If it’s your first time to London and you’re feeling a little nervous, don’t worry! I’m sharing five common mistakes people make during their first three days in London.
To help gather these common mistakes, I asked some Love and London community members what problems they ran into when they were here, so they helped me out with some of these.
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Mistakes not to make in your first three days in London
Mistake #1: Assuming everything you want to see is close together
This is a common London visitor mistake. When you’re planning your day, use the app CityMapper or Google Maps to find out how long it will take to get to each thing you want to do. Make sure you adjust for the time of day you’ll be doing it because the journey you’ll take will likely be different depending on if it’s rush hour or not, or if it’s quite late or early in the day, when trains and buses run less frequently.
The absolute best way to make sure you’re not spending hours on public transportation each day is to choose just one or two very close-by areas to explore so that you can walk to each thing you want to visit. Believe me, it will be much more enjoyable then trekking across the city to each thing you booked.
Mistake #2: Over-Planning Your Three Days in London
I’m ALWAYS going to suggest not to over plan your visit. I totally get why it happens though. It’s so exciting to finally be in London that you want to see EVERYTHING! But, you will exhaust yourself, I promise. It can be really tiring using public transportation, walking a few miles a day, and well, EXPERIENCING things.
Another reason I suggest not to over plan is that you will want to have time to experience things that you discover along the way. The magic of visiting London is that you might be walking around and discover a cool little cafe, a hidden museum, or a fun pop-up festival that you’ll want to spend a couple of hours exploring. Give yourself the chance to experience these great moments, they’re my favourite thing about this city.
However, if you’d like to make things REALLY easy for yourself, consider my 3-Day London Itinerary. It organizes your days based on major attractions that are close together and includes a variety of places to eat, drink, and shop.
Mistake #3: Planning too much for the day you arrive
I have traveled across many time zones many, many times, and I don’t think I’ve gotten any better with jet lag. The struggle is real, especially on your first day in London. If you’ve just arrived, give yourself some credit and be flexible with what you do.
Doing SOMETHING is a must so that you stay awake to get yourself on the London time zone, but don’t book anything you’d be upset to miss or be too tired to fully experience. Then try to get yourself to bed as late as possible, otherwise your body clock will be completely screwed up for your first three days in London.
Mistake #4: Sticking to the familiar
The city is super overwhelming for some people when they first arrive, so I think out of comfort, people stick to what they know, especially for food. For example, familiar chain restaurants or attractions they’ve heard of before, which you can find easily in the most popular areas for tourists. But you’ll often end up having some gross overpriced food or paying an arm and a leg for a lukewarm “attraction” like Madame Tussaud’s (ugh, please don’t go there!)
So if you’re going to be in areas like Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square, do your research ahead of time and find some local-approved hidden gem spots for food and drinks. TRUST ME, it will be much better for your experience, and your wallet.
Mistake #5: Using only TripAdvisor to find things to do, see and eat
If you’re trying to find a good place to eat in the most touristy areas, another common London visitor mistake is relying on the TripAdvisor app. Sometimes it can be helpful but I’ve had a good look on there and many of the best spots for food in these areas don’t even crack the top 20 on good ‘ole TA.
TripAdvisor reviews can be skewed and manipulated, as Vice’s video has shown us, in which one of their own journalists created a fake restaurant in their “shed” in London, and was able to manipulate the system into getting it to the #1 restaurant in London spot. It was quite literally a shed, and the photos of the food were completely faked.
My point is you’ll miss out on some great hidden gems if you stick with TripAdvisor, or even maybe get duped. Do you research and look for recommendations from actual Londoners that live here and actually know good food in London. If you don’t have a friend in London, hey… you’ve got me.
My 3-Day London Itinerary
If you’re like, “Jess, I still feel so overwhelmed with planning my first few days, PLEASE HELP ME!” My 3-Day London Itinerary will put your mind at ease. It’s a flexible, non-overwhelming plan for your first three days in London. It combines some of the top things to do and see in London along with local-approved recommendations for food, drinks and other hidden gems.
More tips for your three days in London:
How To Prepare For Your First Three Days London
10 Reasons To Follow An Itinerary For Your First 3 Days In London
Want My 3 Day London Itinerary But Don’t Have The Money? Here’s How To Get It
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Hey Jess, my daughter and I went to London in November. Had a great time, part of that was due to you and your tips, information and suggestions. I watched your videos and read as much as I could on what to do and not do. I’m happy to say that we didn’t make one of these “mistakes” because of your suggestions. Thanks so much for what you do and for making a short trip to London so much easier and enjoyable. We can’t wait to go back and see things we didn’t get to.
Thank you so much Susan, what a kind comment!
I was in London for two weeks last November. I watched A TON of your videos regarding London culture and life before I went and I’m so glad I did. Your tips on not over scheduling, riding the Underground, and others helped make the culture shock a lot less than it could have been for me. I completely agree with you on the over planning. I took the first day just to acclimate and stay close to the neighborhood where I was staying during my visit. Another of your videos about riding the Underground assured us we would be “pros” after a couple of days. You were right! 🙂
I do have one suggestion for 1st time visitors: ALWAYS use the crosswalks when crossing the streets. I live in the Pacific Northwest in a decent sized city where people still jaywalk across busy roads. I noticed on my first day to London that jaywalking in NOT a good idea. I don’t know if you covered that in your videos so if I’m repeating past information, I apologize.
Keep up the good work, Jess! While I saw a lot during my London visit, I want to go back and see more. Thanks again! 🙂
Thanks Bryan, so glad to hear you had such a great time.
Thank you for all your great advice, I went to London for the first time 2 years ago and thanks to Pinterest I found your blog, what a wealth of information! I don’t think you were offering itineraries at that time but your information was super helpful and we had the best week ever. I cannot wait to plan our next trip.
Aw, thanks very much Teresa!
I Will be coming to London for the first time with my husband mid April. The one thing I’m racking my brain’s about is how to get from Heathrow to where I’m staying near Trafalgar Square. We don’t want to lug our suitcases onto public transportation. So I was hoping you could Suggest a reasonably priced transportation company. I’ve looked at the black taxis, Eddie Manning, Something called just airports, London mini Cabs service Ltd. and of course Uber. Thank you.
Hi Laura! You won’t get any cheaper than Uber.
My wife and I went to London last November for our wedding anniversary / belated honeymoon. We completely fell in love with it, and it was thanks to your tips. I ordered your 3 day itinerary, and it helped so much!
That all being said, it would be an absolute dream to be able to move there some day… Am I insane? Do you have any tips on how this could be accomplished? Is it a pipe dream? I know COVID probably threw a wrench into that dream.. ugh.
But thanks again for all you do!
Thank you so much Maegan, so glad you found the itinerary so helpful! If you can figure out the visa situation (which is tough I’m afraid so speak to a lawyer) then yes you can do it. Have a watch of my video series about moving to London for an idea of how it could work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeZ5uYoRZGA&list=PL6u96nZN-L_byx9gU0EaECXWT55JNaq4e