First-timer's guide to London (practical tips for your visit)

Traveling to London for the First Time (Tips & Tricks)

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Traveling to London for the first time and not sure where to start? Planning a trip to London might be overwhelming indeed and especially so if this is your first time in the city!

How long do I need to spend in London? When to visit? What are the best places to stay in London? How to save time and money and still see the best that London has to offer?

To help you plan your first trip to London, I selected some of the best tips for visiting London. This no-nonsense practical guide will not only help you plan your London trip, but will also show you how to make the best of your visit, time, and budget. Find out!

Everything you should know before traveling to London for the first time

These are our top travel tips for visiting London:

1. Stay in Central London

The question that gets asked a lot by the first-time visitors is what are the best places to stay in London.

Hotels in central London can be expensive, yet while it might be very tempting to choose cheaper accommodation outside the city center, it’s a choice that you’ll quickly regret. First, commuting into the city every day will cost a lot of money and time. Precious time, that you could otherwise use for sightseeing.

Visiting London for the first time? Stay in central London! By staying in central London you can see much more in less time. Ultimately this will save money not just on transportation, but also on your overall trip budget because you’ll need fewer days in order to see just as much.

Now that we established that central London is the best place to stay when visiting London for the first time, you might be wondering which neighborhoods are the best for sightseeing.

There is probably no single best answer to this, but here are the short list neighborhoods that we personally looked at when planning our recent trip to London with kids: Westminster, Covent Garden, Soho, Bankside, and South Bank. Ultimately we chose this hotel located on the South Bank close to the London Eye and we loved being in the center of the action. Staying in the center makes visiting London so much easier because many of the main attractions are within easy walking distance or just a short bus drive away.

In general, I’d say just look for the best deals that you can find for your group and travel dates and as long as it’s in Central London, you know you made a good choice. Here you can find great deals for your accommodation in Central London. Check it out!

TIP: Once you select your travel dates, you’ll be able to click on the map of London and choose accommodations based on their location. The more you zoom in, the more choices you get and you immediately see the price of each hotel. I always use this map function when researching accommodations – it’s so handy and eliminates any chance for a mistake of coincidentally booking a hotel with a similar name in a completely different location (believe me, it does happen).

Big Ben or Elizabeth Tower in London
If you can, stay in the city center. Central location will make exploring London so much easier!

2. Avoid Bank Holidays and School Breaks

London is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, and one of the most popular cities in Europe. It’s an extremely popular destination that attracts millions of visitors from all over the world.

The busiest times to visit London are July and August, as well as European bank holiday weekends and school breaks. If you can, try to avoid these peak periods for fewer crowds and better prices.

If you plan to see London during Holiday Season, it’s best to avoid the main shopping streets on the weekends and the last days just before Christmas.

TIP: Since spring school holidays in Europe usually fall later than in the U.S., London is a great European destination for spring break. It can also be very nice in June when most European countries still have school.

READ ALSO: Best Time to Travel in Europe

London's Oxford Street during Holiday Season
London is beautiful, but extremely busy during Christmas season – Photo ©Jamie Davies via Unsplash

3. Foresee Enough Time and Don’t Try to See Everything

If you are traveling to London for the first time, you are probably wondering how much time you need in London. You have to realize that London is huge and there is no way to see everything in just a few days or even a few weeks… So don’t come to London thinking that you can see it all in just one or two days.

For first-time visitors, I recommend spending at least 3-4 days in London. This should give you sufficient time to get acquainted with the city, see the main landmarks, and visit a few attractions.

Also, don’t try to see ‘everything’. This is simply not possible and will leave you tired and frustrated. Plan to visit no more than two or three bigger attractions every day and leave some time for unexpected discoveries.

It's always fun to watch street artists in London
Don’t plan every minute of your time in London – you’ll enjoy the trip more

4. Book as Much as Possible in Advance

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when visiting London is not to plan your visit in advance. Starting with flights and accommodations and ending with London attractions and activities – booking in advance means more choice, better prices, and less time wasted queuing. After all, you want to make the most of your trip to London and not spend all your precious time standing in line.

TIP: Often tickets for the main attractions are cheaper if booked online at least a day in advance. For example, you can get cheaper tickets for Madame Tussaud’s or the London Eye.

If you want to go see a musical in London, book your theatre tickets well in advance. There are sometimes last-minute tickets available as well, but not to the most popular shows, and the seats you get are usually far from great.

TIP: If you are looking for last-minute theatre tickets in London, check the TKTS ticket booth on Leicester Square. You can buy theatre tickets only in person for performances on the same day, or up to two days in advance.

Les Miserables in London - book London theatre tickets well in advance
Book London theatre tickets well in advance

5. Visit London’s FREE Attractions

Here are some places and activities that you should definitely add to your London travel list:

Free Museums in London

Visiting London is not cheap, but there are so many great things to see and do completely for free. Here are just a few London museums that can be visited free of charge: British Museum, Natural History Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum, Museum of London and many more.

London’s Parks and Gardens

London has many gardens, parks and playgrounds that are free to visit. It is also a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

London’s Shops

Don’t understand me wrong – shopping in London isn’t cheap by any means. But visiting the shops is of course absolutely free and can be an attraction in itself. Don’t miss Harrods and Oxford street! Kids will love Hamleys (the world’s largest and oldest toy store), Lego store, and the m&m’s store.

TIP: Try to avoid shopping streets and big department stores on the weekends and just before Christmas.

Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard is one of the free things to do in London that are not to be missed. The ceremony is free to watch and takes place at Buckingham Palace at 10.45AM on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays (weather permitting).  It’s very popular among tourists, so make sure to arrive early in order to secure a spot with a good view.

For the exact location and up-to-date schedule, please consult the website of Household Division.

British Royal Guard in London, UK
Royal Guard – Photo ©alfcermed via Pixabay

6. Save Time and Money on London’s Major Attractions

Visiting London for the first time means visiting all the main landmarks and attractions. However, if you aren’t prepared, it’s very likely you will waste hours and days standing in lines.

If you want to make the most of your time in London, consider skip-the-line tickets and priority passes at the most popular attractions.

Yes, they are expensive, but think of it this way. What’s the point of paying all that money to travel to London to then spend all your time queuing instead of sightseeing…

The London Pass

One of the best ways to see a lot of the major attractions in London with a priority entrance is The London Pass. For example, it includes FREE entrance to places like The Tower of London, The View from the Shard, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, or London Zoo and experiences like Thames River Cruise or Hop-on Hop-off bus tour (to mention just a few)…

However, it only makes sense to get the pass if you visit at least 2-3 of the included attractions per day, so you need to decide if it’s worth it for you.

If you are planning to visit a lot of major attractions in a very short time, then London Pass is definitely worth it, but plan well and make sure you get the most of your pass during its validity period.

TIP: If you are staying in London longer, buying a pass for multiple days is more beneficial than just getting a pass for one day. Note that there are several different choices of passes in London (The London Pass, London Explorer Pass). My research shows that the London Pass is one of the best options.


Fast Track and Skip the Line Tickets

The London Pass includes free entrance to 60 top attractions in London, but some of the most popular attractions like the London Eye are not included in this pass. Queues here can easily be 2-3 hours long, so believe me, a fast track ticket is a real lifesaver.

We visited London with our three kids and used fast track tickets wherever we could. I can’t imagine how different our experience would have been if we had to wait in line everywhere. We could have never seen half as much in the time that we had, not to mention our sanity, standing in line for hours with young children…

For example, you can buy fast track tickets for the London EyeSt Paul’s CathedralTower of London and Tower Bridge, and many others.

London Eye is not to be missed if visiting London for the first time
London Eye is a very popular attraction. Fast track tickets will save you at least 2-3 hours.

7. Use Credit Cards

These days, you hardly ever need cash for payments in the UK. Pretty much every place accepts credit cards. You may want to get some cash for small purchases, but it’s so much easier to just use your credit card.

You can use all major credit cards in London, but VISA and Mastercard are by far the most accepted cards. Amex is not widely used in Europe and Diner’s Club is pretty much useless. Debit cards (or cash-only cards) are also accepted pretty much everywhere.

One thing you should know is that you really need a card with a chip and a 4-digit PIN. Make sure that you know your PIN number by heart! You’ll need a credit card with a pin for all payments all over Europe.

Good to know: When using an ATM or paying for purchases, you’ll be asked to choose currency – either local currency (UK pound sterling) or your own currency (US dollar if you’re traveling from the US, or Euro if you’re from Europe). Always choose to pay in local currency (UK pound sterling) and let your own bank do the currency transaction, or you risk losing a lot of money. A lot.

TIP: If you don’t have the right credit card with a chip and a 4-digit pin, check out this selection of the best American credit cards for travel. I recommend choosing a card with no foreign transaction fees.

8. Use Public Transport & Use Contactless Credit Card or Oyster Card

London is a big city and visiting everything on foot just isn’t feasible. Good news is that London’s public transport system is very efficient.

One of the best and quickest ways to get around in London is metro, aka London tube. The biggest advantage of the tube is that you can quickly get to the other side of London without having to waste your time in the traffic. Here’s a tip for you I once got from a local. Avoid the tube during the rush hour and during Christmas.

However, traveling underground, you don’t see anything of the city, so for shorter distances, I recommend taking one of the city’s buses. Riding these original red double-decker buses is a typical London experience you should try at least once.

TIP: Get the Oyster card. It’s a sort of electronic ticket that can be used for all public transport in Greater London and is much cheaper than paying for single-ride tickets. You can find more information about the Oyster Card here.

Alternatively, just use your contactless credit card. You can scan it when entering the metro, then scan it again when you leave. It works the same way as the Oyster card and if you use public transport several times a day, the maximum amount you spend will be capped at a daily ticket rate.

Note that children often travel free of charge (more information here). However, for older kids where kids’ tariff is applicable, you better get a ticket. Using your credit card for the kids as well would mean that you’re paying adult rates for them. On top of that, you need one card per person anyway.

TIP: Since the recent Uber ban in London, a traditional London cab is the best option if you have lots of luggage. You really don’t want to take the tube with young kids and big suitcases, take my word for it. We took a cab twice in London and it was much more affordable than we expected. Furthermore, riding a traditional English cab is part of the experience of visiting London for the first time.

Red double-decker bus on the Westminster Bridge in London
Red double-decker buses are perfect for covering short distances in London

9. Walk or Rent a Bike

I know that I just told you that seeing London on foot isn’t feasible. However, you’d be missing a great deal if you take a tube or a bus every time. After all, one of the best ways to see a new city is to explore it on foot. London is no exception.

Another great way to see London and easily cover bigger distances is by bike. There are lots of self-service city bike stands where you can rent a bike, or you can join a guided bike tour.

If you are visiting London for the first time and don’t know the city well, renting a bike without a guide is maybe not the best idea, unless in the parks. London traffic is really busy, it comes (for most of us) from a different side than what we are used to, and if you also need to read the map, it can get quite dangerous.

TIP: If you want to explore London by bike, book a tour with a local guide. There are several great options, e.g. this half-day bike tour that covers the main highlights of London, or this bike tour that brings you to the less known places of London.

Santander public bike rental system - bicycles for hire in London
City bikes for hire in London – Photo ©Yomex Owo via Unsplash

10. Use Hop-on Hop-off Buses and River Cruises

There are so many ways to see London! For the complete experience, I recommend you try as many different means of transport as you can during your London trip.

Hop-on hop-off buses are extremely popular and are a great way to see the city and major attractions.

One of my favorite ways to see any city is by taking a boat where possible. There are so many boat trip options in London, so you really have no excuse not to see London from the Thames.

TIP: Hop-on Hop-off bus tickets usually include a FREE Thames river cruise and a FREE walking tour.

Thames river cruise is a great way to see London
Thames river cruise is a great way to see London from a different perspective

11. Get off the Beaten Path

It’s understandable that you want to see the main landmarks when traveling to London for the first time. However, London is so much more than Big Ben or Buckingham Palace!

There are so many quirky neighborhoods, local markets, lesser-known museums, and beautiful gardens in London.

Visiting a few less known places like this will just make your first trip to London even more special and memorable.

TIP: Here you can find some great ideas for different things to do, the hidden gems of London.

Little Venice is a true gem in London
Little Venice at night – Photo © stockinasia via iStock

12. Eat Like the British

London is an expensive city and dining out can be a pricey experience. Furthermore, restaurants located close to the tourist attractions don’t always serve the best food, so researching restaurants in advance can be a good idea.

Here are some insider tips on where to find the best food in London and save money:

  • Try traditional Fish&Chips where locals eat (e.g. Poppies Fish&Chips or The Golden Chippy).
  • Local supermarkets offer lots of affordable options for sandwiches or salads – perfect for a picnic in the park.
  • Borough market is the best food market in London, but there are also so many other smaller markets and food stalls.
  • Ottolenghi deli sells delicious packed lunch.
  • Harrods food hall is not to be missed.
  • Lots of fine restaurants cost a fraction of the price if you go there for lunch rather than dinner.
  • Traditional afternoon tea experience is a must in London and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. We had afternoon tea with kids at St. Ermin’s and loved it!

READ ALSO: British Food to Try in the UK

Typical English afternoon tea
Afternoon tea is a typically British experience – don’t miss it!

13. Don’t Forget The Little Important Details

Here are some more practical tips to consider when traveling to London for the first time:

  • You can pay by credit card pretty much everywhere, but it’s always useful to have some cash as well. And no, you can’t pay in Euro or US Dollar in London, you really need to get Pound sterling from an ATM.
  • You are not expected to tip in the UK and service charge is often included in your restaurant bill. In most London restaurants, you’ll get charged 10-15% in addition to your bill. Locals say they never tip at the bar, but would usually leave a 10% tip at a restaurant if the service was good and not yet included in the bill.
  • Don’t forget your travel adapter. UK uses Type G plugs, which are very different from other European countries, or the US.
  • You’ll be walking a lot, so wear comfortable shoes.
  • Look right(!) when crossing a street in London. Yes, right, because they do drive on the other side of the road in Britain. If this is your first trip to the UK, it might take some getting used to. So be careful!
  • You may want to consider buying a local SIM card to save on roaming charges.
  • Pack an umbrella or a good rain jacket. It rains a lot in London, especially in the colder season.
Traditional black London cab is a must when tarvelling in London
Look right before crossing the street in London!

So, these are some of the most important practical tips you should know when traveling to London for the first time.

Do you have any questions or maybe want to share your experience and tips from visiting London? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

READ ALSO: Best Secret Places of London That Most Tourists Never See

London Travel FAQ

What is the best month to visit London?

The best time to travel to London is in the warm season between March and October. Summer is the peak season with big crowds. For mild weather and fewer people, come in spring or in the fall. The very best months to visit London are April-May and September-beginning of October.

How much time do you need in London?

London is huge and there’s no way to see everything in one trip.If you are visiting for the first time, we recommend spending at least 3-4 days in London. This will allow you to see the main landmarks and visit a few tourist attractions. If you also plan to take day trips and see some of the UK from London, then stay at least a week.

What is the best way to tour London?

The best way to explore London is by focusing on one area at the time and walking between the main attractions that are located next to each other. For bigger distances, use London subway, hop-on hop-off buses, or river cruises.

Where to stay for your first trip in London?

If you are visiting London for the first time and want to see all the main landmarks and attractions, we recommend staying in Central London. The areas around Big Ben – London Eye have the prime location for sightseeing. Staying here will save you lots of time for commute and will allow you to make the most of your trip.

Is London worth visiting?

London is one of the best cities in the entire world and definitely worth visiting! With famous landmarks, royal history and traditions, fun tourist attractions, world-class museums, theaters, and a unique cultural mix, London has something to offer for any type of traveler. It’s a bucket list destination that everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime!


More inspiration for your trip to the UK:

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First-timer's guide to London - practical tips for visiting London for the first time


  1. I have been facinated by London. These are some great tips for a new traveller to check some points and add to their plan. Great article, keep it up 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks, Javier. Yes, London is a truly fascinating city with so much to discover still. Every time I visit, I find so many new places I never saw before.
      Happy travels!

  2. hi jurga,

    thanks for the tips, am traveling to uk for the first time for a 4 day tour and i was hoping where to find most people from my country (Nigeria), so i can interact freely and feel at home.

    1. Author

      Hi Anderson, London is a very multi-cultural city and you meet people from various backgrounds. So I really don’t think you should worry about not feeling ‘at home’ there. But if you absolutely want to meet some locals with Nigerian roots, you should probably try to search for local communities or maybe Facebook groups, or ask some of your friends. No idea, really.
      Enjoy your trip!

      1. Lived in London all my life, great place to walk around. My favourite ways of seeing a city is by a boat trip. A boat trip from Westminster Bridge/ Embankment to Greenwich is a fantastic trip . Great journey and you get to see lots of sites. Greenwich has the Royal Naval College, Greenwich Market and the National Observatory, all good places to visit.

        1. Author

          Agree with you, Martin! A trip to Greenwich is well worth it and it’s also nice to rest your legs a bit on the boat after all the walking in the city.
          As for Greenwich itself, such a nice place! I was completely blown away by the Painted Hall! And the food market was such a great experience as well.
          Thanks for sharing your tips. I’m sure they’ll be useful to our readers planning their first trip to London.

  3. Hi Jurga,
    I will going to London & Scotland in mid Oct this year. This will be my first solo trip. I plan to stay at Paddington area. Plan to go Cotswolds and Oxford too. Do you think a stay over in Cotswolds is necessary?

    1. Author

      Hi LaiMun, I don’t think so. It’s a small place and most people only visit it for a few hours, usually as a day trip, often in combination with other places nearby.

  4. This is exactly what I was looking for since I”m visiting London for the first time. Great tips and advice! I’ll continue to follow your blog for future travel adventures!

    1. Author

      Glad to help. Enjoy your trip to London!

  5. My husband, in his late 70’s, and I are traveling to London over Easter in April – staying in and visiting family in East Finchley. I had recent back surgery and my husband has bad knees and we cannot walk far. We can walk – just not distances. We will be using wheelchairs within the airports, but what accommodations might be made that could be helpful that relate to a handicapped parking tag in the US. We won’t be driving of course, but think you understand. I may rent a walker for him or are their tours that take disabilities into consideration? Do the busses? Am sure we will be on and off busses even from where we are staying to their house which is just over 1/2 mile. They do not have a car and have recently moved there. Any thoughts? Thank you!

    1. Author

      Hi Bonnie, I’m sorry, but I have no experience with accessible travel in London. Try googling, I’m sure there is more information online.
      Hope you have a great time in London!

  6. Thanks for the tips, Jurga. I now feel more confident about my upcoming trip. Any idea about travel documents now that Brexit is a fact?

    1. Author

      From everything I see, at the moment, nothing has changed in terms of travel documents to the UK. The Brits still have 11 months to work out the deal with the EU, so whatever changes are coming, they will probably not take effect before 2021.

  7. Hi! Thanks for the awesome tips! My husband and I are traveling to London March 2020 (it’s our first trip alone since our honeymoon 26 years ago). We are there for 5 full days and then the 6th day we depart late afternoon. We are thinking of taking the Windsor, Stonehenge, Bath tour and possible going to Paris for the day. I’ve been to both London & Paris before many, many years ago, but it’s the first trip for my husband. We’re staying at the Nadler Victoria. What tour companies would you recommend to use for our two day trips? THANK IN ADVANCE!!

    1. Author

      Hi Maria, sounds like a great trip and I’m sure you’ll both enjoy it.
      I don’t have personal experience with the tours you asked, but based on itineraries and customer reviews, I found several options that look good:
      Paris from London: You can either take an unguided day trip where a lot is arranged for you or a guided day trip where you always have a guide with you. Both these tours start at St Pancras International Train Station, from where you take a train to Paris.
      Windsor, Stonehenge, Bath : There are also many options. These two tours have hundreds of excellent reviews and both include entrance to Stonehenge and entrance to Windsor Castle. This tour also includes Roman Baths entrance ticket, while this one includes everything except the Roman Baths. Both these tours depart from Victoria Coach Station.
      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

  8. My daughter and I are going to London in May 2020.
    We were thinking about staying at Montague Gardens across from the British Museum.
    Do you think this is too far out? I wasn’t sure if this was considered central London.
    Second choice would be Rubens at the Palace acros from the Royal Mews and third choice is Chesterfield Mayfield.

    1. Author

      Hi Debra, while they are all in Central London, the first hotel is a bit far away from most places you’ll want to visit, so you’ll have to take a tube everywhere. The last two are more centrally located.
      If you have the budget, Rubens at the Palace looks absolutely amazing and the location is great. If I had to pick one of those three, it would definitely be this one!
      Have a great trip and enjoy London!

  9. Thanks for sharing the article. London is the most beautiful city in the world. I like your all points but especially I like the point ” Avoid bank holidays and school breaks” if you cant avoid this then crowds and prices become higher.
    I would suggest you once visit Hyde Park, set right in the heart of London. The park not only offers world-class events and concerts but also ample of quiet places. Good way to avoid the crowds.

    1. Author

      Hi Dominik, thanks for your suggestion. I like Hyde Park as well. I find that pretty much any park in London offers plenty of opportunities to avoid the crowds. Just like anywhere else in the world, everyone seems to be concentrated in a couple of busier areas, but if you want to, there are so many ways to get off the beaten path. Also in London.

  10. Hey,thanks for the info, I am going to the UK for buisness / leisure end of December , I am staying there for about 12 days , I am planning to stay the whole time in London so that I get the time to explore the city well and yet be chilled and relaxed while doing that and not rush to places .
    Do you think that’s a good idea ?
    And do you think staying 4 kms from the center is a good idea also?taking into account that hotels are somehow cheaper there .

    1. Author

      Hi Mohammed, I think London is always a great idea and having 12 days will allow you to see a lot. If you are combining it with business, you definitely won’t feel like you have too much time I think, but I suppose, it depends on your interests.
      There is so much to see and do in the city!
      As for where to stay, we prefer to stay in the center so that we can walk to most of the main attractions, have nice restaurants nearby, etc. But you can’t really avoid taking a metro or other means of transportation if you want to see everything in London anyway. I can imagine that the cost difference for accommodation outside the city center compared to staying in the center is quite significant, especially when staying in the city for 12 days. So it’s really your choice. As long as there is a metro station nearby and you don’t mind spending some extra time commuting, you’ll be fine.
      Enjoy your trip!

    2. Hey Mohammed,
      I’ll be in London the same period, what a coincidence. hope you’ll enjoy you trip !

  11. Hi I am organising a five day (from 14/11 to 19/11) trip to london for my family (2 adults and 3 children 17,14,12).The “problem” is that our last day our flight is around 17:30, tour hotel is about 90 min away from the airpor and 45min from central london . Do you have any recommendations for what we can do that day? I am stuck and out of ideas.

    1. Author

      Hi Nicole, it’s really hard for me to give recommendations as I have no idea where your hotel is, whether you can leave your luggage there (and if it makes sense logistically), etc.
      I think your best bet would be to find something nice to do not too far from your hotel, so that you can leave your luggage at the hotel while you explore. Then pick-up your luggage and head to the airport keeping in mind that you probably need to be at the airport 3 hours before your flight.
      London is so big and there is so much to see and do everywhere. You can always check on the website of your hotel to see what there is to do nearby. If they don’t have that info, try google maps and see what you can find.
      Another option is to go to central London, leave your bags in the lockers at one or the other train station, and explore something there.

      1. Thank you!!

  12. Hi Jurga ,
    me & My husband plan to visit around 19th December.. we are plnning for a tour scotland & London … in your blog you’ve suggested to avoid pre chritsmas days ..any specific reasons because we want to itness christmas in London .. Kindly suggest

    1. Author

      Hi, the only reason you’d want to avoid pre-Christmas days in London is because it is extremely busy there. Pretty much as busy as London gets.
      But if you are ok with that and you want to do some Christmas shopping, visit the markets, and soak up the Christmas atmosphere, then there is no reason not to go. You can have all the same things by going a week earlier but with somewhat lesser crowds, but if those days are the best for you, just make the most of it and enjoy your trip!

  13. We are headed to London at the end of September. I’m trying to figure out the best tour of Buckingham Palace, the Royal Mews and the changing of the Guards. I’ve tried to book at the Royal Trust and it doesn’t seem to work. Do you think Viator app is a better way to go? Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Judy, you don’t really need a tour unless you want to have a guide – in that case, you can find some guided tours like this one that includes the palace and changing of the Guardor this one that includes the Royal Mews and changing of the Guard. I haven’t found a tour that would do all three together.
      Here is an alternative. Changing of the guard is free to watch, you just need to be at the good spot at the right time. Then you can buy tickets to visit the Buckingham Palace (that’s indeed only open for a limited time, usually in September). You can then also get separate tickets for the Royal Mews. This is quite a bit cheaper than taking a guided tour and – at least at the Royal Mews – they have a free audio guide. I would think that there will be audio guides available at the Buckingham Palace as well. So it’s up to you if you think it’s worth paying that much more extra for a guide.
      PS I have no experience with booking tickets through Royal Trust and we personally use GetYourGuide for all our tour bookings when we travel, because they have the most flexible cancelation policy and great customer service.
      Hope this helps.

  14. my husband and I are planning our first trip to London the second week of November 2019. I have cancer, but, have been taken off chemo for 6 months, as it’s too much on my body. Due t0 the meds I’m on sometimes I have an urgency to use the restrooms. How accessible are they?
    Do they have them on boats, trains or buses? Thank you so much! I’d like to really have a stress free time before I start back up on chemo. We will only be there for 3-4 days. Thank you again.

    1. Author

      Hi Dorothy, sorry to hear about your illness. Hope you get better soon!
      Places like museums, cafés, and big boats have bathrooms. Also intercity trains have bathrooms, of course. I’m not sure about city buses, but I don’t think they do. I also never saw a public bathroom in a metro… Normally, in the city, there are always some restaurants or shops where you could just ask to use a bathroom, but it really depends on where you are. Sometimes you might have to walk quite a while to find one (especially on bigger boulevards or parks, etc). I’d say that if you choose carefully where you visit, it shouldn’t be a problem, but I’d try to stay in the vicinity of shops, restaurants, and museums if it’s really an issue.
      Hope you have a wonderful time in London. It’s an amazing city!

  15. is it necessary to rent a portable WiFi? for 4days trips in London. is the public WiFi safe? Thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Helen, I never rented one and just used my phone and hotel Wi-Fi, but then I don’t really do any special transactions like banking or so when traveling. So I guess it depends on what your needs are.

  16. Hi we have a long (6hours) lay over in Heathrow airport traveling from NY to South Africa any suggestion how and what tourist attraction we can see like just a quick one.

    1. Author

      Hi Anna, yes, that’s indeed a long layover, but I’m afraid it’s not long enough to do much. Heathrow is so big and so busy. You might spend an hour after arriving just to get out of the airport and then you definitely want to be back 2-3 hrs before the flight. That leaves you with maybe 2 hours to spare, so definitely not enough time to go to town.
      I’m not sure if there is anything to do in the close vicinity of the airport, but maybe you can find something by checking Google Maps to see what’s nearby. I have no personal experience with that area, so I can’t really help you any further.
      Take a good book to read, have a nice meal at the airport – as much as it can be frustrating to wait, I think it’s the best option.

      1. Thanks for the info I was trying to do a very quick one like a glimpse of the city. Planning to take the tube Piccadilly line to Westminster station there I can see the big ben, the london eye, westminster abbey, and other attractions within walking distance just to see and take pictures for now, will be coming back next year to spend a week in London to immerse in the city’s culture. Do you think this is feasible?

        1. Author

          Hi Anna, it depends on how much time you have and if you plan to visit any attractions and not just see them from the outside. It’s definitely possible to see all these in a short time since they are within such a close walking distance from each other.
          If you want to visit Westminster Abbey or the London Eye, make sure to book your tickets in advance (you can get them here: Westminster and London Eye). Waiting times can get really long.
          Have a great time!

  17. Hi Jurga,

    Myself Shristi and I am from India, Mumbai. Me my husband and 3 year old daughter are planning a trip to London in first week of October. We have requested a travel agent to plan an itinerary and send it to us but that is going beyond our limit.. We are planning to say 2 days in Edinburg and 4 days in London. Could you suggest what all places we can cover with our child in London so that we can book online and by this way we could save little

    1. Author

      Hi Shristi, London can be as expensive or as cheap as you choose to. Here you can find all of the most popular things to do in London with kids with some tips on how to make it a bit cheaper.
      But there are so many things that you can do in London that don’t cost much – many museums are free of charge and have excellent kids-oriented activities as well. For example, Natural History Museum is one of the best choices and it’s free.
      There are lots of parks and playgrounds as well, but of course, if you are visiting London for the first time, you want to see at least some of the highlights. I think it’s best to choose just one or two ‘must-see’ place every day and then fill the rest of your day with some extra free or cheap activities. Once again, please check our London with kids article for some tips.

  18. Hi, I will be visiting London in September and I will arriving at Gatwick Airport. Would you know the best way to get to central London from Gatwick and are there things to do in Gatwick?

    1. Author

      Hi Lawrencia, the easiest cheap way to get to London from Gatwick airport is probably by bus (you can book it here). I don’t know if there is much to do in Gatwick, but I think that central London is worth your time much more. Enjoy your trip!

  19. Hi. I am coming to London in August and would like to visit Chartwell. Can you recommend any tours?

      1. Thank you so much for your reply. And thank you for your wonderful site.


  20. We will be in London for 6 days in late August. One adult and 2 kids aged 4 and 7. Coming from the States. Would you advise for or against trying to do a quick one day/one overnight trip to Paris so we can check the Eiffel Tower off of our list? Or is that too much?

    1. Author

      Hi Amy, my first reaction was that one day is too short for Paris, but then I realized that we ourselves do it all the time : ) We live in Belgium and drive to Paris for a day once in a while too (and it takes us longer by car than the train from London does).
      So sure, you can do that. I think that if you are coming from the US and don’t have immediate plans to return to Europe soon, you’ll probably regret it if you don’t do it.
      That being said, if you decide to go for just a day, consider visiting Paris with a guide – they’ll make sure you make the most of your short time in the city. There are tours that you can book, this Paris from London day trip is one of the best options that I was able to find. Click on ‘show more’ to be able to see kids prices.
      If you rather book everything yourself, I’d say go for at least one night and take a hotel close to the train station in Paris – that way you can leave your luggage there upon arrival and the next day again (one worry less). One of the best-rated hotels at the North station is Hotel Whistler, alternatively check Libertel Gare Du Nord Suede.
      P.S. For London 4-5 days are ok for the first visit. Here you can find some ideas of the most popular (and some more unusual) things to do in London with kids.
      Enjoy your trip!

  21. Hello, my 13 yo daughter and I will be staying in London for 4 days in June 15,16,17 and 18. It will be first trip for us. We r staying near Buckingham palace. We have some planned trips ahead of time. I am trying to see what I should do about currency. I know you said use credit which I will. However do you recommend I get some currency ahead of time or at an Atm when we land. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you Jerry

    1. Author

      Hi Jerry, I just visited London this weekend and I just took some cash from an ATM upon arrival. You don’t need cash in most places, but it was nice to have some for street food and local markets.

  22. Thanks for this advice for visiting London. I’m glad you mentioned that you should try to eat out London food while you are there by seeing what local supermarkets have. Honestly, this seems like a great time to try new dishes or meals and see how they taste.

  23. Hi, great article. We were considering visiting London for christmas. Any tips on how many days should we stay? It is our first time.

    1. Author

      Hi Erika, I think 3 days is an absolute minimum for London, but you can easily fill a week or even 10-14 days in London. There’s so much to see and do! So it’s really up to you, how much time you have, and what interests you the most.
      Museums, musicals, main landmarks, but also shopping and Christmas markets, etc. – plenty to keep yourselves busy for many days. Not even mentioning day trips if you want to see places outside the city…
      PS Christmas is a busy and expensive time, so make sure to book your London accommodations asap – it’s much easier to make your trip more affordable by booking in advance, when you still have more choice.
      You’ll love London!

    2. Hello. I’m planning to visit London on September. I am trying to see what I should do about currency. I know you said use credit which I will. However do you recommend I get some currency ahead of time when i land or at an ATM. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

      1. Author

        Hi Rajee, you can just take some cash at an ATM upon arrival – it’s easy enough. Just be careful to not let the ATM do the currency conversion for you – it’s a common travel scam and costs you a fortune. So when you take the money, make sure to choose LOCAL CURRENCY and let your bank do the conversion. Enjoy the trip!

  24. Hello Jurga,
    I am planning for a trip to London and willing to live in North-London. Have you any suggestions for the budget hotels in North London? I love to share my experience after my trip!!

    1. Author

      Hi Ammy, I’m not sure what exactly you mean by North London, but here are a few budget options on that side of town, close to King’s Cross / St Pancras stations: Keystone House and Clink78 hostel.
      Hope this helps.

  25. Any recommendations for private transportation from airport to our hotel that can accommodate 8 persons and their luggage.

    1. Author

      Hi Linda, yes, there seem to be many options. You didn’t say from which airport you’re going, but here you can find pretty much all of them – private transfers from London airports . You can choose your dates (sometimes not longer than 2 weeks in advance though) and group size and it gives you the price. Just out of curiosity, I checked what the private transfer from Heathrow to Central London would cost for 8 people, and it shows me the price of around 100EUR. So quite reasonable, considering taxi prices in London and the distance to town, I find.
      Hope this helps.

  26. What would be your top 3 places to visit in London. I’m going to be in London for only 1 day and a half on our way to Stuttgart Germany. Your article was very informative and I will book a hotel in central London.

    1. Author

      Hi Jane, if you do just a few things, then don’t miss the London Eye, Westminster Abbey with Big Ben tower (all these are close to each other), also the Tower Bridge and the Buckingham Palace (from outside). I think that your best bet in such a short time is to take a Hop-on Hop-off bus. It will pass most of the highlights, give some info about the places, will enable you to jump off and visit a few of them, and the ticket usually also includes a boat tour on the Thames, which is also quite informative and gives you another perspective on London.
      I recommend either the Original Tour or Big-Bus tour. For the main route (highlights) they are very similar, it’s really just a matter of personal preference.
      For the London Eye, make sure to book in advance and if you really want to save time, get a fast track ticket – otherwise you’ll waste half a day there. You can book the tickets here.
      Hope this helps and yes, indeed, stay in the city center.

  27. Any recommendation on air Bnb in central London???
    We are group of 6adults and 4kids including an infant.

    1. Author

      Hi, it’s a bit difficult for me to advise much as I have no idea when you travel or what your budget is. Most houses/apartments of that size in Central London will cost at least 500-600 pounds, often more. The only cheaper ones I saw have quite bad customer reviews.
      Here is one that is quite cheap, is somewhat close to the city and has good reviews – Hoxton Loft apartments.
      If budget is not an issue and you want a really good location then check this one out: The Grand, Covent Garden Townhouse.
      If you don’t mind splitting up in two apartments (at the same place), then this seems to be one of the most affordable options with good ratings and close to the centre: Apartment White Piccadilly Luxury Flat.
      Other nice somewhat affordable options are Large Family Home near Brick Lane & Spitalfields or Westminster Cosy 2bed mins to Start.
      This one is also very well located and somewhat in the middle price-wise: Ennismore Mews.
      These are all houses/apartments with excellent guest reviews, but not on Airbnb. We never use Airbnb, so if you are specifically looking there, I’m afraid I can’t help.

  28. Hi very helpful information going London on May 2019 or 7 days. any suggestion of hotel where can stay thank you.

    1. Author

      Hi Vilms, there are SO MANY hotels in Central London. We stayed at the Premier Inn County Hall the last time we visited and it is one of the best price/quality hotels we found in London. You can’t beat the location!
      The problem with London is that it also gets booked-up so quickly, so it’s more a matter of what you can still find for May at this moment, especially for such a long stay… I’d say, select the dates for your stay in London and then use the map function to see what’s still available in the city centre at somewhat affordable rates.

  29. Thank you. This has been very helpful. I am planning to celebrate my 50th in March 2019. I want to learn as much before my trip. Thanks again..

    1. Author

      Enjoy your trip to London and happy birthday!

  30. Very useful information since i will be traveling to London by march, especially when i don”t have an ideal of where to stay but now i know (hahahah) central London.

    Thank You

    1. Author

      🙂 Yes, Jemima, the more centrally-located your hotel, the easier it is to explore the best of London without wasting too much time in the traffic. Have a great trip!

  31. Very informative. Going on October 11, 2019 for 4 days and hope to see a changing of the guard. Do they do them in October?

  32. Hi Jurga,

    It’s been awesome seeing some of your articles.

    My family and I are coming to the UK and hoping to do a Europe tour in July 2019. That’s my husband and I (27 & 30), my brother (15), and my parents (in their 50s)
    We were firstly looking at doing a tour with a tour company but thought it could be limiting.
    A lot of people said for us just to use public transport, and that driving in Europe is very hard.
    I guess I am asking for your recommendation on whether we should use public transport (trains, uber etc) to get around, or if it would be beneficial in us hiring a car.

    Many Thanks in Advance
    We are from New Zealand btw

    1. Author

      Hi Dipal, it’s really hard for me to advise much because ‘Europe’ is really big and every country has its own special ways.
      In general, you definitely don’t need tours in order to see Europe. Figure out the places you want to see and how much time you want to spend in each. Depending how far they are from each other, it might be wise to take a train, or otherwise you should really look into flying. There are some really cheap flight deals all over Europe, so if you want to visit UK and e.g. Italy, you better fly.
      If you are mainly staying in big cities, do yourself a favor and don’t rent a car. You can’t do anything with it. In most countries you can use Uber in the cities, but public transport is usually very good too. For places like London or Paris, public transport is the way to go.
      However, if you want to see the countryside, then yes, driving is still the best way to do it.
      I can’t really say that driving in Europe is difficult, but then I live in the country where we have the most traffic jams in the world I think. 🙂 Also, except for the UK, all the other countries drive on the other side than what you are used to… Imagine the worst traffic day in New Zealand and then multiply it by two, that’s pretty much what you can expect around any big city in Europe. Once you get further from the cities, it’s usually quieter, but still, compared to NZ, it will always be busy…
      Hope this helps a bit. Enjoy your trip!

  33. Coming from London Originally I can say that NO it does NOT rain a lot in London. This is 15 Jan 2019 and have had few days where it rained !!

    1. Author

      🙂 I have to agree with you – this past year has been incredibly dry here in Belgium as well. Still, plenty of rain compared to most other places in Europe, so I think it never harms to check the weather forecast and pack an umbrella if it shows rain. Don’t you agree?

  34. We are planning first trip to London with kids in June. Very useful information.
    Please share which country side we can visit in England and Scotland along with London.
    If we will come, will definitely post the experience.
    Thankyou so much.

    1. Author

      Hi Sidhi, please check our article with some suggestions on what to see and do in London with kids. It has a couple of suggestions outside the city, but for the rest we aren’t that familiar with the English countryside, so I’m afraid I can’t help.
      As for Scotland, Isle of Skye is amazing. Here you can find suggested Isle of Skye itinerary for up to 5 days. My husband also did a Scottish whisky tour and loved it, but not sure if it’s something I’d do with kids :).
      Enjoy you trip!

  35. Ah, would love to return to London soon. Thanks for all these great tips! Agree on those fast skip the line tickets, saves so much time.

    1. Author

      They sure do! And London just does that to you, doesn’t it? Once you’ve been there, you always want to go back for more.
      Happy travels!

  36. Great tips and very useful. Saving for my first visit to London.

    1. Author

      Thank you, Madhu. Glad you found this useful. Enjoy your first trip to London. It will definitely leave you wanting to return.

  37. Thank you – always love your tips. We’re from Australia, and having a short but hopefully full trip in November for 3 weeks to London, onto Europe then Iceland & can’t wait, as a taste before we do a 2 month to in 2020. I’ve read lots of your tips & find them practical & useful. Keep them coming!

    1. Author

      Thank you Evette, glad you found it useful. Sounds like an amazing trip you have planned. 3 weeks and then again 2 months next year – wow!
      Enjoy London and Iceland. If you are looking for some tips for traveling in Iceland in November, or general travel tips, check our Iceland travel page for more information.

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