Getting Around London
The best way to get around London is the rapid-transit London Underground, labeled the "Tube." You can even take the Tube from London Heathrow Airport (LHR)—one of the world's busiest airports—into the city center. This widespread and efficient system stretches throughout London and beyond, and it is relatively easy to navigate. Buying an Oyster card will further simplify your travel since it can be used on the Underground system, as well as on city buses and other forms of transportation. Visitors should also bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes since meandering is the most atmospheric way to traverse the city.
The London Underground, otherwise known as "the Tube," is very simple to use and has extensive routes throughout the city and into neighboring counties. Tickets and rechargeable Oyster cards can be purchased at stations; we recommend the pay-as-you-go Oyster card, which will allow you to travel throughout the Underground's six zones (though the great majority of tourist attractions are clustered in the central first and second zones). Even if you don't plan on using the Tube throughout your entire stay, purchasing an Oyster card (versus a single fare ticket) will always be cheaper. For instance, a single fare ticket in Zone 1 is £4.50 GBP (about $7 USD), while the Oyster fare is £2.10 GBP (about $3 USD). Remember to touch your Oyster card to the yellow readers as you enter the Tube station and as you exit.
The allure to traveling by bus is that you get to see the sights. The London Underground is, well, underground, so you miss out on the city's scenic views. Keep in mind that bus fare varies by distance traveled (and bus drivers don't make change), so it's best to have a topped-up Oyster card to pay for your trip.
London's infamous black cabs can be found throughout the city, as well as in designated lines at busy Tube stations, airports, and hotels. When you're hailing one on the street, keep in mind that a lit-up taxi sign means it's available. Cabs are metered, and the minimum fee is £2.40 GBP (about $4 USD). You can pay with cash—or quid, as the Brits say—but many cabs accept credit cards, though there is a surcharge. You can tip as much as you want, but most cab riders tip to the nearest pound. Steer clear of unlicensed cabs, especially ones soliciting you; they're illegal in London and can be dangerous.
Think twice before "hiring" or renting a car in London. For Americans used to driving on the right side of the road, keep in mind that Londoners drive on the left. The cars are also usually manual; automatics tend to cost more. In addition, traffic and parking are awful, and petrol is high. That said, you can hire cars at the airports or at many locations throughout central London.
Entry & Exit Requirements
A valid travel document is required for United States citizens traveling outside the mainland by air or sea, as well as for U.S. citizens trying to re-enter the country. A United States passport is the preferred form of documentation, and children must have them, too.
Upon your arrival in the United Kingdom, customs officials might ask for proof of sufficient funds for your stay, as well as requesting written proof that you will be returning to the U.S. Note that U.S. citizens do not need a visa unless they plan on staying longer than six months. Visit the U.S. State Department's website for the latest information on foreign exit and entry requirements.