What to Know Before You Go:
Airport Information: If you fly into Stansted, an airport near London that is home to many budget airlines, you will need to make the trip into London’s city center. You can do this in a variety of ways: train, taxi, or bus. The bus (National Express) is cheapest, starting at £8. The journey to the Liverpool Street Station is about an hour and fifteen minutes. By far the quickest, most comfortable, and most convenient way is the Stansted Express which is a train that runs straight into London’s city center. The train is £19 and will take you straight to the Liverpool Street Station in 45 minutes. It has wifi and is air conditioned. If you can afford the trip, I’d recommend the train. The Gatwick airport also has a train running every 15 minutes directly to the Victoria station – the total travel time is 30 minutes. Lastly, there are multiple, convenient ways to get from Heathrow to central London. Find out more information HERE.
Tube and oyster card info. You can buy oyster cards online in advance, at the airports, or at any major tube station in London. I’d recommend getting the oyster card because it’s much less expensive than if you were to pay for individual tickets. There is also a cap each day so you don’t spend much money on getting around (e.g., £6.50 limit within Zone 1 – all major attractions). You can load up your card with an attendant or at one of the top up machines. You can also get a refund for any money remaining on your card before you leave at any major train station.
Tube etiquette. Londoners are very respectful on the tube. Don’t blast your music, refrain from eating or drinking, and allow passengers to get off of the train before you get on.
Hotels. Hotels in London are very expensive. Consider looking into a suburban area that is near a tube stop. I stayed in Epping and it was 40 minutes to Liverpool Street Station. Hotels that are further out will be much less expensive and the commute isn’t too long. Consider other options like AirBnB as well.
You don’t have to have a bad or expensive meal in London – there are plenty of street food options and inexpensive pubs. The food here is incredible, and there’s a wide array of cuisines available. Don’t waste your time with any bad meals – You really don’t have to here!
Tipping etiquette. 10-15% at restaurants is appropriate; although restaurants often add on a 12.5% service charge, especially if you’re in a large group – so just make sure you look first before tipping – otherwise, you’d be tipping twice. Generally, people do not tip bartenders at pubs, but that’s up to you.
Dining. London restaurants are BUSY. This is a young and sociable city and good food and drink joints are often full. Try calling ahead to make a reservation if you really have your heart set on something. However, do know that many busy joints do not take reservations, so plan to get there early, late, or wait.
Do you have any other advice from your travels to London? If so, please feel free to share and comment below!