The travel situation in the UK is constantly changing, and as I write this we enter “Freedom Day,” which means mask wearing and socially distancing, and most other COVID measures, are now an individual’s choice rather than a legal requirement. Having said that, many businesses are choosing to make their own statements on this and are asking customers to continue with COVID safety restrictions. This makes traveling in London interesting, to say the least. For those travelers who want to continue with the same measures — wearing a mask, socially distancing — there doesn’t have to be any change at all, but for those who would prefer to not take those measures, there will still be some instances where restrictions must be followed. Maybe because of a certain level of confusion in the city, and the country as a whole, London remains very quiet. Have a mask on hand and be ready to use it, and you might find it’s the ideal time to visit the city.
Masks Are Still Mandatory On London’s Transport System
This could get confusing if travelers are going by train into London. While the rest of England has the individual choice on whether or not to wear a mask on public transport, within London, mask wearing is still mandatory on the transport system. If you’ve traveled by train from outside of London, this is an important factor to remember: You’ll need your mask on when you are using any part of London’s public transport network. So masks must be worn on the underground, on buses, and on the internal London trains. If you’re on a train traveling into the city, you don’t need to worry about this until you are using the public transport within the city, so you won’t need a mask while you are on your way. But you will need your mask ready for when you step off that train, as masks do need to be worn in all city stations.
Streets And Roads Are Quiet
If you haven’t been to London before, you might be forgiven for thinking this is normal, but in fact the streets, and especially the roads, are much quieter than they usually are. Oxford Street bears little resemblance to its former self, when it was difficult to navigate your way along the busy pavement. The upsides to this are plenty, of course, if you’re a visitor. Taxis are abundant right now and one will be with you in minutes of calling or connecting to the app. Some shops do have lines outside the doors, and in some cases people are waiting in line, but no worse than the lines to pay inside of stores before the pandemic, and most stores are quiet. In some ways, it’s the perfect time to visit the city, as you can wander around without any crowds to work your way through. I felt safe walking around, and although it feels strange seeing London so quiet, it was a pleasant change from the usual bustling city streets.
Restaurants Are Quiet
Most people in London right now are still choosing to eat outside of restaurants if possible. The recent good weather — and perhaps the habits people have formed — is driving the desire to eat al fresco (in the open air), as well as the continuation of the pandemic. This means packed tables on the pavements and in restaurants’ yards and gardens, and empty tables inside. For restaurants with little or no indoor seating, this is an ongoing problem. We went to Fantasia Grill House, Paddington, and we were the only visitors there. It was a strange experience eating in a completely empty restaurant in London, and for the entire two hours we were there, no one else came in. The owner said he used to employ 16 staff members and now runs it alone with his business partner. There’s clearly no issue getting a table to dine out right now, and there’s a good choice in eating indoors and outdoors. Businesses in London clearly need customers, so eating out is a good way of supporting them. And for those interested in street cuisine, you can also check out the 9 best street food markets in London.
Breakfast Is Busier Than Dinner
This is an odd one, and I’m not sure why, but cafes are still very busy with people going out for breakfast — busier than restaurants in the evening for dinner. London is a fantastic place to go out for breakfast and the choice in where to get breakfast is pretty amazing, but I still found it strange that more people seemed to be eating out first thing in the morning, and for brunch, than in the evening. This could be a habit that’s too hard to break and even though people are working from home more, they still want that early morning breakfast ritual to start their working day. Whatever the reason, if you want to grab breakfast in London right now, you’ll find it surprisingly busy. Luckily there is an abundance of great places you can get breakfast and brunch in the city. To help you choose where to go, here are the best places to get breakfast in London.
Parks Are Being Used More
Perhaps because more people used the parks in London during the pandemic, the green spaces in the city are more popular than ever. More people are picnicking, cycling through the parks, walking, and just sitting on the grass and enjoying the outdoors. The good news is, there are enough parks in London for everyone to enjoy them safely, and it’s great to see them being so well used. In previous years, you could walk through Regent’s Park or St James’s and see the odd lunchtime picnicker here and there, but it seems more and more people are discovering how beautiful the capital’s green spaces are. If you like it quiet, you might struggle to find a park that’s not busy, but the groups of people using the parks now are creating a lovely summer atmosphere that everyone can enjoy. Besides the parks, be sure to check out some of England’s other hidden gems.
No Need To Avoid Rush Hour
Whenever I’ve been in London before, I’ve always done my best to stay away from traveling at rush hour — especially if I’m taking the tube. It gets very busy in London at rush hour, and it’s usually best avoided. But right now, that isn’t the case. With more people working from home, rush hour travel has eased, and, though it is still noticeably busier than other times of the day, it’s relatively quiet compared to pre-pandemic times.
This is another thing that will make traveling in London right now more pleasant than usual. No more watching the time to catch a tube before the rush starts. No more packed tube stations. No more being squeezed into tube carriages like cattle. During rush hour, most seats will still be taken, but carriages won’t be packed with commuters standing. I didn’t see many people standing at all on the tube during rush hour, which is unheard of in normal times. Just remember to wear your mask, and it’s an altogether more enjoyable experience than before. And if you’re planning to take a trip to England soon, be sure to check out their newest travel regulations.