Traveling to London this summer? 8 expert tips

There is no city like London.

Pub gardens, Hyde Park and West End play are some of the city’s well-known features, and visiting during the summer ensures that visitors see the city in maximum vitality. Very late in the best of times, travel to London became even more unpredictable due to the impact of the pandemic.

If you’re planning to visit in 2022, here are some questions and important things to consider:

The London Tube
The London Tube © David Prado Perucha / Shutterstock

1. Have you checked that Tube and train strikes don’t happen?

The UK saw the biggest train strike for a generation this summer in June, with thousands of workers walkout in protest of low wages and unemployment. Half of all rail lines were closed and London Underground service was also disrupted.

Although no strikes are yet officially planned-yet-hundreds of staff at British London North Eastern Railway and c2c rail services have voted to strike yet, suggesting that this summer may see of more industrial protest.

If you plan to visit London and rely on train services, we recommend double-checking for any planned strikes and considering alternative transport such as coach, cycling or car. If you happen to visit during a train strike, keep in mind that all other forms of travel experience delays and people increase from the knock-on effect. Take extra time for travel then.

How to navigate London in the midst of transport strikes and airport disruptions

2. Have you checked if your flight is okay?

UK airlines are canceling thousands of short-haul flights due to a lack of staff which has caused thousands of holidaymakers to re-plan their trips.

British Airways (BA) canceled 10,300 extra flights between August and the end of October, bringing their total of 30,000 canceled flights to London Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports, while easyJet also cut thousands . Fortunately, further BA strikes are on hold after reaching an agreement in negotiations this week.

But travelers still face disruption from Covid’s aftershocks in the travel sector. Heathrow aviation fuel staff voted to strike over pay last week, meaning further disruption could be coming.

If you plan to fly to or out of the UK with one of these airlines in July, August or September, watch if your flight is canceled. Make sure the company you booked has all your up-to-date contact information as they will usually send a link to rebook flights if the flight is grounded.

If your trip is time sensitive, it may be wise to establish a plan B just in case. If you book a second flight you will only get a refund if the flight is canceled however, keep that in mind.

Airport disturbances in Europe: how to manage delays, cancellations and strikes

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Budget for extra time when traveling to any of London’s airports this summer
Budget for extra time when traveling to any of London’s airports this summer © narvikk / istock / Getty Images Plus

3. Do you spend enough extra time at the airport?

So your flight looks good to go; you arrive at the airport and suddenly there is a scattered queue for bag check-in that looks like it might take a few hours. Twitter is full of scary anecdotes from holidaymakers about to miss a flight. Do not worry.

Staff shortages also lead to queue times to check-in or get through security-but you can plan accordingly. Heathrow seems to have been the worst affected by the travel turmoil so might look to another airport if possible.

The next best thing to do is check in online, if your airline allows it, as this simplifies the airport process and means you can go straight to security if you don’t have a bag to check in. If you need to check in a bag, give it extra time. We will recommend an extra minimum time just for this queue.

Also, baggage destruction is, unfortunately, a reality if you also enter the UK. If you are entering an airport in London, prepare for a long time awaiting baggage claim because of…. personnel shortages.

Top tips for first time visitors to London

Sky Garden on the top floor of 20 Fenchurch Street, London
Sky Garden on the top floor of 20 Fenchurch Street, London © DrimaFilm / Shutterstock

4. Have you ever found the city’s most beautiful rooftops (especially the lesser centers)?

Rooftops in London are some of the best places to relax and unwind (especially after any trauma at the airport). The city hosts some fantastic bars where you can see the skyline and feel a moment of calm in the bustling city.

The problem is: Everyone has the same idea when the weather climbs anywhere above 17 C.

We recommend going to one before 5pm on weekdays and staking out somewhere before people get off at work, as most places don’t take bookings. Some of our favorite places are Frank’s Cafe at Bold Tendencies in Peckham, Madison at St Paul’s, Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch, Pergola in Paddington and Jin Bo Law in Aldgate.

Top things to do in London

5. What are some of the amazing new shows or exhibitions taking place this summer?

How do you get to London and not discover the incredible culture on offer? This summer promises to immerse you in a dizzying display of art, theater and music. The most anticipated theater adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro will begin on Oct. 8 at the Barbican. Tickets can be found here. Also, Emilia Clarke (known for playing Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) makes his West End debut with The Seagull at the Harold Pinter theater. Tickets can be found here and are available from £ 15.

Or what about Abba Maiden Voyage, Abba’s critically acclaimed virtual concert at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park? Concerts run from July to May next year, with all of the band’s best hits promised for attendees. Tickets for July are still available here.

If you want a futuristic, out-of-body art experience, be sure to check out Future Shock at 180 The Strand. The exhibition showcases a truly immersive visual and auditory experience through digital technology and is until August 28. Tickets are available here and are £ 20 for adults.

Alternatively, celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by visiting a special display in the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace. It ran from July 22 to October 2 and explored the Queen’s accession to the throne in February 1952. The exhibition included a special diamond tiara gifted to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, then Queen Mary. Tickets are available here.

12 must-see events in London this summer … including the biggest street party in Europe

6. Why not try a swim or an urban beach?

You’ve seen all the tourist places and you’re lost for something to do. Why not try an urban beach or swim in one of the city’s outer lids?

No, an urban beach won’t match Mykonos but it does the job in London. Ruislip lido beach is a great option and easy to get to. Less than an hour via Piccadilly or Metropolitan line to Ruislip then a bus. For something closer to home, there’s London Secret Beach in South Kensington. We recommend booking in advance to ensure you get a seat.

London also hosts several outdoor swimming areas. Some of our favorites include Hampstead Heath ponds (£ 4.05 for adults and £ 2.43 for concessions for a day ticket. Book here); Brockwell Lido in Herne Hill (£ 8 for seniors and £ 5 for concessions for the 50 minute slot. Book here) and Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park (£ 5 for seniors, £ 3.80 concessions, and £ 1.80 per child. Book here). It makes for a fantastic activity in hot weather.

The 10 best UK beaches you won’t want to leave

Plan ahead with a reservation to avoid the potentially long wait at almost every London restaurant this summer
Plan ahead with reservations to avoid the potentially long wait at almost every restaurant in London this summer © Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock

7. Have you booked in advance for restaurants?

Self-explanatory but London is host to some incredible restaurants and their popularity has never waned. It’s impossible to get a spot in some places even a month in advance, so plan ahead and target your spots as soon as possible.

Lunch times are slightly easier than at night and some restaurants like Hoppers in Soho, a Sri Lankan restaurant with no frills, or Dishoom, a great place for Indian food, particularly like for the brunch menu its (try the bacon naan roll if you prefer not vegetables!). Dishoom has spots in all of London’s famous areas – Shoreditch, Kings Cross, Carnaby Street, Covent Garden and Kensington, making it a great addition to sightseeing as you’ll likely end up in those areas. They both take walk-ins at certain times but be aware that everyone is likely to have the same idea at meal times. If you like a fan -favorite for pasta, Padella – also known in large queues – then you can join an online queue and have a drink nearby. Padella has spots in Shoreditch and London Bridge and is known for its classic but fresh pasta dishes. Padella has become a cult food institution in London due to its growing fanbase. Just scan the QR code in the window and keep checking your phone for updates.

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An entrance to London’s vast underground subway system
An entrance to London’s vast underground subway system © Claudio Divizia / Shutterstock

8. Have you ever considered taking Elizabeth’s line?

Why not join the Elizabeth line – London’s newest railway line announced in time for the Queen’s Jubilee? The project is worth £ 19 billion and once unveiled is something new for Londoners and tourists who have not seen a newly completed underground line in 30 years.

The project will deliver new stations to Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House and Woolwich.

If you land at Heathrow (any terminal) jump on the Purple line and you will be taken to Paddington where you will need to change to go further into the center. For now, the line is divided into three separate sections but plans are to make it a route in 2023 from Reading/Heathrow to Paddington, Paddington to Abbey Wood and Liverpool Street to Shenfield.

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