London Travel Information
When to Go
Summer is peak season: days are long, festivals are afoot, but it's busy and crowded; spring and autumn are cooler, but delightful. Winter is cold but quiet.
Many who live in London would swear that global warming has added a twist to the city's unpredictable climatic conditions. While locals used to complain about the frequent, but still somehow always unforeseen, arrival of rain, now they find themselves faced with sudden outbreaks of sunshine and dry heat instead.
However, meteorologists point out that recent statistics don't yet represent anything terribly out of the ordinary for such a naturally variable climate. The average maximum temperature for July, the hottest month, is still only about 23°C. In spring and autumn temperatures drop to between 13°C and 17°C. In winter, the average daily maximum is 8°C, the overnight minimum 2°C.
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The wrathful congestion of London streets makes both driving and cycling an extreme sport. Hop on a bus, a Thames ferry or into an elegant black cab - and let a native negotiate the chaos on your behalf. Transport for London is the glue that binds the network together. Its website has a handy journey planner and information on all services, including cycling options and cab info. Buy an electronic Oyster card for the cheapest fares on all transport and greatest ease of use.
If you're not in a hurry, buses are an enjoyable way to get around, as long as the traffic's not gridlocked. Buses run regularly during the day, while less-frequent night buses (prefixed with the letter 'N') run after about 11pm. Buses stop on request, so clearly signal the driver with an outstretched arm.
'The Tube', as it's universally known, extends its subterranean tentacles throughout London and into the surrounding counties, with services running every few minutes from 05:30 to roughly 00:30 (from 07:00 Sunday). Also included within the network are the driverless Docklands Light Railway (DLR), and the train lines shown on Tube maps as 'Overground'. The Tube map itself is an acclaimed graphic design work, using coloured lines to show how the different routes intersect. Particularly south of the River Thames, where Tube lines are in short supply, the various local 'overground' train lines are an important part of the public transport picture. Some, but not all of these are shown on the Tube map. For a complete picture you can get larger maps showing all overground and underground lines.
London's famous black cabs are available for hire when the yellow light above the windscreen is lit. Fares are metered. Minicabs are a cheaper alternative to black cabs. They're still licensed (recognisable by the 't' symbol displayed in the window), but not metered (so get a quote first). Minicabs cannot be flagged down in the street - you have to phone in advance (or in busy areas you'll find a walk-in office with drivers waiting).
Since many of the main sights are relatively close together in central London, walking is an excellent transport option. It will also give you a more coherent picture of the city than travelling by Tube will.
Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa do not need a visa for stays in the UK up to 6 months, but they are prohibited from working. Citizens of the European Union (EU) don't need a visa to enter the country and may live and work here freely. Entry requirements occasionally change, so it's always wise to check current regulations with your nearest United Kingdom embassy or consulate.