A Tourist’s Guide to London

K-ON

Travelling Around

The London term for Underground is Tube. So you’d say something like ‘Tube station’ instead of ‘Underground station’. The Tube has been operating for around 150 years and is the oldest underground system in the world.

London buses are famously red and you can ride on the old Routemaster ‘heritage’ buses (there’s only two routes, 9 and 15) around Trafalgar Square. These are the buses which were in use 7 years ago and now only used as a tourist attraction. There are conductors on these buses which you can show your ticket to, and unlike modern buses, you have to pull the red line (above your head) if you want to get off the next stop.

Before travelling, it’s best to buy an Oyster Card from the ticket office at the Tube station (or newsagents) as it is cheaper than normal travel (and you won’t hold people up when you’re buying tickets on the bus). This costs £5 (with £5 worth of credit on it). When you use an Oyster Card on the buses, you only have to touch your card onto the yellow card reader once. But if you’re travelling by Tube, remember to ‘touch in and touch out.’ This is particularly important because you can encounter hefty fines if you don’t. If you have the right amount of credit, the card reader will beep once. If not, it will beep twice. Children under 16 living in London are entitled to free travel, so they are issued special Oyster Cards which beep a lot.

You can look up ticket prices here– you may find that a Travelcard might turn out cheaper. If you have a travelcard, you can just show it to the driver instead of touching it on the bus. If you’re travelling by Tube, insert the card into the barrier slot.

For pay-as-you-go users (£1.35 per journey with an Oyster Card), if you take more than 3 buses in a day it’d only cost you the amount of money for 3 buses (£4.50). This is good if you plan to only take the bus.

As for cycling, it is generally dangerous to ride around the streets of London, although it can be safe inside parks (there’s signs as to where you can and can’t ride). There is a cycle hire scheme but you need a credit/ debit card to pay at the docking station. Usage of 30 mins is free and you can save money if you ride for 30 mins, find a docking station, and rent for another 30 mins. You’d only be paying for the usage fee. You can find out more information on the costs here.

You can use this website to plan your travel.

Money

100 pennies (p) make up a pound (£). Pence is the counter.

The lowest note is £5, other notes are £10, £20 and the largest is a £50 note. Coins are 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. There is a £5 coin but they’re really rare (you probably won’t even encounter it). The slang term for pound is quid, so you can say a quid. Notes also have their common terms, like fiver (£5) and tenner (£10) but there’s no term for a £20 or £50 note.

Weather

British weather is generally thought to be gloomy, but it’s not actually that bad. The temperature is usually around 15 degrees Celsius- it varies on the season but it doesn’t get too hot in the summer. There’s only around 2 weeks of record breaking temperatures before it goes back to normal. Packing an umbrella is highly recommended.

Places to Go

Covent Garden
Covent Garden is a nice place to sit down and relax for a while with their lovely cafes and small shops. There is also a market place where you can buy all sorts of things (from t-shirts to paintings). It’s famous for its human statues and street performers. It is advised that people walk from Leicester Square/ Holborn station and walk there, since Covent Garden station is normally congested.

London Eye and Big Ben
The two typical London attractions. The London Eye is normally used for fireworks during major events like New Year. Big Ben is actually the name of the bell, and the tower is called St Stephen’s Tower. The closest station to the London Eye is Embankment, and the closest station to Big Ben is Westminster.

South Bank and London Aquarium
South Bank is the river bank where the London Eye and London Aquarium is situated. There’s normally events taking place there (you’ll need to check). The largest annual event at South Bank is The Mayor’s Thames Festival which starts on 8th September for this year.

Horse Guards Parade and Buckingham Palace
Situated near Trafalgar Square is the Horse Guards Parade, a popular tourist place as you can see the Guard Changing Ceremony at certain times of the day. Buckingham Palace is where the Queen resides, and you’ve allowed to look around for a fee. The closest station is St James’ Park.

Chinatown
The name explains it all- a small area which has Chinese restaurants and small Chinese shops. I advise going to Golden Gate Cake Shop there (they sell lovely Tuna Buns and Egg Tarts…I could just go on). The closest station is Leicester Square.

Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus
Oxford Street is where you can go shopping on the British high street. There’s loads of shops and quite a few food places. Same goes for Piccadilly Circus. A shop that you really need to go into is Hamleys– a very large toy store. You’ll feel like such a kid.

Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Two very nice public parks which are good for picnics, boat rides and cycling. Kensington Park has the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. Hyde Park has its own station, and the closest station to Kensington Gardens is Bayswater.

South Kensington
This area is famous for its museums. My favourite museums there are the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. The Science Museum is highly interactive and has a children’s area in the basement. Another one around that area is the V&A Museum.

Camden Lock
Camden Lock sells various bits and bobs in many stalls; even more than Covent Garden. There’s also a lot of food stores from many different countries. A few hours here would past by very quickly. The closest station is Camden Town.

Emergency Services

In the case of an emergency phone 999- I’ve heard that 911 works too (but it’s faster to dial 999). The operator will ask what service you require (generally police/ ambulance/ fire brigade) and your current location. If you’re using a mobile phone, they are able to track you. Prank calls can cost lives.

Questions

If you have any queries, feel free to comment or contact me on Twitter. I’ll try to answer the question to the best of my ability.

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2 thoughts on “A Tourist’s Guide to London

    • Covent Garden and Chinatown usually does take a few good hours- other things are nearby in case you get bored of those two.

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