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London City Guide

Last updated Jan 8 2015

Tower Bridge, London
Tower Bridge, London

London is the capital of the United Kingdom and England and one of the world's greatest cities.

Visas

Citizens of USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most of the EU do need a visa for stays up to 90 days to 6 months. Check for the latest visa requirements here https://www.gov.uk/

Money

England's currency is the Great Britain Pound (GBP) with notes issued by the Bank of England in 5, 10, 20 and 50 denomintaions. Coins value are in pence with 100 pence equal to 1 pound.

Electricity

UK outlets are 3 pin with rectangular plugs and 220 volts.

Phone

Avoid buying a SIM card at the airport since they cost £10 and include no air time. You should be able to get a sim card in the city with prepaid minutes for that price.

Toilets

Public toilets can be found around the city and most are free. You can also go into museums and galleries since a lot have free entry.

Climate and Weather

London can be rainy and the peak tourist season is during spring and summer

London Weather Forecast

Find more about Weather in London, UK
Click for weather forecast

Airports

London is served by three major airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead. Heathrow is one of the world's busiest airports and has excellent public transport access with a tube station on the Picadilly Line (Zone 6). Gatwick can be reached by rail using the Gatwick Express service from Victoria Station. Stanstead is used by discount airlines like Ryanair and has bus service from National Express, easyBus and Terravision. Stanstead Express rail service to Liverpool Station is a bit more expensive than taking the bus.

Getting Around

Any visitor to London staying more than a day should get a contactless Oyster card for travel on both buses and the tube. There are two Oyster cards available: a standard Oyster and a visitor Oyster. Difference between the two are as follows.

Standard Oyster

  • Available at stations and newsagents
  • £5 refundable deposit
  • Charges capped at daily rate
  • Significant discount on cash single trip tickets

Visitor Oyster

  • £3 activation fee (non-refundable)
  • Can be prepurchased online plus shipping fee
  • Only balance of less than £5 can be refunded in person. Higher amounts require filling out a form and getting a refund check (UK bank).
  • Cannot load with travelcards longer than 7 days

It is recommended to get a standard Oyster card and top it up with the daily cap rate multiplied by the number of days you plan to use. Zone 1-2 £6.40 Jan 2015.

Buses

London's iconic double decker buses are a fun way to see the city above ground. As of 2014, buses no longer accept cash fares. You will need an Oyster card or purchase a ticket at vending machines by some bus stops. Bus fares tend to be a bit more expensive than tube fares but you could get stuck in slow moving traffic.

Tube

Best way to travel in London is with an Oyster card and the tube, though it isn't very scenic. London's underground network is reliable with lots of stations in the city center but can be very busy in rush hour. Remember to mind the gap.

Taxis

London's iconic black taxis are an expensive way to travel but drivers are professional and have to pass tests on knowledge of the city's roads. Private, licensed hire vehicles dispatched by phone are an alternative but can't be flagged down off the street. Uber, a ride-sharing smartphone app, also operates in London.

Restaurants

Indian food is popular in the UK. Borough Market at the south end of London Bridge is open Wed-Sat all day and open for lunch Mon and Tues. Convent Garden Market is open daily.

Shopping

London's famous shopping streets are Oxford and Regent Streets with fashion the main draw here.

Day Trips

Stonehenge Windsor Bath Canterbury

Sights

  • Houses of Parliament/Big Ben - Interesting tours of the parliament are available in the summer. Tube Westminster.
  • Westminster Abbey - Unlike most churches in Europe, churches in England tend to have admission fees. Adjacent to Parliament. Entry £16. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/
  • Piccadily Circus/Leicester Square - This area is London's main theater district. Chinatown is to the north of Leicester Square.
  • Trafalgar Square - This large square is home to the National Gallery (free).
  • South Bank Walk - A nice riverfront promenade through central London. A good route is to start at St Paul's Cathedral, cross the Millenium bridge and then head west to the London Eye.

Hotels

London is a large city and staying in the city center will be more expensive but convenient. Being near a tube station will make it easier to get around. Search hotels in London here

For budget accomodations, consider staying at student residences that are available to the public. Imperial College offers their residences from July-Sept and London School of Economics have residences available year round.

Maps (right-click to save)

London Attractions

London Tube Stations

Suggested Port Guides

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Page last modified on October 15, 2017, at 04:52 PM
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