London travel guide

Have a smashing time along the River Thames.

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Big Ben and Westminster at sunrise

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London is a sprawling city of historical monuments, monarchical artifacts and green spaces, coupled with a cosmopolitan culture that draws locals and visitors alike. Always plenty to do year-round, London’s landscape is dotted with must-see icons: Big Ben, the London Eye, the Shard and Tower Bridge.

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Tips for first-time visitors to London

1. Use extra caution when crossing the street

People drive on the left side of the road in England, so don’t forget to check for traffic coming from the opposite direction from what you’re used to. Some crosswalks are labeled “look left” or “look right” to remind pedestrians which way traffic is coming from. But to play it safe, check both ways before stepping into the street.

2. Get acquainted with military time

As in most European countries, the 24-hour clock — or military time — is used for public transportation. So if you buy a 9:00 train ticket, you’ll be leaving in the morning. But English people tend to speak using a 12-hour clock, like in the US. So you might hear someone say they’re seeing a 7:30 show, meaning in the evening, rather than saying 1930.

3. Stay to the right on escalators

Follow this unspoken yet strictly followed rule: Stay to the right on the escalator if you’re standing still so others can walk past you on the left.

4. Wait for everyone to get off the train before stepping on.

It’s common courtesy to wait for everyone to get off of the train before boarding. And if you see an elderly person, pregnant woman or someone else who looks like they could use a seat more than you do, it’s polite to offer them yours.

5. Have your Oyster card ready

Like New Yorkers, Londoners like to keep things moving. Have your Oyster card ready before hopping on the bus or other mode of transport so you don’t hold up the line.

6. Know when to tip and when to skip

Tip your restaurant server 10% to 15% of the bill, but check to make sure a service charge wasn’t already added to your total — no need to tip twice! It’s also common to tip your taxi driver and tour guide 10% to 15%, while a smaller tip is sufficient for hotel staff.

On the other hand, bartenders don’t expect tips. If you had exceptional service and want to leave a tip, make it small and say something along the lines of, “Add one for yourself.”

7. Bring an umbrella

Known for its drizzly days, London can have unpredictable weather. There’s no guarantee it won’t rain, even in the summer. So have an umbrella handy just in case.

That said, London receives an average yearly rainfall of 23 inches. Compare that to New York City’s 50 inches of rain per year or Seattle’s 38 inches, and London doesn’t seem so wet after all.

Bottom line

As one of the world’s most visited cities, London has so much to offer: history, architecture, famous landmarks and royal sightings. Plan your trip of a lifetime to this chic and culturally rich city — even if you’re traveling on a budget.

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