20 Things To Know Before You Visit London

London is an exciting place to include on your travel itinerary.  Unesco world heritage sites, history, culture and iconic landmarks to explore. There are so many things to see and do. On our travels to London, we picked up a few tips that can help to save time and money on your trip and also make your trip more enjoyable.

London Turbo Pass

Tours and attractions

1. A guided tour is a great way to get a good orientation of the city and can save queuing for entry into some of the major attractions. We pre-booked a one-day coach tour for our first day, with the cost including two entry fees.  If you want more flexibility, or don’t want the expense of a coach tour, the London Hop On Hop Off bus is a great alternative.


2. When planning your day’s itinerary, get to the major attractions first. We were at Westminster Abbey at 9.30am, half an hour before opening. By 10am there was nearly an hour’s wait to get in. The same applies to all the major tourist sites.

Westminster Abbey


3. Plan at least half a day to visit the Tower of London. There is so much to experience.  The White Tower holds many of the historic artifacts and museum displays. Guides in period costume lead guided tours, which need to be pre-booked.  Head for the Crown Jewels first, as there can be long queues and lengthy waits to get in.

London Tower Bridge


4. Trafalgar Square is worth dedicating at least half a day too. Here you will find the National Gallery and Museums, numerous lunch options and St Martin’s in the Field Church, which now has a restaurant located in the old crypt.  Enjoy some time relaxing around Nelson’s column and enjoy the free street entertainment.


5. Hamley’s toy store in Regent Street is not an official tourist attraction, but is well worth a visit for kids and kids at heart. The multi-story store has an amazing range, entertainment and enthusiastic staff demonstrating the latest toys.


6. A ferry ride down the River Thames is also a great alternative to a river cruise. We took a ferry ride down the Thames to Greenwich, which was included in our Oyster Card.  Along the way, the crew gave an amusing commentary for a gold coin donation towards their Christmas party.

Traitors Gate


7. Visit one of the many markets, browse for a bargain and enjoy some of the street food. We enjoyed a morning at the famous Portobello Road markets and also Greenwich markets. As with everything, get there early.

Greenwich markets


8. When planning your itinerary, check the opening days and times of any attractions you don’t want to miss to avoid disappointment.

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9. The currency is Pound Sterling.  Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted, as are most travel cards.  ATMs are readily available, so there is no need to carry lots of cash.



10. “The Tube” is the quickest and easiest way to get around London. We were initially daunted by the thought, but the routes are very easy to navigate and the network is extensive.


11. Purchasing a prepaid Oyster Card online before you leave home will save you money.  This can be used on the Tube, trains, buses, trams and some ferry services. You will need to pay an additional fare if you travel outside the designated city zones.


12. The London Pass also provides you with discounts on major attractions and public transport. Research the differences between this and the Oyster Card online to see which is going suit you best.


13. Victoria station is the main transport hub, where you can catch the UK Rail network trains and connect to the Eurostar rail service. It is also the major bus terminal, if you prefer coach travel.


14. We found that airport shuttles are unnecessarily expensive. As first-timers in London, we opted for a shuttle from Heathrow to our hotel. We later found that catching the Heathrow Express to the center of London is infinitely cheaper and probably quicker. Most hotels are within a very easy walk of a tube station.

The Stansted Express runs to Liverpool Street Station. It is not only infinitely quicker, but cheaper than a shuttle. Your Oyster card is valid for both services.


15. Walk. London is very flat and easy to walk around. By walking you experience so much more. Walking from Westminster to Trafalgar Square we came across the Queens’ Cavalry preparing for the changing of the guard ceremony, interesting memorials and interesting hidden attractions.

20 Things To Know Before You Visit London



16. There are a number of ready-made-lunch chains in and around London, where you can pick up a pre-made sandwich, salad or light meal. We were able to buy a filling lunch and a drink or coffee for two for around GBP20.


17. London pubs offer interesting history, great atmosphere and good British “Pub grub” – Fish n chips, Pork pies and a range of traditional English meals.  A pub meal will cost you around GBP 25 each.

20 Things To Know Before You Visit London


18. London is a very cosmopolitan city, where you can enjoy a very varied cuisine. You can enjoy a good two-course meal at an Asian, Turkish or Indian restaurant for around GBP 10 each. We enjoyed an excellent meal in one of the many curry houses in Brick Lane.


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Before we left for London, a former London bobby friend gave us two pieces of excellent advice:

19. Never carry your wallet in your back pocket – it is an easy target for pickpockets, particularly on crowded trains and on busy London streets. Carry shoulder bags or packs towards the front for the same reason.

20. Free public toilets are not readily available. Always carry some coins in case you need to “spend a penny”.


Can you think of other things we should know before we visit London?



About the author:

Lesley Connor is a former journalist, living on the pristine south coast of NSW Australia. Combining her passions for travel and writing, Lesley and her husband Ian share recent and upcoming travels with fellow empty-nesters looking for inspiration and advice when planning their first overseas adventure.  Empty Nesters Travel Insights.

*All photos are the sole property of the author. They were provided and used with permission for this guest post only. Any unauthorized use of these photos is prohibited. 



Europe Bucket List or Travel Inspiration:
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44 thoughts on “20 Things To Know Before You Visit London”

  1. If you happen to live in London borough of Tower Hamlets you can visit the Tower of London for just £1. Yes, you read that right… £1.

    To take advantage of this special offer all you need to do is take along your Idea Store or Tower Hamlets Library card along with your proof of name and address. That’s a brilliant discount and means you can experience the Tower of London whenever you want. Especially handy if you’re playing tour guide to friends visiting London.

  2. London is truly charming and probably one of the most exceptional cities in Europe. These are some awesome and extremely helpful tips which I am definitely saving. A practical guide for everyone planning their trip to London, especially first-timers!

  3. I’m from London and can say these are great tips! Yes it’s expensive and touristy, but everyone should visit once in their lives!

  4. Such a helpful tips for someone like me who’ve never visited London yet. But i would definitely visit hopefully next year. I might do a lot of walking to save some cost, I guess London is expensive place for tourist from Asia.

  5. Hello, the oyster card is not valid for the Stansted Express train, you could physically get on the train but you will not be able to enter the airport at the other side if there is a ticket inspector. If you book online far enough in advance you can get a ticket for £7 one way.

  6. This is like a travel guide, it’s always best when writing from experience. Great tips for everyone that isnvisiis v London ??

  7. These are some great tips. London is so expensive so walking will certainly help keep the costs down. I have only been to London twice, despite being from the UK. Unfortunately, on both occasions I didn’t get to explore much. The first time i was so young, so I don’t remember much and the next time was to go to the embassy. Thanks for sharing this post! You have definitely inspired me to make a third trip 🙂

  8. I have been to London so many times and still haven´t checked out all of the “attractions” you mention. There is so much to do. I loved visiting Primrose Hill and if I have a lot of time, I love to take a day trip to Brighton as well.

  9. Great tips. London is definitely walkable. I love just walking & window shopping – plenty of hidden treasures. As a born & bred Londoner I would advise that if you need a public toilet to head for hotels/restaurants/pubs/McDonalds/museums/supermarkets/shopping centres – free toilets – sometimes it might be prudent to buy a coffee or have a break especially if the establishment is quiet before heading to the toilet …

  10. Great post and as a south east Londoner born and bred I completely agree with your points.
    Walking is an absolute must!
    I also always say if you get the chance, a trip on the Eye is fab for an alternative view of London, as is the Shard. ??

  11. Great tips. I always encourage visitors to take a boat trip down the Thames. If you get the right tour guide, you hear such fascinating history and it’s a lovely way to see the city. Also, strongly agree that visitors should walk as much as possible as there is always so much to see and the amount of interesting streets and areas I’ve stumbled upon is fantastic. Failing that the tube is just wonderful

  12. Great post ans spot on with so many of the tips. Starting early is a must and a boat ride down the Thames an excellent way to see so many sights. Nice one.

  13. Good tips. I would suggest not trying to use the river buses early, as they’re used by commuters.

    It’s a minor point, but they’re not ferries. Ferries go from one side of the river to the other. The river buses go up and down the river.

  14. These are great tips! I used to live/work in London but these are still helpful for me as I think you tend to learn more helpful hints from people who aren’t somewhere all the time. We’re thinking of going to London for a long weekend later this year so I’ll be sure to bear these things in mind 🙂

  15. Excellent post – jam-packed with advice and it just so happens I am off to London next week. Hoping to visit the Tower. You’re travelling around tips are great. Thanks

  16. #2 is gold Lesley! Amazing how the lot of tourists visit tourist heavy sites around noon or late morning, dealing with massive throngs. My wife and I hit these spots super duper early, often waiting for 10-15 minutes before opening. 99% of the time we have no crowds to deal with and enjoy a peaceful morning before the hoards arrive LOL. Super tips!



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