A first-timer’s guide to London

London is a unique destination and it is worth keeping these tips in mind if you’ve never visited the capital before.

Being in London, whether it is for business or pleasure, is a fantastic experience, but if it’s your first time in the capital, it can also be a bit overwhelming. Once you’ve secured your serviced apartment in Canary Wharf or elsewhere and scheduled in all your meetings, it’s time to get down to some of the finer details. So here’s a few things to help guide you through your first trip to London.

London is really big. Don’t expect to see everything

London is a huge place, made up of a series of fascinating areas, each with their own identity. While getting between them is relatively simple, thanks to the comprehensive Underground network, it’s impossible to see the whole city in your first visit.

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Swipe to ride

Once upon a time in London it was just about imperative to have an Oyster card to get around by public transport. That is no longer the case. If you have a contactless current account card issued in the UK, you can use it in the same way you would an Oyster, but without the need to keep topping it up. For those with cards from abroad, check to see if they will be accepted on the TfL website. If not, an Oyster is probably still your best bet.

It may be quicker to walk

While the Tube is fab, it’s easy to forget that sometimes walking is more efficient in London. Check out Transport for London’s (TfL) alternative Tube map, which states the walking times between stations, so you can easily weigh up the options.

Be sure to stand on the right to avoid the rush

It’s very busy in the capital and Londoners are notorious for trying to get to their destination as quickly as possible. What can one minute be a fairly empty escalator can suddenly be filled with a swarm of commuters who have seemingly come from nowhere. Stand to the right to avoid being crushed as they descend.

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Some of the touristy stuff really is the best

St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye may be pretty touristy, but there’s a reason for this – they’re awesome. If it’s your first ever trip to London, then why shouldn’t you get that selfie in front of Tower Bridge or outstare a Beefeater?! You can find all the hidden, insider bits another time. Be a tourist and tick off some of the big stuff.

You don’t have to spend a fortune visiting attractions…

Be savvy and save money by going to some of the most incredible attractions that don’t charge a penny. We’re talking the British Museum, Guildhall Art Gallery and Natural History Museum to name but a few. And if there are things you want to do that charge entry, such as London Zoo or a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus, then get a London Pass for some big discounts.

…but don’t expect other things to be cheap

In many ways, London is an expensive place to be, but at least be grateful that by staying in a serviced apartment you don’t have to tackle the local rental market. And if you’ve saved money by getting into top attractions for free, then you can splash out on some delicious food and drinks at world-class establishments. It would be a shame not to, as London has a fantastic array of bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes to choose from.

Plan a meeting in an interesting setting

The business culture in London is fairly informal and based on participants getting to know each other. It’s not unusual for meetings to be held outside of the office, with private members’ clubs and coffee shops often used. To ensure you don’t spend the majority of your working day in meeting rooms, get creative and see what options there are close to your contact’s workplace that might be more interesting.

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…and finally, make the most of your time in London

You may have to be in London for business, but take advantage of the destination and do some great things. Even if you’ve got a really packed schedule, the capital is really well set up to fit things in between meetings. How about a spot of lunchtime yoga or a guided tour in the evening? Get organised in advance and really make the most of your stay.

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