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The only guide to London a first-time visitor needs

London is a BIG city, it covers 1,572 kilometers square, which can be quite daunting for a first-time visitor!

But do not worry, we know London very well and have put together a quick guide with the most important information you need to know, so you can make the most of seeing all the wonderful things it has to offer.


How to get to London

Getting to London is easy. There are many direct flights each day from Dubai with the flight time at around 7.5 hours. Costs vary, but you can often get some great deals on flights from around 2000AED


Getting to London from the Airports

London has 6 main airports; they are called Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Luton, City Airport and South End. Of all these airports, only City Airport is actually located within London City itself, but all of the airports have excellent transport links into the city.

Most flights from the UEA will land at London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (LGW).

London Gatwick is located to the south of the City. It has direct trains that run to London Bridge, London Victoria and beyond. The Gatwick express is a quick train that runs to London Victoria, where you can then continue your travels on the London Underground or by Taxi.

London Heathrow also has a ‘Heathrow Express’ train which takes you into Paddington Station. From here you can get on a number of other train services, including the London Underground.


You can also book a taxi from any of the stations, but make sure you get a quote first. Taxis can cost upwards of £45, and this can increase dramatically depending where in the city you need to end up.

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(Great Bell-Big Ben)

Where to stay

London offers every different type of accommodation to suit each and every budget, so you won’t have to worry about finding something within your budget or taste.

However, location is going to be key here. If you are in London for a short time or looking to hit up the most popular attractions (Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace etc.) then you need to stay central. This means you can walk to most attractions, or they are a short tube or bus ride away. This will also give quick access to most of the museums and west end shows.

If you are looking to visit the more creative and quirky side of London, then looking around Hoxton / Old Street / Shoreditch to the East of London may be better for you.

Whilst there are lots of the familiar chain hotels throughout the city, it is the smaller boutique hotels that are becoming increasingly popular with visitors. They are smaller, quirky, and have impeccable service.


How to get around?

Recently, all transport became cashless. This means that if you want to hop on a bus, you can no longer pay with cash. There are a couple of things you can do instead.

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(Transport for London Oyster Card and Tube Map)

The easiest way to pay for transport is using a contactless bank card which you tap on the yellow circular touch points when entering the tube or a bus. Be careful of card clash; if you have more than one contactless card in your wallet or purse when you use it to touch the touch point, both cards will be charged!

If you do not have a contactless card, then you can buy an Oyster Card. This is a contactless payment card that you top up with cash to then use when you touch in and out. You can check your balance and top the cards up at machines all over the city in the stations.

Both the contactless bank card and Oyster card will have daily limits with costs capped at different amounts. The London transport system is mapped out in ‘zones’ with zone 1 being the most central and reaching out to 6 zones. The costs are calculated depending on which zones you travel in.


Another way to get around is by taxi. You will see many ‘Black Cabs’ within the central area. These are the most popular way to get around, with the drivers knowing the city inside and out!

At the time of writing, London also has an Uber service, which you can sign up to using their app, or using your existing account if you have one.

What to see and do

There are LOTS of things to do in London depending on what you are looking for. Here are a few of our favourite things to recommend and top tips:

  • See the view: There are a number of places you can go to see sweeping views of the city. Take a trip up the tallest building, The Shard, for views from the highest point! Alternatively, visit one of the restaurants a few floors down for equally stunning views! Other places you can get a great view from is the Sky Garden or the London Eye. Duck and Waffle, Sushi Samba, The Gherkin and The OXO also offer great views from your dinner table.
  • A view from the River: London also offers a water taxi service called the Thames Clippers. You can use your Oyster Card/contactless payment card to use this service. Hop on and off at the piers along the river and get beautiful views as you travel.
  • Visit the Queen of England’s home: For 10 select weeks each year, Buckingham Palace opens its doors to visitors, where you can visit the state rooms. Dates are often from around mid-July to end of September. Check the following website for confirmed dates and to pre-purchase tickets.
  • See a west end show: London has many award-winning theatres shows and musicals. There are often bargains to be had if you buy tickets on the day of the show too, but if you don’t want to miss out, book online in advance!
  • Shop shop shop! Take a visit to Europe’s busiest high street and snap up some brand-new clothes, accessories, homeware or souvenirs. Oxford Street is home to flagship stores for high street brands including Topshop, River Island, Next and more, plus large, world famous department stores such as Selfridges and House of Fraser. If you are looking for high end fashion brands such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton and more, head off of Oxford Street and onto Regent Street.
  • Visit a free museum: Many of London’s top museums are free to enter (although some exhibitions may have a small charge). Make sure you check out the Natural History museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Britain and Tate Modern galleries.



Now you understand the basics of London, you can spend the rest of your time enjoying this wonderful city!


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