A list of very specific tips based on my last experience so that you learn from my mistakes.
1. Beware of transportation to and from the airport – if you’re flying low-cost, chances are you are going to a farther airport, like Stansted. We arrived at almost midnight and i’ts an hour and a half to central London by bus – there are no trains at this hour. Account for this extra time when booking a hotel (pay attention to check-in hours), as well as on the return – make sure you leave early enough to get to the airport on time.
Attention, please: If you arrive late at night at Stansted Airport and are going to get the Airport Express Bus, beware that they have two bus gates, one for the Liverpool route, the other for the Victoria Terminal Station, and after a certain hour they use either gate indiscriminately. Which for someone who isn’t aware, and wants to catch the bus headed to Victoria Station, sees the bus coming and stopping at the gate that heads to Liverpool, may mean they are going to miss their bus, because it parked. at. the. wrong. gate.
At 1:00 a.m.
When transportation is scarce.
And the next bus only arrives 40 minutes later.
And a certain Sir Boyfriend may or may not have to buy a slice of chocolate cake at the airport café to cheer his fuming girlfriend up.
2. BUY TICKETS ONLINE. For everything you can. It’s so much cheaper that way. Buying the Airport Express Bus tickets online was 7,80 £ vs. the 12£ at the airport. Same goes for the historic royal palaces – at least 10% cheaper if you buy online.
- If you’re going to the Tower of London and bought your tickets online, and you’re picking them up at the ticket office on site, beware that it’s at the much shorter, much faster line designated for groups. There’s only a small little warning sign indicating it and it is easily missed.
3. Schedule your museum visits for Friday if you can because they’re open until later. The British Museum and the National Gallery close at 8:30/9pm on Friday instead of the regular 5:30/6pm. I really liked experiencing the National Gallery at night. No need to buy tickets in advance either, the entrance is free.
4. Use a Revolut Card if your currency isn’t the British pound. It has the best exchange rates – by far – and no fees, unlike any of my other cards. If it’s contactless (I think they all are), you can even use it in the subway instead of getting the Oyster card, apparently – we tried that and for some reason didn’t work. If you don’t want to acquire/use a Revolut Card, I’d still recommend you use the tube and…
5. Get an Oyster card/reuse it if you have one from the last visit. If you have a spare card somehow, don’t throw it away – it apparently has no expiration date and you can still use whatever balance you have left, years later. On that note:
6. Stay near a tube station, again, if you can and your budget allows. I found the London Underground to be a very efficient way of transportation: fast, covers a great area, and the waiting time is really minimal. It also was incredibly easy to change lines.
7. Ask around if you don’t know where things are. My ass did stay stranded at the airport for almost an hour because I didn’t ask if the bus was the correct one (see point 1 of this post), would have stayed in the wrong line at the Tower of London, and would definitely been stuck in London or out of 100£ to take a cab do the airport on the way back if Sir Boyfriend didn’t ask for directions for the Victoria Coach Station to catch the bus. So, you know, ask. Or pack a boyfriend who does.
8. Service fee at restaurants – most restaurants add a service fee to your bill, so be prepared to see a bill around 10-15% higher than the menu price. It’s ok not to tip in this case, but of course, that’s left to your discretion.
9. Buy a plug adapter before going. You may need to charge something as soon as you arrive, and it’s cheaper than buying at the airport.
10. Look right when crossing the road. Seriously. Be careful on curves. Better yet, just do like your mama tells you and look both ways and only cross if the area if deserted for 500 miles.
But seriously, watch out.
Photos by Sir Boyfriend.