About to embark on your trip to London and planning on going shopping at Piccadilly Circus, visiting the Harry Potter Studios or getting a bird’s eye view of London from The Shard? In all the excitement, it’s easy to forget what needs organizing in advance. Our London tips will help you prepare for your trip.
This article provides useful tips on organizing your next trip to the British capital. It covers everything you need to consider ahead of your journey – be it the search for a suitable London hotel, entry requirements for the UK, and buying tickets for the London subway. Here are some important things to think about when planning your trip to London.
Basic London tips
Although a weekend trip to London obviously requires far less planning than an extended intercontinental vacation, there are a number of things to bear in mind. The following checklist provides a brief overview of the most important ones. These London tips are solely based on my own personal experience and are by no means exhaustive.
1. Entry requirements for the UK: passport or ID card?
In order to gain entry to the UK, you will require a valid passport or other proof of identity and nationality. For German citizens, a valid ID card is generally sufficient. People of other nationalities should inquire at the relevant consulate. I would nevertheless recommend that you always carry your passport with you, as the entry requirements for the UK are far more stringent than for the rest of the EU.
Laura learned this the hard way on her first trip to London. A few months before the trip, she lost her DNI (the Spanish ID card). She had no difficulty renewing it in her hometown in Spain. However, there was a problem on arrival at Stansted: when the immigration officer scanned her ID chip, the document showed up as a duplicate. Luckily, she had her passport on her and was able to prove that the DNI was hers. After 40 minutes of tough negotiating, she was finally allowed into the country.
She later found out that when a DNI is lost in Spain, the authorities don’t issue a new one, but simply a duplicate (with the same expiry date, etc.). This caused a problem in London, so if you’re traveling to London, take your passport and your ID card with you and check beforehand whether the documents are valid for the full duration of your stay.
2. Plug adapters
Although many hotels now have USB connections and even European sockets, it’s always a good idea to carry at least one plug adapter in your hand luggage. You won’t be spending all your time at the hotel and may want to charge your smartphone while you’re out and about, at a café for example. If, like us, you travel with laptops, cameras, cell phones, external batteries, etc., you’ll need more than one adapter.
We advise you to order adapters for London from an online shop like Amazon and have them delivered to your home address for convenience. In an emergency, you can also buy adapters at souvenir or airport shops.
3. The pound – euro exchange rate
It’s best to keep an eye on the pound – euro exchange rate well ahead of your trip to London, as it fluctuates considerably from one day to the next. We therefore recommend tracking the exchange rate and purchasing local currency at a favorable time. In my experience, it’s generally cheaper to change cash at your bank before your trip rather than at a local bureau de change.
If you don’t have time to change cash in advance, you can also take out cash at ATMs at the airport or change your money at a bureau de change. However, you should bear in mind that in this case the fees will be higher than if you change cash in advance.
4. Roaming charges in London
Good news! A few months ago, the roaming system in member states of the European Union was abolished. As England is part of Europe, you can use your cell phone tariff there at no extra expense. You won’t have to pay any roaming charges in London. That means you can make calls and access mobile data just like you would at home. You can therefore use the navigation map on your cell phone and find out about all the sightseeing attractions mentioned in our blog.
Finding the right hotel in London
One topic that can prove a real headache when planning a trip to London is the search for accommodation. Although there are lots of options to choose from in London, you can’t always be sure whether the accommodation is really as good as it sounds. To find out where we prefer to look for hotels and make reservations, see our article. It includes a list of our favorite hotels.
London is a relatively expensive city and hotel accommodation can make a big hole in your budget, which is why we’ve compiled a Top 10 list of affordable hotels in London. These hotels are centrally located and a little less expensive by London standards. If you’re looking for a budget hotel in London, it’s worth taking a look at our selection.
London airport transfer
Once you’ve booked your flight and accommodation, you need to consider how you’re going to get from the airport to the city. London has five airports, only one of which is within close proximity of the city center. The other airports are further out of town, which is why you’ll definitely need a London airport transfer.
Heathrow and Gatwick are the largest airports in London. Stansted and Luton are smaller and only served by budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair. London City Airport is only about 6 miles from Central London, which explains its popularity with business travelers. All the airports have good transport links to London.
You can make the journey to Central London by train, bus, cab or private transfer. From London Stansted, your best option is the Stansted Express. This train is the fastest way of getting to London. A one-way ticket costs around 20 € per person, depending on how long in advance you book your ticket.
To find out what other options are available and how to get to the city from the other airports, see our article below.
London subway, hop-on hop-off bus tour, etc.
Are you wondering what’s the easiest and cheapest way of getting around London? The options available include the London subway, buses, trams and the famous hop-on hop-off buses.
The Oyster Card London is a cheap, convenient way of exploring the city on public transport. It’s valid for traveling on the subway (Tube), the DLR (London’s overground and underground network in the Docklands), buses and trams, the Thames ferries, the Emirates Air Line (cable car) and most National Rail trains.
Our tip: buy the Oyster Card + London Pass in advance online! This option not only includes public transport, but the hop-on hop-off bus tour as well, and offers considerable reductions on admission to many of the attractions.