One of my favorite cities I’ve visited was London. I didn’t go there when I studied abroad because for some reason I thought I wouldn’t like it- however, in the end I was pleasantly surprised.
For first time visitors like me, it’s an overwhelming city. I was only there for 2 full days, which definitely was NOT enough time! It’s one of those places that you could stay for 2 weeks and still not see all that you wanted to.
For all my first time visitors, here are some things you should keep in mind!
The currency is POUNDS not Euro!
So many people think that since the UK is in Europe, the currency is Euro. Well, if you think that you’re going to be very sad when you visit. Pounds have an even worse conversion rate compared to euro, which leads me to my next point.
This city is Expensive!
Keep in mind that 5 pounds is really $6.25 USD. Now that might not seem like a big deal, but for big purchases such as hotel rooms $100 USD and 100 pounds is a big difference. I can tell you from experience, food, transportation, and tourist attractions are all pricey!
London is HUGE, utilize the Tube:
To get where you need to go, there’s a good chance it’s not going to always be walking distance away. Tube (subway) stations are always within walking distance, so definitely be sure to get a pass if you’ll be there for multiple days.
Since we were only there for 2, we didn’t get a pass. However, we definitely spent well over $20 just on the subway alone.
You can use the Tube for traveling within the city, but you can also use it to get to and from London’s many airports. If you’re traveling with just a carry on and a backpack or even a smaller suit case- definitely take the trains instead of a taxi- you’ll save a ton of money.
They drive on the other side of the street!
Now, I know many of you know this and you might be asking why I’m including this, but you’ll thank me.
I can’t tell you how many times I almost witnessed someone get hit by a car or bicycle because when they looked to cross the street, they looked the wrong way. Just wait until the dang walk signal to cross please!!
Tourist Attractions are Expensive:
If you’re traveling on a budget, but want to see all of the touristy things in London, I’m not sure if this is the time in your life to do it. Attractions such as going into Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London were over $20 each. If you plan 3 fulls days of seeing attractions like this, your wallet is going to hurt if you’re not prepared.
In a lot of countries and cities, going into churches is free- but not London!
Pro tip: you can actually go into Tower Bridge!
Tourist attractions sell out and you NEED to pre-book them:
Cities like London may have a peak season- but remember tourists come all year round. Especially if it’s going to be a nice day, there’s a very good chance things like the London Eye are going to be booked solid.
How to find places off the beaten path:
Like I said before, I only had 48 hours in London so I really just did all of the touristy things. However, I can give you some tips on how to find things that not everyone might know about!
- Look on instagram! Try #visitlondon or #explorelondon to find cool places
- Google London blogs or travel blogs in general. Usually bloggers go to places that are off the beaten path
- Go to the library and check out a book about London, I’m not kidding! They have those!
Some things I can suggest are open air markets in the summer and during Christmas time, the imperial war museum (for my fellow history nerds), the Parent Trap house, go to the top of the Shard for a great lookout of the city!