The hustle and bustle of inner-city London can be a bit daunting for first-time visitors, especially if you are not accustomed to navigating huge city centres. Fortunately, London has plenty to offer in every corner so you are never too far from an esteemed tourist attract, restaurant or bar, but even still you want to make the most of your visit. Here are a few tips about how to handle London on your first visit.
For such a busy city, London’s transport system is exceptionally good. The best way to get around is on the famous underground system, and with 250 miles of track serving 270 stations, practically all the major points are easily accessible. If you are only visiting for a couple of days, buy the day pass rather than individual journeys. Otherwise get an Oyster Card – pre-paid plastic that takes your further for less. Remember to top them up once your money expires.
Although the underground map is pretty easy to understand, it is worth taking a few moments to study the route. Firstly take your starting point and your final destination, then follow the coloured lines to determine which route you need to get there. You may have to change lines, each of which are represented by a different colour.
To determine which platform you need, each station has boards at the bottom of the stairs. If you do not see your destination on the board you are looking at, chances are it is on the board for the opposite platform. If you are not sure, ask one of the London Transport attendants, identified by a blue uniform and often in a bright reflective jacket. You can’t miss them! Avoid using the underground during rush hour.
The bus is also an option, but traffic congestion makes journeys slow and laborious. Taxis suffer the same problem and are expensive. There are also over ground sections which are part of the underground system therefore you can use your Oyster Card. Trains do not accept Oyster Cards so you need to buy a separate ticket to reach attractions such as Hampden Court, Wimbledon and Twickenham. Free stuff in London
London is very expensive, but you can find lots of things to do that do not cost a penny. All the major museums and galleries do not charge entrance fees, and some offer free guided tours. Tate Modern and the British Museum are highly recommended. If you are traveling with kids don’t miss the Natural History and Science Museums in Cromwell Street. The museums are side by side.
For your first visit, vibrant Camden Market is worth a visit, especially if you are on a budget and looking for a cheap meal that is packed with flavour. Chinese and Indian dishes are prominent, but there are all kinds of other choices too.
If the weather is nice, take a stroll along Queen’s Walk between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. If the street performers don’t keep you entertained you can always watch the teenagers trying out new tricks in the skate park. If you want to get involved in some sporting activities yourself try your hand at Petanque (boules) in Hays Galleria Shopping Arcade.
London is an exciting city to visit at any time of year, but can be bitterly cold in the winter months between November and March. The best times to visit weather wise are between May and September, but always carry a rain mac or umbrella. You can’t rely on British weather, but don’t let it spoil your day.
Also, to avoid the crowds and expensive hotels, stay in serviced apartments for those home to home comforts you can’t afford to be away from even when travelling!