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London cheatsheet

In London, love and scandal are considered the best sweeteners of tea.
- John Osborne

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AIRPORTS
Heathrow is London's largest international airport, but the city also serviced by Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, and London City.

Heathrow (LHR)
There are five terminals, all a considerable distance from each other, so you want to doublecheck which terminal is yours. Terminal Five only runs British Airways flights. 
- Trains: Heathrow Express: The fastest way to get to central London. Trains leave for Paddington station every 15 minutes, stopping at all terminals, and take between 15-20 minutes. Heathrow Connect also ends up at Paddington. It's cheaper, but there are stops along the way and the journey is longer. Don't even think about paying extra for first class. It's not even a little bit worth it.

-Taxi: Depending where you're going, a black cab costs £45-£65 and takes 30-60 minutes.

- Subway: The cheapest way to get to London along the Piccadilly line, but the trip can take up to an hour. Take the Heathrow Express. 

- Bus: National Express coaches drop passengers at Victoria station.

Gatwick (LGW)
There are two terminals, North and South.They are connected by a two-minute monorail. 
- Train: Gatwick Express leaves Victoria station every 15 minutes and arrives at the South Terminal in 30 minutes. Southern runs the same route for a lower fare but makes more stops. As with Heathrow Express, don't bother with first class. 

- Subway: There is no tube service to Gatwick.

-Taxi: Depending where you're going, a black cab costs £100 and takes about an hour.

- Bus: National Express coaches drop passengers at Victoria Station. EasyBus goes to central London every 15 or 20 minutes and only costs £2. 

Luton (LTN)
- Trains: First Capital Connect trains run between the airport and St. Pancras Station.

Subway: There is no tube service to Luton.

-Taxi: Depending where you're going, a black cab costs £75-85 and take about an hour.

- Bus: Green Line coaches drop passengers at Victoria station. EasyBus goes to central London every 15 or 20 minutes and only costs £2. 

Stansted (STN)
Trains: Stansted Express runs between the airport and Liverpool station. 

Subway: There is no tube service to Stansted.

-Taxi: Depending where you're going, black cabs costs £100 and take about an hour.

- Bus: Several companies have service between the airport and Liverpool Street, Victoria, Baker Street, and Kings Cross stations.

London City (LCY)
- Train and Subway: Docklands Light Railway connects the airport with the tube in East London.

-Taxi: Black cabs to central London cost about £30 and take about a half hour.

- Bus: Routes 473 and 474 connect to London.

GETTING AROUND →
Subways and buses: The underground and bus systems are well connected, convenient, and efficient. Invest in a pre-paid Oyster card; it's cheaper than paying by fare (£1.80, as opposed to £4 for travel within the central zones). Because fares are paid by zone, you need your card to exit the underground, so don't throw it away en route. Locals call the subway "the tube," and you should, too. Plan your journey online before you go

Taxis: Black cabs are available when the yellow "For Hire" light is on. The drivers are famously well-versed in the intricacies of London's complicated typography, but it's a knowledge you'll pay for dearly. The complex charging scale is posted in every cab; there is a minimun fee of £2.20, and you will pay more at night.

Mini cabs will get you wherever you're going for considerably less, but you need to book them in advance; they can't be flagged on the street. Ask your hotel or restaurant to call you a mini cab, and you shouldn't have to wait more than 15 minutes. Never take a min cab from the street. Touts operate throughout central London, and while it can be tempting late at night, they are unlicensed and often uninsured and unsafe. 

Bicycles: London recently instituted the brilliant Barclay Cycle Hire program. They're easy to use and pay-as-you-go, and depots are scattered throughout the city.

ORIENTATION
The city is divided into north, south, east, and west zones, which are usually indicated by the first letters of the postal code. I.e., N1 = north, SW7 = southwest. The city's streets are a maze, and it's not uncommon for Cadogan Place, which runs parallel to Cadogan Lane, to intersect Cadogan Gate, which runs into Cadogan Square and Cadogan Gardens. All within a three-block radius. (Cadogan is pronounced ker-dug-un, by the way, not cad-oh-gan. Just one of a million pronounciations you will find baffling. And Leicester is les-ter, not lie-chest-her.)

Most Londoners navigate their city by districts: The City is the financial center; Soho is a central London area cluttered with bars, restaurants, and a thriving gay scene.

The major divide in London is between north and south of the River Thames. If you fancy a lively conversation with a Lodnoner, ask him or her which is better.

ATM →
Cash machines are everywhere and, depending which cash card you have, banks can charge a nominal fee to withdraw money.

TIPPING →
The standard tip in taxis, minicabs, and salons is ten percent, and up to fifteen at restaurants. Some restaurants include the service charge, so check your bill.

HOLIDAYS →
England loves a bank holiday. Banks are closed and many companies give employees the day off. Here is a schedule of UK bank holidays and a BBC article, The Politics of Bank Holidays

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