11 Need-to-Know Rules for London First-Timers

London is one of the most vivacious cities in the world, with its famed architecture, diverse culture and endless shopping opportunities. Whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure, visiting London for the weekend or more, there are some recommended guidelines, which will help to ensure your trip runs smoothly.

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1. How to Greet Like a Londoner

The best way to greet a Londoner is to shake their hand, kissing on the cheek isn’t really common unless you know someone well. Hugs aren’t always readily accepted, but a firm handshake will go a long way.

2. Keep a Close Eye on Your Belongings

Although in many ways London is generally a safe city, there are some pickpockets who like to take advantage of the bustling tourist areas. When visiting popular landmarks such as Trafalgar Sq. take extra care of your belongings. Below are some more tips on keeping your things safe.

  • Crossbody bags or backpacks with a lock are usually a better option then handbags or totes because they are harder to snatch or open.
  • Many people are starting to wear their backpacks resting on their stomach; this is a good option if you don’t have a lock on it.
  • Always close your pockets and zips.
  • Don’t leave your phone in your back pocket! This is the easiest way your phone can be stolen without you even realising.

3. Stand to the Right

The London underground can be intimidating, to say the least, but you’ll soon realise how efficient it is. It’s the fastest way to get around. The main rule is to stand on the right-hand side on the escalator since people walk on the left. Even when walking through the underground you’ll notice people keep right.

4. How to Hail a Taxi

London is a huge city so it’s no surprise that taxis are so popular. If you want to hail a taxi, then raise your arm when you see one with its ‘taxi’ light above the car. If the light is off, it means it’s already occupied.

5. The Tradition of Queuing

One thing British people love is queuing. If it’s busy on an underground platform people will form an orderly queue to get on to the train. If a restaurant is crowded, there will be a queue outside. To avoid upsetting anyone, it’s best not to cut in front; it’s an actual sin in British culture.

6. Always Make Reservations

London boasts some of the best restaurants and bars in the world, from Michelin star eateries to popular family-run businesses.  If there’s a particular place you really want to try the best thing to do is make a reservation, at least a day in advance. Most people don’t realise just how busy it can get in the evenings, so don’t be surprised if you’re wandering around for over an hour on a Friday or Saturday night trying to find a restaurant that has tables.

The same applies to finding the best accommodation in London, book ahead!

7. Say Sorry Even if You’re Not

Manners are deeply ingrained into British Culture, whether it’s saying thank you and you’re welcome or excuse me. Since the capital is overflowing with people it’s easy to bump into someone by accident, don’t worry just say sorry. Brits even say sorry when it’s not their fault!

8. Get Yourself an Oyster Card

London is famed for having one of the best public transport networks in the world. You can get around with an oyster card, pick one up at the service machines and top it up right away.

You can’t use cash to pay for your journeys so its best to prepare before attempting to get on a bus, because it can hold everyone up. The best thing to do is use a journey planner to assist you in figuring out your route.

9. The Rules of the Underground

In some parts of the U.K, Londoners have a bad reputation for being unfriendly. This is a myth since there will always be someone who’s willing to help if you’re lost or need assistance. In the underground, there is always staff on the platform. The unspoken rule is that people don’t really look at each other directly on the tube and smiling or attempting to talk to strangers isn’t really common.

Don’t be surprised if its silent and half the people are asleep since commuters are often tired and being cooped up doesn’t help. So generally it’s a good idea to have conversations in a quieter tone and be extra considerate of your fellow passengers.

10. Don’t Carry Your Suitcases Around the City 

Oxford Street is an incredibly busy shopping destination; it’s often hard to even walk down the street because it’s bursting with people. Often tourists carry their suitcases whilst doing their last-minute shopping, before heading to the airport to their business trip or exotic vacation.

The truth is it’s not easy to walk behind someone in central London who’s dragging along a huge suitcase. The good news is there are some solutions.

  • Ask the hotel to store your bags for a few hours.
  • There are now a few luggage storage companies cropping up in the city centre where you can leave your bags and pay per hour.
  • The larger stations such as Victoria Station offer storage facilities.

11. Some Restaurants Expect Tips

It’s common knowledge when visiting the U.S that you’re expected to tip at restaurants, and pretty much most eateries. In the U.K tipping is usually optional and it’s not expected in most restaurants. In London however, more restaurants are adding a tip to the bill as a service charge. Don’t be surprised to find this on your receipt, so budget a little extra if your planning on eating in popular restaurants.

There are a million reasons why London attracts swathes of visitors each year, so it’s no surprise the city always feels crowded. If you’re travel enthusiast, you probably have a huge list of exotic cities you wish to visit, and London should probably be on your bucket list for numerous reasons, so book your tickets and remember the unspoken rules!

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Whether you're visiting London for business or pleasure, here are some recommended guidelines which will help to ensure your London trip runs smoothly.

Whether you're visiting London for business or pleasure, here are some recommended guidelines which will help to ensure your London trip runs smoothly.

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