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What Not To Do In London: The Top Five Tourist Mistakes

February 4, 2010 at 2:02 PM | by | Comments (35)

It's easy to make stupid tourist mistakes in London, England; the city is huge and there is tons to see. But if your first language is English and you've ever been to a big city before, you have no excuse for making a few easily-avoided oopsies. We've covered the five absolute worst mistakes, but we know there are a score more.

So without further ado, here is the Jaunted guide of What Not To Do In London: The Top 5 Tourist Mistakes.

Check them out, after the jump.

5. DON'T confuse Tower Bridge with London Bridge
So you're tempted to stroll along the Embankment by the Thames singing "London Bridge is falling down" to youself, but dude—the original London Bridge is long gone. In fact, it's in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, because they bought it from London in the 1970s and installed it in their town, and that's still not even the clogged-with-buildings historical version of the Bridge mentioned in the song. Rest assured, there is still a London Bridge over the Thames, but it's nothing special and hard to distinguish from any other bridge. Just don't point at the bridge in the picture above and claim that this one is London Bridge, because it's just not. That's Tower Bridge, and it always has been.

4. DON'T drive, walk or stand on the wrong side of the street and sidewalk
The cars might drive on the left side of the street in Britain and every pedestrian crosswalk may be painted with a "LOOK LEFT" or "LOOK RIGHT" to remind you of this fact, but the directions don't apply to everything. Take, for instance, walking on a sidewalk. The pedestrian traffic flow is on the right, and you should also be aware of escalator etiquette: it's stand on the right and walk on the left there.

3. DON'T shop on Oxford or Regent Streets
The only good thing that Regent Street has going for it is the large Apple store with its free WiFi signal that leaks out. Otherwise, these streets are a crush of confused tourists shopping at H&M or other chain stores they could usually find at home. If you are however desperate to do some shopping like this, you can find the same shops in nicer environs and less congestion on Kensington High Street or Kings Road. Slightly related tip: don't wear "Mind the Gap" or Union Jack shirts fresh from purchasing them as souvenirs; you become a target for pickpockets and thieves, because you are obviously a confused tourist.

2. DON'T go to Buckingham Palace hoping to see the Queen, or even thinking that she's there
Just because the Union Jack flag is flying high above the Palace doesn't mean that they whole royal family is sitting in there, having tea or something and gazing out at you. The Queen herself is only in if you see more guards wearing their red jackets and huge hats than usual and the royal standard is raised on the flagpole too, and it looks like this. When we were there last week, she was not in, and yet hoards of tourists were clinging to the gate and staring up at the window expectantly, and for a while too!

1. DON'T pay to go to a museum
The majority of London's museum are completely free, and sort of de facto hangout places for locals even. If your plans include any of these big museums: Tate Modern, British Museum, the National Gallery, Tate Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery, National Maritime Museum, and the Imperial War Museum (and many more!), then you can just walk in and have a great time without laying down a single sterling. These should exhaust you pretty well, so that you hopefully aren't even tempted to pay the exorbitant 16.50 GBP ($26) per person entrance fee to the Tower of London or the 7 GBP to go upstairs in Tower Bridge. Just say no.

What are your London DOs and DON'Ts? Have you done any of the above and loved or regretted it? Let us know in the comments!

Related Stories:
· What Not to Do in Paris: The Top Five Tourist Mistakes [Jaunted]
· What Not To Do In Venice: The Top Five Tourist Mistakes [jaunted]
· London Travel coverage [Jaunted]
· London Hotel Scene [HotelChatter]

[Photos: Jaunted, The Rocketeer, and Jaunted]

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the tube...

you mentioned escalator etiquette: its Run Past on the Left Stand on there right. if you are on the wrong side in rush hour we pull push past and mutter a few swears. On the same note... dont stand infront of the platform signs at the bottom of the stairs... and move along the platform! remember the tube map isnt geographical... sometimes 3 stops can be closer than they look and take 10mins to walk.

suggestions

thx really helped me out, i'm planning to go to london once it gets warmer and ill use all ur tips :P :D

museums

The museums are seriously good. Prepare to spend days on all of them

Quick guide

True both these roads are insanely busy. But Regent Street does have Hamleys, one of the world's biggest toy stores. Plus the side streets coming off these roads are packed with interesting shops and restaurants. One of them being Carnaby Street. If you want to visit somewhere a bit different, try Camden Market (North London). Harrods (In Knightsbridge) is also worth a look. Also remember, if you pick a hotel outside of Zone 1 (Central London) then don't expect a palace. There are exceptions, but some of the outer zones can look a bit rundown. Also, a mistake everyone makes, when you are at a major tube or rail station during the hours of 7-10am and 5-7pm ('Rush Hour') on weekdays, please try your best to keep out of the way of people trying to catch their trains home. There are two choke points, ticket barriers and stairs/escalators. If you have cases, then find a ticket inspector, usually they are standing by a gate. Show them your card and they will let you through. If you chose to go through a barrier and the ticket doesn't work (barrier gives an error message); don't stand there and keep trying. This can cause a massive delays to the people behind you. At stairs, get your cases ready for carrying long before you reach the bottom. More often than not people will pause for 30 seconds whilst they fiddle round with the handle. This again can block people from getting passed. This goes the same when reaching the top of the stairs; keep walking for another 5m's before putting the case down. If you have a lot of cases, and can't carry them, don't worry, a stranger will more than likely offer to help you up the stairs with them. When travelling on the tube, keep your cases to the side of the door. Also try to remember that even though most of us Brits look miserable, we won't bite and we are more than happy to help you if you're lost. Some tube stations have a tourist map dispenser; the map costs 1-2 and gives a great overview of London and its attractions. Although the underground tube map is very simple to understand, the distances between stops are deceptive. Take a look at this: http://pictures.pichaus.com/209952c7bb03cc6c3ef825404764f65f6d90c69d?AWSAccessKeyId=0K4RZZKHSB5N2XYJ WF02&Expires=1265380000&Signature=UWONEayN%2Bj%2BIN7yVXRYt6LjvovQ%3D This will give you an idea of what you can, and can't walk to quickly. Now for something of subject: London doesn't represent the UK. Most tourists never bother exploring Cornwall or Devon (South West England) both incredibly beautiful/rugged no matter what time of year. Lake District is also worth visiting.

More DO NOTs

1. Do not ride the Heathrow Express into London! There is heavy marketing when you arrive at Heathrow to do so, as it is "the fastest way into central London". However it is a royal rip-off. Central London is pretty big and more often then not you'll need additional transportation to get where you want anyway - why not just ride the tube from the beginning and save a lot of money?! Eg. some arriving friends had a hotel booked in Earls Court and so they rode the Heathrow Express train to central London (Paddington Station), costing 18 each but taking just 15 minutes. At Paddington, they purchased cash tube tickets costing 4 each. The total trip duration was something like this: 10 min wait for the train at Heathrow, 15 min ride to paddington, 15 minutes to buy tube ticket and walk to the tube station, 5 minutes to wait for the tube, and 12 minutes ride to Earls Court. That is about an hour to Earl's Court Station, costing 22 each. Alternatively, they could have gone to the the tube station at Heathrow and bought a cash fare for 3.50 each and ridden the tube all the way to Earls Court in 45 minutes. 2. Never buy a cash ticket for the tube - it is the most expensive in the world! Use an Oyster card. This is an RFID pass card that you "top-up" by putting money on it in advance at machines located at every tube stop. The Oyster fare is significantly less than the cash fare, but the Oyster card will cost you 3 initially. If you are going to make more than 2 tube journeys (ie, there and back) then it will save you money if you buy the 3 Oyster card from a kiosk at the very beginning of your visit to London. Oyster cards are quick and convenient, and work on all the tube, bus, and rail networks in Greater London. If you go out for the day and are unsure of the number of journeys you will be making on the tube, you can be assured that your maximum cost will never be more than the cost of a daily Travelcard. Once you've hit the Travelcard limit, you travel free on your Oyster the rest of the day, automatically.

Amazing

London is such a nice place to visit and offers a LOT of things to do and see. Jess www.internet-anonymity.se.tc

so true!

You are VERY correct about the Heathrow Express rip-off. I always just take the Tube--because it's one of the rare subway systems that actually goes all the way out to the city's airport.
And Oyster cards=yes yes yes! You can buy these are the Heathrow Tube stop from actual people sitting at a desk who have a map and can explain it to you.

Listen to "tacotaco" above people--he knows his London public transportation.

And...

And whatever you do, don't refer to London as "London, England."

hate to do it but....

I have to disagree with the Tower of London - for first time visitors it is a must! and make sure to take a tour of the Tower with one of the Beefeaters! I lived in London for awhile and travel there frequently - and anytime I go with a London newbie - I always fork over the cash to visit the Tower of London!!! The rest of the list is right on! Make sure you hit the British Museum - my favorite one in the world! and don't travel without your A to Z - I still used mine from 1994 - it is like a diary to my now - all highlighted with sights, sounds and treats I found while living and traveling there! I will never part with it!

More interesting ways to have a great London tour

As someone mentioned above, taking a tube (Piccadily line) from Heathrow to Central London is the best (and cheapest) way. As soon as you reach the Heathrow tube station, remember to purchase an Oyster card and top it up with about 15-25 (assuming 5/day travel expenses in London). I have been living in London for the past eight months and also exploring other European countries. The best things about London which you won;t find in other famous capitals are: 1. 'Free' world class museums: The British Musuem is the best in the world, respect! South Kensington has three awesome museums - Science, Natural History and Victoria & Albter Museum. The best part is that all these museums are free for the visitors barring the special exibitions that normally charge 8 per person. 2. Theatres, theatres and more theatres: This is the best part I like about London. Start your evening at Covent Garden or Leicester Square or Piccadily tube stations and just explore the West End theares in this artistic district. There are currently more than 25 plays and musicals running in London. For the first timer, War Horse -a classic British play is worth watching in the West End area (Drury Lane theatre). Unless you are ready to wait for a couple of years before Steven Spielberg produces a movie by the same name (he bought the rights last week), you may seriously consider watching this melodrama about the world war 2 story. The plays are usually expensive (cheapest tickets start from 25), but there are several 'discount box office' shops outside Leicester Square that sell tickets at 50% discount for almost all the shows. It's really worth watching a couple of plays before you leave London. Believe me, it won't disappoint you. Royal Opera House (near Covent Garden station) is probably the most magnificent theatre in the world. You may buy the cheapest ticket( for 6) and watch a play. Just watching the opera hosue is worth more than 6. The organized tours charge some 12 for this theatre. Better, buy the cheapest ticket and watch the entire opera house as well as the play! 3. The best way to save money on exorbitant tickets of London attractions is to go for National Rail's 2For1 offers. It means you effectively pay only 50% of the original cost, provided you are two visitors or in multiples of two in a group. This option can save you serious money as the tickets for the more 'touristy' attractions start from 16/person. You can collect the 2For1 voucher handbook from the Ticket Offices at the major National Rail stations in London like - Victoria, Waterloo, Paddington and King's Cross. The National Rail wants tourist to travel from country to London and promote tourism in this city. You may buy the cheapest National Rail (not tube) ticket - say from Acton to Paddington for 3 per person (you need not travel n this ticket, but just buy it to get the 2For1 discounts) and then avail the 2For1 offer at the attraction. Each visitor must purchase a National Rail ticket on the day of your visit. Once you go to your attraction (say Tower of London), rip the voucher from the National Rail handbook, write your name and the National Rail station as mentioned on the ticket, and show the voucher and your rail tickets at the counter (take the tickets back). Bingo! After investing 6 for two of you, you can enjoy the 50% discount on all the major attrations (like Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Madame Tussauds, special exibition in the museums, London Aquarium etc) in London every day. From the money you save this way, watch another play or two :-) 4. There are seriously nice open spaces in London and it's unique in the bigger capitals. You not only have Hyde Park, Regent's Park and Kensington Park in the heart of London, there are equally nice places like Hampstead Heath and Kew Gardens, which are worth visiting. Hampstead Heath is an open space on a hill that gives awesome views of London. Kew Gardens is a day long tourist place and has many nice attractions for tourists. If you are planning to visit London this summer, I would definitely suggest you to visit both these places. 5. Open Markets of London - This is another facet of London I like so much. The liveliness of Covent Garden Market, Camden Town Market and China Town (near Leicester Square) is something you would not find in other cities. In addition to nice discos in Camden Town, you may also enjoy the awesome street food on Camden Road well past mid-night. 6. The best architecture: the most under-explored attraction in London is definitely The Westminster Palace. Yes, that's the magnificent parliament building that was a royal palace some 400 years back. For 16 per head you can take a guided tour and the palace is awesomely beautiful inside. The guide takes you right to the seat of the Prime Minister as well as the leader of opposition and explains you some really funny English traditions in the house. Mind not to seat on any of the seats in the House of Commons as it is taken as an offence towards the citizens from that particular constituency. Tower of London is nice for the first timer as it takes you across the real royal jewel and all the pomp the English were so famous for! Other nice attraction is Westminster Abbey, but at 16 per person, I seriously think it's a waste of money as you can see the entire Vatican (with the amazing chapels and St Peter's basilica in Rome) for 20. London Eye and St Paul's cathedral are also worth to see the spectacular London skyline. Trafalgar Square and Piccadily Square, although not as lively and architectural marvels like the Rome piazzas (squares), you can have some good time in the evenings. 7. London is a real melting pot of people of Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Carribeans. This lets you enjoy so many varieties of food. Do not go back without tasting really spacial food like Burmese fish or Lebanese Felafel or East European Goulash. timeout.com/london is the best place to find restarants in any area and the ratings. And always, MIND THE GAP!

Right

Cool stuff man! e cig

Just be careful

Lots of scams out there preying on tourists, becareful to avoid the souvenir photo opp scam. Basically at lots of the older landmarks, a person may snap your picture and then ask you money for the photograph. Once you've paid they'll tell you they're heading off to get it developed, and never return. Another scam being done is someone spilling something on you, and then while pretending to help you - pickpockets you. Another variation is the person will claim they found your wallet or that you dropped a bill, while you're busy trying to see if it's actually yours - they will signal a confederate who will pickpocket or steal anything else you may be carrying of value. Another one is the watch trick, where they will pretend that they found your watch - should you claim that it's yours and take it they will signal confederate who poses as a police officer who will be dressed the part and will ask you for your wallet to ID you - of course they'll take off with it. Those are just a few, but they're readily apparent and done in London and Rome and other parts of the world. So long as you are cautious, you should be fine. watch tv online

Tower of London

Personally I feel the Tower of London is completely worth the price of admission, particularly if you're a fan of history. Like the Louve is Paris though, don't expect to get it's worth in just an hour or two, definitely plan to spend at least three to four hours to see everything. Last time I went, I spent four and a half hours, and that wasn't even everything because I went right before Henry VIII's 500th anniversary so they were busy setting up for it and some parts of the White Tower were blocked off. Also, admission prices aren't all that bad, particularly if you're a student anywhere with an ID. Most places have discounts.

Tube

Don't bother taking the tube between places that are actually very close by foot. By an actual map and walk between stations in central London.

Museums aren't exactly 'free'

Nice article but just a note on the museums. Most museums in the UK are funded partly by the taxpayer and partly through donations. The idea being that the British public, no matter how rich or poor, should have equal access. Nice, huh? As a foreign visitor you get to see some of the finest collections in the world without paying any tax for their maintenence, so the polite thing to do is to make a small volutary donation. You'll see the collection bins in the entrances of all the museums, i think a couple of pounds is the suggested amount. Please be generous and help keep this collections open and accessible for all. Lolly, London.

The Tube is disgusting: avoid if possible

It's no secret London is an overpriced pigsty, made worse by the decrepit sweaty sewer of an underground system. If you have the misfortune of arriving at Heathrow you'll have the choice of traveling into Paddington - a fairly inconvenient station - in comfort at an extortionate price, or sweltering jam-packed into the aging un-airconditioned tube. Most likely, you'll have to change trains at some point, which means don't count on having a seat. Taxis are out of the question for all but short stints. There really is no easy way to get to and fro Heathrow. It is always unpleasant, and will always be unpleasant, as the Brits are too incompetent to fix it. Compared to any US city clothes shopping is poor and overpriced. Don't bother looking for boutiques, it's almost all chains. Everywhere. Have a curry - anywhere, they're all good - walk around, go to a pub, and then get the hell out. My only real tip is to get a bike. That's the only way to do London. The traffic crawls so slowly, it's relatively safe. And best of all, no sweltering in the stinky, overcrowded, harshly lit, chewing-gum dotted, run down armpit of a public transport system. On a final note: mention the war. The Brits have never got over winning. And still retain the ration mentality.

Oxford/Regent Street

I only half agree with the point about Oxford and Regent Street. Oxford Street comes in two halves, with Oxford Circus in the middle. The half between the circus and Centre Point is not at all attractive and apart from the massive HMV store and the Art Deco Marks and Spencer, the shops are cheap and tacky. The other half, going towards Marble Arch, has a different feel mainly because of the big department stores. John Lewis is brilliant and has an excellent food hall in the basement. Then there's Debenhams and House of Fraser and of course the world famous Selfridges. The top half of Regent street, near the circus, is always busy but there are still some special shops. Liberty, Hamleys, Apple Store, fine clothes shops like Jaeger and Church's shoes for men. As suggested, the smaller streets leading towards Soho are well worth exploring. Common mistakes our American friends make when asking for directions: - Leicester Square is pronounced 'lester', not lie-ses-ter' - It's Trafalgar Square, not Nelson's Place - The area known as Borough is pronounced 'burrer' not 'borrow'. - The Embankment is on the north side of the Thames. The other side is known as the South Bank. Hope that's helpful. I'll finish with a little bit of trivia. The lamposts in The Mall, the royal road leading from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, each have a ship on top. These represent each of the ships in Nelson's fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. Now look up at Nelson on top of his column - he's looking up The Mall and at his fleet.

Walking on pavements

Fundamentally disagree with the assertion that the convension should be to walk on the right hand side of the pavement/sidewalk. The basic rule is that you should walk in the direction of the oncoming traffic (the left hand side), that way you can see if you are going to be hit by something and have more chance of avoiding it. People walking on the right are simply selfish. This mentality needs to change, particularly in London where the pavements can be full of people.

Walking on pavements

I agree with Paul M Evans, though I have to say I've never noticed any lane etiquette on pavements but perhaps that's because I walk on the left by default. (That is if it's rush hour - otherwise it's just try and pick the quickest route round the people standing in the middle of the pavement like dazed cattle.) I do seem to remember a news story some years ago about pavement lanes being set up on Oxford Street, but like any native woudln't have any personal experience of that...

Do do the rock and roll tour of London

I did the rock and roll tour of London and it was amazing! Totally worth checking out. I took the Heathrow Express into London and the tube back to Heathrow. The tube is definitely busier but I found the Heathrow express a huge rip off becuase unless you are only going to Paddington. Otherwise you spend whatever it costs to ride the express and then you get to paddington and have to pay for the tube to get any where else. if you have a choice I would alo wait till after the Olympics to go to London again. They are doing major renovations and expansion of the transit system and after the summer games in 2012 it should be much better.

The tube...

disagree with you Fudgington! The tube is simple to use, and a great way to get around London! by the sounds of it your describing most Subways in america - not London! and about the War... yes we are proud of it... wouldn't you be? the fact we lost so many people from our country to fight the cause is a subject very close to our hearts. However your statement is slightly stereotypical... *One Very Important tip about WEST END SHOWS/MUSICALS* What ever you do dont buy tickets from your hotel... they will be overpriced. Dont by them from outlets saying they are 'Official sellers' - they are... but they are over priced! try and book tickets before you come online failing that get amazing deals on the day at the TKTS Booth in Leicester Square [Its just like the one in New York] Ive always managed to get tickets for such shows like "Sister Act, Chicago, Sound Of Music and Phantom of the Opera for about 40-55 in many cases about 3 rows from the front.

Fudgington ...

Fudgington I don't think you know London as well as you think you do. Heathrow is very accessible on the Picadilly line and you don't have to change once to get into the heart of London. It's true that London is expensive but this is due to the being stronger than the $ and therefore you're already going to be paying more. Nobody is going to tell you that the underground is clean but with the millions of commuters per day its not surprising. If you get an Oyster card its very affordable to travel by tube and bus, and no your right we don't have air conditioning but it only reaches 30 degrees + for about 2 months of the year so theres no need to spend millions on installing the luxury. As for the war, we don't boast about what we achieved, we simply remember those who died for us. I think you should really do your homework next time before being convinced that you know anything and everything about somewhere.

London Town

Although I wouldn't go to Buckingham Palace expecting to see her Majesty I would still make it a stop. Changing of the Guard is a cool tradition that takes place daily and it's also centrally located. Hyde Park, Oxford Street, Soho, Trafalgar Square are all within walking distance. DO learn how to use public transport. Tubes and buses will get you everywhere you would want to go. Don't waste precious pounds on a taxi unless you're desperate, lost or loaded.

JOhny Downy

Frankly i would say Tower of London is my favorite destination in London , by the way you captured rightly all the mistakes, [url=http://www.cheapticket.co.uk/]Cheap tickets[/url]

Londoners will put up with anything

I've been coming in and out of London for over twenty years, so I don't need to be told how wonderful the tube system is thanks. It's hot, cramped and devoid of character. Whatever you do, don't think of making eye contact in there. It's not the done thing. In contrast to the agony that is getting to and fro Heathrow, try London City. What a pleasure in contrast. Of course, it depends where you're staying. Getting to and from Gatwick is painless (though expensive) from London Bridge. It's overground and usually not too busy. But there are no escalators. Unless you enjoyed dragging your luggage up steps, keep walking until you find the lift. Once inside, join the scrum and enjoy a succession of queues.

Tipping

You forgot the MOST important mistake.. DON'T TIP!!

Great post!

I like this post, I'll make sure to do a top 10 post on must NOTs on my new blog at www.londontraveldeals.com Please check it out and suggest ideas for posts if you are planning to visit London anytime soon. Cheerio!

Vacation In London

I really like the post on top 5 things not to do in London. I am planning to spend my next vacation in London hotel and I will make sure to avoid the things mentioned in this post. London being such a great and beautiful city has so many sights and attractions, that it can be a bit confusing. But posts like this are really helpful.

No ugg boots, ever!

Whatever you don't get off the plane singing Kayne West's "American Boy" that just screams tourist!! That and wearing UGG boots. They also DO NOT have red lobster over there, so don't ask, KFC is big though.

Thomas MandLoys

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Never been to London

I have never been to London but surely these tips will help me to avoid the common mistakes and behaved properly.

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I love London

I'm going to travel to London next month and this information is very helpful to me.Because I always want to be nice when I move to somewhere and want people to love me <a href="www.mapofmass.net">map of mass</a>

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What to see in London

Here is a good map of London's tourist attractions I often use when going somewhere.
http://en.touristpath.com

Good thing is that here you may see some hidden treasures, not only the most popular tourist attractions. It is always good to go off the common tourist path.

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