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A Londoner’s guide: Your first few days in the City

8 October 2020

6 mins

You’ve just arrived to one of the most popular cities on earth with a population of over 9 million residents, who collectively speak over 300 languages. London is one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world. London’s food scene is as multicultural as its population, making it possible to whisk your taste buds off on a round-the-world trip without your feet leaving the city. The city boasts breath taking views, an unmatchable charm and endless opportunities. Although as a first timer in London there are things you should also be aware of. This guide provides top tips and information for first timers in London.

Register

One of the first few things on your to-do list when you arrive should be registering as a patient at your local GP (General practitioner). It’s usually only possible to register with a GP near where you live. You can do this by visiting the NHS website or calling primary care support England for further advice on 0333 014 2884. There is no need to register for a dentist in the same way as a GP as you are not bound to a catchment area, you can simply make an appointment by phoning a dental surgery of your choice.

As resident in the UK having your say on political parties is imperative. You can register to vote here.

Be safe

As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, homelessness is an issue in certain parts of London. Generally homeless Londoners set up camp on the main road asking for change or food. More often than not they are harmless and are unlikely to directly approach you.

Pick-pockets. If you are taking public transport around london the tubes and buses can get particularly overcrowded. Like you would in any crowded area, be aware of your surrounding and ensure your belongings are safe and secure.

Travel

Escalator etiquette – Stand on the right side on the escalators, the left side is for those who walk up/down.

Allow travellers to vacate trains/ buses before getting on and stick to the que if there is one.

Oyster cards are a must have for public transport. Find out how to set up and manage yours here.

Driving

Avoid driving between 2pm-6pm on Fridays! This is a peak time for traffic particularly as those who commute to london for work usually go back to their neighbouring cities/ towns for the weekend.

The congestion charge – The London congestion charge is a fee charged on most cars and motor vehicles being driven within the Congestion Charge Zone in Central London between 7:00 am to 10:00 pm seven days a week. Zones are clearly marked with a big red ‘C’ and double red lines alog the curb. The Congestion charge has temporarily increased and is now £15 daily charge if you drive within the Congestion Charge zone 07:00-22:00, every day, except Christmas Day (25 December).

The easiest way to pay is by setting up Auto Pay to avoid fines.

ULEZ charge – To help improve air quality, an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, except Christmas Day, within the same area of central London as the Congestion Charge. Most vehicles, including cars and vans, need to meet the ULEZ emissions standards or their drivers must pay a daily charge to drive within the zone. Find out if your vehicle meets the current emissions standards required for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and/or the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) or if you need to pay a daily charge here.

You can also visit this quick guide to parking rules and regulations in London.

Eating Out

Ensure you are eating at a safe and hygienic place by pre checking the official hygiene score here.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic you now need to digitally book a table when and wherever you go out to eat/ drink. Some places will have a QR code setup to create your booking and some may provide you with a link, either way it is essential you are able to make online bookings with your smartphone.

Tipping Etiquette:

Tipping culture isn’t big in the UK. It is customary to leave 10 to 15% of the bill when eating out. However, restaurants often add on a service charge (usually 12.5%), especially if you’re in a large group, so it’s worth checking your bill if you don’t want to tip twice or you can completely remove the service charge if you have had a bad service. It’s not customary to pay a tip for fast food, self-service or takeaway meals.

Top tip: Although restaurants (and other businesses) should make their policy clear, it’s worth checking with your waiter that they will personally receive your tip rather than the company – particularly if you’re paying by credit card.


Things to do in London

You can check out the following sites for inspiration on things to do in London:

Free things to do

Museums – As well as the 300 languages spoken in London, the amount of museums in the capital adds to the culture of this city. London boasts over 170 museums, from the massive British Museum, London’s most popular tourist attraction, to the tiny Fan Museum in Greenwich. Enjoy the best of London’s culture completely free; from the many world-class free exhibitions London has to offer, to stunning art galleries and historic houses.

Changing of the guards – The ceremony is free to watch and takes place at Buckingham palace at 10.45am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. While in the local area you can visit regents park or holland park for a full free day out!

Instead of getting a tour bus you could Get and RV1 bus from Waterloo to Covent Garden. Walk from Covent Garden through Leicester square then jump on a 24 bus either direction and you see most of the sights in london for just £4.50!

Shopping

London Westfield (Stratford) *7 mins away from Loughborough University London* and west London Westfields (Shepherd’s Bush) are the most popular places in London for fashion shopping.        

However Bicester village is the most popular luxury goods and designer clothing outlet shopping centre. Situated on the outskirts of Bicester, a town in Oxfordshire, England approx. 48 mins from London. Recommended as a day trip.


To find out about, please visit Exploring London and our guide to travelling across London on our wesbite.

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