Today I’m bringing you a new post about London. I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to tak about London anymore, but I do believe that being there made me realized what was important and what, well… not so much. I think I have some pretty cool tips to share, so stay tuned and enjoy 🙂
1. Travelcard vs.Oyster
There are a few options as far as tube tickets go. You can get a Pay As You Go Oyster Card (PAYG) or a Travelcard. Now, PAYG is just that- each time you scan your card, it takes money you have on your Oyster. It varies according to the zone you’re in, as well as peak and off-peak hours. However, it does have a daily-cap, which, once you reach it, you ride the rest of the time for free. Daily-cap is £6.50.
Travelcard has a few options. You can have it loaded onto your Oyster card, which means that you won’t have any money on it, but you will ride as many times as you want within the zones you’ve paid for, or you can buy it at train stations (you have to have a small photo of you), and that way you get some cool deals on museums. We went for the first option and paid £37 for zones 1-2, for one week. You can get it for 1, 3, 7 days or a month. If you multiply daily-cap with 7 days we were there, it’s £45.5, which means we saved £8.5. Keep in mind, it means that you will benefit from Travelcard, if you use the tube at least 3 times a day, which you probably do.
2. Zones 1-2
I recommend that you find accommodation in zone 1-2 and get a Travelcard for zone 1-2, because everything is within those two zones, even Greenwich. So, you don’t have to spend more money on a Travelcard in a zone that is further away, and accommodation does not have to be crazy expensive, but more on that soon 🙂
3. Free tube maps
On most stations, you can find free tube maps, so you can see where everything is and plan where to get off. You don’t have to use your phone, even though there are some great apps for the tube.
4. Maps at the stations
At each station, you have a map on the wall, telling you all the stations that are in the direction you are going and on that line specific line. So on each station, you have two ways (for two directions), and by each one, there is a map, so you can’t really go in the wrong direction.
5. Going to and from an airport
You must be thinking ‘Well, my airport is not in the first two zones, how am I going to get there?’. Don’t worry! Even though you have a Travelcard, you can ask for additional £5 loaded onto your Travelcard (which actually looks like an Oyster Card) and to get from zone 6 (where we landed on Heathrow) to zone 2, we paid only £1.50, which means that we would have £2 left in the end.
EDIT: On our way back home, we had to take a cab, because the tube doesn’t run until 5:30 in the morning, and we paid £35, which is £17.50 each. Try and compare it to the £1.50 for using a tube.
6. Returning Oystercard
If you return your Oyster Card at the end of your trip, you get a £5 refund, as well as whatever you have left on it. However, you can’t return the Tourist Travelcard you can get at a train station.
7. Camden on Sunday
I’ve read that Sunday is the best day to visit Camden. I am not absolutely sure why, because that is the only day we went, but it’s huge and if you really want to see everything there, don’t plan anything else for the rest of the day.
If you want to bring something back home from your trip, maybe some key chains or magnets, just buy them in Camden. They are the cheapest, plus you can negotiate the price.
9. One market each day
We planned each day so that we had at least one market on that day, and we could eat there. Food is amazing and it’s not crazy expensive. Almost everything is £6. However, if you walk around the food market, you will see that everyone is giving out samples, and you can almost eat only that and be full 😀
10. Leadenhall Market
Don’t spend time on Leadenhall Market, it’s nothing special, and it’s mostly restaurants and crazy expensive shops. At least that was what I thought, and we spent too much time going there and walking around in order to (finally) find something interesting (that didn’t happen).
Getting around London
11. Sygic or Google maps on cell phone
If you want to rent a bike in London, you need a credit card. Renting is £2, where you get 30 minutes
free, and each additional 30 minutes is another £2. Maybe just
rent for 30 minutes to get from one side to another (in a park, for example, like we did), or just steer clear
from those, as time passes pretty fast, and those pounds just keep
Take the most comfortable shoes you own, something you can walk in for days, because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing.
15. Having a rucksack with you
Each day we took one with us, where we had some water and, more importantly, enough room for all the stuff we were going to buy. That way, we didn’t have to walk around London with bags.
What to see
The biggest shopping centre you’ve ever seen (probably). You can find everything there, in one place, but you will be walking for hours. I suggest you leave this for your last day, since you’ll be spending a lot of money 😀 It can be tricky to get to it, but it’s still in zone 2, and right across the shopping centre, there is a new Olympic Park, which is absolutely stunning at night!
If you’re there just for a few days, don’t go into museums, because they’re huge and you will spend a lot of time on them… Better to walk around and see as much as possible. However, a lot of museums are free, so if you do want to see some of them, check those out 🙂
Harrod’s is huge, worth seeing on the outside, but not on the inside…
You’ll end up walking for 20 minutes and not get out of the jewelry
department. Go to Stratford instead (see number 15)!
19. Changing of the guard
This event is on odd days during winter, and every day during
summer at 11:30. Make sure you stand by the fence right in front of the
Buckingham palace, or else you won’t see a thing. Everything happens in
the front yard (if I can call it that) of the palace, not on the street. That’s the mistake we made the first time we went, and we had to get back 2 days later to stand closer. It’s not really that special, but it’s cool to see, especially if you’re in London for the 1st time.
20. Night walks
Everything looks better at night! Even if you do visit Tower Bridge and
London Eye and Big Ben during daytime, just go back at night and you
won’t regret it!
Soho is cool if you’re interested in street performers, quite cheap food
(we ate Gyoza (12pcs) for only £3), theatres (which are also
quite expensive). It’s quite a cool part of the city. It’s kind of bohemian and not like any other ‘posh’ part of the city.
We’re back to markets. The offer the best food! And a huge variety, too. We thought that Borough market and Camden had the best food, but everyone speaks about Brick Lane, as well, but we didn’t get to see that. It’s the cheapest (if you don’t feel like eating at McDonald’s every day) and the yummyest food you’ll find (if you don’t have the money to go to restaurants).
23. Street food
You may think that this is the same as markets, but there are actually a lot of places you can eat on the street for not a lot of money.
Tastecard is something we discovered on Pinterest, and immediately knew we wanted to get it. Basically what it is is a card that you can use in a bunch of restaurants like Pizza Express, Azzurro, Feng Sushi and more, and get 50% off and 2-for-1 deals. The trick is that you have to book a table, even though we didn’t and still could use it, and there are specific days you can use it on.
However, you can get some amazing deals, especially if there are two of you. It is £1 for a trial period of 90 days for the Tastecard, and with it, you get even more deals in hotels, theatres, cinemas, etc., or you can get the original Tastecard for free for 30 days. However, make sure to cancel it before the 30/90 days are over, because they will automatically charge you a crazy amount for the next month.
Also, you have to be able to use an English address to sign up for it, so make sure to ask your hosts if it was possible. The card takes about 5 days to arrive, so make sure to order it on time. If you would like to go to a restaurant at least once during your stay, it’s absolutely worth getting. It saved us £13 in just one meal, and it was £1. Think about it 😉
25. Chinatown food
If you’re in Soho, and you like Chinese food, go to Chinatown. There are several places that offer an All-You-Can-Eat meals for not that much money. If you wonder how it works, you simply go in there, buy ‘a plate’ (ours was £8.90) and you can pile it up, as well as go back for more as many times as you want. It’s an amazing deal, considering the amount of food you can eat, but I wasn’t really a fan of the food, since Chinese restaurants in Croatia use Chinese spices and the taste is absolutely amazing, when there it seemed like typical European food, made to look Chinese. I don’t know how to explain it, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.
Airbnb is a website where you can find really affordable accommodation. You can always check what other people said about a specific host you find, plus they always list all the things they offer for you to use like towels, essentials, wifi, TV, etc. We were lucky enough to find some amazing hosts- Omar and Tara, who are right at the end of zone 2, and were incredibly helpful with everything. They helped us find our way around the town, they even gave us some of the tips I’m telling you here. Here is their link, if you’d like to check them out. If you decide to go there, please do let them know that I’ve sent you 🙂 For a total of 7 nights we stayed there, we spent altogether $354, or $177 each, which I thought was quite a good deal in London, especially for 7 nights. Also, if you book in advance, it is quite cheaper 🙂
27. Using a kitchen
Make sure you have a kitchen you can use in your accommodation… You can
eat breakfast and dinner there, and not spend a huge amount on eating
out. We actually took some food from home, so we saved a lot that way. However, stores like Sainsbury’s are pretty cheap, so you don’t really have to worry about bringing food from home.