10 Things You Shouldn’t Do In London
London is a huge, incredible city with many amazing things to see and do. Us Londoners love to share the city with the outside world, and visitors from the rest of the UK, Europe and beyond are always welcome.
However, to help such a bustling city run smoothly, there are a few unspoken rules which everyone should strive to follow in order to have the best possible time. Read on for ten of those top tips.
1. Do not stand on the left side of the escalator
Unlike escalators in shopping malls and offices, there’s a common etiquette on Tube escalators which asks that you stand on the right when riding them, and walk on the left if you want to continue to climb.
This is useful to save time for anyone in a hurry, and allow to those who want to stand a bit of a break from stair climbing. Make sure to also keep your children and any bags or suitcases either in front or behind you to keep them safe and avoid causing any trip hazards.
Don’t worry about remembering all this, as there are multiple signs on every escalator to help jog your memory as you step on.
2. Do not stop in the middle of a busy pavement
You may be here on holiday, but it’s useful to remember that London is still a working city, home to millions of people. Most of these people are trying to get to and from work or other important appointments at all times of day, and this is made extremely difficult when tourists and sightseers stop and block the pavements when looking at something.
In the future, whether you need to check a map, a guidebook, read a sign or admire a building, just take a moment to check that you’ve stopped somewhere out of the way that doesn’t disrupt the flow of foot traffic. Locals will be grateful, and you can enjoy the sights uninterrupted for as long as you like.
3. Do not stick to the tourist traps
Of course, if it’s your first visit to London, you’ll definitely want to tick off all the most famous attractions. The London Eye, Big Ben, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace are world-famous and exciting for all members of your group, young and old.
However, only visiting tourist attractions can be hard on your wallet and mean that you miss out on some of London’s lesser known, but just as incredible sights. Escape the crowds and use local blogs and tour sites like this one to discover new areas and hidden gems which locals love for their quiet atmosphere and affordability.
4. Do not just take taxis
London black cabs are an iconic way of getting around London, but they are also expensive and often subject to the city’s famously long traffic jams. To save time and money, why not try taking the Tube instead? London’s Tube network is famous the world over for being a quick, efficient and relatively affordable way or getting around busy London.
Millions of locals and visitors alike use it each and every day. However, exclusively using the Tube for your entire visit does have some drawbacks. For one, your time on the Tube will almost always be spent entirely underground. If your goal is to see as much of London as possible, you’ll likely miss out on a lot of incredible sights as you speed through the tunnels.
For a better view of London’s unique streets and buildings, consider finding a local bus which is heading where you want to go, or even treat yourself to an open-top bus tour. This will allow you to see most of London’s essential sights in just a day, with the help of a friendly tour guide.
5. Do not only eat in chain restaurants
London is famous for its food scene, and it has so much more to offer than just the standard chain restaurants which so many seem to stick to.
For the authentic British takeaway experience, there are hundreds of independent fish and chip shops waiting to be tried.
If your tastes are more adventurous, visit Camden Market for endless street food stalls which sell everything from churros to halloumi fries. And if it’s a special occasion or you’ve got a bit more to spend, experience afternoon tea at one of London’s many elegant hotels.
Alternatively, a pub crawl is a great way to see as much of London as possible in a short amount of time. London pubs are home to some of the country’s best authentic meals, such as hearty roast dinners and mouth watering pies.
Try checking online for the hottest new openings and pop ups. You never know what you might find!
6. Do not only shop on Oxford Street
There are probably too many shops in London to count. From tiny corner shops, family run gift stores, creative boutiques and huge flagships, London is truly a city where you can buy anything you want if you’re willing to search around for it.
With so many different shops to be discovered, most Londoners struggle to see why tourists and visitors so often just stick to shopping on Oxford Street. True, it has a huge number of shops, and is famous around the world as a retail destination. But you’ll likely find a lot of chain stores here, and not much in the way of unusual or independent shops that you won’t find anywhere else. So if you have time after traipsing up and down Oxford Street, why not try branching out and looking for more unique shops?
Try Chinatown for authentic ingredients, gifts and souvenirs which blend London’s culture with the Far East, or head to Brick Lane for vintage markets, home made food and exclusive boutiques. You’ll beat the crowds, save money, and return with a London story that’s entirely unique to you.
7. Do not get in the way of The Queen’s Guard
It’s normal to be excited to see The Queen’s Guard when visiting London. The pomp and ceremony, smart uniforms, and precise movements are like nothing else in the world and make for a great photo to remember your trip by. However, while you may be willing to go to great lengths to get the perfect shot of The Guard, or even a selfie with them, this could get you in trouble.
The Queen’s Guard are highly trained soldiers who are very serious about their jobs, and any tourists who get in the way during their march will find themselves unceremoniously pushed aside with an order of “make way for The Queen’s Guard!”
If you need evidence, just search online for videos of tourists trying, and failing, to pull similar silly stunts. Everyone wants a great photo, but the way to ensure you get the best one is to keep back, and give these guys the space they need to do their jobs.
8. Do not visit Tower Bridge thinking that it’s London Bridge
When you think of iconic landmarks in London, it’s likely that you think of London Bridge. After all, it’s the subject of the famous song, and tourist destination for thousands. However, if you follow your map to London Bridge and expect to see two striking towers and a suspension bridge that raises to let boats pass, you may be disappointed.
For years people have been mistaking Tower Bridge, with the famous appearance described above, with London Bridge, which has a famous name but a much less well-known appearance. Don’t feel too bad, as it’s an easy mistake to make.
After all, pop star Fergie did with her 2006 hit song ‘London Bridge,’ filming the song’s music video and single cover at Tower Bridge mistakenly. If you have done the same, and find yourself at London Bridge searching for the towers, don’t worry, as the two bridges are a short half mile walk apart along the Thames.
9. Do not waste your money with a paper ticket
If you’re visiting London, it’s highly likely that you will end up using its public transport system at some point. After all, it’s quick, efficient, and famous! However, one secret that not many visitors to London know is that it’s far cheaper and more convenient to buy an Oyster card or use their contactless bank card for journeys on the TfL network.
An Oyster is the bright blue card that many Londoners use to get around. You buy one and then load it with money at most TfL stations, then tap it or your bank card each time you enter or leave the bus or station barriers.
Daily capping then guarantees you the best price, no matter how much you travel. Over the duration of your trip, you’ll find you spend so much less of your precious holiday money than by buying individual paper tickets for one way journeys
. After you leave, the Oyster is the perfect keepsake to remind you of your trip, and the best part is, it’s ready and waiting to be used on your next visit!
10. Do not stick to a large tour group
Staying with a large tour group, whether it’s the one that you travelled here with, or one that you have bought sightseeing tickets for, can have some benefits: you’ll be sure to check all the major attractions off your list, you’re unlikely to get lost, and of course there’s safety in numbers.
However, being a part of a large group of tourists also has its drawbacks.
For a start, they take a lot of the fun out of your visit. So much of the wonder of visiting a new city comes from discovering new, exciting things yourself. Most of London’s best hidden gems are in places a standard tour would never think to visit, so you’ll be missing out on many of the places that independent travelers and locals get to discover and enjoy for themselves.
Secondly, large tour groups cause disruption in the areas that they visit, as due to their size they block pavements and crowd shops. For a warmer reception everywhere you go, consider leaving the group and branching out on your own.