In Travel, United Kingdom

15 Tips For Your First Time In London

Although I didn’t stay in London that long (only around 2 weeks or so), I’ve had so much fun and I think I’ve learned so much about exploring the area… with the help of our aunt, of course. If you plan on traveling to London in the future or anytime soon, here are some tips that I think would help you during your stay there. I’m not a travel expert or whatever, and some of these things may not be useful to everyone, but yeah, these tips are just all from experience and hopefully would turn out to be useful for some of you guys on your next to visit London.

1. Get an oyster card (especially if you’re spending a few weeks in London). If you really want to explore different areas of London, you’d find yourself taking the tube or the bus, and topping up is pretty easy since you can do so at any tube station.

2. Get a Two Together Railcard if you’re traveling with another person to different areas other than London and would be riding the rail train often. Note that these are only valid for people aged 16+. What’s good about this is that it will save you 1/3 off on all rail fares and it only costs £30 a year. Since I was traveling with my sister all throughout the trip, our aunt got us one.

3. Download the “City mapper” App. This app is literally a life saver, considering the fact that there’s almost free wifi in almost every corner we go to (none on tubes tho). This app gives different routes you can take when either riding the bus, tube, bike or even when walking. The app really gives you a detailed info on your journey, and also, it counts the number of calories you’ll burn during the trip! It also gives tube alerts, which we found very useful since there were tubes that closed down and were under construction during our stay. Click the image below to read more about the app and to see which countries/cities it’s available in.

4. Plan your days ahead. London is quite a big city, so make sure you plan out your itinerary before hand if you don’t want to waste any of your day getting lost around the area. But then again, if you’d want to have a more spontaneous trip, get lost, and enjoy.

5. Check which tube stations have lifts when you’re traveling around London with your suitcase, cause you don’t want to carry your heavy luggage up/down the stairs. Trust me.

6. Wear comfortable shoes.  A lot of walking is gonna happen around here, so wear your comfiest shoes

7. Ride the Hop-on Hop-off City Bus Tours – There are actually a lot of bus tours you can choose from in the area but the one we rode on was The Original Tour, which had 3 main routes (yellow, red and blue). We preferred riding the yellow route as it had an actual tour guide with a microphone inside the bus, which was more entertaining than the red one (multilingual) since the red one only makes you listen to a recording during the whole tour. What’s great about this tour is that there are a lot of bus stops around London where you can get your tickets at (you’ll see a person in uniform standing there with a receipt printer thingy) and also, your ticket will be valid for 24 hours, which gives you a lot of time to study around the locations and plan out which areas you can visit again after the tour has ended.

8. Make the most out of the Free Museums. (Will have a separate blog post about our Museum Hopping soon!) London is well known for their museums and we were able to go to some of them — Tate Modern, British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, National Gallery, and the London Museum. You’d surely learn so much history and art just by going to these museums, so make sure to donate in their donation boxes to help their museums stay free for everyone. Pretty sad though that I wasn’t able to the Victoria and Albert Museum, considering how it was only beside the Science Museum. Also, we weren’t able to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum and the Design Museum (both have entrance fees though), so will surely go back for them someday! Tip: An easy way to get to the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert museum is getting off at South Kensington tube station and following a pedestrian subway that connects you to all three museums.

9. Go to London markets. This is definitely a must if you’re into design/arts and crafts, and if you love food. We first went to Borough Market, where you’ll mostly see food stalls (so also yay for free samples!! LOL). The food there were really good especially the different kinds of pasta we got to eat. Hehe my fave. Another place we went to was the Old Spitalfields Market where people from different parts of Europe sell more crafty materials. The area also had a mix of low and high-end boutiques. One area I was so disappointed that I wasn’t able to go to was the Brick Lane Market since we got a little lost and also ran out of time to go around. Basically, the place had a lot of vintage stalls as well and lots of graffiti art on the walls, which could have been so great for pictures huhu.

10. PRIMARK. During my stay in the UK, I literally did not buy anything from Topshop and Zara. If you’re looking for good quality clothes on a budget, I suggest you go buy them at Primark cause the quality of the clothes there are a lot like Forever 21’s but cheaper. Since we visited during the sale season (May & June), I was really happy with my purchases as the tops, dresses, and shorts I bought ranged from around £3-£12 (₱200-₱900), pants for around £7 (₱600) and flats/sandals for £3-£10 (₱200-₱700). I think every city in the UK (and not just London), has huge Primark stores, so if ever you’re visiting, make sure to have a look around cause for sure you’ll be leaving the store with at least 1 item on hand.

11. Visit Designer Outlets. Designer outlets are one of the best places to go to if you want to shop for more high-end clothes as the prices in these stores are lower compared to mall prices, as tourists, you can also ask for VAT refunds on your purchases and you can get the refund at the airport before going back to your country. The Designer Outlet store we went to was at Wembley, which was a newly opened one. I’m not so sure if there are other mall designer outlets in London, but there are individual outlet boutiques of different brands like Mulberry, Topshop, etc. around, so it’s best to ask around where the nearest ones are.

12. Buy theater tickets on the day itself or at booths which over discounts. Prices would be a lot cheaper, but then again, don’t expect to have super good seats especially on best selling shows! But from my experience, we were still able to watch Wicked, Dirty Dancing and Miss Saigon from a very good view.

13. Happy Thursdays are a thing. I honestly thought that Happy Thursdays were only a “Taft” thing (HAHA), but apparently, people would go to pubs on these days, so expect a lot of people in malls and streets especially at night.

14. Get up a little bit earlier to make the most out of your day. Most of the shops/malls close really early for some reason, around 6-7pm from what I remember, compared to the malls here in the Philippines, which usually close at around 10pm. So getting up early would be great especially on days where you plan to go shopping.

15. Put sunscreen and keep hydrated. Don’t let the cool weather fool you. The sun is still out there. Remember to drink water and moisturize to protect your skin. Pretty sure I got darker during those 2 weeks there.

Have you visited London before and got any more tips to add? I’d love to hear some of your suggestions.

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