ALIX LONDON TRAVEL TIPS
Planning Your Trip
Along with these tips, see ALIX Recommended Apps for efficient and handy apps to refer to during your trip. With a charged smartphone and these apps, you can travel at ease. However, when you are down to 1% or without service, a printed map and guide book never fails!
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS AND SECURITY
Important Numbers . . .
For an emergency, call 112 or 999, where you will be able to contact police, fire and ambulance.
The country code is +44.
Medical Info . . .
Medical treatment in the UK is provided by the NHS. According to the NHS website, non-European visitors will be charged 150% of the NHS rate, unless an exemption category applies to your circumstances, such as accident and emergency services and women’s health. Also we have partnered with Grace Belgravia to offer their wonderful Wellness Services and Medical Clinic, available to ALIX members.
Required Documents . . .
As always, do make sure your boarding pass, flight confirmation and hotel confirmation are either printed out or on your phone.
Passport: You must have a valid passport or identity card to enter the United Kingdom that is valid for the duration of your stay. It would be useful to make a photocopy of it as well to keep in a safe place.
Visa: You may need a visa, depending on which country you are from and how long you intend to stay in the UK. Visas are not required by EU, Australian, British, Canadian, and US nationals for stays up to six months. Check your visa requirements here: www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa/ or visit www.gov.uk/apply-uk-visa to apply for a UK Visa.
Traveller Security & Expedited Entry . . .
Registered Traveller: Being a Registered Traveller allows certain passport holders faster entry into the UK and is particularly useful for frequent travellers to the UK. Benefits include access to ePassport gates at airports across the UK, use of the EU queue at passport control and bypassing the landing card. To apply, visit www.gov.uk/registered-traveller.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP): Let the US Department of State know you are travelling by using STEP, a free service that allows US Citizens to enroll their trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. You will receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans. It also helps the US Embassy, family and friends contact you in an emergency. Register at www.step.state.gov/step/.
Insurance . . .
Find out if your domestic insurance plan can cover you overseas. It is advisable that you purchase health and travel insurance that includes medical evacuation for the duration of your trip.
COMMUNICATION & TRANSPORTATION
Phone . . .
Contact your telephone company to enable international data roaming for the duration of your trip. For shorter trips, we recommend relying on Wi-Fi and turning on data roaming for any necessary bursts of time. Google’s London Free Wi-Fi Guide shows a comprehensive map of free Wi-Fi establishments in London and AmEx Platinum Card holders get access to Boingo Hotspots. Wi-Fi is generally available in most restaurants, bars, museums and cafes. For longer trips, consider purchasing a UK sim card at a major telephone store such as Currys or EE, both of which have stores throughout London.
Local Transportation . . .
Black Cabs: London’s famous taxis, also called Black Cabs or Hackney Carriages, can be hailed on the street or booked through apps such as HAIL. Our concierge is available to assist in booking any executive services.
The Tube: Trains run daily from early morning to beyond midnight during the week and 24 hours on weekends on five key lines. The Tube offers convenience through color-coded routes, clear signage and many connections. All stations are marked with the London underground circular symbol. Do not be confused by similar-looking signs reading “subway,” which means pedestrian underpass in Britain. Some lines have multiple branches, so be sure to know your route beforehand. London is divided into six concentric zones, which charge different fare costs.
Oyster Card: The Oyster card is a plastic smartcard that you can use to travel on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TFL Rail, and most National Rail services in London. It can hold pay as you go credit, Bus & Tram Passes and daily, weekly or monthly Travelcards. The card costs £5 to purchase, which will be reimbursed when you return the card. Visit http://content.tfl.gov.uk/adult-fares.pdf for a full chart of fare prices.
Bus: Buses are an extremely effective mode of transportation in London. Lines crisscross London and buses have designated lanes. It is also a great way to see London! However, during rush our traffic, the bus can sometimes take twice as long.
For more travel information, visit https://tfl.gov.uk/.
To Supplement ALIX Neighborhood Guides
London Street Atlas (A-Z): A compact and complete road map of London, invaluable for helping you get around London when your iPhone doesn't cut it!
Airports and Interstate travel . . .
London Heathrow: Heathrow Airport is a major international airport in west London. Located 15 miles west of London, Heathrow is the busiest airport in Europe. Transportation into London is accessible via the Heathrow Express, the central Piccadilly Line on the Underground, bus, taxi, Uber, and chauffeur.
Gatwick: Gatwick Airport is London's second largest international airport and is located 29.5 miles south of Central London. Transportation into London is accessible via rail, bus and taxi. The Gatwick Express and Southern trains get to Victoria Station in about 30 minutes.
London City: London City Airport is an international airport in London. It is located in the Royal Docks in the London Borough of Newham, 6 miles east of Central London. The Airline has one terminal. Transportation into London is accessible via Dockland Light Railway, bus, train, taxi and chauffeur.
London Luton: London Luton Airport is an international airport located 30 miles north of Central London. The Airline has one terminal. Transportation into London is accessible via car, rail, bus and taxi.
Eurostar: The Eurostar takes you directly to and from the magnificent St. Pancras Station in London to Paris, Brussels, Geneva and Amsterdam. St. Pancras is home to two of our favorite restaurants, The Booking Office (link to The Booking Office page) and The Gilbert Scott (link to The Gilbert Scott page), both located in the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Useful Websites . . .
BANKING AND VAT
Banking . . .
Notify your bank that you are travelling. It is important that they are aware that you will be using your credit card overseas so that they don’t assume your card has been stolen. You should also find out about any foreign bank fees. Some banks, like Citi, American Express and Chase, issue several travel-oriented credit cards with chip technology that eliminate transaction fees.
Currency Exchange: The best, fastest and most reliable method of securing the Great British Pound is to go to an ATM machine (called cash machines in London). They are easily accessible in transportation hubs upon your arrival and on all major streets.
Local Taxes & Refunds . . .
VAT (Value-Added Tax): British sales tax is 20%. The tax is almost always included in quoted prices at shops, hotels, and restaurants. Value Added Tax is part of all transactions at a rate of 20% and can easily add up.
On Purchases: Non-EU citizens are eligible to claim a VAT refund at the airport for your return flight. When shopping at stores that have VAT included in their prices, inform the retailer that you intend to reclaim the VAT and the retailer will give you a VAT 407 form to sign. Bring this form along with the receipt to customs after Security and then visit the VAT refund desk. Visit https://www.gov.uk/tax-on-shopping/taxfree-shopping for more information. Do allow extra time before you flight as the lines can be long.
On Business Expenses: You can also reclaim VAT for business expenses if you have a registered business in a non-EU country. You can reclaim VAT for accommodation, meals, travel costs and more. You will have to fill out the VAT65A form and mail it back no later than 6 months after those expenses. Visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vat-refunds-for-non-eu-businesses-visiting-the-uk or call the Vat Overseas Repayment Unit at +44 (0) 2871 305100.
Alcohol Consumption . . .
Unlike in the US, consuming alcohol publicly is legal and socially acceptable. It is common to see people drinking wine or beer on a sunny day at the park.
Social Etiquette . . .
Compared to the US, the English are a bit more reserved, private and modest. You will not hear as many people speaking proudly about their career and achievements as you would in the US.
“Queuing up” happens a lot in the UK. This simply means waiting on line. In the UK, people form single file lines and trying to push your way through is rude. British people are also generally polite, so say “Sorry” when bumping into someone and “Thank you.” People will get offended if you do not.
Tipping . . .
While not as expected as in the US, tipping is still a common courtesy in many situations and very much appreciated. Higher end establishments always expect tips, while cafes do not. When in doubt, you should generally follow the 10% rule unless you are unhappy with your service of course.