If you’re reading this, I am guessing you’re either planning a trip to London, currently in London or simply doing a little research on the beautifully bustling city. You’ve landed yourself in the right place because I, for one, am one of London’s biggest fans. As a travel blogger, fellow traveller and once a resident of the beautiful cultural hub, I thought it was best to chuck together a couple of tips and hacks for travellers heading that way.
Not only have I visited London four times as a tourist, but I also set up camp, got myself a job and called it home for a little over 12 months (you can read more here, here and here). After returning to Australia in 2015, I have been lucky enough to visit twice more. London is, and always will be my home away from home.
Let me start by saying that London is huge- like bloody big, to put it mildly- and there is a shit tonne of things to do, see and experience. Because of this, It can be easy to miss out on some of the best parts, spend too much money or fall short of making the most out of your trip. So with my little bit of expertise, here are ten things I think every traveller should know before visiting London.
5 Things You Should Know Before Visiting London
1. The Airports and Getting to Your Destination
When booking a flight to London, Skyscanner (or any travel company) will often give you the option of three airports, or simply tell you which one you’re going to. I always assumed all three were located on the tube line, as I had heard this in passing. This is not true, but let me elaborate.
Heathrow Airport is in fact position on the Piccadilly underground route and is the most cost-effective way of getting to London, costing roughly 6 pounds to the city centre. (45minutes)
Gatwick airport is not as fortunate. However, the SOUTHERN line runs from Gatwick airport to Victoria station on a regular basis. DO NOT let the airport convince you to travel on the Gatwick Express, not only is it more than double the price, but it is only a couple of minutes faster. The Southern line to Victoria will cost you 8.10 pound; you can then travel from Victoria to your desired destination.(45 minutes)
Luton Airport. You’ve effed up if you’ve found yourself arriving at Luton Airport. In memory, the fare will cost you roughly 15.00 pound on the train. Fear not, the 757 bus runs to Victoria and will cost you 8.50 as an adult. You can see the Greenline bus costs and routes here (1hr 33minutes)
For all the above options (unless you’re staying near Victoria station) you will need to purchase an Opal card. The Opal card costs a refundable 5 pounds upon purchase. You will then need to top-up your desired amount. Note: daily, weekly and monthly top-up options are available.
2. There is a lot more to see than just the main tourist attractions
I’m sure everyone who is planning a trip to London has the Buckingham Palace and London Eye on their list- bravo, its kind of a must- but, there is much more to see, and many places go unseen. While visiting London, you’re going to want to spend a day ticking off the must-see locations like “The Big Ben” and Trafalgar Square- with the close vicinity of all these places, you can fit them all into the one day. Choose a sunny day (if ever) and get onto a FREE London walking tour (you can totally do it yourself if you prefer). For the rest of your trip, take your time exploring the quirks of London, like Shoreditch Brick Lane, Camden Markets or Portobello Road.
3. You can save A LOT of money by grabbing a quick lunch from Tesco or Boots
There is no denying that London is bloody expensive. While some things go cheap, your overall daily expenses can add up to an explosive amount. While living in London, we found ourselves saving A LOT of money by grabbing a quick lunch deal from Boots or Tesco. I don’t know about where you guys are from, but in Australia, you would never opt for a pre-packaged sandwich from the supermarket-like ever! London has somehow aced the packaged sandwiches and partnered them with a drink and “snack” to create an amazingly cheap lunch deal. For 3.5 Pound you can get yourself a gourmet style sandwich, drink of choice (I always get the superfood smoothie) and snack (Bircher muesli is delish)!
4. Choosing your form transport and avoiding “PEAK HOUR.”
We’re all here to save a buck, so here is another one of my favourite travel hacks for London- knowing HOW to travel around. As I mentioned above, a lot of the main attractions are within walking distance, so do yourself a favour and get your hands on a map to plan out your day.
Secondly, the bus is a lot cheaper and doubles as an excellent way to see the city (doubles-get it?). Save yourself a couple of pounds by downloading city-mapper app and travelling around on the bus (the 94 is my favourite)
Lastly, avoid peak hours. Like seriously, not only will you be avoiding a terrible experience of travelling with your nose in someone else’s armpit, but you’ll save yourself a good 5 pound a day! Travel outside of peak – Peak hours are between the hours of 06.30 and 09.30 and 16.00 and 19.00 Monday to Friday. Just don’t do it, guys!
5. London’s nightlife is both weird and wonderful!
Whether you’re the “pub crawl” type or like to take it as it comes, London will not let you down with its crazy (weird) nightlife and never ending hidden secrets. Ice bars, detective bars, blues bars, nude bars, hidden bars, bars set in the 1920’s, fightclub dart bars, tropical beach clubs, bars in the dark, silent disco drinks, bars you enter through a fridge- I’m serious- London has it all!! Make sure you do your research and get in on the London alternate ways of drinking! Of course, you can also stick to the typical clubs, pay your cover charge and leave- but you can do that anywhere in the world, am I right?