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Visiting London – The Basics that you need to know

Updated on July 11, 2014
The Mall, London. Leading up to Buckingham Palace
The Mall, London. Leading up to Buckingham Palace | Source
London Skyline
London Skyline | Source

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.

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London is a safe city, but you should only use licensed taxi cabs.
London is a safe city, but you should only use licensed taxi cabs. | Source

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.

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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!

Walking in London. Easier than you might think.
Walking in London. Easier than you might think.

Walking

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.

The London Tube system
The London Tube system | Source

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.

London Bus tours are a great way to get around the city.
London Bus tours are a great way to get around the city. | Source

The Bus

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 cabs. Look for the orange light!
London cabs. Look for the orange light! | Source

Licenced Taxis

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.

Cycles for hire. Known as 'Borris Bikes' after the Mayor of London who introduced them.
Cycles for hire. Known as 'Borris Bikes' after the Mayor of London who introduced them. | Source

Cycling

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.

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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.

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very cool. I would love to visit again and again.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 3 years ago

      London, sigh, "when you are tired of London you are tired of life" so said Samuel Johnson in 1777 - not much to change that thought in 2014! Thanks for sharing. Up, interesting, beautiful and useful.

    • Artois52 profile image
      Author

      Artois52 3 years ago from England

      Many thanks for your comments.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 3 years ago from California

      I love London. It's been many years since I've been there, but I love the double decker buses and have really enjoyed the theater there.

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