Planning your first trip to London? Check out my lengthly list of practical tips for first time visitors to the British metropolis, brought to you by your 'favourite' anglophile! From discovering London's best Royal locations, to navigating the pub, and a sample, 5-day London itinerary, I've rounded up all of my best London tips, compiled across multiple visits.
Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links. If you purchase a linked item, I will make a commission, at no extra charge to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Planning your first trip to London?
If you have some spare time, challenge me to a debate on whether London is the greatest city in the world. Not only will I win, but I'll have made a full convert out of you by the time I'm done. World-class restaurants, museums, shopping, and hotels, all set against the backdrop of some of the most inspiring historical tourist attractions Europe has to offer. If I haven't sufficiently made my point, to add to your London visit enjoyment, you can fill the time when you aren't visiting major attractions with drinking delicious beer and eating ridiculous amount of food along with your 'tea.' There's no language barrier; in fact, language differences are fun and exciting, and London has one of the oldest and most efficient public transit systems in the world. Oh and you can take a train outside of London for a day trip anytime you like. Ok, I'll stop.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I understand you're here for some top travel tips, as you plan your first trip to London. While I promise your trip will be rewarding and worth any roadblocks you do encounter, it is worth reading up before you go, to prevent easily avoidable tourist mistakes.
FAQ: How many days do I really need in London?
The greatest city in the world cannot be seen in a fly-by. Plan to spend at least 4 full days in London, and plan to leave feeling like you've only barely scratched even the tourist surface.
All Aboard the Heathrow Express
Assuming you'll be landing in London at Heathrow Airport, just to the west of central London, by far the easiest way to get to central London from Heathrow is the Heathrow Express. The Heathrow Express transports visitors from Heathrow to London's Paddington Station in about 15 minutes. It's not terribly expensive, but I would recommend reserving online in advance of your trip to secure the lowest possible prices. Kids under 15 are free. It's worth every penny. From Paddington Station, you can pretty easily get anywhere you need to go in London.
FAQ: How much cash do I need in London?
Frankly, I would not plan to bring very much money in cash form to London. As long as you have a travel credit card without foreign transaction fees, you can pay for almost everything with your credit card in the United Kingdom. For the cash you do bring, be sure to change your money at home at your local bank before you go. Most banks will do this for free or for a very small fee, as opposed to "cash exchange" centers in airports or city centers, which can be very expensive. Pickpocketing is not a really serious concern, but as with any tourist destination or major city, I wouldn't wander around carrying massive amounts of cash, just in case.
A very quick into to buying tickets for events and tourist destinations in London...
I've always found buying tickets for events during my first visit to any city to be a little overwhelming. You aren't familiar with the geography or the most popular tourist destinations, you don't know the best areas to dedicate the most time, and if you're done research, you've frankly overwhelmed with tips.
The good news is that it's pretty easy to cut through the noise and get yourself oriented to visit London. Best sure to visit the official website of destinations you wish to visit. Don't get scammed by third parties for 'skip the line' tickets (with the exception of the London Pass), or unneeded tours.
Is the London Pass worth it?
One of the most common questions I get from people planning a trip to London is always "Is the London Pass worth it?" The short answer is: yes, if done correctly. As with any city pass, the most common mistake tourists make is overpaying. If you strategically plan your days, you will buy the London Pass for the absolute smallest number of possible days you will use it and save a great deal of money. You also get 'skip the line access' to a number of sites, which is real and not a scam.
The London Pass website recommends buying the pass, then planning your trip. That's exactly the opposite of what you should do. Don't say "I'll be in London 5 days, so I need a 5-day London Pass." There's no way you'll fully use all 5 days. Instead, strategically plan your days and get maybe a 3-day pass. Note: the Pass is consecutive days (they'll trying to encourage over-buying, which makes sense).
Knowing that you have access to so many sites will also open the door to new experiences that you might have skipped, had they not been drawn to your attention (it certainly did for us on our first trip).
The major tourist sites that make the London Pass earn its keep are: The Tower of London (including access to seeing the Crown Jewels), Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace. They have a few helpful daily London Pass example agendas on their website as an illustration.
A boat ride on the River Thames
While we're on the subject of the London Pass, I have to recommend one of my favorite "I wouldn't have done this if the London Pass hadn't included it," - a Thames River Boat Cruise. On our last London Pass day, we found ourselves needing to fill the afternoon. So we hopped aboard and sailed down to Greenwich, home to the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark (a restored 19th century ship), and the Old Royal Naval College.
FAQ: Does it really rain that much in London?
The bad news is, yes, it rains incredibly frequently in London. The average year sees 155 rainy days in London. That said, London doesn't actually get much more total precipitation than other cities in Europe. The vast majority of rain days are misty or sprinkly. It'll often rain randomly, lightly, for a short period of time and stop. You will have occasional "wash out" days, but as long as you bring a rain jacket and small, foldable umbrella, that London rain shouldn't disrupt your trip too very much.
Wondering what to pack perfectly for your London trip? Check out my guide to What to Wear in London
Mind the Gap:
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies