There are plenty of great things to do in London, but it's good to listen to a word of caution on what not to do in the city. We asked Londoners to share their best tips for visitors.
There is a fantastic public transport system in London, but there are plenty of rules that make a visitor stand out when they don't know to follow them. "Stand on the right on the tube escalator" is one you'll soon get told; the left-hand side is for people walking up or down. This also means your luggage should be on the right and not block those who need to go past.
Speaking of escalators, don't get to the top and then stop! Everyone behind you needs to get off the moving steps too. It sounds so obvious, but many people get to the top and then stop right in the way while they consider where they need to go next. Take a few steps away from the escalator and wait by the wall for friends or to read the signs. It's much safer for all.
When traveling on the tube to or from Heathrow Airport, do not leave your suitcases in a doorway then go and sit down. Yes, you may well have a long ride, but your luggage is your responsibility. There are spaces on the Piccadilly Line trains for luggage to the side of the doorways, and you can either perch against the padded wall-seat here or wait until the seat at the end of the carriage, next to your luggage, becomes free.
If you can, avoid traveling at peak times on the tube when it's busy and full of Londoners trying to get to and from work. It's cheaper to travel on the tube after 9.30am (off-peak), so wait for the morning rush hour to die down to start your day. You can also explore near where you're staying during these peak times.
Pavement / Walking
You would think walking along the pavement (sidewalk) wouldn't need much advice, but Londoners sure had a lot to say about this. The biggest gripes were people who stop in the entrance/exit of shops and museums to wait for their group. Please don't do this. That small space is for everyone, and blocking the way is never going to win you any friends.
Consider the width of the pavement, and, if it's narrow, don't walk in a line of 3 or more as no one can pass. I'd generally say, keep children on the inside and don't walk more than two abreast on central London pavements. If you're a larger group, then someone has got to go behind or in front. Even on the wide pavements of busy streets such as Oxford Street, it is better to not spread out.
Blocking the pavement and/or walking slowly also irritates Londoners. In a city like London, there is a faster pace of life compared to that of suburban or country folk. Londoners also get short lunch breaks and have long commutes to and from home, so they're often just 'head down' and focused on getting from A to B as quickly as possible.
When you want to cross the road, remember drivers are on the left; however, there are many one-way streets in central London, so have a look on the ground to see which way to look for traffic. It is often written by the curb. Try to use pedestrian crossings, if possible.
There are a lot of chain restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops in London. It's a major world city, so that's no surprise, but that doesn't mean you have to frequent them all since 'you know what you're getting.' Starbucks caused public outrage in 2012 for not paying their full taxes, and, when they arrived in the late 1990s, they seemed to make a point of opening near independent coffee shops and putting them out of business.
If you are out in town late in the evening, maybe after going to a nightclub, don't buy a hot dog or burger from the carts that are wheeled out at night. There have been many exposés about the poor hygiene standards of these temporary stands. When you feel unwell the next day, don't say you weren't warned.
Another chain establishment that has been the focus of exposés for poor hygiene standards, along with its unusually high prices, is Angus Steakhouse. There are many better places to enjoy steak in London.
You have to look after your personal possessions in a big city like London, so never leave your handbag open or your wallet in your back pocket. You need to be vigilant at all times and beware of pickpockets; no one wants to lose their valuables or irreplaceable items.
Try to wear clothing that zips up valuables safely inside hidden pockets. A handbag that doesn't zip up sadly invites an opportunistic thief to dip their hand in. Zips delay a thief, so use them.
Never, ever think it's a good idea to swim in the River Thames. However inviting it may look on a hot day (there are a few of those in the summer), never get in the water. In central London, the Thames is busy with boats traveling in both directions all day long and the water is much deeper than you first think. The river is tidal, which means it can be even deeper at times of the day, and the tide comes in very quickly. A lot has been done to make the river clean, and many varieties of fish have been seen in the Thames, but this still does not mean it is clean enough for people to swim in. Even if you pop down onto the foreshore for a spot of mudlarking, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly as soon as possible.
More Things to Never Do in London
Don't queue jump (aka skip the line). Yes, British people are known for liking to queue, but, while having gotten a bit more flexible on this, Londoners are still horrified when someone walks straight to the front of the line. It will not endear you to the locals.
Don't think Tower Bridge is London Bridge. Tower Bridge is the most attractive bridge in central London, the one that opens, the one you can visit. London Bridge is the next one along and is nothing to look at. The current London Bridge was built in the 1970s although there has been a river crossing here since Roman times. The version of London Bridge before this one was bought and rebuilt in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.