With this guide you should have received our free Oyster Card holder. Most Londoners use their Oyster Cards to get around the city, whilst people visiting London temporarily tend to buy day passes and pay the standard fares.
The method you choose should depend on the duration of your stay in London.
What is an Oyster Card?
An Oyster Card is a pass which can be used on London’s tube, bus and tram networks.
It works best for regular users who travel frequently in and around London. Once you have obtained an Oyster Card, you can load it with ‘pay as you go’ credit or travelcards, which are often better value.
How do I get one?
Your initial Oyster Card is free and can be bought from tube stations and other retail outlets that display the Oyster logo. You pay for the credit that you wish to add. Oyster Cards can be topped up at all stations and at outlets which display the Oyster logo.
How do Oyster prices differ from standard fares?
It is always cheaper to travel using an Oyster Card as opposed to paying standard fares. The London Underground network is divided into zones, and the amount you pay to travel will depend on the zone in which you enter the network and the zone you leave from. Journey prices also differ depending on the time of day you choose to travel.
Accommodation in London
Deciding where to live in London is important as there are so many different options.
What kind of accommodation should I stay in when I’m in London?
There is a range of accommodation options available in London. Where you choose to stay largely depends on your budget. Some of the poorest and wealthiest people in the UK live in London, so you’re sure to always find a place to stay.
Popular accommodation options for short-term stays include hotels and hostels, whilst longer-term residents might choose to rent or buy an apartment or house.
Is London an expensive place to stay or live?
London is, on average, the most expensive place to live in the UK, however there are plenty of affordable options. Renting apartments can be very costly, and many young people choose to stay in a flat-share to keep their costs down. In a similar way, there are many exclusive hotels with high rices, but hostels offer a cheaper accommodation option. Some areas of London are also very expensive compared to others. Typically, North, West and Central London are more expensive to live in than the South and East areas of the city.
Eating in London
Food is a great passion for many Londoners, and with such a diverse cultural population, you’re sure to find a cuisine you enjoy.
Are there many restaurants in London?
Yes. In each borough (area) of the city there will be a central area which contains plenty of different eateries. Most Londoners spend years exploring the city and make new restaurant discoveries all the time. The best way to find good restaurants is to experiment and try new things.
As with finding a room, you can also eat very cheaply or very expensively depending on your budget. Some restaurants are open late into the night, although this mainly applies to fast food restaurants.
Can I try cuisines from different countries in London restaurants?
Yes! You are likely to find most world cuisines represented somewhere in London.
Are there places where I can buy unusual or foreign foods cheaply?
Yes. Most supermarkets are very well stocked with a wide range of international foods. However, in most boroughs you will find independent and speciality food shops. One of the main outdoor and indoor food markets in London is Borough Market, near London Bridge. Here you will find produce from all over the world.
In a city as big and busy as London, there are always events taking place. From music concerts to sporting events, London plays host all year round.
What events happen in London?
Large sporting events include Wimbledon, the annual Summer tennis tournament, and the London Marathon, which happens in the Spring. London is awaiting the arrival of the Olympics, which will occur in the Summer of 2012 and is also home to a number of football teams. With regard to music, London has many concert venues including the O2 Arena and Wembley Arena.
The Proms, a classical music festival, also takes place every summer. There is too much going on in London to list here, but other big annual celebrations include Notting Hill Carnival and Gay Pride. London’s many museums and art galleries hold year-round exhibitions and talks that are sometimes free to visit.
Which ones should I go to?
Depending on how much time you are planning on spending in London, you may wish to make a list of the main things that you wish to see and do. Wimbledon is always popular, and Notting Hill Carnival attracts over a million visitors every year. A ride on the London Eye offers brilliant views of the whole city.
London is a difficult city to exhaust and you will forever find new places and shops to enjoy. Here are a few pointers:
Where are the main chain stores in London?
The main high streets in each borough will have most essential chain stores. In Central London, people head to Oxford Street for the well-known stores and the surrounding area has many interesting shopping streets, such as Carnaby Street, Regent Street and Tottenham Court Road.
There are also two new Westfield shopping centres in Shepherd’s Bush and Stratford.
Are there any other good places to shop?
There are boutique and independent shops in most areas of London. Good places to shop include Covent Garden, Bond Street for designer shops and Marylebone High Street. London has many markets too; Camden, Portobello and Spitalfields are some of the best for clothes shopping.
London’s nightlife is as vibrant as its people, and you can expect to find many different types of entertainment.
What do people do to socialise in London?
Londoners go to the many cinemas, pubs, nightclubs, comedy clubs, theatres and concert venues in the capital to socialise. There are cinema chains, such as Odeon and Vue, as well as independent and art house cinemas. Theatre is very popular in London, with the West End playing host to hundreds of award-winning shows.
Where are the best pubs and clubs?
Leicester Square is where most people go for mainstream clubs, but Kensington and Chelsea have quite a few more exclusive nightspots. Camden has plenty of music venues and the Southbank is a buzzing arts area, with plenty of wine bars for evening drinks.
Council learning courses
Courses to help people who are new to the UK are available in London, particularly to those who wish to learn or improve their English.
Can I take a course to improve my English in London?
Yes – as in the rest of the UK, English courses are available in London. The ESOL course stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages, and is available at different levels to suit all abilities.
Who should I contact to find out more about English courses?
For more information call the Get On helpline on 0800 66 0800. London also has many universities, some of which provide English teaching. For more advice on these institutions, contact the admissions offices individually.
London has a comprehensive transport network, and is the most well-connected city in the UK. Top tip: When travelling on the London Underground, there are a few things to remember. Firstly, when travelling on the escalators, stand on the right hand side.
Secondly, when trains are approaching, mind the gap between the train and the platform. Finally, always give up a seat on the tube for those who might need it more, e.g. the elderly, pregnant or disabled.
What types of transport are there in London?
The London Underground and Overground are the main train networks which run within London. The Underground is predominant, whilst Overground trains supplement the Underground network. Buses are also widespread, and passengers can use their Oyster Cards on board. Cycling is very popular in the capital, and blue cycle lanes are being painted all over the city’s roads in a bid to get more people cycling. Private transport is available in the form of black cabs and mini cabs, which can be flagged down across the city.
Which are the most popular?
The London Underground and Overground are the most popular, along with buses. However, trains do not run through the night, so many people rely on Night buses or taxis when socialising in the evenings.
How can I lower my transport costs in London?
Some modes of transport are more expensive than others. Buses tend to be cheaper than trains and tubes, whilst taxi tariffs extend far beyond public transport fares. If you can, avoid travelling at peak times, and put travelcards onto your Oyster as opposed to paying as you go.