16 Mistakes All Tourists Make in London

16 Mistakes All Tourists Make in London

So you’re planning your first trip to London but don’t want to fall into the regular mistakes that tourists make. Well don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. As native Londoners we see the mistakes tourists make on the daily and we’re here to make sure you don’t waste your time or money doing the same things!

Standing on the Wrong Side of the Escalator 

When travelling on the tube, there’s a few simple rules – the most important one being on the escalators on your way down to your train. Us Londoners are always on the go, rushing to get to work or to meet friends, and getting the tube doesn’t stop that rush. For this reason, it’s well known (and signed) that you should stand on the right of the escalators, allowing people to walk up or down the left hand side. So make sure you don’t make an escalator faux pas by standing on the wrong side and blocking the way – otherwise you might meet the other side of some disgruntled commuters! 

Big Ben in London against a cloudy grey sky

Only Visiting the Big Tourist Attractions 

Sure, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are iconic must-sees, but there’s so much more to London than its most famous landmarks! Don’t limit yourself to the obvious sights; venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems like street markets, welcoming local cafes, and vibrant neighbourhoods bursting with culture. You’ll get a true experience of London by adding some non-big attraction sights into your visit.

Taking the Tube During Rush Hour

The tube tends to be busy but rush hour is most certainly the worst time to travel on it if you don’t need to. Rush hour is the time just before and after work (roughly between 7am-9am and 4.30pm-7pm) when Londoners are commuting to and from work. Trust us – you’ll enjoy your trip a lot more if you don’t spend half of it crushed into a stranger’s sweaty armpit during the rush! 

Follow our guide on how to use the London Underground for more top tips for travel.

London underground roundel

Staying in Central London

Whilst Central London can be magical and alluring, with its sights, nightlife, and famous shops, you may find a more authentic (and cheaper) stay if you choose a hotel outside of the centre. Look to Zones 2 and outwards for your accommodation, everywhere in London has great public transport connections so you’ll not be too far from the centre! We personally love Hampstead and Richmond for some quieter areas that sit on the edge of the city.

Mispronouncing Names of Places & Areas

English is supposedly the most spoken language in the whole world, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to pronounce London’s neighbourhood and street names. We recommend brushing up on your pronunciations before arriving to fit in like a local. Here are a few that London tourists always get wrong:

  • Buckingham Palace – pronounced ‘buck-ing-um’
  • Leicester Square – pronounced ‘less-ter’
  • Marylebone – pronounced ‘mar-le-bon’

Buckingham Palace - pronounced 'Buck-ing-um'

Expecting Table Service

Our restaurants, cafes, and pubs don’t always provide a full table-service so make sure that you don’t sit around for ages waiting to be served when it’s not going to happen. In most pubs, you’re expected to go up to the bar to both order drinks and food, this is often the case in cafes, as well as some restaurants (like Nandos). 

Hiring a Car

London has one of the best public transport systems in the world and there are plenty of tools to help you navigate the city. If you’re visiting London for a short time we would highly recommend against hiring a car because of this. Not only can driving in the city be difficult due to the traffic but it can also be super super expensive – from ULEZ charges to extortionate parking fees. Unless you need a car for mobility reasons it would definitely be better to use the tube, buses,your feet,  and the occasional taxi.

Westminster Abbey in London

Not Walking Around the City

Speaking of walking, don’t underestimate the joy of exploring London on foot! Sure, the Tube is convenient, but you’ll miss out on the city’s hidden treasures and charming quirks by staying underground. Lace up your comfiest shoes, start wandering around, and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of London’s bustling streets.

Paying for Views

London has an immersive skyline that needs to be seen during your trip to the city – however if you’re looking for a cheaper way to experience this, avoid visiting The Shard of the London Eye. From the Sky Garden, to Horizon 22B, along with views from Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park, and Greenwich Park, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the views of the city for free.

The view from the free Skygarden

Buying Single Fare Train Tickets  

Buying single fare train tickets is a rookie mistake! Save yourself time and money by investing in an Oyster card or contactless payment method for your London adventures. With discounted fares and seamless travel across buses, tubes, and trains, it’s the smart choice for navigating the city like a pro. This way you’ll hit a daily cap and not go above this no matter how much you travel!

Not Respecting Queues 

Queues are a sacred tradition in the UK. From waiting for the bus, to trying to view a museum exhibit, do not try and queue-jump – you will get some unpleasant looks from Londoners and may even experience a stern word. Wait your turn like everyone else by joining the back of the queue!

Blackfriars Bridge with St Pauls in the background

Taking a Taxi from the Airport

After a long flight, the call of a taxi or Uber may seem irresistible – but hold your horses! Unless you’ve flown into City airport you’ll actually be way outside of central London, which means the taxi fares will be high! There are lots of trains and buses to each station – and even super-fast tubes to Heathrow! Check out the public transport options for your journey ahead of time to make sure you’re all set to go on a budget.

Only Visiting London 

Visiting London for a little while? Don’t just stick to the city when there’s so much more of England to enjoy just short train rides away. From the historic Roman city of Bath, which is just over 1hr from Paddington, to charming coastal towns like Brighton that are a short hop, you’ll adore seeing other gorgeous spots in our country. 

The Roman Baths by night

Shopping on Oxford Street 

Visiting London for the shopping? Oxford Street is not the place to go (in fact some might call the busy high street hell on earth). Over-packed with tourists, the shops you find on Oxford Street are all available in more relaxed settings in other parts of London. We recommend heading to Battersea Power Station, Chelsea’s Kings Road, or one of the Westfield shopping centres (we’re fans of White City).

Paying to Sit on Deckchairs 

After a long day of exploring on your feet, the allure of one of the Royal Parks’ deckchairs may be calling your name. But just wait a minute and look around for a free bench instead! The deckchairs incur a fee and it’s not cheap! We recommend taking a picnic blanket with you if you’re wanting to enjoy London’s lush parks. 

Not Visiting London’s Neighbourhoods 

London is a city that was built of towns and villages, which means there’s lots of eclectic places to visit. Don’t just stick to the City of London and the West End, and make sure you visit our wonderful little towns. From the charming streets of Belgravia, to the naval history of Greenwich, to the vibrant markets of Camden – there’s so much to explore!

The Holly Bush pub in charming Hamsptead

About The London Eats List 

We’re here to help guide your trip to London through our guides. From an itinerary for first time visitors to the city, to the historic World Heritage Sites you need to visit. If you’re on the hunt for foodie places to eat take a look at our guides to London’s best food markets, or the vegan restaurants serving up plant-based dishes.

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