LONDON FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

London is mainly serviced by two airports: Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport.

If you have not booked a private transfer with us then you have a few options. From Heathrow airport, the cheapest direct route into London is via the Piccadilly line of the Underground (London's subway system or 'Tube'). Trains run from all terminals approximately every four to eight minutes from early morning until almost midnight. The trip into central London (50 minutes) costs £4.50 one way and connects with other central Tube lines. The Heathrow Express train, although costly (standard one way £16.50 and £32 round trip), is comfortable and convenient, arriving into London's Paddington station in only 15 minutes. Alternately, National Express buses take one hour to reach the city center (Victoria) and cost £5 one way. Taxis are also available, but this is an expensive and usually time consuming option. The city's congestion charge (£8) may be added to the bill if your hotel is in the charging zone and you run the risk of getting stuck in traffic. The trip from Heathrow can take more than an hour and cost more than £50.

If you're arriving in Gatwick airport the nonstop Gatwick Express train leaves for Victoria station every 15 minutes from 5:15 am to midnight. The 30 minute trip costs £16.90 one way or £23 round trip. Hourly bus service runs from Gatwick's north and south terminals to Victoria station. The journey takes up to 90 minutes and costs approximately £4.50 one way. Again, taxis are available, but the city's congestion charge (£8) may be added to the bill if your hotel is in the charging zone and you run the risk of getting stuck in traffic.

How do I get from the train station to my hotel?

London is serviced by numerous domestic and International rail lines and multiple train stations. Precisely which of London's many mainline stations you arrive at depends on where you start your journey. Please check the links below for additional information regarding transportation from your arrival station. If you have not booked a private transfer with us then you will find London is well connected by Underground ('The Tube'), train and bus.

London Train Stations: Charing Cross - Euston - King's Cross - Paddington - St. Pancras - Victoria - Waterloo

How do I get around London using the Tube? Is the Tube safe?

By far the easiest and most practical way to get around is on London's extensive Underground train, or 'Tube'. Not only is it safe, it is one of the most efficient and reliable transportation systems in the world. That said, the lines are often under construction during the weekend, so you may want to check your route in advance. We strongly urge you to try the Tube in order to get a feel for the local's London. Of course pickpockets can be an issue, especially for tourists, so pay close attention to your bags, wallets and purses on the platforms and in crowded Tube cars.

The Tube has color coded routes, clear signage and many connections. Trains travel out into the suburbs, and all stations are marked with the London Underground circular symbol. (Do not be confused by similar signs reading 'subway'. In Britain, the word subway means pedestrian underpass). Trains run daily from early morning to late night. Some lines have multiple branches (Central, District, Northern, Metropolitan, and Piccadilly) so be sure to note which branch is needed for your particular destination. Also, London is divided into six concentric zones (maps and booklets with ticket options are available at Underground stations). Be sure to buy a ticket for the correct zone or you may be required to pay a fine of £20 on the spot.

If you're planning several trips in one day you may want to consider buying an Oyster card (£5) as it offers cheaper rates than regular tickets. The plastic card can be reloaded as often as you want and your £5 will be reimbursed when you hand the card back. IMPORTANT - you need to have your ticket (Oyster card pass or regular ticket) handy in order to exit the turnstiles of the Tube system, not just enter them.

How do I get around the city using other public transportation?

Buses are a good way of seeing the city, especially if you want to hop on and off to see the sights, but are subject to delays because of heavy traffic. Bus stops are clearly indicated with signs that feature a red TfL symbol on a plain white background. You can pick up a free bus guide at a TfL Travel Information Centre (at Euston, Liverpool Street, Piccadilly Circus, King's Cross, and Victoria Tube stations and at Heathrow Airport). Each numbered route is listed on the main stop, and buses have a large number on the front with their end destination. Not all buses run the full route at all times so check with the driver to be sure. To get off, press the red 'Stop' buttons mounted on poles near the doors. You will usually see a sign light up indicating 'Bus Stopping'. Night buses have an 'N' before their route numbers and run from midnight to 5am on a more restricted route than day buses. IMPORTANT - approach night bus routes with caution and avoid the top deck.

All bus journeys cost £2, and there are no transfers. If you plan to make a number of journeys in one day, consider buying a prepaid Oyster card or Travelcard, which offers unlimited use of the Tube, buses and commuter rail. The commuter rail system is an over ground network that connects outlying districts and suburbs to the center. Prices are comparable to those of the Underground, and you can easily transfer between the Underground and other connecting rail lines at many Tube stations.

Since the 2012 Olympics, river travel has become a part of London's overall public transport system. River bus service now stops at 10 piers between the London Eye/Waterloo and Greenwich. Tickets are £5.30, with a discount for Oyster card and Travelcard holders. A £12 River Roamer ticket offers unlimited river travel from 10am to 10pm weekdays and 8am to 10pm on weekends.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Hotels and tourist areas have cabstands, but you can also flag one down on the street. If the yellow 'For Hire' sign on the top is lit up, the taxi is available. Known as 'black cabs' or Hackney carriages, the traditional black London taxicabs are as much a part of the city's streetscape as red double-decker buses. To earn a taxi license, drivers must undergo intensive training (known as 'the Knowledge') on the history and geography of London so there is very little they won't know about the city. Fares start at £2.20 and are charged by the minute. Fares goes up between 10pm and 6am.

Minicabs, although cheaper than black cabs, must be pre-booked by phone, internet or in person at the registered office. These are usually unmarked, private hire passenger cars whose drivers are not native Londoners, and therefore, do not have to take 'the Knowledge' test. If you choose to use them, don't ever take an unlicensed cab (especially women traveling alone) as these have been associated with recent crimes and can be dangerous. For a licensed cab, look for a small purple version of the Underground logo on the front or rear windshield with 'private hire' written on it. Addison Lee (tel. 0844/800-6677) has a large, efficient fleet, and will text you the license plate of your cab for added security. When using a minicab, always verify the price with the driver before the journey begins.

I will have a car in London, where can I park?

Our best advice on driving in London would be: don't. London's streets are a chaotic mess of one way and winding roads. Traffic is tediously slow and parking is restrictive and expensive. Furthermore, the £8 daily congestion charge, instituted to reduce traffic through central London, as well as the price of gas (approximately $7.00 USD per gallon) make having a car in the city extremely cost prohibitive!

If you are planning on taking any day trips or touring the English countryside then we suggest you pick up your rental car as you depart the city to avoid excessive rental/parking expenses. Alternatively, you may consider renting the car in a town in the area where you will be visiting and then traveling there by train and picking up the car once you arrive.

Is London a walking city?

London is absolutely a walker's city! Although it is the largest city in Europe, it is definitely navigable on foot and will repay every moment you spend exploring its historic squares, charming boroughs and beautiful gardens. Of course, a sensible pair of walking shoes is highly recommended; and when you want a lift, public transportation is easy and efficient.

What exactly is the City?

The city is also known as the square mile. It is the oldest, most historic part of London in addition to being the world's leading international business and financial center. The City is a small and distinct district at the heart of London with its own system of administration.

Is London a dangerous city? Are there certain areas I should avoid?

Like any major capitol, London has its share of crime, but overall crime rates are relatively low when compared to rates in American cities of similar size. There are some areas that can be considered more dangerous than others - the east of the city has a grittier edge, especially at night; however the center of London is safe and full of both tourists and residents. Just be careful of petty crime like pickpockets, who tend to target tourists. And NEVER get into an unlicensed minicab or walk in an empty park at night. Be careful crossing all roads as traffic is probably your greatest danger in the city center.

Is it true that museums in London are free?

Most museums in London do not have an admission fee, but you may need to purchase a ticket for temporary exhibitions and special shows. Some of the major museums with free admission include the British Museum, The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The Tate and The Soane Museum.

When can I see the changing of the Guard?

The Changing of the Guard, or Guard Mounting, is the process of a new guard exchanging duty with the old guard. This event is spectacular not only because of the setting, but because of the colorful uniforms of the guards. At Buckingham Palace, Guard Mounting takes place at 11:30am daily from May to July and on alternate dates throughout the rest of the year.

I want to visit London during the Holidays. Is it true that tourist sites are closed?

London is a fantastic city in which to celebrate Christmas and New Year, but you should keep in mind that the city almost shuts down on December 24, 25 and 26th and on January 1st. So you will need to plan alternative things to do. The following museums and attractions will be closed during those days: the British Museum, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the National Gallery, Tower of London, Hampton Court (open on Jan.1), The London Eye (closed Dec. 25-26) and Kensington Palace (open on Jan. 1).

Also note the London Underground, buses and National Rail (including Eurostar trains) will have no service on December 25th; and taxis will charge an additional £4 holiday charge to the regular fare.

What are some possible day trips from London?

If you are staying in London and would like to take a day off to see sites outside the city, Stonehenge and Bath are popular choices. Please keep in mind that your day will be long and a good amount of time will be spent on the road. Alternatively, if you intend to tour the countryside or make several long distance journeys, it can be a good idea to invest in a BritRail Pass. Please check with one of our travel agents (877-267-2247) regarding the availability of prearranged tours or for a railpass quote.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The units of currency in Great Britain are the pound sterling (£) and pence (p). US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for pounds (or quid) upon arrival. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the city. For more detailed information, consult our guide to tipping in the United Kingdom by clicking here.

What is the weather like?

British weather is notoriously fickle. During the spring and summer months, London is quite enjoyable; however, rain is quite prevalent so be prepared and carry an umbrella. During the fall and winter months, the temperature can drop drastically and there are often strong winds. It is advisable to have gloves and something to cover your ears.

What are the drinking and smoking laws in Great Britain?

The legal age to purchase alcohol is 18. Youth over 16 years of age may have a glass of beer, wine or cider with a meal in a pub or restaurant, if it is bought for them by a responsible adult. Children younger than 16 are allowed in pubs (if accompanied by a parent or guardian), but may not drink alcohol. Penalties are stiff for those who are caught drinking and driving; and drinking alcohol on London's public transportation network is forbidden with on-the-spot fines being issued to transgressors.

Smoking is banned in all indoor public places such as pubs, restaurants and clubs across England and Wales. The regulations are observed and strictly enforced. Smoking is allowed in beer gardens and on outdoor terraces in bars.