It’s no surprise that London is one of the most visited cities in the world. One visit there, and you’ll understand why. London makes for an unforgettable adventure from its deep history, stunning architecture, excellent food, and a variety of heritage sites.
There is so much to do and see in London that you’ll want to visit again and again. No matter how many times I travel “home,” there’s always something new to discover.
Whether it’s your first trip to London or you’re visiting again, here are some mistakes to avoid in London. Follow these London travel tips to save money and fulfill your bucket list.
Not Traveling With Enough Money
Let’s face it; metropolitan London is dreadfully expensive. In many cases, things can cost double what they are in the United States.
Hotels, restaurant meals, and entrance fees to tourist hot-spots are going to cost you plenty. One of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London is not having enough money.
It would be a shame to travel to England and not fulfill everything on your bucket list, right? So, don’t just bring cash; travel with a credit card too. While you might have a budget, resign yourself to the fact that you’ll go over that budget.
Not Having An Oyster Card
For most who travel to Greater London, the underground or Tube is the transportation of choice. However, the fee to ride is determined by zones and can be expensive.
Riders are penalized heavily for buying single-journey tickets. Like other areas in the world, passengers can purchase an “Oyster card.”
The Oyster card is a reusable electronic ticket that can be loaded by the user and topped up whenever necessary. Using an Oyster card in the underground can save you more than 50% off single journey tickets.
Travelers can also use Oyster cards on buses, suburban rail services, and some river services. If you want to buy an Oyster card, you can purchase them at the underground stations or various London convenience stores.
Not Driving On The Correct Side Of The Road
If you’re from North America and you rent a car, you need to drive on the other side of the road. For some visitors, the thought of driving on the left might scare you enough not to rent a car.
While I’m from England, I didn’t get my license in the UK. I only learned to drive a car in Canada.
However, driving in England wasn’t so bad on the main roads because I could follow the traffic flow. Although, on country roads, it was a different story.
Many times, when we turned a corner, the habit was to pull onto the right-hand side of the road. When another vehicle came the other way, it jolted us to remember that we needed to be on the left side.
English round-a-bouts are also a huge challenge when there are two or three lanes. Since roundabouts are rare in North America, most don’t know how to approach and navigate one. If driving a car in England scares you silly, take transit instead.
Not Traveling In Off-Peak Times
British Rail is a fantastic service that can get you all over England in a short amount of time. However, traveling on weekdays and during rush hour is horribly expensive.
Check the train schedule and the cost of riding at different times. The “cheap day return” can save you more than 50% off peak rider times. So, consider leaving a little later or riding the train before rush hour starts. Your pocketbook will thank you.
If you are traveling to London on a budget, combine your train ticket with the underground for unlimited travel on the “tube.” This will maximize your savings on the cost to travel. Also, check into the cost of riding public transit on weekends. You might find it’s significantly cheaper.
Not Looking the Correct Way When Crossing The Road
Remember the “look left, look right, look left again?” Well, in England, they drive on the other side of the road. So, when crossing the road, you need to look right, look left, and look right again.
Luckily, you don’t need to remember this. It’s boldly painted on the roads as a reminder to us tourists who drive on the right side of the road.
Not Booking Ahead For Some Attractions
Since London is a busy tourist hotspot, it’s only natural that some London tourist attractions are more popular than others. If you’re dead set on seeing something, you may want to book ahead of time.
Buckingham Palace, for instance, is only open to the public for just two months in the summer, and tickets sell out fast. It’s a popular place to visit, and tickets are limited. Book ahead so you won’t be disappointed.
I remember my first visit back to England after they built the London Eye. I wanted to ride it but did not book in advance. When I got to London, the wait time was a staggering five hours long. Needless to say, I didn’t ride the London Eye that day.
Thinking You Can See It All
On a map, London may seem incredibly small. However, don’t underestimate what you’ll find in that tiny space. What may seem like a stone’s throw away on a map may be miles apart.
So, wear some good walking shoes and be prepared to trek some mileage. One of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London is thinking you can see it all.
During your stay, some London tourist attractions may take much longer to visit than anticipated. Do your research long before your trip and be realistic about how much you can see during your vacation.
England will always be there, and not seeing it all gives you an excellent excuse to visit again, right? But who really needs a reason to visit London?
Not Having Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is a ritual in England that dates back to the early 1840s. During your visit, schedule at least one day to enjoy afternoon tea. Bear in mind; this is not a cup of tea and a snack but a whole meal.
So, make sure you have an appetite and time to enjoy this non-rushed ritual. British afternoon tea is consists of “finger” sandwiches, pastries, cakes, and delicious fluffy scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
While the clotted cream in “cream teas” might sound disgusting, it’s sinfully delicious. After one bite, you’ll be wanting “cream teas” every day, lol.
British afternoon tea has become such a ritual that people now travel globally for food experiences like this. Not only is the food delicious, but the presentation adds to the romance of afternoon tea time. Tea is served on the most delicate china, and in some places, there is a dress code.
If you plan to have afternoon tea at one of the lavish venues like Claridge’s, Browns, or Fortnum & Masons, not only will you need a reservation, but the tea can set you back approximately £70 per person.
Not Adhering To Escalator Rules
One of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London has to do with the underground. When using the “Tube” in London, it’s essential to follow the escalator etiquette. If you allow the escalator to do the work, you must stand to the right.
Those in a hurry and want to walk, use the left side. London’s underground is a hectic place, all of the time and 25% of the users are in a hurry. If you do not adhere to the escalator rules, a local subway rider will point out your error.
While London is trying to get people to stand on both sides, stating that utilizing both sides moves more people, I’m not sure it’s working. I visited London in June 2018, and the stand right, walk left is still in effect.
Thinking You Can Use A Red Phone Booth To Make A Call
Remember those cool-looking red telephone booths you see in London pictures? Well, don’t think you’ll be making a phone call from one while in England. Due to vandalism and mobile phones, most no longer exist.
While the red phone booths were as common as double-decker buses, many have now been retrofitted with life-saving AEDs (automated external defibrillators). Now, these iconic red British phone boxes are helping save lives.
Not Prepared For The Weather
It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit London, one of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London, is not being prepared for the weather.
While London is known for its fog, it’s the rain you should be concerned about. Travel with a compact umbrella and a waterproof lightweight jacket even in the middle of summer.
Outside of London, the winds can chill you to the bone, so bring layers to stay warm and cozy. During my last visit in June, I visited Stonehenge on a windy day.
While the rest of the country was experiencing a heatwave, I was shivering standing next to the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s stones.
Confusing The Tower Bridge With The London Bridge
When most tourists visit London, they all expect to see London Bridge. After all, wouldn’t London Bridge be a spectacular sightseeing attraction as it bears the “London” name?
However, the original London Bridge is in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It was dismantled and relocated in 1967. And sorry to burst your bubble, but London Bridge looks like any ordinary bridge and nothing special.
However, further down the Thames, you’ll find the famous Tower Bridge near another recognizable London landmark, the Tower of London.
This remarkable bridge with its soaring towers opens up to allow tall ships to pass beneath it. Many people confuse London Bridge with Tower Bridge, and it’s easy to understand why.
Not Traveling Outside Of London
Known around the world as a bustling city with great history, don’t forget about the areas outside of Greater London. One of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London is not getting outside of London.
Be sure to take a road trip from London to explore other areas that offer stunning architecture, fascinating history, and unforgettable sites.
Immerse yourself in the ancient history of Bath or explore a royal palace. Check out Stonehenge; one of the wonders of the world. For the shopaholics, there’s no better place than the quaint shopping district called “The Lanes” in Brighton. If you love castles (and who doesn’t?), England has some amazing castles worth seeing.
Forgetting A Power Adapter
When traveling to the UK, you’re going to need a power adapter if you intend to use all those electronic devices. This compact adapter will work with most of your phones, tablets, and laptops. Not only will it work in England but in many other countries too.
Bear in mind that while a power adapter will work with newer electronics, it will not work on all electronic devices. For instance, hairdryers and curling irons do not have different voltage settings, so you’ll need a voltage and power adapter.
Not having an adapter is one of the biggest mistakes to avoid in London because you could no longer use your cell phone or tablet.
Not Taking Advantage Of Free Attractions
Want to see London on a dime? While London has world-famous sites like the London Eye, Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower of London, it also offers fantastic free attractions.
Savings money on insanely high admission fees doesn’t mean compromising on fun and overall experience. In fact, you could be pleasantly surprised when visiting these complimentary places.
If you love museums, be sure to check out the Natural History Museum, the Tate Modern, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Also, take advantage of the outdoor green space in Hyde Park, St. James Park, and Regent’s Park.
Are you a big fan of the Beatles? Then you must visit Abbey Road to see the world-famous zebra crossing. While there, why not recreate The Beatles Abbey Road album cover image by grabbing a few friends and walking on the zebra crossing?
If you’re looking to view the incredible London skyline from above, forget the Shard and London Eye, and visit the Sky Garden instead. This London hidden destination offers free aerial views, but you need to make a reservation online.
Looking for something out of the ordinary to do? How about attending a parliamentary debate at the Houses of Parliament? Tickets are free, but you must make a reservation online. Other options for free attractions include attending a church service at St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey.
Happy travels ~ Karen
Saturday 26th of March 2022
It is definitely on my soon-to-do bucket list. What kind of money would be a good target/day. Be generous, please.
Saturday 26th of March 2022
London, like any large city, offers something for every budget. Outside of your hotel expense, I'd budget GBP 250 a day for tours, excursions, and entrance fees. London has a great underground system and the city is walkable with a good pair of shoes. If you plan to visit many of the popular attractions, consider getting the London Pass. Planning is the key to completing your bucket list, in your allotted time.
Friday 24th of January 2020
I lived in London for two (2) years. Definitely, I understand the need for your article. Some of my fellow Americans need this help. Thank You
Saturday 25th of January 2020
I'm glad you enjoyed my article. I always like to be prepared when I travel because not all surprises are good ones.
Wednesday 9th of October 2019
Thanks for sharing such an interesting and really helpful guide. Every visitor before going to London should read it.
Thursday 10th of October 2019
Thanks, Ammy. I'm glad you enjoyed my guide. While I live in Canada now, I still love being a tourist in my home country when visiting family.
Wednesday 10th of July 2019
wow!! so many great things and amazing pictures. Thanks for sharing this.
Wednesday 10th of July 2019
I'm glad you enjoyed reading my article. If you haven't been to London yet, you should really go!