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Our guide to London: Tourist Information

Money

Most banks are open Mon-Fri 9:30am – 4.30pm and some operate a limited Saturday morning service.  You will find 24 hour banks at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.  Currency is available in larger travel agents, some stores, hotels and post offices, or at independent bureaux de change.  The currency used in London is Pound Sterling (£).   Traveller’s Cheques and International Credit cards are accepted at most department stores, hotels, large shops and restaurants.  There is no restriction on the amount of Traveller’s Cheques changed.

VAT

There is a 20% Value Added Tax (VAT) added to most goods.  However, non-European Union citizens can claim back VAT on most goods.  Refunds for VAT tax can be obtained from many shops.  Ask before purchasing.

Telephones

Public telephones take either coins, telephone cards (available at most newsagents, post offices and many bureaux de change), or credit cards.  Directory Enquiries (for help finding a number): 118 500 or 118 118 (within UK); 153 (International numbers); 155 (calls abroad).

24 Hour Emergency Help

Dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance, the fire service or the police.

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 240 volts in London, with a 3 pin plug fitting for most applicances.

Tipping

Hotel staff: discretionary. Tour Guides, taxi drivers and in restaurants (unless a service charge has already been added): around 10% of your bill/fare.

Lunch Hour

Usually between 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm when cafes and sandwich bars tend to have longer queues.  This can be a good time to go to restaurants trying to attract lunchtime crowds with set price lunch menus and cheap deals.  Lunch in the City tends to be earlier: noon – 1.00 pm.

Rush Hour

Try to avoid travelling between 8.00 am and 9.30 am and between 5.00 pm and 6.30 pm Monday to Friday when tube trains and buses are packed and it is difficult to find a taxi. If you are travelling short distances, it can be quicker and more pleasant to walk.

Early Start

Attractions such as the Tower of London and Madame Tussauds are always busy no matter what time you get there and if possible it is better to book online and avoid the long queues.  Most attractions are least crowded early in the day.

Late Evenings

Shops and galleries in the capital often have late-opening evenings when they are less crowded than during the day.  The shops in Oxford Street, for example, open late on Thursday evenings.  Major exhibitions at the Royal Academy and elsewhere sometimes stay open until late.  The V & A remains open until 10pm on Wednesday evenings and on the last Friday of each month; Tate Modern is open until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Matinees

Some of the most popular shows and events in London theatres are heavily booked far in advance.  However, they often have seats available for their midweek and Saturday matinees.

Embassies and Consulates

These are situated around the West End, Mayfair, Belgravia and Kensington.  They will help if you lose your passport, need a visa or legal assistance.

Customs

United Kingdom Customs are usually quite lenient with tourists.  Do note that pet animals entering the UK must have a current import licence and undertake six months of quarantine at approved quarantine premises.

Pharmacies 

Known as Chemists, these are open during shop hours, some until late, and give advice on minor ailments.  Boots is a large, well-respected chain with branches throughout London.

Hospitals

These are located all over central London with 24 Hour emergency services, including dental hospitals.  Walk in Accident and Emergency treatment is always free.

Women Travellers

Women often travel alone in London, but, as always, precautions should be taken.  Use busy, well-lit streets at night, don’t travel in unoccupied carriages on trains or the tube and always use registered black cabs.

For further tips or information, contact the London Holiday Studios support desk at: desk@londonholidaystudios.co.uk

 

Halcyon Gallery

Contemporary art gallery in London features Shanghai exhibiting painting, sculpture, prints and multiples by internationally renowned artists.

The Comedy Store

Widely seen as the birth place of alternative comedy, the Comedy Store has catapulted many stand-ups onto TV.  Improvisation on Wednesdays and Sundays.  Thursday nights offer try-out spots for those brave enough to handle the hecklers while Friday and Saturday provide two shows  at 8.00 pm and midnight.

Harrords

Put an afternoon aside to visit this landmark most notable for its Art Nouveau tiled food hall.  It also has a huge toy department.  Don’t forget they operate a dress code so no tatty jeans or backpacks.