We all get nervous traveling to a new place. We want to have the best food, the best value for money, the best everything. In this quest for travel greatness, we often miss the forest for the trees and there is no place with more hypothetical trees than London.
The beauty of London is that it can be anything you want it to be, and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Stop worrying about these things and you’ll have a blast. Relax.
1. Getting lost on the Tube.</h3.
You don’t have to take the Tube. There are buses, Overground trains, and these funny little things at the end of your legs called feet. You’ll see a lot more of London and you may even discover a few unexpected places on the way. And if you do get lost, there are these people standing around the stations who were hired to assist you. I think they’re called ‘Station Assistants’?
2. Trying to ‘get off-the-beaten-path’.
London is over 2000 years old. Millions of lives have been lived on its streets. There is no unbeaten path in London. Look for places you find interesting and go. Think about things you might enjoy doing and do them. I give you permission: watch the Changing of the Guards and love it.
3. Finding the perfectly traditional English pub.
If there is one it’s probably not London. A lot pubs in London have made this horrible gastropub evolution and that is not traditional. That said, if the place smells a bit funny, has a cat and at least three old men drinking ale, you just might be close.
4. Doing .
Stop trying to find the ‘latest thing’ in London. By the time you’ve heard about it and Time Out has reviewed it, it’s already over. If you’re going to a speakeasy bar because you’re interested, go for it. If you think it will make you trendy by association, don’t waste your time.
5. Not being understood because of your accent or vocabulary.
You may not know what mince and tatties are, but worry not – Londoners know that when you say “I like your pants,” you mean their trousers. They’ve been educated in American-English translation for situations just like this one. Note: That doesn’t mean they won’t laugh to themselves when you say it though.
6. Looking like a tourist.
You are a tourist. There’s nothing more pitiful to a Londoner than a person who tries too hard. London is cool because it doesn’t try too hard. You know what some synonyms for cool are? Nonchalant, unruffled, casual. Be like that – wear what you want, take as many photos as you want, eat where you want. It’s an open-minded laid-back place, you’ll find your people.
7. The possibility of the weather getting you down.
It really doesn’t rain as much as you think it does. It’s a rumor Londoners started to reduce traffic congestion in the winter. One advantage of a place that has crappy weather mostly year-round is that nothing gets cancelled due to ‘inclement weather’. If it snows, you’re screwed though.
8. Having to see everything in London.
Accept that you will never see everything. Also, a lot of things in London suck, so you wouldn’t want to anyway. One advantage to this acceptance is that you realize you can see other places, too. Our knowledge of the UK is very London-centric so take some time out to go on a day trip – you know, punting in Cambridge, swimming in Brighton, hanging out in Bristol.
9. Taking a group tour.
Group tours are embarrassing, but there are some genuinely awesome tours in London where you’ll learn a lot and see things you might not find in guidebooks or online. Only a few people will judge you, and that’s okay – it’s your vacation. Go forth and tour, tourist.
10. Paying for things when so much is free.
London’s free museums and attractions are awesome and so are the paying attractions. It’s one thing if you’re on a budget, but if you’re not paying for experiences out of principle – well, that’s just silly. One thing you shouldn’t pay for? Using the bathroom. Walk into a bar, a Costa Coffee, or one of those free museums, find the bathroom, and relieve yourself for free.