Advice for Tourists
The first thing you should do upon arriving in London is to purchase an Oyster card. These contactless cards allow you to use London’s public transportation at the cheapest rate, and with the simple pay-as-you-go system you never need to worry about having exact change. Pick up a card at any tube station for £5 – you can return the card at the end of your trip and get the £5 back. Talk about hassle-free travel!
Tipping in London is not as widespread as in America, for example. Here, a small tip is really only expected in cabs and restaurants. Make sure to check your bill at the end of a meal, as many restaurants have begun automatically tacking on an “optional” 10-15% tip to the bill. Convenient in some ways, but you don’t want to end up paying the tip twice!
Unlike much of Europe, most of London’s pubs close at 11pm. While this once applied to all bars, rules have been relaxed in recent years and some pubs and bars have licences to serve alcohol as late as 2 or 3am (usually on weekends). Nightclubs are a different matter of course, with most opening around 11pm and saying open all night.
Staying in Touch
London’s famous red phone booths are a popular subject of tourist’s photos, but with the prevalence of mobile phones, fewer and fewer telephone boxes are actually being used. The best way to stay in touch is to simply use your own mobile phone – just make sure your phone model will work in the UK, and that you have switched on roaming (but not data roaming!) before you leave your home country. Or, skip roaming charges completely and pick up a SIM card at any of the countless phone shops across London. A pay-as-you-go SIM is cheap, easy to buy, and means you can even use a little bit of data – perfect for instantly sharing those red phone box photos!