If you're in London, travelling around or finding necessary places can be really difficult sometimes. SO, it's better to buy 'AZ of London' - a book where you will find all streets and important places of London.
Unique Suggestions: You can find it in all souvenir shops, in small shops in many streets, bigger stations and also at the tourist information offices.
Quite simply, London is a magnificent city to visit. But like any place, it has its share of tacky places that are a waste of your precious vacation time and money.
What to avoid in London:
Madame Tussauds Waxworks-One of the most popular attractions in London. It hosts around 2 million guests a year. The queues waiting to get in and the extortionist entrance fee (14.95 pounds/person) are horrifying. Just to look at a bunch of mannequins!
Harrods-The legendary (and snobbish)department store that ranks high on most visitors lists. People usually go just to say they went and of course buy the cheapest thing they can find (which is nearly impossible) just to get a famous green and gold bag. Oh, and they have a ridiculous dress code rule too.
Leicester Square-Ground zero of tacky overpriced tourist London. Nothing but expensive crummy cinemas showing bloated Hollywood garbage, gaudy neon lights, kitschy souvenier stalls, and LOTS of pickpockets! Avoid.
London Dungeon-Teens LOVE this place, all others beware. Even I fell for this one. A series of gory tableaux detailing in lovely graphic detail all manners of torture, pillaging, eye gougings, eviscerations, impalings, murders, ect. Live caged rats and costumed actors add to the atmosphere. Expensive, long queues and too nasty for young children and too juvenile for the over 30 crowd.
The illegal mini cabs-AVOID at all costs. The official Black cabs of London may be expensive but the drivers are legal, have been through "The Knowledge" and are legitimate drivers.
The Changing of the Guard-at Bucky Palace- Boring!
Oh yeah, a tip in re: to eating. Never been, but AVOID AT ALL COSTS the nasty chain Aberdeen/Angus Steak House. They are all over London (if they're still in business that is) and are legendary for the horrid food and service and ghastly decor. No Londoner would ever set foot in one.
Unique Suggestions: Kids love Madame Tussauds and London Dungeon so at least arrive early to avoid the horrible queues so you can get in and just do it.
Skip Harrods and visit Harvey Nichols or Selfridges, two other less famous dept. stores you might like better.
Fun Alternatives: I liked someone elses suggestion that instead of The London Dungeon, take the kids to The Tower of London, which is the real deal and full of history. Yeah its touristy but in a good way. Its fascinating.
Every day, hundreds of people flock to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. If you're lucky, you'll get to see it.
When I went to the changing of the guards, there were so many people there. Once the marching bands had gone past and into the palace yard, I couldn't see anything. People were standing on the wall so that nobody behind them could see. I could hear the music, but missed the entire thing (and I'm over 6' tall!!!) I was so sick of wasting my time there, I left. A bobby (policeman) helping control the crowd said to me, "I have no idea why people come, they can never see anything" and it was true. I won't be including Buckingham Palace on my intinerary for my next visit to London.
Unique Suggestions: Try and get across the street to the steps underneath the statue, you might be able to see better.
Fun Alternatives: I recommend going to Whitehall to see the changing of the guards, it's much more impressive.
Almost always in Britain car drivers respect pedestrians right of way to cross - not so in Abbey Road when a lot of tourists are taking pictures & running back & forth. Really P.........them off!!
Be careful ........... there are 2 crossings here.....but only 1 famous...........
Unique Suggestions: Have your camera ready & don't cross when traffic is approaching.
Fun Alternatives: Go see the Beatles at the Rock Circus or Wax Museum
There's rarely a problem on the Tube. But nevertheless be aware of the pickpockets and beggars. Keep your money / mobile phone very close to you especially during busy periods on the tube.
Fun Alternatives: Avoid the tube during rush hours ( 8 am to 10 am and 5 pm to 7 pm). It can be very crowded and hot - and pickpockets are on way. So try to avoid - if you can - this busy time !
Diana, Princess of Wales, met her sudden, tragic end in a road crash in 1997. She styled herself as the 'People's Princess'. In July 2004 a Memorial 'Fountain' was unveiled by the mother-in-law in the centre of Hyde Park.
The idea was fine, but very poorly executed. The 'fountain' is actually a large oval concrete waterslide. It looks great in the publicity photos which, of course, have no people in them.
Nowadays (when it is not closed for repairs or modifications) the area is packed with thousands of adults and children. You can hardly see the 'fountain' for the crowds. Visitors have slipped while paddling and hurt themselves. A fence has been erected around the 'fountain' and wardens stand at the gate controlling entry.
You would think that a memorial water-feature would have been designed that would cope with the imense crowds, which anyone could have predicted!
Unique Suggestions: Buy a coffee or ice cream from the nearby cafe, view the spectacle from a distance.
Fun Alternatives: Go to the lake and feed the ducks.
Cross to the other side of the main road and visit the free Serpentine Art Gallery instead.
Or walk the half mile or so to the Natural History and Science Museums in Kensington.
Buying water at Hyde Park or any of the parks from any of the stands/ice-cream carts.
Fun Alternatives: Try and go to a newsagents/corner shop/supermarket to buy your water (and an ice-cream if you'd like) it'll only cost you about 65p as opposed to the £1.30 you'd pay at the park.
Petticoat Lane market in London is the one I'm referring to. Early every Sunday morning, come rain or shine, tour busses disgorge hordes of tourists in search of bargains. Actually, what they are in search of generally is an idealised London market full of "colourful cockney characters" a la Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
Sorry, it's not going to happen.
Very few of the stallholders now are Londoners, and the goods on offer are just shoddy tat. It used to be good years ago, but not now.
It is generally overcrowded and plagued by pickpockets and beggars most of the time.
I live near there and, believe me, I know what I'm talking about.
Unique Suggestions: Do not carry a handbag or shoulder bag - it's an invitation to thieves.
Do not set anything down by your feet to look at the stalls or whatever, it'll go walkabout.
If you are carrying a wallet or purse (pocketbook in the US?) keep it in a front or inside pocket.
Do not eat anything from the hot dog / burger stalls on the periphery of the market. they are unlicensed and a recipe for food poisoning.
Fun Alternatives: Portobello or Greenwich markets are probably better bets. Camden market is OK, but gets terribly crowded on Sundays.
Best of all, about five minutes walk away is the Spitalfields covered market, which is great. See my Off the beaten Path page for details.
At any market, all the above tips apply.
Check out the photo of the line of tourist waiting to go into the Tower of London! The line stretches right back to the ticket office & ends at the Tower Gates. It takes a lot of time to explore the Tower of London, so make the most of your time & don't waste it standing in line.
Unique Suggestions: Avoid School holidays & be an early bird - go just before opening
Fun Alternatives: If you are stuck in line try a guessing game & listen to your fellow tourist & play spot the language
“You are not welcome here Johnny Foreigner”! Well, they might as well put up a sign in the baggage claim area at Gatwick. I just recently returned to Gatwick from outside the EU and went to go use one of the free baggage trolleys for the bags in the baggage claim area. Problem is, they are not quite free anymore. In fact, it’s worse than that. You have to have a British One Pound Coin to free the chained trolleys. What do you mean you don’t have British One Pound coins in your pocket you Tourist from abroad? Oh well, you can use a 1 Euro Coin or a 25 Cent US Coin. Rest of the world – tough. Of course there is NO way to get said coins in this secure area. So you are stuffed. Welcome to Britain, go get some coins. Of course you cannot return to this area once you leave!
What genius thought this was a good idea? Did this person or person work on Heathrow Terminal 5 as well?
Well, if you do have a one pound coin, you can return the trolley somewhere and get your pound back. I have this feeling that it is not even remotely near your car.
Fun Alternatives: Get baggage that rolls easily and practice pulling it for huge distances to toughen up your muscles. It’s a good idea in general. Alternatively get someone who lives in the UK to send you a coin. Do not ask me for one either any freeloaders out there. I bet you didn’t even rate this tip yet.
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed my visit to the tower of London, but it had the largest crowds of anywhere I visited.
I couldn't believe the crowd that gathered near the inside gate to listen to the Beefeater talk and lead his tour.
After the tour, the touist mob dispersed and spread out, so it didn't seem so packed, but there were still a lot of people there.
Unique Suggestions: Do like I did. Climb some stairs and get a photograph of the crowd, so you had proof of how many tourists had gathered!
Fun Alternatives: Who said tourist traps are no fun!
The top tourist attractions are severly overpriced, and I dont mean just expensive, I mean they realy are having a laugh. The pricing structure works on the principle that most of the people in London are tourists who are only here for a short time. So they might not be coming back and will pay virtually anything.
Unique Suggestions: Look out for various deals like 'passes' where one price allows you to enter many of the major attractions. Also PLAN AHEAD there are several ways of avoiding the great british tradition of the que. Several offer FAST TRACK systems that realy do save you a huge amount of time. The London eye is a good example, prebooked tickets (recommend internet booking) can be obtained from a deserted ticket machine (located inside the ticket office, which is the old county hall building) and the misery of the 30 minute wait can be avoided.
Fun Alternatives: PLAN AHEAD
The trap referred to here is the Clink museum in Clink Street, SE1 on the site of a medieval prison. Purely in the interests of VT research, I went there one day this week. Actually, I'd fancied a look round it for ages.
I paid my £5 entry and was very disappointed. There are a few rather uninspiring tableaux, it's small and much of the historical information is regurgitated in display after display. They haven't even bothered to check the grammar and spelling on the display descriptions. I spotted a number of errors.
There are very few exhibits directly connected to the site, most are of the "this is the type of X, Y or Z that may possibly have been used in this area" variety.
Whilst it's not particularly scary for any but very small or nervous children, parents should be advised that there are a couple of displays detailing the execution of a bishop for homosexuality and another detailing making illegal of "the vice of buggerie", There are also numerous references to prostitution and brothels.
Unique Suggestions: Just don't go.
Fun Alternatives: Any one of the (free) proper museums is better.
It's not really a trap, but I know several people that have not been impressed with the London Card which gives you access to the different tourist places around town. The problem is, with the one day card, that you can't physically go to enough of the places that constitute the price of the card. As my friend said, after spending several hours in the Globe Theatre, she really didn't feel like going on the Eye, Westminster Abbey, and the Tower.
Unique Suggestions: Days without transport prices
Some attractions that you can visit:
London Wetland Centre
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Tour and Exhibition
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
French Brothers River Cruise
Hampton Court Palace
Kensington Palace and The Orangery
St Paul's Cathedral
The Banqueting House
The Tower Bridge Exhibition
The Tower of London
The Wernher Collection at Ranger’s House
Fun Alternatives: It would be worth it more if you were to buy the 3 day card or the 6 day card. There's only so much you can do in 24 hours.
Need a telephone number in Britain? That’s going to cost you! A few years ago the Directory Enquiries number ‘192’ was privatised and now there are over 100 options. Some will cost you more than £1 for a phone number! I recommend not using 118 118. They do the most marketing, but they certainly are not cheap. They charge you 49p for answering the phone and 9 pence a minute to actually talk to you.
Unique Suggestions: Use 0800 100 100. It's FREE. The catch is you have to listen to advertising. So what.
If you really want to pay, try 118 848. They charge a flat 27 pence and will give you 3 numbers.
Look here to compare tariffs:
London is a great place to visit but, like anywhere else, where you get tourists you will get tourist traps and this city is no exception.
Of course, what constitutes a tourist trap is a...