Airport ✈️

London has five airports. Yes, five. Most people who visit fly into Heathrow or Gatwick, and transfers can easily be made between these two.

Heathrow Airport (LHR) - Located 15 miles west of central London, London Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world and handles more international travellers than any other airport. With five terminals, they each have their own shops, restaurants, information and currency exchange kiosks, and left luggage services.

  • Take the Heathrow Express 🚆 as the fastest way to reach central London (Paddington Station), which takes 15-20 minutes departing from Terminals 2 and 3. Services leave regularly from 5am until just before midnight.
  • The cheapest option is via the Underground 🚉. A one way ticket on the Piccadilly line costs £5 (approx $6.60) to any stop in Zone 1 (central London locations). This is the least expensive way to get into the city, but it will also take a bit longer. The tube runs from approximately 5am to 11.45pm daily (6am on Sundays).
  • As with any major city, taxis 🚕 are always available at the arrivals area. It is the most expensive option, a taxi from Heathrow to central London will run £45 - £70 (approx $60-$92) and takes about an hour.

Gatwick Airport (LGW) - Gatwick is located 28 miles south of London. While much smaller than Heathrow, many international flights do arrive here. There are two terminals: the North and South terminal. Both have a good selection of shops, restaurants and full airport services to keep you occupied during layovers or while you wait to board your flight.

  • The Gatwick Express 🚆 train service shuttles visitors to Victoria Station in 30 minutes. Trains depart every 15 minutes.
  • Thameslink 🚆 operate services to London Bridge, London Blackfriars and St Pancras International, getting you into central London in 30 - 45 minutes.
  • easyBus 🚌 is your cheapest transfer option. For £2 (approx $2.60) you can reach west London in around 60 minutes.

Stansted Airport (STN) - Stansted airport is located 40 miles northeast of London and is used by low-cost airlines for flights to Europe and the Mediterranean. It is the U.K’s third busiest airport.

  • The quickest and most direct route to London is via the Stansted Express 🚆 - Services run every 15 minutes and take about 45 minutes to reach London Liverpool Street Station.
  • The cheapest option is a National Express coach 🚌. Buses run 24/7 to multiple central London locations for around £5 (approx $6.60).

London City Airport (LCY) - This is the closest airport to city center, about 6 miles east. Its single runway handles short-haul flights and is used mostly by business travellers to Europe as well as a few flights to New York City. It is a full-service airport with shops, restaurants, and information/lost luggage facilities.

  • The city center is easily accessible via a number of transportation options including the Underground 🚆, the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) 🚝, bus 🚌 and taxi 🚕.

London Luton Airport (LTN) - Located 35 miles northwest of central London, this is the go-to airport for most of the budget-friendly airlines, and as such is one of the U.K’s busiest airports. It is a full-service airport with shops, restaurants and information/currency exchange facilities.

  • Trains 🚆 run from Luton to the city center and the commute is 20 to 40 minutes. You can take a free shuttle bus from the terminal to Luton Airport Parkway train station, and purchase an Oyster card to get around.
  • The National Express bus 🚌 service is available from bays 4, 5, 6 and 10 outside the terminal.
  • Taxis 🚕 are always available, and will cost around £80 (approx $105).

Getting around 🚕

There are so many ways to get around London. You do not need a car unless you will be venturing way outside the city.

Underground - London is divided into nine fare zones, with 1 and 2 being central London, and Heathrow Airport being Zone 6. If you are staying more than a day, an Oyster card is your best option for taking advantage of most public transport. Just tap the Oyster card when you embark on your journey and tap again when you disembark to pay. London is well served by the Underground (also known as The Tube) as there is usually a station within easy walking distance. With 250 miles of track and 270 stations, the Underground has London pretty well covered, with trains arriving within 10 minutes from 5am through midnight. 24-hour service is available on more traveled lines. Just know that the Tube gets very crowded during morning and rush hour.
London Underground map

Overground - Another option for getting around are the Overground, which fills in the service gaps of the Underground. The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) covers east/southeast London, and is fully automated (no drivers).
London Overground map

Bus - The famous red double-deckers we all know and love are just as widely used as the Underground. Bus fares are generally cheaper than the Underground and service the entire city. The Oyster card is accepted, of course, and many lines operate 24/7. However, they do tend to take longer than the Tube as traffic is always a factor.
London Bus map

Boat - The Thames Clipper river boat is a great way to see the city from the Thames. With four routes, this service runs from Putney in the west to Woolwich in the east. Oyster cards are accepted, or you can purchase tickets online or at the pier where you embark. It should be noted that this option is more expensive than the rest.
Thames Clippers route & timetable

Taxi - The famous black cab taxis are another option. All cabbies are required to know the city inside and out in order to navigate the city efficiently and get you where you need to go without too much hassle. Of course, this is a more expensive option than the rest mentioned above, but a great experience nonetheless. If you are traveling in a group it can actually be quite cost effective. Black cabs do NOT accept Oyster cards, but do accept cash or credit cards.

Weather ⛅️

The U.K's climate is relatively warm for its northernly position in the world. The city doesn't experience extreme changes from season to season though in spite of this, weather conditions can be unpredictable. Though London experiences more sunny days than its reputation may suggest, it’s likely a good idea to come prepared with a hooded raincoat and/or an umbrella (colloquially known as a brolly) to hand.

Spring - Spring sees the start of British Summer Time (BST) leading to longer days and evenings. Temperatures steadily rise as the days draw longer. Expect average temperatures to hover between 11°C and 15°C (52-59°F).

Summer - London summers can be very pleasant with temperatures averaging 18°C (64°F). During heat waves temperatures sometimes exceed 30°C (86°F). August sees the highest rainfall of the year but thankfully there are plenty of indoor activities across the city to escape the drizzle.

Autumn - Early Autumn holds mild temperatures and pleasant weather. As November approaches rainfall increases and temperatures drop to an average of 8-11°C (46-52°F). The days are noticeably shorter giving less daylight hours for your adventures.

Winter - Temperatures drop to an average of 2-10°C (35-50°F) but rarely does it drop into negative territory. Given the mild winters, snow is uncommon except for an occasional light dusting.

View current weather forecast

Power 🔌

Power outlets in the U.K are at 220V/50Hz. If your devices use 110 to 120V power, as in U.S outlets, you will need an adapter when traveling to London. U.K plugs are large and have 3 flat prongs. A feature of U.K outlets is that they can be switched on and off at the wall. If you find your device doesn’t work when plugged into the socket, make sure the power is turned on. A Type G adapter plug will work fine.

Currency 💵

The official currency of the U.K is the Pound Sterling (GBP), abbreviated to £, a pound is a "quid" in slang. You can exchange your currency for GBP in various points throughout the city, at the airports and major train stations. Shop around for the best rates and always ask how many GBP you will get (including fees) for any amount of your currency. Major credit cards, especially Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. There are plenty of cash machines (ATMs) all around London, and most accept international Visa and Mastercard credit cards, however check with your bank beforehand to make sure. Fees are charged at certain machines.

  • Coins are available in 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2 denominations.
  • Banknotes are available in £5, £10, £20 and £50 denominations.

View current exchange rate

Average costs 🍔

  • 3* hotel room 🏨 = £75 - £150 (approx $99-$198)
  • Inexpensive meal 🍟 = £7 - £9 (approx $9.20-$11.80)
  • Breakfast (full English) at a typical café 🍳 = £4 - £8 (approx $5.25-$10.50)
  • Full meal at a café/pub 🥘 = £10 - £15 (approx $13.10-$19.70)
  • Single one-way fare with Oyster card 🚇 = £2.30 - £2.90 (approx $3-$3.80)
  • Coffee ☕️ = £3 - £6 (approx $3.90-$7.90)
  • Beer 🍺= £4 - £6 (approx $5.25-$7.90)
  • Cocktail 🍸 = £5 - £10 (approx $6.50-$13.10)

Tipping 🤑

  • In restaurants, it is common to tip your server 10-15% of your total bill. However, some restaurants will automatically add gratuity, so be sure to check your bill.
  • Tipping is NOT expected in pubs/bars.
  • Most museums in London are free, however a donation is always appreciated.
  • When taking a taxi, tipping 10-15% is polite, but rounding up to the nearest pound is perfectly acceptable.
  • Tour guides are always appreciative of any amount of gratuity.

Language & phrases 🗣

Despite English being the obvious first language in London, there are some unusual phrases that the Brits use. Here are just a few:

  • Bloke = Man (like "dude" in the U.S.)
  • Chips = Fries (not potato chips like the U.S, they are known as "crisps" in the U.K)
  • Blinding = Fantastic, amazing
  • Skint = Poor/broke
  • Minted = Wealthy/to have a lot of money

Famous for 🏙

The Tower of London - Grisly tales of the storied past of the ancient place told by men in traditional Beefeater costumes are the stuff of nightmares. A must-visit while in the city.

Harrods - The famous department store is well worth visiting, even if you are not a shopping. With a million square feet of space and seven floors, there are numerous restaurants and other services available.

Hyde Park - Equivalent to Central Park in New York City, Hyde Park is a huge expanse of greenery great for family activities, picnics and concerts.

The River Thames - Taking a river boat is a great, relaxing way to see the city from the water.

Tower Bridge - The magnificent draw bridge with towers on both sides you’ve seen in all of the photos. It is synonymous with London, and well worth a walk across.

Local tips 💡

  • Take public transportation. The Underground, bus or a plethora of other options. No need for a car. However, try to avoid the Underground during rush hours.
  • This is a modern, cosmopolitan city, and prices are not cheap (about what you would spend in any U.S. city for most things). Budget appropriately.
  • The Brits are socially conservative by nature, and engaging in general chit chat with a total stranger is not common. Do not let that stop you from asking for directions or help in some way.
  • Do explore the food scene. Even 10 years ago, British food was considered mostly bland and boring, but this has changed at a rapid pace, with delicious food from all corners of the world to be had.
  • Always have a hooded raincoat or umbrella with you, even in summertime. It doesn’t rain as often as you might think, but the skies can be unpredictable, so best to be prepared.

Useful links 🔗

Bon voyage 👋

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