London's Calling: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Ten tips to consider when planning a trip to London.

London is one of the world’s most visited cities and if you are considering the cross-Atlantic flight over, you won’t be disappointed. No matter what you’re into, London has something for everyone: shopping, live theatre, history, architecture, afternoon tea, palaces, gardens, world-class museums (which are often free), and more pubs than you can shake a stick at.

London's Calling: What You Need to Know Before You Go

If you’re planning a trip to London this summer, follow Kanetix.ca on Facebook or Instagram with #TravelShare on May 16th, 2017 for a live discussion on everything London. Hosted by @tugoinsurance and Will Tang from @goingawesomeplaces, you’ll have your plans mapped out in no time. You’ll also want to read Will’s post about his top picks of what to do and see in London.

In the meantime, before you leave, this guide will help you make your vacation go as smoothly as possible.

1. Make sure your passport is valid

Even though Canada is part of the Commonwealth, Canadians must present a passport to visit the United Kingdom, and it must be valid for the entire duration of your stay. If you need to get a passport or renew one that is expiring, you’ll want to give yourself enough time to submit your application well in advance of your trip. It can take up to 20 business days to process if you mail in your application, or up to 10 business days if you go to the passport office in person.

2. Confirm you don’t need a U.K. visa

In general, Canadians visiting the U.K. for tourism purposes don’t need a visa. But like any rule, there may be exceptions depending on your personal situation, so it’s best to check if you need a visa, before departing. If you do happen to need a visa, you’ll have to apply for it before you enter the U.K.

3. Visit your doctor

Canada’s interim chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, recently encouraged Canadians to update their vaccinations before travelling, in part because of the spread of measles in some European countries including Romania and Italy. Visit your doctor about six weeks prior to your departure, to ensure your vaccinations are current.

4. Consider signing up for the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service

ROCA is free and allows the Government of Canada to notify you in case of an emergency abroad or a personal emergency at home.

5. Call your bank and credit card company

If you plan on using bank machines to withdraw money or your credit card to pay for purchases, make sure you know how much this convenience will cost you in advance. Transaction fees, withdrawal fees (for using a non-affiliated ATM), and foreign currency conversion administration fees may all apply.

6. Pack travel insurance

Before you leave, don’t forget to pack travel insurance. You should never travel without it. Travel insurance will save you more money should you need to rely on it if you fall ill or are injured, than the premiums you paid. Travel insurance is not where you want to cut corners.

7. Pack a power adaptor

If you’ll be taking your phone, laptop or tablet with you, then you’ll also want to make sure you pack a power adaptor. Electrical outlets in Britain have three rectangular sockets, and your Canadian plugs won’t fit.

8. Research roaming plans for your cell phone

The pay-per-use fees for voice, data, and text messages can be cost prohibitive and add up quickly when travelling. Avoid paying exorbitantly high pay-per-use fees and look into alternatives, including getting a travel bundle plan from your service provider.

9. Order your transport pass in advance

London’s transit system is extensive, and if you plan on taking advantage of it during your stay, you may want to consider getting a London Travelcard or the Visitor Oyster Card. Both transit passes can be purchased in advance so there’s one less thing you need to worry about after you land.

10. Renting a car? Get familiar with the rules of the road

In general, it’s recommended that you avoid driving in central London. Not only is there a ton of traffic to contend with, but there’s also a Congestion Charge of £11.50 per day to encourage drivers to leave the car at home (or hotel). Also, parking is scarce, so if you’re visiting central London, it’s best to stick with public transit.

If you decide to rent a car to explore other parts of London however, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the traffic rules and road signs. First and foremost, drive on the left side of the road.

Learn more about travelling to London with #TravelShare

Follow Kanetix.ca on Facebook or Instagram with #TravelShare on May 16th, 2017 when @tugoinsurance and Will Tang from @goingawesomeplaces will go live with your questions. If London’s calling you, this summer might be the ideal time for you to answer with a trip across the pond.