Throwback travel pictures seem to be the biggest trend among celebrities on social media. A few days ago Priyanka Chopra posted her Bahamas vacation pictures on Instagram. But with the lockdown restrictions getting eased out, Priyanka Chopra took time off to explore England, which is the largest as well as the most populated country in the UK. In fact, England is a great option for those who are travelling abroad for the first time. It’s a very updated country technologically too. London is also a great travel option. The underground subways of London are easy for travellers to navigate. There are a lot of options for travellers who arrive in London to explore- Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Parliament.
Travelling to London for the first time? We are here to help
Travelling to a new country can also give you the jitters. Here we have put together an essential travel guide for those paying London a visit for the first time.
London is big. Plan your day based on areas: London is larger than it seems in Google maps and the map will give you a hint of the number of iconic places you can visit. That’s one thing London guarantees- never a dull moment! One of the best ways to make the most of your London travel is by grouping all the activities that are close to an area. If you want to visit Madame Tussauds wax museum you can club it with visits to Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill, and The Sherlock Holmes Museum as they are situated in the same area. Create your list on Google maps for better results as each time you save a place to your created list, a blue icon will appear. It’s super useful and visible. By planning your attractions based on areas, you’ll see more things and waste less time travelling from place to place.
Tipping is not compulsory: Tipping is voluntary in most places in England. If you want to leave a tip for good service in a restaurant a 10% tip is generally the rule of thumb. Tipping isn’t as big a deal as it is in the United States or other countries but that doesn’t mean it isn’t appreciated. Usually, a small 10-15 per cent tip is more than fine for a restaurant whilst there is no need to tip at any bar or for drinks. There’s also no need to tip when hailing a cab, though it often makes sense to round up the amount to the nearest pound. It’s one of the interesting facts about London that might seem quite strange if you’re used to a culture of tipping.
Keep right on the escalators: While this may sound strange, it is an unwritten rule in London which suggests staying on the right side of the escalators to make way for people to pass. A city like London that is always bustling with life will always have people rushing to get ahead of time, and a small act of courtesy can go a long way in this city!
Pack for all weathers: Always carry an umbrella: London is best known for its erratic weather changes, where it can be sunny one minute and you can wind up feeling cold after an unpredictable shower! Pack your essentials wisely so that you have plenty of layers at hand to tackle any weather. Having an umbrella at all times is advisable.
Avoid travelling during rush hour: If you can avoid travelling during peak times (in London) or any major city it will not only save you money on fares but also possibly your sanity. If you have to travel when it is busy make sure you have an Oyster card.
Ride a bike around the city: You may come across several bikers on a typical day in London, as bikes are quite an inexpensive mode of transport in the city. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind losing their the way during their excursion, rent a bike which is easily available on bike-bays on the street using a debit/credit card.
Get an oyster card: Get yourself an oyster card that would help you on saving both times as well as money during your trip in the subway. The card, which works for both metro and underground, can be easily topped up at any station in the city! Having an Oyster card will also mean you will not have to wait it out in the long queues.
Experience an afternoon tea: Londoners take their afternoon tea very seriously. Which basically consists of small sandwiches, scones, cakes and, of course, tea. This tradition was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1840. She used to be hungry in the afternoon and she made it a routine. Then she started inviting friends around to have afternoon tea. This was adapted by Queen Victoria and then became nationally popular. Nowadays, afternoon tea isn’t a thing that the British do in their houses, but they go to cafes where afternoon tea is served on special occasions or meet friends.
Museums are free: A lot of them like the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern are all free. So you can actually spend a day exploring the many historical artifacts and the rich heritage.
7 must-visit places in London
1. Tower Bridge: The iconic Tower Bridge, which was completed in 1894, is one of the world’s most famous bascule (a French term for “see-saw”) bridges: It opens in the middle to allow tall boats on the Thames to pass through. Catch a glimpse of the bridge opening and walk across its high-level glass floor walkways 42 metres above the Thames!
2. Piccadilly Circus: This is considered as the city’s paltry attempt to impersonate Time’s Square. It’s always absurdly busy with bright billboards lining the edges of the buildings and you’ll probably find yourself here if you’re planning an evening in the West End or Soho! It’s worth marvelling at night and taking in the atmosphere that surrounds it.
3. Tower of London: Home to the Crown Jewels, the iconic beefeaters, and (allegedly) several spooks, the Tower of London’s history dates back nearly 1,000 years. Standing guard by Tower Bridge and the River Thames, the medieval compound has served as a royal palace, prison, and execution site. Legend has it, these royal ghosts haunt Britain to this day!
4. The Shard is almost 310 metres (1,016 feet) tall and is made from gleaming metal and lots of angled glass. Seemingly rising up from the River Thames, the iconic landmark was inspired by sleek spires. Completed in 2012, it’s not only the tallest building in the UK but is also one of the top five tallest buildings in Europe. It’s pretty impressive to see, even from afar, and we’d consider it a must-visit in London. Featured in movies and TV shows, the building is also celebrated for its environmentally friendly features like its onsite combined heat and power plant that creates electricity and hot water for the building. The Shard truly is among the best places to visit in London.
5. Buckingham Palace is one of London’s most iconic attractions. The official home of Queen Elizabeth II, the splendid palace is used for many royal functions. Guarded by a smartly dressed royal soldier, clad in black and red with the unmistakable bear-skin hats, the original parts of the palace were built in the early 1700s. An impressive building from the outside, the lavish interiors are equally as awe-inspiring. Of the palaces 770-plus rooms, the stunning staterooms are open to visitors in the summer months. The grand gardens are a riot of colour in the warmer months when the numerous flowers are in full bloom. We don’t really have to say that Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous places in London – it’s quite a no-brainer and definitely worth the visit!
6. Sherlock Holmes: Fans of Sherlock Holmes have already assumed why London’s so special. Make the pilgrimage to the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street (yes, it really exists!), or follow the path of the BBC’s latest version of the legendary detective with stops at St. Bart’s Hospital, Speedy’s Restaurant on North Gower Street, or Leinster Gardens. Holmes himself would have a hard time cracking these strange unsolved mysteries!
7. Harrods: It is one of the largest and most famous department stores in Europe. The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which is Latin for "all things for all people, everywhere". Several of its departments, including the Seasonal Christmas department and the Food Halls, are well known. They have been offering luxury goods to its customers for over 160 years. Across seven floors and 330 departments, shoppers will find only the best fashions, accessories, and homewares. Shopped out? Toast your purchases with some bubbly at the Champagne Bar, or a box of rainbow hued Ladurée macarons. Here are more of the world’s greatest department stores. It is said that the Queen went on secret trips to Harrods to buy goodies for the royal family as she does her own present shopping.