London is a fantastic vacation destination. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world, has some truly incredible history behind it, and has that big city energy many of us long for while still giving us a delightful taste of Europe while it’s at it. But because it’s basically the New York of Europe, there are a lot of tourist traps and other easily made mistakes that could ruin your trip like *that*.
So if you’re planning on visiting this great city anytime soon, don’t make any of these rookie mistakes!
TAKING A TAXI FROM THE AIRPORT
Sticking with our New York comparison, the taxis in London can be crazy expensive, and there are plenty of drivers looking to take advantage of hapless Americans. You could easily end up spending over one hundred US dollars just getting from the airport to your hotel. But don’t fret! The Heathrow Express train is a great alternative. It takes you straight o Paddington Station for as little as 22 pounds. And from there you can get just about anywhere on the cheap as well.
THINKING YOU’LL TAKE A TOUR OF BUCKINGHAM PALACE
Obviously, Buckingham Palace is one of the biggest sight-seeing attractions in London. And while it’s definitely worth stopping by when you’re in London, don’t even think about expecting to actually take a tour of the place. Seeing as how it’s the Queen’s home and base of operations, it’s only open to the public for tours when she’s not there. Which rarely happens, and even when it does it’s usually during the summer when the city is packed to the brim with tourists, meaning the lines and waits will be out of control.
So while you should definitely at least walk by and take a look at the exterior, don’t bother trying to plan a tour of the place into your trip.
DOING AFTERNOON TEA ON THE FLY
Afternoon tea is a delectably fabulous and long-running tradition in much of Europe. It’s basically the brunch of London. So much like brunch in New York or LA, you better plan accordingly or be ready to wait for over an hour to even get a table at some of the best tea spots in town. So if you want to properly experience tea time (which you should, because it’s amazing and full of a never-ending supply of delicious treats), then plan ahead and set reservations as often as you can. Trust me, it will just make it that much more enjoyable.
STROLLING UP TO LONDON EYE WHENEVER YOU FEEL LIKE IT
At this point, we’re all familiar with the massive Ferris wheel that has become one of the more iconic elements of the London skyline. Ferris wheels may seem childish and not worth your time, but trust me, this thing is definitely cool and definitely worth it. But it’s so popular that you should never make the mistake of thinking you can just stroll up at any point and jump on. You’ll definitely want to buy your tickets in advance to avoid a long wait and make sure you get a ride.
And if you’re really trying to be efficient, buy your tickets for early in the morning. The wait will be as short as it ever is and seeing the city from that high up early in the AM can be really special.
TIPPING ON EVERY MEAL
Here in America, if you don’t tip 20% you risk being banished from society forever as the most selfish person in the world and not a single person would defend you. But things work a little differently in London. First of all, almost all restaurants (at least the ones that involved table service) automatically include a 12.5 service charge on your bill that goes to your server. And for the most part, no one expects you to tip on top of that.
Of course, you’re welcome to if the service was that special. But it’s rarely expected or required. Just double check the receipt when you pay your bill and make sure this is the case. You can still be a total jerk for not tipping in London and they may never let you come back.
ONLY STAYING IN LONDON
Making a trip all the way across the pond and never getting outside of London should be a crime. London is obviously great, but there is also so much to be seen and enjoyed outside of the big city. The English countryside is truly breathtaking and you can’t go 20 miles without finding the quaintest bed and breakfast you’ve ever seen in your life. So don’t be such a big city fool and be sure to explore outside of London when you’re there.