Before visiting London and Edinburgh, I plowed through two guidebooks and numerous online guides. I also received a ton of great advice from my friend who lives in London and my coworkers who have visited both places before. And now that I’ve been myself, I’ve picked the best tips and tricks and compiled them for you below!
- Check your phone’s options for international data plans. I have Verizon, which would’ve cost me $10 per day to use outside of the U.S. Instead, I rented a Pocket WiFi from Tep. The device allows for up to 5 devices and unlimited usage, so it worked out well for the two of us.
- Everywhere we went in London, Edinburgh, and the cities surrounding, they took contact-less payment. If you don’t have a contact-less credit card, set up Apple Pay or Google Pay. I used Apple Pay on my iPhone for basically every purchase. It was super easy – and I didn’t have to dig around for my wallet.
- If your hotel doesn’t offer breakfast or you’re staying in an AirBnB, check out your local Marks & Spencer, Tesco, or Sainsbury. A bag of sliced bread costs about 65 – 95 pence, less than a pound! Groceries in London and Edinburgh are pretty cheap, so you can make your own breakfast or lunch everyday.
Tips/Tricks for London:
- If you’ve read the tip above about Apple Pay, you can use contact-less payment for the Underground, DLR, buses, and the river ferry. The fares for contact-less payments are the same as for Oyster Cards for UK residents. We found that paying per trip using contact-less was cheaper than buying any visitor pass.
- In addition, when you’re paying contact-less, you get the same price cap as the Oyster cards. No matter how many trips you make in a 24 hour period, you won’t be charged more than the price cap amount. This price cap applies throughout all kinds of transport, so if you mix bus, underground and DLR in one day the same price cap applies.
- Instead of Google Maps, use Citymapper. It is much better at mapping out routes using public transportation. It was such a lifesaver when we were trying to figure out, on the spot, how to get to anywhere.
- If you’re staying in an AirBnB (or a friend’s apartment, like us) and cannot check in until a certain time – or if you’re only in town for a few hours, stash your luggage with Stasher and explore the city. There are hundreds of locations to stash your luggage and we were only charged about $7 (£6) per piece of luggage. We were able to store our luggage at the Hub by Premier Inn twice during our time in London.
- Despite what TripAdvisor or other forums will tell you about the Heathrow Express, it worked amazingly for us. I booked tickets 90 days in advance and only paid $7 (£5.50) per ticket. It got us from Heathrow Airport to Paddington Station in 15 minutes. We were in London during a heat wave, so 1.5 hours on the local train without AC would’ve been brutal!
- Book your train tickets EARLY! Book as early as you can – advance saver tickets are always the cheapest tickets that you can buy. You can save a lot of money by planning just a bit in advance.
Tips / Tricks for Edinburgh:
- We used the app, Transport for Edinburgh, to navigate the buses in the city. Just type in where you want to go and it will tell you exactly where the bus stop is, when the next bus will come, and exactly which stop to click the button to get off.
- We brought our bus tickets using the app, m-tickets. I was able to buy our all-day bus passes (£4 each) on my phone and show it to the bus drivers when we boarded.
- If you’re interested in picking up some baby bottles of Scottish whisky, make your purchases in the gift shop at the Edinburgh Castle. I brought the majority of mine there, thinking perhaps I may have overpaid. Later on, walking through the Royal Mile, the shops there were charging at least £3 – 5 more!
- Be prepared for sun and rain, by packing layers like T-shirts, sweaters, and a large scarf that you can put on or take off as necessary. It was cloudy with a bit of sun for 2 days and then poured for our last day. Much like the weather in Iceland, no umbrella will help you! Be prepared with some waterproof clothing!
- Currency from London can be used in interchangeably in London and Edinburgh. However, money printed and issued in Edinburgh can’t be used in London. When you take out cash from any ATM in Edinburgh, you’ll most likely end up with a mish-mash of English and Scottish pounds.
- We always used contact-less to pay for taxis in London, but our taxi driver in Edinburgh suggested that cash was better. I’m not sure if this is the case for all taxi drivers in Edinburgh, though.