30 Sep Your Most Frequently Asked Questions on London Answered!

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1) What’s London weather like?

London has its own microclimate and is warmer than the rest of England, due to the ‘urban heat island effect’. This leads to warmer summers, milder winters and occasional extremes of temperature. Spring in London is usually fresh, with showers, particularly in April. Autumns in London are crisp, cool and stormy with occasional warm spells. Winters in London begin as chilly and dry in December, becoming rainier as February rolls around.

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2) What Should I Pack when visiting London?

The variable weather in the UK, means that it’s sensible to pack ‘seasonless’ clothes and accessories.

The essentials are (and you might need to use all 6 in one day!)

1. sunglasses
2. sun cream
3. a good waterproof coat
4. a folding umbrella
5. comfortable shoes
6. scarf and gloves

Packing light is always key; if you stay in a London serviced apartments you will have access to laundry service, or at least washing facilities. Natural fabrics such as bamboo, wool, silk and cotton are breathable and are cool in summer and warm in winter. Jersey is the traveller’s friend as it dries quickly and won’t wrinkle as easily as other fabrics. Colour-wise, pick one season appropriate neutral, and a couple of prints / colours as accent pieces.

On a practical note, ensure you bring universal plug adaptors, any prescription medicine, a pocket map, face wipes and a spare phone charger.

3) When is it best to visit London?

Spring / Summer are the most popular times to visit London, but also the most expensive. July and August in particular are the hottest months, but coincide with the British Summer Holidays, meaning the city becomes incredibly busy.

Spring is a great time to walk the many parks of London, to experience the flowers blooming and potentially see baby animals. Summer is a joyous time of festivals, inner city beaches and fun in the sun. In Autumn, leaves turn golden and the theatre season re-opens as companies return from the Edinburgh Festival. Pre and post-Christmas shopping is a key factor of the Winter Season. It depends on what you enjoy, and what your budget is! Spring / Summer are the most pleasant in terms of weather, but also the most expensive.

Christmas is another popular time, with gorgeous displays in the windows of Harrods, Liberty and Selfridges, a festive atmosphere and plenty of free events.

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4) What is the best way to get around London?

The best way to get around London is either on foot or using public transport. You can use cash to pay for tube fares and over-ground trains in London, but Oyster Cards Website are the preferred method of payment (and are required on London buses). Oyster Cards are a contactless card which can hold single, season and period tickets, along with permits and a stored amount of cash up to £90. It’s a cheaper and often easier way to get around London, and is valid on most forms of public transport.

If you do want to drive, be aware that London is a busy metropolis full of traffic, taxis, couriers and motorcyclists. You’ll also have to pay the congestion charge in certain zones – or follow our tips on how to avoid the congestion charge.

Cycling is popular in London, with the local authority offering cheap cycle hire, under the scheme nicknamed ‘Boris Bikes’ after the London Mayor of the time. You pay as little as £2 for 24 hour bike access, with each 30 minute journey by bike being free.

You can book a cab to get around, but always book with a licensed minicab company or a black cab.  Black cabs can be hailed on the street; minicabs cannot and any journey in an un-booked minicab will be illegal and put you at risk.

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5) Do I need to tip?

There’s less of a tipping culture in Britain than there is in other countries. This is partly due to servers being paid the minimum wage, and partly due to cultural factors; most people are happy to tip, but if an automatic service charge is added, it’s likely to irritate diners.

It’s usual to leave 10-15% of the bill as a tip if you eat out in a restaurant or at one of the nicer cafes. However restaurants often add a service charge, so double check – you don’t want to tip twice.

It isn’t essential to tip bar staff in London – though you can offer “one for yourself as well” which is an equivalent. However, it’s good manners to tip bar staff if you attend a wedding or other function – bar staff will likely be working twice as hard for their regular wage, and the tips make a huge difference. You don’t have to tip taxi drivers, but it’s typical to round up to the nearest pound, more for convenience’s sake.

If you get a hair cut, tipping is common but not universal/required. Tour guides on the other hand, often expect a tip; but don’t feel obliged

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6) How much does a meal cost in London?

The cost of food can vary enormously in London! You can spend as little of £3 or upwards of £200 depending on the venue. The capital is incredibly multi-cultural, meaning you can sample cuisine from across the globe. Foreign food is often better value, and incredibly tasty; there are even greater savings to be made if you shop with street vendors. Camden’s Global Kitchen is one of the best examples of this, where you can pick up anything from jerk chicken to mac and cheese to Chinese bao.

Italian eatery TortelloniCup is the top rated restaurant on Tripadvisor, with counter dining, online ordering and dishes under a fiver which have been described as ‘heaven in a cup’. South African restaurant Bunnychow Streetfood on Wardour Street is a fab, affordable eatery. Their eponymous dish Bunnychow – which consists of a hollowed out loaf filled with curry – is on offer for just £5.

Brick Lane features some of the top Indian restaurants in the city, at super affordable prices. Some of these venues are bring your own bottle – meaning that if you want to have a drink, you’ll need to bring your own wine, and potentially pay corkage fees; but this is still a massive saving on usual restaurant prices for alcohol.

In terms of traditional British grub, a typical English ‘greasy spoon’ will do you a fry up at cheap prices – and no trip to London is complete without fish and chips, which you can get for under a tenner. If you want to try a traditional roast, the cheapest option is to head to a chain pub or ‘carvery’ where you can typically get dinner for two for £20.

Remember you can also save some cash if you go self-catering, by stocking up at a food market and cooking in your apartment!

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7) Football – how do I get tickets for a football match?

Britain’s Premier League is the most watched football league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to 643 million homes and a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion people. Twenty top teams compete for the top spot, with the “Big Four” – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United – being the most popular and successful of those teams.

5 of the Premier League stadiums are in London:
1. White Hart Lane – Tottenham Hotspur home ground
2. The Emirates – Arsenal’s home ground
3. Stamford Bridge – Chelsea FC home ground
4. Selhurst Park – Crystal Palace FC home ground
5. Boleyn Ground – Home to West Ham United

It’s best to buy tickets for matches from the official premier league or club websites, or at the ticket offices; unauthorised websites and illegal ticket touts (who hang around outside stadiums) are likely to charge you a packet for fake tickets.

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8) Can I explore London on a budget?

Yes! You absolutely can. Oyster Cards are a cheap way to get around, along with the Boris Bikes and your own two feet. The majority of museums in London are absolutely free, and this includes museums of Natural History, Art, Transport, Science and War. Many galleries, including the Tate Britain and Modern, offer free entry and a selection of free exhibitions, with paid entry for newer or temporary exhibits. There are eight Royal Parks in London, along with many more heaths, commons, and community gardens; there are also City Farms, which are free to visit, but welcome donations.

All year round, there are free festivals and events, ranging from film screenings to the Notting Hill Carnival. The markets of London are a tourist attraction in themselves, and the department stores can entertain for hours, particularly in the run up to Christmas, when they create lavish window displays that are curated with the utmost care.

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9) Where should I stay?

You can get more bang for your buck if you stay in a serviced apartment. Solo and business travellers will benefit from safer, more salubrious accommodation than you get in many hotels, with most having 24 hour reception desks, free WiFi and stringent security. There’s the added benefit of privacy – along with well equipped kitchens, giving you the freedom and flexibility of self catering, plus the convenience of a maid service.

Families can enjoy a cosy home away from home with plenty of space – a serviced apartment typically offers 30% more space than an equivalent hotel room. Locations are usually excellent and very central, making them handy for attractions and restaurants.

Francis Buchanan

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