London’s been in the news a lot recently, and for some really horrible reasons. We’ve had four terrorist attacks in the UK since March, then Grenfell Tower was destroyed by the worst and most deadly fire we’ve had in 100 years. Then there’s the disastrous election and PM May’s £1.5 billion buyout to get the racist, homophobic and sexist DUP on her side in her hung parliament while NHS nurses have to go to food banks as they can’t afford to eat… It also rains a lot and it costs me £330 a month to get to work and back on the London Underground. London’s got it problems for sure, but us Brits have an uncanny knack for thinking that London is simultaneously thinking this is the worst city ever and then declaring that we’d die for our borough. One minute we’re complaining about the weather, and the next we’re dancing up Primrose Hill through a thunderstorm. London’s actually pretty great.
London is an amazing city. It’s smoky, dirty and rainy, but it’s also full of kind people, a welcoming and wide-ranging community. Our police officers and firemen and nurses go out of their way to help people. Taxi drivers will guide you home safely. One of the main concerns people have with visiting London (and the UK in general) right now is that it’s seen as such an unsafe place right now. Yes, we have terror attacks. Yes, it’s terrifying and frightening and obviously none of us condone their actions. We want our peaceful and stable city back.
Here’s a real-life Londoner’s guide to surviving this city.
Tip #1 – Don’t Be Too Concerned About Safety, Or You’ll Stand Out To Muggers
London isn’t any most dangerous that New York or Moscow in reality. Yes, you could get mugged, but you can get mugged at home. The important thing is to have your wits about you, don’t leave any valuables out in the open and just be sensible. If you walk around looking like you’re constantly checking for pickpockets and criminals and suspicious types, you’ll stand out even more and they’ll be more likely to choose you as their target. Do as Londoners do and show no fear, and if anyone tries to grab anything from you, just yell in their face.
Tip #2 – Be Aware Of Tube Etiquette
The best way to get around London is the Tube, and you’ll be a fool if you get Uber everywhere and ignore the world’s oldest underground transport system that runs for 249 miles below your feet. Londoners are famed for being rude on transport systems, but it’s normally just because we’re trying to get to work, our train has been delayed and now an oblivious tourist is stood on the walking side of the escalator.
Look, we know it’s confusing when you go to a new country and you aren’t sure of the rules that everyone else knows by instinct. There are signs and announcements and staff to help you, but it’s just really obvious if you look around and copy what everyone else is doing. Just please, please, don’t stand on the left. Minding the gap is another one. London’s Tubes bolt straight into the station and don’t slow down until the last minute, so don’t get too close and actually stand behind the yellow line. In a similar vein, don’t take up half the platform, either move to the yellow line or stand right against the wall and let people through: I’ve seen too many arguments and fights over someone standing in someone else’s way to let this rule pass you by. Also – no snogging and/or cuddling on the Tube. Yuck.
Tip #3 – Don’t Eat Near Tourist Spots
If you’re going to be doing tourist-y things, don’t eat in tourist-y places. London has some of the world’s most incredible restaurants and cafes that have cuisines that you’ve never even heard of, but hardly any of them will be near tourist hotspots. Restaurants around places like the London Eye and the Tower Of London will charge you extortionate prices for tiny portions and dire service. The further out you go from these spots, the better and cheaper the food will be. My favourites include the Black Cat Cafe in Hackney, Whole Foods, Farm Girl Cafe in Notting Hill, Voodoo Ray’s Pizza (in Dalston and Shoreditch) and the Pump pop-up cafes on Shoreditch High Street.
Tip #4 – Bring An Umbrella
It rains a lot here.
Tip #5 – Get Your Cultural Fix
London has the best museums in the world (except maybe New York or Toyko…). From the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth to the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and artsy Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington (all located by the aptly named Exhibition Road) and the White Cube and Whitechapel Galleries, we have such a range of galleries, exhibitions and museums that you can be entertained for years. There’s literally something for every interest.
Tip #6 – Visit A Proper London Pub
A Wetherspoons, O’Neill’s Irish Pubs or over-priced tacky club just won’t cut it when it comes to drinking in London. To get the true spirit of London, you have to get down to a traditional British pub, where the draft taps consist of Stella Artois, Heineken, Guinness and Magners and the landlords who tend the bar are old friends with the locals that have wiled away years of their life perched atop the same old dusty bar stool. There are all kind of characters in these places, and while some you’ll definitely want to steer clear of, there are people here that will open your eyes to the London you don’t get shown on TV and that the government and tourist industry would reel over if they found out you knew. They have incredible suggestions for things to do and places to visit and bands to listen to. The drinks are pretty good too.
Tip #7 – No Slow Walking
This one is personal. I can’t stand slow walkers; doesn’t matter who they are or where they’re going, I can’t stand them. I’m that person that likes to move at the speed of light, especially down Oxford Street when I need to catch my Tube home. When you’re in a very busy place like Soho or Southbank, dawdling isn’t something that’s acceptable. You’ll face the wrath of the Londoner if you walk without some kind urgency in your walk and you’ll face the brunt of death itself if you dare stop in front one of them. The rules are simple: walk fast, move to the side if you need to look at your phone or check a map, and never, ever stop in front of someone.
London is open. Come visit us!