Well sadly, the fun had to end on this fabulous trip. I had a brilliant time and I wish it could have lasted longer! I’ve got loads of great food posts (and photos) to share with you real soon. In the meantime, here are a few travel tips.
This post may seem a little boring to some, especially if you’ve already been to the UK. Having just experienced my first visit to big ol’ London town, and in summer no less, I wanted to share with you some tips I’ve learnt about getting around, making the most of your trip and planning your stay.
1. Do your research
Where do you want to go? What do you want to see? Where are you staying and what’s nearby? And most importantly, are there specific places you want to eat at? Before you leave home, save yourself precious time and map out the key things that you want to do during your stay. Ask for recommendations from well-travelled family and friends and check them out online. To guarantee a spot there may be restaurants, theatre shows or activities you need to book in before you arrive. If you’re traveling on a budget check out all the free things the city has to offer like visiting a museum, art gallery or market.
2. Get a current city guide
I’ve been getting by with the Lonely Planet ‘Pocket London’ book which contains a good snapshot of what to do and see in key areas as well as where to eat and drink (for a longer stay go for the full version). The guide contains local maps which are really helpful. I bought the pocket book back home for $15 and it was well worth the spend.
3. Buy a local prepaid phone card
Spoilt by my recent trip to Vietnam where free wifi was everywhere, I expected the UK to be the same. Sadly I was wrong! Less than 24 hours after arriving I visited a Vodafone store and bought a prepaid card (set up and activation on my iPhone was done by the store assistant). The one month card was only £10 for unlimited data – exactly what I needed.
4. Save on phone calls
Don’t spend money calling home, stay in touch with family and friends via the internet. We use the Viber app for sending texts, photos and phone calls – even better when you’re on free wifi. Another app is Whatsapp. Both of these are available for iPhone and android.
5. Download travel apps
The Citymapper London app incredibly helpful for getting around. The iPhone app pinpoints your location, you type in where you want to go and a number of results come up showing how to get there by walking, bus and train, and how long each route will take. Only use the app when you need to (or better still when you’re on wifi) as it accesses GPS so can run down your battery quite fast. Another handy travel app is XE Currency which is a quick way to convert £ to $ and work out how much you’re spending.
6. Check entertainment guides
Every Saturday The Guardian newspaper has a lift out guide with reviews, location and prices of theatre shows, music, films and comedy events for the week ahead. This is really helpful for planning your entertainment activities.
7. Use public transport
The public transport system is fantastic and there isn’t a long wait for a bus or train. During the day I prefer the bus as you can sit on the top deck and see where you’re going. Pick up a map from any train station to familiarise yourself with the train lines and stops you’ll mostly use. Get an Oyster card for train and bus travel – I bought a weekly pass for £35 and you get a £5 refund when you return the card before you leave town.
8. Beware of market overload
There are SO MANY markets in London. My first visit to Camden Market (which has not one but FOUR markets) left me completely overwhelmed and I didn’t buy anything. Luckily I had the time to go back another day but not every visitor would have that luxury. With so many to choose from, remember that not every market is for every person so read up on each one to work out which markets are likely to have what you like.
9. Save cash on snacks
Top up on daytime snacks from grocery stores like Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Most have a good variety of pre-packaged salads and sandwiches (much better than Down Under) so it’s a good option when you need to pinch your pennies.
10. Sit in a coffee house
The Costa chain (equivalent to Gloria Jeans or Starbucks) is a handy spot to use free wifi, read the paper or just regroup and work out a plan for the day. Keep your phone charger and international adaptor handy as this is also a great spot for to recharge. Sitting in the sun at a table out front is great for people watching. Keep a close eye on your electronics as London has a high rate of these being nabbed.
11. Enjoy the local parks
London has so many grassy, tree covered open spaces and the locals take advantage of these whenever there is the slightest hint of sunshine. (I saw dudes with their shirts off even when it wasn’t hot). If the weather is nice and you’ve got a bit of time on your hands, grab a book, pack a few snacks (and maybe even a drink) and enjoy a picnic in the park.
12. Relax and enjoy!
Pace yourself. London is a BIG city and there’s lots to do so space out your activities and keep yourself in check so you don’t end up fatigued and worn out. Remember that you’re on holiday and you’re supposed to be having a GOOD time!
So friends, did I miss anything? What is the best travel tip you have been given before a trip?