I wanted to share my advice for anyone visiting London because I often see tourists heading into places where I know they’re going to have a terrible time or a terrible meal, and I would really like to warn them before they waste their money. I’m sure this is what I look like when I visit other cities and personally, I would really appreciate it if someone stopped me before I paid for something I wouldn’t enjoy. So, in the spirit of that, here’s my advice for anyone visiting London.
1. Chain Restaurants
One of my top pieces of advice for anyone visiting London is try the amazing food on offer. The city is always described as a melting pot and, as a result of that, we have a brilliant selection of restaurants selling every cuisine you can imagine. Don’t go into the chain restaurants – places like Garfunkel’s, Angus Steakhouse (never, ever eat here) or TGI Fridays. Your food will be overpriced and it will be average at very best.
2. Food Blogs
Ok, so I’ve told you all to avoid chain restaurants but not how to find the good places. Chains tend to be in the busiest and most convenient of places, which is why we, as tourists, probably end up at them. Before I go anywhere new, I research food bloggers who write about the place I'm going. All it’ll take is some of your time and I guarantee you will end up eating some of the best food you’ve ever come across – and you won’t feel ripped off.
3. Leicester Square
I know you’ll probably want to go here, because it’s a famous part of the city. Go, have a wander round – and then leave. It really is awful and I guarantee that, if you eat and drink around here, you will get ripped off. Even going to the cinema here will cost you nearly twice as much as the cost of a regular ticket everywhere else.
4. Tourist Traps
This is the same for places such as Camden Market, Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus. Of course, you’ll want to see them and it’s the sort of thing I did when I first came to London but make them sweeping visits. Don’t waste your money on terrible street food and overpriced cocktails!
5. Download a Tube App
I think this is a free app – I can’t remember, I’ve had it for ages – but it’s worth getting either way. London is a huge city and the tube network is massive. Also, it’s not actually that great. We get a lot of delays and a tube app will help you avoid those, so it’ll be very useful.
6. Buy a Travel Card
You may have already planned to do this but you’ll save a lot of money by getting a weekly or daily travel card. Most of the well-known spots are in zones 1-3 but I would get the full six zones so that you can explore further afield.
7. Prepare for Rudeness
Relatively speaking, I don’t find Londoners that rude. However, I have a few friends who’ve moved down here from northern England and they were shocked by how unfriendly Londoners were. I guess it is more unfriendliness than rudeness – if you hear people talking on a packed tube train, I would say that there’s a 90% chance they’re from out of town or that they’re drunk. Also, if you try to start a conversation with someone on the tube, they’ll probably look at you like you’re crazy.
8. Please & Thank You
On the other hand, you know that stereotype about British people being ultra-polite? Well, it’s true – we’re BIG on manners. Please and thank you is important, we’ll apologise if you stand on OUR feet and never try to jump a queue. I know that few people are ever intentionally be rude but every country has different customs and it’s easy to trip up if you don’t know what those are.
9. See Some Comedy
Ah, the famous British sense of humour! I’m proud to be British and I’m proud of our comedy – I think the dry humour we cultivate here is one of the funniest in the world. It’s certainly unique, so set aside some time to visit a comedy club whilst you’re here. There’s plenty in London and they’re normally great value.
10. Plan Your Itinerary
As I mentioned before, London is huge and different areas will have a completely different feel about them. Decide where you want to go before or you’ll end up spending a lot of time walking around. That’s not a bad thing but you could spend a lot of time walking past office blocks to get to where you want to go.
11. Taxis Are Expensive
Travelling around the city is expensive - our train prices are much higher than most other places in Europe and I've also found that a taxi will cost you more, too. Don't just jump in - you might want to ask how much it'll cost you first or get the tube if you can.
12. The Music Scene
London is a brilliant place to go to a gig – other than the bigger names, most of who always include a stop in London, there’ll be great opportunities to see up and coming bands. It’s worth checking what’s coming up at the O2 Academy in Brixton – it’s a very good venue.
Those are a few general tips for anyone visiting the city. Really, just have a great time and enjoy it – it’s messy and dirty and everyone is in a rush, but it’s also full of fascinating history, places and people. Have I missed anything out?