Getting around, London
Before you arrive, you should ensure that you have done your assignment of getting around.
Please do the following:
- if you're not an EU national, have your visa ready for inspection at customs. Check (on your visa) if you need to register with the police in London, which you should do within one week of your arrival.
- Have a route map of London. You'll be walking A LOT. it's very handy to tell your way around.
- make your own search for accommodation beforehand. You have three options: Either look for a student accommodation office which is expensive if you're a budget student; arrange with a friend to stay with them temporarily; or stay at a budget hotel. there's a wide variety of budget hotel in king's cross, victoria and paddington and they're all within easy access to central london.
- check the address you want to arrive at on TfL, that will save you time asking people around even though it's handy to ask
- good to have some cash with you for transportation, one-week supply of food and pocket money. make sure your credit card can be used internationally. i've met few students who had no clue that their cards didn't work at international stores! better to have either MasterCard or Visa, or check with your bank. you may use traveller's cheque though i don't recommend it, as you need to look for an exchange bureau to use them.
- check your passport to be valid for 3 months at least. some embassies require 6 months.
i know this should come from common knowledge, but i'm stunned when i find out that many students are travel virgin. that's ok...why VT is here;^)
Fondest memory: when my friend picked me up from the airport and my two big 'arab' suitcases was my fondest memory of arrival. we hugged tightly! then he dropped me off at another friend's house that evening.
This is a special way to travel around London, its so easy to hop on and off them as they go around corners etc. Not always the best for health and safety probably, as you have to be quite daring at times, but it is more convenient.
Update (Nov 2005)
The Routemasters are being phased out now.. a few will still do historical tours, but the every day commuters will now have modern double decker buses and bendy buses to use only now. Such a pity, but it all comes down to economics :(
Update (December 2006)
If you are keen to ride in a routemaster, you still can! Everey night I see the no. 9 going from Picadilly Circus to the Royal Albery Hall... and it's a route master! It also goes to Trafalgar Square.
It could have been a scene from urban Africa, suburban America or any number of places. Instead, it was simply in the back blocks of London.
Fondest memory: I reflected that on my first visit to London that I couldn't help but notice from my base at Maida Vale that it seemed as though the Indians and Pakistanis were running the railways. The tube would certainly grind to a halt without them.
This time I sort of saw an irony in black people being booked by another black person for a parking infringement. When you consider that this scenario would have been virtually unthinkable 50 years ago I thought it was a reflection on how things had changed globally.
The best way to get to know the city and see all of the popular sites is the sightseeing bus! This is the perfect thing to do on your first day visiting. Prices are from 16 pounds and the ticket is good for 24 hours! You can hop on/ off anytime you want.
I would highly recommend seeing London, or at least central London, simply by walking around. Your get the real experience of the city, and you save a lot of money too.
I bought a map months before I left and marked all the locations I wanted to hit while I was there and despite the short time I was in London, I left feeling satisfied with all that I managed to see. Although this meant that the trip was extremely well organized, since we were on foot we still had much spontaneity, allowing us to stop and visit whatever we discovered along the way.
Hyde Park, Abbey Road, and Piccadilly Circus, were among my favourites, as were Soho, Notting Hill (where we stayed), and the path along the Thames River.
Fondest memory: One of my fondest memories has got to be seeing "Guys and Dolls" with Ewan McGregor at the Piccadilly Theatre, and crossing Abbey Road in my bare feet (like Paul of course).
(I guess there's no use mentioning that I'm a music fan!)
The Giant Peenarse (spelling changed for firewall reasons) or those who are a little less vulgar would call it the giant Gherkin has saved many a traveller lost in London. Don't think any less of me for calling that... honestly hand on my heart you can ask any person in london where this is and they'll know exactly what you're talking about!
Like a Lighthouse saving sailors on stormy nights this piece of architecture shows up like a beacon on the london skyline. Basically if you're ever lost head in the direction of this and it will take you to the City of London near Liverpool St station. On the way you may even find other landmarks that will guide you closer to your destination but if comepletely lost just remember...
"Look for the Giant Dong in the skyline"
Favorite thing: Buy a tube pass. Almost all the major sites are within walking distance of a tube stop. London is so easy to get around in I couldnt believe it. Buying a tube pass will keep you from having to pay cab fare which adds up so quickly.
If you need to leave bags, luggage etc in London whilst sight seeing then I find that the short trek down to the Victoria Coach Station from the train station is worth a saving of approximately £4 on a small backpack left for over 2hrs.
For more information:
The underground has a long and interesting history, with some parts of it being over a century old! A nice thing to do if you have time is to get a one day travel card and go and explore!
On some platforms there is some lovely artwork to be seen, namely Gloucester Road and Charing Cross. You can also look into yesteryear by trying to locate the original station for the British Museum, which is found in the tube tunnel between Holborn and Tottenham Court Road (Central line). You could also try and see if you can see the old Lords Station, near St Johns Wood (Metropolitan line)
I haven?t seen them yet, I guess being a commuter doesn?t allow me the pleasures of much free time on the tube. But I will do this one day for sure!
Favorite thing: Buying the London A-Z map guide was one of the best investments I made. It saved me so many times when I took a wrong turn. There is no need to buy them ahead of time, they're available in every souvenir and convience shop in London at a fair price. I think the spiral bound editions are best, but I got around well enough with my paperback edition. This book also includes a London rail map, a cinema and theatre map, and a Tube map.
The Millenium Wheel
Fondest memory: The views across River Thames...
How the new blends in with the old.. both holding their own, and attracting their own following.. eg St Pauls Cathedral, and Swiss Reinsurance 'gherkin' tower !
The tranquillity delivered by the gorgeous & ample River Thames.
The layout of Heathrow airport is huge. If you're used to US airports like LAX, McCarran and SFO like I am, then Heathrow will give you a workout. The most important thing I can say is to get a free luggage cart the first time you see one and put all your luggage on it, trust me, even if you have luggage with wheels, you will want the cart!
This goes for arrivals and departures as the walk can be long both ways.
Why do I care? When we flew to Heathrow last week from LAX, it was less than 500 feet from the LAX ticket counter to the security checkpoint, and then less than 300 feet to the gate from security. I'd say that from deplaning at Heathrow to getting to the Heathrow Express, it was a good 1/2 mile...
Don't wear yourself out just getting out of the airport, the carts are free and are there for a reason! Just be carefull on some of the floor areas as they can be slippery and slanted - it can make navigating the cart a bit tricky.
The Tower of London is so very cool. It is so incredibly rich in history that you can say entertained for most of the afternoon. Plus, in combination with the statistics of who all died there and how much royalty graced its walls, if for nothing else - it's just plain cool!
Take a guided tour. The yeoman warders add alot of spice to the tour and it doesn't last but maybe 45 mins. Most of the grounds are open for self guiding.
You can see: The crown jewels, the ravens that guard the grounds superstitiously, artifacts galore, and much much more!
Also - IF YOU ARE INTO THEATRE...you must check out SHAKESPEARE'S GLOBE....I am a theatre major myself - so this was amazing for me. They have restored it to what they believe it was like in its original day. And even for a modern theatre its impecable. Stand on the floor like a groundling for a real show!
Fondest memory: I took a double-decker bus tour through the city. Although I was jet-lagged and kept nodding off, it was incredibly relaxig and took you through most all of London. It was nice b/c I didn't have to mess with actually going to all of those places by foot. I saw what I needed to see and that was that. The weather was magnificent (mid september) and it was all in all just absolutely lovely. This particular tour cost about 16 pounds, and included a river boat tour of the Thames - but I never made it.
Definitely let someone else drive you around and tell you everything you need to know. But by all means - experience some local culture as well.
Have you ever experience or even imagine, those final days when you are in UK and you suddenly realised there is so much to see in London but you miss?
Or for those who coming to London in such a hurry and short trip then i recomended the best solution.
SIGHTSEEING BUS TOUR!
Fondest memory: Get on this hop on hop off anytime anywhere whenever you want.
"Really nice bloke he was........anyway guv...you remember Fred Housego.?...he was one of us cabbies and he won 'Mastermind' once, you want to know why ? You get in one of our cabs and your cabbie has to have the 'knowledge' don't he ? Know what that means ? You must know every bleeding street within six miles of Charing Cross, every bleedin' square, bleedin' club, bleedin' hospital, bleedin' hotel , bleedin' Theatre, government and public building, bleedin' railway station, bleedin' police station, court, bleedin' diplomatic building, bleedin' important places of worship, cemetery, crematoria, park and open space, sports and leisure centre, place of learning, restaurant and bleedin' historic building.
That's why us cabbies are the most knowledgeable cab drivers in the world.
And another thing... they may be called black cabs, but we can paint them whatever bleedin' colour we like.
No I'm going south of the Bloody river, tonight ; I'm on me way home. Goodnight.
oi....guv...where's my tip ?