little expensive but sometimes helpful. Last but not least, the classical red double-decker busses.
But let’s check them out one by one.
LONDON UNDERGROUND SERVICE ( aka the TUBE)
Did you know that London Tube is the oldest underground transportation system in the world? It has become the most common means of transportation nowadays in London because it’s fast and takes you almost everywhere.
From early morning to about midnight, you can easily and safely move around London by Tube. You need to know the below information:
The London Tube single ticket is normally £4.90, which is A LOT if you think about that. However, you can use the Oyster Card, and this is how you use it.
HOW TO USE THE OYSTER CARD
- You purchase the Oyster card for £ 5, which is refundable at the end of your trip if you like. Otherwise, it has no expiring date.
- Then you can decide the use you make, depending on how much you plan to use the local transportations and how many days you are staying.
- To use the Oyster Card, with the pay-as-you-go system, you must top it up with some credit at the self-service machines located in every underground station, and every time you enter the Tube and scan the Oyster card to get yourself in, the card will be charged £ 2.40.
- If you stay longer than 4 days up to a week, and you are planning to use TUBE and Busses a lot, you should buy the weekly Travel Card, which has a weekly rate of 36.10 pounds for zone 1,2, which is basically what you need to move around as a tourist.
- The weekly travel card is what we had, and I just loved it just for the fact that we didn’t have to worry if we had enough credit for a trip or to have to top it up all the time.
LONDON BUS TRANSPORTATION SERVICE
If you don’t have to rush from one place to another. I love to get the bus because if you manage to take your eyes off your phone, you will see the city. It’s like a panoramic tour, and you can even decide to hop off at any time you go.
The bus network is massive and efficient, despite traffic, also because busses have their own lanes.
If a few years ago you could pay as you go to the bus driver or a ticket controller, now you can only pay with your oyster card, which you would top up at the machines found in every underground station. Easy.
You will see the bus itinerary and a timer at every bus stop that tells you how much you will have to wait.
GETTING AROUND LONDON BY NIGHT
After midnight, if you don’t want to break the bank using cabs, the London night buses are available to take you home safe and sound. Because it’s the only available means of transportation, they are very much frequented and therefore relatively safe.
They run all night long, and you can find them by the N sign in front of the bus number.
GETTING AROUND LONDON BY CAB
For a door-to-door ride, the classic black cabs offer impeccable and reliable service and are, of course, super safe.
The downside is that they are quite expensive and they get stuck in traffic. But in an emergency, you can always count on them.
If you are in a rush, you better use the TUBE, though. I missed an important dinner once, when I was in London for business, just because I took a cab. I thought it would have been faster, and I was wrong.
GETTING AROUND IN LONDON ON UBER
Uber is a cheaper alternative to cabs for a door-to-door service, especially if you ask for a pool ride.
MOVING AROUND ON THE THAMES RIVER
If there is one thing that I regret is not having the chance to navigate the River Thames. I have never thought of it as a possibility in all the times I have been to London.
This time we have found out that there is a shuttle service, actually multiple uses, that would take you from Greenwich to Westminister, with in-between stops.
You can go on a ferry ride or tour, depending on what kind of experience you want to have.
We had initially planned to go from the Docklands to Greenwich to visit the Royal Observatory, the Greenwich meridian line, and explore the so famous London Borough.
Then we would have returned to base by the same ferry up to Westminster. The line I suggested was Clippers.
Well, once we arrived at the docklands we realized our plan for that day was too ambitious and we didn’t make it.
One good excuse to go back to London next year.
Anyway, if you wish to check out other companies and their tours, here below you can find some.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE FASTEST WAY TO GET WHERE YOU WANT FROM WHERE YOU ARE IN LONDON?
To not get lost and find my way around, I always use google map and love it; although I admit that sometimes I wasn’t given the best or most efficient options, I still found it useful. You can select the bus option, and the app will provide you with all the available combinations of means to get where you want, including time.
As I said, take it with a grain of salt and plan ahead of time. Especially if you need to be at a place at a specific time, give it some margin. It’s a busy city. Anything can happen. But here it’s never been more appropriate than here to say…Enjoy the ride!
HOW TO DEAL WITH LONDON WEATHER
We all have this stereotype in mind that London weather is always rain and fog, but nothing is further from the truth, at least not always.
We should know by now that stereotypes are based on fundamental truth, and probably most of the time, you can find a gray sky.
However, call me lucky, in my 10 days in London in November, we found only one day of rain, and all the rest was sunny and relatively warm for that time of the year, of course.
I remember, though, one December a few years ago, I was in London for a couple of days for work, and the cold wind was unbearable. You never know what to expect.
I recommend, though, to dress up in layers and always bring a raincoat, because rain can surprise you at any time of the day no matter how warm it started.
Summers are quite warm and sunny, and you will love the cheerful atmosphere of people gathering in the parks having their lunch, and warming up their pale winter skin. But always bring a raincoat with you. 🙂
You may also like: The 31 Best Places to Visit in Europe in December
CO-WORKING SPACES IN LONDON
In London, you can find wifi almost everywhere, so whether you just want to check on your social media or you need to work, in any coffee shop you will find good WIFI for the price of a coffee.
However, if you really need an office environment and peace and quiet to concentrate and focus, you have different awesome co-working spaces where you can spend the entire day working undisturbed, at a cost.
I have asked the help of other writers who have been in a few co-working spaces to describe their experiences. Read it here below.
Labs – Camden Triangle
One of the best places for coworking in London is LABS – Camden Triangle. You find this place between Camden Market and Regents Canal. The location is great.
There are many things nearby, such as a park and many shops.
Furthermore, there is a metro station near this location, so you can get everywhere in the city very quickly and discover some of the best things to do alone in London.
The place itself is very pleasant to work in. This is partly because of the many windows that let in a lot of natural daylight. That is what I personally liked most about this place. The facilities of this place are another aspect that makes this place a great place to work.
For example, there is good wifi, there is 24 hours access, there are showers, there is a kitchen and you get free tea, coffee, biscuits, and fruit.
Also, as a member, you get access to other places nearby, including a gym. Moreover, there are many other benefits of LABS.
For 199GBP per month, you get a membership with which you can access all buildings of the two campuses of LABS. This membership includes all facilities and services of the buildings
Contributed by Dymphe from Dymabroad.com
Not only is London a top UK bucket list destination for attractions and sights, but it also has some of the most incredible workspaces for digital nomads.
Uncommon is a great example of this, being a truly unique workspace that has a genuine focus on its members.
Their flexible workspaces and private offices are designed to make you feel good, so you work at your optimum. Whether you are a business owner or a digital nomad, Uncommon is a seriously inviting place to work.
A lot of thought has gone into the design and the result is a nurturing environment that combines wellbeing, creative space, and supportive service.
From posture-helping chairs to standing desks and space to move about, there is an emphasis on comfort and ergonomics. An abundance of plants and greenery boosts fresh air and well-being.
Music has been specifically chosen for its ability to focus the mind, while the lighting has been designed to create a well-lit space that provides clarity.
You’ll also notice carefully crafted scents and aromas for the ultimate concentration.
The Uncommon workspace creates a multi-sensory experience that is engineered to improve productivity and wellbeing.
There are currently five locations across London: Highbury & Islington, Borough, Fulham, Liverpool Street, and Holborn.
You can choose from a variety of different rates and packages depending on your needs. Day passes start from £20 + VAT, hot desks from £249 + VAT per month, and dedicated desks from £350 + VAT per month. (At the time I’m writing this)
All the essentials are included.
Enjoy 24/7 access, super-fast internet, meeting rooms, manned reception, and coffee lounges. There is also bike storage and showers for those who cycle to work.
For networking opportunities, Uncommon hosts Tuesday Tea Time, Thursday Drinks, and Friday Breakfast, as well as various workshops, member talks, and an accelerator program.
Contributed by Jessie from Pocketwanderings.com