Useful Tips for Americans Visiting London

Despite the fact that the forefathers of most Americans had come from England and other parts of Europe and despite the common language that both share, there is a lot of difference between the cultures and protocols in both the countries. The British are more sophisticated and like to be seen in suits and proper dresses whereas the Americans are more relaxed and have a couldn’t-care-less attitude towards dressing and other aspects of life. However, the first choice for a holiday destination for most Americans is London and when they come here for the first time they are flabbergasted by the customs and way of life in the city. Given below are a few tips that will help American travellers to get oriented with the way that will ensure a good time in London.

Traffic Movements: In London, unlike most other places in the world, vehicles are driven on the left hand side of the road and as such traffic comes from the right – a fact that will immediately seem odd to any tourist from America,. As such on two way streets you should always look right. On one way streets, check the pavements and always look both ways.

Using the Tube: The Tube is the lifeline of London and it is the easiest and quickest way to move from one place to another. However, it is best for a tourist to study the Tube map before travelling. On the escalators of the Tube station, it is essential to always keep on the right as it will keep the left side clear for those who wish to go past you in a hurry. It is advisable to get an Oyster Card as your Tube fares will be much lower. The Oyster Card, in some cases, can also work out to be much cheaper than 1 day or 3 day tourist travelcards. It is important to know that some stations in central London are quite close to each other and as such taking a Tube for such travel would be futile.

Avoidable Tourist Attractions: There are too many attractions in London and as such, it is important to know which ones you can avoid. For example, you can avoid the London Aquarium as you may not be interested in seeing all those fish; Changing of the Guard as it gets too crowded and it is difficult to see anything; Piccadilly Circus as it is a busy and dangerous intersection; Portobello Road Market as it is teeming with tourists and HMS Belfast as it is a rusty old ship not worth seeing.

Must-See Tourist Attractions: The attractions that you just can’t miss are St Paul’s Cathedral as it is the best cathedral; Westminster Abbey that is steeped in Royal history; London Eye as it offers spectacular views; Tower Bridge which is a combined bascule and suspension bridge; Covent Garden as it is a shopper’s and gourmet’s paradise; London Transport Museum which is an interesting museum and also offers a gift shop; and Camden Lock Market for offering excellent shopping options.

An important aspect to consider is your accommodation in London as it will be very convenient for you if you can stay close to most attractions of the city so that you can commute to your places of interest easily. The best option is the Lancaster Gate Hotel Hyde Park London which offers comfortable accommodation in the heart of the city, close to most attractions.

Availing of a London Cab: Cabs are available in all cities of the world but using a cab in London needs a few tips. The easiest way to recognise that a taxi is available for hire is that the light on top of the cab will be on. At any busy airport or railway station, you should be prepared to stand in a queue to get a cab. In London, queues are meticulously orderly and as such, you should wait for your turn patiently. When it is your turn or if you have hailed a cab, you should go to the front window and find out whether the driver will take you to your destination. Most London cab drivers like to chat with you on the way and as such you should be prepared for that. Mini cab drivers are not licensed Black Cabs drivers and as such they are not very trustworthy.

24 Hour Time; In London, train timings are according to the 24 hour clock. Americans are not very familiar with this system but it is easy to understand as all that you need to do is to subtract 12 from whatever the 24 hour time shows. As such, 22.00 is equivalent to 10:00pm

Avoid Criticising Poor Customer Service: At places such as restaurants and railroads, you may not get the level of customer service that you may be expecting but you should not verbally assault the service provider as it will be of no use.

Look for Bed Bugs: There could be bed bugs in the mattresses of your bed in the hotel room. Always check for them and if you find any bed bug, you should inform the hotel and move your bags away.

Travel Light: Since London hotel rooms are small, it is advisable to travel with the minimum possible luggage. You should carry only what is essential and just travel with one carry on and one checked bag. You should carry clothes according to the weather but always carry an umbrella or waterproof jacket.

Transit to Your Hotel from the Airport: You have a choice for the transit such as taxi, Tube, Overhead Rail and bus. A black cab is most comfortable but very expensive; the most convenient train route is by Heathrow Express going directly to Paddington Station in just 15 minutes costing one-third of the taxi fare; but the cheapest option is to take the Piccadilly Tube line directly into London from Heathrow Airport.

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