London is a fasted-paced city with a multi-cultural population. The easy to use public transportation system allows travelers to be independent or to join a tour. The combinations are as limitless as your imagination.
In February, my husband and I moved to London for his job. During the past three months, I have been getting to know London and learning some travel tips for my clients.
I am maintaining my business from abroad with a unique perspective for the US traveler. I am on the same time zone, or within 1 hour, for my clients who travel to Europe or the UK. I am well situated to begin exploring Europe’s niches and culture to help serve my clients better as well.
One of the first things that I noticed, in London, was that this is a popular tourist destination 365 days a year. Even in the doldrums of February, you could see tourist groups, lines for exhibits and folks using the hop on hop off buses to tour the city.
Most clients fly into London through Heathrow International or Gatwick. Heathrow has several methods of transportation to get you into the city.
Heathrow Express is a 15 minute train service that brings you to Paddington station. Depending on where your hotel is located, you can take a taxi, or subway from Paddington to most places in the city.
The Tube is the nick-name for the cities subway system. You can catch the Piccadilly line from Heathrow into the city too. It takes about 60 minutes, again depending on where you are going.
Taxi and private transfer service is also available and the journey last about 45 minute to an hour depending on traffic conditions. This is the most expensive way to travel into the city.
Rental Cars – I would only suggest renting a car if you are traveling away from London not into London. There are congestion fees in London and the traffic and lack of parking make having a rental a bad proposition.
The seven – day travel card or pay as you go Oyster card is the most economical way to travel in London. The Oyster card and travel card are good on the city bus system, the tube and the river boats along the Thames. You can even use it on the Emirates Tram, which takes you from North Greenwich across the river to the Canary Row area, while enjoying panoramic views of the city.
To purchase an Oyster Card, you can go online or you can purchase from any station kiosk. To use it, place the card on the round yellow reader. This will let you top up your card or purchase another week of travel. To use it on a bus or subway line, tap in and tap out at your destination, again with the yellow round card readers, to record your journey and deduct your fare. The fares will top out at £ 6.40 per day with some plans for the bus and subway.
The bus is a great way to see the city. Remember that this is a working city and the transportation system will be crowded in the morning and evening rush hours.
Many of the popular sights offer skip the line time slots for those who pre-purchase tickets. It is worth your time to plan your day with these sights in mind by pre-purchasing entry times.
Churchill War Rooms: This is a fascinating exhibit about Winston Churchill and the underground rooms where he ran the British troops during WWII. Allow at least 3 hours + to see it all. There is a café available for light meals. This is a self-guided exhibit.
Tower of London: This castle exhibit houses the Royal Crown Jewels and takes you through the history of the castle as a home and as a prison. There are also military exhibits in one end. Lines can be very long.
Museums: Most museums in London are free to the pubic. There are, however, bag check lines for security. If you would like to get through these lines faster limit what you plan to carry during the day. If you don’t have a bag, you are likely to get into the exhibits faster.
London is a large city. Make sure that you plan enough time during your stay to see the sights that are most important to you. Group your activities by area of the city and if you plan to go into a museum or castle plan to spend at least 2 -3 hours inside.
If I can help you with your travel to London or the UK, please don’t hesitate to contact me.