Obtaining a first class ticket to London at a discount is just one of the many important steps needed for a successful trip. As any smart business professional planning to travel to London knows, it isn’t enough to just purchase a ticket at an incredible price. You must also be prepared for a culture that differs from the U.S. These differences are apparent from the time your flight lands at Heathrow or one of London’s other airports. At Executive Class Travel, we offer London travel tips for Americans who are unaccustomed to British lifestyle and business practices. With our useful tips and amazing deals, you’ll reap all of the benefits of being a savvy traveler.
Common-sense precautions, such as staying alert to your surroundings and keeping jewelry, money, and your cell phone out of sight, will go a long way when it comes to protecting yourself and your belongings from pickpockets and other potential criminals. In the event of an emergency, dialing 999 is the equivalent of calling 911 in the United States. The number may be used for medical emergencies as well.
Cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices are a necessity for most professionals. Unfortunately, the UK has different electrical standards than the United States in terms of voltage, frequency, and plugs. Check your devices to see if they will operate on both U.S. and U.K. standards. If they do not, you will need to purchase a transformer prior to your trip. You will also need to purchase a three-prong plug converter for your power cord.
Understanding British currency is crucial when traveling to London. Tips about money can help you to be more careful with your costs to prevent expensive mistakes. The first tip is to know how much your money is worth. The pound is worth roughly one and half dollars. Because exchange rates change, you’ll want to confirm this before converting your dollars to pounds. Also, keep in mind that some of the goods that you purchase in the U.K. may be eligible for a Value Added Tax, or VAT, refund.
Tipping in London
As an American, you’re accustomed to tipping in certain situations. You’ll find that this is different when traveling to London. Tips are another area in which the British culture differs, but it’s easy to follow their rules: While service charges may be assessed when dining out and taxi drivers may expect their fare to be rounded up, workers in most industries do not expect a tip.
Food and Dining
London’s cuisine can come as a surprise for some travelers. While traditional British fare is still very much available, the food scene has grown to include dishes from various cultures from around the world. In the same day, one might observe afternoon tea and then enjoy one of the many popular Indian dishes for dinner. Proper manners and even British business etiquette may apply when it comes to dining. One should always display proper manners, such as keeping their elbows off of the table, for example. When scheduling a business meal, it is more desirable to have a business lunch as opposed to a business dinner.
Doing Business in London
The misguided assumption that American and British business is conducted in the same way can be a costly mistake. British business etiquette is shaped by British culture and customs that make it more formal than its U.S. counterpart. When dealing with companies in London, keep in mind that there may be a team-like atmosphere; however, it is expected that rank and hierarchy receive respect. You must also be prepared to deal with a third party when working with an older generation of businesses and business owners.
A key point to remember when it comes to proper corporate etiquette is to be punctual to the point of arriving five minutes early. This is very important; however, if being late is absolutely unavoidable, call ahead. Greetings are also very important. While maintaining eye contact, shake hands with every person and address them by their name and title. Avoid any invasion of personal space, such as standing too close. Before conducting business, engage in polite yet brief small talk. While conducting your business, use formal speech and avoid speaking in an overly blunt, high, or agitated tone. It is important to keep in mind that British executives can be difficult to read, often communicating in a way that is understated. Additionally, you should not expect any immediate decisions to be made, as most business deals require approval from their board of directors.
Certain behaviors are frowned upon and may be considered rude both in and outside of a business setting. Speaking loudly or yelling while on the Tube, London’s subway, or in public is considered rude. Staring, pushing when in a line, and making certain hand gestures, such as a “V” symbol with your fingers, are also rude in British culture. Insulting or otherwise making derogatory statements about the royal family should be avoided. Business and professional life are kept separate in Britain, so discussing business when visiting someone’s home should be avoided.
One of the more important London travel tips for Americans who are visiting for business purposes has to do with visas. If you plan to participate in activities that are business-related while in the U.K., you will need a Standard Visitor visa. With this visa, you are able to stay for up to six months. When planning a business trip to London, you may apply for your visa online up to three months in advance.
Activities Around London
London is known for its many famous attractions. Some of the more famous, not-to-be-missed destinations include the Tower of London, the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery, and the Millennium Bridge. A ride on the London Eye will grant you some of the most amazing views of the London skyline. Naturally, Buckingham Palace will likely be at the top of your list of places to see as well. Fortunately for most tourists, many of these attractions can be reached easily by riding the Tube.