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London: 7 Things Travelers Need To Know Before Visiting

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London is a world-class city that tops “best-of” charts year after year.

The city embraces its history and cultural charm while also being a modern place to visit with cutting-edge entertainment, food, and urban adventures.

And despite recent challenges — the fallout from Brexit, the death of the Queen, political drama, and the pandemic, to name a few — London continues to thrive and be an incredible city to visit, offering something for everyone.

Big Ben stands tall in London as seen from the water

But before setting off to London, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about traveling to London, including:

  • What are the costs for travelers?
  • Things to know about culture and etiquette
  • What are the top attractions?
  • How safe is it?
  • Local food and drinks
  • How good is the WiFi?
  • How long can you stay?

Ready? Here are the top 7 things you need to know before visiting London:

statues of lions in Trafalgar square in London

Did you know… On Saturday, May 6th London will welcome visitors from across the world who will descend upon the city to witness the coronation of King Charles III. This will be the first royal coronation in 70 years and festivities will take place throughout the city. The city’s preparations are well underway as London puts its best foot forward for the historic event. Visitors can expect massive crowds and inflated prices if they want to join in the celebration.

1) London Affordability

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Central London does not have the most affordable hotel rates, so if you are looking to travel here on a budget, you can look outside the city center (just be sure there is public transit nearby). Savings can be found on activities, though, as London has plenty of free museums and attractions worth checking out.

The currency in London is the Pound Sterling or GBP. The current exchange rate is £1 GBP = $1.24 USD and $1 USD = £0.81 GBP

Here are the average costs for travelers in USD:

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London skyline with sunset

Accommodation

  • Average hotel price: One night at a 3-star hotel typically costs around $320, or $395 per night for a 4-star hotel.
  • Luxury 5-star hotels: Luxury 5-star hotels in a central area average $840 per night, although there are more expensive options if you want to indulge. The Savoy in Westminster has standard rooms starting at $975 and King Suites for $4,900 per night.
  • If you're on a budget: There are hundreds of hostels to choose from in London. If you don’t mind staying outside of the city center you can find a bed in a dorm for between $25 – $30 or a private ensuite room for around $100 – $150 per night. If you want to stay in central London, you’ll likely pay double these prices.

Food

  • A 3-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two costs around $90.
  • For a cheap meal at an inexpensive restaurant, expect to pay around $22.
  • A beer costs between $6 – $8, while a cappuccino is typically $4.25.

Transportation

  • London’s public transportation network will get you anywhere you need to go. The London Underground, or “the tube,” is an efficient and affordable way to get around in London. Full-fare single-trip tickets cost $8.31, but there are more affordable options.

    Reduced-rate tickets can be purchased at the station via contactless debit or credit cards or by purchasing an Oyster Card for $8.70.

    Using the Oyster Card or a contactless card reduces the fare to $3.48, and if you take the tube for 3 or more journeys, your payments will be capped at $10. Buses are an even cheaper option, with a daily cap of $6.50.
  • The city’s electric bike-share program Santander Cycles is another great way to get around the city. There are over 11,500 bikes docked at 750 stations across the city. Rentals cost $2 per half-hour.
  • Taxi fares start at $4.70 and cost an additional $3.70 per mile traveled. The fares are slightly more at night. Uber is available, and rates are comparable to taxi fares.
commuters walk through a tube station in London while a train arrives at the platform

2) Culture And Etiquette In London

Check this list before your trip! Here are some of the major Dos and Don’ts in London.

  • DO respect the queue: When waiting for something (the till at a shop, an ATM, or to order in a café), make sure you get in line and wait your turn.
  • DON’T stand on the left: When using an escalator, be sure to stand on the right to allow those who want to walk up the space to do so on the left-hand side.  
  • DO say sorry: Brits apologize for everything. “Sorry” is used not only to admit fault but also as a courtesy, to call attention to someone whose name you don’t know, and also as a way to say “excuse me”.
  • DON’T forget raingear: The weather in London is notoriously dreary, and showers can hit at any time. Be prepared with a raincoat, umbrella, and water-resistant shoes.  

3) Top Attractions in London

London is full of incredible places to explore – the city is home to 95 free museums and 487 free sightseeing attractions. Here are a few of the top things to see and do while visiting the city:

  • Buckingham Palace – For just 10 weeks each year, visitors can tour several of the state rooms inside Buckingham Palace, home to the British Monarch. If you aren’t able to snag a tour inside the palace, be sure to catch one of the Changing of the Guard ceremonies, which take place four times per week.
  • Borough Market – One of London’s biggest and oldest public food markets where visitors can find everything from fresh produce, delicious street food, spices, and locally made drinks. Feeling overwhelmed with choice? Take a food tour of the market and sample the best of what the market has to offer.
  • The British Museum – A collection of artifacts that tell the story of human history and culture across the world. Included in the museum’s eight million objects is the rosetta stone, Egyptian mummies, and the Parthenon sculptures.
buckingham palace

4) How Safe Is It For Tourists?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

London is a very safe city for tourists to visit. However, there are still some things that travelers should keep in mind to stay safe during their visit:

  • Beware of thieves: pickpocketing is the most common crime that tourists encounter in London. Be on high alert in busy areas, tourist hotspots, and on public transportation.
  • Research your neighborhood: Make sure you select accommodations that are in safe neighborhoods. If you are out late at night, take a taxi back to your hotel rather than walking, especially if you’ve had a few drinks.
  • Know how to call for help: Emergency services can be reached by calling 999.
  • DO get travel insurance: Travel insurance can help in health emergencies as well as with covering the costs of any travel mishaps during your London trip. For 5 great options, read more here.
a woman poses on a bridge in london as the sun sets behind her

5) Local Eats And Drinks

One of the best parts of travel is checking out the local cuisine, and London is a fantastic place to try new foods. Don't let yourself leave without trying at least one of the following:

Food

London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, and that is reflected in the city’s culinary options. In London, you’ll find traditional British favorites alongside authentic food from any corner of the world.

  • Fish and Chips – battered and fried white fish served with thick-cut fries typically served with tartare sauce for the fish and vinegar to sprinkle on the chips.
  • Beef Wellington – a filet of pate-covered steak wrapped in a puff pastry
  • Eton Mess – a dessert made with pieces of meringue, whipped cream, and strawberries.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala – a fusion dish of chicken that has been rubbed in Asian spices and then stewed in a creamy tomato sauce

Drinks

  • Tea – black tea is one of the most popular drinks in England, it is typically brewed strong and served unsweetened with a splash of milk.
  • Pimm’s – a gin-based liqueur flavored with herbs, spices, and caramelized orange typically served on ice with mint, cucumber, orange, and strawberries
  • Cider – a refreshing alcoholic apple cider perfect for when the sun shines in London.
  • Real Ale – naturally fermented, unfiltered, cask-conditioned beer poured straight from the cask at room temperature
the buildings of london rise through a low layer of clouds

6) How's the WiFi?

Using Ookla, an internet speed testing service, the average internet speeds in London for February 2023 were 68.11mbps download and 8.72mbps upload.

People walking along the river in London with Tower bridge in background

7) How Long Can I Stay?

Americans traveling to The UK can stay for up to 6 months without needing a visa. Passports must be valid for the duration of your stay in the United Kingdom. Americans will soon need to obtain new UK Electronic Travel Authorization prior to boarding their flight.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


kelli

Thursday 20th of April 2023

This article was perfect timing. My husband and I are heading to London tomorrow for one month. We are housesitting, and our first assignment is two weeks in Notting Hill. To think what that apartment would cost to rent for that time makes us feel very lucky we get to stay in such a central location for free. There are so many free things to do there and I look forward to the museums and other activities.