Staying in London, England
London is a riverside megacity with a status as one of the world’s most powerful financial centres built over almost two millennia. The diverse British capital is steeped in history and tradition, world-renowned for its powerful monarchy, iconic skyline and distinct cultural geography. The city’s impressive architecture is proof of London’s long history and bright future of affluence: ornate landmarks like Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace that pre-date the 1800s alongside the ultra-modern Shard and Gherkin make for an eclectic cityscape.
Founded as Londinium by the Romans, the humble town quickly evolved into a wealthy trading hub with strong political influence worldwide. Today, London has some of the world’s highest real estate prices, a gross regional product that accounts for around a quarter of the UK‘s gross domestic product and is in the top five wealthiest cities in the world.
You’re likely familiar with London’s emblematic red double-decker buses and phone boxes, Big Ben, and West End theatre strip, but there’s plenty more to know as a corporate traveller on business in the city. Read on for our corporate traveller’s guide to London where we’ve made a list of all the basics you need to know.
Visiting London - Key Information
Weather in London
It’s a globally understood joke for a reason, Britain tends to be rainy. Winters are long, cold and windy, with temperatures routinely dropping below freezing. July is typically the warmest month, while January is the coldest, and rain falls year-round but October tends to be one of the rainiest months. Although summers are short, they are bright and comfortably warm. The clocks go forward during British Summer Time to increase daylight hours, making the evenings longer to get the most out of the sunnier months.
A varied wardrobe is needed, but a sturdy brolly (umbrella), proper waterproof jacket, and a good pair of boots/waterproof shoes should be essentials on your packing list.
Currency in London
Great British Pound (GBP)
The currency here is Great British Pounds and, like the majority of cities worldwide, London is primarily a cashless society. Both Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, as well as AMEX in some places, and there are very limited occasions where you will need cash. These include needing a £1 coin for a supermarket trolley (or a reusable trolley token that can be added onto a keyring), paying small amounts in small off-license or convenience stores that have minimum card payment spends, and some local taxis may not take card.
Tipping or adding gratuity in restaurants is optional and can be added onto card payments; tips typically tend to be between 10-15%. Leaving cash for waiting staff when you want to tip is usually preferred, and cash tips are usual for good service from hotel staff or in salons/barbers.
Health & Well-being in London
Londoners are big walkers and it’s commonplace for workers to commute in their trainers so they can easily speed their way through bustling streets and tube stations. For a major city, London has so much green space that it’s technically classified as a forest, so residents love a stroll or jog round one of the city’s many parks (or ‘commons’ as many London green spaces are called). Londoners – and Brits in general – are dog lovers, so expect to see plenty of pooches on your travels.
Other than walking, popular in and outdoor sports include tennis, rugby, cricket, and football. Bouldering is also gaining popularity, offering a social exercise option. Gym classes are common, too: F45, Barry’s Bootcamp and reformer pilates are popular ones found across the city.
Data in London
Having data while travelling abroad is essential, especially for a corporate trip where you may need to work remotely, take business calls or navigate the city for important meetings. You can buy a SIM card at the airport, dedicated network provider stores, as well as drugstores like Boots or Superdrug and supermarkets like Tesco. Data-only SIMs can be bought in both short- and long-term plans ranging in price depending on the data package.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the mass of tall buildings in big cities like London, Singapore, or New York can interfere with the reliability of your network connection. EE is known to have the best coverage, followed by Vodaphone, Three and O2.
Plug Shape: Type G
Cuisine in London
Although in London you can find pretty much any cuisine – Brick Lane’s curry mile, Soho’s Chinatown and Little Italy all offer excellent regional restaurants, for example – you can’t leave without sampling the English classics. And we don’t just mean the stereotypical tea and scones, although a proper afternoon tea is always a good idea!
Typical British cuisine is comprised of ‘homecooked’-style meals, pub grub and winter warmers. What all classic British dishes have in common is that they are filling and comforting: fish and chips with mushy peas, bangers (sausages) and mash with gravy, a full English breakfast, and Sunday roast dinner are all perfect examples of this. Desserts include English trifle, Victoria sponge cake, apple crumble and sticky toffee pudding.
London Regional Apartment Norms
The serviced accommodation portfolio in London features examples of all apartment types:
- Dedicated or dual-brand serviced apartment buildings can either be managed on site with a reception and property manager, or off site with no staff and self-check-in protocols in place.
- Aparthotels offer private, self-contained apartments alongside many of the additional on-site services found in a hotel such as a concierge or gym.
- Residential serviced apartments provide a less transient environment: a permanent base within a residential property with long-term neighbours opposed to short-term guests.
- Entire houses are also available to book as single property serviced apartments.
High season is typically May – September. We advise booking in advance where possible during these months to maximise availability and secure the best rates.
Annual events that impact availability include Wimbledon in June and July, Notting Hill Carnival in August, Bonfire Night in November, and Christmas lights/markets in December. Major sport fixtures and other events like movie premieres can also impact demand, so it's worth asking about these in advance.
The majority of London serviced apartments will have a fully equipped kitchen including a fridge-freezer, full oven/hob, and dishwasher. In-unit laundry is common but expect your washing machine to be in the kitchen rather than a utility room. What else to expect from your London serviced apartment:
- On-site parking tends to be limited, especially in central locations, but there are providers who will have agreements with nearby car parks for guest discounts. You will also never be too far from a tube/train station or bus stop!
- If you’re staying anywhere inside the radius of Hammersmith, Clapham, Whitechapel and Camden, expect moderate noise levels. Sirens, trains, tubes, and sounds of the London nightlife are normal around the clock but you get used to it pretty quickly.
- The classic London architecture is beautiful but many of the older buildings are unlikely to feature air-conditioning or lifts. Not having air-con doesn’t pose too much of a problem as Britain remains relatively cool year-round, but ask about accessibility when you enquire.
Language in London
The British capital is one of the most diverse cities in the world, with more than 250 languages spoken across London. English is the national language, but Polish, Turkish, Punjabi and Tamil are among the others most commonly spoken.
Brits have hundreds of comical phrases that make perfect sense to locals, but may take some getting used to for visitors. Common British phrases include ‘quid’ for ‘pound’ when referring to money, calling something the ‘bee’s knees’ means it’s the best, and ‘Bob’s your uncle’ is the British equivalent of ‘et voila’ to describe an easy conclusion to a set of instructions. If someone asks for a ‘brew’ or a ‘builder’s’, they’re asking for a cup of tea; if someone says they’ll ‘give you a bell’, expect them to call you on the phone; and something going ‘pear-shaped’ is going wrong.
As for other local phrases you may hear while out and about in the city, Cockney rhyming slang is a form of slang dialect originating in east London that features rhyming alternatives for common words and phrases. It may sound non-sensical to the untrained ear, but there’s method to the madness!
Here are some examples to give you an idea of what it’s all about:
Up the apples and pears = up the stairs
You’re having a bubble bath = you’re having a laugh
I’m absolutely Hank Marvin = I’m absolutely starving
Brown bread = dead
Skin and blister = sister
Joanna = piano (pronounced ‘pianna’ if you’re Cockney!)
London District Breakdown
London is split into 32 boroughs, each with their own set of districts, towns, and distinctive personalities.
Museum quarter: South Kensington
Shopping central: Mayfair & Soho
Music and nightlife: Brixton
Transport in London
London is split into fare zones, zone 1 being the most central and zone 9 the furthest outside the city. Travel distance and travelling between zones determines the price of your tube and rail journey, and prices also differ during peak (Monday-Friday 6:30-9:30 and 16:00-19:00) and off-peak times. Travelling by bus is a flat, standard rate of £1.75 anywhere in London and you have unlimited free transfers within one hour of your first journey.
Tapping in and out: most of London’s transport system is cashless so you can pay as you go using contactless or an Oyster card, London’s loadable travel card. Pay by tapping in and out (you only need to tap in on buses) on yellow card readers or station gates.
While the London Underground has a reputation for being somewhat confusing, don’t be put off – it’s easy once you know how. There are 11 lines spanning zones 1-6: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Waterloo & City.
Lines either run north-south or east-west, check the route on station platforms and the destination on the front/sides of the carriages before boarding to make sure you hop on the right tube. Services run between 5:00-midnight Monday-Saturday (reduced on Sundays) and there are 5 night tube lines on Fridays and Saturdays. Timetables and frequency depend on the line, but there are mostly mere minutes between tubes – the Victoria line operates as many as 36 trains per hour at peak times!
There are around 700 bus routes in London serving more than 19,000 bus stops across the city. Buses are very frequent with many bus stops showing bus wait times on digital screens so you can easily plan your journey.
London Overground and National Rail services are more like traditional trains: typically slower, less frequent and covering less stations per route than the tube, but more spacious and mostly serving areas outside central London as far as zone 9. You can still tap in and out using contactless/Oyster and some stations interchange with tube lines making for easy journey transfers.
If in doubt, Citymapper is your best bet for route planning and live travel updates.
When it comes to taxis, successfully hailing a black cab can be challenging at peak times but economical for shorter distances. Apps like Uber, Bolt, or Gett are bookable online (website or app) but keep in mind that Uber especially is liable to surge prices at times of high demand.
Whether you're relocating and need a pet-friendly apartment for you and your furry friend or an apartment with a short office commute is important to you, SilverDoor's portfolio has a range of serviced apartments in London to choose from. From the best bars and breweries for an after work hangout to the best London apartments with swimming pools for a morning dip, our experts can guide you through a successful business trip in the British capital.