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London General Information

London is a massive, multi-cultural, cosmopolitan city with a population of nearly 8 million people. Greater London extends over 600 square miles and is divided into 33 Boroughs. These range from wealthier areas such as Chelsea and South Kensington to poorer Hackney or Lambeth. However, each borough has a diverse mix of people's, cultural activities and markets, all of which make London an incredibly exciting place to be. Ten years ago, many locals and tourists were unsure where to go out to eat as London was not renowned to be one of the best culinary capitals in the world. However, this has all changed and there are some fantastic restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets. From South Indian vegetarian dosas to jellied eels or fish and chips, the range is incredibly diverse. In addition, some remarkable new galleries and cinemas have opened in the last five years...from the magnificent Tate Modern south of the Thames to the giant IMAX screen near Waterloo Station. There is something for all ages, and many events can be booked ahead over the internet. London has both an incredibly successful financial district and is home to many offices and retail outlets. There is always plenty to see and do, from paying a trip to the brand new Greater London Assembly building to an antique market in Camden Passage. You may want to take advantage of the extensive public transport network, but become well informed of any current delays, as the system isn't quite as efficient as in other European cities. London not only has some excellent theatres (with many film stars coming from The States to perform live on stage), but also some unusual music venues. These range from an old religious buildings (Union Chapel in Islington) to The Roundhouse, a former train depot in Camden. Check out the many parks and gardens, from Greenwich down by the Meridian to Hampstead Heath in the north; both offer magnificent views over the capital by day or night.
Transportation
  Air

Heathrow Airport, the country's biggest airport, is situated 26 kilometers (16 miles) west of Central London. The airport has four terminals handling transatlantic, European and domestic flights. Taxis into and from London are available from ranks in front of the terminal buildings (journey time is around 60 minutes). The Heathrow Express is the fastest train route into central London. It provides a regular service to London's Paddington station (trains leave every 15 minutes between 05.00 and 23.40). The journey times are 15 minutes from Terminals 1,2,3 and 25 minutes from Terminal 4. However, tickets are expensive: 11.70 single for adults and 5.70 for children.
www.heathrowexpress.co.uk
Passengers can also take the Piccadilly Line Underground from all terminals. Trains run frequently every few minutes (from 05.00 to 23.30), with the journey into central London taking between 45 and 65 minutes. This costs 3.60 for an adult single ticket, 1.50 for children (up to age 16). (Young people aged 14 and 15 need a photocard or proof of their age to get a discount, child fare on most public transport in London).

Buses
The Heathrow Airbus Shuttle (double decker red London buses) can be taken from any of the airport's terminals. Route A1 serves London King's Cross, while route A2 terminates at London Victoria. Two buses run each way per hour on both routes. There are also Oxford Citylink coaches direct to the university town from Heathrow, leaving every thirty minutes. www.oxfordbus.co.uk

Travelling by Car
To reach London by car, take the M4 motorway, travelling east. The journey time to Central London is around 60 minutes.

Heathrow Airport lies approximately 45 miles from Gatwick Airport, which is south of the capital. A coach service runs regularly between Heathrow and Gatwick, with a journey time of approximately 70 minutes (this could be longer depending on traffic).

Gatwick is London's second busiest airport and is located 56 kilometers (35 miles) from central London. It's two terminals, North and South are connected by a fast and frequent monorail service(the journey time is a mere two minutes). The Gatwick Express train is the fastest and most effective way to get into Central London (this travels directly to London Victoria station). Trains run seven days a week, every 15 minutes from 06.00 to 20.00 and every 30 minutes between 04.30-06.00 and 20.00-00.30. The journey time is around 30 minutes. Alternatively, Connex South Central trains (terminates at Victoria station) and Thameslink trains (to London Bridge, King' s Cross and Blackfriars) run a service from Gatwick. This may be slightly cheaper. A large number of different bus services run into central London, leaving from Gatwick's central coach station in the south terminal. If you are traveling by car, take the M23 motorway at junction 9 and follow M23 and A23 to London. The journey time to Central London is approximately 60-75 minutes.

Stansted Airport is located 53 kilometers (33 miles) north-east of London and handles mainly business and charter flights. There is no taxi rank at Stansted. Taxis must be booked at the desk in the International Arrivals area (the journey time to central London is approximately 70 minutes). The airport's train station is situated under the main terminal building. The Skytrain rail service, which terminates at London Liverpool Street, is the fastest and most frequent link from Stansted to Central London. There is a stop at Tottenham Hale, connecting with the Victoria Line Underground line. Trains to central London run every 30 minutes to Liverpool Street Station and take approximately 45 minutes. There is also a coach service which leaves from the airport every hour, taking approximately 100 minutes. Stansted is located on the M11 motorway at Junction 8. The M11 connects with the M25 London Orbital Motorway at Junction 27 (journey time to central London is 60-80 minutes).

London Luton Airport handles holiday charter traffic from popular carriers such as EasyJet and RyanAir. A free shuttle bus connects Luton Airport to Luton train station. It leaves the airport every ten minutes and takes approximately twelve minutes to reach the station. Trains run frequently to King's Cross Thameslink Station (Monday to Sunday), with several departures through the night. Total journey time including shuttle bus is around 45 to 60 minutes. The Luton and District 757 Greenline coach runs from the airport to Victoria station. The total journey time is about 90 minutes, but can be longer during rush hours. Luton Airport is situated two miles from junction 10 on the M1 motorway. The motorway runs into North London with a journey time of about 75 minutes.

London City Airport is located six miles away from the City of London (main financial district) in the Docklands area of East London. There is a taxi rank on the forecourt and a ComputerCab desk in the concourse. The journey time to the City by taxi is around 30 minutes. Take bus LCA1 from Canary Wharf stop D to London City Aiport. Alternatively, take LCA2 from Canning Town station. Both run every ten minutes.

Airport shuttle buses connect to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) along with Tube/rail services at Canning Town and Liverpool Street. Alternatively, you can also get into Central London by taking a taxi to Plaistow Underground station. Local buses, the 473 and 69 heading to Plaistow and Stratford, depart directly from the airport terminal.


Public Transport
 
  Train


The British train network connects London to all the major cities, and most towns within the UK. There are fast Eurostar trains to European destinations which go directly from London to Paris, Lille and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel. There are nine major rail train stations in London, each serving different parts of the UK. Therefore the station you travel from is determined by your final destination. These transport interchanges also connect to bus and Underground services.
Different companies run separate sections of the rail network, so be careful to get the right ticket for the train you are travelling on. There are often restrictions on when you can travel, so ask for the relevant leaflets when you buy your ticket.
The Docklands Light Railway is one of the most efficient part of London's public transport infrastructure. The DLR provides a fast service across East London, serving over 30 destinations including Docklands, Greenwich, Canning Town (for London City Airport) and London Arena.
www.nationalrail.co.uk

Underground Trains
The most efficient way to travel around London is on the Underground (or Tube). The Underground map has eleven lines, and more than a hundred stations, many of which are within a short distance of major tourist attractions, hotels and shopping areas. The Tube system is divided into six zones: zones 1 and 2 cover Central London and the vast majority of tourist attractions. It is important to ensure that you stay within the zones for which your ticket is valid, otherwise you may incur a fine of around 10.

Buses
Traditional London buses (easy to identify as they are double deckers and usually painted red) travel to most parts of the city. There are also open-top tourist buses which provide running commentaries; one way to enjoy sightseeing while travelling. Day tickets usually provide the cheapest way to get around using buses, the tube and trains. Ask for the 'one day travelcard'. There are also reduced rates for children. Bus day passes are very cheap and although it can be a slower way of getting around, you do get to see a lot of London from the upper deck. Buy these from selected newsagents and travel offices. You can also buy weekend, week-long, or monthly, quarterly or annual tickets, most of which require a passport photograph at the time of purchase.
London Travel Information
Telephone 020 7222 1234

www.londontransport.co.uk
This a useful website with details of buses, tubes, and information about how to get around this large city. It also has a running display giving information about current delays on the underground, so travellers know which stations or lines to avoid.
Coach JourneysVictoria
Coach Station, National Express
London's main coach station, for both national and international services, is located near Victoria railway station, at 164 Buckingham Palace Road. Here, you can buy long distance coach journey tickets and travel to most destinations throughout the British Isles and even the continent.
Telephone 020 7730 3499Open 9am to 7pm Monday - Saturday
Advance purchase of Coach Tickets (until 2 Hours before Departure)
All Major Credit/Debit Cards Accepted.
www.GoByCoach.com
www.eurolines.com

Taxis
  Taxis (black cabs) have meters and are licensed to carry up to 5 people, plus luggage. Taxi ranks can be found at a mainline station or designated areas in the city center. The yellow 'for hire' sign is displayed if the taxi is free. Mini cabs can be booked from hundreds of offices in outer London. You can't hail them in the street, but they are cheaper than black cabs for long distance journeys and late night rides home.

Computer Cab  Radio Taxis
020 7432 1432   020 7272 0272

Dial-A-Cab
020 7253 5000
Car
 

London is ringed by the M25 'orbital' motorway. The M1 heads north, the M3 off to Southampton and the M4 to Gloucester. Visitors arriving at Dover or Folkestone can take the M20 and M26 before joining the M25 into London. Motorways are marked with a 'M', major roads with the letter 'A' and minor roads with a 'B'. The speed limit on motorways is 113kph (70mph), 97kph (60mph) on main roads and 48kph (30mph) in built-up areas. However, speed limits do vary according to local conditions.

Travel by sea
  The Eurotunnel allows drivers and passengers of cars and buses to cross the Channel (journey time is approximately 35 minutes) from Kent in Southern England to Nord-Pas-de-Calais in Northern France. The tunnel is linked to the UK and French motorway networks. Tickets can be purchased on the day of travel at check-in or be pre-booked at the Eurotunnel call centre. Passengers without vehicles can also travel by high speed train direct from Lille, Paris or Brussels to Waterloo Station in central London.Telephone Eurostar 0044 (0) 8705 186186 or 0044 (0) 1233 617575

Ferry
There are various sea crossings by ferry, the most popular being Calais - Dover and Ostend-Dover. The journey time for the Dover-Calais crossing is 1 hour and 15 minutes. The driving time to London from Dover is approximately1 hour and 50 minutes.
www.ferrysavers.co.uk
Telephone 0870 9908492
Weather
  Summers tend to be moderately warm and pleasant with occasional hot days and less rain than other seasons. However, the weather can be quite unpredictable, so visitors should plan for all eventualities. Winters are usually wet and cold, although average temperatures can be considered mild when compared to mainland Europe. Snow is infrequent.
Tipping
  It is common practice to tip hotel service personnel such as luggage handlers and door attendants. Service charges are included in some restaurants and are clearly stated on menus. However, it is standard to add 15 percent. Tip taxi drivers about ten percent of the total fare.
Safety
  London, like any western European capital, is a relatively safe city. The biggest problem, as in any big town with many tourists, is the presence of pickpockets. So, it is important to make sure that valuables are properly concealed. Pickpockets are usually active on public transport and around busy locations where tourists are distracted, such as Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. If you are alone, avoid walking though parks after dark and take taxis to the outer boroughs rather than walk down unlit streets. Another big problem in London is car crime, so make sure that doors are locked when driving and that valuables are well hidden. Don't leave anything in your car dashboard unattended.
Currency
  British currency is the pound sterling (). Notes are divided into denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50. Coins come in denominations of 2, 1, 50p, 20p, 10, 2p and 1p. Major banks are usually open from Monday to Friday (9.30 to 16.30), and some on Saturday (until 13.00). All banks are closed on Sundays. ATMs are commonplace and the cheapest way to withdraw cash. Most machines accept Visa, MasterCard (including Cirrus and Maestro), American Express, and Diners Club. Foreign currency can be changed at banks and bureaux de change, although it's best to use a high street bank as their rates are usually better than bureaux de change and they charge less commission. Most shops, restaurants, ticket agents, garages, and box offices will accept credit cards.
Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted.

Health care
For European Union citizens, the NHS offers free health care for most illnesses and conditions. Most large hospitals have an Accident and Emergency department.
There is also a free help line NHS Direct Telephone 0845 4647, lines open 24 hours a day. www.nhsdirect.nhs.com
A list of GP's (General Practitioners) can be found in telephone directories.
For details of local walk in centres, opticians, dental practices, and doctor's surgeries log on to www.nhs.uk
To dial an ambulance, ring 999 from any telephone. (There may be charge for the ambulance but the telephone call is free).
Electricity
Most sockets are three pin, so a adaptor will be necessary to connect appliances brought in from the EU.
Visitors with a Disability
Most public buildings in London are very well equipped for people who have a disability. Ramps and lifts are commonplace. There are induction loops in theatres and cinemas for people with impaired hearing and some buses have specially adapted low or descending platforms for wheelchairs. (telephone London Transport for specific information about routes).
www.rnib.org.uk
www.rnid.org.uk
www.radar.org.uk
www.scope.org.uk

Public Holidays
December 25th, Boxing Day (December 26th), New Year's Day are fixed dates on the calender. The following change every year:
Spring Bank Holiday, May Day, August Bank Holiday, Easter Day and Easter Monday and Whitsun.However, many shops in Central London and shopping centres such as Blue Water will be open on 26th December and 1st January for the Winter Sales. Banks and offices will be closed, however.

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