Visiting London – The Basics that you need to know
I love London!
I have always loved London, ever since I was a child and my grandparents used to take me on trips into ‘town’ as they called central London. It has changed a lot, since those days, though. We now have skyscrapers for a start! But somehow, even the modern buildings in London, look different from those in other cities around the world. London is a strange mix of the old and the new, all getting along fine, right next door to each other. Hundreds of years of history, great shopping and a cosmopolitan feeling like no other city I have ever visited. In fact, it’s now so cosmopolitan that the last time I took my children on a visit to London; my son asked me why no one in London speaks English! So what will you find if you visit London this year? What you won’t find, I’m afraid, is pearly kings and queens, cockney rhyming slang or even punk rockers because times have moved on now in London. What you will find is an incredibly vibrant city with something for everyone who comes to visit.
Now I am biased, of course, I was born in London, all my family comes from London and I am an incredibly patriotic Englishman. But I have travelled the world too, from Nepal to North America and still, I love London Town the most. So, if you are visiting London on your holidays, I make no apology about showing off about the town that I love it and, hopefully, providing you with some useful information at the same time with my own personal guide of the basic things that you need to know when visiting London.
Is London safe?
London is statistically one of the safest big cities in the world to visit. It is a big city, though, so it is still advisable to take some sensible precautions, the same ones that you would probably take at home.
Keep your valuables safe
Pickpockets can be a problem in London, although I have never experienced it myself, and it is advisable to keep an eye on your bags and belongings in busy bars and pubs too. It is just common sense really, that will keep your belongings safe while you are in London.
Know where you are and where you are going
London is not like some other cities in the world, where there are definite boundaries of where a tourist should and should not go, but there are some areas that you wouldn't want to be on your own late at night. It would actually be quite difficult to stumble across these areas by accident as they are mostly off the beaten track, but sticking to the busy areas and knowing where you are heading to, is advisable, especially at night.
Don’t use unlicensed taxis
Always only use the licensed black cabs in London and never get in an ordinary car that might be plying for trade outside of some London venues and attractions. Unlicensed taxis are a problem in London and these are just guys with a car trying to make a few bucks, but they often don’t know where they are going, they often charge extortionate rates and, on a few rare occasions, people who have taken an unlicensed cab in London have been assaulted.
How to get around in London
Getting around in London is easy. You have the London Underground (Tube) system that will take you pretty much anywhere that you might to go, the licensed black cabs, buses and, of course, your legs!
You will be surprised at how close together most of the common tourist sites in London actually are. You could, for example, see Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye and go shopping in Regent Street without using any other form of transport other than your legs. It’s well worth buying a map and planning your day in advance to see what sites you can take in without having to sit in traffic in a cab or travelling underground in the Tube.
Londoners moan about the Tube system a lot. It can be crowded, it can be hot in the summer and yes, sometimes there are delays. But mostly it’s a fantastic system. It’s relatively cheap, there are Tube stations near to all of the major attractions in London. You are only on it for a few minutes at a time, so even the heat is bearable. On a note of safety though, some tube stations can be pretty lonely places late at night, so a cab home might be better.
Personally, I never use the buses because I never know which one I need to get on! There’s nothing wrong with using the bus, I have always just found that the tube and cabs have always met my needs. There are, however, some pretty good tour bus services that will take you on a tour of all the major London tourist attractions. For these, you buy a ticket that lasts the whole day and you can hop on and off the bus all day long. They also provide a guide who will give you commentary, as you tour the sights of London.
London cabbies are world renowned for their friendliness and helpfulness. If you use a licensed can in London then you will get safely to where you are going and you won’t get ripped off. They are quite expensive though, especially if you get caught in traffic or go a long distance. Other than the cost though, you can’t go wrong with a London cab. Just hail one that has its orange ‘For Hire’ light on and off you go.
If you are feeling adventurous, then you can hire push bikes in London. You can pick them up at one docking station, like the one in the image above and you can drop them off at another. Much has been done in London to promote cycling and there are special cycling routes and lanes. Personally, though, I wouldn’t recommend it. The roads in London are really busy and there are lots of buses and large trucks to contend with let alone all the pedestrians wandering across the streets in front of you.
Where to eat in London
You are never far from good food in London, whatever your tastes; from McDonald's to restaurants with Michelin stars. Restaurants of all kinds though, do get very busy during the day, so if you leave lunch until around midday then it is very likely that will have to queue for a table. However, if you are in a busy thoroughfare, like Oxford Street or near to a major London tourist attraction, take a walk down one of the nearby side streets to look for a place to eat. You will still be safe and, in just a few minutes of walking, you will find the crowds thinning and some restaurants or pubs that are less busy. Most pubs in London do serve reasonable food too, but if you have children with you, be aware that quite a lot of pubs do not allow children or, if they do, only in creation areas of the pub.
Some useful websites for visitors to London
- London's best restaurants - London's top 50 restaurants - Time Out
Your guide to the best restaurants in London from a light graze to a slap up meal or just something different, discover the best food in the capital.
- Home - Transport for London
Information on all forms of transport in London including cycle hire. Routes, maps, plan a journey, tickets sales, realtime traffic and travel updates
- visitlondon.com Your Official London City Guide
Come and see all that awaits you in the great city of London. Find out where to visit, what to see and the best places to stay. Welcome to visitlondon.com