A guide for Americans visiting London for the first time


A transatlantic trip can be a daunting prospect. Head across the pond from the States to London and you will be a long way from home, and while Brits and Americans do share a lot of common ground, there is plenty for visitors to keep in mind.

But, don’t be put off, yes there is a lot to get to grips with, but those making the journey to the English capital will be rewarded with an array of sights, sounds and attractions – more on those later.

Use the Tube

London is blessed with a fantastic transport system, once you learn how to use it. The Underground will take you all over the city at a reasonable price if you get yourself an Oyster Card. However, it can be a little confusing at first and it is easy to end up at the wrong stop, or even on the wrong line altogether, so take a little time to familiarise yourself with the tube map.

Put in that little bit of effort and you will have no problem at all. Be warned though, during rush hour the Tube can get incredibly busy and will be packed full of commuters. Trust us, it can quickly becomes a stressful, sweaty affair, so if at all possible avoid peak times. Of course, you should also remember your manners by letting people off the train before you get on and by refraining from sitting in priority seats reserved for the elderly and disabled.

Stay safe

Like all major cities there is some crime in London, so you will want to safeguard yourself against becoming a victim during your trip. When travelling at busy times on public transport or trudging through a crowd you may be a target for pick pockets or bag snatchers, so make sure that your wallet or purse and mobile phone or any other device is safely zipped away in a bag. In this regard, a bag that zips all the way across the top is advised.

Using your phone in the middle of a crowded street also isn’t the smartest of ideas. If you need to take a call or look up some directions step into a quiet spot if possible to avoid becoming a target for thieves or even just to ensure that the hustle and bustle of the crowd doesn’t result in your device flying out of your hand and smashing on the pavement.

While crime does happen in London it is no more common than in other major cities, so just follow these simple steps, use your common sense and you will be just fine.

Head to the pub

In the midst of all the sightseeing that you will be doing you may well want to soak up a different kind of British culture by stopping off for a drink at a traditional pub. There are a couple of pointers to give here.

First off, don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot, or at all for that matter. If you sit at a table and wait for a member of the bar staff to come and take your order then you will be in for the thirst to end all thirsts. Instead, head straight up to the bar and get your order in. The do-it-yourself approach adopted in the UK also means that tipping is far less commonplace than back in the States. You certainly would not be expected to leave a tip when ordering a round of drinks.

Berry Delicious Cocktail at Shaftesbury Grand Royal

If you are lucky enough to take a trip to the pub on a balmy summer’s day then you may also be able to take your drink out to the bar’s outside area. Again, this is common in the UK, but rare in the US, so enjoy it while you can!

Sunday lunch is a big deal to Brits, so why not do as they do and dive into a traditional roast? Be warned though, once you’ve tried one, Sundays may never be the same again. Speaking of food, make sure you also sample other staples of the British diet like fish and chips and curry. You can worry about the extra pounds you will put on when you get back home, right? Afternoon tea is another British tradition and a great way to spend a relaxing few hours enjoying some fine company and some even finer beverages.

Plan ahead

The weather is a major cause of concern for many visitors to Britain. Yes, by and large the weather is pretty unpredictable. It is not uncommon to experience howling wind and rain in the summer months but then also roaring sunshine in the fall (or autumn, as you’ll be saying after a trip to the UK). So, the best piece of advice we can give here is to plan ahead and be prepared. Check the forecasts ahead of any trip and pack accordingly. Even if beautiful skies and hours of sun are predicted, pack a waterproof just in case. Like we said, the British weather is unpredictable, and you don’t want to get caught in a freak storm.

Planning ahead extends to your accommodation as well. London is an extremely popular destination, so hotel rooms can get booked up fast, particularly if there is a special event on during your stay. So, do a little forward thinking and be sure to secure yourself a room for your trip well ahead of stepping foot on the plane.

Last, but not least, we return to those must-see attractions that we mentioned earlier. Popular tourist hotspots in London include Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Big Ben, the London Eye, Tower Bridge and Westminster Abbey. Then there is also the city’s vibrant shopping scene and nightlife, and the renowned West End theatre district.

Taking in a sports game is another superb attraction and visitors to the capital are spoilt for choice on this front. If soccer (or football, as you should call it while over there) is your preferred game then London is home to a host of top clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. If tickets for those sides are a little out of your price range then why not head down the football league pyramid and catch a match at Brentford, Charlton or one of the many teams plying their trade in the city. The atmosphere will be every bit as electric and you won’t break the bank on tickets.

Or, if you time your trip to perfection you could catch the annual NFL game held in London. In fact, there will be three ties played out this year. First off the Indianapolis Colts face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on October 2nd. The same venue hosts Washington Redskins vs Cincinnati Bengals on October 30th. In between the two you will find New York Giants vs LA Rams at Twickenham on October 23rd.

As you can see, whether it be sporting events, tourist attractions or just a spot of Sunday lunch in a traditional pub, there is plenty to do and see to fill a trip from the US to London; and if you follow the simple steps and tips in this article then you will have a blast.