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What They Don't Mention in London Travel Guides

July 6, 2017


From Buckingham Palace, to Big Ben, the travel guides focus on big tourist attraction sites. What many do not mention are the idiosynchrasies— the small London customs—of the big city. Here is a list of some things you should know before visiting:

  1. Londoners drive on the opposite side of the road. A lot of people are aware of this fact, but this means that as a pedestrian, you must get accustomed to looking the opposite direction when crossing and navigating traffic circles.

  2. The green man means to walk. Unlike the United States' white waking figure, a green standing figure signals safety to walk across the street (still be careful before crossing, London drivers love to speed around corners).

  3. Bathrooms are called toilets. In the UK, the term means the entire bathroom facility, whereas "toilet" in the U.S. means the porcelain seat we sit on. Locals won't call you out if you ask "Where is the bathroom?" but they will definitely give you a strange look. Get used asking where the toilets are instead.

  4. Women's toilets do not have seat covers. That's right, get used to not putting that thin piece of paper down every time you go to the toilets. It is strange at first and feels kind of dirty, but eventually you get past it.

  5. The UK only uses hand dryers, not paper towels. This is actually pretty eco-friendly and eliminates a lot of waste.

  6. Most places do not have air conditioning. Sorry California folks, get used to looking around  some very hot museums, particularly in the summer time. I recommend dressing in layers so you can take them off when visiting older buildings.

  7. Stand on the right side of the escalator in tube stations. The left hand side of the escalator is reserved for people in a rush. They generally jog up the escalator like stairs, so make sure you stay out of their way.

  8. Bring a refillable water bottle. There are no public water fountains anywhere! Make sure to bring water with you because the tube can get extremely hot and water bottles are extremely overpriced.

  9. The tube closes at midnight. Make sure you have an alternative route home after midnight or else you may be stuck in the middle of the city after a late night out. I recommend the bus or splitting an Uber with a friend.

  10. Most U.S. TV shows do not work with UK Wifi. While I tried to catch up on The Bachelorette one night, I was sadly turned away by a message saying "only available in the US." This is not a big deal, but in case you were planning on watching a certain show, you may want to find an alternative. Netflix does work, but definitely not Hulu.

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