Travel Tips: London
Ah merry old London Town! This bustling metropolis was once the most powerful and largest city in human history, but has since toned down its imperial might to now be one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth. London is seemingly a city of endless opportunity and sights to see, all of which can’t be done in just one trip! However, I’ll do my best to round up the must-sees and what you need to know before jet-setting off to London.
Lucky for you, the London Underground boasts one of the largest subway systems in the world with 11 lines and serves a whopping 4.8 million daily riders. Before using any public transportation, whether, by subway or double-decker bus, you will need to buy an Oyster card which is a contactless payment card that must be regularly topped up at machines located inside subway stations. The “Tube” is separated into zones, with Zone 1 being the city centre and the rest going out to the city limits. The cost of each trip depends on which zone you’re in and the distance. For example, travel within Zone 1 costs £4.90 ($8.53 CAD).
Although there’s plenty to see in London from Victorian gardens to traditional English pubs, there’s a few spots you have to see to truly say you’ve “seen” London.
The British Museum is dedicated not only to the U.K.’s history but to all human history, art and culture. Located in London’s Bloomsbury area, the British Museum houses several Egyptian mummies and one of the most important archeological discoveries in history – the Rosetta Stone.
The London Eye is a 443-foot ferris located on the Thames River in South Bank. When it was constructed in 1999, it was the tallest ferris wheel in the world, however, it is still considered the “world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.” The London Eye provides a breathtaking 360 view of London and is the city’s most popular paid tourist attraction. BONUS: The London Dungeon tour is located right next to the ferris wheel where you can learn all about the city’s dark past.
Buckingham Palace is home her majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It’s the focal point of British celebrations and mourning, but wasn’t the monarchy’s primary residence until Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837. Here you can see the famous changing of the guard and can even take a tour of the state rooms.
The Tower of London is the city’s most infamous structure. It dates back to 1066 when it was home to first Norman king of England and long seen as a symbol of oppression because it was later used as a prison where inmates were routinely tortured. In fact, the Tower served as a prison up until 1952 when it housed the Kray twins.
It’s no secret that London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. If you didn’t, then surprise! Of course, travelers have long been able to see the city on a budget. Taking the subway everywhere can be expensive, that’s why you should “leg it” whenever possible. Although you don’t have to wind yourself because there’s plenty of parks around the city like Hyde Park, to stop and smell the roses.
Most visitors don’t know, but ALL museums and galleries in London are 100% free! You could actually make a great trip out of visiting spots like the National Gallery, Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.
Unless it’s an emergency, avoid exchanging currency at hotels or airport kiosks as they will have higher transaction fees. Exchange for British pounds at your bank before departing. If you cannot do so, Knightsbridge FX offers exchange rates that are better than the big banks!
London is home to some of the best restaurants in the world and best chefs like Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver. However, their restaurants can be quite expensive, so if you’re in the mood for opulence, London is going to make you pay for it. If you’re on a budget, there’s cafes everywhere and chain restaurants like Nando’s. There is also a deli chain called Pret a Manger, a ready-made sandwich and coffee shop with several shops located around the downtown area.
London is relatively safe for such a large city. There is a heavy police presence at all major tourist attractions and crowded areas. As with any big city, keep your belongings close and avoid unfamiliar neighbourhoods at night. Most Londoners are actually quite nice and will be happy to provide you with directions or recommendations, so don’t be afraid to ask!