Scams happen everywhere, that's a fact, but in places such as London there's a higher risk of falling for these scams since they happen constantly and all over London. The general rule of thumb is that if something seems to good to be true, it is. These scams will either leave you out of pocket or in some scenarios will leave you without your valuables. Even though there are hundreds of scams happening, I've found the eight most popular scams that I see all of the time around London, which hundreds of people fall victim to.
Windscreen Washing Scam
While waiting for the traffic lights to change you'll see a group of people approach your car and before you know it they've thrown soapy water all over your windscreen. The group of people then proceed to wash the mess they've made off and then have the cheek to demand and beg for money for their work. Drivers will often give money to these groups as they feel intimidated by the sheer size of the group as well as not wanting to be stuck in this sticky situation. I've even heard of incidents a few years ago where these groups will surround the windscreen to distract the driver and will proceed to wash it while other members of the group will open the boot of your car. However, I'm not sure how likely this would be to happen and I'm unsure that the driver would fail to notice. If this happens it's important to report this since this act is illegal as well as making sure you drive away without giving any money to these scammers.
This happens all over London. Even though this isn't a scam I'd thought to include it since it happens constantly in all areas of London but it mainly happens outside of train stations and tube stations. People on mopeds and bikes will see the opportunity of a commuter or tourist casually on their phone or holding their handbag in a position that would be easy to snatch. The reason that train and tube stations are targeted so much is that when people get off from a train or tube the first thing that they'll do is check their phone or fumble in their bag. As their attention is diverted to their phone or bag they are blissfully unaware of their surroundings which makes them the perfect victims for this crime. This theft happens so quickly that the victims are in shock by the time it's happened and have no idea of who the thieves were simply because it happened too quickly and it was unexpected.
Cup and Ball Scam
One of the oldest scams known to me is the cup and ball scam since I can even remember watching it as a child and being fascinated by the whole performance. Mainly this scam happens on Westminster Bridge where con artists invite tourists to play a simple game, this game involves three cups and a ball, all the person playing has to do is follow the ball. Simple right? Not at all. The tourist is enticed by the offer of having the chance to double their money if they win, which leads to many players putting down money such as £20 and £50 as they're confident that they'll win. Unfortunately the tourists won't win a penny of their money back but some people that are in on the scam will play and miraculously win. This gives other players the idea that there is a chance of winning but this will never happen to the tourists playing. While other tourists play the game or either watch someone try their luck there will be people that are in on the scam that will pickpocket them since their focus is on the game.
Fake Theatre Tickets
London is famously known for being the heart of theatre, with many people coming to London with the hopes of seeing a West End Show. These tickets are known to be pretty expensive but luckily there are some kind people selling cheap tickets for shows such as The Lion King and Wicked. Too good to be true? You know it. These tickets are fake and unfortunately by the time your time comes to go to the theatre you'll be told your tickets are fake and the seller of the tickets will be long gone. If you do want to buy tickets to see these shows then I suggest buying them online, from a licensed box office or from the theatres own box office. Even though these tickets aren't cheap at least you'll end up seeing a show rather than being out of pocket and out of a chance to see a West End Show while in London.
Overpriced Rickshaw Journeys
While visiting London and areas around Central London a common sight will be Rickshaw drivers taking tourists around the city as well as asking tourists if they would like a ride. As much as this sounds like a fun and exciting way to see London, which it is, it can end up a very expensive trip. There was once a story of one driver trying to charge over £200 for a three minute journey by simply targeting tourists as he knew they would fall for it. However, there are some Rickshaw drivers that are legitimate and will charge you a fare price for your journey. These drivers must have some form of identification and before getting in the Rickshaw make sure that you state your destination and from there you should be able to get a price for your journey.
Free Perfume Scam
Along the busy streets of London there are individuals selling overpriced perfume that is actually worth mere pennies. The scam artists will build up a crowd and give tourists the mentality that this is a good deal by telling them that it'll be the last chance to buy these perfumes. Sadly these perfumes are cheap knock-offs in another box which to the naked eye seem like the product itself (as it shows an expensive product), which tourists buy and think that they've got a good deal. It's only until tourists open the box and see that the product inside doesn't match the one in the box to which they'll then realise that they've been scammed. While building up a crowd the scam artist will hand out testers, which is from the actual product on the box, whereas by the time you buy the product it'll be a cheap version of another perfume. Since everyone have already seen the perfume and even smelt it, they'd have no doubt in their mind that it's fake. By the time they realise it's fake they'll have nowhere to go since the scam artists will be gone and since they bought it off someone on the street there's nothing they can do to get their money back.
London has many beggars on the streets of London, especially around Oxford Street and Marble Arch, but these beggars are more likely to intimidate you into giving them money. Don't get me wrong there are some beggars who are on the streets due to very real and unfortunate circumstances who really do need the spare change in your pocket or some food. However, the beggars I'm talking about may begin to tell you a story about their life and how they ended up in this situation. While you're listening to this story which tugs at your heartstrings there may be someone in on this scam pickpocketing taking your valuables. Another scam that happens is when a beggar strikes up a conversation with someone to which they make them feel sorry for them and then ask for a large sum of money with the promise of it being returned. For example, a beggar may say that they need money for a train to get to the police station or to a relatives house, to which they promise to give the money back by exchanging details. Unluckily nothing will come out of this and once again a good deed will be done for the wrong person.
The card skimming scam happens all over the world but it's most common in a country's capital, in this instance it happens to be London. Some ATM's are adjusted so that a card skimmer is placed over the card slot to 'skim' your card details in seconds. Luckily a card skimmer is noticeable since if you touch the outside of the card slot then it should be firmly in place rather than people being able to move or adjust it. If you do want to withdraw money while in London then the best thing to do would to be to go into a bank and use their ATM since there's less chance of card skimming happening in an actual bank.
What is the London Pass?
The London Pass is a pass aimed at tourists visiting London which grants access to over 80 attractions all over London - some of these attractions are very popular such as the Tower of London as well as A View From The Shard. Some of the attractions which are included aren't found on mainstream websites or guides of what to do in London but still offer a fun and interesting experience such as The London Bridge Experience or a London Bicycle Tour. It also includes a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus to go around London which allows tourists to enjoy the sights of London from just one place for a day. The London Pass also allows Fast Track Entry for 6 attractions at the moment, such as St Paul's Cathedral and London Zoo, which are some of the most popular sights in London. This unfortunately means that these queues are very long and sometimes people queue up for hours to go inside. The London Pass doesn't only offer entrance to attractions but also has a handy guidebook with specific information regarding each attraction: transport details, the exact address as well as the opening times. This is perfect for organising what you would want to do each day and in turn would allow you to get the most out of your pass. The London Pass also has a handy app which is useful for storing your tickets as well as having information regarding the pass all in one place.
These prices represent the prices of the London Pass in January 2019 - these prices may change over the course of the year and time. These prices are also representative of a London Pass bought without the additional option of preloaded credit topped onto an Oyster.
Prices can be found here: https://www.londonpass.com/london-pass-prices.php
An Example Itinerary Including Prices & Savings - 3 Day Pass Excluding Travel
The London Pass is priced at £114 for 3 Days excluding travel but this three day itinerary comes to a total of £233 which is a saving of £119. I made this itinerary as realistically as I could because even with a fast track entry there is no way that a tourist could go to 10 attractions in one day. This being because you need to take into consideration the time it takes to travel to the attraction as well as including time for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as whether they have all day to go sightseeing. With this in mind I made an itinerary where the landmarks and attractions were close to each other, in turn saving time and money. For example, Tower Bridge and The London Bridge Experience are within walking distance of each other and have good transport links between the two.
Is the London Pass Worth It?
Taking everything into consideration the London Pass is worth it only if you have a clear plan of what you want to do in London as well as having knowledge of roughly how long to travel and visit each sight you want to go to. If you plan a whole itinerary with fast tracks then you will certainly get your money's worth as you won't be waiting in queues, unfortunately only 6 sights currently offer this feature. If you travel to London in the summer and want to go into museums and places of interest that don't have a Fast Track Entry feature then you may even spend hours queuing, which would be hard especially if you have younger children and if it's the summer. If you have a specific budget for travelling to London then buying this pass, especially if you invest into buying a travel pass, will allow you to lower your expenses. The only thing left to pay for would be the 'I <3 London' t-shirts, other souvenirs and money to cover food. If you're travelling without kids then I would suggest getting the London Pass as it may mean you can go out earlier and stay out longer if possible - this meaning you'd be able to get more done. If you are travelling to London with children then this pass may not be entirely worth the cost since children may not enjoy attractions such as The London Bridge Experience and may find museums boring. In addition the London Pass assumes that you will go out everyday, this in reality is exhausting and you may find yourself crossing some sights from your list as you are tired from walking, especially in the summer.
What exactly is an Oyster Card?
First of all lets clarify, an Oyster Card isn't a picture of an Oyster on a bit of card sadly, it's a smartcard used for transportation services across all areas of London and areas surrounding it. These transportation services include the Tube, Tram, DLR, TFL Rail and the Emirates Air Line. The world is literally your oyster with an Oyster Card. These Oyster Cards can hold a digital balance whether you're travelling Pay As You Go (PAYG) or whether you have a specific travelcard such as Zones 1-2 on the Tube for a week.
How much does an Oyster Card cost?
Wherever you buy an Oyster card it will cost you the grand sum of £5. To buy an Oyster Card, which can either be bought online (https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/contactless-and-oyster-account) or can be bought at a range of different locations around London. These locations include Tube, London Underground and TFL Rail stations as well as newsagents (these newsagents may have a Oyster symbol in their window or around the shop to let customers know they sell and top up Oyster Cards). However, some payment methods such as if you buy an Oyster Card online you will have to pay a preloaded amount of credit onto the card. For example, if I wanted to buy an Oyster Card online I would have to pay the initial £5 and then I can choose how much I want to preload onto my Oyster Card such as £10. So I would pay £15 and in a few days my Oyster Card would arrive with £10 credit on it.
If you're visiting London and only want an Oyster Card for a specific amount of time then there is an option to buy a Visitor Oyster Card. The same principle applies to that of a regular Oyster Card regarding how to buy it but as far as I know it can only be purchased online only. It also has to be preloaded with credit which ranges from £10-£50 which can be calculated depending on your stay in London. There is also an added fee for postage depending on what country you reside in. For example, if I wanted to buy a Visit Oyster Card online I would pay the initial £5 (activation fee) and then I can choose how much I want to preload onto my Oyster Card such as £10. The delivery fee to a country such as Spain would be £5.50 (untracked) so in total I would end up paying £17.90 for an Oyster Card that would come with £10 credit. The £5 activation fee doesn't contribute towards the credit on an Oyster Card. The best thing about a Visitor Oyster Card is that at the end of your stay in London you can get refunded up to £10 from your Oyster Card in the form of cash. This is only available if you have any form of credit left on your Oyster Card, you cannot receive the money you originally paid for the Oyster Card back (£5).
How do I use an Oyster Card?
London has one of the easiest forms of travel in the world whether this be the actual travel process or paying for travel. The reason being is that on transport services such as the Tube you simply uploaded money onto your Oyster Card (which ranges depending on where you're going) and then tap it on the yellow reader at the start of your journey. The barriers to the Tube will then open and you can carry on your journey to your destination, at your final destination you'll find yourself on the other side of the barrier to which you'll have to tap out again to complete your journey. At this stage in your journey the screen above the barrier will show you how much you have left on your Oyster Card. This can also be checked by going to an ticket machine and simply tapping your Oyster Card onto it. From here you can check your balance, top up your Oyster Card and see your recent journeys as well as the price they cost.
If you're using an Oyster Card on a bus the process is a little different. When getting onto a bus tap your Oyster Card onto the yellow reader, buses don't accept cash payments anymore, to which you'll see a green light flash and a beep. This signals you have enough money on your Oyster Card to go forth with your journey, if the red light flashes then this signifies you may need to top up your Oyster Card before making another journey.
The best thing about an Oyster Card is that your fare will always be cheaper when compared to the payment method of cash to buy a ticket. It also reduces the hassle of having to buy a ticket for every journey you want to make as with an Oyster Card you can simply top it up whenever you want. Some methods of transport such as buses don't take cash anymore meaning they only accept Oyster Cards or bank cards (contactless). More in-depth information regarding pricing and the different transport methods in London can be found by reading my blog post Travelling Around London.
If you travelled between Zone 1 (between London Bridge and Southwark) with an Oyster Card then it would cost you £2.40 but if you was paying with cash and had a ticket then it would cost over twice as much at £4.90. If you travelled between Zones 2 and 6 (Bermondsey to Upminster) with an Oyster Card then it would cost you £2.90 but if you was paying with cash and had a ticket then it would cost you £5.90. Both of these prices are adult rate fares and representative of off-peak pricing.
If you're travelling by bus then the Oyster Card allows users to take as many journeys as they want within the hour for the price of one journey (£1.50). This fare is called the 'Hopper Fare' and is used by many people commuting to work as well as tourists exploring London. Even if you don't use the Hopper Fare then there is a daily cap of £4.50 (3 bus journeys) so if you were planning to spend a day in London then using a bus would be the cheapest and most efficient form of transport. With an Oyster Card you can also purchase specific travelcards for different modes of transport. If using the Tube these travelcards range in price depending on what zones you'll be travelling through. As a member of my family lives in Zone 1 but works in Zone 2 they purchase a weekly travelcard priced at £34.10. This allows them to make unlimited journeys throughout these zones throughout the week, which saves the hassle of topping up their Oyster Card every time they make a journey as well as allowing them the peace of mind when travelling to and from work.
Travelling in London can seem daunting with a range of different modes of transport as well as a range of different prices correlating with each journey. However, the best thing about London is that it has one of the largest transport networks in the world since some of these transport methods travel even further than the 32 boroughs in the city. There are always constant improvements made to these transport methods to make them more efficient and beneficial to the people using them in London.
These forms of transport include:
With nearly 20,000 bus stops all across London and some bus stops on the outskirts buses are one of the cheapest and convenient options when travelling in London. There is only one price for a bus journey which is £1.50, it doesn't matter if you get on for one stop or stay on the bus until it terminates at its destination, the price stays exactly the same. A "Hopper Fare" has been introduced in which allows the passenger to make as many journeys as they want within the hour for the price of £1.50. This benefits those travelling to and from work who may need to change buses within this time, which in turn saves them money since they would be spending £1.50 rather than £3. There's a daily cap of £4.50 which allows passengers to ride as many buses as they want that day, this being incredibly useful for tourists and people only spending a small amount of time in the city. With night buses being introduced and becoming more popular there is more options for people wanting to use public transport after a night out. There are restricted routes on night buses but many buses go through most popular locations in London. For example, the bus 188 goes from North Greenwich to Russell Square during the day and night as this allows passengers to either use the bus, River Buses, the London Underground or taxis to get home from the O2 after an event (which prevents overcrowding).
London Underground & DLR (Docklands Light Railway)
The London Underground currently serves 270 stations through 11 different lines: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Waterloo and City as well as the District line. Each of these lines come with a specific colour which is easily recognisable and easy to follow if you're unfamiliar with the London Underground. Unfortunately the London Underground bases its fares on the zones that the passenger is travelling to and from as well as the time of day the passenger is travelling. For example, if I travelled from Stratford to Bond Street it would cost me £2.90 during the times 6:30-9:30 from Monday to Friday but if I travelled outside of these times it would cost me £2.40. These prices represent the cost with use of an Oyster card but if I purchased a one way ticket by cash through a machine then it would cost me £2.90. The DLR (Dockland Light Railway) serves mainly East and South London with only 45 stations and providing mainly an overground service, it's very useful when travelling to these areas. The DLR also follows the same rules of the London Underground in terms of pricing as it depends on what zones the passenger is travelling from and what zone their destination is.
An unusual mode of transport but a one with scenic views and fresh air, nothing could beat River Buses. With a limited service of only 6 routes serving 22 piers this service is more focused on seeing the sights of London such as stops from North Greenwich to Westminster allow passengers to see sights such as Westminster Pier and the London Eye. I would recommend this route to tourists since it can work out cheaper than paying for a specific river cruise along the River Thames through companies targeting tourists. Like the London Underground and the DLR there is also a zonal fare for passengers travelling on this service. The cheapest price being a standard rate at £4.10 for a passenger with an Oyster card or £4.60 for a passenger without an Oyster card. As mentioned before there are specific prices for River Tours, such as the London Eye River Cruise costing £12 for a 40 minute cruise.
The only tram system running in South London is Tramlink which covers 39 stops across 18 miles. Just like buses, tram fares are capped at £4.50 per day but has a single fare of £1.50. However, trams don't unfortunately have a "Hopper Fare" but there is an option to buy a Bus & Tram Day Pass which is priced at £5 which is only available for passengers with an Oyster card. During the day there is a frequent between 5am to 1am with trams arriving around every 10 minutes, there is no night service currently. On public holidays and Sundays there may be a reduced service as well as if there are any planned engineering works, most of this information is easily accessible and it's important to check the status of the tram route you're going to use.
Cycle Hire Scheme
Santander Cycles currently has nearly 14,000 bicycles located around 839 stations across London. This scheme was introduced to reduce the amount of people using public transport or driving to work, it's a healthier option to cycle as well as cycling producing no emissions at all as the Mayor of London is trying to reduce pollution in London. There is an initial charge of £2 for the first 24 hours but the first 30 minutes of your journey is free but each journey that goes over 30 minutes faces another £2 for an extra 30 minutes. For example, I rent a bike (£2) and do a journey for 25 minutes (completely free) but then I do another journey that takes me 35 minutes (I'm charged another £2). The reason behind this being Santander Cycles had the intention of only being used for short journeys rather than people trying to do the Tour de France. The one downside to using Santander Cycles is that the only form of payment is through bank card which can be paid through the app or at a docking station.
When people think of London and taxis most people remember the saying of Black Taxis, in which are the taxi services which can be hailed down from the street. These are deemed to be one of the safest options when travelling through London late at night but sadly it comes with a hefty price tag even though the driver would be using a regulated taximeter. The fare starts at £3 before the taxi has even moved and it can cost up to £10 for an 15 minute journey. There are three tariffs that drivers go by: Tariff 1, Tariff 2 and Tariff 3 - each one correlating to different times during the day, the actual day and whether this day falls on a public holiday. However, this price doesn't go unjustified since you will never see a taxi driver looking at their phone for directions since they have passed their Knowledge of London Exam which means they know the streets of London off by heart. These taxis are also licensed by TFL (Transport for London) as well as the drivers being previously DBS checked so there is no doubt these drivers are legitimate and safe. However, in recent years taxi services such as Uber and Addison Lee have become more popular, especially in London, as they're deemed to be a cheaper alternative. Through downloading an app onto your phone you're able to order a taxi, see the drivers picture and see the number plate of the car - Uber take safety very seriously. If you're in an Uber and feel unsafe then there is a part of the app which can alert the needed authorities to where you are as you have your tracking location on to which can be followed. However, Uber only accepts card payments only rather than cash, this might be more convenient for some but there may be instances where you don't have your bank card on you.
Emirates Air Line now offers passengers a way to travel which is very quick as it only takes 10 minutes each way as well as including scenic views of the O2 and Canary Wharf. There is only two routes available at the moment which goes from the O2/Greenwich Peninsula to the London Royal Docks and vice versa. This mode of transport is helpful if there are events at the ExCel Exhibition Centre and you want to avoid the chaos of the DLR. The standard price for a one way ticket is £3.50 and a return being £7 if you have a Travelcard (not the same as an Oyster card or a Freedom Pass). If you hold neither of these passes then it will cost £4.50 for a one way ticket or £9 for a return ticket. If you hold an Oyster card you're eligible for a 26% discount which makes the price for a one way ticket is £3.50 and a return being £7.
More information on each mode of transport:
Blondies Kitchen, you've probably heard the hype from one person or another or have seen their products featured through videos on Facebook and on Instagram. When I first stumbled across Blondies Kitchen I never knew the range of products they made let alone that they are the only milk and cookie bar currently in London.
When I visited the stall in the food hall in Selfridges I was shocked to find that there was only two members of staff currently working, I had a thought that these women must both be wonder woman. The reason for this being even though there was people surrounding the stall, cookies exchanging hands and people running in all directions with their new sweet treats, it was still immaculately clean as well as the staff being really friendly. There are so many cookies to choose from which are aligned in stacks for customers to see what each cookie prides itself on. Blondies Kitchen goes above and beyond what many stalls do, by including vegan cookies such as "The Nana" and a gluten free peanut butter cookie. Blondies Kitchen doesn't stop there, this fabulous duo go even further to make seasonal treats, when I visited there were mince pies on display and through their Instagram I saw some spooky Halloween treats. Blondies Kitchen has an extensive menu, so much so that you're spoilt for choice!
Blondies Kitchen currently serves freshly made cookies in which are baked daily and are hand made. These cookies are made with organic ingredients such as unrefined sugar, Cotswold flower and free range eggs. Ingredients such as chocolate chips are weighed to make sure that every cookie is the same. When I saw the prices of these cookies it was a pricey sweet treat but considering these ladies have to make everything by hand as well as pay extra for the ingredients they use, it makes it a fair price. Cookies ranged in price from £3 to £3.50, each cookie stacks had little stands next to them with the exact price on it as well as what the signature ingredient for the cookie was. When the person I went to Blondies Kitchen said "Get Stuffed" I was originally quite offended and didn't know what to do, it then came to me that the cookie was called "Get Stuffed", which contains Nutella and Oreos. These cookies can either be bought alone or they can be made to form a mousse-filled cookie sandwich. Blondies Kitchen goes one step further and even has a 12-inch cookie pizza which can be bought as a slice or bought as a whole (at this point I was just about to give them my debit card and let them have their way with it). I fell in love with Blondies Kitchen when I found out that they sell safe to eat cookie dough, which included a shot of cold milk with it, which really took me back to my childhood. I could eat the whole container if the lady would let me buy it, it was that good. Blondies Kitchen use packaging made from plants which in turn is completely compostable, 10 brownie points (literally) for Blondies Kitchen.
Address: 400 Oxford Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1A 1AB (Selfridges Food Hall)
Address: 1 Kingly Street, London, W1B 5PA
I never thought to myself that I was raised well by my parents until I saw the manners of some gremlins on the London Underground. Some people may believe just because they have a fancy suit and fancy clothes that they are above everyone and that they paid their fare so it’s first come first served. When travelling if you’re sitting down and see someone who’s pregnant, unable to stand or someone who is elderly give up your seat to them if you can stand up. Not only is it a sign of respect but it’s the right thing to do since these people need a seat more than you, regardless of who got to the seat first or who paid more. If you’re travelling on a train that is packed and you are allowing a child to take up a seat, put them on your lap, unless they’re older and have to have a seat as they cannot stand neither can they sit on their parents lap. I used to travel to college during rush hour, the joys of being pushed around for 20 minutes while having to have my face pressed against someone’s sweaty armpit while there were six kids sprawled out on seats. If you do unfortunately have to take the train during rush hour, especially going through stations such as Canary Wharf and London Bridge, make sure you allow people space to make their way off the train. Don’t worry, if you do step off the train you will be able to make it back on, it won’t leave without you. I recommend this since I’ve nearly been carried all the way to the escalators with people pushing and shoving with a stampede of people realising they’re late for work. When using the escalators the most important rule to remember is that if you’re standing on the escalator then you stand on the right so other members of the public wanting to walk up the escalators can do so on the left. The amount of times I’ve been stuck behind a group of people who didn’t realise people do want to make it to work on time and can’t use the excuse of “Someone was in front of me on the escalator” when they turn up to work late. A final note on this section of courtesy, if you do find yourself in a situation where you are pregnant or unable to stand and deserve a priority seat (which someone who isn’t is sitting in) just remind them that they are priority seats and they can refer to the sticker behind them showing this. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing this for other members of the public, such as asking someone why they couldn’t give up their seat for an elderly person in which they replied “I didn’t realise”, sure Jan, the person standing right in front of you with a walking stick that’s elderly is just standing up for fun. Another cute little reminder is smaller badges that pregnant people wear that say “Bump on Board” which is a small reminder that this person is pregnant, even though the public might not be able to see it.
Travelling on the London Underground during the summer is a literal nightmare, it’s hot and overcrowded, with lots of festivals and events happening all over London. Always carry water with you for any journey, no matter how small, since it’s surprising how quickly you can become overwhelmed and feel ill. When at a station you may hear the repetitive message or see the signs encouraging the public to get off at the next station if they feel unwell. This message isn’t just for show, if you feel unwell get off at the next station and find someplace to sit or a member of staff to help you. If you stay on your journey then you may end up fainting or being sick, something that would hold up your journey even longer. When using the London Underground make sure you have all of your valuables with you when leaving the train as well as making sure you have nothing in coat pockets or back pockets. Believe me when I say that it will be gone in seconds, people I know had gone a few stops and then realised they had been the victim of pickpocketing. Regardless, this seems to happen everywhere and especially through routes that go through Central London as they are a gold mine for valuables waiting to be stolen from unsuspecting tourists.
Buy an Oyster
An Oyster card is a plastic smart card that holds credit which can be used to make journeys on buses, the London Underground, trams and other rail services in London. It can be topped up by cash or credit/debit cards at over 270 stations around London as well as stations just outside of London. From here an Oyster card can then be topped up accordingly, if you’re only taking one journey on a bus then it would be easier to just put £1.50 on your Oyster (the standard rate for a bus journey). However, if you’re making a range of journeys throughout London over the course of a day it’d be worth investing into a specific travelcard such as one that covers Zones 1-4 in London. Planning your journey is essential to save time and hassle as well as saving a lot of money. Some journeys on the London Underground can be up to £5 when travelling from Zone 1 to 6 during peak hours, with an anytime travelcard being just over £18. By making just 4 journeys then you would already have your money back as well as having a travelcard that is available for 24 hours allowing unlimited journeys within that time.
As mentioned before rush hour on the London Underground is not something you’d want to be caught in. The main times during the week where rush hour occurs is from 6:30-9:30am and then between 4:00-7:00pm (Monday to Friday) - these times are also linked to a fare increase in which you would be charged a peak fare when travelling during this time. This is because these times are when people commute to work as well as commuting back from work. During these times Tubes do arrive more frequently with them coming every few minutes or in some cases every minute. I would recommend that if you do have a pram or have young children, try and travel outside of these hours since you’d have to wait for a lot of Tubes to pass before attempting to getting on. Some people even push their way on when there’s clearly no space, which might make a child feel trapped or scared since it can become very confined and hot.
Before travelling it’s advisable to plan your journey since the London Underground has many routes and stations, with it being very confusing to tourists and sometimes even for people living in London. By using an app such as Tube Map or using an internet search it’s so easy to find the route you’d need as well as finding out what train you’d need to get on. If you got on the train at London Bridge and wanted to use the Jubilee Line then there’s two destinations - Stratford and Willesden Green. These stations are in the complete other direction to each other, with stations either way of them, which can make it very confusing since it’s unlikely that you’re not travelling to that specific stop but stops between them. When coming down an escalator there should be a clear indication of what stations the Tube is stopping at. Additionally, it’s important to look up at the screen to see where the Tube is actually going. For example, if I wanted to travel from London Bridge to West Ham I would need to make sure that my train is going all the way to Stratford. If it was terminating at North Greenwich then this would be no use to me since I would then have to get off and wait for another Tube that goes to Stratford.
Whatever form of payment you have whether it be a ticket, Oyster card or a contactless card, make sure you have it ready when getting to the barriers to enter or exit a station. The one thing I hate the most is to have my Oyster ready to then be waiting behind someone who is fumbling with the numerous cards in their pocket looking for their Oyster. To make myself more prepared when getting off at my chosen stop I would look for my Oyster while travelling up on the escalator since by the time I’m at the top I would be ready to go. People in London aren’t as nice as me and in some cases they will push past you to get to the barrier (especially during that dreaded rush hour).
Getting a Seat
Since I regularly travel to Bond Street and Stratford to do some shopping I frequently see central carriages full of people since they’re not bothered to walk to either end of the platform. By spending a few minutes walking down the platform I usually find myself able to get a seat as well as in some cases having a carriage to myself. The one thing that does amuse me is seeing people run for the Tube like their life depends on it when everyone on the platform knows that there’s going to be another one in the next couple of minutes. This is even better since it’s more likely that this tube is going to be less crowded and it’ll be more likely that you’ll be able to get a seat.
London is a very big place, even for someone who lives in London I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the amount of different routes to get around whether that be by bus or the London Underground. For a tourist I can image this looks very complicated with all different colours of the rainbow signifying the different lines that connect different parts of London to each other as well as regions just outside of London such as Essex and West Sussex. Throughout the many years of travelling using all different kinds of transport, from a taxi to a train, I have made an essential list of apps to download for people visiting London. However, it can be also be used as a helping hand for people already living in London.
Price: Free (Uber is free to download, with first time users being able to get some discount or money off their first ride, but there is a charge when actually booking a taxi)
Uber is one of my favourite apps to use but my bank account would tend to disagree since it seems to be the reoccurring theme on my bank statements. Uber is primarily a taxi service but over time has developed into a food delivery business and has recently allowed users to rent an electric bike. The popularity of Uber isn't just in London but all parts of England as well as other countries across the globe including Finland, Germany and India. The main reason as to why I mention Uber in being a useful app to travel around London is because it's a cheap private taxi service which shows you a rough estimate as to what your price would be. However, it's important to note that during weekends and over public holidays there is an increased fare called a "surge". Surge pricing means for the user that their ride will cost increasingly more since there is a strong demand for an Uber at that time. On Christmas Eve I travelled from London Bridge to West Ham using Uber and was left with a £45 bill since there was a surge placed on my ride as it was Christmas Eve and lots of people were trying to get home in time for Christmas. Uber prides itself on safety, in which I can vouch for, when ordering an Uber I'm told who my driver will be as well as their number plate. When ordering an Uber from home I have a map on screen through the Uber app and can see when the Uber will be coming down my road, I can then check the license plate and then the driver will then go on to ask "Is this an Uber for Emily?". Additionally, there are different types of Uber's that you can get, the cheapest is called Pool, in which you share the ride and fare with other people and the most expensive being Executive with the price tag and model of car representing this. The most common and reasonably priced choice of Uber is UberX in which is a standard Uber that is for the individual only. While in the Uber you can see a map of where you're going and also see your estimated time of arrival, this changing depending on traffic but it's updated in real time. Through the app you can see your drivers rating as well as his profile. which include any compliments from other users and any achievements.
Price: Free (Santander Cycles is a free app to download but charges the user when they hire a bike)
Santander Cycles was introduced by Boris Johnson, a previous Mayor of London, which was a cheaper and healthier alternative than using public transport. It's also a way to tackle and reduce the rising level of pollution in London, with it being expanded continuously with more bikes and docking stations being built. At the moment there are nearly 14,000 Santander Cycles in London which are left at over 800 docking stations all around London. The app allows the user to plan their route and find any bikes nearby with docking station information such as how many bikes are there at the moment. Through the app the user can also set up a form of payment towards using the bikes, which can be done at the docking station, but this saves time and is more efficient. To hire a bike it costs £2 for the first 24 hours, with journeys up to 30 minutes being completely free, if a journey goes over this time then it is an extra £2. It's important to remember that any damaged bikes or if the bike isn't returned at all then you could be faced with a hefty bill which can be up to £300. Through the app the user can also see their distance and activity, which also includes the price of each specific journey. When booking a bike through the app the user will be sent a code in which in turn will be used to unlock the bike when they arrive (each code only lasts 10 minutes and is specific to the docking station picked by the user).
Price: Free (Tube Map is a free app on the condition that the user allow adverts to be on the page, if they want to remove adverts it's £3.99. Additional features such as showing which carriages to get on to be next to the tube exits for each individual station is £3.99)
Tube Map is a navigation app in which allows the user to plan their journey around London by using the London Underground. It's proven useful since it's had over 15 million downloads by users, including myself, that praise it for being helpful and efficient. It can be used online and offline, with the usefulness being when on the tube it can be used without any service or WiFi - something that London Underground have yet to implement. The app allows the user to select what time of the day their using the tube, with the standard tube routes being available during the day but restricted routes at night due to the night tube. Tube Map finds the quickest route to get to your chosen destination as well as offering a route with fewer changes. The two options allows the user to pick their own route based on factors such as time and if the user wants to do part of their journey on foot. Other options are featured through the app such as if the user would like to get a bus instead as well as offering the option of an Uber, with the price and time of journey included. Tube Map has now implemented an option to see the rail services throughout London, making this an app that really does have everything you need. The best part is that this app is completely free, for everything you get this is a obvious choice of app to download.
Price: Free (Bus Times is a free app on the condition that the user allow adverts to be on the page)
Bus Times is an app that explains itself, it shows the different bus times for each individual bus stop in London. It goes beyond just this though, with each individual bus stop showing when each bus will arrive as well as the different stops it will go to on its journey. If I'm waiting for a bus that is in 2 minutes, I can click on the option to see how long it will take to get to a specific stop, with the app being updated within real time and considering traffic and if there are any diversions or delays. By allowing the app to use my location it means that I can see bus stops in my area as well as being able to see where their destination is. If the user uses a certain bus stop frequently, such as using it to travel to work or for leisure purposes, they can save that specific bus timetable for a specific bus stop, making it easy to find if in a rush. Bus Times, like Tube Map, shows different transport methods and their status. If I was planning to get a bus to a certain station and then to get a tube then I would be able to see if the line has any closures as well as the status of the service at that current time. While playing around with the app I found a feature called Traffic Cams in which allow you to see the different cameras facing towards a specific street around you. This is updated every 45 seconds and I assume that this is used for people to see how much traffic there is at that very moment. Regardless, for an app that is completely free how can anyone complain.
Price: Free (RingGo is completely free to use but when you select to park in a specific location the user will then pay through the payment section of the app)
Even though I don't drive this app has been used by numerous family members and even some of my friends. Parking in London is a literal nightmare to the point where I've probably spent an embarrassing amount of time being in the passenger seat shouting "THERE'S A SPACE!" to then be humiliated when someone else takes it. Using this app myself has helped myself and others plan where to park since when coming up to a destination the app will tell me if the area is quiet, moderate or busy. In most cases if a parking zone is busy then we will completely avoid it to save time and money rather than driving around to try and find a space to park. Through the app the user can also pay for their parking by their debit or credit card, this saving the effort of getting out and going to a meter to then fumble around your pockets to then realise you don't have the last 20p needed. This app is primarily for users in London but has started to branch out to over 400 towns and cities across the UK. A really useful feature is a notification on the users phone when their parking is about to end, since in some cases some people may only park at a certain location for only a few hours. Furthermore, if I received a notification saying my parking was about to run out then from the comfort of my own phone I'd be able to extend my parking session.
TFL Oyster and Contactless
Price: Free (TFL Oyster and Contactless is free to use but if the user wants to top up their Oyster then this will cost the user depending on how much they would like to top up with)
When travelling in London the main form of payment is by using an Oyster card since buses don't take money anymore and to get onto the London Overground you would either need a ticket or to use an Oyster card that has money on it. TFL Oyster and Contactless allows the user to see their balance on their Oyster card and from there and allows the user to top it up from their bank card. This can then be able to collect 30 minutes after the initial top up (which is done by tapping the Oyster card on a yellow card reader when travelling). An Oyster card can also be topped up with different forms of passes which could be a 7 Day Travelcard which covers Zone 1 or an Annual Travelcard with Zones 1 to 5 covered. The app shows you your current balance, which notifies you if your balance falls lower than the cost of a journey, with the option to top up through the app. My favourite part of the app is the feature which shows recent journeys taken and the time in which these were taken. The app goes into further detail by even telling the user what their start balance was and then what they spent on that journey. Not only can I see my most recent journey but go back weeks to see what journeys I've taken throughout the month, this helps me plan how much to budget on travel for the next month (according to what I spent on the previous month).
Tips and tricks for what to do in London as well as travelling around it.