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Travel tips for London for first timers: how to find the best flight to London, how to get to London from the airports, how to get around, where to stay, where to eat, when to visit, what travel documents you need and general useful information.
You have finally decided to travel to London and now you are looking for useful information and travel tips.
If you read my guide to the must-see attractions of London and thought: “Wow, everything looks so amazing! But where do I start?”, well don’t worry! You are reading the right post.
Now sit down, relax and stop looking around.
In this post you will find many travel tips and everything you need to know for your first visit to London!
So let’s start with the most important thing: how to get to London.
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT TO LONDON.
Let me start with some good news: there’s a lot of flights to London!
In London there are many airports so you have infinite options for your flight.
Honestly I prefer Vueling because unlike the others operates also Heathrow, the airport connected in the easiest and cheapest way to the city center. Besides they provide better service.
Click here for the full list of airlines that fly to London.
HOW TO GET TO LONDON FROM THE AIRPORTS.
So I was saying that there are many airports in London.
When you book your flight always look first at the transfer cost from the airport to the city center before buying the ticket.
You might find a flight that costs a little more than another one that lands however at a closer airport. Watch out because the transfer cost might be higher than the price difference between those flights!
Sometimes when you book a cheap flight you might end up buying a ticket to an airport which is way further from London than other ones.
But don’t worry! I’m here to help you!
I have listed for you all the airports of London in order of distance from the city.
I chose Victoria Station as an example for your final destination in the city center to plan your journey from the different airports.
You can buy your ticket from a self-service machine just outside the airport stations.
1. HOW TO GET TO LONDON FROM LONDON CITY.
As you might guess, London City (LCY) is the closest airport to the city center.
But the bad news is that not so many flights land at this airport. So finding cheap flights to London City is a little harder than finding cheap flights to other airports.
London City is on the DLR route of London railway.
Single fare from London City Airport DLR Station to the city center:
- Cash: £4.90.
- Oyster Card: Monday – Friday 6:30 – 9:30: £3.30; At all other times + Saturday and Sunday: £2.80.
I will explain to you soon how the Oyster card works.
Estimated time from London City Airport DLR Station to Victoria Station: 30 minutes.
2. HOW TO GET TO LONDON FROM HEATHROW.
Heathrow is one of the main international airports in the world and the busiest airport in Europe.
It’s huge as you can imagine! There are 4 terminals which are connected in different ways to the city center. So it’s very important that you know which terminal you need, especially when you are traveling from Heathrow to other destinations.
If you don’t know your terminal, click here to search your airline company and its terminal.
Heathrow is served by the Piccadilly Line of London Underground. Some trains go from the city center to Terminal 2 – 3 and pass by Terminal 4 on their way back to the city, skipping Terminal 5. Other trains go straight to Terminal 5 after Terminal 2 – 3, skipping this time Terminal 4. So before you get on the train check which terminals are indicated on the train and on the platform signs that display the arriving trains.
Don’t worry if you get on the wrong train by mistake. It’s not over yet!! You can always get off at Terminal 2 – 3 and get on the right train from there.
Single fare from Heathrow Underground Station (all terminals) to the city center:
- Cash: £6.00.
- Oyster Card: Monday – Friday 6:30 – 9:30: £5.10; At all other times + Saturday and Sunday: £3.10.
Estimated time from Heathrow Underground Station (all terminals) to Victoria Station: 45 minutes.
3. HOW TO GET TO LONDON FROM GATWICK.
Gatwick (LGW) is another important airport of London with 2 terminals: North and South.
The best way to get to London from Gatwick is by train from South Terminal.
There are also buses for £8 – £9 but the bus ride to London is about 1 hour and a half / 2 hours or even more if there is traffic.
The trains that go from Gatwick to Victoria Station are either Gatwick Express or Southern. I recommend Southern as it’s cheaper and the ride is not much longer than Gatwick Express.
The ticket costs around £16 but the price might vary according to availability, hours and special offers.
Estimated time from Gatwick to Victoria Station: 35 minutes.
4. HOW TO GET TO LONDON FROM STANSTED.
Stansted (STN) is the airport mostly used by low-cost airlines.
Just like Gatwick, Stansted is connected to the city by bus or by train but once again I don’t recommend the bus because it takes too long.
Stansted Express is a train that links the airport to Liverpool Station in about 45 minutes.
Click here to book online your ticket in advance and get good deals from £7.
5. HOW TO GET TO LONDON FROM LUTON.
Luton (LTN) is the farthest airport from London and is mostly used by Easy Jet and Ryan Air.
You need to take a shuttle from the airport to the train station before getting the train to London. The shuttle ride is 10 minutes and the cost is included in the total cost of the train ticket which is about £12.
The train connects Luton Station to the following underground stops in London: St Pancras (about 50 minutes), Farringdon (about 55 minutes) and Blackfriars (about 60 minutes).
In this case the bus might be a good option if you are not willing to take the shuttle to the train station and you want instead a direct transfer to London from the airport.
Congratulations! You have just gone through the hardest part of your first trip to London: choosing the best flight and airport.
Now let’s see how to get around in London.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN LONDON.
London has a very efficient public transportation system so it will be absolutely easy for you to move around London.
You can use the underground lines and the typical red double-decker buses.
Just know that traffic might be hectic in London on weekdays so if you take the bus during peak hours you might get stuck in the traffic for a long time! I suggest you then to use the bus only late in the morning, in the evening or on Saturday and Sunday.
The best thing you can do is buying an Oyster Card.
Oyster Card is a card that you charge to travel on all the bus and metro lines at cheaper costs than cash tickets.
Click here to find out the cost of a journey between two stations.
Each time you use your card in zones 1 – 2 you will be charged £2.40 instead of £4.90 which is the fare for cash tickets.
Not only that, but once you are charged £6.80 for the day you can keep traveling for free until 4:30 am the next day!
A bus ride costs £1.50 and you can only pay using an Oyster card or a contactless payment card. If using an Oyster card you can keep traveling for free on buses and trams once you are charged £4.50 for the day.
Oyster card costs £5 and you can buy it and top up credit at all metro stations. Don’t forget to touch in and out when you travel by metro and to touch in only when you travel by bus or tram.
Keep your card when you return from London. It has no expiration day and you can use it again for your next trip to London!
Well you know what they say… an Oyster is forever!
Check out the official website of Transport of London to plan your journey by selecting where you travel from and to and at what time. On the website you can also view and download the Tube and Rail Maps which are also available at all metro stations.
A very good tool that you can use is Citymapper, an App that gives you different journey options and provides also the travel times.
WHERE TO STAY IN LONDON.
London offers a wide range of hotels for your stay.
Keep in mind that the average price for hotels in London is medium/high.
The most exclusive neighborhoods of London are Kensington, Chelsea and the area around the Royal Parks.
Westminster and Covent Garden are two districts in a less exclusive area but still pretty expensive as they are very central.
Notting Hill is one of my favorite residential areas of London and offers beautiful accommodation but here too the hotels are quite high-priced.
Shoreditch is definitely a good option if you want to stay close enough to the city center without spending too much. Shoreditch is next door to the City and the district is famous for its nightlife. Here you find cheaper accommodation in a very peculiar area which is still centrally located.
Once I stayed at Spacious 2 Bedroom Flat in Shoreditch Sleeps 6. It’s a nice and spacious apartment but I must say that we had a few technical issues due to lack of maintenance.
If you want to spend even less then you have to check outer suburbs. But don’t let this bring you down because all areas are very well connected through London thanks to the efficient public transportation system.
The first time I went to London I stayed at Custom House Hotel which now changed the name into Ibis Styles London Excel. The hotel is right in front of Custom House DLR Station on the East side of London, very close to London City Airport.
Well we can’t really say that it has a central location but it’s connected very well by the DLR Line and offers nice and clean rooms at very good prices.
WHERE TO EAT IN LONDON.
Ok I have to make an effort here and try to hide my visceral hatred for fish but one thing that a tourist has to try in London is fish & chips.
You will find it literally everywhere but I can’t tell you which one is my favorite because I never tried it! I’m sorry!
But I promised you that in this post you would find many travel tips and everything you need to know for your first visit to London so I won’t disappoint you! I found out for you that many people love fish & chips at Poppies. So give it a try and let me know if you like!
Together with fish & chips another must-try is roast beef in one of the typical English pubs with some good local beer. There are many pubs in Soho, one of the most famous areas for nightlife.
Street food is also very popular in London. A very famous place for street food is Borough Market, in South Bank.
Overall in London there is a lot of international food. So trying food from all over the world is also something typical to do in London. There are many restaurants in Covent Garden, one of the most popular areas in London.
In particular, my friends from London and I just go crazy for Nando’s! If you have never heard of it, it’s an Afro-Portugues restaurant chain where they cook amazing chicken that you can combine with sauces of different degrees of heat. It’s a very good place where you can eat for cheap. Besides chicken there are also vegetarian options.
One of the nicest restaurants of Nando’s is the one in 225-227 Clink Street, in South Bank.
And finally don’t forget about tea time! At 5 o’clock sharp go to a bar and try one of the many types of tea.
Someone might tell you that the afternoon tea is now a thing for tourists only. But even so, aren’t we tourists after all?
BEST TIME TO VISIT LONDON.
London is beautiful all year around!
And it rains all year around!
All joking aside, go to London more than once if you can so that you can see how it changes throughout the year.
But for your first trip to London, I would probably suggest either Spring or Summer to enjoy the daylight longer. In Winter days are short and it gets dark at around 16:00. Besides it gets really cold.
Anyway it’s absolutely worth visiting London during the Christmas holiday to live the magical vibe of the city at this time of year.
London is particularly beautiful also in Autumn when the trees are in colors in the beautiful parks.
I told you! London is beautiful all year around!
DOCUMENTS YOU NEED TO TRAVEL TO LONDON.
One of the most Frequently Asked Questions by European these days is: “What documents do I need to travel to London after Brexit?”.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to write a letter on parchment paper to the Queen. Neither you need to apply for any type of Visa if you are from Europe.
If you are not from Europe check here if you need a VISA.
We in Europe need what we have always needed: a valid document, either a passport or an identity card.
There is something very important that you need to check though: your document has to be undamaged. Before boarding your flight there will be someone to check your document and they can deny you boarding if they see any sort of damage. When you arrive in London you will have to go again through a document check.
OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT LONDON.
TIME: GMT 0.
ELECTRICITY: 230 volts. Type G Plug. You will need a travel adapter.
CURRENCY: Pounds. Avoid exchanging or getting money from an ATM at the airport because the commission is higher.
So here’s my travel tips for your first trip to London. I hope you found them useful and if you have any questions you can always leave a comment here or write to Follow My Anchor by filling the contact form on the website!