The Brits love to queue. It’s something that British people are famous for, and as such it is something that, if you’re planning a visit to London, you need to be prepared for.
In this blog, we’re sharing some of the top London travel tips direct from the mouths of local experts, to not only help you to minimise the time spent queuing but to ensure you secure a room at the best family hotels in London, a table at the top restaurants on your must-try list, and tickets for all the attractions you want to see and try for yourself.
But first, is there ever a time of year when you won’t have to queue?
Queues: and how to avoid them
Some of the top attractions in London are subject to queues all year round, from opening to close – however, there are little tricks that we recommend that will streamline your experience.
The first is an easy one – visit London midweek rather than at a weekend wherever possible. The weekends are often rife with both locals and tourists, as well as those visiting the city for a short break rather than an extended holiday. Everything from restaurant bookings to theatre tickets and hotels are often more expensive at the weekends, and you will certainly end up waiting for far longer than if you visited during the week.
Another tip is to try visiting an attraction in particular during what lunchtime, when most others will head to pre-booked restaurants or quick service options. Attractions often have a lull during the lunch period – which can make anywhere between 12pm and 2pm a great time to snap up a place at the front of the queue.
Our final tip for beating the London queue system is also one which links with our budgetary tips coming later in this blog – consider attractions which are off the beaten path, and which aren’t as popular as the core staples in the centre of the city. Rather than queuing to visit the V&A or Madame Tussauds, try out one of the niche museums elsewhere in the city, where you will find entry to be quicker and often cheaper.
Knowing what to pack
If there’s one thing about London that it’s worth being prepared for, it’s the weather – with London locals particularly heralding the benefits of light rain jackets for summer and warmer coats for winter.
As well as being prepared for rain – which you can do by packing your own jacket and coat as well as a portable umbrella and plenty of socks to change into if and when your feet get wet – you need to be prepared for the amount of activity that comes with a trip to London. Mainly, the number of steps you will take every day.
Getting from your room at Montcalm at the Brewery to the assortment of attractions on your list will require some walking, even if you do get the tube everywhere and use the bus network. These steps quickly add up, with comfortable footwear a must for anybody visiting London for whatever reason.
Other things you should remember to pack include layers, appropriate clothing for the different activities and bookings on your itinerary, and the itinerary itself!
Sticking to a budget in London
Sticking to a budget can be difficult in London, particularly if you’re staying in a hotel in London’s central boroughs where all the surrounding eateries, attractions, and activities are expensive as well as busy.
To help reduce travel expenses, our first piece of advice is to buy an oyster card before you start travelling through the city and using the underground and bus network. The oyster card acts as a portal to all the different transport networks you might need, allowing you to top up the card and tap in and out of the different stations as required – keeping an eye on your spend and even pushing you into free travel if you surpass the daily charge cap.
Another way of cutting costs is to book tickets for certain attractions online in advance of your trip. Booking online lets you take advantage of discounts and deals which are not available on the door, with family passes and other deals on offer – plus, you might even discover a few cheaper or completely free attractions that you were not otherwise aware of!
And speaking of free activities and attractions, why not spend a little time away from the tourist hotspots and take in the Royal Parks and green spaces which offer visitors and locals alike a chance to get outside and enjoy the London environment with out paying a penny. All of the Royal Parks, which are located in the centre of London, are free to access and explore at your leisure – with all of them offering their own unique experiences and settings, from the Serpentine in Hyde Park to the statues and foundations of Kensington Gardens and the outer edge of ZSL London Zoo in Regent’s Park.
Walking is completely free – and there is truly no better way to see London than on foot and with a chance to stop and explore wherever you want to.
Where to eat on a trip to London
Finally, we can’t write a whole blog about London travel and not consider the importance of food – with London’s diverse and multicultural community lending itself to delicacies and goods from all over the world. Whether you book somewhere high end like The Brewery restaurant or opt for street food from one of the pop ups on the Southbank or the stalls at Borough market, food is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of London as a truly open and diverse setting for people from all walks of life.
And if you’re looking for a final local recommendation, then make sure you check out London’s many markets where you’ll find some of the best and most authentic cuisine available in the city. There’s a reason why the markets are always full of locals!