Travel tips for first-time visitors to London

The City of Westminster in London covers an area so teeming with tourist spots, shopping experiences and cultural heritage it is a borough that thoroughly deserves its title of being a City! Visitors can find a range of transport options for seeing the sights around Westminster, but the mode of transport you choose, needs to be framed around the time you have on hand to see the sights.

First Time Visitors (with lots of time on their hands)
For first-time visitors there are a constant flow of buses that run from Marble Arch through to Holborn (passing near to Covent Garden en-route) and this the scenic route to take. Oxford Street is one of the main shopping districts in London, where all the main UK brands have their flagship stores. You’ll find HMV, Zara, H&M among others. Hop off the bus at strategic points (Bond Street) and you’ll find the chic designer label fashion stores, as well as historic stores (in Regent’s Street, get off at Oxford Circus) such as Liberty and Hamleys Toys (that supply toys to the Royal Family, an absolute must for families…there is no toy store on Earth quite like Hamleys).

First Time Visitors (on a tight time schedule)
If you’re on a flying visit, or have seen the main tourist sites before, the best form of transport is going to be London Underground. The City of Westminster has a few lines that divide up the main zones very effectively. It means that instead of taking a bus from Marble Arch to Holborn, which could take upwards of 40-minutes if there’s traffic, the tube will complete the same journey in less than 10minutes. The London Underground’s Central line is one of the main arteries around Westminster, cutting across from Queensway/Lancaster Gate over to Holborn. While the Piccadilly Line running from Kings Cross in the North (Borough of Camden) through to Knightsbridge in the South (where you can find Harrods), takes in Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus (the very famous advertising signage you see in old films of London, and it’s also where you can find the statue of Eros).

Making it cheaper
London isn’t cheap, but at least at the time of writing the strength of the Euro against the Pound makes it, for the first time in the Euro’s history a very attractive exchange rate for taking a plunge into this great city. The economics of ticket pricing combined with the desire to keep Londoners moving through the turnstiles means that the cost of buying individual tickets makes no sense at all. For example a single journey of one stop may cost upwards of £2.00, but a one-day travel card, which can be used across all the buses and tube’s (Londoners affectionate slang for the Underground) may cost as little a £5.00. Visitors can also find special travel deals for longer periods. So, either ask your hotel concierge or ask what travel options are available at one of the Underground Stations or newsagents that also sell travel tickets. Please note, that it is now very rare to be able to buy a ticket for a bus onboard a bus, although at most bus stops there are ticket machines where you can purchase single ticket or a travel-card directly. Once you have this ticket you can speed around the Underground or Bus network freely.

Taxis
Along with the old Routemaster Bus, which is rarely seen nowadays in circulation, The London Black Cab is an icon to Londoners. The training that a cabbie (taxi-driver) needs to go through in order to be granted a licence to drive comes in the form of a strict course, affectionately refered to as “The Knowledge”. In order to pass this course a cab driver needs to know every single street in London. If they fail to identify the route they would need to take in order to complete a journey defined by the examiner, they fail. Unfortunately traffic is the problem in Westminster, so the only time that a cab journey is really worth it, is when you’ve done all your shopping and are completely exhausted. At that point though, stumbling into a cab is the best feeling in the World!!