SOME USEFUL TIPS WHEN VISITING LONDON
London is a fantastic city to live in, but also the perfect place to visit if you fancy a long weekend abroad. The city is filled with tourists all year around, but especially now in the summer - and whilst running around Oxford Street on my way to castings etc, I actually hear more people speak in Norwegian and Swedish than in English. I'm not joking, I always call the Oxford Circus area the 'Scandi Town' as there are sooo many of us there, shopping, stressing and hopefully enjoying life :p There are also of course lots and lots of other tourists as well from all over the world, and the international visitors are of course a big part of what makes London such a vibrant city :)
I've had quite a few friends coming to visit me over the last couple of months, and I find myself constantly giving them the same practical advice - especially when it comes to transport. They have all seemed to find my advice rather useful, so I though I'd share them here on the blog as well.
So if you are planning to visit London anytime soon, then make sure to have a read through here :) I hope you find it useful, and feel free to ask questions in the comment section, in the bottom of this post, if there is something I haven't covered here.
BEFORE YOU GO
WHERE TO BOOK YOUR HOTEL OR AIR BNB
I often meet other foreigners who have visited London at some point in there life. Sadly every now and then I hear stories about peoples bad experience with their living situation. About how they have ended up in arias so far from all of the main attractions, and have ended up spending big parts of their holiday just getting from one place to another. This is of course not how you should be spending your weekend break in this wonderful city!
London is a very large place, especially if you also include Greater London. You can actually risk booking a hotel where you have to travel for over an hour just to get into the central parts of the city. These hotels are technically still in London, and will therefor brand themselves as that.
When booking your accommodation in the British capital there are therefor a couple of things you should look at before making a decision:
- How far is the hotel from central London?
Here it of course depends on what you want to visit and see. If you are however looking for the more typical London-weekend with shopping in Oxford street, going to a musical, see tourist attractions like Buckingham palace, Big Ben, and Piccadilly Circus, you should ideally book a hotel close to any of these arias: Oxford circus, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road or Bond Street. From these locations you will have walking distance to most ‘Central London’ activities.
- How far is the hotel from the nearest underground station?
The underground system here is absolutely amazing, and it's the best way to get around the city as fast as possible. I know I said earlier that your hotel should be in one of the locations in Central London. However, if you can’t find a nice hotel for your budget in one of these arias (it is quite pricy in this part of town), there is no problem going a bit further out when looking for hotels. The main key here will be to make sure you pick a hotel with short distance from an underground station. It is also not a bad idea to look into how far out this underground stop is from Central London stations. I recommend you stay within Zone 1-2 as the travel prices goes up after this. As long as you are within Zone 2, the travel time into places like Oxford Street will be minimal.
- Which airport are you flying in and out of?
This is actually quite an important point! We have 4 main airports that count as London airports, although some of these are actually located quite far out of the city. These 4 airports are: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead and Luton. They are all placed at very different ends of London, and where you stay can either make your airport journey very long and annoying, or nice and easy.
I for instance live in South London, and my closest airport is Gatwick which only takes me about 45 min in total to get to. Stanstead however is located east of London and I use at least 2 hours(if not more) to get to it - it's such a massive pain! However, if you live in East London, Stanstead is pretty great.
Here are a little guide to were each of the airports are located, and which parts of London you should consider staying in, depending on which airport you land at:
West and Central London. Heathrow is located on the outskirts of West London, and is connected to the underground network (Piccadilly Line, zone 5). This line stops at stations all through West London like Earl’s Court, South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner, and Green Park.
Basically as long as you pick a hotel with easy access to the Piccadilly Line, then your travels to and from Heathrow will be pretty painless.
South and Central London. Gatwick is located south of London, and you can easily get in to both South and Central London by train in less then half an hour. I personally take a train to Gatwick from a station called Clapham Junction. This is one of London’s busiest train stations, only a 25 min journey from Gatwick South. You can also take the the Gatwick Express into London Victoria in only 30 minutes, and these trains run every 15 minutes. Victoria is located very central, and is connected to several lines on the underground.
I want to point out here that if you have a contactless bankcard, then this can be used as your travel ticket from Gatwick to London. It will give you the lowest price, and save you lots of time at Gatwick because you won't have to stand in line to buy tickets.
East London. From Stanstead you can quite easily travel into East London in less than an hour. The best way to travel to and from Stanstead is with the Stanstead Express - A train that regularly goes between Stanstead to these three East London stations: Liverpool Street, Tottenham Hale, and Stratford. Each of these stations are connected to the underground system, so it’s fairly easy to get from there and on to your final destination.
North London. From Luton you can get a train that takes you into London St Pancras in just over 20 minutes (depending on which train you catch, as some might take up to 40 min). London St Pancras is located right next to Kings Cross station. Several places around Kings Cross has been newly developed and are now filled with lots of exciting new restaurants and shops. Kings Cross & St Pancras underground station is connected to most of the underground lines, which will make traveling around London very easy. So Kings Cross is definitely somewhere worth looking into when searching for accommodation in London - especially if you are flying in and out of Luton.
TRAVELING AROUND IN LONDON
Once you have arrived in London you want to make sure that you see and experience as much as possible! As a model, I spend most of my days traveling around in London for castings which can be located anywhere around in this massive city. I therefor feel like I have pretty good experience with London traveling by now, and I’m going to give you some tips to make your travel here as easy as possible.
- Download CITYMAPPER to your phone
This is a brilliant app, which will show you exactly how to get to your destination, and it will give you several different options. The app shows you which underground route to take, if you need to jump on any busses, how you can walk or cycle there, and of course how long each journey will take you.
This app is an absolute must when visiting London or other big cities, as it works in major cities all over the world.
THE CITYMAPPER CITIES
- Use you contactless card as your ticket
I mentioned earlier in the post that you can use your contactless card on trains to and from Gatwick airport. You can also use these cards as your travel ticket on the underground and London busses. Just hold it over the card reader to get in and out of the underground station, and it will automatically charge you the right amount for your journey. It will cap your spending when you have reached the price of a day or weekly travel card – so that you pay the lowest fare possible when using your contactless card.
See more information about how it works in this video from Travel For London(TFL):
- Create an UBER account
It's very normal to use UBER in London, and the prices are quite good. So if you are a group of 4, it might almost cost you the same amount to share an UBER as all of you paying separately on the underground. Uber is totally legal here (I know it's illegal in Norway, so thats why I'm pointing this out), and I've always met nice and friendly drivers here :)
I would still recommend using the underground though, as London traffic can be pretty awful - and you might end up completely stuck in traffic if you choose to travel by car. The underground is way more predictable.
If the weather is nice, you are wearing comfortable shoes, and not carrying to many shopping bags - then why not walk to your destination. London is such a beautiful city, and you won't see any of it whilst on the underground. The citymapper app will show you the best ways to walk so that you will never get lost, and if you get tired of walking then you can always hop on the tube at the closest underground station.
Waking in my opinion is the very best way to experience a new place - and it's also the healthiest way :)