I had thought that having lived in London for almost a year in 2005 would make things easy for us in December 2008 - January 2009 and they did except for the unclear tourist visa formalities for London. We were planning to stop in London on our way back to US from India. Our 5-day trip was more than awesome and memorable.
Visa for UK
The visa fee per person is around $138 from US and approx 80 pounds from India.
Though different sites might confuse you, but if you are an Indian citizen living in the US, you do need this UK tourist visa. If you are in transit to UK and would be at the airport for more than 6 hours, then you need to apply for the Transit visa.
Once you are done with the visa issues, London is a beautiful place to go as a tourist. The excellent transport system makes it very easy for the tourist. If you are going for less than a week, then buying a Day Pass for the Tubes would be the best, else the Weekly pass. Get a pass and you can travel whole day on the trains and buses for the zones you buy the pass.
London is divided into 4 main zones - Zone 1 and 2 being the most visited tourist zones. With all the main museums in Kensington, the GMT in Greenwich, the Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Harods Mall, the night life in Picaddily Circus, Oxford Circus, Covent Garden, St. Paul's cathedral, Waterloo, Victoria Station, Trafalgar Sq., Parliament Houses and Big Ben, London Eye, Madam Tussads' Museum, lying in Zone 1 and 2, it makes easy and less time consuming to travel between the famous spots. Easy transport access to nearby places like Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, Bournemoth, Isle of Wite, Scotland etc. makes the trip even more fun! These places are much worth a visit.
Another good thing about London is that you get a lot of vegetarian food, which is much unlike US. As Mexican food is to US, Italian food is to London. The weather is too good in Summers and spring with really long days.
All said above, London just rocks!
Below was our itinerary:
Day 1: Landed in London late evening on New Year's eve. Went to London Bridge for New Year's fireworks.
Day 2: Parliament Square, Big Ben, London Eye, Buckingam Palace, St, James Park, Trafalgar Square (Watched the new year's parade), National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square, National Science Museum, National History museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Apple Market in Covent, Picadilly Circus.
Day 3: Oxford (in bus, easily available from Stratford station through Megabus and various other operators). Visited the City Center, Oxford Science Museum, Radcliffe Camera (Had food at local restaurant: The Kings Arms - Was great), Back to London and a visit to Picadilly Circus again.
Day 4: Liverpool street station (for my old memories since my office was near Liverpool Station back in 2005), Greenwich, Royal Observatory@Greenwich, Local Market@Greenwich, Canary Wharf, One Canada Square@canary Wharf, the beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Millenium Bridge.
Day 5: Hyde Park. Flight back to the US from Heathrow.