Bite-size city guide: what and what not to do in London


London’s a must-visit metropolis for surely anyone wherever they hail from. However, should you be thinking of giving the UK capital a go, there are one or two things you might consider before hopping on that plane to Heathrow…

Preload an Oyster card ahead of your trip

The Oyster card is the credit-card-like, tap-in-tap-out payment option that practically everybody uses on London public transport (Underground and Overground trains, buses and river buses) because it’s fast and efficient *and* saves you money over buying physical travel tickets. To reduce hassle then, pre-purchase one for just ahead of leaving home for London, making sure you top it up with some credit.

Hire a ‘Boris bike’ 30 minutes at a time 

Alternatively, you can get about by taking to the streets on two wheels. Officially named Santander Cycles (but nicknamed ‘Boris bikes’ after former London Mayor Boris Johnson, whom introduced the scheme), you can use one for half-hour bursts at a time, so long as you return it in that timeframe then wait and use another one for just half-an-hour… and so on.

Book your hotel before arriving

One thing you shouldn’t do is trying to wing it when it comes to accommodation. London’s a big city full of a multitude of hotels; unfortunately, though, it’s also full of people staying at them all. You don’t want to be stranded as soon as you arrive in the Big Smoke without a bed for the night. But, with the digital revolution evolving as we speak, it’s easier than ever before to seek out, choose and book hotel rooms via smartphone applications – in which case, the London hotel booking app is very much your friend.

Buy a London Pass for access to 60-plus attractions

The London Pass scheme isn’t cheap, but it’s the enormous number of attractions – which would ordinarily set you back a wad of cash – it enables you to enter for no additional cost that makes it such an appealing investment.

Buy a UK power adaptor

British electricity works a little differently compared to some countries (especially the United States), so you’ll require a UK-centric power adaptor. Whatever you do, don’t rely on getting one at the airport; you’ll pay over the odds for it. Instead, buy one at a local shop (or ‘corner shop’) once you’ve arrived in the city.

Don’t forget the walking tours are free

Tourist-wise, if there’s one thing London’s renowned for, it’s the walking tours. They’re rather marvellous, led as they are by genuinely informed, often charismatic guides. Run in conjunction with the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tours (which are also well worth giving a go), these tours are free. Yes, that’s right; you can walk about the place and find out why exactly where you’ve paused is of import and resonance to the Royal family, the city’s sordid, criminal past, the Harry Potter and James Bond universes, ghosts and ghouls, the Black Death or Jack the Ripper, the Victorian serial killer whose reputation still resounds down through the decades.

Celebrity spotting

Finally, just like NYC and LA, London is brimming with celebrities; both the revered and famous-for-five-minute types. If you want to catch sight of one – seriously, it’s not actually that difficult – head to fashionable, trendy areas like Soho, Chelsea, Mayfair, Camden and Primrose Hill where a good number live and hang out. And, of course, keep an eye out!

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