Ok, I am far, far, far from being any sort of seasoned traveller/expert on London, but I did learn a few things from my seven days there that might help to take the hassle out of a first trip for someone else.
Using public transport
The London Underground system is actually a pretty sweet set up. I bought an Oyster card the moment I got into London, as I was taking the tube straight from Heathrow airport to my hostel. It’s a 5 pound ‘deposit’ for the card + the money you top up onto it. I loved how easy it was to use, because you could just tap in and out of gates without fumbling for tiny paper tickets (Paris, cough cough). Keep an eye on your balance though, because you don’t want to be blocked at the gates during rush hour!
Is a London Card worth it?
I didn’t bother buying a London Card or any other sort of deal. I got a student discount at most attractions, using my Australian student ID (with my driver’s license sometimes). Often this was half the entry price for an adult ticket, so I think it was a better value choice just doing it this way instead.
Getting your head around the city
Do a free walking tour your first day to orientate yourself around the city. Sandeman’s New Europe is the best rated, I’ve done several and every single one has been worthwhile. Just an FYI, it’s not completely free, as they do work off tips regardless of the city you are in, but they definitely are worth it and will be the best value tour you’ll go on.
Don’t forget about the busy season!
If you go during the summer season, it is going to be BUSY! There were decent queues forming for big attractions at least an hour before their opening times, so factor in line time to your schedule.
Day trips from London
Feeling overwhelmed by the city or just need a change of pace for the day? Holla, day trips are super easy. I went to Brighton and Windsor/Eton on two separate day trips and it was so nice to get out of the city and have a different British experience. If you just look at which station the train to your desired destination leaves for, you should be able to just turn up and book a ticket the day of. Also, there’s a discount for travelling outside of the peak times, so after 9:30am roughly I think. So its worth a leisurely breakfast to take a later, cheaper train.
Ok, well that is all I can think of for now! I’ll leave you with my favourite pub/restaurant I went to. Big Chill House. It wasn’t even “quintessentially British”, but I loved the rooftop terrace and the amazing Portobello mushroom, goat cheese, rocket pesto burger. Yum!