London – 5 tips for the first timers

Exploring a new city can be an upheaval task for a first-time traveler. And if it is London, one of the biggest and busiest cities in the UK, it gets tricky. Here we will be sharing 5 tips to help you navigate the city for your maiden voyage.

1. Buy the ‘Oyster Card’ as soon as you arrive in London

Oyster cards are electronic smart cards used to pay for any form of public transport in London (e.g. Metro, Bus, etc). This is the cheapest way to travel inside the city. You can buy an Oyster card online before you arrive in London, or from any airports, stations, and Oyster ticket shops. You can top-up balance from any station using the vending machine through your credit card. To use an Oyster card, touch the card on the yellow reader at the gates as you enter and exit the journey. At the first instance, 15-20 pounds top-up would suffice to move around a few destinations within the city. Later you can re-fill anytime as per your travel frequency.

2. Use ‘Underground’, aka the ‘Tube’, as the main mode of transportation

Underground station_Baker Street

A typical London Underground

The city of London is intricately connected via the underground. From North-South or East-West, all corners of the city can be accessed via the ‘Tube’. It is also the quickest and most cost-effective mode to travel. Yes, for the first-timer getting hold of the underground map and which station is connected to what might seem like a daunting task. But it gets certainly easier as you try a few. Each metro station is self explanatory. You can navigate easily by following the maps and signs installed in the underground station. Find out your current location in the map, and follow the route (line) of your destination. If following the map gets difficult, ask the security or the ticket booth personnel to help your finding your line. The Trains are always on-time, never late for a minute. Don’t worry! Even if you miss one, the next one will arrive quite quickly. Use the Oyster card to punch-in and enter into the metro. You need to punch-out after you reach your destination. Fair will be automatically deducted from your card as per your route.

3. Arrange your accommodation close to the station areas

Famous King’s Cross Station

In London, especially in the city center areas, renting hotels is quite expensive. During summer time (May-July) prices go up crazily. Also, London is a big city to move around. Taxi or Uber is not always the wisest mode given the cost. Underground is the best way to move as discussed before. So, if you are considering booking any hotel or Air BnB, it’s better to take it near any metro station. First, decide in which part of London you want to stay (East, West, North, South or Central). Popular tourist areas to stay are – Earl’s court, Kensington, Marylebone, Covent Garden, etc. The more central you go, costlier it becomes. We stayed in a hotel near the King’s Cross Station, one of the largest station of London which is connected to most of the areas of the city. So, it was really convenient for us to move around. Also, stations are surrounded by food courts and convenience stores which make life easier. Take the city map, see the metro connections, and then choose hotels near walking distance as per your affordability.

4. Stay at least 4-5 days to visit the main attractions and get the flavour of the city

London is such a city that slowly grows on you. The longer you stay, the more you fall in love with this magnificent city. There are so many places to visit that are not enough to cover in a short stay. The Tower Bridge, Big Ben, walking beside the River Thame, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Borough Market, and Buckingham Palace are to mention a few. If you are into shopping, Oxford Street is a must-visit. It is probably the longest walking street with all the hi-street and luxury branded outlets on both sides of the road. Oxford Street has several entry and exit points with underground and buses connected with the road. But if you are someone who loves to try out different cuisines/street food, Borough Market is the place to be. It is one of the most renowned markets in London for artisan prepared food, and fresh organic produce since 1885. If you have a bit more time, you can take a day-trip to the Cotswold from London. Cotswold is famous for being the prettiest village of England. It’s worth a visit!

5. And most importantly, always keep your credit card with you

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