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How to not look like a tourist in London: tricks & tips

Keen to visit London and less keen to stand out? Here are some tips on how to not look like a tourist in London.

Hoards of people wander across the Millennium Bridge. Discover how to not look like a tourist in London.

London is one of the most visited cities in the world (if not the most visited city).

At any given time, it seems there are hoards of tourists milling around the city. Some of these tourists really stand out.

They’re loud, they’re obnoxious, they fill the pavements with their slow wandering and incite the ire of those who call the city home.

You see, Londoners have a very specific way of behaving, often contrary to those who live a mere stone throw out of the city.

It’s pretty easy to look like a tourist in the UK capital, even if you’re trying your best not to.

I am not from London originally, but I did spend a few years living in the city.

During this time I was able to observe how locals behaved and quickly adopt their ways, lest I stand out like a sore thumb.

So, here are some tips on how to not look like a tourist in London, aimed to help you to melt into the crowd.

This is whether you’ve moved to London and want to assimilate fast, or are visiting.

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How to not look like a tourist in London

A hand wrapped around a bottle of local craft beer.
Elixir of life…?

1. Do swap your daily water intake for wine or beer

Social activities in London are geared heavily towards drinking. Alcohol is used to celebrate, or commiserate every occasion.

Come Friday every street corner is guaranteed to be packed out with people drinking at the pub after work on Friday. Or in the summer, any day of the week.

Unlike my home city of Sydney, public transport is somewhat reliable in London. Clubs stay open late and corner stores are not forced to close at 10pm.

So, residents are free to hit the sauce as hard as they want, whenever they want. This is a freedom that most people seize upon, eagerly.

I have actual concerns about the state of my liver, after spending years living here.

Baker Street Station in London.
Missed one train? There’ll be another, soon.

2. Do jaywalk at every available opportunity

Everyone in London is in a rush, whether it be to work, home, an event or simply to meet friends for drinks.

I’ve seen grown men thrown tantrums because they’ve missed the Tube by three seconds (never mind that the next one is two minutes away).

Naturally, locals won’t let silly, harmless things like “oncoming traffic” hold them up for any length of time.

So, you’ll often find people rushing across roads, or crossings, even when there are cars, motorbikes or even buses hurtling at breakneck speed towards them.

I’m not saying that this is a thing that you should do, particularly if you value your life. Just that everyone does it.

A bike whizzes past a crossing in London.
Not sure as to whether this is a crossing or art, but anyway (maybe both!).

2. Do adopt the “London pace” & get irrationally angry whenever those walking in front of you fail to keep to it

London is a busy, busy place. London is also full of people.

The city is crammed full to the bursting, with residents and tourists alike.

So, you may be in a hurry to get somewhere, but your path there is guaranteed to be filled with obstacles… in the form of the slow-moving people in front of you.

I don’t know why people like to spread out across the pavement and walk at the pace of a snail.

Nor do I know why they insist on walking while staring at the screen of their phone, seeming surprised when they nearly plough straight into you.

Yet, it’s what people do and they’ll do it to you.

You don’t need to get violent or angry, as a passive aggressive “excuse me” will do just fine.

However – if you fail to keep to the right when standing on an Underground escalator… Lord help you.

So if you want to know how to not look like a tourist in London, walk fast and stand on the right side of the escalators.

Houses lined with flowers with brightly coloured doors in London.
The south can be very nice, thank you!

4. Don’t make disparaging remarks about friends living south of the river

I lived south of the river for over two years.

I like it there. It’s quiet and rent is cheap(ish).

Yet, most people mistakenly seem to think that north, or particularly east London is where it’s at.

As such, your friends who live north of the river will not understand why you’re reluctant to journey for an hour and a half (after your train gets cancelled) to meet them for a one hour lunch date.

And if you make plans in your neck of the woods? Well, they’ll joke about having to find their passport, before they can travel across the river to meet you.

Just remember that they pay close to a grand (or more) a month for their tiny bedroom, while you have a flat with a garden. Peckham over Hackney any day, thank you very much!

Yayoi Kusama's pumpkin art at a London Gallery. How to not look like a tourist in London includes knowing about things in advamce. Somehow.
Like having to queue up three hours for twenty seconds of lit up pumpkins.

5. Try not to fail to have your finger on the pulse & end up queuing up for everything

There’s always something happening in London.

As such, it’s really hard to stay abreast of everything.

New restaurants, gigs, art exhibitions, plays… try as you may, you can’t go, do or see all that’s on offer.

I find out about a lot of things via social media, which is good and bad.

Good, because I’m aware.

Bad, because it’s usually around the time that everyone else is, too.

So, I will instantly want to go, see, do or eat said thing, along with most others within the city.

This has led to much time spent queueing, lest I suffer from the fear of missing out. Oh well. No regrets, yeah?

To be totally honest, the queues are only worth it if the thing you’re lining up for doesn’t cost you a penny. Here’s a list of free things you can do in London.

Street art in London of the Queen as a punk.
HRH, probably as the Sex Pistols imagined her.

6. Do pay an upsetting amount of money to live in a room the size of a cardboard box

London is notoriously expensive. If you’re not spending at least a third, or even half of your pay on rent, you’re a very lucky person indeed.

What’s most infuriating is that it’s near impossible to get bang for your buck in this city.

You’ll find yourself paying hundreds of pounds a month (plus utilities) for a scabby house somewhere that may or may not have a shared living room. Comforting, indeed.

If you want to blend in in London, pay an exorbitant amount to live somewhere crap. You will guaranteed be just like everyone else.

Regents Canal in London with graffiti that reads 'I'm in Love with my best friend'.
Pronouncing anything correctly is just about impossible in London.

7. Don’t pronounce street & borough names phonetically

My number one tip for how not to look like a tourist in London? Ask a local’s advice before you try pronouncing certain neighbourhoods.

This a rookie error that most newcomers to the United Kingdom will make. Hell knows I made it all the time… I probably still do!

The English have a barmy way of pronouncing various names of their towns, villages and boroughs.

Yet, we are speaking their language after all (even you Americans, dropping your “u’s” and swapping out your “s’s” for “z’s”!), so we must adhere to their rules.

Here’s a quick guide to get you started.


And for goodness sake, don’t ever talk about your pants, of any description, in public. Been there, have the emotional trauma that accompanies this mistake.

Blossoms in Southwark. How to not look like a tourist in London is knowing how to pronounce Southwark correctly.
You can break out the colours when the trees start blossoming.

8. Do avoid colour in the colder seasons

Wondering how to not look like a tourist in London in winter?

The cooler seasons can be quite bleak, aided greatly by the fact that Londoners tend to eschew all colour, of any description.

They’ll embrace whacky patterning and fluro yellows in the summer months, swapping them out for black and grey coats WHEN THE COLOUR IS ACTUALLY NEEDED AND WOULD GO FAR IN HELPING TO LIFT EVERYONE’S SPIRITS.

It makes zero sense, but that’s just the way that things are done here. And I do like my black coat a lot. I guess.

The Garrison, a pub in South London.
Cosy pubs are ten a penny in London.

9. Do completely abuse your health

When you move to London, you are given two choices.

You can choose to make the most of your time here and embrace every consequence that comes with this decision.

The long working hours. The weekend trips to the continent. The wild Friday nights at the pub.

The alcohol that gets served with every meal. The 3am curries on the way back to your flat. The coffee addiction and ten kilogram weight gain that comes part and parcel with life in this city.

Or, you can choose to take care of your health.

You can shop at the exorbitantly priced farmer’s markets with their somewhat disappointing selection of produce (not much is grown in England).

You can go to the gym, rather than the pub every evening after work.

Get up at 7am on a Saturday morning to make your way to yoga.

Stick to herbal tea. You can sleep a full eight hours every night and even be in bed before midnight.

However and listen carefully here, because this is important. You can’t have both.

Either you accept that you’re here for a good time, not a long time and suffer the consequences when you move elsewhere.

Or you actually choose to take care of your body, while acknowledging that you’re not fully capitalising on your time here.

Make you decision, make your peace with said decision and act accordingly.

Inside the British museum in London.
Eyes to the ground, please.

10. Never make eye contact with anyone. Ever.

Want to blend in in London?

Never look anyone in the eye.

Not on the Tube, not on the street. It genuinely makes people uncomfortable.

It’s strange, because eight million people live in this city. Yet, it can be one of the loneliest places to be, if you are truly craving human interaction.

Find your crew and find them fast. They’ll guarantee your survival here.

Inside the Horniman Gardens in southeast London.
There are plenty of lovely parks in which to soak up the sunshine.

11. At the first sign of sunshine, head straight to the local park or pub

It took a long time for me to see the sense in heading to the pub when the sun comes out.

Wouldn’t you want to be outside (not including beer gardens), preferably near the closest body of water?

Yet, I understand now. Not only because that body of water is generally the Thames.

This is England after all and there’s no guarantee that the sun is going to stay out forever.

So to celebrate, head to your nearest pub, to stand armpit to armpit with your fellow Londoners and celebrate with… yep! More drinking!

In all seriousness, there’s no place in the world like London. And there’s nothing worse than looking like a tourist. Just kidding, but it is fun to blend in.

Hopefully these slightly tongue-in-cheek tips will aid you in your quest to blend in in London.

Best of the British to you!

What do you think of these tips on how to not look like a tourist in London? Anything you’d like to add to the list?

Blending in is an important part of responsible travel. Check out some other tips.

Pin me baby, one more time 📌

Here's a few tips on how to not look like a tourist in #London. Embrace jaywalking, drink 'til your bladder can't hold anymore and avoid eye contact on the Tube at all costs. / UK Travel Tips / London Travel Tips /

To reiterate, much of this advice is tongue in cheeks and there’s a couple of points that could be damaging to your health! Be safe, have fun and enjoy your time in London.

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  1. The idea that people can’t be trusted to cross the road by themselves is absurd, and I for one would be embarrassed to be from a country where the government had to legislatively hold my had to pop over the road for a pint of milk!

    1. You’re right.. I definitely did not see someone dash across the road near Borough markets last week and miss getting hit by a motorcycle by a whisker.

  2. I can relate to so many of these points – especially the abuse your health bit! I Feel like it’s been such a struggle to be healthy in Edinburgh. I think I’ve aged about 10 years since I moved here, haha

  3. London sounds very exciting! I ve never been there when though my brother was living there for 2 years! I definetely need to pay a visit when I will plan a trip to Scotland!

  4. Haha I love your post! Even though I’ve never actually lived in London, I’ve visited this city many times and I’ve noticed many of these things! I’ve heard that the rental fees inthis city are really high and the rooms are too small.

  5. Thanks for the great laugh. I’ve visited London too many times to count and l find this list accurate..haha! I have to admit l am grateful for the directions on the ground as to where to look when crossing. It takes a bit of getting used to 🙂 . Great post!

    1. Haha fair enough. I can understand the confusion when it’s not second nature! I feel the same way almost everywhere else in the world. Glad you got a lol out of it. ?

  6. lol, I love this, tongue and cheek and hit the nail on the head with some points. I find the no eye contact the saddest thing, being lonely in such a big city can be hard, that’s why as you say, find your tribe. We are all human being craving human connection.

  7. I love a good tongue in cheek guide to a place haha. The pronunciation would definitely throw me. How long did it take you to catch on to that? haha I’d dig the drinking wine and beer whenever though. ^^

    1. Luckily, I only pronounced Southwark incorrectly once, in the company of friends. I double checked with a local from then on! Yep, it’s a great place for boozehounds, I speak from experience!

  8. I have been to London twice, but haven’t traveled extensively. Thank you for sharing helpful tips. I will keep those in mind in my next visit. BTW great photos included

  9. I’ve been to London 4 times, but only for short visits, so this was an interesting read! A helpful guide for newcomers that’s for sure! Although being from Canada (where I’m used to everyone being super friendly- even to strangers) it would feel so different about the whole ‘no eye contact thing’ haha! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Ha I felt the same way. People are pretty friendly in Australia – slightly less in Sydney, where I’m from but possibly not to the same degree, haha. Either way, it’s a great city and I miss it a lot.

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