Okay! So the Adventure Notes for London will be divided into several parts because it is such a big city with sooo many points of interest. Therefore, the articles on London will be based on different point of views, such as Artsy London, London on Budget, etc.
In this first London article, I will try to give you basic information about visiting London. Of course, you can always find all of the information in http://www.visitlondon.com/. However, I will try to elaborate some important things and tips based on the website, several other websites, as well as my own experience. Here it goes…
1. Getting there
London is easily accessible from… well, basically all around the world – according to your budget, of course. Mostly, people from around UK come to London by train. There are many options for the train, starting from the cheap one up to the high-end one. I usually look out for the best fare here:http://www.thetrainline.com/farefinder/. Using the website, I can get the best deal on the day I plan to travel. I could also change my travel dates based on the cheapest available ticket. You can also visit by train from Paris, using the fast train, EuroStar. It can be as cheap as £20 one way. Again, monitor the website, http://www.eurostar.com/uk-en, to get the best deal.
From other far point of departure, such as Edinburgh, cities in continental Europe, and other cities around the world, flying may be the best option. Look out of the best airlines deal here:http://www.skyscanner.net/.
If those transportations are not cheap enough for you, you may find Megabus attractive. Haha! It can be very cheap sometimes. I usually try to find the deals on more uncommon destinations or the destinations very expensive to get to by train. It can be very tiring, traveling by bus, especially if it is far, but if budget is your concern, it can be an option. Check your price here: http://uk.megabus.com/.
There are actually many options to stay in London. As I live not too far from London, it can be cheaper to just have a day trip from my city to London. However, if you really want to explore the city, stay overnight is recommended. Where you stay will much depend on how you are traveling and your budget. Nowadays, AirBnB is quite popular. I haven’t tried it, but if you are traveling in groups or with your family, it can be a good bargain. As an Indonesian, I can always book a room in Wisma Indonesia. It is quite cheap although the location is quite far from central London.
I visited London several times and all of those times I stayed in different places. When I was with my friend or with my husband, I stayed in budget hotel or bed and breakfast. There are several options of budget hotel, including for those with families, such as EasyHotel, Travelodge, Premier Inn, and Ibis Budget.
When you are alone, the way you stay in London will be more flexible. I believe that hostel is the best option. Oh! And hostel is also a good option if you are traveling with several friends, say 4-8 people as you can stay together in a room for a cheaper price instead of booking several rooms in a hotel. People may think that hostel is… well, not clean, lack of privacy, and uncomfortable. In my experience, it basically depends on the hostel. Remember to read carefully the description of the hostel if you are looking for one. It usually mentions the ambience of the hostel, whether it is quite and businesslike or if it is hype and trendy with lots of parties around. Most hostels that I have ever visited are clean. The bathrooms are well maintained although it is a shared bathroom. Each bed will have its own access to an electric plug and each guest is given a certain locker with its key for the belongings. So, don’t worry, you can try to book a bed in a hostel!
My suggestion is, in looking for a budget hotel or hostel, do consider these things: price, location, room accessibility, and facilities in and around the hotel. For me, location is the most important thing. I wouldn’t want to travel far away to get to the places I want to visit. Therefore, I always compare the price with the location. Furthermore, London’s transportation fare may be quite expensive, so cutting the cost of transportation can help much of your budget.
The first thing about transportation in London is: Oyster Card. It is a must card if you are traveling to London. You can buy the card online or in travel information centers around London. It is a one-for-all ticket to get around London as you can use it to pay for the bus fare, tube, and waterway. Just top-up your card and you are ready to go! There are two different types of Oyster Card, the traveler one and the ordinary one. My suggestion is to buy the ordinary one. Yes, the traveler one has better design and cost less, but you can redeem your credit as well as the card when you finish using it. It costs £5 for the card and you will get your money back upon your redemption.
As you may already know, there are many means of transportation in London. There are tubes, buses, waterways, and bicycle. There is a London information website to find out live transportation report,https://tfl.gov.uk/. Using this website, I could avoid closed roads, late buses, etc. It is very helpful; especially to find out which tube line is in trouble or under maintenance.
Traveling around London is not difficult. Google maps and other mapping aps can direct you to certain places. What I need to be aware of is when it is difficult to get signal for my phone. A sense of simple direction, like North, South, West, and East, is important. Whenever you are going to get a tube or bus, think about your position and where you want to go to. Pretty simple, actually.
4. Planning your itinerary
As I said, London is a big city. It is impossible to visit all places in one trip, believe me! Therefore, you itinerary should be made carefully. Choose the places you really want to go to, based on your interest. If you are just going to pass along some famous landmarks, you can do it in maybe 2-3 days. However, if you plan to visit museums, you have to allow one full day for one museum. Indeed, museums in London are big! British Museum has tens of galleries, the same as Natural History Museum. Just, don’t go too big in your itinerary. Be realistic, allow yourself to soak the London vibe. Oh, and a simple tips that I just figured out is that you can actually match your place of stay (hotel/hostels/others) to the places you want to visit. Visiting London per area is also a good option. For example, you can stay in Greenwich and visit only Greenwich attractions, and so on, and so on.
For this reason, too, the AdventureNotes on London is going to be divided into several parts, depending on the itinerary.
5. Holiday season
It is pretty complicated to take this holiday season into consideration because most of us can only go to London during our holiday. BUT everything can be quite expensive during the holiday period. Besides, the city will be very crowded. I went to London during the Christmas holiday twice. On both occasions, the city was full – except on the exact Christmas date.
Another thing to be considered if you are traveling in holiday season is the availability of public transportations. They are usually limited on exact holiday. For example, I had to use the Santander Bike, https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles, to go around London on the Christmas day. It is okay for me, but for you with children or if you cannot ride bicycle, it may not be the best option. Another alternative is to walk. Yeaa… but you couldn’t go too far, could you?
Oh and one more thing! Not only the public transportation, other facilities such as toilets, shops, and restaurants are also usually closed on the exact celebration day. I really don’t want to experience the lack of those public facilities again during my trip, ever! It was quite horrible to not be able to find toilets and restaurants for a day.
The last but certainly not least important thing to consider is your budget. London can be very expensive, so I usually set my daily budget to eat, etc. I also try to find the cheapest possible alternative to stay and travel. There are also lots of attraction tickets deals available for you. Do search for this and use the offers. It is worth to save one to two pounds, right?
Read the next AdventureNotes for more on London!
Jan 29, 2016