“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” – Samuel Johnson.

Ever wondered what the secret is to having the most enjoyable trip possible? Welcome to my “Be Invisible” series – your ultimate guide for how to avoid looking like a tourist on your next adventure and guaranteed to boost your entire travel experience.

Bursting with helpful tips and tricks, I’ve asked locals from particular cities around the world to share their insider knowledge on the best ways travellers can become “invisible” when visiting their city and enjoy it like a local. If you’re ready to challenge travel stereotypes, overcome language barriers and embrace what I like to call invisible tourism, you’ve come to the right place!

This local’s guide for how to not look like a tourist in London was written by Kristy from Tassie Devil Abroad. It’s been over 10 years since my very first visit to to England’s capital, so I am very excited to share her top 10 tips for how to best blend in with Londoners (plus a bonus) so you can make the most of your time and experience the city like a local, written by a local!

How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in London, United Kingdom | The Invisible Tourist
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Here’s how to NOT Look Like a Tourist in London

London is an incredible city filled with people from all over the world both living and visiting. It was the second most visited city in the world as of 2017 (according to Business Insider) and it’s easy to see why. With the iconic landmarks, fascinating history, multicultural events and cuisine; London is a city that draws people from all walks of life.

And while it’s a city filled with people from many different backgrounds (you’d probably be surprised how few ‘Londoners’ were actually born there) it’s still definitely easy to spot the hordes of tourists. But never fear, for there are lots of ways to not look like a tourist in London.

Most of these tips will also save you a lot of money, which will also make you look more like a local since the often high prices of everything in London means most locals are always looking for a way to save!

TIP: If you’re looking to save money on accommodation, here’s a list of the best hostels in London.

Don’t get the Heathrow Express

First things first, if you arrive in London by air at Heathrow Airport do not bother getting the special Heathrow Express bus from the airport to the city centre. Not only will this tip save you money but it gives you a much better glimpse into real London life.

I mean, yes, the Heathrow Express is much quicker but it also costs upwards of £25 one-way whereas catching the tube (underground rail) only costs £5.30 for the same journey! Just put in some headphones, listen to some music or maybe read while you get to watch regular Londoners going to and from work.

Get your Oyster Card ready

Another way to make sure you fly under the radar, so to speak, is to make sure you use an Oyster Card while travelling in London. Again, this will save you money as it’s cheaper to top up your card either online or at a station than to purchase one-way or daily tickets in the city zones.

You can buy the Oyster Card at the airport to start using it straight away, and you can even hand it back as you leave London for a refund of the initial price. You can also buy your Oyster Card in advance online.

And in order to not scream “I’m a tourist” when travelling on the tube: ALWAYS have your Oyster Card ready in a pocket, or your hand, ready to swipe as you enter and leave the station.

Nothing makes British people ‘tut’ and sigh in exasperation like a tourist holding up the line to get into (or out of) the train station!

London Tube Map and Oyster Card
Grab yourself an Oyster Card and ALWAYS have it ready

Use the Tube – but not too much!

While we’re speaking of the tube, it is actually a very handy and easy way to get around central London but remember that you won’t need to use it everywhere as the main tourist sites (and even the less well-known ones) are very walkable.

Don’t make the mistake I did on my first trip to London and take the tube one or two stops from Piccadilly to St. James’s Park when it only takes about five minutes to walk!

Piccadilly Circus, London

If it’s pouring with rain (which admittedly does happen fairly often at least during winter) then you might prefer to get the Tube a short distance, or better yet, take a bus!

The ubiquitous red double-decker London buses are actually cheaper than the Tube so they are perfect for shorter distances and you will actually get to see the city as you go. Speaking of which…

Don’t use the tourist bus – use these instead

Getting on a bus is a great way to get an overview of the city (you can see how close some things are for walking later) and see a lot of the sights. But instead of wasting money on the tourist hop-on/hop-off buses (and looking really obviously like a tourist!) you can simply catch one or more of the ‘regular’ bus routes.

Taking the bus is cheaper even than the tube (only costing £1.50 per journey and maxing out at £4.50 per day if you only take buses) and best of all, you’ll be doing what the locals do!

Feel free to sit in the front seats on the top deck (if they’re empty), even Londoners like to do this for the best view of the city.

The London bus system can seem pretty daunting at first but if you use an app like the Citymapper one you can easily figure out how to get where you want to go and also how much each different mode of transport will cost and how long it will take.

But for some of the best sights you might like to get the RV1 bus from Tower Hill to Covent Garden; crossing over Tower Bridge, going along the Southbank then crossing back over Waterloo Bridge and finishing in Covent Garden (or going the other way). This post on Londonist also has a great list of different bus lines to catch for sightseeing!

Tower Bridge, London

Use your phone

Since we’re speaking of phone apps, make sure you take advantage of the many good travel apps and downloadable maps there are out there. Nothing makes it more obvious that you are a tourist than walking around with a paper map or guidebook!

Instead, make Google Maps available offline if you are using a foreign sim, or get your phone unlocked very cheaply at the little tourist shops you will see all over the place.

This is actually the one time where it can be beneficial to go to a tourist shop! Don’t bother buying any of the cheesy souvenirs but once your phone is unlocked you can pop in a cheap local sim and use the internet to get around London like a local.

Make sure you also have headphones in so you can listen to music and avoid eye contact with everybody on the tube at the same time – just like the locals do!

Trafalgar Square, London

Avoid Oxford Street

Now, apart from being a great place where you will be able to find a place to unlock your phone, Oxford Street is generally not a place to go if you want to blend in with the locals in London. It is always incredibly crowded and usually very expensive.

If you really want to see it then maybe hop off at the Oxford Street tube station, have a quick look around at the madness, then escape down the side streets to find much more interesting cafés, pubs and restaurants that will be filled with more locals than tourists.

If you are interested in shopping in London there are many more interesting and unique places than Oxford Street. Head to one of the many markets (Camden is great for clothing and loved by locals and tourists alike) or, if you want to see the posh part of London shopping; Harrods, Liberty or Fortnum and Mason.

Stables Market, London
Stables Market, London

Avoid Leicester Square

Another spot to avoid (unless you want to be surrounded by other tourists and pay ridiculous prices for sub-par food and entertainment) is Leicester Square. Have a quick look around on your way to somewhere else but the square is full of chain restaurants and cinemas which are packed with other tourists and don’t offer anything in the way of authentic, local London food.

Unless you are travelling to London specifically to spot a movie star at a film premiere (in which case feel free to queue here for hours) you should also avoid the movie theatres here.

For a much more fun (and less expensive) experience, that the locals also love, you could see a movie at Electric Cinema in their Portobello or Shoreditch locations. With comfy couches, footstools and even beds in the front row this is a movie location with a difference! 

Visit the museums at night

London has some of the best and most interesting museums in the world, and best of all most of them are completely free to visit! While you should definitely visit the ones you are interested in at any time, in order to look very casual and not look like a tourist in London, why not see if you can go along to one of their special night-time events?

Not only will you get to explore the museum itself but there are usually drinks and nibbles provided, talks and/or tours to learn more about the museum and exhibits, and you will likely be rubbing shoulders with lots of Londoners. Have a look here to find out when each of the museums are open late and what’s on offer! 

Visiting the museums at night is a great way to blend in with Londoners
Visiting the museums at night is a great way to blend in with Londoners

Don’t freak out over the foxes

Admittedly, this is a tip that I didn’t really follow myself on my first trip to London! As an Aussie, seeing urban foxes casually walking down the street in the middle of the day, or sleeping on top of the shed in my backyard (true story!) usually meant I was getting all excited and taking lots of photos.

But to most Londoners, foxes are a nuisance and they can actually be a bit dangerous. So if you really must get a photo then do so, but, you know, be cool. Don’t gush about them (unless it’s to other visitors) or you’re likely to hear about how they all have rabies and should be shot.

Similarly, in order to blend in in London, don’t get too excited about the squirrels (if they’re exciting for you). Londoners tend to take them for granted and the only people who try to feed them and get photos with them in Hyde Park (totally guilty) are the tourists!

One of many foxes around London

Go for a picnic with a view

If you’re lucky enough to be in London during summer then make sure you take advantage of the MANY parks and green spaces in the city and get outside to enjoy a picnic in the sun! As soon as the sun shines Londoners flock to the parks with a view of the city such as Greenwich Park, Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath.

Take some food and drinks, chairs or blankets and relax in the sun while perhaps throwing a ball or a frisbee. Even in the more central city parks there are often bean bags and deck-chairs set out during summer, perfect for relaxing and escaping the hustle and bustle of tourists posing for selfies in Piccadilly Circus!

St James Park, London

BONUS: Don’t annoy the Queen’s Guard (or the celebrities)

One last caveat to best enjoy your time in London like a local and not stand out as badly as a tourist with a Union Jack top hat on – don’t annoy the Queen’s Guard. That’s the official name for the guards in red coats and big furry black hats that guard Buckingham Palace and other royal residences in the city.

Nothing says tourist more than posing for a photo with them, and especially do not ever try to annoy them or make them react to you as they are allowed to both point their gun at you and either detain your or call someone else to do so.

Not only will it be obvious to everyone that you are a tourist but you will also be one of *those* obnoxious tourists; and let’s face it, nobody wants to get arrested on their travels.

Similarly, if you see a celebrity in London, be cool about it. Most Londoners don’t really bat an eye if they’re having dinner in the same restaurant as Benedict Cumberbatch and unless you’re actually at a movie premiere (like I mentioned above), or like, a superfan, then just let them get on with their lives, like a local Londoner would do!

Buckingham Palace

So, there you have it for how to not look like a tourist in London! England’s capital is an exciting, historic and incredibly diverse city.

There is always so much to see and do that you will never be bored, and hopefully these tips will also show you how to not look like a tourist in London so you can be sure to enjoy everything it has to offer while blending in with locals.

Kristy followed the popular right-of-passage of living and working in London like many fellow Aussies! You can follow her devilish adventures over on her blog Tassie Devil Abroad, or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Now you know how to not look like a tourist in London, are you ready to be invisible?

Now you’ve discovered the best secrets for how to avoid looking like a tourist in London, perhaps you’re ready to make the trip! Why not compare hotel prices here? If you need more inspiration, here’s all my guides to UK & Europe to get you started.

If you’d like to learn learn my strategies for how to not look like a tourist ANYWHERE, take a look at my book – it was a #1 Amazon New Release!

Do you have any extra tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
I hope you enjoyed this instalment of my Be Invisible series! If you found this helpful, please share it or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram for more!

Until next time, 

The Invisible Tourist

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How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in London, United Kingdom | The Invisible Tourist 


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  1. We don’t have rabies in Britain, so you’re very unlikely to hear a local going on about how they all have rabies! Also, I’ve lived here my whole life and still love catching sight of a fox 😁

  2. I guess I am at an age where I don’t care if people think I look like a tourist, but SO WHAT if I do? As long as one is not a loud, obnoxious one, it can be an advantage. People will offer assistance! Otherwise, a further tip would have to be “don’t speak” because in less than a full sentence, everyone will know! London is a delightful city, and I have cherished my times as a tourist there!

    1. In some destinations around the globe it can be very beneficial to not look like a stereotypical tourist, especially when it comes to avoiding pickpockets and falling for scams.
      But it’s completely fine for you to do you 😉

  3. Using an Oyster card is a good idea or in my opinion, getting a private London airport taxi transfer is an ultimate go-to option. Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. I think depending on the time of day, airport taxis can get stuck in awful traffic jams, whereas the Tube, while almost always busy, always keeps moving. I had a terrible experience getting a taxi back from one of London’s airports once (I think it was Luton or Gatwick) and I swore off taxis in London since 😬

  4. I’ve lived in London my whole life and still get excited about the squirrels and foxes! Particularly the squirrels in the Royal parks (Hyde park/green park/St James Park) who if you wave a bit of food at them (or throw them a taster then wave it) they’ll often eventually come and take a bit out of your hand which is adorable! We have so little wildlife here that it’s still exciting for me 😀 and foxes are mainly about at night when streets are quite and will rarely hang around if you get within decent photo range of them.

    I absolutely love sitting in the top front seat of the double decker busses as mentioned, hehe. I would also suggest tourists take buses rather than tubes as much as possible as its just so much nicer to see the city as you ride (if I’m not in a rush I’ll usually favour a double length bus ride over half length tube ride).

    I’d mainly suggest just to walk though. Once you in the central-ish area you can wander between the places worth seeing whilst catching more of the quaint and less crowded stuff along the way. I’m actually quite a fan of the Leicester Square area (just avoid on weekends when it’s packed!) I especially like it at night with the buskers and surrounding Chinatown buzz, you can easily walk from that area to embankment/Waterloo for a nice stroll.

    Avoid all the hot spots on weekends though – museums will be crammed, Camden Town and other markets get ridiculously packed, the whole west end is overcrowded… Those are the days best set aside for a picnic in a park in my opinion (if booze is involved make sure its a park with nearby toilets as many don’t have any in close range! We often opt for Green Park even though its not the nicest of the parks, because there’s a nearby Pret for toilet stops and a M&S for snacks and drink top ups).

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your favourite things to do in your hometown of London, Sophie! You’ve suggested some great tips for visitors 😊

  5. The first tip is terrible and selfish. DO get the Heathrow Express. There is absolutely nothing that screams ‘tourist’ more than someone in public transport, at rush hour, getting in everyone’s way with heavy suitcases. If you have more than one case, the Tube isn’t for you, full stop. Even if you have only one, you should avoid rush hour.

    1. Hi Rhys,
      Kindly note these are the thoughts of my guest contributor, however I personally agree with you about using the Heathrow Express. As mentioned in my complete guide to not looking like a tourist anywhere, tourists should avoid getting in the way of locals going about their daily business and should DEFINITELY avoid rush hour if they do decide to use the Tube with a suitcase. Thanks for your feedback!

  6. Having lived in London for five years I must say I never encountered foxes like the article states

    1. This is funny! I met a fox near Big Ben as soon as I arrived. It stunned me. The only other place I met animals right in the city were a fox in Santa Fe, NM and I spotted racoons, squirrels, deer, seals, and whales in L.A., CA. HOWEVER! I think there are less now. This was in 1998 – 2008. Parks used to be full of squirels where I lived as a child, both U.S. and Europe, and not any more 🙁 Even the ubiquitous sparrows are almost gone. We only see crows and pigeons now.

    1. I personally haven’t used Uber drivers in London, but they may be an option if you’re heading into the city from the airport with large suitcases!

    1. That’s a good one, Paulina! Sometimes taxi drivers can tell by a foreign accent that you’re not a local and go the LONG way to charge extra. It’s a good idea to have a rough idea of your route with a little research beforehand to avoid getting ripped off!

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