5 things you are doing wrong in Central London (as a tourist*)
Visting London, or been plenty of times before? These 5 simple tips I will help you get the most out of your next break here.
*note I use tourist as a term for anyone visiting London for pleasure or enjoyment. I.e. not working. This could be a foreign visitor who has never been before, or someone who visits frequently.
Central London I refer to Zone 1 and 2.
1. Going to All Bar One. Or any chain for that matter.
While I’m not doubting the drink making abilities of All Bar One, or the tasiestness of a Pret baguette. These establishments are often positioned in the most prime of locations, it’s impossible not to be drawn into them.
If you have spent the time, money and effort to visit London. Why not spend a little time researching an independent cocktail bar, somewhere off the beaten track. Maybe in an area of London you aren’t familiar with.
My tip: Always try somewhere new. For every Pret there will be an independent or smaller chain just waiting to be explored.
2. Changing lines on the tube.
The London Underground is arguably the best transport network in the world, just a few minutes wait and you can be whisked away to the other side of London.
While it is a whole world of its own to be explored, unless you need to be at a certain location for a particular time, or you have calculated your exact commute, it is almost redundant to pick the exact station for the establishment you wish to visit.
A commonly known example is getting off at Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square if you wish to visit Covent Garden. It avoids waiting for the packed lifts or ascending the 183 steps to street level.
But the same can be experienced at a multitude of stops in central London. Going to the British Museum from Liverpool Street? Instead of taking 2 tubes (central line and Piccadilly line to Russell Square). Why not hop off at Holborn and walk? Or for the more adventurous get off a stop before that at Chancery Lane. It can be quite surprisingly how close the central London stations are from one another, and you only get to experience that by walking in London
My tip: Only take one tube line, I ban myself from changing lines on the underground.
3. Not using designated crossing points.
Londoners are in such a rush to get from one location to the next, and one common mistake I see people do is to cross the road, directly next to a zebra crossing or button crossing. Trying to time traffic may take longer than just walking to the dedicated crossing where the traffic is obliged to stop.
Yes this isn’t always possible in some areas like Oxford street (where there is intentionally not many crossings to allow people to freely cross).
Even if you do have to wait for the green crossing person, or for traffic to stop. This is a great opportunity to pause, take a moment to look around and enjoy the wonderful surroundings you will no doubt encounter at any location in London.
My tip: always seek to find crossing points, you will be far less stressed and rushed.
4. Booking a hotel in the wrong end of town
If you do decide to stay over in London, don’t fall into the common trap of booking entirely on price.
Sure everyone loves a deal and a bargain, but £50.00 saved at a hotel that is in a wrong location might cost you hundreds over the course of a weekend.
As an example, one night at the Britannia International Canary Wharf will cost you £79. Amazing right?
Well not when you factor in time and cost of getting in and out of central London.
A taxi from Canary Wharf to Central will probably set you back around £25 each way.
Even if you opt for the more cost effective London Underground, a journey will cost you £2.50 each way per person. Yes you might do lots of travelling and your travel card will cap at £7.40 each for the day.
Timewise, the entire journey with changes via tube will take almost 30 minutes. That’s an hour each day. Do you really want to wake up and have to think about commuting into central.
By contrast a similar quality hotel in a more central location is the St Giles on Tottenham Court Road, £189 a night. You might wince at having to pay £110 more a night but the freedom of not having to figure out tube connections, the unexpected hassle of delays, being able to walk freely into the centre of London and inevitably turn in and crash in a nice comfy bed much sooner.
Being more central allows greater availability of options, so money can be saved here rather than being out on the edges of London and having less options.
My tip: Base your stay upon what you want to see in London. It’s pointless booking a central London hotel if 90% of your stay you wish to explore Holland Park and Notting Hill area, and likewise. You are visiting to get away and enjoy your surroundings, not add more stress to your break.
5. "Road" is not exchangeable for "Street".
London has lots of; roads, streets, squares, alleys, lanes, mews, passages. Whilst you may think the prefix, or first part of the address is the most important, the suffix of ending (road, street, square, etc) is not interchangeable, and is sometimes the most important part!
Kings Road, Chelsea as an example is likeable to a fashionable High Street, but it is never a street, it is a “road”. King Street will yield you a much smaller and shorter street in the Square mile, City of London. Some 3-4 miles away!
Brick Street, Mayfair. Brick Lane Whitechapel. 4.5 miles. 40 minute taxi journey
Smith Square is in Westminster, a stones throw from Houses of Parliament. Smith Street is off the Kings Road. 2 miles away
Victoria Street is in Victoria, Westminster. Victoria Road…. Well that could be Kensington, Crouch Hill, Tottenham, Acton.
My tip: Get a business card from the hotel, snap a photo of the street sign. London is an incredibly confusing place, but thankfully your taxi driver and professional navigator knows the difference between a lot of these.