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10 Big Mistakes to avoid when visiting London

by ElenaSergeeva

Common and the biggest mistakes we all make as tourists when visiting a new destination is to only browse on the internet for the things to do in a city and what are the top tourist attractions. London is an immense city and its attractions are myriad, hence searching for the perfect London itinerary can be overwhelming. In the following article we have gathered the 10 Big Mistakes to avoid when visiting The Big Smoke – London’s nickname given by Englishmen of the countryside- as well as things not to do in London, hence helping your experience in this beautiful capital to be more pleasant and to avoid distressing encounters. 

10 Big Mistakes to Avoid when visiting London

1. Restaurants in Leicester Square

Leicester Square is home to London’s most famous cinemas and theaters, however not to the best restaurants, not even close. Most of the restaurants in Leicester Square are chain restaurants or restaurants that hike up their prices, acknowledging that tourists will fork out the cash thinking that because of the central location, the food will be just as great. If you find yourself in Leicester Square and feel hungry, walk a few minutes to Covent Garden or Soho, where you can find a wider option of diners, better prices, and way better quality.

2. Don’t stand on the left side of the escalator on the tube

Londoners are known for their politeness, but if there is one thing that stresses locals the most about tourists is standing on the left side of the escalator in the tube. Life in London is busy, especially if you work in the city and taking the tube is a daily routine. There is no worse inconvenience than rushing to be somewhere in time and someone standing in your way, am I right? Hence keep in mind that the left side of the escalator in London is for those who want to walk down.  

3. Don’t always take the tube, sometimes walking is quicker or uber is cheaper.

It is not always quicker, or cheaper, taking the tube, especially if you are in Central London. TFL, Transport of London, has created a very handy map which gives the walking distance between stations, which comes in handy for tourists.  If the walking distance is not short, but distance wise the destination is not that far and you are a group of people, you should consider calling an Uber, as sometimes it can come cheaper. However, avoid traffic rush hours which starts at around 4pm and continues until 6.30pm on weekdays. 

4. Madame Tussauds

Although most of the “things to do in London” lists will suggest you pay a visit to Madame Tussauds, we would recommend adding this attraction to your list of things not to do in London. Although the artistry of the wax figures cannot be denied, there are other 21 Madame Tussauds in the world, including Amsterdam, Istanbul, Hollywood and Beijing. Instead spend your time and money – as Madame Tussauds is quite pricey – in some of the world-class museums residing in London, as the V&A Collection or the Science museum.

5. Pre-book tickets online for museums

Plan ahead which museums and popular attractions you wish to visit in London and secure tickets online before your visit. This way you will be avoiding long queues but also saving a lot of money as well, as early-bird tickets are always discounted. If you are planning to visit a few attractions, you should also consider buying a London Pass, which will give you discounted access to several attractions around the city.

6. Have an adaptor and never buy one or any other electronic goods from souvenir shops.

Outlets in London are different from any other country in the world: It’s a three-pin outlet. It is common for hotels in London to provide their guests with adaptors, but just in case you should ask beforehand. If the hotel does not provide adaptors and you can’t find one in your country of residence, don’t worry. Visit any shop of electronics in London or in the airport to purchase one. By all means avoid buying an adaptor from souvenir shops or WHSmith.

7. Don’t spend all your time in London visiting touristic popular attractions

Another one of the mistakes tourists make in London, is planning an itinerary solely with visiting touristy places. Of course visiting the London Eye and Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, The London Bridge are a must when visiting this astonishing city. However, there is so much more to London than just visiting the top tourist attractions located in the Center. Discover the true gems of London, expand to further zones, visit Hackney, Brixton, Hampstead or Kew Gardens.

You might be interested in the following tours:

London: Private Tour of Brixton with a Local. Over the last few years, Brixton has become a hotbed of London’s music, fashion and alternative culture. Discover it with a local in the know who’ll tailor a tour based on what you like and what you’re eager to experience.

London: Street Art Bike Tour. Discover London’s original street art on a 2-hour bike tour to see some of the world’s finest street art around Brick Lane, Shoreditch, Hoxton and Hackney as well as some exclusive hidden away pieces.

8. Don’t leave without visiting one of the many cool museums in town

From antiquities and fossils to art and high-tech, London is home to numerous outstanding museums and galleries. This astonishing city is home to some of the coolest museums in the world, the Tate Modern or the Sherlock Holmes Museum to name a few. Check our article on the 7 coolest museums to visit in London! Bonus hint, some of them are free.

9. Avoid Shopping on Oxford Street

Home to the biggest names in retail, all tourists associate Oxford Street with the ultimate shopping paradise… more like heaven to me. The busiest street in London will only cause you distress, the packed streets, the souvenir vendors, the massive queue lines. If you are visiting London and want to indulge in some shopping therapy you might want to consider visiting High Street Kensington, King’s road in Chelsea or Carnaby Street for some alternative shops or Notting Hill for some fabulous vintage pieces. If you are interested in designers such as Gucci, Burberry or Jimmy Choo a trip to Bicester Village in Oxford should not be missed!

You might be interested in the following tour:

Bicester Village Shopping Trip by Train from London. Fill your bags with bargains on a shopping trip to Bicester Village, with round-trip transportation by train from central London. Get a VIP discount card with additional savings of 10% off store prices.

10. Don’t pay for a view of London

Sky Garden

Last but not least on our list of what not to do in London as a tourist, is paying to get London views. Sure the London Eye is a key part of the city’s iconic landscape, but are long queues worth it, while there are a lot of great places in London where you can get iconic London views for free? Instead of the Shard – one of the most emblematic buildings in London – try Sky Garden viewing gallery on the 43rd floor of the Walkie Talkie building located in Shoreditch, for swanky city views. Alternatively, if the day is good, head to Primrose Hill for amazing views and also to escape the hustle of the city. 

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