Insiders Guide to a London Holiday
Whether your are headed to this wonderful city for the Olympics or an end-of-summer holiday, its important to know a bit about London before you come. I recommend travel guides and sites such as this one. However, it is equally important to prepare before you come so that you can enjoy your holiday without your nose stuck inside a travel book.
When I first arrived to London, it took a while to understand the culture, and I’ll share a few of those things here:
There are loads of ways for getting around London, the most popular being the tube, the bus, and cabs. I’m a massive fan of the tube; however, as the city is quickly becoming populated with tourists for the Olympics, it’s important to note that severe delays and queues (lines) will be in affect. You can purchase an Oyster card and top up at the tube locations, but be sure to check the route of your journey here to prevent massive delays.
When standing on the escalator, whether on the tube or in a shop, be sure to stand on the right hand side as people in a hurry to get somewhere pass on the left hand side and you definitely don’t want to be the one standing there when they are running up (or down) the stairs. That happened to me before and the dirty looks I got weren’t pretty.
The tube stops around midnight/midnight thirty, so when going out prepare the bus route in advance or make sure you bring enough for cab fare. The buses will read “N” and then a number, and that’s the best way to spot the night bus for your ride home. The first time I rode the night bus, I thought I could take any old bus and failed to distinguish the N13 (my route) from the other buses that run during the day.
Going out in London is mental, as there are so many great spots to check out. The Ministry of Sound (near Elephant and Castle tube) or Fabric (near the Farringdon tube stop) are great if you’re a fan of epic dancing, but expect to queue for a while and pay about 15 quid for cover depending on the night.
Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square also house some of the best bars and clubs. If you are into live music and the indie rock scene, be sure to venture out to Camden and check out Proud or Barfly where music legends like Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse, and Radiohead have played and frequented. And, if you’re more into the posh/celebrity sighting scene stick to Mayfair and places off of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road.
For shopping, Oxford Street, Marylebone High Street, and Kensington High Street are great places to venture, but if you’re in town on the weekends, I would highly recommend Portobello Road, Camden Market, and Spitalfields Market for some quality market action. Bargain with the people at the market, or bring your prettiest mate to get a better deal (believe me it works!)
Finally, and this is a big one, because London is so massively crowded right now, be sure to be aware of your surroundings, never leave your purse or laptop alone, and be mindful of pickpockets. I’ve never had anyone reach into my bag while shopping or at the club, however recently I had my iPod nicked from my bag at a music festival, and it’s no fun trying to recover holiday travel photos from friends because you lost all of yours.
Overall, London has been safe in my experience, but with all of the tourists out and about, it is important to be mindful that more people will be targeted.