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Top Things to Know Before Visiting London, United Kingdom

Anne July 12th, 2023
Top Things to Know Before Visiting London, United Kingdom


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Famed for its fashion, theater, and spectacular sightseeing, London is a must on any American's travel bucket list. This remarkable city is one of the world's most-visited for good reason: there's always something iconic to see — but also, there are always hidden gems to discover.  Another benefit? A relatively worry-free introduction to international travel.

Still, there's a bit of a learning curve, especially as you navigate passports, foreign exchange, and even transport. A little insight can make a world of difference, so we've provided a few simple tips to level up your London getaway:


Do Your Homework

United kingdom close up on white, Pound UK note

Basic planning can make your first few hours in London a lot more enjoyable. Essentials to keep in mind include:

  • Currency: Euros won't get you far in London; the national currency is the British pound. While you can often use your credit card, you'll also want to have cash on hand. Having cash will help you avoid paying high atm fees. Make your airport visit easier by using a foreign exchange service prior to your trip. When in doubt, order currency online and have it delivered to your doorsteps.
  • Airport navigation: Heathrow Airport is notoriously crowded. Get your trip off to a strong start by mapping your route in advance so you know how to navigate the airport. Be patient, as long waits are common. To that end, you'll want to arrive at the airport several hours early when it's time to head home. 
  • Use electronic gates: As an American vacationer, you enjoy access to electronic gates at Heathrow. Known as ePassport gates, these verify your identity electronically to speed up the process of immigration. Looking to make your airport experience faster? Learn more about the Trusted Travelers Program.  

Skip the Car 

Modern red double decker bus, London

Your approach to transport will depend, to some extent, on whether you want to stick around London or explore other destinations. If you plan to focus on London, do yourself a favor and book accommodations in a walkable, transport-friendly location, where you don't need to deal with a car. 

Driving is already complicated enough for Americans, but traffic and parking can also be a nightmare. The transit system, however, is remarkable, and you have your pick of the Tube and double-decker buses — unique experiences you won't want to miss. Use the Oyster card for a pay-as-you-go approach to transport.


Don't Forget to Tip

Man paying by 20 pound notes at cafe or shop in London

Tipping etiquette varies dramatically from one travel destination to the next. In London, unlike much of Europe, this is still expected. Some restaurants rely on service charges, but tips of between 10 and 15 percent are far more common. If you take a taxi, plan to round up the fair and allow the driver to keep the change.


Don't Try to Do It All

Statue of Robert Clive at the Churchill War Rooms

With a population exceeding nine million, it would be an understatement to refer to London as vast. It is, simply put, impossible to do it all — especially if you only have a few days or weeks to explore. Instead of trying to check off all the boxes, select a few must-visit locations, plus a few lesser-known spots that might not be quite as crowded.

The usual essentials include Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower Bridge. These will take far more time to navigate than you anticipate, so don't overdo your itinerary on major sightseeing days.


Consider planning the remainder of your trip based on your individual interests: theater, history, or fashion, for example. Creative ideas include:


Limit yourself to one or two activities per day. If you struggle to cut back on your itinerary, consider booking a bus or walking tour, which will expose you to several favorites while providing behind-the-scenes insights. Don't forget to set aside some time to simply relax and take it all in.

Amid the bustling city, there are many surprisingly peaceful parks, quaint pubs, and adorable bookshops. This is where you can escape for a moment and capture the true charm of London. London is what you make of it. No two vacations are exactly alike, and that's what makes this iconic city so exciting to explore.

Treat yourself to a trip like no other — a little planning will deliver all the best memories with none of the stress.


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About Currency Exchange International
Currency Exchange International, CXI, is the leading provider of comprehensive foreign exchange services, risk management solutions and integrated international payments processing technology in North America. CXI’s relationship-driven approach ensures clients receive tailored solutions and world-class customer service. Through innovative and trusted FX software platforms, CXI delivers versatile foreign exchange services to our clients, so that they can efficiently manage and streamline their foreign currency and global payment needs. CXI is a trusted partner among financial institutions, corporations and retail markets around the world. To learn more, visit: www.ceifx.com


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