So you’ve decided to spend a few days in the UK capital and want to discover all the fun and frolics it offers a traveller from overseas. Have you ever been here before? If not, there are a handful of things you might want to be aware of before you set off – you’ll be thankful then to give the following a read…!
Oyster yourself up!
Perhaps the one accoutrement you can’t be without when you spend time in London, the Oyster Card is the ‘top up’-able electronic travel pay card that the vast majority of people use on the London Underground (Tube), Docklands Light Railway, Overground train, river taxi and bus networks. Why do they all use it? Because it saves some serious dough compared to trying to pay by any other means – in fact, so ubiquitous has the Oyster Card become that buses no longer use paper tickets. To put you in the picture, the city’s public transport network is split into six different geographic zones (journeys being priced accordingly), while Tube trains are now slowly starting to run 24-hours a day (on certain lines) and there’s also a cheap pay-as-you-go self-service bike option in the shape of Santander Cycles.
Don’t forget your documents
A bit of a universal one this, as ensuring you take the requisite documents with you wherever you travel in the world is solid advice to say the least, but don’t forget that packing ID with you (preferably on your person) is important when visiting a mega metropolis like London. Why? Well, first, should anything untoward happen you can prove who you are or anyone else can quickly find out who you are. And, second, should you be looking to indulge in the city’s fantastic nightlife during your time here, you may well find you’ll need to proffer some form of ID to get into many a bar or club – yes, whatever your age!
WiFi works wonders
Let’s face it; staying in touch is essential in today’s digitally-dominated world – and it doesn’t stop when you travel abroad for either a short-break or a longer holiday. And, fear not, there’s no problem on that score in London thanks to the excellent WiFi coverage that’s widespread across the entire city – including in many of its restaurants, bars and places of stay (like the Park Grand Paddington Court London hotel). Even if you arrive here and discover you have mobile – or cell – phone issues, you can pick up a very cheap phone to ensure you at least can stay in contact with people any time of day. Most of all, though, you’ll be able to rely on the great WiFi available.
Apps are fantastic
So long as you have a Smartphone or digital device with you, there’s no reason not to download and make use of the very best applications – or apps – available to make your time in the capital as comfortable, stress-free and enjoyable as possible. Being one of the world’s leading digital hubs, London’s terrifically served by a whole host of apps, but essential ones include Citymapper (which’ll help you plan your journeys across the city, thanks to its route-mapping, time-estimating and price-totalling capabilities); Transport for London (TfL)/ London Underground and Uber for, yes, transport details; Met Office for weather news and forecasts and the essential TimeOut for dining, music gig, theatre, cinema and general going-out options.
Big Smoke quirks
Setting foot in a big city you’ve never been to before and so aren’t familiar with can be a disorienting experience; every major city has its own particular culture, etiquette and quirks. And London’s no different. A good example is what’s called jaywalking. Don’t be surprised to see Londoners walk in the road as they busily hurry along – it’s not illegal in the UK and nobody’ll bat an eye so long as nobody gets hurt! Another example is standing on the right-hand side of escalators only; never the left (people use this side to hurry up and down them). You’ll discover it’s de rigeur on the Tube, but increasingly it’s an unspoken rule elsewhere too.
And what of that well-known British reserve? Well, as London’s become a global city and thus more cosmopolitan than other parts of the country, it’s less in evidence nowadays, but you’ll still encounter it. Brits generally aren’t as boastful, loud and boisterous as other nationalities – especially on the Tube, where people like to keep themselves to themselves. You have been warned!