What to pack for London

What to Pack for London: From Style Tips to Dress Codes

Packing a suitcase is slowly becoming an art form. Curation is key and precision a necessity, with most planning their looks and must-haves weeks before departure. To make it all a little less daunting, we have put together an easy guide for what to take and what to leave at home.

Luke Abrahams
20 May 2023

The UK is not an easy destination to pack for. With changing seasons, unpredictable weather ranging from bone chilling cold to humid and hot, and a daunting list of dress codes, it’s best to be strategic about what to pack before you hop on the plane. The essentials are a must, but be warned, the UK is a shopping nirvana so leave as much room in your suitcase as possible as it will be filled with all sorts of treasures. From key electronics to medicines, shoes and clothing, here's all the things you’ll need handy for your next trip to the British capital.

Pack Your Hair and Skin Toiletries Well

The UK is well ahead of its time, so if you forget to pack something, have no fear as the chances are you'll find a better version of what you are looking for here. Just be warned, things are generally a lot more expensive in London, so be prepared otherwise there will be a lot more drama on your pocket.

The water in London is very hard, which over a few days, can prove to be a nightmare for your hair and skin. Hotels and resorts do provide amenities, but if you use a particular brand of shampoo or conditioner, it’s worth packing it as you may not be able to buy it here.

Because of the changing climate and cold weather in the winter, moisturizer is a necessity for your hands, face, and feet. Again, most hotels have some, but if you forget to pack them in your suitcase, all big branded supermarkets and shops like Boots and Superdrug stock all sorts of creams and lotions on their shelves.

Make Sure You Have a Diverse Wardrobe

Many Londoners live in their bubble and as a result, often forget they live on an island. Though the seasons change with ease, the weather here is uncertain, especially during the spring and summer periods. The temperature can drop quickly and without warning so it’s always worth packing layers, including thick cardigans and sweaters before your trip.

Temperatures in the winter can range from 32ºF to 45ºF. To beat the cold, we recommend packing a water and windproof raincoat, down jacket and thermals as the cold can feel really damp and piercing at times. In the summer, temperatures can exceed 77ºF, so summer clothes like shorts, skirts, dresses, and flip flops are all welcome additions to your suitcases.

Many restaurants and some hotels still require a dress code. If you are staying in a five-star luxury hotel it’s worth checking what is deemed acceptable and what isn’t. Most will ask that you adhere to a smart casual dress code while others will expect black tie (no jeans or trainers) for men and women in full blown gown regalia.

Some sporting events like Wimbledon, polo, the races, and the Henley Royal Regatta also have particular dress codes and looks, so do your research before attending to avoid you feeling uncomfortable or out of place.

The More Comfortable Your Shoes, The Better

You’ll be walking a lot when you are in London so make sure you pack a comfortable pair of shoes. Trainers, flats, or boots will do, and if you need it, anything that offers extra support, especially when you are walking on the cobbles, is an added bonus.

If you are heading elsewhere in the UK on a day trip, it’s also well worth having a pair of hiking boots handy in case you take a stroll through one of the country’s National Parks, forests, or moors.

Sun Protection, Yes Really

The summers range from 63ºF to 77ºF but don’t be surprised if they soar even higher. Over the last few years, the UK has experienced unusually higher temperatures during the summer periods with temperatures exceeding 86ºF and on very rare occasions 104ºF in London and the rest of the south.

UV rays can be particularly harsh during British winters. Even if the sun is hiding behind the clouds, protect your skin from all the blue light with a good sunscreen packed with vitamins and a flashy pair of sunglasses.

UK Travel Adapter

The UK operates on plug type G (three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern). It’s good to note the country uses a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz too, so don’t be surprised if the power supply or charging times to your devices differs from home.

If you forget to bring one you can buy one at all major airports or from any big department or drug store.

A Camera and Lots of Memory Cards

London is one of the most visited cities in the world, so it’s only natural you will want to take countless selfies in it. With this in mind, remember to bring extra memory cards, a portable charger (for phone and camera) and because of all the unpredictable weather, a waterproof case.

General Style Tips to Know

London is a very cosmopolitan and liberal city so wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. If you’re a fashionista, street wear reigns supreme, but as mentioned some London hotels, restaurants and occasions call for strict dress codes, so make sure you adhere to them or you will be asked to change or be refused entry entirely.

What to Know About Medicines In The UK

Always Have An Umbrella Handy

The weather changes incredibly quickly, so you can get soaked without warning. The shops know this and they will take advantage of it and hike the price of their gear on sale.

Those taking regular medications should make sure they have plenty packed before they visit the UK. Certain drugs are branded under different names so ask your doctor to write a note so you can find the UK equivalent in case you run out.

As it’s a big city it’s well worth making sure you have hand sanitizer in your bag to keep the germs away and perhaps some bandaids handy as your feet will be susceptible to blisters from walking around a lot.

What Not To Pack Before You Enter The UK

Certain medications, including recreational drugs like Cannabis, are banned throughout Britain so double check what is allowed in before you board the plane. If in doubt, check out the official UK government website.

You are also restricted on the amount of foreign currency you can bring into the UK, so make sure your wallet does not exceed the limit. Anything above £10,000 (around $12,460) must be declared on entry.

Certain goods, including cigarettes and alcohol must also be declared if they exceed limits. Airline carriers and local airports will inform you of the rules, so if in doubt, ask before you land.

If you are traveling on a tourist visa make sure you do not have any CVs packed as you will face problems at the border and possiblydenied entry.

About the author

Luke AbrahamsLuke Abrahams is a London-based freelance journalist specializing in news, luxury lifestyle, and travel features. Luke was previously the features social media editor at the London Evening Standard. His work has appeared in more than 25 U.K. and U.S. publications, including British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, The Times, Town & Country, The Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller, Time Out, House & Garden, Suitcase, Elite Traveler, Insider, and more. So far, Luke has visited 82 countries. His favorite is Italy, and it always will be.