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A Guide to London Customs and Good Manners

Every city has its own unspoken rules or etiquette and London is no different. Londoners act in a certain way and expect visitors to do the same, if not you may find yourself annoying many of the natives. Don’t worry, you won’t need to change your entire personality, just follow a few of these rules and you’ll fit in like you’ve been living here for years.

5 London Customs every tourist should remember:


When boarding a tube train, ALWAYS wait for people to get off first.

Commuters boarding a train at Farringdon Underground station, London, during a 48-hour tube strike as London Underground workers strike over planned job cuts and ticket office closures. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 5, 2014. See PA story INDUSTRY Tube. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

I’m starting off with this because it’s the most frequent mistake visitors to London make and often the most annoying for Londoners. Since the dawn of time, or at least when the first tube line was built, Londoners have been told to always wait for passengers to get off the train first before boarding. This sentence is ingrained into our minds and when someone breaks this sacred rule it can cause chaos.

Many cultures follow the same rule, however others have an ‘every man for themselves’ approach to boarding public transport which will not be tolerated in the UK. So I implore you, if you only remember one of London’s customs, please let it be this one.


Please don’t stop in the middle of the pathway to take photo’s.

London is a busy place and its population likes to keep moving at a fast place. A common complaint is that tourists often stop in the middle of the pathway to take pictures of the nearest attraction, blocking the path of someone who is already late for work. Of course we want you to enjoy the city and take as many photo’s as possible, but if you are on a busy street, take a few minutes to find a quieter location to take your selfies. If you’re not careful you may find yourself in they way of the Queens Guard like this unfortunate fellow did:

Please be polite.

london customs

You will be surprised how far a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ will go in London. The British probably repeat these words dozens of times a day to nearly everyone they meet. Every transaction and encounter should usually start and end with these words, to not do so many come across as rude to a British person. So when you are busying a coffee or asking for directions, use the magic words and people will really appreciate it. Holding the door open for someone else is also a common custom in the UK, as well as giving others right of way.


People might look unfriendly or unapproachable, but most are willing to stop and help out a tourist.

If you need help finding a tube station, or you’re lost in some corner of the city, don’t be afraid to ask for help. London has a bit of a reputation in the rest of the UK as being unfriendly and it’s not hard to see why. Most people walk sternly and tend to avoid all communication with each other. Never the less the vast majority of Londoners are willing to pause their hectic life to help out a tourists in distress, so don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.


Stand on the right side of the escalator, or walk up the left side.


The rule for escalators in London is that if you want to stand still you stand on the right, if you want to walk up the escalator you stand on the left. People who stand on the left will find themselves in the way of someone running up the escalator trying to get to their meeting on time and they would rather not do the awkward shuffle past murmuring ‘excuse me’ half way up.

If you manage to follow these simple customs then you’re pretty much guaranteed to not get on the wrong side of any locals; but let’s be honest, even if you failed to follow every one of these rules, we are too polite to say anything about it!


London Writer and Blogger. Featured in the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times.

1 Comment
  1. Reply Avatar
    Daniel Pharaoh May 24, 2016 at 10:49 pm


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