London Drum

Drinking in pubs, smoking age limits & Avoiding crime

What time do pubs close in London?

Most pubs in London open between 11 AM and 11.30 PM (Mon-Sat) and 12 noon to 10.30 PM (Sun), but the hours vary from business to business. A lot of pubs in the touristy areas stay open later if they have the right license, and some of them will stay open for the entire 24 hours.

Last orders will normally be called 30 minutes before closing time, which means you have an extra half-an-hour to drink up and leave from when the bell rings.

Nightclubs usually open from 10 PM to 3 AM (Mon-Sat) and 8 PM to midnight (Sun).

What is the legal age limit for drinking in London?

The legal age limit for buying and drinking alcohol in the UK is 18, but a lot of pubs in London have a policy of asking for ID if you look under 21 – so being 19 is no guarantee that you’ll get a drink.

If you do get turned away then take it as a compliment – you don’t stay young forever!

You will find that a lot of pubs in central London have bouncers on the door once it starts getting late. Large groups of men are more likely to get turned away than a pair (especially if they don’t have any women with them), so you might want to try splitting up into smaller groups to increase your chances of getting in.

Are children allowed inside a London pub?

Children under 18 might be allowed inside a London pub during the daytime if accompanied by an adult, but this is up to the landlord.

Some pubs will only allow children inside the beer garden or a specially designated family room (but not all pubs have these).

Are you allowed to drink on the street in London?

It is generally okay to drink alcohol on the street (as long as you’re not drunk and causing mischief, of course, because you can still get arrested for that).

But there are laws against drinking on public transport – even whilst sober – so don’t take any open containers on the buses, trams or trains, because you might get them confiscated.

What is the legal age limit for smoking?

The legal age limit for buying and smoking cigarettes in the UK is 18.

Where are you allowed to smoke in London?

In London it is illegal to smoke inside a public building, an enclosed workplace, or on public transport (which includes open-air platforms).

It is also illegal to smoke inside a vehicle if there are any under 18s present (even with a window or sunroof open).

Are Londoners friendly?

London is a perfectly friendly city, but maybe not compared with other countries. We don’t exchange greetings with people we don’t know, for example, and we rarely acknowledge the person sitting next to us on a bus or train. That shouldn’t be taken as rudeness – it’s just the usual way of things.

I have sat on foreign trains and planes and had conversations with the passenger sitting opposite, but that doesn’t happen very often in London. If you strike up a conversation with a random person on the bus then they’ll probably think you’re a weirdo. But come to think of it… that’s actually one of the good things about London: we are very tolerant of weirdos! You can stand on a street corner spouting all sorts of rubbish and no one will bat an eyelid. They will likely just ignore you and pretend that you don’t exist.

In that respect London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world – people don’t care what clothes you’re wearing, which sex of person you’re kissing, or which God you believe in.

One of the few times that Londoners will get really riled up is when somebody tries to jump a queue. That is the one thing that everybody knows about Britain: we love queues. And when it comes to shops and tourist attractions that is still largely true, but anyone who regularly boards a bus or a train will know different.

People don’t queue at the bus stops anymore (unless there are only a few people waiting), and when a tube train comes along it’s basically just a big bundle through the door.

Tips about avoiding crime in London

London is a safe place to stay, but common sense rules always apply when you’re visiting a big city (all big cities have their fair share of idiots). As long as you don’t do anything daft then you should be fine.

Here are some common sense rules to keep you safe:

  1. Keep your valuables hidden, and don’t leave your wallet or mobile phone sticking out of your back pocket, or left lying on a pub table. And don’t leave your coat or bag hanging on the back of your chair either, as they can easily get rifled through without you even noticing. The dumbest way to get your bag stolen is to leave it on the floor in a toilet cubicle, as a lot of them have big gaps under the walls where people can stick their hands.
  2. Be wary of pickpockets, especially on the London Underground. If somebody appears to be pressing up against you in the crush then they might be trying to sneak a hand inside your coat pocket, or be teasing open the zips on your bag. If you notice that somebody is standing close behind you on the escalators, then just be aware of what they are doing. The big crowd around Changing the Guard is another popular spot for thieves, along with the one that forms in Covent Garden to watch the street entertainers.
  3. Avoid using any cash machines that look as if they’ve been damaged or tampered with. Be especially careful of the slot: if it looks wrong, walk away. Sometimes they will replace the entire front facade with a fake version, and it can be very difficult to tell whether it’s real. My advice would be to pick a safe one and stick with it for the duration of your holiday, so you know exactly what it’s supposed to look like.
  4. Be aware of anyone standing behind you when you withdraw some money out of an ATM. One of their favourite tactics is to distract you with a tap on the shoulder to ask a question, a split second before the money comes out. By the time you’ve turned around again their accomplice will have waltzed off with your money and the bloke you spoke to will feign innocence, as if it was nothing to do with him.
  5. Travelling on the bus or train late at night can sometimes be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re unlucky enough to get some dopey drunks on board. 99% of the time it will just be drunken banter and them showing off to their mates, so don’t get yourself worked up into a tizzy for no reason. The best thing to do is just ignore them. For the night buses you might want to try and sit downstairs, close to the driver’s cab. For the trains, just move to a carriage where there are lots of people. You might want to take your headphones off as well, so you’re more aware of what is happening around you.
  6. Always use black taxis instead of minicabs, because you can be confident that the driver is properly licensed. If you do want to use a minicab then make sure you phone up a minicab company and order it yourself, and ask the controller for the driver’s name and description (they should give it to you). You can obtain the phone number of a reputable minicab firm directly from the Transport For London website at But the golden rule is never get into a vehicle that is just cruising down the street, or parked outside a station, claiming to be a minicab, because that’s basically the same as getting into a stranger’s car.