As one of the most popular tourist cities in the world, you’d think visitors would acclimatise easily to London, what with the infrastructure accommodating visitors to a great extent. However, whilst the same rules apply to any large city with a large tourist industry (beware of pickpockets, avoid rush hour!), England has grown its own unique culture over the last two millennia, one that differs in some respects to its mainland Europe counterparts. London’s scale and one of a kind community make for a memorable holiday, but first timer guests of the Montcalm Hotel Chiswell Street may appreciate a helping hand in getting to grips with the unspoken rules and one of a kind traditions of the city.
This blog will provide some handy tips for navigating, learning about and deciphering the complex network of London. From currency exchanges to using public transport, these London life hacks could help you relax into London city life faster than a spa at Montcalm massage.
London might be a multicultural city, but it adheres to a certain Britishness that might be a little disorientating for those visiting from different countries. Afterall, England has a history dating back thousands of years, more than enough time for its people to pick up a few quirks along the way.
The Art Of The British Queue
Unlike other European countries, the British have an unspoken queuing system that speaks volumes about their values. “Keep calm and carry on” is a British wartime saying, and nothing exemplifies this stiff upper lip attitude than the British queue. Whether it be a bus stop or a bakery, queues are naturally forming in London, and you’d be wise to adhere to them, lest you unleash the fury of a disparaging English stare!
Mind Your Manners
“P’s and q’s” as the Cockney slang goes, are much appreciated in London. From waiting staff to corner shops, saying please, thankyou and sorry is second nature to most English natives, even if it’s not necessary. Remember to be polite when in public spaces, staff will always appreciate it.
Tipping Is Not The Same In England
Whether you’re at the Montcalm Restaurant or enjoying a spa retreat, service charges are usually included in the bill, so there’s no need to tip the individual waiter or customer service assistant. There are often tip jars at the bar in English pubs, so if you’re especially grateful for the high rate of service, make sure to leave some change. Unlike in other countries, service staff are paid London living wage at the very least, so tips are just the icing on the cake rather than a necessity for financial survival.
Stand On The Right Of Escalators
As mentioned in our introduction, taking caution during rush hour is applicable to any city with a large commuter community. Between the hours of 6.30am and 9.30am and between 4pm and 7pm, the city’s tube system can become very crowded with commuters travelling to and from work. Escalators into stations are an especially important place to keep vigilant during this time. With many rushing travellers racing down and up the left hand side of escalators, standing passengers are advised to keep to the right, otherwise barring the way for people who might be in a hurry.
London is a city that has grown to a size of almost 1500 square kilometres. This means that on any one visit, you’ll probably not get a chance to see the whole city. Nevertheless, the nippy public transport services serve almost every part of the English capital, meaning that you can get to almost any borough or district within an hour, regardless of where you’re staying in the city. Your journey might run a lot smoother if you follow the following advice.
Get An Oyster Card
Whilst London’s tube and bus services can be paid by debit card, you’ll be missing out on some good deals on transport without an Oyster card. These blue contactless payment cards can be topped up and bought from almost every station, and can also be linked up to discount railcards, saving UK residents with under 25, under 30 and senior railcards a third on off peak public transport journeys.
You can also link up your Oyster card to a daily, weekly or monthly travel card. It’s worth noting that to save money in comparison to the daily cap on Oyster card single fares, you should buy at least a week-long travelcard and use it 3 times a day for 6 of the 7 days. Regardless, these are all features that you won’t be able to capitalise on if you don’t have an Oyster card.
Public Transport Peak Times
It’s worth remembering that at peak times – between 6.30am and 9.30am and 4pm and 7pm – single journey fares will be a third more expensive. Pair this with more crowded carriages, and you have a less comfortable journey with an inflated price. When possible, try and avoid travelling on the London Underground between these hours. If you’re a guest of the London City Suites hotel in the centre of the city, consider walking or cycling to your destination during these hours, if weather, timeframe and distance permit.
City Hopper Bus Fares
Another handy tip for saving money on public transport is to capitalise on the City Hopper bus fare. If you take two buses within an hour of each other, the second bus will be free. This provides a great alternative to the London Underground and peak time prices.
Weekend Night Tubes
If you find yourself in a far out borough of London at night on a weekend, fear not as you may be able to catch a night tube. Every Friday and Saturday night, services on the Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria and parts of the Overground line will run for 24 hours a day. Train services will be slightly less frequent, and some restrictions on stations may apply. Overall though, this is another great way to save money on taxis on weekends, all whilst staying safe on your journey home.