Don’t Stand On The Left

If there is a golden rule of London, it is this one. Do not, under any circumstances, stand on the left of an escalator in the London Underground. The left is for walking. The right is for standing. There is no debate. Failure to adhere to this will earn you unimpressed tuts and dirty glares from more seasoned commuters, and will instantly mark you as a tourist. A particularly extroverted passenger may even break that other cherished rule of the underground , that of ‘do not talk to, make eye contact with, or in any way acknowledge other tube passengers’, by politely, but disapprovingly, asking you to move out the way.

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These commuters at Holborn station have got it correct: stand on the right, leaving space for people to walk on the left. | © elminium/Flickr

Don’t Go To The Natural History Museum During The School Holidays

The Natural History Museum may be world-renowned, but this comes at a price. If you must go, definitely do not go to see the dinosaurs. Yes, they’re interesting. Yes, they’re fun. Yes, they’re probably the only reason you wanted to go to the museum to begin with. But no, they are not worth queuing up for an hour for, which is something you will have to do in the school holidays. If you’re only in London for a few days, there are better things you can spend your time doing than queuing here (despite what everyone tells you, the British really don’t enjoy doing it). And if you’re here for a bit longer, then just come back once the children are all back in their classrooms.

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The Entrance Hall of the Natural History Museum | © Allan Henderson/Flickr

Don’t Ask Anyone If They Know The Queen

‘Oh, you’re American, do you know Barack Obama?’ sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? That’s what everyone in London thinks when asked if they know the Queen. More than 60 million people live in the UK, and over eight million of those live in Greater London alone. Britain may look small on a map, but it definitely is not once you get here. Whilst the Queen and her family may be one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions, the reality is that the majority of Brits pay relatively little attention to her. She appears on TV from time to time, we have a little giggle at the way she says ‘one’ or at the way her pastel pink hat resembles a wedding cake. But know her? Most likely not.

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Queen Elizabeth II | © NASA/Bill Ingalls/WikiCommons

Don’t Pay Full Price For An Attraction Without Checking Online First

The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the Shard, London has it all, but at a price. Whilst many of these attractions do come highly recommended to any first time visitor to Britain’s capital, checking the attractions’ websites, as well as other discount websites, can save you more than just a few pennies. Many destinations will offer discounts if you book in advance, buying a combined ticket can save you more than 40%, and some activities may simply have cheaper, or free, alternatives. Ultimately though, the choice is yours.

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The top floor of the Sky Garden – London’s free alternative to the Shard. | © Colin/WikiCommons

Don’t Stop Right In Front Of The Entrance To The Platform

Londoners have a love-hate relationship with the underground. On the one hand, it’s one of the most extensive and efficient metro systems in the world. On the other, it’s hot, stuffy, overcrowded and sometimes it might simply be quicker to walk above ground rather than winding through those endless tunnels. So anything that a fellow passenger can do to make that dreaded morning commute a little more bearable should be done, and one of those things is to spread out along the whole platform, rather than crowding in front of the entrance. This makes it easier to board trains, and prevents overcrowding in one carriage while another one further down remains virtually empty. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people forget to do this when they arrive on the platform with six friends and just as many suitcases.

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People getting off a crowded underground train at London’s Green Park station. | © Arpingstone/WikiCommons

Don’t Spend £10 On Fish And Chips (Go To The Local Chippy Instead)

It’s the national dish of England (although recently chicken tikka masala has been a strong contender), but if you want to eat fish and chips like a real Brit, don’t go to a posh gastropub in Covent Garden to get it. Every British town has a local chippy, a small takeaway shop, usually unappealingly decorated in white tiles and plastic chairs, that sells takeaway fish and chips as well as pies, sausages, and sometimes Chinese food too, regularly coming to just five or six pounds. These places are in abundance outside of Zone 1, but are found less frequently in London’s tourist hubs due to high rent prices and competition from classier establishments, so unknowing visitors are more likely to be drawn in by restaurants charging double the standard price. If you want ‘real’ fish and chips, head out to the likes of Finsbury Park or Clapham instead.

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Fish & chips in London – a meal from a chippy may come in a paper bag and without the lemon and peas, but it should taste just as good! | © Mats Hagwall/Flickr

Don’t Drive Down Oxford Street

Being one of the world’s most famous shopping streets, pedestrians on Oxford Street tend to feel like they rule the road, which is fine, if you’re a pedestrian, but not so good if you’re behind the wheel of a car. Not only are there endless traffic lights that make you stop every few hundred metres, but even once they turn green, you’ll still have stressed commuters and ambling tourists hurrying across, or in some cases, simply dawdling across, the road in front of you. Add to that the fact that Oxford Street is one of Central London’s main east to west roads, and you find yourself sitting in endless traffic jams full of angry drivers and ruthless taxis. Just walk instead, although, unless you plan on stopping at a shop, it’s probably worth heading down one of the back roads to avoid the crowds.

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Buses and pedestrians on Oxford Street | © Ysangkok/WikiCommons

Don’t Buy Cocktails Unless It’s Happy Hour

Setting up a bar in one of the entertainment capitals of the world is always going to come at a price, and unfortunately that cost mostly gets lumped onto drink prices. A casual night out can quickly get very expensive. Cocktails are especially vulnerable to this. That being said, bars across London almost always offer a happy hour at some point during the week, in which case certain drinks can be bought at about half price. If you’re planning on a midweek drink then you’ll have a whole range of enticing happy hours and other drinks deals to choose from, and even if you’re drinking on a Friday or Saturday night plenty of places will still offer discounts, especially early in the evening. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Ask a local where they would suggest heading, or look online for plenty of insiders’ recommendations.

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A cocktail | © Unsplash/Pixabay

Don’t Go On A Shopping Spree On Regent Street

It may be one of the most famous shopping streets in Europe, perhaps second to Oxford Street, but the reality is that a shopping spree on Regent Street, or, even worse, in the little Mayfair side streets around it, could quite easily set you back the entire budget of your trip. Whilst there are a few high street chains located on Regent Street, they can also be found in every other town in Britain. Most likely without the thick crowds of tourists armed with backpacks and the surplus added to the cost of the product that serves to compensate for London rent prices. And if a shop is displaying ‘bespoke’ suits or shiny shoes, then steer clear unless you’re not planning on spending any more money for the rest of your trip (or the rest of the year).

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Regent Street on a royal celebration day. | © aurélien./WikiCommons

Don’t Get The Tube From Leicester Square To Covent Garden

London’s tube system is so extensive that tourists and locals alike often forget that it isn’t always the most efficient way of getting around. Sometimes, a simple walk can be so much more effective, and this is most definitely the case in the Leicester Square area. Leicester Square and Covent Garden Underground stations are approximately six minutes walk apart. If, however, you take the tube, you will face numerous escalators and tunnels leading into the underground, combined with Covent Garden’s notorious 193 step staircase, which you’ll have to use every time the lifts stop working. The same can be said for multiple other station combinations, such as Charing Cross to Embankment, and Euston to Warren Street.

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Covent Garden tube station on a rainy day | © Sunil060902/WikiCommons