The first time I traveled to London, I had so many questions! Having previously visited Asia and Europe where I could speak only some of the languages, I hoped to be able to get around easier in London. Would I need a converter for my electronics? Would my cell service work? How about money? Through my experience and the rest of the London Connection team, we will try to answer any of those questions you might have.
When traveling to London, you have the choice of six international airports that are in all directions from the city center. I would start by seeing which airline fares are the best, and go from there. Suppose you are staying in Covent Garden? The distances from each of these airports to your accommodations and the average time (with normal traffic) to travel by car would be approximately:
If arriving by cruise ship, the average travel by town car/taxi/train:
If you are staying in downtown London, parking is super expensive and very difficult to find. Some areas of the city even have a surcharge to drive through during certain times of the day. If you are from the U.S., you may find it difficult to adjust to driving on the opposite side of the road. Some people rent a car for one day to take a day trip out of the city. However, public transportation is so wonderful in the city and there are many tour groups that travel by bus or van to Stonehenge, Bath, Windsor Castle, etc. You may want to skip the additional charges and headaches of renting a car.
I suggest using someone like the professional London driver David Norman to pick you up and drop you back at any of the airports or ports. After that, use the Tube, train, or bus to get anywhere you need!
There are many Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours available in downtown London, as well as organized tours for day trips. My suggestion is whichever you choose, make sure it is a live, British tour guide. A charming, local guide makes all the difference. You don’t want to be on a bus, hoping to experience the thrill of London and just listening to a recording! Be sure to ask when purchasing your tickets if there is a live tour guide.
Everything that uses electricity should have the information on the plug or on the item itself that states what voltage it can handle. On the above image, I highlighted the info you will be looking for (Input: 100-240V). This item will work for voltage between 100 and 240 volts. The standard voltage in London is 220V, while North America is 120V. This item shown above would be able to use the voltage in both countries. However, some things (like a curling iron) may only use 120V. Even with a plug adaptor, it would “fry” that small appliance if you tried to use it in London. So make sure and check everything you plan to use to make sure it will be compatible.
You might need a plug adaptor in London because plugs do not look the same as they do in some other countries. To save yourself stress and money, you may want to buy an adaptor before embarking on your trip. If you are traveling from the U.S., you’ll need a “Type G” plug adaptor. You could wait to purchase these in London; adaptors are available in most shops and are typically less expensive if purchased there. Most of the London Connection flats have plug adaptors already there, and you may not need to buy one at all. For more info, read our blog article: Traveling to London With Your Technology.
Three options if you want to stay in touch with your family and business and have access to your apps are:
The only way to keep your own phone number is with option #1.
Once you have a working phone, the next step to calling internationally is knowing the country code: To call the United States from London the code is +1. You just hold down the “0” on your phone, and it will become “+”. Then dial 1, then area code, and the 7 digit phone number as usual. To call London from the United States the code is +44.
Unlike the rest of Europe which adopted the euro, the UK still uses the British Pound — commonly called Sterling. While some shops accept euros, you should always use pounds for safe measure. Most restaurants, tours, and shops will accept credit cards. However, there are some quaint shops and places to eat that still prefer cash. I suggest getting 100-200 POUNDS from your bank before you travel. You can get more there if needed.
Along with currency exchanges at the airport, ATM machines (cash points) around the city also offer cash. Be wary, however, that when withdrawing from a cash point, you will often be charged a foreign transaction fee of about three percent from your bank, regardless if you use a debit or credit card. Budget for this sneaky secret accordingly so you don’t get sideswiped by hefty fees. With that said, some cards have no foreign transaction fees; the best way to find out about your card is to contact the bank before you leave home. Read our blog about British Currency for more details.
These are two separate cards. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling and adventuring through the city, consider getting a Visitor Oyster Card, London’s travel smart card for the fantastic public transportation system. I used my Oyster card on my most recent London visit to get to the Isle of Wight for a day trip. I saved money on my train ticket, and could use my Oyster card for the Tube and ferry. So handy! This card is more than 50 percent cheaper than one-day paper Travelcards or single tickets, and you qualify for a range of food, drink, and other discounts. You can purchase ahead online, or get it at the grocery store or pharmacy upon arrival. To begin, you will preload it with about 30 POUNDS for a week of travel in London. It is really easy to add credit to the card at any Tube station if you need more throughout your stay.
Gung-ho sightseers should also get a London Pass, the ultimate sightseeing package that’s been tailored for visitors to this glorious city. This card will give you the ability to make the most of your trip by saving you time, money, and stress while visiting the city’s top sights and attractions. There is a charge per day, so use it on a day you plan to visit two or three sites to get the best deal. For more info about both of these cards, read this blog: Should I Buy an Oyster Card or London Pass?
If you’re staying in London for a few days or a few weeks, having a tentative plan of what you want to see is suggested if you have any hope of getting the most out of your trip. Most museums in London are FREE and don’t have long lines. Their typical hours are 10am to 5 or 6 pm. There are a few museums that have one or two nights a week that they stay open later. Though some things like theatre tickets can be purchased on the day-of (they will likely be cheaper, too!), you should consider planning big activities and getting tickets in advance. If there is a play you do not wish to miss no matter what, book your seats long before coming to London. All London theater tickets are available online.
Some attractions for which you should purchase tickets in advance include:
Well, where you stay mostly depends on what you want to do while in London. Do you want to go to the theatre, enjoy the “big city” life with lots of unique shops and restaurants, and walk everywhere you need to be for the week? Or do you prefer to stay more central to the parks, palaces, museums, and shopping?
When deciding where to stay in London, consider these popular areas:
For more information about the best places to stay in London, click here.
Those were my top questions when deciding to visit London. Have your questions been answered? If not, feel free to contact me SheilaF@Ldncxn.com and the rest of the team and I will do our best to find the answer to your query.
London is a magical place filled with excitement, history, culture, and fantastic food. The people are friendly, the public transportation is clean and punctual, and I could understand the language. I can hardly wait to return!