A very good place to start is the Mayor's website - information on Public Firework displays, Festivals, Parades, closures, events calendar etc. Click HERE

Abortion - see pregnancy

Accommodation - see our Hotels page. You can arrange a hotel through the tourist office, Thomas Cook or at the Airports and Train Stations.  To book online try either the VENERE ONLINE HOTEL RESERVATION SERVICE or LATEROOMS HOTEL BOOKING SERVICE both offer good discounts. These are our first ports of call when booking, but not always the ultimate.

If using TripAdvisor.com for hotels remember that reports by American reviewers are either too prissy (imagine Princess Leia from Star Wars, or any girl from the same Valley) or too gushing (have seen Amelie and Mary Poppins at least fifty times). If Brits complain about the food then it really IS bad. If Americans complain about the cooking assume there is under 3Lbs of meat per person per meal - and so on.
See our trips page for details of how to rent one of the Queen's own guesthouses on her Sandringham estate. TOP TIP: in summer months stay in student rooms at the LSE (see accommodation page for details).

Architecture: One of the glories of London is the variety of styles of architecture (one of the glories of London is the variety of everything.)
In Chester you can view every major style of architecture since 800AD in one street (Watergate street), however in London you have to travel a bit. Most of our walks are architecture based, however a good guide is from the Independent Newspaper of 4.8.01 whose opinions we totally agree with. It lists the 50 best buildings in Britain.

Shortlist: Westminster Tube station, British Museum great court, Lloyd's Building (on our City Walk), St Pancras Station (Mon-Fri 11.30-15.30 tel: 0207 304 3900), St Paul's, Sir John Soane museum (on our Temple to Temple walk), Michelin Building (South Kensington, near the Albert Memorial), The Barbican, The Prudential Building (see our City Walks page), Peckham Library (there is no reason to visit Peckham), Tate Modern (see our Walks), Somerset House (ditto), Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery. To which we'd add the Inns of Court, St Bartholomew's Church, Hampton Court and The Ark in Hammersmith. See these and you've sucked the best out of London's architecture.)

For architecture/design on a small scale the steel gents urinals at the back of St Martin's in the Fields Church, just north of Charing Cross are a marvel of both function and design - and keep the pavements dry when people stagger out of pubs. These worthy descendants of Clochmerle close automatically during the day and open at night (like jasmine, but not as sweet) - they really have to be seen to be appreciated!

Art Galleries - see our art page.


Banks: normally open 09:30 - 16:30, the number of high-street banks is getting smaller. If you're stuck for a cashmachine (ATM) the supermarkets will do 'cashback' if you buy something - ask at the till. The best place to find an ATM/Cashpoint is usually a train or tube station. Watch out for the increasing number of ATMs that charge a fee - Travelex bought out a chain of free ATMs and have started charging. We don't approve, especially as many banks are cutting ATMs out of poorer areas. It is possible to be in a the centre of town and 1/2 mile plus away from a free ATM. Free ATMs will always tell you they're free 'We will not charge you for withdrawals' though of course, if you're in a foreign country (ie the UK) expect to pay £2-3 per withdrawal so keep them few and large.

Begging:Especially in Summer there are beggars in the centre and despite what they say they are rarely homeless or hungry - there are so many charities offering them free food and lodging. They are collecting for heroin, alcohol or tobacco. Many who sleep on the streets have been banned from hostels for assaulting other inmates patients or stealing from them, or are too intoxicated to be safely admitted. If you feel the need to give, please give to a charity like the Salvation Army, whose entire London operation (from Detox, to homeless hostels to geriatric centres) we have personally inspected and found first rate (though we disagree with their religion).

'The Big Issue' a dreadful magazine is sold by the 'homeless' on the streets in a scheme that we've seen operating in every big city we've visited. It's slightly better buying a copy than giving drug/alcohol money to a beggar (though we suspect it's the same by just one remove) - and the sellers are supposed to abide by a courtesy code - there have been some prosecutions up north for links with the organised drug trade. It's spawned a rather fashionable industry of 'help for the homeless' and is used to give products 'street cred'. It also pursues a rather aggressive marketing policy and is aligning itself with big business in a way that makes it as much a part of of the problem as the solution. We much prefer the 'Salvation Army' (and we're not christians at all) which, surprisingly has a less cultish grip on the problem. For another opinion see HERE

Blue Plaques - mark the residences of famous people - who have to have been dead at least 20 years. Everybody who was anybody has lived in London at some point from Napoleon III and Ho Chi Minh in St James - Karl Marx and Mozart in Soho - Lenin in Bloomsbury and Hendrix in Mayfair. Of course there's rarely any current connection between the building and its former occupant. Our favourite plaque is for Logie Baird, discoverer of TV, who demonstrated that frightful invention above Soho's most famous cafe. There is still a television in the room, but the picture quality has improved.

BOOKS - a short list:
Eric Newby wrote two classic books. You'll never really understand the British unless you read them. The last Grain Race is a Jack Londonesque tale of his days at sea... well observed and highly amusing. If you hated Moby Dick you'll love this. If you're Norweigian you might not. A short walk in the Hindu Kush is perhaps the greatest travel book ever written (with the exception of the Grain race...) two upper class Brits, who've never climbed before, decide to go to one of the most dangerous areas of the world and climb one of its highest peaks. They're not put off by being 'out-climbed' by the waitresses of the Welsh B and B where they're staying. Hilarious
Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a boat is the tale of three inept pre-war Brits who attempt to navigate the Thames in a small boat with a dog called Montmorency but crucially, without a can-opener.. I was forced to read this aloud at school and had to stop for laughing. None of us in class were able to continue and the English lesson deteriorated into general mayhem when our beloved Litt. teacher joined in. I re-read it every five years or so and still laugh aloud. Good natured fun-poking at Brits and Britishness. All three above books good for train journeys.
Samuel Pepys Diary - especially volumes covering 1666 onwards: everyday life under the Stuarts, warts and all. Includes eye-witness accounts of the plague, the Great Fire, and his neighbour's wife's sexual habits.
The Rachel Papers, London Fields - Martin Amis' life as a teenager (1970s) or as a yob (1980s) in London's louche underbelly.
The Glittering Prizes - Frederick Raphael: The quintessential Oxbridge/London novel (1960s) - quite accurate.
Absolute Beginners - Colin McInnes: perhaps the best London novel, set when the old London was dying (end of '50s)and the new commercial age dawning, good account of the race riots and the birth of the cool. A darn sight better than the dim but stylish movie of the same name.
The Quincunx - Charles Palliser: the real Victorian London, ripped off by Michael Faber in his latest tome 'The Crimson Petal'. This 1000 page book is the only one we have read from cover to cover without a break. The second best insight an American has had into the Brits.
Northern Lights - Philip Pullman: the alternative Oxford novel, for kids and imaginative adults. Rowling with brains and erudition.
Anything by Bill Bryford: eg notes from a small island:this anglophile Yank is a cross between Garrison Keillor and Michael Moore. Perhaps the best travel companion for modern Britain.
Party Going - Henry Green: set almost entirely in Charing Cross Station, the best exposition of the lives of the bright young things since Waugh, but not as twee.
A Dance to the Music of Time - Anthony Powell: 12 short books that make up a roman fleuve, addictive once you're into it (the first volume, set in a public school is essential for character's motivation but not as appealing as a book per se) All the characters are real, slightly disguised. See also below.
Bridget Jones' Diary and Bridget Jones, the edge of reason Helen Fielding's fairly accurate account of the rise of the ladettes. Bridget lives a stone's throw from our office, in Borough Market, where they're filming the second book as we write this. A cautionary tale for any male hoping to pick up a female Londoner while he's here.
as DVDs: 'Our Mutual Friend' (BBC) - the best historical adaptation ever. So beautiful you can freeze frame and it's like a Victorian painting. Almost a tour guide to the real Victorian London.
'The office' BBC's most successful programme - in terms of audience and sales, the life of no-hopers in a Slough office - hilarious and cringemaking - the fastest selling DVD in the UK. Watch the two series in order. We actually prefer the American version (well, series two and much of series three...).
Fawlty Towers (BBC): need we say more? The funniest TV programme ever, often imitated, never equalled.
Monty Python's Flying Circus: (BBC) students of British history should watch this as the Pythons were an reaction to the staid 50s and early 60s. Get the 'best of' as there was a lot of dross later.
'A Dance to the Music of time' (Channel 4) not as good as the books, but a great English Social History from the 30s to the 70s, Britain's answer to Proust, but more readable and with shorter sentences.

Bookshops: Cecil Court, just south of Wyndham's Theatre, Leicester Square tube, Skoob in the Brunswick Centre at Russel Square (huge underground warren) and the bouquinists under Waterloo Bridge (south side) are the best places for second hand books. For new ones the upper half of Charing Cross road teems with dead trees.

Botox: We do get some strange requests. For most cosmetic surgical procedures fly to Jo'burg and you'll save much more than the cost of your flight, hotel and safari. However if you want a quick fix of Botox when in London, the Cath Corbett clinic, South Molton St, behind Bond St tube is the place.

Brothels: While we don't approve of paid-for sex, we recognise it happens and would prefer it regulated, and trafficking stomped out. Sex is ridiculously easy to come by in London, on average £62 for the full monty, which we think is far too cheap, considering that foot massage is about £75 an hour - and we certainly value our feet less than....    If you do visit a brothel please try to find a decent one and use protection. See here for details of London's sex trade. You might also want to read Belle de Jour's blog - she is a female research scientist who doubled as a high-end prostitute to finance her degree. Shame on a country that can't do better for science, we say. She's still a hot cookie by all accounts.

Buses - you now have to buy your ticket before you board the bus if you don't have a travelcard or Oystercard . Many stops now have automated ticket machines- the number of stories we've heard about people putting their last coins into these machines and getting nothing out and no refund and then being refused on busses mounts. Do not trust these machines. You can buy bus passes in a lot of newsagents. A bus pass is only about £3 a day so best to buy one rather than a ticket. It's always cheaper to use an Oyster card - you have to pay a £3 deposit but you get that back when you hand it back in, and kids go free. See our transport page

Bus tours: Start out from all the major attractions and seem to congregate around the top of Haymarket, near Piccadilly, and on Lower Regent Street - there's also a large dropping off point by the Tower of London. Before you consider taking a bus tour read this article from Britain's leading newspaper about the state of bus tours in London. There's cut-throat competition between the companies, all of which advertise as 'Official Tour Buses' - all this means is that they're licenced to do tours and implies no endorsement. The price - around £18 is a lot more than simply bus hopping with an Oystercard (£3) but still lower than similar tours in other countries. bustours

Most of them are on the internet: Big Bus tours and The Original Tour. In general you get a commentary and to see all the major sights in one trip - tickets are valid for the whole day (check this before you get on) and you can jump on and off as you wish - so if you want to do Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, The Tower etc in a day it works out more economical. The ticket usually includes a free river cruise and a free walking tour. They also sell advance tickets for attractions such as Tussaud's and the Tower (which can save you hours of queueing.)

If you are dedicating your day to 'doing the sights' then you might think a London Pass museum and attractions pass will save you money.It won't, unless you can travel at supersonic speed. We think you'll have more fun doing our walks, and see more, but if you don't like walking then a bus tour is as good a way as any to see the city.

Another alternative which should please the children is Duck Tours - in an amphibious DUKW truck that actually drives off the embankment and into the Thames (don't tell the kids about this in advance) they're online here - their ticket office is at 55 York Road, directly behind the London Eye wheel. The price is relatively steep at £17.50 for an adult and £12 for a child - there is a family ticket available at £53.

You can do it all for 'free' on London's regular double-decker red buses, but they don't usually drive into the river. See our free page.  

Buying a house/banking Is expensive in London. See this excellent article for details. Expect to pay £170k minimum for a one-bed, £230k for a two-bed for an ex-council property, some of which are surprisingly OK. Best trendy areas: Arnold Circus (Hoxton/Brick Lane) is onto a second wave. Elephant and Castle - ghastly now but due for a European Parliament-funded refit - is a good bet for longer term investment. bermondsey - close to town (you can walk home from the centre) cheap and very 'old London' the last refuge of the cockneys after the Bangladeshis conquered the East End. Vauxhall - creeping upwards slowly, still the cheapest and best place for a riverside view but the building you'll be looking out of will be ugly.. W1 - surprisingly bargains can be had in the centre, if you look for a former 'council' or 'housing association' property, built before 1940 - the best are Victorian or Edwardian.

The process will take 3 months from putting an offer on a property thru 'exchanging contract' to 'completing'. It can be a nightmare if you are foreign as you won't have the necessary bits of paper (utility bills) and despite claiming to do so most banks won't accept foreign driving licences or other documents. Getting a bank account in this country is an essential first step which will cause you untold grief due to an over-zealous application of anti-moneylaundering laws and general stupidity. It is like waking up in a Kafka novel. Most banks are run from call-centres in the north, or overseas, leaving unskilled and brain-dead clones in their branches. Try an internet bank like First Direct (highly recommended), and avoid the Coop bank and its online subsidiary, Smile as they may be ecological and ethical, but they are cretinous and will cause you grief. HSBC is a very good bet as it's all over the world.


Camera repairs: Sendean, 105 Oxford St W1 tel: 0703 439 8418, Camera City 16 Little Russell St WC1 (near British Museum) 0207 813 2100

Canals: The section that runs from Camden to 'Little Venice' out in Maida Vale Little
                    Venice (though the comparisons with Venice are a bit hyperbolic) is a pleasant walk past the zoo. There's also a decent, if short, walk to be had from Warwick Road tube station (best stop for Little Venice) along the canal to Edgeware Road and back. Lunch/drink at the Prince Albert on Formosa Avenue. For a tour on a narrowboat try Camden Lock (just opposite the market on the canalside) or Little Venice on the canalside just west of the island.

Car Hire: All the usual global companies operate in London. eg: Budget:- 0207 580 8685
Europcar:- 0207 387 2276  Hertz:- 0207 278 1588
Online hire: 1car1
An alternative is the 'by the hour' rental companies like Easycar or Streetcar with very low basic rates including by the hour - but the 'extras' in the small print can add up considerably. For under 5 hours and over 3 days Streetcar gets more competitive. Our editor personally recommends Holiday Autos who he has found by far the cheapest option, about half the cost of going to one of the big agencies (often the car will come from them anyway) they're on: 0870 400 4447. A good rate can also be had out of Sixt< /a>, who have a depo right next to Hatton Cross tube station (near Heathrow) and this makes for a quick getaway if you're heading west or northwest...our last car hire was from them - they were the cheapest for a Volkswagen Golf.

Cemeteries apart from Highgate which has famous names and is a regular attraction, Nunhead Cemetery in South London is a great place to get the gothic creeps. It's really semi abandoned, with headstones, monuments and nooks stretching back into the trees. See
here for some pics.

Centre of London is Charing Cross, a good place to meet up if you get lost. There's a cafe in the crypt of St Martin's Church which is in Trafalgar Square.

Chemists (pharmacists) - Boots or Superdrug offer the best deals. Supermarkets offer basic supplies, aspirin, cough medicine etc and are open late. 24 hour chemist: Zafash 233 Old Brompton Road, SW5, Bliss at Marble Arch. Boots at Piccadilly is open late.

Churches: Catholic: Westminster Cathedral, Victoria or Brompton Oratory, Knightsbridge, Anglican: St Paul's Cathedral, Methodist: Central Hall opposite Parliament, Baptist: Elephant & Castle's Metropolitan Tabernacle, Quaker: Meeting House, St Martin's Lane, Lutheran: St Annes, Gresham Street, Orthodox: (Russian) Cathedral just north of Brompton Oratory in Knightsbridge, (Greek) in Moscow Road Bayswater, as well as Christian Scientist, Mormon, and various other modern cult meeting places, across town. Services in French, German, Italian, Welsh, Finnish and a host of other languages - see the Yellow Pages.
See also our City and City Walks pages for details of historic churches worth visiting. A good guide to church services in the city is theCity Events List which also lists recitals, concerts and lectures.

Clothes repairs and alterations: Most of the buildings on Brewer Street in Soho, and on Carnaby Street, have tailors on the first floor - look on the doorplates. See 'Dry Cleaning' below for a good repair & alterations tailor

Coaches: Victoria coach station, just behind the train station is the main terminus, and is efficient and clean - it has left luggage. If you book trains in advance they compare favourably with coaches on price, but always beat them on time and effort.

Crime: violence is quite rare, and often localised to housing estates (projects) in slum areas. Britons often get boistrous when drunk, but rarely violent. The major worry is pickpockets - gangs of professional Italian and Spanish (and increasingly East European) pickpockets have infested the centre each summer for years, they are increasingly being supplemented by illegal immigrants and refugees, who are more desperate. Guard your bags and pockets. Mugging is rare. Normal caution advised. You can check the latest London crime statistics here

River Cruises - depart from all the usual points - on the embankment just below Westminster Bridge, and on the other side of the river - look out for the piers. The 'guided' part of the tour as the guide explains is discretionary and they usually expect a tip - except for the large bateau-mouches where a commentary is compulsory. Some of the guides are good fun and knowledgable. We advise going one way to Greenwich and the other way via the Docklands Light Railway - see 'trips' for further details.


Disabled Information: Yourable, a commercial database, or the campaigning group, RADAR ,are the best sources of information.

Dentists: Denplan, 330 Vauxhall Bridge Road, opposite Victoria Station 0207 834 2967, Denplan group have clinics across town, call 0800 401 402 (toll free).

Dirty weekends: A dirty weekend is a weekend overnighter trip organised around having sex. It has nothing to do with off-road cycling, time is spend in the saddle, but to much better effect. It gains its qualifier from the time when most hotels wouldn't allow unmarried couples to stay. Hence the popular hotel guide 'Mr and Mrs Smith' from the false registry entry couples used. See out tripspage for recommendations....

Dry cleaning: Sketchley's branches all over London. They'll also do minor clothes repairs. A good quick repairer is 'A1' on the corner of Berwick and D'Arbley streets in Soho.

Drugs: this website does not condone or encourage the sale or consumption of illegal drugs. The borders of Soho or King's Cross together with Martin Amis's local pub near Kensington Park Street in Notting Hill are the usual selling points. You can 'legally' buy dope at Brixton station - it's difficult to avoid the pushers who come on the hard sell. Lambeth Borough Council decriminalised cannabis use, in an experiment and Parliament has just changed the classification of cannabis from a 'B' to a 'C' drug,though there's increasing pressure to reverse this. You'll be given a warning and the drug will be confiscated - dealers are usually arrested. Anyone smoking an intoxicating substance in the presence of other members of the public who don't wish to become intoxicated themselves, is liable for punishment - smoke it where we have to breathe it in and we'll personally turn you in. Otherwise, puff away...


Emergencies: ring 999 from any phone and you'll be connected to the Police, Fire or Ambulance service.

Enclaves (for hunting down ethnic food...): Jewish: Stamford Hill (Orthadox) Golder's Green/Finchley (liberal), Portuguese: Between Oval and Stockwell tubes. Turkish: Green Lanes/Dalston. Vietnamese: Kingsland Road (north of Shoreditch), Chinese: Wembley, Charlton. Trendy middle-class whites: Stoke Newington Church St, Shoreditch/Hoxton, Bermondsey St. Affluent middle class whites: Battersea, Clapham, Lamb's Conduit St. Filthy rich boho: Chelsea, Filthy rich conservative: Chiswick, Irish: Kilburn, Black African: Peckham, Carribean: Brixton, Clapton ('murder mile'), Russian: (poor) Neasden (rich) Hampstead, Chelsea. Arab: Mayfair, Edgeware Road. White trash: Bermondsey. Indian subcontinent: East End (Bengali) Hounslow/Southall (Indian). Newham (Pakistani) etc etc etc. It was a surprise to this author to find not one but three separate groups of London Bolivians in the annual Thames parade -

Events, public see the Mayor's website - Click HERE


Festivals Lots of them, mostly free, therefore covered in our FREE page under concerts.

Film Sets: Bridget Jones was filmed in Borough market (as were Lock Stock & Two Smoking barrels and a host of other recent films). Ken Loach and other recent neo-realist films, along with many of the b & w Ealing comedies were shot around the back of King's Cross Station in streets such as Cheney Road. Oliver, Still Crazy and a host of other films were shot in Bermondsey Street and Butler's Wharf opposite the Tower. Interiors are usually shot in the Pall Mall clubs on a weekend when they're closed.

Food shopping: plenty of supermarkets open til late in the centre: eg. Sainsbury's at the south end of Tottenham Court Road, Tesco, near Bond Street Tube on Oxford Street, and in Covent Garden. Brewer Street (vide infra) near Piccadilly has a wide range of delicatessens, health food shops, organic supermarkets (including one Japanese supermarket). This road has totally changed over the past two years and now you can find prosciutto where prostitution was the norm and porcini where there was pornography [that's enough colour..Ed.]. The best Ice cream is to be found at the Japan Centre on Piccadilly itself, only three flavours, but we've not tasted better on the planet. For a good half day out, do as Londoners do and go to Borough market on a Saturday. Crowded, yes, but if it's not sold here you can't eat it. Loads of restaurants. Good place for breakfast/brunch midweek too and you can take the tube there (London Bridge) and walk back along the river.


Gambling: London's casinos attract the rich and glamorous and it must be said, the addicted and the bored. There is a carefully crafted air of glamour and luxury - free food (though not drink - that would break the gaming laws) and smart surroundings (but the croupier/es will be dressed dowdily - anything else would be an illegal 'enducement' to gamble), but beyond that it is a losers' haunt.
Casinos are members only clubs - you cannot join and play the same day, and you can at any time be suspended and barred entry. This is most likely if you win. If you win on blackjack - more than the (very) odd occasion, your photo will soon be posted round the other casinos and you will find yourself totally unable to gamble in London. Only losers are allowed back in.
If you can resist the pull of the tables, the food is usually very good and cheap. It is also an excellent place to see human nature at its worst. In Soho, after midnight, Chinese gamblers take over waving wads of fifty-pound notes and chain-smoking. On Edgeware Road it's all bored oil-sheiks wasting their patrimony. Also be aware that gambling debts are unenforcable under law - when a bookmaker or casino pays you it does so as a 'gentlemen's agreement' - and of course, most of the time you're not dealing with gentlemen.

Gay London: Soho and Earl's court are the two major areas where you will be able to plug in to the local information networks.

Genealogy Try the London Profiler Site . It tracks data such as ethnicity, education and class and maps them onto the city. You can see where all the French, Chinese or Italian people in london live, where areas of social deprivation are.    To see where people sharing a name live in London (or anywhere else for that matter, try the onomap

Gifts: See our shopping page. We're constantly being pestered to sell posters of London from our site. However if you do want some excellent poster-size prints of London, this exhibition , which is occasionally on Hungerford Bridge (Charing Cross - South Bank) offers them for sale. Some really excellent pictures and well worth a visit to the site or the bridge to have a look.

Guides: Official London Guides wear the 'blue badge' which certifies their knowledge and there are a number of walking tours which are excellent. Caveat emptor if the guide is not a 'blue badge' but there are many good guides who don't have the badge. One such guide is HERE though we do not endorse any individual guides. This is another tour guide/company: HERE


Harry Potter: Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross/St Pancras station... the queue of mug(gle)s waiting to have their photograph taken can get 30-40 long... it's just a plaque up against a wall and a luggage trolley that has got half way thru...but your kids will want to see it, strangely most visitors appear to be Sino-Japanese adults!

Healthy Food/Lifestyle. The Organic supermarket 'Fresh and Wild' at 69 Brewer St, just behind Piccadilly Circus, is one of the best though it is facing stiff competition from America's leading chain which has its first, and we suspect not its last, base in Kensington High Street. See also Borough Market. Brewer street is fast becoming one of the best places for food shopping in London.

Historic buildings: visit our Historic section. The best way to learn about the history of London is to visit the Museum of London. We also recommend walking round the City, from the Inns of Court via Fleet Street to St Pauls and beyond to the Bank.

Holidays The official UK holidays, as ordained by the government, are detailed  HERE . Generally a lot of things are open on most holidays, as Britons love to shop - the only real exceptions are Christmas Day (most things closed but a few restaurants and some bars will be open) and New Year's Day (when it falls on a Monday).
Remember that Christian holidays are generally not as strictly celebrated in non-christian families, so many Chinese and Indian sub-C businesses may well be open even then. Britons are not religious generally, apart from the 10% who are happy-clappy or babushka believers, and members of muslim immigrant families. The other 90% are more interested in having a good time and therefore drive the blooming pub & club scene. No-one will mind if you want to observe a religious holiday yourself, but people WILL object if you try to force others to do so...

Hotels see our Hotels page. 


Internet access: go to EasyEverything (big branches close to Charing Cross, Tottenham Court road and Bond Street tube stations.) Very cheap, fast access, crowded - £1 for 6 hours surfing at night. The top end of Charing Cross Road (just South of Tottenham Court Road tube station) has a cluster of cheap internet cafes with very cheap rates - cheapest is actually in the subway under Centre Point.


Jewellers - a large selection in Hatton Garden EC1. Remember to haggle, the dealers come from haggle cultures.


Kids - see our 'Children's London' page


Language Schools: clustered around Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. You won't recoup your costs by leafleting outside with the other forlorn types. Flyers are handed out all over London. Orwell has a lot to say on the activity in 'Down and Out in London and Paris'. Many language schools are fronts for 'Student Visa' scams where you register as a student, then buy an attendance record with your (full time) earnings.

Lawyers: In the first case you would see a Solicitor, who would arrange for a Barrister to represent you in court if the case arose. Arrange through the Law Society (in office hours) on 0870 606 6575. Out of office hours, the Police will have a local list, ask them to remove the handcuffs so you can dial.

Left Luggage: at all major train stations. If you liked 'The importance of being Ernest' you'll want to leave your handbag at Victoria Station. 


Lost Property: on public transport - go to 200 Baker St (well signposted from the tube station). It costs £3 to do the necessary paperwork if they find your property (nothing to register a loss). Property lost in a Taxi will cost a fortune to recuperate as the Taxi drivers expect to be paid for handing it in, and there's a £10 charge and tax. Other transport professionials do not charge for this kindly civic action and the recuperation charge is correspondingly smaller.

Maps: To orient yourself in a basic way about the various regions of London see our interactive Orientation page.  If you want a simple sheet map grab one of the free bicycle route maps of London - it doesn't matter for what area, they all carry a very detailed map of the centre on the reverse...best sheet map we've come across. You can get them all over (Transport for London will even send them out, possibly to your hotel from their site - see our transport page), but the Tourist Office at 1 Lower Regent Street always has a pile - no-one, it seems is interested in cycling round the grimmer bits of South East London. As of November 2009 they were on the second leaflet rack on the left, upstairs - but these things tend to change.
Tube maps and other goodies are available at all tube stations - the most convenient is the visitors guide map, tubes and buses and other info - fits in your pocket. A good basic map of the tourist attractions and how to get to them is here.   And there's an interactive online tourist map here    However for handy reference, we recommend you buy an A-Z of London - widely available at bookshops and souvenir shops across town (probably the best place is in WH Smith - there's a branch in every airport and station). London's streets are notoriously tricky to track down - we use our A-Z every day. And the Geographer's Company A-Z map has a fine pedigree, founded by an entreprising woman who got lost in London in the 1930's - self-financed and run as a trust and still the best. For a good map on the web try StreetMap.co.uk  - for a map of the exact centre follow this link  from which go North-West for Soho, South-West for Buckingham Palace, East for Tower Bridge - and so on - you can also view an aerial picture of the map reference.

Also, new on the web is an interactive map with photos, well worth taking a look, it's HERE

Medical - the main hospitals are on the outskirts of the city, though the Middlesex is in the centre, north of Oxford Street. St Thomas' Hospital next to Westminster Bridge has a good emergency department, Guys, at London Bridge, has a very good minor injuries clinic. There's a good 'drop in' medical centre at Waterloo Station, and near Carlisle St in Soho.

Money - you'll probably need more than you think - unless you follow our advice. London is something to experience rather than a series of tourist traps. Watch out for the increasingly prevalent cash machines owned by Travelex which charge large sums for withdrawals. Always better to use an official bank machine. They will tell you they give free cash withdrawals - which is true unless you're not a Brit, in which case they will always give you a better deal than the Travelex/link rip-off machines.
London is an expensive city: do read this excellent article before you come. Despite the cost it's worth it, but start trying to save money from day one. See our free pages - you can have a lot of fun on an Oyster card for £6 a day, plus meals and accommodation, if you're forewarned.

Museums - see our Museums page.


Network Southeast card gives you 1/3 off off-peak fares in the south of England. Will pay for itself quickly as you need only one for four people traveling together. Also gives you reductions on one day tube passes - if bought through a machine at a rail station. Still excellent value if you use the rail network. However the rules have changed: see Transport page.


Outdoor activity and Sports - see our active page 

Oystercards: the rechargeable ticket for all of London's transport - indispensible.  You can buy one before you arrive here and get it delivered to save queuing. Visit Shop


Paris - veuillez regarder notre guide a Paris ICI .

Pharmacy - see 'chemist'

Phones: most phoneboxes take money as well as phonecards and credit cards. A high proportion now take Euros - they have a large yellow sticker usually on the door outside or just above the phone. You can buy phonecards at a newsagent or there are dispensing machines at postoffices and large stations. Most European cell phones work within the UK, though at a premium rate, a lot of US phones won't, though that's improving. A lot of people just hire. We think a better option, if you're here for any length of time, or use your phone a lot, is to buy a cheap 'pay as you use' phone (the cheapest we've seen is £30)and link to Virgin. We are not endorsing them but their rates are very straightforward (15 p a minute for the first 5 calls, 5p a minute thereafter, texts 10p) and their ansafone service is free (useful if callers are in a different timezone). You can' top up' with scratchcard vouchers or your credit card. We have used them: the cheapest call that can be made from a phonebox costs 20p. With the March 2004 bombings in Madrid being triggered by mobile phone, if you do hire or buy a phone there may be security checks, especially if you're not a WASP.

Police: the 'bobby' on the beat makes a real effort to be nice - you can ask them directions, advice etc. If it's simply a matter of advice they are very good, if you get in trouble they can become quite suspicious and have a tendency to racism - highlighted in a recent government report. However, compared with other country's police forces they score very highly - most of them don't carry guns. When they do they're very highly trained, but, sadly, often commanded by moronic zealots, as the hearing into the shooting at Stockwell station tragically revealed. Also when policing demonstrations (virtually illegal under New Labour who do not brook any opposition), they tend to hit anyone who they don't like the look of, then lie about it (search for the investigation into the death of Tomlinson), so avoid large crowds shouting slogans.
Complaints against police brutality are generally ignored or rejected, whatever the evidence (especially into the paramilitary wing, the TSG) and complainants may be harassed, whilst the thuggish elements in the force go unpunished. On the positive, increasing amounts of paperwork means charges are often not pressed for 'minor' crimes so a caution can be administered for, say, assault, robbery, etc, and the chap who stole your wallet and struck your partner will be free to do so again within minutes. If you're a miscreant this should warm the cockles of your heart.

Pregnancy and Abortion Marie Stopes Clinics offer all the necessary advice, support and services, including emergency contraception.

Pubs - see our food and drink page. 

Queues: are long and there's a strict code of behaviour - see our tickets and queues advice page.


Religion - England is perhaps one of the least religious countries of the world - a healthy scepticism and a resigned stoicism are the general norm. Catholic mores are not part of the national psyche and puritainism left with the Mayflower in the 17th Century.

However, there is a strong belief in what is 'right and proper' especially among the lower classes. Church attendance is low, though there are plenty of churches throughout the capital - the South East is largely Baptist, the East End Catholic, the North Jewish and the West Church of England.

Libertarianism flourishes but it's more a tolerant laissez-faire attitude than the aggressive American kind. In the City of London, Mammon is the only god worshiped, despite the highest concentration of Churches in England. Church and State have been separate since the time of Henry VIII.

British Quakerism is strongly allied with the pacifist, anti-nuclear, internationalist movements and encompasses a quiet pantheism. There are plenty of Hindus, who have their own temple in Neasden which is quite pretty and counts Prince Charles among its admirers . The central Mosque in Regent's park is a neat fusion of English and Islamic art, and the East End is peppered with old synagogues. Stamford Hill (orthodox) and Golders Green are very Jewish communities in North London. See Churches and Temples above 

Rest of the UK : OK, OK.. we concede that there are great things to do outside London. Like visiting Edinburgh, Cambridge or Bath.  Walking in the Lake district is a particular favourite of ours. By popular request we've included a summary of what's best and how to pack it all in by rail or car. We also show you how to 'do' the UK (by rail) for £60 a person (excluding hotels and food, of course). See our 'Rest of UK' page for details.

Retro : Clothing in Monmouth street, where it's been sold for centuries, at Camden Market (good for retro furniture as well) and upstairs at the Salvation Army Shop, round the back of their Kingdom Hall on Princes St. For other retro experiences London's answer to NY's east Village (though we suspect it is the question...) is Shoreditch/Hoxton - basically from Liverpool St Station, up Brick Lane (very very trendy near the old brewery) and through towards Hoxton Square superb on a Sunday.

Rooftop dining/Drinking : Several of these, from Tower 42 in the City, through the Oxo Tower , The Park Lane Hilton (rooftop bar closed until March 2006) or Harvey Nicks .


Sport: see our active page.

Stamps: buy at newsagents in books of 4 or 10 - but for international stamps visit a post office, there's a large one next to St Martins-in-the-fields church in Trafalgar Square. As of date of writing the closing of sub post offices is continuing apace and the privatisation-by-stealth is continuing. Lots of temporary staff are being hired at low wages and often with less than perfect grasp of English. Parcels and letters are going astray at record rates (we've had 2 parcels, one recorded letter and two other letters lost by the post office in the past three months). Sadly the managers are more interested in working out ways to retain their jobs and increase their pay than improve service. Don;t assume that because you've sent a letter it will arrive.


Tailoring: Saville Row area for gents and ladies tailoring - the best in the world. See our Shopping page for details.

Terrorism London is a safe city - in the 4 years preceding the July 7 bombings fewer people were killed by terrorism than by falling elephants (3 people were felled by the beasts in 2 years!). However no capital city in the developed world is entirely safe. British anti-terrorist police are pretty good and our intelligence is excellent - once a danger is exposed the loose ends get tied very efficiently, though if you're Brazilian don't run for the tube.
Britain's Islamic community has pledged to help root out extremism and we think the next five years will see a sea change in attitudes of and towards muslims- but this is more dependent on 'moderate' muslims taking the lead. Londoners are generally aware of the risks of suspicious parcels, and buildings and stations are often evacuated 'just in case' when there is no real danger. Hours before we wrote this we were evacuated from a street in the centre while police did a controlled explosion on a suspicious parcel which turned out to be innocent. We were ourselves (in our other capacity as BBC journalist) the intended victim of a bombing attack by the IRA a few years ago when a bomb exploded under our desk, fortunately we'd evacuated at the time.

Years of Irish Republican terrorism have left the English blase about the dangers though few have forgotten America's support for the the IRA and view America's current anti-terrorism stance with some cynicism. In general most Britons think Bush's gung-ho militaristic stance is making the world a much less safe place: we're not lax on terrorism but we know retributive policy hasn't worked in the Middle East, Asia nor South America. Intelligence and hearts-and-minds works best. You should have no worries about living or working in London

Theatre: see our entertainments page.

Tickets and Queues: it is vital that you think about how you intend to spend your time in London (even if you just want to be relaxed and not plan anything) as ticket prices are high for major attractions, and the queues long. Our advice is HERE

Tipping: waiters, hairdressers and taxidrivers (as well as the usual bellhops) are traditional targets of tipping. However as Taxis in London are more expensive than anywhere in the world , according to official statistics, and as Taxi drivers earn upwards of £70k ($100k) a year we think it's asking too much to expect a tip from poorer people. Hairdressers and waiting-on staff get low base salaries and 10% should suffice, if service is good. Don't expect the level of service common to the US, nor the meanness of the Germanic countries, where they'll charge for tapwater. England is not a haggling or a tipping culture.

Trains: for everything about trains see the excellent Seat61 Website , truly a labour of love. When booking use the 'cheapest fare' option at www.nationalrail.co.uk

Travelcards: unlimited travel on Buses, Tubes and Trains, including the DLR. Buy from any tube station. Can be combined with an admission ticket to several attractions with savings, not least on queuing time. But it is better to buy an oystercard as it is uasually easier and gives you FREE TRAVEL FOR CHILDREN.! An oystercard only charges you for travel up to the cost of a travelcard and then all trips are free.

Tourist offices:
Central: 1 Regent Street, near Piccadilly Circus,
Victoria Station forecourt: tel 0207 375 2549.
Liverpool Street (underground station) tel: 0207 932 2020.
Southwark: Southeast tip of London Bridge (look for pointy sculpture).
If you are planning to visit Madame Tussauds or other such attractions buy tickets here in advance - it will save you hours of queueing.

Tourist Organisations: as with all 'official' tourist entities the rule is 'caveat emptor'. These organisations exist to make tourists part with their money. Several local 'official' tourist boards have been prosecuted for misrepresentation (in one notorious case a seaside town photographically 'added' a delightful blue expanse of sea to their front when in reality there are merely several miles of mudflats) but this was a rare case - most 'official' tourist organisations are merely guilty of exaggeration.
For facts they are usually OK, but they will not tell you what's not worth the trip. The numerous leaflets and posters should also be treated with the same caution. Most tourist activities are 'one off' - ie no-one cares whether you have a good time - you're unlikely to be repeating the experience. Rely on impartial guide books (ie ones that aren't afraid to criticise poor value/service) and on word-of-mouth when deciding what to see.
And don't be misled by the attempts of London to create itself as a 'brand' - it's best to see things for what they really are, rather than get your opinions pre-formed. A case in point is Buckingham Palace, which time and time again is criticised by independent bodies and guidebooks (such as ourselves) as a really poor attraction, but is strongly promoted as a 'must see' and relies on brand-recognition rather than rational thought

Transport - see our transport page.


Underground: stops running at midnight, earlier on Sundays. See our transport page. 


VAT - visitors from outside the European Union can get a refund of VAT (not the same as sales tax) paid on goods they take back home with them (ie Hotel bills are not included). Many shops operate a scheme - keep receipts and claim at the point of exit - refund bureaux at all the airports.

Value, Quality and other words and phrases usually mean the opposite: real quality goods don't advertise the fact - it's not the British way. In fact the quality of goods is usually in inverse proportion to the amount of advertising. For instance a brand advertising itself as 'Purveyors of quality goods to the gentry since 1898' is likely to turn out to have been selling cheap factory-made goods to the lumpenproletariat since Christmas. Tourists are often taken in by descriptions like this, many brands are only made for tourists and Brits wouldn't be seen dead with them. The only exceptions are Royal Warrants - the Royal family's seal of approval which usually reflects quality rather than taste (the Royals are Naff).


Wargraves: Poppy Travel does trips to visit war graves and battle sites in northern France and Belgium.

Watch repairers: The best and cheapest specialists cluster round the intersection of Goswell St and Old Street, just north of the Barbican. For a quick strap repair or battery change try Debenhans department store, Oxford Street, or Berwick St market, just 100 metres north of Shaftsbury Avenue.

Water: safe to drink everywhere. I think many were surprised when Thames water (no not directly from the Thames) came second in a national blind tasting. London tap water is extremely clean - cleaner than bottled water, measured by bacterial count. Tap water (admittedly from more rural areas) frequently outclasses premium bottled waters on blind taste tests.

Weather: get a report here. Despite a glorious 2010 summer (for a change) the weather remains fickle. It rains one day in three on average. Never plan an outdoors event in advance - it'll be rained off Our Rain Gods are quite mischievious. Americans should not complain about the extremes of British climate as they will be largely held responsible (one retort overheard in pub went along the lines of - gas guzzlers - cheap petrol - imbecile president - falsified evidence - unscrupulous scientists - corrupt politicians - hope your house gets destroyed in a a tornado. See also terrorism.)

Webcams See our webcams page.

What's On: the BBC does an excellent guide and listing service which can be found HERE. See also our Entertainment pages. 




Guidebook to what to see and
                    do in London

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