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Helpful Travel Tips for London First-Timers

Helpful Travel Tips for London First-Timers

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Are you planning a trip to London for the first time and don’t know what to expect? Keep scrolling to check out my top travel tips for London, England!
This list of travel tips for London England contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Planning a trip to London with your family?

You’re in for a treat – London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world!

Whether you’re traveling to see some history, shop, or just relax, London is a special place!

There’s so much to see and do that you’ll have trouble fitting it all into your schedule. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our London travel tips.

We’ve put together this guide full of tips to help make your visit as enjoyable as possible. From where to stay to what attractions are a must-see, we’ll help you make the most of your time in London.

Keep scrolling to check out my travel tips in London, England to make your visit more enjoyable and less stressful.

Want an epic Paris & London guide book? This is my favorite Paris & London itinerary and guide!

Tips for London Travel FAQs

What should I wear in London?

You’ll definitely want to pack lots of layers, even if you are visiting London in summer. The weather can get quite chilly and it’s nice to have a few sweaters, a jacket, and even rain gear. You’ll also want comfortable shoes and enough socks to last your trip. I also recommend a travel umbrella as well as sunglasses (yes you made need them on the same day).

Where are the best places to stay in London?

It’s best to be as centrally-located to the city as possible to minimize travel time. We like staying in Pimlico/Belgravia because it’s a quiet part of town. But the West End, Westminster, and Kensington as also great choices.

Do you need to tip in London?

While it’s not compulsory, it is pretty common to tip at restaurants or if you take a tour. Usually, 10-15% is standard. We like to bring cash for tipping. But, be sure to check your bills to see if gratuity was already included in your bill.

Traveling to London Tips For an Awesome Trip

Planning Your London Visit

The first step to making the most of your time in London is having an idea about what you want to see and do before arriving. This will help avoid feeling overwhelmed or lost while exploring this wonderful city.

Before you go to England, list the places that will be on your London itinerary. You’ll want some time at each tourist attraction and also explore neighborhood areas of the city while there.

Image of Big Ben clocktower and ornate building with blue sky and clouds in background
Having an itinerary is one of my top tips when traveling to London.

Most visitors to London have a general idea of what they want to see and do, but it’s helpful to have a more specific plan in mind before arriving. This will help you make the most of your time in the city and avoid feeling overwhelmed. 

First, decide what attractions you want to see. Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey are all popular tourist destinations. But there are also many other interesting places to visit.

Consider spending some time exploring the city’s neighborhoods, parks, and gardens.

Once you know what you want to see, start figuring out how you’re going to fit it all in. London is a big city! Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day or two (or even a week). This is one of my top tips for visiting London.

How Many Days in London?

For our last trip to London with kids, we did 4 days and it was a nice amount of time. We were able to see a lot of London attractions, do a few London tours, and even spend the day at the WB Studio Tour for all things Harry Potter. Check out our 4 day London itinerary.

Image of Tower Bridge in London over the Thames River
I suggest making a list of things to do in London before deciding how many days to spend there.

With 2-3 days in London, you will be able to see several London sights and do a few activities. It’s a nice amount of time if you are planning on heading to the English countryside or taking the Chunnel to Paris.

If this is possibly your only trip to London, you might want to plan for 5-7 days in order to check as many things off your London bucket list as possible.

Hotels in London

If your London budget allows, try to stay as centrally located as you can. This is especially helpful with kids.

That makes it easier to walk to top London sights/activities, easily catch a taxi, to take public transportation. And you won’t waste precious vacation hours traveling to and from your hotel. This is one of the most under-rated London vacation tips.

Size of Your Room

If this is your first trip to England (or anywhere in Europe), you might be surprised by the size of your hotel room or hotel amenities.

Image of a bed with a plaid blanket on the food
This was our room at the Georgian House Hotel. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Many hotels in London have been around for a long time and are very quaint. By that I mean your room will probably be cozy and you might need to haul your luggage up a narrow flight of stairs.

But a lot of London hotels offer breakfast, which is a great perk. You can get a full English breakfast with sausages, eggs, toast, and even baked beans!

Public Transportation in London, England

Public transportation in London, England is fantastic. The city’s subway system can take you to nearly any part of the capital quickly and easily.

It has an extensive network so there really isn’t much reason not to use this form over others when visiting!

Image of the London Underground sign
Taking advantage of the Underground is one of my top London tourist tips.

Although some may find navigating their way around initially confusing at first, once they’ve been using them awhile, they will probably become accustomed pretty quickly.

Use public transportation whenever possible. It’s relatively cheap and easy to get around town this way, and it offers a great way to see the different neighborhoods in London.

The Tube (subway) and buses are cheap and very efficient, but if you want to get outside the city, take the train. I suggest downloading the Tube app to help you easily navigate the city.

If you plan on using public transportation a lot, you might want to get an Oyster Card.

Taxis and Ubers

If using public transportation isn’t convenient or it’s too much of a hassle with kids, you can always take a taxi or Uber.

Image of a line of black cabs in London
These London black cabs are really spacious.

In fact, I recommend taking a taxi from the airport or train station if you have all your luggage. It’s much safer and easier than bringing them on the Tube.

Most taxis can seat 6 people AND there is plenty of room for luggage. We were able to get our family of 4 inside one plus our 4 big suitcases and 4 carry ones without any issue.

Be Prepared to Walk

Unless you’re from a big city, you might not be used to the amount of walking you’ll do in London. It’s easy to walk 5-10 miles each day, even when you’re using public transportation or taxis.

You’ll definitely want comfortable shoes that can handle the cobblestone roads.

Image of two men and a boy walking through a narrow alley in London
We walked a lot during a Harry Potter tour in London. Photo credit: Marcie Cheun

I suggest bringing two pairs of shoes with you so you can alternate. It’s great if one pair is waterproof since rain is fairly common in London.

If you wear shoes without socks (or with the no-show socks), I recommend also packing Band-Aids for your heels. Almost everyone we saw had Band-Aids where their shoes rubbed their skin from walking so much (me included).

Don’t Forget to Look Right!

You probably already know that Brits drive on the opposite side of the street as Americans. But, you might not realize that it affects you as a pedestrian.

Image of a crosswalk with the words Look Right and an arrow
Remembering to look right is one of the best tips on traveling to London.

You’re probably wired to always look left first when you cross the street. However, you’ll need to look right when you’re in London.

Thankfully, there are signs painted in the street that say “Look Right!” to help you out!

Stand on the Right but Walk on the Left

One of the most confusing things about walking around London is how to deal with the flow of people.

Most people walk like they would drive. So people walk through doorways on the left or bypass a group of slower walkers on the left. Yes, I may have bumped into a few people while entering restrooms.

However, if you’re going up/down an escalator, you’ll want to stand on the right side. That way, people can walk up/down the escalator without getting stuck.

Money in London

When you visit the United Kingdom, keep in mind that they use British pounds, not Euros. So, if you are traveling outside of the U.K., you’ll need to have both currencies.

You should be able to use your credit card for most purchases in London, but we like to get cash to tip our tour guides, buy things from markets, and have as a backup in case our credit card doesn’t work.

Book London Attractions & Tours in Advance

Even if you are the type of traveler who likes to “wing it”, you will want to book at least a few things ahead of time. This will save you a lot of time waiting in line and it will usually also save you money.

Find out how to spend 4 days in London with kids by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of two boys using binoculars on the London Eye
Booking our London Eye Fast Track tickets probably saved us 2-3 hours in line. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

And when you are booking London activities, check to see if they have a skip-the-line option. We did this for the London Eye and it saved us SO much time!

I suggest booking one or two activities per day and leaving the rest of the time open to check out parks/gardens, walk around neighborhoods, or go shopping.

If you want to do afternoon tea in London, you’ll also want to book that prior to your trip. Same goes with any theater experience (if you want great seats)!

Shopping Tips in London

London is a shoppers’ paradise with fancy department stores, quaint boutiques, and markets of all kinds.

Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion or just want to find that perfect souvenir from London’s rich history; these tips will help guide your search to finding what it was exactly that YOU were seeking!

Image of a woman holding a shopping back next to two lifesize teddy bears dressed in British outfits
Definitely plan a stop at Harrods to say hi to the teddy bears! Photo credit: Owen Cheung

First off explore some large retailers like Harrods and Selfridges who have everything ranging from clothing, accessories, cosmetics, and even housewares.

If they don’t quite fit then head over to Bond Street (where you can peruse luxury brands) or Oxford Circle where there are plenty more unique shops waiting for you.

Image of people walking in front of the Borough Market entrance
Borough Market is a great place for London shopping.

For something more unique, check out the many independent boutiques throughout London. Carnaby Street is a great place to start, or head to one of the city’s many markets (like Borough Market) for treasures that can’t be found anywhere else.

Image of a dad and two boys walking into the Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 3/4 in London
The Harry Potter Shop is pretty amazing! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

And Harry Potter fans will definitely want to check out the Harry Potter Store at Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. They have tons of cool Harry Potter items!

No matter what you’re looking for, London has something to offer every shopper.

Get a Travel Adapter

If you plan on bringing anything that might need to be plugged in a wall (like a hair dryer, straightener, or laptop computer), you’ll need an adapter.

We usually bring a universal adapter when we travel but this trip we brought a voltage converter. You’ll just need to do some research to make sure your items will work with the different voltages.

Thankfully, USB chargers will work in any USB port you might have at your hotel or on a train. Otherwise, you’ll need to plug it into either a converter or a British plug.

Safety and Awareness in London

London visitors are advised to remain vigilant at all times and take precautions for their own protection.

In recent years there has been an increase in crimes across the city which means that more than ever before people need be aware of what they’re doing both outside as well as inside buildings.

Image of a Metropolitan police officer in a yellow jacket in London
Stay alert when traveling in London.

The Metropolitan Police Department offers a variety of safety tips for Londoners, including always being aware of your surroundings, being cautious when using public transportation, and avoiding walking alone at night.

London is a fascinating and exciting place to explore, but it can be dangerous too. There are many apps available that will help you keep safe while in London.

The Guardian Angel app connects users instantaneously with police officers should any crime or suspicious activity happen near your location.

MyForce allows for an easy way of calling emergency services if you feel unsafe or are being harassed.

Be aware of your surroundings, especially when you’re trying to find somewhere new or unfamiliar. Of course, London is a big place, so it’s easy to get lost or confused if you’re not paying attention.

London Weather

London has a reputation for being both rainy and cold, but it’s also possible to enjoy mild weather during your stay. The weather is very similar to Seattle or Vancouver, BC.

No matter what you think of London weather, there’s no doubt that it can be unpredictable.

Image of a woman holding an umbrella in front of The Ritz in London.
Bring an umbrella and jacket are my tips for traveling in London any time of year.

When traveling to London, keep an eye on the weather. The city can be quite cold and wet in the winter months and hot and humid in the summer months.

When you’re in London, be sure to check the weather before you go out. There’s no telling what the weather will be like when you get there, so it’s best to make sure that your clothing is appropriate.

I recommend bringing a light rain jacket and pocket umbrella with you, even in the summer. And pack lots of layers so you can stay comfortable as you explore London.

London Tips for Families Wrap Up

London, the capital city of England is a one-of-a-kind destination.

Whether you are looking to experience some popular highlights or just want a break from your everyday life these travel tips for London will help make sure that your stay in London is more comfortable and convenient

Looking for more London content? Check out my kid-friendly London 4 day itinerary and how to book a London family photographer!

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