Part of the fun of visiting a new city is exploring the different customs, traditions and vibes. However, there are a few useful things to know before you arrive that can make the entire experience a little bit easier. Before visiting any city it’s a good idea to get a feel of what to expect and to do a bit of research and planning. Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, take note of our tips to plan a trip to London to ensure you get the most out of your visit. These pearls of wisdom will save you time, money and help you squeeze in as many attractions and fun things to do as possible, whatever your itinerary.
1. Tipping is not essential
Whether you are coming from a country where tipping is a big deal or somewhere where tipping is relative nonexistent, it’s useful to know what to expect in London. Many people in the UK do tip and usually anything from 10% to 15% is deemed polite. However, tipping isn’t essential and you won’t be made to feel uncomfortable if you choose not to.
2. Some restaurants will add a service charge
Some restaurants will automatically add a service charge of around 12.5% to your bill. You can ask for this to be removed if you’re not happy with the service, but be careful not to tip twice.
3. Buy theatre tickets on the day
London is home to some of the world’s greatest theatre productions but this means tickets can be expensive. Most theatres will have tickets available for purchase on the day so if you’re not too fussed about where you sit, it’s worth venturing down to the box office on the day to bag a bargain.
4. Respect the British queue
It may be a stereotype but it’s one with some truth behind it. British people take their queuing etiquette seriously and don’t take kindly to pushing in or queue jumping. So, if you want to avoid any awkward encounters or disgruntled locals, it’s best to just stand in line and wait your turn.
5. Drinking in public places is allowed
Drinking in public places is allowed in London and you’ll often see groups of friends sitting in local parks having a drink in the sunshine. The only time this isn’t acceptable is on public transport and in areas that have been specifically designated as alcohol-free zones.
6. Stand on the right
The London Underground is a maze of escalators and though there are rarely signs to highlight this, it is expected that you stand on the right at all times. This is to keep the left side clear for anyone who wants to walk up or down and get to their platform that little bit quicker.
7. Get an Oyster Card
If you plan to use public transport, it’s highly advisable to get an Oyster Card before you jump on the Tube or bus. An Oyster Card can be purchased from most newsagents near Tube stations as well as at the station itself. Not only is it more convenient than buying a new ticket for every journey you make, it also makes travelling around the city considerably cheaper.
8. Museums and art galleries are free
If you’re visiting London and are on a budget it’s important to note that many museums and art galleries are free. That includes all the most popular spots such as The Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, The National Gallery and the Tate.
9. Take advantage of the great public transport
London has a great Underground network and bus routes, so take advantage of them. You can get pretty much everywhere using public transport and everything is mapped out to make it easy for tourists to navigate.
10. Bring a raincoat
This is probably one of the more obvious tips to plan a trip to London, but bring a raincoat or an umbrella. The stereotype of it raining constantly in London is by no means accurate and most summer days in London are lovely but it can rain at a moment’s notice.