London Calling

November 25, 2009

Ok, here’s my first attempt at some travel tips. I will make it city specific this time around, and see how that works out, your feedback is welcome and wanted.
London is my most absolutely favorite city in the world. I have been there several times and even lived there for a few months. Here are some tips that I think will help you fall in love with city as I do every time I’m there.
First, it’s expensive, very expensive, one of the most expensive cities in the world. There are two ways to approach this. One, convert everything back to your home currency and drive yourself mad that you are spending $9.00 on a sandwich. Two, accept it and view the pricing as though it were your own currency (but don’t forget to convert in the back of your mind somewhere so you don’t go broke)
Example: I want to go to dinner, in the states I would expect to spend around $10-$15 for a moderate range. Well in British pounds, that’s about $30, which is a bit pricey, however, 10-15 british pounds is not bad by local standards. So just embrace the travel and take it as it comes.

If you are on a really tight budget however, a great way to save on meals is to go to the local grocery stores Sainsburys, Boots, or Tesco and they have ‘meal deals.’ Which is generally a sandwich or salad, drink and snack for about 4 british pounds. Save me tons of times, and actually quite good. 

There are some ways to see this great city without spending a fortune. Stay at a hostel! As Americans we tend to have a very skewed view of hostels based on lack of experience. There are some shady ones out there, but do your research online and read reviews. Hostelworld.com is a site I recommend. My favorite place to stay in town is the Generator Hostel, very clean very friendly and great location.
A hostel simply means you are paying for a bed and nothing more. I choose to stay in the largest rooms, because they are the cheapest. One of my rooms was with 8 other men and women and ran me just shy of $20 a night. Another one was slightly cheaper but with 15 others in my room. If you’re not going at a peak time, you may be best to only book two nights, and then judge if you want to stay or move to another one. If you are going during peak times, book early, as they will fill up.

Another money saver is museums.  They are all free in London, and lucky for you they have some of the most world famous works of art and history there. You can easily fill up a day each at the British Museum and the National Gallery.  They also usually include free guides a certain times. 

There area also free city tours as well, although plan to tip your guide a small fee.  A great place to find out about these is at your hostel.

Walk around, half of London is the people, head up to Camden town, a very cool funky part of town, where the famous British punks hang out.  It’s also a very walking friendly city, but warning, not wheelchair accessible at all. There is an excellent public transportation system, but unless you need to get from one end to the other in set amount of time, walking usually does the trick, make sure you’ve got comfy shoes though.

There are plenty of great parks all throughout the city, and again, free.

Things to skip paying money for (unless you have it, then by all means).

Aquarium, we have those here, and it’s not even that good.

The London Eye, you get a cool view of the city, but that’s about it, it’s pretty much the most boring ferris wheel ever.

Those hop on hop off bus tours, unless you’re super keen on getting a ton of neat facts and history lessons thrown at you, just get a map and walk it out. Or invest in a good guide book.  If you want to ride on a double decker, just buy a regular ticket, sit up top and see where you end up, much more fun anyway.

Worth the splurge.

A show in the West End, buy your tickets from the discount kiosk in Leicester (lester) Square. Go for a classic, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, or the Lion King, or ask around what the best show in town is, you’ll be hard pressed to go wrong.

Tower of the London. There are a lot of castles in Europe, and I’ve seen way too many, this is the only one that is worth paying to get in. You get a guided tour, can see where Anne Boylen was beheaded and of course the Crown Jewels. 

Alright I think I hit the high points. Again please give me your feedback on this post, what you liked, didn’t like , how I can improve. What is helpful?

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