London Bus

A Guide for Tourists in London

Amusing and useful tips for visitors to London


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Introduction

London is one of the world's largest and important cities. It was founded before Roman times and has seen extensive building after the Fire of London (1666) and the Second World War (1939 to 1945). It is now a mixture of the old and new. Historic sites a thousand years old sit in a vibrant financial and cultural centre.

Below is a list of the main tourist sites to be seen. There are many more sites for a longer visit.


Streets

Streets are NOT numbered (First Street, Fifth Avenue), they have names. Some streets do not have the word Street, Road or Avenue after the name. Examples include Haymarket, Pall Mall and Whitehall.

London is so old that it is NOT based on a grid system. Asking "how many blocks is so-and-so?" will often elicit a blank stare. Distances are usually given in how long a walk it is ("it's ten minutes along this road") or how many bus stops. Directions are given in terms of landmarks (like shops, pubs, train stations or traffic lights).

Traffic drives on the left.

When asking directions remember:

Be careful when posting letters - British letter boxes are red. The boxes that resemble North American post boxes are rubbish bins!


Transport

London's Underground system is called the tube.

Do not refer to London's Underground lines as the blue line or the red line. Many underground lines have similar colours and Londoners won't know what you are referring to. Use the names (Piccadilly Line, Bakerloo Line, etc). Maps can be obtained from tube stations or at the main railway stations. There are some peculiarities to the system, mainly because it is the oldest in the world (first line 1863). Check the destination on the front of the train since most lines have branches and not all trains go to the end. Trains are usually very frequent unless there is a problem. Many escalators don't work.

On the escalators remember to stand on the right as the left side is used by people walking up or down. Don't stop at the foot of the escalator as people following will have nowhere to go. Try avoiding travelling during the rush hour. If you're confused, ask. Many Londoners are polite.

For commuter or intercity trains, there is no central London Railway station. There are several termini serving different parts of the country. Before setting off for a trip out of London, make sure you know which station the train leaves from (Victoria, Waterloo head south; Paddington heads west; Liverpool Street heads east; Euston, Kings Cross and St Pancras head north).

The word bus is reserved for city transport - the ones travelling between cities tend to be called coaches. A good way to see London is from the top deck of a double decker bus. Routes to try include 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 19, 24. Free bus maps can be obtained from many tube stations.

All London transport fares are zonal - daily or weekly tickets can be bought. These allow travel on buses, tubes and trains within certain zones. Most tourist attractions in London are in zones 1 and 2. Daily tickets are valid after 9:30am (Monday to Friday) and all day at weekends. Try to avoid travelling during the rush hours.

London has five airports none of which is commonly referred to as London Airport.

The largest is Heathrow. It has four large terminals, two tube stations on the Piccadilly Line, and a railway link to Padington Station. It is the world's busiest international airport with the largest variety of airlines and flights. Regular buses and tubes (fastest option) run to the centre of London. Taxis are expensive.

Gatwick is the city's second airport. Many charter flights leave from here as well as long haul. This has two terminals and its own railway station. It is reached by train from Victoria Station.

Stanstead is the third airport and is a train ride away from Liverpool Street Station. Many cheaper airlines use this airport. Most flights are to Europe or the UK.

The fourth airport is Luton. This is reached by train from Kings Cross followed by a free shuttle bus. Used by cheaper airlines to Europe.

City Airport is the fifth and smallest airport. It is close to the city but with no train service as yet. The nearest station is Silvertown on the Silverlink Railway (known as the North London Line to most Londoners). It is mainly for very short haul flights within the UK or to Europe.

Passenger Boats travel along the River Thames (Americans put the word river after the river's name as in The Hudson River, in the UK the word river comes first). A good ride is from Westminster to Greenwich (pronounced gren - ich).


Downtown

The term downtown is not used in Europe and means nothing in London. London has built up over a very long period so that there are a number of different centres.

The political centre is in Westminster (once a separate city). This area includes Parliament Square with the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Whitehall (the street containing government buildings and 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's office), Trafalgar Square (with the National Gallery and Nelson's Column). Buckingham Palace (don't pronounce the h), the London residence of the monarch, is to the south west of this area.

The business centre is in the original historical London, now called The City of London (or more usually just The City). The Tower of London and Tower Bridge are at the eastern edge of this area. There are bits of London's Roman wall and walks associated with Jack The Ripper in nearby Whitechapel. Many offices have now moved east of the City to Docklands, the area of the old docks.

The entertainment centre is called The West End. It includes the shopping areas of Oxford Street, Regents Street, Saville Row, and Carnaby Street. The theatres and cinemas are centred around Leicester Square (pronounced lester) and Piccadilly Circus. Some museums and art galleries (British Museum, National Gallery) are to be found here as well. Good areas for pubs, restaurants and night life are Covent Garden and Chinatown. The northern boundary of this area includes Baker Street (of Sherlock Holmes fame) with the famous Madam Tusaud's Wax Museum and Planetarium.

London's legal area lies between the West End and The City. St Paul's Cathedral, the Tate Modern gallery and the concert area of Waterloo Southbank are close by.

Kensington, in fashionable West London, has a number of museums (Victoria and Albert, Natural History, Science, Geological), the famous Albert Hall concert venue, as well as many embassies. Good restaurants can be found in Bayswater and Earls Court.

In North London, Islington and Camden Town are popular areas for eating and drinking.

Talking of eating, Indian food is very popular and good in London (try Brick Lane in London's East End or Drummond Street near Euston). Street markets are good in Notting Hill and Camden Lock.

London has a large area (1500km2 or 619 sq miles). In the suburbs can be found such sites as Greenwich Observatory (through which runs the zero meridian of longitude), Kew Gardens, Windsor Palace and Hampton Court. Sports fans may want to visit Wembley Stadium (football - soccer to our friends in the USA), Twickenham (rugby), Lords and The Oval (cricket) and Wimbledon (tennis).


Food

Coming to London gives the tourist an excellent opportunity to try Indian food. Indian food is spicy and tasty and is very popular with Londoners. The phrase "fancy a curry?" is an invitation to indulge in this highly recommended London activity.

There are many Indian restaurants in London. Some of the best are in Brick Lane close to Aldgate East tube station or Drummond Street close to Euston station. They can, however, be found all over London.

This section gives a glossery of terms.

Word Meaning
curry An all purpose name meaning "Indian food" but actually meaning a dish with a medium hot sauce. A curry can be vegetarian, chicken, lamb or prawn.
korma Mild sauce dish. Chicken or lamb are the most popular.
passanda Mild creamy sauce dish. Usually lamb but can be chicken.
kashmiri Mild to medium sauce dish with fruit. Chicken or lamb.
dupazia Medium sweet sauce dish with onions. Usually chicken.
rogon josh Medium sauce dish with pimento, garlic and tomatoes. Lamb or chicken.
bhuna Medium sauce dish with onions, garlic and tomatoes. Lamb or chicken.
dansak Hot sauce dish with lentils, garlic, lemon and sugar. Lamb or chicken.
madras Fairly hot sauce dish. Chicken or lamb are the most popular.
vindaloo A very hot sauce dish. Chicken or lamb are the most popular.
phall The hottest sauce dish. Chicken or lamb are the most popular.
raita Yoghurt with cucumber side dish. Used to cool the mouth if the food is too spicy.
lassi Yoghurt drink. Can be sweet or salty. Very refreshing and cools the food if it is too hot.
falluda Fruit drink with ice cream, pistachio and vermicilli.
chicken tikka masala Chicken marinated in mixed spices and cooked in a clay oven. Eaten with rice or nan or roti. One of the most popular meals in the UK.
nan, roti Types of oven made bread. Nan is thicker than roti.
keema nan Oven bread with mince meat centre.
peshwari nan Sweet oven bread.
tandoori grill Grilled dishes: usually chicken and lamb. The tandoor is the clay oven.
basmati rice Long thin rice used in Indian food.
pilau rice Yellow rice with safron.
puri Fluffy bread.
pani puri Balls of pastry in a spicy sauce with chickpeas.
biryani Fried rice dish. Chicken, lamb, prawn or vegetarian. Often comes with a curry sauce.
sheekh kebab Minced meat skewered and grilled.
bhaji Deep fried battered starter. Can be potato or onion. Eaten with chutney
chutney A side sauce for dipping starters in. Can be sweet, sour or hot.
balti Dish served in hot metal container.
sag Spinach. A delicacy in Asia.
aloo Potatoes.
paneer Cheese.
muttar Peas.
gobi Cauliflour. Vegetables are often mixed as in "aloo gobi" (potatoes and cauliflour) or "muttar paneer" (peas and cheese).
daal Lentils. Tarka daal is fried lentils.
bindhi Ladies fingers (okra).
thali A mixture of dishes. Can be meat or vegetarian.
dosa Pancake with vegetables. Many different types. the most common is "massala dosa".
idli Rice balls with sauce.
popadoms Crunchy, thin starter eaten with chutney.
shrikand Yellow, saffron based creamy desert.
kulfi Sweet ice cream.
gulabjamen Sweet syrupy cake.
rasmalai Milky sweet.
jelabi Fried orange coloured sticky sweet.
kheer Rice pudding with cardamon and nuts.


Communication

Although English is spoken in both the UK and the USA, there are some interesting differences. Avoid embarrassment by reading UK and USA English which lists many of these differences. For an extended stay in London familiarise yourself with Cockney Slang.

If your name is Randolph, do not shorten it to Randy as this means a state of sexual excitement. And don't use the word fanny as you would in the USA! In England, it means the female sexual organs.

Outside of the USA, dates are written in the format DD/MM/YY rather than than the specifically USA MM/DD/YY. Thus, 11 August 1999 would be written 08/11/99 in the USA and 11/08/99 in all other countries. This is important when buying tickets and filling in forms.

The British Phrasebook is an amusing and accurate account of British English from Lonely Planet. Check out my book recommendations.

The British tend to make understated, ironic jokes about most things. They tend to avoid boasting (at least when sober!), familiarity with strangers, excessive sentimentality or queue jumping. Pubs are good places to meet people.

© 1997, 2005 KryssTal


Books From Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com


KryssTal Related Pages


Differences between the two forms of English for the traveller.


You don't need a whistle and flute to have a butchers at this page, me old china.


External London Links

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London Event Calendar
An online event calendar containing events of interest to both visitors to the area and to community residents alike. Includes a Dining Guide. Food from most of the world's countries can be found in London.

A London Guide
An excellent site for visitors to London featuring news, transport, attractions.

UK Travel Guide
A directory of London museums, pubs, and other London activities with links.

British Airports Authority
Links to all of London's airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead) with flight and terminal information.

The BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation - the major TV station in the UK - a very large and informative site - including news and cult TV pages.

Photopolis
A photo gallery of London (buildings, transport, pubs, signs, statues) and Londoners.

London Eating
Search for the best restaurants in London.

Pubs.Com
Traditional and historic London pubs.

Serviced Stays
Apartments in London.

London Theatre Tickets
Buy tickets for London's many theatres.

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