List of countries
Travel in Europe
Travel in Africa
Travel in Asia
Travel in Europe :
Travel in France
Travel in Belgium
Travel in Finland
Travel in Germany
Travel in Asia :
Travel in America :
Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in london
Free Travel guide Ooaj.com A free travel guide for holidays. Hotels in london, Bed and Breakfast!
London is the capital city of both the United Kingdom and of England, and the largest European city. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of 8 million people, although the figure of over 14 million for the city's metropolitan area more accurately reflects London's size and importance. London is historically one of the great "world cities" and remains a global capital of politics, culture, fashion and finance.
The name "London" originally referred only to the once-walled "Square Mile" of the original Roman (and later medieval) city. "London", however, has taken on a much larger meaning, to include all of the vast central part of the modern metropolis, "London" having absorbed numerous surrounding towns and villages over the centuries. Reflecting the massive size of the metropolis, therefore, the term "Greater London" embraces central London together with all the outlying suburbs that lie in one continuous urban sprawl within the lower Thames valley. Though densely populated by New World standards, London retains large swathes of green parkland and open space, even within the city centre.
The International Olympic Committee has decided that London will serve as the host city for the Games of the XXX Olympiad, the Summer Olympic Games of 2012 1 (http://www.london2012.org). This will be the third time that London has been an Olympic City, having hosted the games previously in 1908 and 1948.
Greater London consists of 32 local boroughs that - together with the relatively new London mayorality - form the basis for London's local government. The names of several boroughs - such as 'Westminster' or 'Islington' - are well-known and self-explanatory, others less so, such as 'Hackney' or 'Tower Hamlets'. A traveller's London, however, is best defined by districts that do not always correspond with the borough boundaries, but rather with functional and cultural districts of varying types and sizes:
Settlement has existed on the site of London since well before Roman times, with evidence of Bronze Age and Celtic peoples. The Roman city of Londinium however, established just after the Roman conquest of Britannia in 43 CE, formed the basis for the modern city (some isolated Roman period remains are still to be seen within the city). After a short-lived decline that followed the end of Roman rule in 410 CE, London experienced a gradual revival under the Anglo-Saxons and also the Vikings, emerging as a great medieval trading city and eventually replacing Winchester as the English royal capital. This paramount status for London was confirmed by the Norman, William the Conqueror, who built the Tower of London after the Conquest in 1066 and was crowned King of England in nearby Westminster.
London went from strength to strength and, with the rise of England to first European, then global prominence, the city became a great centre of government, industry and culture. London's long association with the theatre, for example, can be traced back to the English Renaissance (witness the Rose Theatre (http://www.rosetheatre.org.uk/) and Shakespeare's Globe (http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/)) and great playwrights, like Shakespeare, who made London their home.
With the rise of Britain to supreme maritime power in the 18th and 19th centuries, the possessor of the largest global empire, London became an imperial capital, drawing people and influences from around the world to become - for one long period - the largest city in the world. Despite the inevitable decline of the Empire, and considerable suffering during the Second World War (when London was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe in "the Blitz"), the city remains a top-ranked world city, a global centre of finance, learning and culture.
The Museum of London (http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/), located near the Barbican to the north of the City of London, makes an ideal destination (free admission!) for the traveller who wants to understand the history and ongoing legacy of this great city.
London is easily the largest city in the country, eight times larger than England's 'second' city, Birmingham, and dominates the economic, political and social life of the United Kingdom (much to the annoyance of people in "the provinces" - i.e. everywhere except London). The city is full of excellent bars, theatres, museums, art galleries, and parks. It is also the most culturally and ethnically diverse part of the country, and for a visitor, a nice side-effect of this is the wide range of cuisines available. Samuel Johnson said "When one is tired of London, one is tired of life." Whether you are interested in ancient history or modern art (http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/default.htm), opera (http://www.royalopera.org/) or underground raves (http://www.sorted.org/london/), London has it all.
England's royal families have, over the centuries, added much to the London scene for today's traveller: the Tower of London (http://www.hrp.org.uk/webcode/tower_home.asp/), Buckingham Palace (http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page555.asp/), Kensington Palace, the Albert Memorial, the Royal Albert Hall, and Westminster Abbey (http://www.westminster-abbey.org/) spring immediately to mind.
London possesses one of the best collections of museums and galleries anywhere in the world. World cultures throughout history are well represented, for example, at the British Museum (http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/).
Londoners are a mixed bunch. On average, they are fairly private and quiet, even surly, but with no malice and a wicked sense of humour. Trying to get onto a packed bus will often involve quite a bit of cursing and pushing. Londoners don't take themselves or other people very seriously, as witnessed in the sport of "Blaine-baiting" which emerged briefly during the magician David Blaine's self-imposed incarceration at Tower Bridge during 2003.
London (all airports code: LON) is served by a total of six airports - getting to and from the airports is made relatively easy by the large number of public transport links that have been put in place over recent years. If transiting through London, be sure to check the arrival and departure airports carefully as the transfer may be quite time-consuming.
London is served by one international rail link, currently operating out of Waterloo International. High-speed trains travel through the Channel Tunnel from Paris (2h40m) and Brussels (2h15m) and are operated by Eurostar 21 (http://www.eurostar.com/). Book well in advance to secure the best ticket deals. For onward travel Waterloo International is part of the Waterloo station complex (see below) and well served by tube lines, buses and taxis.
London is also well served by trains to and from other parts of the UK. There are no fewer than 12 main line terminal stations, forming a ring around Central London and each serving various parts of the country. Apart from Fenchurch Street (nearest Tube Tower Gateway), all are served by their own stations on the tube network, and most (but not all) can be reached by the Circle Line -- which may be the easiest, if not fastest, way to transfer between stations by Tube. All are served by buses and taxis.
For a detailed profile of each station, visit the Network Rail Stations website (http://www.networkrailstations.co.uk/) and select the appropriate station from the list at left.
In clockwise order the mainline (National Rail) train stations are:
There is also one cross-London rail service called Thameslink, from Bedford to Brighton and calling in central London at London King's Cross and London Blackfriars. It notably connects Gatwick and Luton airports with each other and Central London. Thameslink may be renamed to First Capital Connect in the near future.
Train times (to and from any location) can be found on the National Rail Planner 22 (http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/planmyjourney/) or by calling 08457 48 49 50 (local call charges apply) from anywhere in the UK.
The last train sometimes doesn't come because of changes to the schedule, variations in the weather, or for some other reason.
Many parts of London itself are best accessible by train (sometimes called National Rail or Overground trains to distinguish from the Tube) -- some solely so. South-east London in particular is served principally by trains from London Bridge, Victoria, Charing Cross and Cannon Street stations.
Travellers should note that London's bizarre lack of integration of National Rail train services with Transport for London means that pre-pay Oyster cards are not (NOT!) valid on the overground. Zoned Travelcards, Oyster or otherwise, are valid, but it is not possible, for example, to use pre-pay to extend a Zone 1 Travelcard to a Zone 5 station. It's incredibly complicated, and Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has been lobbying for years to get it sorted out. Ask at any National Rail station for more details.
Most international and domestic long distance bus services (UK English:coach services) arrive at and depart from a complex of coach stations off Buckingham Palace road close to London Victoria rail station. All services operated by National Express or Eurolines (see below) serve Victoria Coach Station, which actually has separate arrival and departure buildings. Services by other operators may use this station, or the Green Line Coach Station across Buckingham Palace Road. The following are amongst the main coach operators:
London has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite Londoners' constant, and often justified, grumbling about it breaking down on a regular basis, public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere in London for visitors and residents alike. Indeed, more than a third of London households do not feel the need to own a car. Transport for London (TfL) 26 (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/) is the body responsible for London's transport network, predominantly made up of the Underground, buses, rail and trams.
You can use Transport for London's useful Journeyplanner 27 (http://www.journeyplanner.org) to help you plan your journeys around London on public transport. They also offer a free travel information line: tel +44 (0)20 7222 1234 for suggestions on getting from A to B, and for up to the minute information on how services are running.
For travelling shorter distances in London there is no better way. Walking forces you to slow down and look around, and in a city like London there's always something interesting to look at if you take the time. Walking can also be the quickest way to get somewhere: check your map, central London is surprisingly compact.
By Tube / Underground
The London Underground 28 (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tube/) - also known popularly as "The Tube" - has trains that criss-cross London in the largest underground rail network anywhere in the world (it was also the first, starting in the 1860s). This mode of transport is usually the fastest way to get from one part of London to the another, the only problem being the relative expense (go for a Travelcard, if you can), and the fact that it can get quite crowded during "rush hours" (7.30am-9.30am and 4.30pm-7pm). Take a bottle of water with you on warm days. Trains run from around 5.30am to about 1am at night. Tube maps are freely available from any station, most tourist offices and are prominently displayed throughout stations.
The Tube is made up of twelve lines, each bearing a traditional name and a standard colour on the Tube Map 29 (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/tube_map.shtml). To plan your trip on The Tube, work out first which station is closest to your starting point and which closest to your destination. Use the Tube Map to determine which line(s) you will take. You are able to change freely between lines at interchange stations (providing you stay within the zones shown on your ticket, or via any reasonable route for single-destination tickets). Since the Tube Map is well designed it is very easy to work out how to get between any two stations, and since each station is clearly signed and announced it is easy to work out when to get off your train. The Tube is therefore an easy method of transport even for new visitors to London. Visitors should be aware, however, that the Tube map is actually a diagram and not a scaled map, making it misleading for determining the relative distance between stations as it makes central stations appear further apart and somewhat out of place.
During the day the time between trains on any given line is usually between 2 and 5 minutes, meaning you seldom have to wait long for a train.
The Tube system is divided up into several Zones in concentric circles from Zone 1 (central London) all the way out to Zone 6 (outer suburbs). Fares for using The Tube depend on which zone you start in and how many zones you need to cross. (NB: Most of the main tourist destinations are within zones 1 and 2). Fares vary from £2 for an adult single trip within Zone 1 (including as many interchanges as you want), or £1.10 for an adult single trip within any other zone, to £3.80 for an adult single trip between Zone 1 and Zone 6. Travelcards offer much better value if you will be making several journeys - an off-peak Day Travelcard for Zones 1-2 is available after 9.30am each day, for example, at £4.70. Detailed fare information is available at any Tube station or from the TfL website 31 (http://tube.tfl.gov.uk/).
If you buy a weekly ticket, you do not have to wait until after 9.30am and the average price per day will be even cheaper. Photocards (with a passport-sized photograph) are needed for monthly, season and yearly tickets only. Almost all the stations have photo machines and the card itself is free.
London's iconic red buses are recognised the world over, and are a major part of London life. Over 5 million bus trips are made each weekday; with over 700 different bus routes you are never far from a bus in London.
Buses are generally quicker than taking the Tube for short trips (less than a couple of stops on the Tube), and out of central London you're likely to be closer to a bus stop than a tube station. The difficulty with buses over the tube is knowing when to get off; while tube stations are clearly marked it is sometimes more difficult to work out where to get off a bus. Your best bet is to ask fellow passengers and/or to trace your route on a map. Bus drivers are sometimes helpful and sometimes not, but they're usually too busy to be able to tell you when you've reached your destination.
Bus routes are identified by numbers and sometimes letters, for example the 73 runs between Seven Sisters and Victoria. Buses display their route number in large digits at the front, side, and rear of the bus. Each bus stop has a sign listing the routes that will stop there. Standard bus services run from around 6am in the morning to 12.30am at night. Around midnight the bus network changes to the Night Bus network. Bus routes, numbers and timetable all change with most of the buses radiating out from around the Trafalgar Square area to most outlying parts of Greater London. Night buses are identified by an 'N' at the start of the route number, for example the N73 runs between Walthamstow Central and Victoria. The night bus service is a reliable and often interesting way to get home at night.
Bus journeys are cheaper than taking the Tube, at £1.20 per trip (children under 14 free without identification, under 16s free on production of a Child Oyster card). However, unlike The Tube single tickets do not allow you to transfer to different buses. Consider purchasing a Travelcard (adult, one day, £3.00) or an Oystercard if you will be making several trips a day, or a Bus Saver booklet of six tickets for £6.00 (£1.00 each), available at rail stations, tube stations and news agents. Fares are the same for night buses as for regular services.
A one day bus pass can be purchased from local rail and tube stations, and also selected newsagents for the bargain price of £3.00 (children travel free), allowing unlimited bus journeys for an entire day (and night - up till 4.30am the next day on the night bus network) across the whole of Greater London. Travelcards and Oystercards also work on bus services.
A recent innovation in central London buses means that you must buy your ticket in advance before travelling. If the route sign at your bus stop has a yellow background instead of white, which will be the case for most of zone 1, you must purchase your ticket before you board. This means you must either have a Travelcard, a Bus Pass, a Bus Saver ticket, a Pre-Pay Oystercard, or have bought single ticket from a machine at the bus stop. Note that these machines don't provide change (all the more reason to use one of the other options).
The 29 bus is most popular bus (day or night) in London. During the Friday/Saturday late nights between Central London & Wood Green, the N29 runs every 6 mins. The N25 holds the title of 'Longest bus route in London'. It goes a whopping 20 miles from Oxford Circus to Harold Hill... Fascinating(!)
Docklands Light Rail (DLR) is a dedicated light rail network operating in east London, connecting with the Underground network at Bank and Tower Gateway. Apart from the trains looking slightly different and running slightly less frequently than the Tube, visitors may as well treat the two systems as the same. The DLR uses the same system of Zones as the Tube, and travelcards are valid on DLR services. As the trains often operate without a driver, it can be quite exciting - especially for children - to sit in front and look at through the window, whilst feeling as though one is driving the train one's self.
A Travelcard is an all-in-one ticket that allows you travel on the Underground (the Tube), buses, DLR, trams and rail services within set zones. Many travellers, for example, would choose to buy a one day Travelcard that allows unlimited travel throughout zones 1-4 (all of central London, plus many outer suburbs like Richmond, Greenwich and Wimbledon) for £5.20 (January 2005). Other period travelcards such as three-day, weekly, monthly and yearly are also available.
In addition to standard cardboard tickets, tickets may also be purchased in the form of an Oystercard. This is a cr-card sized smartcard that stores your ticket information instead of the cardboard ticket. Rather than inserting a ticket at the gates you simply pass your Oystercard near the yellow readers, meaning you don't need to remove your card from your wallet or bag. You can purchase a weekly, monthly, or annual ticket on an Oystercard. You can also purchase a Pre-Pay Oystercard, which stores a monetary value on the card. Swiping your Oystercard for journeys around London will automatically deduct the appropriate value from your card. This provides a level of convenience over buying ticket individually, and also gives you a discount on each fare. From Feb 2005 the amount deducted from your Pre-Pay Oystercard is capped at the cost of the appropriate day travelcard. This means you don't need to decide at the start of the day whether to get a travelcard or just purchase single rides - using Pre-Pay Oystercard will ensure you are charged the minimum fare. Note that Pre-Pay Oystercards cannot be used on many National Rail services; for these you'll need to purchase a cardboard ticket or a travelcard. Detailed fare information is available at any tube station or from the TfL website.
Due to the expense of other forms of transport and the compactness of central London, cycling is a tempting option. Many improvements have been made for cyclists in the city over the last few years, even if they remain no more than gestures in most places. Noticeably, there are many new signposted cycle routes and some new cycle lanes, not to mention more cyclists since the July 2005 public transport attacks. Excellent free cycle maps detailing these routes can be obtained from your local tube stations, bike shop, or ordered online (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/streets/cycling/cycling-londoncycleguides.shtml). However, London remains a relatively hostile environment for cyclists, generally speaking. A skeletal cycle lane network does not exist. The safest option is to stick to minor residential roads where traffic can be surprisingly calm outside rush hours.
The towpaths along the Grand Union and Regent's Canals in North London are the closest thing to a truly traffic-free cycle path in the Capital. In summer they are crowded with pedestrians and not suitable for cycling, but in winter or late in the evening they offer a very fast and safe way to travel from east to west in North London. The Grand Union canal connects Paddington to Camden and the Regent's Canal connects Camden to Islington, Mile End and Limehouse in East London. It takes about 30-40 min to cycle from Paddington station to Islington along the towpaths.
Cyclists cannot ride on the footpath and must observe road rules at all times. Helmets are optional - but well-advised - througout the UK. Non-folding bikes can only be taken on limited sections of The Tube network, mostly only on the above-ground sections outside peak hours. Most rail operators allow bicycles outside peak hours also. The London Cycle Campaign 32 (http://www.lcc.org.uk) is an advocacy group for London cyclists and organises regular group rides and events. Critical Mass London 33 (http://come.to/londoncm) meets for regular rides through central london at 6pm on the last Friday of each month. Rides start from the southern end of Waterloo Bridge.
London has two types of taxis: the famous black cabs, and so-called mini-cabs. Black cabs are the only ones licensed to 'tout for business' (ie pick people up off the street), while minicabs are more accurately described as 'private hire vehicles' and need to be pre-booked.
The famous black cabs of London (not always black in these days of heavy advertising!) can be hailed from the curb or found at one of the many designated taxi ranks. Their yellow 'TAXI' light will be on if they are available. Black cabs charge by distance and by the minute, are non-smoking, and have a minimum charge of £2. They are certainly not a cheap transport option, but are an essential experience for any visitor to London. Drivers must take an extensive exam in London's streets to be licensed for a black cab, meaning they can supposedly navigate you to almost any London street without reference to a map. It is possible to book black cabs by phone, for a fee, but if you are in central London it will usually be quicker to hail one from the street.
A new convenient taxi-based service is Zingo 34 (http://www.zingotaxi.co.uk/) - call 08700 700 700 and you will be connected direct with the driver of the nearest available black cab anywhere in London to arrange pickup. Normal meter fares apply + £2 booking fee.
Minicabs are licenced hire vehicles that you need to book by phone or at a minicab office. They generally charge a fixed fare for a journey, best agreed before you get in the car. Minicabs are usually cheaper than black cabs, although this is not necessarily the case for short journeys.
Note that some areas in London are poorly serviced by black cabs, particularly late at night. This has led to a large number of illegal 'mini-cabs' operating - just oppotunistic people, with a car, looking to make some fast money. These illegal drivers are unlicensed and sadly they are often unsafe: a number of women are assaulted every week by illegal minicab operators. It is generally best to avoid "mini-cabs" touting for business off the street and either take a black cab, book a licensed mini-cab by telephone, or take a night bus.
Tipping is not mandatory in either taxis or minicabs, despite some drivers' expectations..... Use your discretion - the fares are usually high enough....
Driving in Central London is a slow, frustrating and unnessisary activity. Londoners who drive will normally take public transport in the center, follow their example.
Car drivers should be aware that driving into Central London on weekdays during daylight hours incurs a hefty charge, with very few exemptions (note that rental cars also attract the charge). Cameras and mobile units record and identify the number plates and registration details of all vehicles entering the charging zone with high accuracy.
The Central London Congestion Charge 35 (http://www.cclondon.com/) attracts a fee of £8 Mo-Fr 7am-6.30pm (excluding public holidays) if paid the same day before 10pm (after 10pm until midnight, a surcharge of £2 is added to encourage early payment, totalling £10). Failure to pay the charge by 12 midnight the same day (take note!) incurs a hefty automatic fine of £80 (reduced to £40 if paid within 2 weeks). Numerous payment options exist: by phone, by voucher and online. Check the website for details.
Despite the Congestion Charge, London - like most major cities - continues to experience traffic snarls. These, of course, are worse weekdays at peak commuting hours, i.e. between 7.30 am - 9 am and 4 pm - 7 pm. At these times public transport (and especially the Tube) usually offers the best alternative for speed and reduced hassle. Parking during weekdays and Saturdays can also mean considerable expense in parking fees - fees and restrictions are ignored at your extreme financial peril - issuing fines, clamping and towing vehicles (without warning!) has become a veritable new industry for borough councils staffed by armies of traffic wardens. Find and read the parking restrictions carefully! A good tip is, that outside advertised restriction hours, parking on a single yellow line is permissable... Parking on a red line or a double yellow line is never permissable and heavily enforced...
London boasts a vast number of attractions for the traveller. Following is a selection of some of the most popular and noteworthy (the rest to be found in the various district pages - get exploring!):
Through to the campaign Everyones London you will get great discounts (up to 50%) on many attractions, if you can present a valid travel ticket. These include the London Eye, the Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, special exhibitions in museums, various restaurants and shows like Saturday Night Fever. To check out how much you get where, visit the Transport of London website here (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/everyones-london/index_flash.asp).
Museums and Galleries
Parks and Gardens
The 'green lungs' of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city. Some of the best-known and most-popular are:
Most of the larger parks have their origins in royal estates and hunting grounds and are still owned by the Crown, despite their public access. These royal parks have their own Police Service, known as the Royal Parks Constabulary.
If you're feeling really touristy visit Madame Tussaud's. Here you can see (and take photos of yourself with) a lot of very realistic waxfigures of celebrities, criminals, politicians and more. There is also the creepy chamber of horrors, although if that appeals you may prefer The London Dungeon (http://www.london-dungeon.com).
London has a number of outdoor ice rinks that open in the winter months. Considered by some to be somewhat overpriced and overcrowded, they nonetheless have multiplied in recent years, easing congestion and increasing competition. Most charge from £10-12 (adults) for an hour on the ice, including skate hire.
One of the world's great metropolises, anything and everything you could possibly want to buy is probably available in London, if you know where to look, and if you can afford it (London is not particularly noted for bargain shopping, owing to high prices and high exchange rates - though it can be done with some determination!)
Central London, and especially the West End, has a number of world-famous shopping areas and streets:
Central London shops are usually open late at least one night a week, until 7-8pm. West End shops (Oxford Street to Covent Garden) stay open until late on Thursdays, while Wednesday evening is late opening for Chelsea and Knightsbridge.
It is a huge task for a visitor to find the 'right place' to eat in London - with the 'right atmosphere', at the 'right price' - largely because, as in any big city, there are literally thousands of venues from which to choose.
London is the only second to Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world to eat. But this survey hides the fact that there are plenty of good value, even cheap places to eat - you just have to know where to look.
Of course, many travellers (especially those on a budget!) prefer to help themselves: picnicing and / or buying food for preparation in your room is a great way to enjoy good food at the lowest price possible.
Following is a (very!) rough guide to what you might get, should you fancy eating out:
Prices inevitably become inflated at venues closest to major tourist attractions - beware the so-called "tourist traps". Notorious areas for inflated menu prices trading on travellers' gullibility and lack of knowledge are the streets around the British Museum and the Palace of Westminster. Real Londoners wouldn't dream of eating here - you shouldn't either!
London has probably the highest number of fast food outlets in Europe and you can hardly miss them when in London, whether central or suburbs. Sandwich shops are London's most popular places to buy lunch and you have the choice between ready made sandwiches or you go to one the nice shops where they prepare a very nice sandwich on the spot with the ingredients you choose. Some Italian sandwich shops have a very good reputation and you can identify them easily by looking at the long queues at lunchtime.
London has a restaurant to suit any taste, it's just a matter of finding it. Start off with a printed guide (spend some time in a bookshops and have a free browse for some ideas, particularly the Time Out books such as the 'Eating & Drinking Guide' and 'Cheap Eats in London' as they generally very reliable). If you are looking for particular nationalities these tend to be clustered in certain areas: Brick Lane is famously known for curries, but for a better quality meal (and cheaper) Tooting has a far better reputation. There's Chinatown (Soho) for Chinese, Kingsland Road (Shorch) for good cheap Vietnamese, Brixton for African/Caribbean and Edgeware Road (Marylebone) for Middle Eastern cuisine. Other nationalities are equally represented, but are randomly dotted all over London. The Toptable (http://www.toptable.co.uk) website offers 2-for-1 deals and percentage discounts for some of London's hottest and most interesting restaurants.
London has plenty of vegetarian-only restaurants, and a quick search in Google will produce plenty of ideas, so you never have to see a piece of cooked meat all week. If you are dining with carnivorous friends, then most restaurants will cater for vegetarians, and will have at least a couple of dishes on the menu. Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants are generally more fruitful, as they have plenty of traditional dishes that only use vegetables.
Due to the mix of cultures and religions, many London restaurants cater well for religious dietary requirements. The most common signs are for Halal meat, from burger joints to nice restaurants. There are also plenty of Kosher restaurants in London, including a Chinese Kosher restaurant (Kaifeng 83 (http://www.kaifeng.co.uk)).
London caters for most global tastes by hosting at least one - and sometimes - many food stores that specialise in one or more cuisines. Numerous examples exist, for example, of food stores dedicated to Chinese, Japanese, Italian and African foods.
London is home to a great many pubs, bars and nightclubs. You are reminded that London is an expensive place and that your drink is likely to cost you more than its equivalent elsewhere in the U.K. Expect to pay £3 for a pint in an 'average' pub. 'Classier' bars and pubs can be much more expensive. However, many local pubs, chains like Wetherspoons, and student-oriented venues are more reasonable. The drinking age is 18.
London has hundreds of options for accommodations-- from 4 star hotels, through apartments, to historic B&Bs and hostel beds. You can end up paying anything from £20-200 per person, per night, with most hotels anywhere near the centre charging £50 per person and up. Expect smaller than average rooms, especially at the lower end of the price range. Your budget will have a lot to do with what part of London you will want to stay in. With the excellent Tube available, where you stay won't limit what you see, but be sure to check where the closest tube station is to your hotel. Staying further out will be cheaper, but when travelling in allow 1-2 mins per tube stop (near the centre), around 2-3 mins per stop (further out), and 5 mins per line change. This can easily total up to a 1 hour journey if there is a walk at each end. The extra cost of more zones on a travel card is probably not significant compared to hotel savings further out.
Some nice, convenient areas to stay in London include:
In an emergency, should you get stranded in London without anywhere to stay, call the Shelter 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 4444 (Shelter is a UK national charity that provides advice on housing and homelessness).
London luxury lodging options include:
Like many big cities, London has a variety of social problems, especially begging, drug abuse, theft (especially mobile phones), etc. London, however, manages to make do with a police force that doesn't need to carry guns (yet!), and is generally a safe place for the tourist to visit and walk around. In an emergency, telephone "999" (or "112"). Don't take illegal minicabs (see 'Getting Around' for details).
Although the July 7th bombings happened, don't think this is a place where terrorism happens everyday. The security is tight and police are now constantly guarding the tube stations.