What should every tourist know

13 things to know before visiting London for the first time

By Annette Schimanski | December 05, 2017, 3:25 p.m.

You can avoid faux pas, unpleasant questions and situations on holiday, save time and money and experience the country a bit like the locals, if you only arrive on site with enough information. Therefore TRAVELBOOK has some tips on how to find your way around better on a city trip in London.

London is a cosmopolitan city that unites many travelers' desires. The British metropolis is rich in history and romantic like Paris, lively and hectic like Tokyo, hip and multifaceted like Melbourne. London offers countless attractions. In order to keep an overview and not to waste time unnecessarily in the wrong places, you should mark out which corners of the city you are heading to - especially if you are only staying in London for a few days.

Before visiting London for the first time, it is usually not only advisable to know what to do or not to do, but also what behaviors to behave, what food to avoid and what to know about Buckingham Palace not to be disappointed. TRAVELBOOK has 13 useful hints and tips for anyone visiting the UK's capital for the first time.

Also interesting: the best travel tips for London

1. The curfew has been abolished but will continue to exist

A visit to a London pub should not be missed during your city break. Although the curfew, which said that alcohol was no longer served after 11 p.m., was abolished in 2005, hosts and guests are still happy to adhere to it. This also means that the English like to have dinner early and have had a beer or two earlier in the evening. At times when the evening with friends just starts rolling in this country, it is often over for the British.

2. The famous guards don't always wear red

If you are already there, you will find the typical guards in red uniform and bearskin hats at Buckingham Palace, and in the best case scenario you can watch the changing of the guard. If you visit London in the winter months or on colder days, you can be surprised by the look of the guards. They usually have long, warm, gray coats on and not red jackets, as it can get uncomfortable and cold in London in winter too.

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3. You shouldn't always take the "tube"

London's underground system is extensive and well developed, and as long as you don't travel at rush hour, you can get around relatively quickly. But the tunnel system that leads to the platform can be just as long and confusing. Sometimes it pays to stay unearthly and just walk to get to the next sight. On the way there, you may discover other highlights and lesser-known corners of the city.

4. Buy a ticket for public transport in advance and save

In order to save money on public transport, you can order an Oyster Card before you travel, which you have to hold up to a card reader at the beginning and end of your journey. This variant is not only faster and more convenient, but also cheaper than paper tickets and single tickets. After a certain number of trips per day, all further trips are even free of charge. The Oyster Card can also be obtained upon arrival at London Airports.

5. The museums in London are free of charge

London is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but admission to the city's museums - including the Tate Modern, the British Museum or the Victoria and Albert Museum - is free. Only special, temporary exhibitions cost extra entry, which you only have to pay if you want to see more than the main exhibitions. Again, it is better to buy the tickets in advance on the Internet so as not to stand in long queues on site.

6. The best fish & chips are not always available in the nicest restaurants

Of course, one would like to try the classic national dish fish & chips when visiting London. But that doesn't necessarily have to be in a restaurant - you often have a better taste experience at a snack bar or in one of the numerous pubs in London, away from the major sights.

Also interesting: Why tea time is actually a Portuguese invention

7. The City of London is full of people jogging

London is a huge city with a population of more than 8.5 million and as expected it can get crowded, cramped and hectic. In addition, there are crowds of tourists all year round who stroll from attraction to attraction. The lively center, the City of London, should be avoided at lunchtime. Because a lunch break like this can look very different in London than in Germany: Many employees use the time to get a change from their office job and jog cheerfully and often very quickly between the crowds and along the Thames. Even after work, the way home is often converted into a jogging route. So don't be surprised if you often get in the way of a runner in London.

8. A flag shows whether the Queen is home

A trip to London leads most to the famous Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the Queen. But how do you as a tourist know whether the Queen is even there? A common misconception is that the Union Jack flag on the palace symbolizes that the Queen is present. But exactly the opposite is the case: In this case, the head of the Royal Family is not there. On the other hand, when the Royal Standard, the blue, red and yellow flag of the Royals, is seen on Buckingham Palace, everyone knows: the Queen is at home. This change of flags did not take place until 1997, after the death of Princess Diana. Since it is considered reprehensible to set the royal flag at half mast, the Union Jack was hoisted as a symbol of mourning. Since then, the Union Jack flag has been a symbol of the Queen's absence.

9. The sockets in England are different than in Germany

Even though England is only a few hours away by plane and part of Europe, travelers often forget that a power adapter is necessary when visiting. In England, sockets with three openings are used, which are not compatible with the power plugs as we know them in this country.

10. The British have no sense of humor in the Royal Family

Speaking of the Royal Family and Queen: In England you should avoid speaking badly about the country's monarchs, no matter what you personally think of the form of government and the head. The British are very humorless when it comes to the Queen and that should be accepted and respected. Londoners are equally reluctant to hear unnecessary questions about the Queen, for example whether you know her personally as a local. In any case, you will not get a serious answer.

11. Don't confuse the harmless victory sign

On vacation, people like to capture the impressions in photos, and in times of digital networking and social media, many feel the urge to take a selfie in front of a sight on Instagram or Facebook. The Victory sign, which is often found as a gesture in pictures, is harmless among the English. But be careful: If you turn the back of the hand outwards - so to speak, the reverse victory sign - it is an insult to the English, much like the middle finger in this country.

12. There is very good Indian food in London

In addition to fish and chips, there is a dish that, contrary to expectations, is one of the nation's favorites: Chicken Tikka Masala. The dish, a slightly spicy chicken curry, sounds Indian, but there is no food with such a name in India, because the Chicken Tikka Masala, according to a legend, is an English invention. The popular dish is characteristic of a city like London, a melting pot of different nations.

13. When driving on the left, you should first look to the right

Everyone knows that the UK is driving on the left. However, this is not so much noticeable on site, and you can sometimes forget to look to the right first when you want to cross a street. A little more mindfulness in traffic is advisable, especially in lively London. You should also rely on public transport in the city rather than your own car, because in a big city like London you can expect a lot of traffic jams and chaotic traffic - and this can be a challenge, especially as a beginner in left-hand traffic.

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