I was born and raised in London. Here are the 9 biggest mistakes I see tourists make.
I was born and raised in London, where I've seen tourists make a wide range of missteps.
Many go to classic pubs for drinks but fail to order a Sunday roast, one of the best British dishes.
Others spend a fortune on taxis when the London Underground is cheaper and easy to navigate.
As someone who was born and raised in London, I've seen tourists make their fair share of mistakes — from unwittingly missing out on one of the best British dishes to clogging up traffic on escalators.
But with some advance planning and strategizing, newcomers can make the most of their time in London and save some money as they do it.
Here are the major mistakes I see visitors make while exploring my hometown.
People pay to see panoramic skyline views without realizing they can find them for free.
Whether you're paying for admission to an observation deck or a pricey cocktail at a rooftop bar, going to the top of a skyscraper in any major city will probably cost you money. For the most part, London is no exception.
Many people go to The Shard, a 1,016-foot multiuse skyscraper with panoramic views of the city. Tickets start at £28, or about $35. But visitors can get a similarly fantastic view at the Sky Garden, which is right across the River Thames from The Shard.
London's highest public garden offers some of the best views of the city's skyline and comes complete with an indoor garden, two restaurants, and two bars. The best bit? Entry is free.
Local tip: Tickets for Sky Garden are available three weeks in advance, and they're released on a weekly basis every Monday morning (excluding bank holidays). They book up almost instantly, so plan ahead if you want to see the breathtaking views.
Tourists should never stand on the left side of escalators, especially in London Underground stations.
If you have no intention of walking down or climbing an escalator, make sure you stand on the right side. That way, those who don't want to stand still have the option to pass you on the left, keeping you from running into a scorned Londoner.
It's an unwritten rule in the city, and it's one that everyone, visitor and local alike, must follow.
Keep this in mind when you're getting on the London Underground (also known as the Tube), especially if you want to avoid strangers angrily telling you to move as they rush to make their train.
Because the city has a reputation for being rainy, visitors fail to prepare for all types of weather.
One common misconception about London is that it always rains — which isn't entirely wrong, but it also isn't exactly correct either. The reality is that you need to prepare for all four seasons, regardless of the time of year.
You probably don't need to bring a winter jacket if you're visiting in July, but pack versatile clothing that will give you options in case you end up facing unexpected temperatures.
If you're planning to go out at night, note that the temperature tends to drop a fair bit, even in the summer, so bring a layer.
Many people leave London without ordering a pub-made Sunday roast, a classic British dish.
Going to the pub is a rite of passage during any trip to the UK, let alone a visit to its capital city, which is steeped in history and is home to some of the country's oldest and finest watering holes.
But many tourists don't realize pubs serve some of the city's best food, too.
No trip to London is complete without trying a Sunday roast, a traditional meal typically made up of roasted meat (or a meatless alternative), roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, gravy, and a variety of vegetables.
Tourists take the Tube short distances around Central London, but it's a very walkable area.
When you're in Central London, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to take public transit everywhere you go. However, it can be a waste of time and money.
Take Leicester Square and Covent Garden, for example. They're one Tube stop away from each other, resulting in a ride that's about one minute long.
However, that doesn't account for the time it takes to get in and out of the stations, especially since Covent Garden has stairs and an elevator instead of an escalator.
If you're willing and able to walk, I recommend avoiding the chaos inside two of London's busiest stations and enjoying a five-minute stroll down Long Acre, a street home to numerous shops and restaurants, instead.
Some people only shop on Oxford Street, but other areas have stores that are just as wonderful.
It's true that Oxford Street is one of the best places to go shopping in London, but it's also one of the city's busiest streets. It's always chaotic, but the activity level really ramps up on weekends.
For a more peaceful shopping experience with options that are just as good as the ones on Oxford Street, visit stores on King's Road in Chelsea or in Marylebone. You can also explore the high streets in areas like Camden Town and Hampstead.
Branching out beyond Central London will increase your chances of finding local, independently owned businesses selling goods you can't get outside of the UK.
Visitors splurge to stay in the center of London, but public transportation makes it easy to get around the city regardless of where they stay.
It can be tempting to book a luxurious hotel right in the heart of Central London, but in my opinion, that's not the best way to spend your money.
Thanks to London's amazing public transportation system, almost anywhere you stay will have excellent connections to most parts of the city.
Staying in areas such as Camden, Islington, and Stratford will give you a more authentic experience and get you a lot more value for your money.
Travelers overpay for airport taxis and cars when there's a litany of cheaper, faster transportation options.
Tourists often spend a fortune on taxi rides from the airport to wherever they're staying, which is a big no-no. Sadly, London's iconic black cabs are usually overpriced, and rideshare apps tend to be no different when it comes to the trek from the airport to the city.
Alternatives — such as coaches (buses) and railways including the Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express, Elizabeth line — are cheaper and will usually get you where you need to go in less time than a car.
Local tip: The Elizabeth line is an air-conditioned rail service that leaves from the same platform as the Heathrow Express and costs about half the price.
Newcomers often overlook London's free museums and galleries.
From the Tate Modern to The British Museum, London is home to some of the world's finest museums and galleries, and many of them are free to visit.
Visiting the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum is a great way to spend an entire day, as all three museums are within walking distance of each other.
They're also located right by the Royal Albert Hall, meaning you can end a day of museum-hopping by watching a fabulous show at the historic concert hall. Just make sure you book tickets in advance.
It's also worth noting that some museum exhibitions, even the free ones, require you to reserve slots ahead of time. So take a look at the places you're interested in visiting before your trip to ensure you don't miss out.
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