What NOT to do in London

The view of Parliament from the London Eye

London can be a difficult city to love.

The United Kingdom’s most iconic city is large and overcrowded, glamorous but expensive, beautiful yet filthy. The weather is poor, its residents grumpy, and yet it’s iconic, historic and an amazing city to travel to.

I’ve written before on this travel blog about the many reasons to both love and hate London and of some of my favourite things to do in London, like visiting Richmond, Kingston and the city’s best riverside pubs.

Now I’m going to write about what NOT to do in London. If you do these things I guarantee you won’t get the full London experience; in fact, by doing some of these things you will run the risk of being punched in the face.

Support the wrong football team

You’ve heard of football hooligans, haven’t you? You’re going to want to avoid these chaps.

Fulham vs Peterborough in London

I’ve said it before (in my post about going to my first English Premier League match, where I managed to get the game ball) and I’ll say it again: do not sit in the home stand if you plan to support the away team and vice versa. Also, go to Millwall matches at your own risk. You have been warned.

Do something stupid on the Tube

Londoners will gladly tell you where to go, whether you ask them or not.

On the Tube it’s best to tow the company line and do as others around you do – and by “others” I don’t mean those scary-looking hoodies drinking and playing their music really loud. In fact, you should avoid those people and definitely NOT strike up a conversation with them.

Meanwhile, the stereotypical London tourist stands on the left-hand side of the escalator, which is a big no-no when on the London Tube and an offence punishable by death. I kid.

More London Tube etiquette.

Photo007

Buy theatre tickets in Leicester Square

They’re called tourist traps for a reason, people. Do not go to Leicester Square looking for bargain West End theatre tickets. Instead, if you have internet access – and who doesn’t nowadays? – buy your tickets online.

Walk into the first restaurant you see in Brick Lane

London’s Brick Lane is famous for its Indian restaurants and the pushy salespeople who stand outside on the street, trying to lure you in with the promise of free naan bread.

You need to take your time, walk the street, haggle your ass off and play the sales people against each other to get a great deal. Brick Lane restaurateurs have a curious case of amnesia, too, where occasionally they “forget” about the deal you negotiated outside. Remind them.

Similarly, only a fool takes the restaurants of Brick Lane at face value. Every freakin’ restaurant has won some sort of an award on this street.

London's Tower Bridge during the Olympics in 2012

Wear a bowler hat and say “guv’nor”

Dressing like anyone from Oliver Twist, Marry Poppins or Sherlock Holmes might seem like a good idea – if you’re an idiot – but the joke will most definitely be on you.

The same goes for adopting a shite interpretation of the English accent or talking in Cockney slang – unless you happen to be Cockney yourself, in which case, I think you’re talking utter cobblers.

Confuse London Bridge with Tower Bridge

Legend has it that a gullible American once thought he had purchased Tower Bridge, when it was actually the much less iconic London Bridge that he bought to relocate to Lake Havasu City in Arizona.

Whether or not this is true, and there are a lot of websites that say this story is patently untrue, beware of anyone trying to sell you a bridge.

Seek tranquillity on Oxford Street

You won’t find peace and quiet here; on the contrary, you’ll find the busiest shopping street in the UK, a road so heaving with people – and traffic – that claustrophobia is likely to set in.

Check out my guide to the best London day trips and Antipodean London – the ultimate guide to life in London.

Do you have you any London travel tips that should be on the list? Let us know in the comments below…

About Simon Petersen 309 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.

20 Comments

  1. As an Aussie living in Manchester, here’s another tip of what not to do in London…….. Don’t leave the confines of the M25 and not see the rest of the UK!!!

  2. some great advice here – certainly made me smile – one other good bit of advice – never under any circumstance touch the black handrail on tube escalators.

    Tristan

  3. The best Indian restaurants (quality of food & service) on Brick Lane are the ones that don’t stand outside touting for business. Living just 5 minutes walk from Brick Lane, there’s some great Indian restaurants in close proximity to Brick Lane that we prefer to go to as their offering is the real deal and a higher standard – they’re not watering down what’s on offer to cover the costs of the special the Brick Lane establishments lure you in with.

    • Here you go, travel peeps – some great tips about Brick Lane from someone who lives nearby! Thanks for the great advice

  4. I had a really traumatic experience on the Tube. It was Green Park at 5:15pm. Absoloutely crazy busy. The gates were open. My friend walked through. My boyfriend walked through. I walked- ARGH! The gates closed on me. My arm and shopping bags were on one side of the gate and the rest of me on the other. I tried to lean backwards to put my ticket in the slot but I was trapped and couldn’t reach. The throng of commuters behind me was getting bigger and bigger and I could hear loud tutting noises and exclamations of ‘Oh for fucks sake’ (under their breathe of course- this being Britain!). My “friends” meanwhile were almost dying of laughter. Red faces, bodies buckled over, knee slapping. I had to be rescued by a Tube staff worker. I little bit of me died that day. That, is the end of my tragically embarassing story. The moral? Use the Tube cautiously or walk!

    • Haha, what a story! I feel bad for you – partly because I could have been one of those people muttering under their breath about this annoying tourist! Honestly, within a couple of months of moving to London from New Zealand I would mutter “bloody tourists” under my breath! I realise, now, how awful that was!

  5. I’ve actually found that the cheapest theater tickets come from the theater’s own box office, go in person and sweet talk the guy on the desk, they can cut you good deals. ( talking as a Londoner)
    Other than that, yep, you’re pretty much right. , I’d say stay away from public transport completely, it’s good but central London is tiny, just walk.

    • Wow, that’s a great tip that I never thought of! Haha, it’s cheeky but well worth a try! As for the central city being tiny – you’re right, even Londoners forget that fact and spend ages trying to push onto the Tube when they could just walk!

    • Great tip on the theater tickets!
      I’ve been coming to London every year for the past four years now with my dad. It’s our annual trip and we always go see a musical. We normally buy our tickets online, way in advance, but we’d like to try and get some on spot this year.
      Don’t know if the sweet talk will work with my dad next to me, though:)

  6. Actually being serious as you ask for tips x try to use buses rather than tubes as there’s some really beautiful architecture to see

    • Good call. We lived in Putney so I’d always take newbies to town on the #14 bus, which took in some excellent sights – across the Thames, past Stamford Bridge, Harrods, Hyde Park and into Piccadilly. Cheaper than forking out for a proper bus tour!

  7. I’ve never seen Chavs playing music on a tube and I’ve only pushed 11 tourists down the tube escalator, ha ha ha only joking its 4 😉

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