Our towns: London

Ah, London, where our journey into a life of (being on the right side of) financial crime began in an office in the City overlooking St Paul's Cathedral. We've come a long way, baby and while we've been doing that, London has been changing dramatically, too.

London, England.

The only European capital city not to have been invaded for almost two thousand years, history going back more than twice that long.

Iconic buildings, fantastic shopping and a buzz that most other cities in the world can only marvel at. More financial services businesses operate in London than in any other city; the City (capital C) houses most of the world's largest legal and financial advisory firms and is home to most of the world's largest M&A deals. It's home to our consultancy and publications divisions and has superb pubs, clubs and restaurants. It is perhaps the world's most accessible capital city with trains, planes and boats from all points of the globe. In short, for somewhere to hold our events in Europe, London is unbeatable.

London is one of the world's most historic cities – but much of its historic charm has been hidden by building works. But with our guide, you can still see many places of interest, without hitting the tourist spots that make London an even more expensive place to be than it already is.

Visa / entry requirements

Visas are handled by the relatively recently re-named "UK Border Agency" which is actually a division of The Home Office (http://ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/) Their function overseas is handled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at British Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates.

In recent years, visa requirements have changed frequently. Therefore we no longer publish visa information here.

To find out if you need a visa to attend one of our events in the UK, then please visit http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/ (official UK Government website).

If you need Sponsor's letter, we are happy to provide one for you without charge. All requests for a Sponsor's letter must be made on the form on this site. However, in order to avoid the risk of fraud, we can only provide such a letter for those who have made confirmed bookings and paid in full. Your letter will be provided by The Financial Crime Forum Limited, a UK corporation and addressed to the Visa Department at your local British Embassy or High Commission.

Note: when ascertaining whether you require a visa, the position may be different for delegates, speakers and staff of sponsors. We cannot recommend the appropriate type of visa for you: you should speak to your local British Embassy or High Commission or visit http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/infs/9088284/inf2visitors (Can I carry out any business during my visit?)

NB: many visa applications may be made online at http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/

NB2: certain biometric data will be required. You will need to make an appointment to visit the Visa section at your local British Embassy or High Commission to provide this data before your visa can be issued.

If you are required to hold a visa but you do not have one, your airline will probably refuse carriage. This is because they will probably be fined for carrying you, and made to return you to your point of departure. We do not make refunds of your fees if you fail to attend because you were unable to travel because of a failure to obtain a visa.

Currency Declaration at border (airports, ports, international railway stations, etc.)

There is some confusion about the precise requirements.

As at October 2009, the current statement from HM Revenue and Customs is as follows:

- if you are travelling to or from a country outside the European Union (EU), you will need to declare any sums of cash of 10,000 Euro or more (or the equivalent in another currency) to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

- You do not need to declare cash if you are travelling to or from another EU country. For the purposes of this requirement, the countries of the EU are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including the Canary Islands), Sweden, and the United Kingdom (not including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands).

The term ‘cash’ covers:

* currency notes and coins
* bankers’ drafts
* cheques of any kind, including travellers’ cheques.

You must declare cash on duplicate Form C9011, and post the completed top copy 1 in the drop box provided at the port or airport.

You can either pick up the form when you get to the port or airport and complete it there, or you can print it from the HMRC website which gives you the opportunity to complete it before you start your journey.

Leaflet - Declaring cash

Form C9011

HMRC officers may ask to see evidence of your having made a declaration. Therefore it is important to keep a copy of the completed form. This is automatically generated on carbon copy 2 if you make your declaration on a form provided at the port or airport. If you print your own form, you will need to photocopy the completed copy 1. (You do not need to complete copy 2 of the printed form.)

HMRC officers will only seize cash if they have reasonable grounds to suspect it is the proceeds of, or is intended for use in, unlawful conduct.

Seized cash cannot be kept for more than 48 hours without a court order (not including public holidays and weekends).

A court may order seized cash to be:

* detained while investigations are carried out
* forfeited permanently if the investigation shows it is associated with criminal activity.

Getting from the airport.

If it is at all possible, do not fly into or out of London Heathrow: it's huge, dirty, and a navigational disaster. Recent improvements have changed it for the better but if you are used to Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur or Seoul, you'll absolutely hate Heathrow.

LHR T5: British Airways' dedicated terminal. Looks a lot better than it works but it's still a huge improvement over BA's old home at Terminal 4. Incredibly in this day and age, it is not connected to the other terminals by a shuttle train. That means terminal changes have to happen by bus and that's a right royal pain if you are carrying luggage. A railway station connects by Underground to the Picadilly Line. Although the tube can be used between terminals, it is impractical to do so, especially with luggage. BA says that T5 provides "our smoothest airport experience yet." Compared to many airports in the developing world, it's still a shed in the middle of nowhere. There are several bus services that run from outside T5.

LHR T4: previously dedicated to BA, T4 has been renovated. It is under-populated as other airlines have not yet moved into it - and as a result is actually a rather nice terminal, albeit one in which services are fairly scant due to low customer numbers. Travel into London by tube or bus. Taxis are available but see the note below.

LHR T3: Apart from the fact that is is huge, you can easily wait an hour for your bags in a dingy and dirty hall, then you have a long walk to the underground station or bus station. Renovations have not made any significant improvement to the arrivals experience, seemingly dedicated to increasing the amount of floor space for duty free shops that you can't get to (and which, in any case, are generally more expensive than buying similar product in central London and making a VAT reclaim as you leave). If you are being met, you will find it difficult to find your greeter. If you are relying on a train or bus, you will have to walk for anything up to 20 minutes. Buses are easy with bags: the tube is an absolute nightmare and not to be recommended to anyone with more than light hand luggage.

And when you leave, it is just as bad, although for different reasons. Completely over the top so-called security measures make getting to your plane a totally exhausting and frustrating experience and if one more person says “take off your jacket, belt and shoes and take out your laptop, camera and any other electronics and throw away your medicinal skin cream” it would not surprise us to hear that violence has resulted. Honestly, if there is any way of using another airport, do so. London has plenty of choices.

Getting to London from Heathrow (LHR)

LHR is massive, and even before you get to immigration you will have had a long walk, often in conditions where you are tired, not sure of where you are going and where everyone seems to be in a rush. Also, do go to the toilet before leaving the plane. LHR has a desperate shortage of loos, even in the newer terminals, and you will almost certainly be standing in an immigration queue for a long time.

If you have ended up at Heathrow anyway, be prepared for a long walk to whatever transport you choose.

The Airport Express Bus has been shut down. It used to go to the West End for a flat fare. It was expensive, but still a lot cheaper than most of the alternatives.

The Heathrow Express train goes to Paddington Station. They say “a revolutionary non-stop train service.” We say “it's a train. It takes 15 minutes and it takes you to a part of London that you don't want to be in unless that's where you are actually going.” Oh, and it's not cheap.

National Express Coaches.

These run from the airport bus station at T3 to Victoria. Victoria is where there are many hotels and shows and some delegates may prefer to stay in this district, so the coach is convenient. But heavy or bulky luggage can be difficult to get onto the coach. However, if you arrive at T3, one enormous advantage of the coach is that you can go from baggage retrieval to the bus terminal, use the coach and get off in central London without having had to contend with a single kerb or step. But the walk to the bus terminal in the airport can be as long as 15 minutes, although travelators are available for some of that journey. This is an economical way to travel with an open return (remember to book when you want to go back) fare.

Note on luggage from National Express: “Our drivers are happy to help you with your luggage. Unfortunately, we are unable to carry more than two medium-sized suitcases weighing up to 20kg each plus one small piece of hand luggage per person.”

Remember that, when you arrive in Victoria unless you are booked into a hotel near the bus station you will need a taxi to get to your hotel, or to take a tube if you are going somewhere else in London.

NB: National Express now has a new door to door service: see this article at The Chief Officers' Network: http://chiefofficers.net/888333888/cms/index.php/news/aviation/aviation_...

Taxi.

Unless you are feeling rich, don't even think about getting a black cab (the traditional London taxi. The usual cost is around GBP60 – but if there is traffic, you bear all the risk of an ever-running meter. And the meter runs up large bills quickly. Our worst experience was a one mile trip, in heavy traffic, that cost GBP7 – and that was in 2005. Prices have increased to even more ridiculous levels since.

Private Hire Car.

A private hire VW, Mercedes or Jaguar car will often work out cheaper than a black cab / taxi. For one thing, there will be a fixed rate so you don't take the risk associated with traffic or bad weather. One company that we found using an internet search engine quotes a little under GPB50 for the airport to Holborn trip, and a little over GBP35 for Holborn to Heathrow. There are desks in the arrivals hall where you can book a car if you have not prebooked. Note that some car services include a waiting time from your landing time and if you exceed that waiting time you will be charged for additional time. Often that waiting time is one hour from landing but, as it can take that long to get through immigration, wait for your bags and exit customs plus the walk to the meeting point, an hour may not be long enough. If you are flying from countries that the UK regards as high risk (Middle East, Pakistan, for example) you should contact the car company and request that they do not arrive until at least 30 minutes after your aircraft has landed. Even if you are travelling with hand-luggage only, you are very unlikely to be in the arrivals hall within 30 minutes of landing.

See our advertisers for details of transfer services and for car parking services before you leave home.

London Underground.

The London Underground service is clean, fast and quite reliable. OK, so it's no comparison to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, in any of those things and it's much more expensive than a similar journey in any of those cities but by UK standards, it works pretty well. The best reason for using the Underground (often called “the tube”) is that LHR is on the Piccadilly Line – and that's one of the two lines that passes through Holborn Station. The journey will take around an hour and five minutes, assuming there are no delays. The tube is crowded between 07:30 and 09:30 and 17:30 to 19:00 Monday to Friday. Piccadilly line trains have places for luggage. Most other lines do not. If you are carrying heavy luggage, the tube can be tiring but if you are travelling from LHR to Holborn, you will not have to change lines.

Note that there are almost no lifts in London's tube system. Many stations involve lengthy walks which often include staircases. Travelling by tube with luggage is a tiring and unpleasant experience.

The fare from Heathrow to Holborn is GBP4.00. The fare for other stations in the same vicinity is the same. Fares to other districts will be different.

There are several good hotels in Holborn and Bloomsbury and at stops either side of Holborn. And if you change to the Central Line at Holborn, within a few minutes ride either side, you will find a range of hotels at a variety of prices.

For more information on using the tube, see http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

London has a very well integrated public transport system. Buses are quick, and direct and due to extensive use of bus lanes are rarely delayed. However, whilst Londoners tell us it's easy, we find getting bus tickets to be something of a nightmare. Frankly, we can't even work out what to pay and where to get tickets. We think that you have to buy a ticket from a machine at a bus stop and that it costs around a pound for a local journey, which makes it very expensive to hop on and hop off for short trips. But if anyone can tell us exactly how it works, we will gladly update this information.

The easiest way to pay for public transport in London is with an Oyster card - a pre-paid auto-debit card. You can buy them at many convenience stores and they work on buses and tubes. We recommend this instead of trying to work out how to buy tickets and trying to work out how much to pay on the tube.

Private Cars

London applies “congestion charges.” That's a mealy mouthed way of saying that much of central London is subject to an entry tax. There's nothing wrong with that, but surely it's better to call it what it is? The tax is GBP10 per day (reduced to GBP8 if payment is made the same day) and covers much of central London and from 07:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday. You can see the area covered by the charge on a pdf map downloadable from http://www.cclondon.com/infosearch/dynamicPages/WF_ZoneCheck_W.aspx

Trying to find somewhere to pay your charge can be frustrating: most of the convenience stores you could pay are in no-parking zones! And the congestion charge does not exempt you from the exhorbitant parking charges both on metres and, especially, in private car parks. Basically, if you choose to drive in London, budget around GBP30 per day for tax and parking.

Alternative Airports.

London Gatwick (LGW).

Originally a charter flight / holiday airport, Gatwick remains a manageable size despite an increase in international scheduled flights. There are two terminals (North and South) connected by a light-rail system.

Getting to the City.

It's easy, and pleasant: the Gatwick Express train runs frequently to London Victoria from where you can get a tube to Holborn and the surrounding areas. A one way ticket costs about GBP16.00.

BUT even better is the Gatwick to City Thameslink service. This runs right into the heart of the City. The train fare is about GBP15.00 one way.

Taxis: expect to pay a black cab fare of around GBP95 – rising if there is traffic, and for most of the day, there will be.

Private hire cars: fares will be fixed fee at approx GBP60 one way. There are several providers on the internet. Limousines are for poseurs, wannabes and drunken parties. And a "stretch" or "town car" really is beneath anyone with any taste.

Buses: there are several express services into Victoria.

London City (LCY)

The really cool thing about London City Airport is that it is on the edge of the City – and that means that the approach flies over – and close to – many of London's landmarks. It's not technically in the City, but then again nor are many businesses that call themselves City businesses.

LCY is in London's Docklands, right by Canary Wharf where HSBC, Citi and the Financial Services Authority have their principle UK offices.

Getting into London from LCY could hardly be easier: use the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to Bank. Note: Bank station is not at all a place to try to carry lots of, or heavy, luggage. Other lines also run through Bank – the Circle and Northern Lines may be useful depending on where your hotel is located. The DLR is an elevated railway that runs through the regenerated Docklands area. The mix of old, new and renovated buildings makes for a very pleasant arrival and coupled with the approach to LCY, this really is the most pleasant way to arrive in the Capital.

London Stansted (STN)

London Stansted is north east of London. If you intend to spend time in Cambridge, this is a good choice. To get to London from Stansted, you can get a fast train from within the station complex to London's Liverpool Street Station with good central London bus and tube connections.

There are also buses from Stansted to central London, too but we strongly recommend using the train. Similarly, whilst taxis and hire cars are available, they are more expensive and not as quick as the train.

Stansted is a small airport on one level, with little walking from plane to train.

Trains

For those that really cannot stomach using LHR but can't get flights into the other London airports, you can route through Paris, Brussels or Lille and use the Eurostar train to the beautifully renovated London St Pancras station.

For those that intend to extend their stay, a quick trip to Paris from St Pancras will take less than three hours each way and can cost as little as GBP55, arriving in Paris at the historic Gare du Nord station.

Getting around London

Transport for London has a selection of downloadable maps at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/1106.aspx.

Shopping.

If you look at a map you will notice how central Holborn is. Just five minutes' walk west is the beginning of Oxford Street with a huge range of shops including the famous John Lewis and Selfridges. And Piccadilly, with its more upmarket shops including Burberry and Laura Ashley.

To the north of Oxford Street is London's electronics centre – Tottenham Court Road – and to its south is Soho, Chinatown and the theatre district.

To the west of Piccadilly are the tailoring districts of Jermyn Street (shirts) and Savile Row (suits, etc.) And to the east, you will find the famous Carnaby Street. To be fair, it mainly sells tacky stuff these days but it's still a bit of fun.

Off Oxford Street, the side roads have a range of boutiques – try St Christopher's Place and Bond Street – but remember to increase your credit card limits if clothes are your thing!

Hop on a tube to Bank and visit one of the best preserved Victorian markets in the world at Leadenhall. Or get off at Liverpool Street and visit Spitalfields and the famous outdoor market at Petticoat Lane (Sundays only). To the north of the City is Camden market – renowned for its bric-a-brac – and lively pub music scene.

To the west, you'll find Portobello Road market which is full of (mostly not very old) “antiques,” flowers and interesting people.

In Farringdon, near Holborn, you'll find London's last large meat market – and unusually cafes and pubs that are open all night serving food and drinks to the wholesale meat traders.

Costs.

London is a very expensive city. Everything is always expensive but with the decline of the pound, visitors' purchasing power has improved. Expect to pay GBP25 a head for a decent dinner in a reasonable restaurant without wine. However, it is possible, with a little bit of judicious research to eat and drink well for much less.

The main thing to remember is that fast food is no better in London than anywhere else so stuff in a bun isn't an option unless you are desperate – and there is no need to be. Sandwiches seem to be the ubiquitous snack food and some specialist shops are very good. But also very expensive. However, small – generally Italian – coffee shops still offer excellent food at reasonable prices, and so do many pubs.

Smoking

Basically, if you do, don't bother in England. It's illegal to smoke in any public place and workplaces. That doesn't mean your workplace it means where anyone works.

So, restaurants, bars, shops, offices and all conference and training venues are included.

Many hotels operate a no-smoking policy throughout, including in guest rooms.

Whilst England has not gone as far as Singapore in banning smoking in "cancer corners" around the doorways of offices, its workplace ban is in fact more comprehensive.

Also, in many parts of England, it is illegal to drink alcoholic drinks in the street. Whilst not a problem in London, the nett effect of these bans is to prevent smokers congregating outside pubs.

Theatres and other entertainment

London is famous for its theatre. From opera to ballet, from classic plays to modern musicals, visitors to London are spoiled for choice. Many of the more popular events are sold out months in advance. But there are sometimes returns available at the box office on the night.

Like most cities, London sufferes from ticket touts. There are also booking services that charge a booking fee, often substantial. However, if you are prepared to take a bit of a gamble on the tickets you want being available, or to take pot luck as to what you may find, then the Half Price Ticket Booth in Leicester Square is the only official (Society of London Theatre) last minute ticket service in central London. For more information see http://www.tkts.co.uk/

London is home to the famous Ronnie Scott's jazz club and to a huge range of concerts from full classical orchestral to single singer-songwriter with a wide range of foreign and ethnic music, some of which is difficult to find even in their country of origin.

Eating out

Don't you dare settle for sh*t in a bun in London! Why do you think TV has so many English chefs? While some countries mock English cuisine, it has to be said that there is fantastic but fussy at the one end to rustic home cooking at the other. And done well, there are few meals to beat a proper English roast dinner.

For convenience food, the English invented fish and chips. Find a good "chippy" and you'll be amazed how good this simple dish can be.

In Chinatown, near Leicester Square, there is good, cheap Hong Kong style Chinese food.

In Brick Lane, near Liverpool Street, Indian food dominates but there are a couple of excellent bagel shops.

Off Commercial Road, on the outskirts of the City, Pakistani food is readily available, providing a zone for halal food.

In the City, a host of restaurants cater for every style of eating from casual to exceptionally formal, from simple to esoteric, from cheap to mindbogglingly expensive.

The cheapest, heartiest meals will usually be found in pub restaurants, again with a wide range of options but favouring meat and two veg type combinations.

Delegates to our events will get an eating-out guide with their booking pack.

Tipping

Taxi drivers and hotel staff expect a tip. However, taxis are so expensive that tipping seems otiose, and almost all hotels now include a service charge in your final bill. In restaurants, a service charge is the norm, but some do not include this so please check the bill. Be careful: many hotels and restaurants include a service charge but leave a "tip" line blank in your credit card slip. Remember to cancel it: in the UK tips added to credit cards rarely make it to the staff. If you do decide to tip serving staff, then pay it directly to your waiter.

Credit Cards

All UK credit cards are Chip 'n' Pin. Therefore expect to be asked if you have a chip card if you present a foreign card that has no chip. The most commonly accepted cards are VISA and Mastercard. American Express is less common and Diners' Club is not widely accepted. Cards such as Discover, etc. are rarely accepted.

Debit Cards

So long as your debit card clears via VISA or Mastercard, you can use it almost anywhere in the UK. Other clearers are not widely supported.

Telephones

International outgoing calls:
Landlines - dial 010 before the country code.
Mobiles - use + before country code.

Domestic telephone calls: all UK area and mobile codes begin with a leading zero. Therefore to dial a central London number dial 0207 xxx yyyy

International code: 44

Dialing to the UK: dial your local international access code e.g. 00 followed by the UK international code full UK telephone number OMITTING THE LEADING ZERO. Therefore to call a central London number, dial 00 44 207 xxx xxxx

Mobile Phones

GSM bands: 900 Mhz and 1800Mhz
3G and 3.5G widely available.

Pre-paid GSM and 3G cards are widely available without restriction on their purchase or use. Registration is not required. You should check that your phone is not locked to prevent the use of cards other than those issued by your usual provider.

Phones: Japanese, Korean and US phones do not work on UK GSM unless they are tri-band or quad band.

3G / 3.5G phones work regardless of their origin.

Calling emergency services

Dial 999 from any phone (if behind a switchboard, an access code may be necessary - this will, usually, be 9, too, meaning that the number dialled will be 9999.

Even mobiles that do not operate to make normal calls will, generally, allow a 999 call.

If you make a 999 call from a mobile, the emergency services can use your signal to help locate you so if you are unsure of your location, make the call and do not hang up.

Note that internet phone services (VoIP or Skype) will NOT recognise a 999 call and you will not be able to connect to emergency services from your computer.

Time Zone

You're kidding us, right? Greenwich is part of London and so London is the home of Greenwich Mean time. That means a GMT offset of zero. But for half the year, the UK uses British Summer Time which is GMT +1. That, there are no prizes for guessing, is the summer months plus a few weeks at either end of summer.

DVD zone / TV signal

DVD Zone 2. TV signal is PAL.

Security

The UK is a very safe country, and most parts of London are extremely safe. However, sensible precautions are always recommended.

Don't wear expensive jewellery or watches prominently in public places. Expensive handbags are the norm in the City, but elsewhere in London may attract unwanted attention. If you use a portable music player, don't play it so loud that you are unaware of what is going on around you.

Never get into a car that calls itself a private taxi. Always either call a car hire service, use your hotel car or use a black cab.

You can walk around central London in safety, particularly in the City, late at night.

Health

Water is potable (drinkable) from the tap.

Normal precautions against viral or bacterial infection are heightened during periods of threat e.g. SARS or A(H1N1). Use an anti-bacterial hand wash, be cautious when shaking hands (especially if your contact shows signs of having a cold in which case he probably coughs or sneezes whilst covering his mouth with his hand.

Depending on arrangements with your own government, visitors to the UK may be entitled to free emergency healthcare although hospitals are permitted to refuse care if they think a person has come to the UK with the intention of obtaining free healthcare.

Prescription medicines must be paid for at a standard rate. Often, common drugs are cheaper without a prescription.

Many drugs freely available over the counter in e.g. the USA or France may be sold only with a prescription or "under eye" of a pharmacist.

Sexually transmitted diseases are less common in the UK than in many other countries. However, if you engage in local liasons, ensure you take adequate precautions against STDs. STD clinics are generally free and take only the most essential personal details. However, in the case of notifiable diseases, they will require additional information.

See our "Travel Information" box for travel insurance including medical cover.

Sports

A variety of motorsports and ball-sports are available to both players and spectators in and around London.

©2010 The Financial Crime Forum