What are some things to know before visiting London?

There is no doubt that London is a fab place, but for those visiting the UK capital for the first time it can be an overwhelming experience.

However, read our guide how some things you should learn before you embark on your once-in-a-lifetime trip to London.

The Underground

London’s transport network is the envy of the world, but it is also one of the busiest – meaning it can be very confusing if you are not familiar with it.

Each day, there are 24 million trips taking on the underground network and it is a great way to ensure you visit all the must see sightseeing sites in the capital.

London Underground
In total, there are 12 different lines, 114,500 miles of track and 270 stations, but following a few basic rules and tips will make you an expert before even stepping on your first train.

Pick the right time to travel

If you can avoid the rush hour then do so – travelling in peak times can be a very unpleasant experience as well as being you may pay more for your journey.

As one of the major ways for Londoners to travel to work, it does become very crowded between 7.30am and 9.30am, then between 5pm and 7pm in the evening – fares drop significantly if you travel after the morning rush period.

It is important to realise the trains do not run 24 hours a day like transport networks in other major cities. Make sure you know what time the last train is or you may have to look to find the correct night bus that covers your destination once the Underground has gone to bed for the night.

Remember the etiquette rules

It is an unwritten rule that when travelling on an escalator you should keep to the right. This gives anyone wanting to rush for their train a clear path and means you aren’t going to get in anyone’s way. You may find that Londoners do it automatically on other escalators, for instance in shopping centres, as it becomes second nature for them.

It is also common courtesy to allow people to get off the train before getting on board. There is no point trying to get on the carriage if fellow passengers want to leave – it will just cause a traffic jam, so step aside and make sure things keep moving.

This equally applies when you first come on to the platform as it is advisable to move along to prevent bottlenecks at the entry points. Often if you walk right along the platform you may more likely to get a seat, as carriages are often emptier towards the front and rear of the trains.

Consider an Oyster card

If you are planning to make a number of journeys on the Underground or via buses then consider picking up an Oyster card – a special pre-paid contact ticket that you can load money on to and travel across London. It also allows you to save money on fares as it will calculate the cheapest way of travel automatically.

Make sure you have your Oyster card ready as entry and exit to most tube stations is via barriers and you will infuriate your fellow passengers if they have to wait while you search your bag looking for your pass.

Check for travel updates

With a large network it does mean there is often maintenance work happening on the London Underground, although it is largely kept to weekend and night times. However, it can sometimes overrun, so it is vital to check for any travel problems before setting off. Consider bookmarking the Transport for London app on your smartphone as it is a great way to double-check for updates and if needs be, you can quickly search for an alternative route.

Be prepared before starting out

It can get quite hot on the London Underground, especially during the warmer summer period. In recent years there has been an extensive maintenance programme across the network to improve facilities, but sadly there does still remain some parts that do have adequate air conditioning. So make sure you pop a bottle of water in your bag before setting off, especially if temperatures are looking like they could hot up.

Be aware that drinking alcohol has been banned on the tube since June 2008, while smoking has not been permitted on trains since 1987 and this ban was extended in 2007 to cover all public spaces on the network.

Work out the currency

The UK has not adopted the euro and still makes use of the traditional sterling system. Relatively easy to grasp, there are 100 pence to a pound, with coins available in lots of dominations of two pound and under. Over than amount, then paper money is used for £5, £10, £20 and £50 denominations. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the different currency and remember some basic conversion rates so you can work out whether an item is a bargain or a rip-off.

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