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Introductory Guide to London

Even if you're from a big city, nothing compares to the streets and suburbs of London. The sheer scope of the city and all that is crammed into it is at once daunting and inspiring. Here's our introductory guide to London to help you find your way around the city.

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The Zones of London

London is divided into six zones that radiate out in a circular pattern from Central London, with the major attractions as well as the Thames, Covent Garden, Soho, The West End and the City all being found in Zone 1. The commercial, retail and financial heart of London is to be found in Zone 1. Zone 2 is primarily residential as are the rest of Zones 3 to 6 spreading outwards towards London's massive ring road - the M25 - infamously known as the 'the car park'.

For the tube, London zones are used to determine the amount of your fare. The more zones you travel through, the higher the fare.

For more info on the tube (the London underground), travel from the airports, and other forms of transport in the UK, check Getting Around the UK.

The London Postcodes

To further establish where in the city you are, you'll need to understand the postal code system of London. It wouldn't normally be so important to understand the postal grid of a new city, if it weren't for the fact that Londoners use this labelling system as their primary way of describing where anything is located(and in the old days, how much money you had!) - giving you a quick idea of where in the city you are, where you're trying to get to, and how far away that is.

Simply put, the letters N,E,S,W are used and represent the four major directions (as you'd expect). The four minor directions are used as well NW, NE, SW, SE. A number following this indicates roughly how far out, in a spiral, from Central London you are. For example SW6 is South West and in Zone 2 about 30 minutes from the City. Note also that a 'C' for central after an E or W indicates that you are still in Zone 1.

So, when you’re getting about town W1, WC1 and WC2 are main destinations housing Soho, Covent Garden and the West End Theatre District. EC1 and EC2 are home to Bloomsbury and the City or 'Square Mile'. Harrods and High Street Kensington shopping areas are in SW1, while Camden Town is NW1. Within Zone 1, you can walk almost anywhere without needing to negotiate major freeways like in most modern cities.

The longer you stay, the better you'll know how to use the postcodes - London is a wonderful place to set up shop, check here for info on Long-Term Accommodation.

London A to Z

The best advice from WORKgateways is to buy a London A to Z. This is a small sized book that offers page-by-page detailed maps including London train maps on the back (The London Underground train is known as the tube). Every Underground Station, Lane, Court, Square, Circus and Mews in every Borough in London can be found, with a street reference guide at the back so you can look up any location, anywhere. This will be become your fast friend when you first arrive in London, particularly when scoping out accommodation (see Working Traveller Accommodation) and finding the sights of City.

Also, arm yourself with other WORKgateways' useful tips and information.

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