Distances are usually given in how long a walk it is ("it's ten minutes along this road") or how many bus stops. Directions are given in terms of landmarks (like shops, pubs, train stations or traffic lights).
Traffic drives on the left.
When asking directions remember:
Streets are NOT numbered (First Street, Fifth Avenue), they have names. Some streets do not have the word Street, Road or Avenue after the name. Examples include Haymarket, Pall Mall and Whitehall.
People walk on the pavement rather than a sidewalk. All roads are paved in the North American sense so the term is never used.
Zip Codes are called Postal Codes. In England zips are only found on clothes and bags.
Striped pedestrian crossings are called Zebra Crossings.
Traffic lights go from red to red and yellow (called red and amber) then to green.
Be careful when posting letters - British letter boxes are red. The boxes that resemble North American post boxes are rubbish bins!
London's Underground system is called the tube.
Do not refer to London's Underground lines as the blue line or the red line. Many underground lines have similar colours and Londoners won't know what you are referring to. Use the names (Piccadilly Line, Bakerloo Line, etc). Maps can be obtained from tube stations or at the main railway stations. There are some peculiarities to the system, mainly because it is the oldest in the world (first line 1863). Check the destination on the front of the train since most lines have branches and not all trains go to the end. Trains are usually very frequent unless there is a problem. Many escalators don't work.
On the escalators remember to stand on the right as the left side is used by people walking up or down. Don't stop at the foot of the escalator as people following will have nowhere to go. Try avoiding travelling during the rush hour. If you're confused, ask. Many Londoners are polite.
For commuter or intercity trains, there is no central London Railway station. There are several termini serving different parts of the country. Before setting off for a trip out of London, make sure you know which station the train leaves from (Victoria, Waterloo head south; Paddington heads west; Liverpool Street heads east; Euston, Kings Cross and St Pancras head north).
The word bus is reserved for city transport - the ones travelling between cities tend to be called coaches. A good way to see London is from the top deck of a double decker bus. Routes to try include 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 19, 24. Free bus maps can be obtained from many tube stations.
All London transport fares are zonal - daily or weekly tickets can be bought. These allow travel on buses, tubes and trains within certain zones. Most tourist attractions in London are in zones 1 and 2. Daily tickets are valid after 9:30am (Monday to Friday) and all day at weekends. Try to avoid travelling during the rush hours.
London has five airports none of which is commonly referred to as London Airport. Click here for airport avice
The largest is Heathrow. It has four large terminals, two tube stations on the Piccadilly Line, and a railway link to Padington Station. It is the world's busiest international airport with the largest variety of airlines and flights. Regular buses and tubes (fastest option) run to the centre of London. Taxis are expensive.
Gatwick is the city's second airport. Many charter flights leave from here as well as long haul. This has two terminals and its own railway station. It is reached by train from Victoria Station.
Stanstead is the third airport and is a train ride away from Liverpool Street Station. Many cheaper airlines use this airport. Most flights are to Europe or the UK.
The fourth airport is Luton. This is reached by train from Kings Cross followed by a free shuttle bus. Used by cheaper airlines to Europe.
City Airport is the fifth and smallest airport. It is close to the city but with no train service as yet. The nearest station is Silvertown on the Silverlink Railway (known as the North London Line to most Londoners). It is mainly for very short haul flights within the UK or to Europe.
Passenger Boats travel along the River Thames (Americans put the word river after the river's name as in The Hudson River, in the UK the word river comes first). A good ride is from Westminster to Greenwich (pronounced gren - ich).
The term downtown is not used in Europe and means nothing in London. London has built up over a very long period so that there are a number of different centres.
The political centre is in Westminster (once a separate city). This area includes Parliament Square with the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Whitehall (the street containing government buildings and 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's office), Trafalgar Square (with the National Gallery and Nelson's Column). Buckingham Palace (don't pronounce the h), the London residence of the monarch, is to the south west of this area.
The business centre is in the original historical London, now called The City of London (or more usually just The City). The Tower of London and Tower Bridge are at the eastern edge of this area. There are bits of London's Roman wall and walks associated with Jack The Ripper in nearby Whitechapel. Many offices have now moved east of the City to Docklands, the area of the old docks.
The entertainment centre is called The West End. It includes the shopping areas of Oxford Street, Regents Street, Saville Row, and Carnaby Street. The theatres and cinemas are centred around Leicester Square (pronounced lester) and Piccadilly Circus. Some museums and art galleries (British Museum, National Gallery) are to be found here as well. Good areas for pubs, restaurants and night life are Covent Garden and Chinatown. The northern boundary of this area includes Baker Street (of Sherlock Holmes fame) with the famous Madam Tusaud's Wax Museum and Planetarium.
London's legal area lies between the West End and The City. St Paul's Cathedral, the Tate Modern gallery and the concert area of Waterloo Southbank are close by.
Kensington, in fashionable West London, has a number of museums (Victoria and Albert, Natural History, Science, Geological), the famous Albert Hall concert venue, as well as many embassies. Good restaurants can be found in Bayswater and Earls Court.
In North London, Islington and Camden Town are popular areas for eating and drinking.
Tourist Map of Central London - Download and print:
Free Tourist Map - Click here
Free Stuff - London Events, PDF's, MP3 Walking Tours, Maps etc
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Tips on London
Top 5 Tourist Tips - Do's and Don'ts- click here
Before You Leave
Click here for a handy Pre-departure Check List
Planning your stay in London
Planning by lenght of stay - click here
Budgeting your stay in London
Costs, money, tipping, atm's etc
When to visit London
The tourist calandar - click here
Safety In London
A Police Guide to make your Vacation a Safe One - click here
Shopping in London
Free Guide to Shopping in London - click here
London for Kids
Child friendly attractions and fun things to do with your children - click here
Eating in London
Guide to Londons Eating Establishments - click here
Metric or Imperial ? How to cross the road and more useful advice
Helpful hints and tips for Visitors to London - click here
The History of the British Pub and Pub etiquette
See why we Londoners Love our Pubs - click here
Cockney Rhyming Slang - Have a Butchers!
Click here to Discover Londons 'other' langauage
The Difference Between UK and American English - Very Funny!
How the same words have different meanings
The History of London
From the Romans to the present day
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