The thought of London brings visions of Big Ben, Beefeaters, strolls through Hyde Park and Abbey Road, but when you arrive, it’s all those practical little things that you haven’t considered. To help you spend less time figuring them out and more time exploring Camden Market, here’s a list of tips for London first-timers.
1 – As soon as you land, you’re going to need to get yourself to your hotel, and unless you’re on a very generous budget allowing for a black cab ride, the tube (underground train) is going to be your go-to. You need to grab yourself an ‘oyster card’. These cost £5 initially for the card (refundable when you return your card), and can be topped up with credit at all tube stations, allowing you to tap yourself in and out of stations rather than having to constantly buy individual tickets. It’s cheaper and way more convenient. Oyster cards also work on buses, however it is a standard £1.50 charge no matter how far you go – you only tap on when you board, there’s no need to tap off.2 – It’s no secret London’s an expensive city and if you’re eating out for every meal, your funds are soon going to be looking rather sad. The budget travellers delight, Tesco’s £3 meal deals come equipped with a sandwich/wrap/salad + snack (crisps or fruit/veg) + drink. If you’re feeling fancy head to Sainsburys or Boots where they’ll be a few pence more (although essentially the same thing). Perfect to take to the park for a picnic lunch without breaking the bank!
3 – London’s a massive city but you’ll be pleasantly surprised that walking between many of the main attractions is easily done. From Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park, to Big Ben and Tower Bridge, chuck on your walking shoes and enjoy the city without the stuffiness of the tube.4 – As much as the idea of getting offline while you’re on holiday sounds appealing, the convenience of having access to Google maps or a quick search for the closest Tesco is more practical. Your best bet is the provider ‘3’ who have a monthly £20 deal offering 12GB data, 300 call minutes and 3000 texts. This also works in areas of Europe (check their website for details), which is great if you’re doing a longer trip. Beware: you can only top up in the UK or online (but only if you have a UK bank card) so be sure to add credit before you head into Europe.
5 – The ‘Citymapper’ app will be your lifesaver when it comes to figuring out when, where, and how to get around. Creating the fastest route via foot, bus, tube and overground, as well as calculating the cost, it’s the perfect companion for navigating this wide-spread city.6 – For all your shopping needs head to Oxford Street, Covent Garden or Regent Street – to name a few! You’ll find everything from handmade jewellery to luxury brand names. If you’re wanting to grab a bargain check out TK Maxx which is an outlet store and has all the big brands at significantly reduced prices.
7 – This city is a photographers’ delight. Not only because it offers incredible photo opportunities at every turn, but because it’s bursting with quality galleries to visit. Beetles + Huxley, The Photographers’ Gallery, Magnum, Getty Images…take your pick!
8 – If you’re wanting to visit all the big attractions London has to offer, consider purchasing The London Pass. This gives you free entry to over 60 London attractions and the ability to skip long queues! You can read more about everything it has to offer, here.9 – Not so keen on exploring the city on foot? Grab a push bike from Santander Cycles. There’s stands all over the city where you can pick-up and drop-off your bike, giving you the freedom to discover the city in a different way, and very conveniently, at that.