Picture this: You’re in the tube in London and your phone rings. As you swipe the screen to answer it, you notice the faces of your fellow passengers. You see mild annoyance, horror and the odd quivering lip. Congratulations! You have just made the ultimate faux pas.
Every city has its etiquette, social norms and quirks. Knowing these will set you apart from the selfie stick toting tourists that swarm the British capital every summer. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help blend in. So, Keep Calm and Carry On reading our top ten London travel tips.
Mind your Ps and Qs.
Londoners are polite with a vengeance and take their manners very seriously. Whether you’re at Charing Cross, buying a train ticket or getting a pint at the pub do not forget to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ or prepare yourself for some unpleasant glares. In our list of London travel tips, this is one that will endear you to locals not just in London but wherever you go.
Stand on the right side of the escalator.
Of all the London travel tips we share with you, let this be the one you always follow. Whenever you’re travelling up or down an escalator, stay on the right to let people pass on the left. You could be at a tube station or on the way to the sushi section at Harrods; wherever and whenever you find yourself on an escalator in London stand on the right and walk on the left. Always.
Take an umbrella with you wherever you go.
London weather is the stuff of legend. One second you see the bright blue sky with the sun peeking through the clouds and the very next, that same sky is overcast with rain clouds. London weather can be quite unpredictable with sudden showers likely to play spoilsport. Keep an umbrella handy to keep yourself dry in one of London’s notorious showers. As far as London travel tips go, this one is the most practical.
Ask for directions if you are lost.
The British are known for their stiff upper lip. They are thought of as humourless and stoic, quite unlike the warm and effusive people we meet in India. Most London travel tips would advise you to use a travel app or guidebook to find your way around town but that’s no way to explore a place. In our opinion, travelling is as much about the people as it is about the places. And you cannot meet the people with your nose buried in a guidebook. If you are lost, just ask for directions. London is one of the world’s friendliest metropolises in the world and people will be glad to help you.
Don’t stop walking in the middle of the pavement.
London is also one of the busiest metropolises in the world. Everyone has places to be and things to do. With London’s pavements as crowded as they are, stopping in the middle of a crowd could be near fatal. If you stop to check your map or read a sign, move to the side or be prepared to be trampled by a horde of commuters. Remember: If you do have to stop, step aside.
Don’t be loud.
Despite being crowded, public spaces like buses, pubs and the tube are unusually quiet. This is because the British and Londoners, in particular, love their alone time. The daily commute for most denizens of the city means quiet contemplation and any interruptions will be met with annoyed faces and tut-tuts. Avoid speaking on your mobile phone, listening to music without headphones and talking loudly in public spaces. These London travel tips will make your transfers much more pleasant for you and your fellow passengers.
Don’t jump the queue.
Queuing in Britain is a national pastime. In fact, queuing is so ingrained in the British psyche that the good people of the Isles are known to spontaneously break into queues the way Bollywood heroes break into song. And this brings us to the next of our London travel tips; stay in line. Whether you’re at the bus stop or buying tickets for the Rolling Stones, wait your turn. The British take queuing very seriously and you are likely to see some angry faces if you were to jump the line.
Don’t make fun of the Royal Family.
The United Kingdom may be a constitutional monarchy and the Queen of England may only be a queen in name but for her subjects, she is a national treasure; a totem, if you will, for everything British. The British take offence at any affront to the Royals so be respectful when you speak of them. Don’t make unsavory comments about the Royal Family and especially about the Queen. You wouldn’t be unkind to a beloved grandmother, would you?
Don’t show the victory sign.
Your fist is clenched. Your index and middle finger point to the sky. Your palm faces you. You’re showing the victory sign.
Except, you’re not. The V sign is the British equivalent of the middle finger. So, while you think your warm gesture implies victory, or perhaps peace, what you’re actually saying is “F*** Off!” Of all our London travel tips, this might be the one that keeps you out of a brawl. Thank us later.
No Small Talk.
These London travel tips will help you navigate the quirks of British culture. And as far as quirks go, this one is the quirkiest. The British are fiercely private people and don’t take kindly to small talk. When you’re out and about in London don’t try to start a conversation with random strangers. As helpful and friendly as they are; Londoners hate talking about the weather or the cricket.
You don’t HAVE to see the London Eye. And you don’t HAVE to try fish and chips. Don’t let a guidebook or travel advisory dictate how you travel. Experience the culture your way. Even if that means skipping the Big Ben or eating döner kebab three times a day. If we had to pick one from all our London travel tips, it would probably be this. Be nice and have fun.
And that’s our list of the top ten London travel tips.
Did we miss out on any tips? Let us know in the comment box below. And if we’ve inspired you to pack your bags and go to London town, head to akbartravels.com now.