London Travel Advice for Australians
Your trip to London should be full of making memories and visiting some of the city’s most famous locations—not full of stress and unexpected surprises. Traveling abroad is always a bit trickier than traveling within Australia, but with these London travel tips, you’ll be ready to face any cultural differences before you go.
Relax, and get ready to have the trip of a lifetime!
Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, and you’ll have to spend extra time going through customs as a foreign traveler. When planning your London tour, be sure to give yourself extra time after your estimated arrival in order to account for any delays at the airport. Don’t forget, too, that you may need a day or two to adjust to local time.
Remember that London is on the opposite end of the hemisphere, so our summers are their winters and vice versa. You’ll find the hottest weather in July (about 24 degrees C) and the coolest (2 to 7 degrees C) in February. London is a fairly rainy city, so remember to pack clothing to wear in layers, even if you’re going in the middle of summer. Bringing an umbrella or poncho might help, too.
Like any major metropolitan city, London has a higher rate of crimes, such as assault and pickpocketing. The surest way to avoid becoming a target is to stick to the larger areas and to look like you know what you’re doing. Here are some tips on how you do that:
- Walk like you know where you’re going and like you’ve been there before. Don’t have a map or a smartphone out looking for directions; step inside a shoppe or a café to consult your map if necessary.
- Wear a cross-body purse or a bum bag. Backpacks make for easy pickpocketing targets and shoulder-strap purses are easier to rip off your body.
- Don’t stop to take pictures too often. Step aside from the crowd with your back to a wall before you snap a picture. In touristy areas, you can get away with more pictures since everyone else will be taking pictures, too.
- Avoid carrying too much cash or wearing expensive jewelry. In lieu of cash, use traveler’s cheques or credit, but call your financial institutions to make sure your cards are accepted abroad before you leave.
Australia and the United Kingdom have a reciprocal agreement when it comes to the National Health Service (NHS), so in case of emergency, should you need to get looked at by a doctor, you should be covered. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take out travel health insurance before you go just in case you’re not, some London doctors may not take Australian patients who are counting on NHS for free service. (If so, seek an outpatient department at a NHS hospital instead.) Depending on the area of Australia you’re used to, you may find the waits for health care longer in London because of the large population.
There are countless attractions throughout London that children would enjoy, but no list of London travel tips would be complete without information on childcare. Should you want to enjoy an adults-only dinner, speak with your hotel about childcare services. If the hotel doesn’t have a childcare centre, it may know of reputable ones in the area, or 24/7 nanny services. Always research the childcare centre before you send your kids there, even if it’s just for a day.
One of the most useful travel tips is knowing how to get where you want to go. If you feel comfortable navigating through the bus and tram to get to your destination, purchase an Oyster card online or at a local Oyster stop. These rechargeable cards allow you to pay your fare ahead of time, and will make you stand out less as a tourist to potential pickpockets.
When taking taxis, look for proof of licensure in the cab window. There have been a small number of cases of illegal taxis picking up unsuspecting tourists at popular tourist areas such as airports and overcharging or even robbing their passengers.
Seeking Australian Help
Should a situation arise, such as refusal of treatment for medical problems, head to the Australian High Commission at the Australia House in London. The High Commission is where you should turn when it comes to matters such as passport issues, and what to do in the event of a natural disaster.
Sage Stone is a contributing writer from Perth who spent 20 years working as a travel agent. He enjoys planning his own personal holidays as well, with his next destination being Moscow.