Planning a trip to London is exciting and scary at the same time, particularly if it’s your first time visiting London. As a London, I can definitely say this is one of the most amazing cities in the world and an absolute treat to visit both as a Londoner or tourist. There is something new to discover every day even for those that live here. A vibrant city that is constantly changing. So, if you are looking for tips on traveling to London for the first time as well as a repeat visit, below are some of these most basic and essential things to know when visiting London.
Getting To London
There are plenty of airlines with direct flights from USA, UAE, France, Iceland, China and many other destinations. Many of these airlines like British Airways, Qantas, United, Norwegian all operate flights several times a day through London’s busiest airport; Heathrow Airport. Once you have arrived in London we have also provided tips on how to get from Londons airports into central London. From Heathrow, Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and London City Airport.
Visas For London/UK
One of the most important things to know when visiting London or planning a trip to London is whether you are allowed in, in the first place. Unless you have a British or European Union passport(likely to change after Brexit), you will most likely need a visa. Most countries get visa on arrival at the airports in the UK but even with this you may still be asked lots of questions about your visit to London. How long you are planning on staying and how you will be funding your stay in the city.
There are also many countries where you will be required to apply for a visa from the country of origin and this in itself when you arrive does not guarantee entry as you will still be asked to provide proof of where you are staying and how you will support your stay. For additional details always check the ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.
Also, note that most visas require that you have at least £2000 in savings for your trip. You will need to have your documents such as bank statements with you to show at passport control proof of sufficient funds to support yourself. Its usually recommended having at least around £200 cash on you to cover food, transport, supplies etc.
Getting Around London
From Heathrow alone, over 200,000 people arrive through this airport. Without including other airports mentioned above, you can just imagine the number of tourists visiting the capital. There are plenty of options from express trains operating between Heathrow and Paddington as well as Gatwick and Victoria. There are coach services operating between airports and many cities in the UK via National Express, Megabus as well as a few smaller companies.
London has one of the most amazing transportation system in the world. We have the London underground, overground, trams, bus system, Uber, mini-cabs, black cabs and not to mention the London bicycle system. If you are going to use public transport you will need to get an Oyster Card, a prepaid card which is available from most if not all London Underground stations. You can also use your contactless bank card. The Oyster card and public transport offer the best fares on journeys on the Underground, rail, and bus journeys.
Not that black cabs in London although cute and one of London’s bucket list things to do, they can be expensive as they charge based on the meter and based on peak and non-peak hours. For more information on London transport also visit tfl.gov.uk.
Languages In London
London is vibrant with a mix of people from every corner of the globe and while you visit you will here a lot of languages and London accents. With that being said, the main language spoken here is English. Keep your eyes pinned and listen out for the South London accent and Cockney accents.
Currency In London / UK
The currency in London and UK, in general, is the pound. While there are plenty of places to exchange money in London and at the airport, we strongly advise you bring some pound cash for the first day or two to cover transportation just in case you have issues paying with your card for service on your first day. Nothing beats cash!
Where To Stay In London
When it comes to preparing for a trip to London, another aspect of planning a visit to London is deciding where to stay in London. This all depends on your budget and lifestyle or intention of your visit. We will cover tips on where to stay in London in more detail in a separate post. This will help you decide on where to stay as a student, where to stay in London if moving here or visiting for London than a few days in addition to where to stay if visiting for the first time as a tourist.
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