London is located the southern part of England on the continent of Europe. It is the capital of England and is one of the biggest cities in the world. There is so much to do and see in London from historical and religious sites to day trips outside the city. No matter what is on your list, my 9 best tips for visiting London will make your trip run smoother and you’ll save money and time in London.
Tips for visiting London: Getting around London
London is a huge city, the 37th largest in the world. Unless you plan on spending more than a month there, it’s impossible to see it all. But, while you’re there you want to get around London efficiently so you can see everything on your list. To do this, you need an Oyster Card. An Oyster Card is a pre-paid discount card that allows you to save money on transporation in London.
It can be used on the Tube (London’s subway system), the bus, and rail. Besides the savings the Oyster Card will give you, it is also convenient. Without it, you have to purchase individual tickets each time you want to use public transportation. With the Oyster Card you only have to touch the card to the reader and you’re all set to go. You can also use it to get discounts at restaurants, shops, and galleries so you’ll save money and time in London.
How to get the Oyster Card
You can purchase an Oyster Card online before you leave home. You’ll get the card before you leave so once you arrive in London you’re ready to use it. It is NOT available to purchase in London. You need to get it before you arrive. Go to the Oyster Card Website, chose how many cards you want, the amount you want on it, and the date you’ll be leaving home.
Each person needs their own card. Their website has recommended amounts to put on the card depending on how long you’ll be in London. If you need more money on the card you can top up at subway stations. There is a £5 fee for the card that you do not get back so don’t throw the card away. You can use it again if you’re going back or let a friend use the card.
Tips for visiting London: plan your itinerary
London is split in half by the River Thames and the majority of London’s sites are around the river. This makes it easy to plan your days in specific areas. Of course there are places like Notting Hill and Kensington Gardens that are away from the river but you can still plan for those too. How I like to plan for major city visits is starting with a map and a list. I research all the best things to do and see in London. I use Pinterest, Instagram, and of course blogs. Bloggers always have the best information! 🙂 Once I have a list of everything I want to do, I start to plot it out on a map.
Using Google maps to plan your itinerary
Open a map of the city in Google maps. In the top left corner you’ll see 3 lines. That’s the menu. Click that and you get a list of options. The first one is “Your places”. Click that and choose the option “New List”. It will ask you to name your list, choose London, London trip, whatever you want. Then you’ll start to add places.
Click the Add A Place and type in something such as Buckingham Palace. Keep adding places on the map of all the things you’re interested in seeing. Now you have a map of exactly where everything is! This makes it much easier to plan your days. Plan on seeing things in proximity together. Besides less traveling, you’ll get a chance to see more each day.
Tips for visiting London: Watch where you’re going
It’s so easy to forget that in England they drive on the left. The city’s busy and there’s a lot to look at so it’s easy to forget to look left before stepping out on the street. You definitely don’t want to end up in the hospital on your vacation. Just don’t forget.
Tips for visiting London: Where to stay
Number 4 on my tips for visiting London is where to stay. Not necessarily a hotel recommendation, but which area to stay in. With a lot of the sites of London being centrally located try looking for a place in the city center. It will cost a little bit more but there should be something there to fit every budget.
You also might want to try and stay close to a subway station. This shouldn’t be too hard to do since there’s a lot of them. At the end of the day you’re going to be tired from seeing all the things. The last thing you want to do is have a 20 minute walk to your hotel from the subway.
Tips for visiting London: Avoid the summer
We’re halfway through our list of 9 best tips for visiting London and this is a big one. Avoid visiting in the summer if you can. It’s way too crowded and prices are much higher. Summer is peak period for travelers. Everyone with kids tends to go during this time making it that much busier. So if you can plan to go right before or after the summer you’ll be much happier. Christmas is also another busy time. It’s very pretty but everyone is out shopping. Unless you have your heart on seeing the city all lit up, avoid it.
Tips for visiting London: Don’t try to see it all
Again, unless you’re staying for a month you won’t be able to see everything. Narrow down your itinerary to the must see spots and save the rest for another time. If it’s your first time to London, plan a 4-6 day trip (not inlcuding travel days). This will allow you to see the important sites and a day trip outside the city. You can always come back. In fact, you’ll probably want to come back several times!
Tips for visiting London: Free Stuff!
Did you know there’s a lot of free things to do in London? If you want to save money and time in London then definitely add some free stuff to your list of things to do. London is an expensive place to visit so you’re going to want to squeeze in some free things. My favorite free thing in London is their museums. Yeah, seriously. Not all of them are free but some of the best ones are. The Natural History Museum, British Museum, Tate Modern, Science Museum, are all free.
Just remember you still might need a reservation. Make sure before you show up. You can also roam around Harrods, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Camden Market, Portobello Road, and more. Even the Changing of the Guard is free to watch! Just show up early to get a good spot.
Tips for visiting London: Places to eat
Have I mentioned how expensive London is? This includes the food. Avoid going into pricey restaurants. Okay, maybe go into somewhere nice at least once but that’s it. Go where the locals go, Pubs. You’re going to find much more affordable meals there. Step into a market and grab a sandwich for lunch. Not all of your meals have to be sitting at a table. Take it to the park and people watch.
Tips for visiting London: London Pass
We’ve made it to the 9th and final tip of 9 best tips for visiting London. The London Pass gets you discounts on over 90 different attractions. It makes sense to do this if you plan on seeing multiple major attractions a day. First, you can check out all the attractions on their website that the London Pass is good for. Figure out which ones you’re interested in seeing on your trip.
Next, you choose the number of days you want to use the pass (1-10). The credits are valid on consecutive days. So if you’re going to be in town for 5 days, you’d choose 5. You’ll download the pass to your phone and when you go to an attraction you scan it to get in. Some places do require a reservation so you’ll need to see if you have to do that first. The London Pass in combination with the Oyster Card is the perfect way to see London.
My 9 best tips for visiting London should have given you some great ideas on how to save money and time. London is an amazing place to visit but you should have a plan. Purchasing the Oyster card will help you get around town. The London Pass will help you save money at a lot of sites. Plan your itinerary to avoid vacation stress and take advantage of visiting free attractions.