London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations for good reason. Brimming with culture, historical landmarks, and a welcoming population, it’s easy to see why you’d be interested in visiting the city.
However, if you want to make the most of your trip, there are some strategies you should put to good use—and some things you should know beforehand.
Maximizing Your London Trip
Take these tips to heart before you depart for London:
- Pick the area you’re staying carefully. London is a huge city, with a population of 8.6 million and a size of more than 600 square miles. Before you pick a hotel or a place to stay, try to figure out which areas of London you’d like to focus on, then choose accommodations close to that area.
- Nab an Oyster card. You can get an Oyster card pretty much anywhere in London. They’re free to travelers, and you can load them up with as much money as you want to ride London’s various public transportation modes. Using an Oyster card makes each journey less expensive, and there’s a hard limit to how much you can spend each day, which means you’ll never pay more than a fixed amount for travel in a single day.
- Pack wisely. Before leaving, make sure you pack as intelligently as possible; London’s weather can be unpredictable, so bring along multiple sets of clothes for all types of weather conditions, and make sure to use a service like Ben Lido so you have plenty of travel items like soaps and shampoos while you’re at it.
- Walk wherever you can. Some of the underground stations are so close together, it’s actually faster to walk them than to take the tube. London is a highly walkable city, so you shouldn’t have any trouble traveling by foot. It will also give you the chance to take in more of the sights, and experience what the city is really like.
- Take advantage of the museums. If you’re from the United States, you might be surprised to learn that nearly all the museums and art galleries in London are completely free to attend. Places like the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum can keep your mind engaged for days, and you won’t have to spend a dime to do it.
- Skip the tours. There are lots of services in London that provide tours of the city to tourists, including double-decker buses that highlight some of the city’s biggest attractions. However, they tend to be expensive, and they operate on a fixed schedule. You might learn a couple of interesting tidbits from these tours, but you’re better off exploring the city on your own and talking to locals to experience the culture directly.
- Avoid the busy times. The streets get heavily congested during rush hours—before 9 am and after 5 pm on weekdays—so try not to travel during these periods. You’ll also find that certain areas of London, such as the ever-popular Oxford Street, are exceptionally busy on weekend afternoons. Aim to explore the city during “off” periods whenever you can.
- Explore the food markets. Wander through some of the best food markets in London when you’re ready for something to eat. Not only will you get to discover some of the best culinary treats London has to offer, but you’ll also avoid the expensive bars and restaurants that can drain your budget without giving you much in return.
- Get a cheap sim card. Unless you have an international plan, your phone probably won’t work in London. For that, you’ll need a local sim card. Since you’ll only be using it during your vacation, you can pick up a cheap one to make calls if and when you need to.
- Talk to the locals. Londoners might seem cold or quiet, compared to the average American city dweller, but they’re generally quite friendly. Take the time to talk to local residents, and you’ll meet some extraordinary people—and get some hot tips on things to do while you’re in town.
A Second Visit?
There’s so much to do in London and its surrounding areas that you probably won’t be able to do everything in the span of a single trip. Instead, plan on taking another trip to this city in the future; that way, you’ll get more time to see all the sights you want to see, and you’ll feel less pressure during your first run. In any case, do your research before you depart, and get ready to enjoy one of the biggest, most popular cities in the world!