London: Essentials

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TO / FROM THE AIRPORT

Gatwick and Heathrow Express Trains
Gatwick (LGW): 845/850-1530, gatwickexpress.com
Heathrow (LHR): 845/600-1515, heathrowexpress.com
These two high-speed rail services connect the main airports with central London. Heathrow Express runs about every 15 minutes from 5 a.m. until 12 a.m. daily; £14 one way, £26 round trip; the journey lasts around 15 minutes and terminates at Paddington Station. Gatwick Express runs every 15 minutes or so from 5 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. daily; £12 one way, £23.50 round trip; the journey lasts half an hour and terminates at Victoria Station.

London Underground 20/7222-1234, tfl.gov.uk
At Heathrow, a slower but cheaper option is to hop on the London Underground's Piccadilly line. It costs £3.80 one way to get into central London. The downside is the duration (budget at least an hour for the journey) and current engineering works related to the construction of Heathrow's Terminal 5, which means that a free shuttle bus replaces the Tube at the line's final stop at Terminal 4. Bus 870/580-8080, nationalexpress.com National Express bus service runs from central London's Victoria Station to Heathrow, though it's not as handy as the express trains (see above). It leaves roughly every 30 minutes from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily and costs £10 each way.

GETTING AROUND

Underground and Bus 20/7222-1234, tfl.gov.uk
The London Underground network comprises 12 lines; it runs from 5 a.m. until at least 12 a.m. The bus network runs 24 hours. London is divided into six zones; a one-way ticket within central London (Zones 1 and 2) costs £2.30. A one- or three-day Travelcard allows unlimited journeys after 9:30 a.m. on bus and Tube. One-day Travelcards cost £4.70, and the three-day version £15. Pick up Travelcards at any London Underground station.

London Rail 20/7222-1234, tfl.gov.uk
The overground rail network that connects London to the rest of England is also handy within the city limits, especially if you're exploring south of the river. Travelcards are also valid on these services within the same zones. Taxis 871/871-8710 The minimum fare for a ride in a black cab--a misnomer, since they're often wrapped in multicolored adverts--is £2.20; rates are then variable by mileage and speed, but expect a premium of 60p to £1 on nights and weekends.

WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND TOWN

Free in Tube Stations

 

  • Metro newspaper, Mon.--Fri.
  • At Newsstands

     

  • Time Out magazine, timeout.co.uk
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  • MetroLife magazine, free with the Evening Standard newspaper every Thursday, thisislondon.co.uk
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  • The Guide magazine, free with The Guardian newspaper every Saturday, guardian.co.uk
  • TOURS

    The Original London Walks 20/7624-9255, walks.com
    Exhaustive, wide-ranging selection of historical tours on foot. The Jack the Ripper walk is arguably the best known, but it's worth exploring some of the more esoteric options: Shakespearean actor Edward Petherbridge still leads occasional theatrical jaunts, for example. Price: £5.50.

    Original London Sightseeing Tour 20/8877-1722, theoriginaltour.com
    Traditional tour by bus--in a double-decker, no less--which hits all the city's major sights in 90 minutes or so. You can hop on and off at any point on the route; tickets are available at most hotels or London Transport offices. Price: £15.

    Silvercane Tours 772/071-5295, silvercanetours.com
    Simon Rodway is a qualified Blue Badge guide, with unbeatable historical knowledge; what sets him apart is his wit and the offbeat topics of his tours, which range from Bridget's Big Knickers Walk to the forgotten bohemian enclave of Fitzrovia. Price: £100 for private individual or group tours

    NUMBERS TO KNOW

     

  • Directory inquiries 118-500
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  • Emergencies Police, fire, ambulance, 999
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  • Theater See Tickets, 871/220-0260
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  • Sports & concert tickets Ticketmaster, 870/534-4444
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  • Tourist info 20/7234-5800
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  • International access code 011
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  • Country code 44
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  • City code 20
  • All London phone numbers start with "7" (central) or "8" (outer neighborhoods). Add a "0" before numbers when dialing within the U.K.

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