5 Tips to Help You Prepare for a Trip to London

Times are changing, and so is the value of the US dollar against the British Pound. Now is the time to visit London! These tips will help you prepare for a trip there:
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1. How to Budget for London

First of all, things have changed. London is not nearly as expensive right now as we are used to perceiving it, especially armed with US dollars. Think about this – in the middle of New York City, what would a burger and a beer cost you? Maybe $25 if you’re lucky? In the middle of London, literally standing in the touristy area right outside the Tower of London, you can get Fish ‘n Chips for £7. That’s less than $9 USD, in the very center of London. Imagine the change in price if you went further into the neighborhoods.
A beer at a pub in the middle of London cost £3-4, or about $4 USD. At the fancy rooftop restaurant Sky Garden (in the famous Fenchurch “walkie talkie” Building), a beer is £5-6, or about $7. This is NOT expensive! Especially when you can enjoy it with this view:

View from Sky Garden
Overlooking the Tower of London and Tower Bridge from Sky Garden rooftop restaurant.
For most of Europe and including London, based on a short-term trip, I recommend having about $500 per week per person. Finding a hotel room or hostel around £30-50, visiting food markets, taking advantage of the many free things to do in London, and making the most of a London pass can make London a very affordable destination these days.
For Things to Do in London, Where to Stay on a Budget, and more see London City Guide for Budget-Minded Travelers
 

2. How to Use a London Pass

A London Pass is a pre-paid card that gets you into many paid attractions in London. It’s worth using if there are a lot of expensive sights you’d like to see! You can pre-order a London Pass.

  • Research paid attractions in advance – the London Pass is only valuable for attractions that cost money, and there are a lot of free things to do in London, so make sure you have an idea of which things you want to do that cost money in advance.
  • Check the hours for each attraction and plan accordingly to try to fit them all in during your allotted time.
  • Popular attractions to visit with the London Pass: Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, River Cruise, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Hop-On Hop-Off Bus (Golden Tours), Churchill War Rooms. You can do all of these things in one day if you really plan and stick to a schedule. If you are a “museum person,” you may want to consider a 2-day London Pass.
  • Download the London Pass app for easy access to information about the attractions included.
  • Pairs very well with an Oyster card, which gives you access to the Tube and buses, so you can get around quickly and easily.
  • Fun fact: You can order these cards and more in advance from the Visit Britain Shop so you can hit the ground running.
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey costs £20 to get in, so it’s a great option to hit up with the London Pass.
 

3. How to Do Borough Market Right

Borough Market is the oldest and most famous food market in London, and it is absolutely worth a visit because it has the best eats in the city. Here are some insider tips for Borough Market:

  • Best days to visit are Thursdays and Fridays. Monday-Tuesday is a “skeleton crew” (half-open but still can be worth it, just not the same vibe). Avoid Saturdays (most crowded). Closed on Sundays.
  • Vendors don’t often give free samples, so don’t expect them. This isn’t Costco, you pay for your food at this market.
  • The nearest tube station is London Bridge, not Borough.
  • Go with a local – the only tour guide licensed in Borough Market is Celia Brooks. I did a tour with her and it was SO much better than the first time I experienced Borough Market wandering on my own. It can be an overwhelming place, so especially my fellow foodies out there, I advise you to check out Celia’s tours!
best cheese ever
Pretty much the best cheese I’ve EVER TASTED. Courtesy of Borough Market.
Related: 6 Budget-Friendly Food Markets in London
 

4. Beyond Museums: London Cultural Activities

Don’t just get caught up in the famous sights or you won’t meet any locals! I find that my favorite things to do in cities are interactive, and usually involve people. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite non-museum things to do:

  • High tea – Such a fancy tradition! For affordable try Fait Maison, there are a few around the city. For higher-end service or if you’re a hardcore foodie wanting the whole shebang, with silver, try The Wolseley.
  • Theater – I saw Half a Six Pence at Noel Coward Theater and it was absolutely brilliant. English theater makes for a great night out!
  • Pubs – You shouldn’t go to London without hitting up the pubs. Try the traditional cask ales while people watching, always entertaining. The Black Friar pub near Blackfriar’s tube station is a great option with an outdoor patio.
  • Parks – There are so many amazing parks in London, and each one I’ve visited seems to have its own hidden gems, like the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain inside Hyde Park, or the cafe and pond where you can feed the ducks in St. James’s Park. I stayed at Cheval Residences near Kensington Gardens for a few days, so I went for walks in Hyde Park each day and couldn’t believe I was in the middle of London. Take advantage of the parks!
  • Street cafes and performers in Covent Garden – Right in the center of London you’ll find a pedestrian area in Covent Garden. Go there. Have a drink, watch the street performers and all the passersby. It’s beautiful and entertaining with a cozy ambiance.
Affordable High Tea London
£15 High Tea at Fait Maison
 

5. Packing Tips for London

  • Use luggage that you can easily carry up and down flights of stairs on the Tube because not every station has escalators!
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes, London is a BIG city, yet walkable if you’re ambitious enough.
  • Bring an umbrella or rain jacket, and try to bring waterproof shoes if you have them.
  • Dress in layers, as that London sun does like to come out, and the temperature can vary a lot in one day!
  • It can get windy, so ladies, watch your skirts and dresses.
  • Get a UK SIM card before you go, so you can use your phone as soon as you land, OR, you can also pre-order a personal WiFi device for use in the UK.
Westminster Bridge 2017
Fun fact: My great grandfather used to work in the House of Parliament. Listen to my grandma on my podcast.
For more on London check out our London City Guide, and Day Trips from London. Heading up to Scotland? Check out our Edinburgh City Guide and Highlights of Edinburgh.
This trip and post were part of a collaboration with Visit Britain. Thank you to Cheval Residences, Visit London, British Airways for making it possible. All opinions are my own.