London Travel Guide
London is the Capital of the United Kingdom, yet, whenever we visit this modern city it feels like we have come to a different country - probably the reason why we are so fond of it. Around 230 languages are spoken here, with many residents living here from different cultures and communities throughout the capital (around 55%). It is one of the most visited cities in the world, and also one of the most expensive. The River Themes runs straight through the heart of the vibrant city, with famous attractions such as Big Ben, the London Eye and the Tower of London all located on it's riverbanks. There is so much to see and do in London, and despite the cost, it can still be an affordable place to visit, just so long as you budget properly and spend wisely.
Whenever we visit London we take the 'MEGABUS' - It is a cheap mode of transport and also efficient. You can get a one way for as cheap as £1! The bus leaves from various cities throughout the UK, please check their website for more details and make sure you book a few weeks in advance to secure the cheapest travel fare. Using the EasyBus to get from the airport or to the airport is the cheapest way with fares starting at just £2 depending on when you book it and the time of day. Other way of transport is by train, but train travel in the UK is not cheap! If you are travelling by train, make sure you book plenty in advance and also try using the 'split train ticket' website - this can help by reducing your cost by sometimes half!
When we visit London, we usually take our fold-up bike along with us and put it under the bus. It is an amazing way to see the city and transport is free. Although of course, this is not always possible for everyone, so instead why not try hiring out one of the many bikes found in the city of London? They are very simple to use and can also cost effective. It costs just £2 to access and hire out the bikes for 24 hours and the first half an hour is free of charge, after this, every half an hour will cost a further £2, for example, if you ride the bike for 4 hours this will cost you an extra £14. So to avoid this cost, you should cycle for no more than half an hour. After every half hour you should dock up your bike and then hire out another bike. You will already have paid the 24 hour bike hire charge and won't need to pay for this again. You must pay for your bike via the screen at the docking stations using a credit/debit card. The bike must also be returned within 24 hours to avoid a £300 fine. It should also be noted that London is NOT cycle friendly! There are many drivers who don't care about cyclists and it can be a dangerous place to cycle - prepare yourself for lots of road rage! There are cycle paths within the city, but not everywhere. London is beginning to increase the cycle paths withing the city, but it will be a long time before it is a great cycle city.
The Tube and bus-
The tube is the next cost effective way of travel around the city, it is fast and goes to almost anywhere you want to go in London. You can download various tube maps online or pick one up in the city itself. Tickets usually start at around £4.80, or if you have an Oyster card it will cost just £2.30. An Oyster card can be applied for online and can work as a pay-as-you-go scheme. You can top up a minimum of £5. The popular red bus in London can also be used with an oyster card and prices are the same as the tube.
Catching a famous black cab in London is not cheap, for a ten - twenty minute journey (about 2 miles), expect to pay as much as £8.80 - £14 and even more on the weekend and evenings. You can hail one of the iconic black cabs from the side of the road, or at any of the designated taxi bays. To know if a taxi is available, check to see if the Taxi sign on the top is illuminated yellow.
Like most places in the United Kingdom, eating out in London is expensive. However, there are ways in which London can be a cheap place to eat. One place you must visit is Camden Market - a place serving excellent quality street food for prices of around £6 per order. You can easily buy a cheap lunch (A meal deal) at many of the local shops such as Sainsbury's local or Tesco express. The meal deal consists of a sandwich, a drink and a snack item, prices start from just £3. If you do fancy eating out at a nice restaurant you can get something called a 'Tastecard'. If you are only visiting London temporarily you can try out a one month free of charge trial Tastecard. A 90 day card trial will cost just £1. This card will give your offers on various restaurants in London and for other places in the UK. Offers are usually two for one or half price and have exceptions, such as a minimum of two people must eat there or you have to call in advance. Prices for a sit down meal typically start at about £12 and can get considerably more.
Accommodation in London is very expensive, when possible it is much cheaper to stay outside of London and plan day trips rather than overnight stays using the Megabus. Budget hostels aren't too expensive and will typically start from £10 for a dorm room (check out hostelworld for the best deals). Private rooms will cost considerably more, starting at about £35 in the outskirts of London. Couchsurfing is a great option to save money whilst in London, plus an excellent opportunity to live with some locals.
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
You don't need to pay to go inside Big Ben to see it, just standing outside of it is enough (for us anyway. The houses of parliament and Big Ben together are beautifully constructed, almost like something that should be in Harry Potter.
- Buckingham Palace and the iconic guards
For us personally we feel that Buckingham Palace is not our favorite place in London, although certainly worth a visit! It is the Queens home after all. Guards stand outside of the building inside the gates and in April to July, at 11:30 am for 45 minutes,you can watch the changing of the guards. During the winter time it happens less, weather permitting.
- Trafalgar Square
A busy area in London, full of Coffee Shops and popular restaurants and shops. It is also surrounded by many museums and historical buildings. A great place to watch people and see the many iconic red buses of London. Here you can see famous features such as Nelsons Column and fountains.
- Pass the Tower of London and Walk over the Tower Bridge
Passing over the river Themes, this is one of London's most famous landmarks. Walking over the bridge is free and a great way to get an amazing view of London next to the River as well as seeing it's wonderful construction.
- Walk down China Town
located in the heart of London, this neighborhood is full of authentic restaurants and interesting shops. Home to a large Asian community, who also gather together for events throughout the year, including the popular Chinese New Year . It is the perfect place to visit to have a taste of something different and from the east.
- Visit one of many London Museums
Museums in London, like most museums in the UK have a free entry. There are many museums in London to visit to suit all. Such as the Natural History (our favourite), The British museum,The Tate Modern, the Science museum and also many wartime history museums
- Platform 9 3/4
Found at Kings Cross Station is the famous Harry Potter setting. For any Harry Potter fan you will know that the entrance to Hogwarts was through platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station. You can take pictures for free or have your photo taken by a professional. There is also a quirky shop selling everything Harry Potter and wizardry imaginable. Such as Hogwarts scarfs, wands and interesting food.
- Visit Westminster Abbey
This Gothic style Abbey is a must-see living pageant of British history. The Abbey has seen over 16 Royal weddings and is the burial location of 17 monarchs. Tourists must pay an entrance fee of £20, however, if you are here to worship, you can visit the Abbey free of charge (please note this only consists of a seat inside the church), this is applicable all day Sundays; Weekdays at 7:30, 12:00, and 17:00; and Saturdays at 8:00, 9:00, 15:00. You can also watch the Evensong services starting at 15:00 or 17:00.
- Walk through Regents Park
One of the Royal Parks of London this park is the biggest grass area in central London. The park offers a variety of activities, including the London Zoo, a boating lake, stunning gardens to explore and an open air theater. This park is our favourite park in London to visit.
- Walk through Camden Town
This colourful neighborhood has something to offer for everyone. Full of interesting shops with the outside interior like nowhere else you have seen and food you can taste from all over the world. It is the prefect place to grab some lunch, do some shopping, listen to live music or just gaze out over the canal and take many photos.
- Ride the London Eye
The world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel at 135 meters high, this wheel has excellent views from the top of the city of London. One of London's most popular tourists attractions, located right next to the river Thames with an entry cost of £20 (pre-booked online).
- Visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum
Located at one of the world's most famous addresses on Baker Street. According to stories, 221B Baker Street was the London home of Sherlock Holmes and his loyal friend Dr Watson. Step back into the Victorian times by visiting this museum, featuring life-size waxworks from Sherlock Holmes’ most famous adventures. Entry costs £15. You can also visit the shop free and buy many quirky objects and souvenirs.
- St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral is an iconic building for London with its world-famous dome structure. Inside is a rich amount of history, beautiful interior, and religious and spiritual worshiping that takes place here. An entrance fee costs £18 (£16 if you pre-book online) and includes access to the Stone Gallery or the Golden Gallery for great views of London
- Ride the Tallest Tunnel Slide in the World
Located in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the ArcelorMittal Orbit - The world's tallest, fastest and longest slide. A ride on the slide costs just £15 (booked online) and includes the slide and a observatory tower view. The ride only lasts for about 30 seconds, but you will reach up to 15mph with sharp twists and turns to exhilarate you.
- Walk up to the Tower of London
One of London's most famous landmarks and a must-see attraction. Entry to the tower bridge costs £23.10 (booked online) and included in this cost you can walk right to the top, view the Crown Jewels, walk across a glass floor, see a spectacular views across the river Thames and the structure of the Tower Bridge, and even take a picture with a guard.
- Visit London Dungeon
A thrilling experience into some of England's most horrible and gruesome history. You can see, hear, smell and feel some of London's darkest stories played before your eyes, with torturers and judges to local legends. Entry costs are £25.
- Watch a Show at the Theater
London is famous for it's popular theater productions of musicals, plays, drama and fringe theater. Many people from across the country visit London just to watch some of the spectacular shows. London's top theater choices to watch include, 'The Lion King', 'The Phantom of the Opera', 'Wicked' and 'Mama Mia'. Many famous actors play a part in these many shows and watching at least one is worth doing. Prices vary but are very cheap with offers and deals regularly on. (around £15 - £20)