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Getting Around London and the UK

I'm planning a trip to the UK for May 2022 for my wife and myself. We will be staying primarily in London (more than likely Dalston) and going to museums and some of the Magnificent Seven such as Highgate. We will be doing a day trip to Paris, spending a few days in Edinburgh and Glasgow, a weekend in Amsterdam, a day trip to Warhammer World in Nottingham, a day trip to Puzzlewood Forest, and partaking in "Tor's Tour of Sacred England" for 8 days. We will arrive on April 28th and depart on May 31, so it will be a little over a month stay for us. My question is mainly about the best way to get around and to these places. I've seen something about an Oyster card, but is that primarily for getting around London? We will probably take the train to places like Edinburgh, Amsterdam, and such, so would that be separate from Oyster cards? Are there different rail lines that take you to Edinburgh, Paris, and Amsterdam? What are the best ones to take for getting to Puzzlewood Forest and Warhammer World? Would renting a car for some of these be better than taking a train? Sorry in advance for so many questions but this is probably a once in a lifetime trip so I want to make sure I have everything covered well in advance so that things go smoothly once we are there.

Posted by
2268 posts

I've seen something about an Oyster card, but is that primarily for
getting around London?

Yes, it is a way of buying tickets. You will find everything need to know at https://tfl.gov.uk but I'm sure there are many answers to be found on this forum as well.

We will probably take the train to places like Edinburgh, Amsterdam,
and such, so would that be separate from Oyster cards?

Yes, an Oyster card is only valid for travel within London.

Are there different rail lines that take you to Edinburgh, Paris, and
Amsterdam?

Yes, they are in different directions, so different rail lines needed. Although the trains to Paris and Amsterdam share the same line until Lille.

Trains to Edinburgh are run by LNER and to Amsterdam and Paris by Eurostar.

Edit: I'm not sure I understand the question, but just in case: A rail line is not the equivalent of an airline.

Posted by
8 posts

It is not worth going all the way to Amsterdam (either by 5 hour train
or 1 hour and 20 minute flight ) for just one night.

You're right, I looked at my itinerary and I have penciled in a weekend for Amsterdam. Traveling up on Friday and returning Monday morning. I have updated that now in my post.

Posted by
8 posts

Yes, an Oyster card is only valid for travel within London.

As long as there are funds available on the card, I can use this card at any time and/or day over the course of the month we are there, correct?

Posted by
6064 posts

Think of it this way: the Oyster Card covers public transportation within London. That is, it covers the Underground, (aka the Tube) not any of the regular railways in Britain. It is confusing to many since often the Underground Stops are co-located or contiguous to the main railway stations.

You can add money to them if you're running low, and get a refund of any unused funds at the end of the trip at the airport.

Posted by
1866 posts

Yes, as long as there are funds on the Oyster card you can use it any time. You're not limited to Oyster you can use a contactless bank card or Apple Pay, Google Pay (and others).

https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/how-to-pay-and-where-to-buy-tickets-and-oyster/pay-as-you-go/contactless-and-mobile-pay-as-you-go

World of Warhammer is in Nottingham - that’s an easy train ride from London.

Puzzlewood Forest is three hours from London by train plus a pre-booked taxi ride. Maybe impractical for a day trip?

Posted by
21243 posts

With the Oyster card you need to remember to tap in both at the beginning and the end. It is easy to forget to tap out at the end but just watch the locals. For the longer train rides it is very good idea to book in advance to take advantage of discount fares. Unfortunately the trains in the UK tend to be more expensive than other European trains so book in advance and especially the EuroStar if you go to Amsterdam.

Posted by
122 posts

Jazz, you say it’s not worth it but my first time in Amsterdam I took a 13 hour bus from London to just spend 12 hours in Amsterdam before catching a 13 hour night bus back. It was completely worth it to me. So “worth it” is all relative.

An Oyster card is handy for getting around London on the Tube, regional rail, and buses. For the bus and the tube, they only charge you up to 3 trips a day. Any trip after that is free, so it’s very convenient for site seeing around the city. You can buy an Oyster card when you get to London from a self kiosk and when you leave you can use a kiosk to get your £5 diposit back from the card. Or you can keep it for the next time you visit London as the value on the card never expires.

You will most likely take the Eurostar train to Paris and Amsterdam. It is convenient to either fly or take the train to Amsterdam as their airport is easily connected to their rail line that takes you straight into central Amsterdam in 15 minutes.

Posted by
8 posts

Puzzlewood Forest is three hours from London by train plus a
pre-booked taxi ride. Maybe impractical for a day trip?

By pre-booked taxi ride, do you mean an actual taxi or a bus? Is there a public transit bus route that can take one from the train station to Puzzlewood or close to it?

Posted by
274 posts

Seat61.com is a great site for learning about train travel he details all the links to routes and how to purchase. Generally buying tickets 3 months in advance gets you the best fares.

Posted by
8 posts

I got more than a little confused by your itinerary.

We will be staying in London for the majority of the trip. We have an 8 day guided tour package for "Sacred England" that takes us to places like Stonehenge, Dartmoor, and Glastonbury and transportation and lodging are included. The rest of the time that we are there we will be venturing out on our own to different places.

Our first 1.5 weeks we will be staying in London and taking a day trip to Paris and to Puzzlewood Forest and other places around London. The next week is the Sacred England tour which begins and ends at Heathrow airport. The week we return to London from the tour, we will spend a few days doing stuff in London then traveling to Edinburgh and Glasgow for the weekend, returning to London on a Monday. We will spend the rest of the week in London, with a day trip to Warhammer World one day that week, and then a weekend trip to Amsterdam. We will return to London and then depart a day or two later for the U.S. The Sacred England, Edinburgh/Glasgow, and Amsterdam trips are set in stone, but the day trips can be adjusted as needed.

For example whilst you may make a day-trip from London to Nottingham, it might make more sense to make it a stop on the way to Edinburgh

Would that need to be planned when purchasing tickets for the trip from London to Edinburgh? As in, would we have to buy a ticket from London to Nottingham and then a separate ticket from Notthingham to Edinburgh?

Posted by
2268 posts

Would that need to be planned when purchasing tickets for the trip
from London to Edinburgh? As in, would we have to buy a ticket from
London to Nottingham and then a separate ticket from Notthingham to
Edinburgh?

It depends on the kind of ticket you have, the cheapest tickets will not allow that but there are more expensive tickets that will allow it. Although, if you have a bit of luggage when returning from Scotland, it might be easier to do a day trip to Nottingham.

Posted by
2982 posts

Your itinerary has an awful lot of back and forthing between London and other places. You might save a lot more time by trying to find a more circular route. In particular, your trips to the continent. Instead of going London, Paris, London. London Amsterdam London. Could you do London, Paris, Amsterdam, London? You'd save a couple of long train trips and at least one hotel change..

Posted by
26041 posts

With all that running around on the trains beyond the guided tour - Scotland up and back, the New Forest up and back, Nottingham up and back, and maybe more(?) we need to find ways to save you money.

The Oyster card is not necessarily the best if this is the one and only trip you will make to London. Contactless in one of the ways possible may be a better answer. You have a year to figure it out - that's a good thing.

As far as all those train trips all around the country. First question - is it only the two of you? Do you prefer to split up and do some things apart or will you be together all the time on the trains? Are you both over 65? Do either of you have mobility issues?

You may find that one or another Railcard which applies discounts to certain tickets will help. It is pretty complicated which is why I asked the questions I did. Again we are lucky to have time to play with....

Posted by
8 posts

Your itinerary has an awful lot of back and forthing between London
and other places. You might save a lot more time by trying to find a
more circular route. In particular, your trips to the continent.
Instead of going London, Paris, London. London Amsterdam London. Could
you do London, Paris, Amsterdam, London? You'd save a couple of long
train trips and at least one hotel change..

I've thought about that, but the issue I have is that I have sleep apnea and have to use a cpap machine. London is our base of operations for the trip, and we will be renting an apartment there for the month so that we can leave most of our belongings behind and travel light for the outside London trips. For Paris, I'm only interested in visiting the Père Lachaise Cemetery and grabbing something to eat, so I wouldn't want to lug around a cpap machine as well as an extra bag for clothing all day and then catch a train to Amsterdam later in the evening.

Posted by
2982 posts

OP, many train stations in Europe, including the Gare du Nord in Paris ( the station you would use) have luggage lockers for a nominal daily price.

Posted by
2268 posts

And both Eurostar and Thalys use Gare du Nord so you can put your things in a locker there while you explore Paris.

Posted by
8 posts

As far as all those train trips all around the country. First question - is it only the two of you? Do you prefer to split up and do some things apart or will you be together all the time on the trains? Are you both over 65? Do either of you have mobility issues?

Yeah, we will be together when we go most places. We are both under 50 and neither of us have mobility issues. Yet, anyway!

Posted by
8 posts

OP, many train stations in Europe, including the Gare du Nord in Paris ( the station you would use) have luggage lockers for a nominal daily price.

Ah, I did not know that. That may change some things then. This is why I joined this site! lol

Do Edinburgh and Glasgow also have these lockers?

Posted by
26041 posts

No lockers at any UK station since IRA terrorism some years ago.

In both Glasgow (Central) and Edinburgh (Waverley) the main stations have a left luggage office, which is contracted out to companies on the station. The Excess Baggage Company, https://www.excess-baggage.com/ is in Glasgow Central and Left Baggage Company in Edinburgh Waverley. https://www.left-baggage.co.uk/index/locations

Bags are x-rayed and received and stored and retrieved by a person.

Posted by
3319 posts

Looking at your itinerary, I would highly recommend getting a fairly large map and putting pins in it to mark all the places you wish to go. That way you can travel in geographic order as much as possible and not backtrack. Make use of the rome2rio.com website to find out the best ways to get from place to place. For train tickets, I suggest thetrainline.com - you can buy tickets for any rail line in Europe all in once place without having to worry about which ones to find online. You also won't have any trouble with your credit card as sometimes happens with charging things for certain train companies in Europe. Personally I would only rent a car for outside of big cities in the UK where public transportation will waste a lot of time - it sounds like you have a few things on your list that fall under that category. I believe that most of your other questions have been answered already but wanted to throw these websites your way because they can be extremely helpful.
In addition, since your trip is so long, you may benefit from an app like TripIt - it will take all of your confirmation emails and import them into a sequential timeline in the app that has all of the information for your hotels, flights, car rentals, train tickets, etc., in one place. It's a life saver and I use it for all of my trips now so I don't have to carry reams of paper around with all of my confirmations.

Posted by
1445 posts

What are "The Magnificent Seven"??, and do you mean Highgate Cemetery?

The Oyster Card is very convenient, if expensive.
It's still cheaper than buying a ticket for every single journey in London, though.

I agree with others that you have too much back-tracking.
London-Paris-Amsterdam-London is so much easier.
You can leave luggage at most hotels as soon as you arrive then check in later, so it wouldn't be difficult to bring along your CPap machine.

You can't do justice to Edinburgh and Glasgow in one weekend...perhaps pick one or the other?
(I vote for Edinburgh....)

Another point: be sure to buy train tickets well in advance to get the best prices.

Sounds like a great trip!

Posted by
26041 posts

A pair under 50 travelling all around those train trips in the UK might consider buying a Two Together Railcard. https://www.twotogether-railcard.co.uk/

It costs £30 and you need a passport sized photo each, and you can get 30 percent off virtually all tickets including Advance tickets (the least expensive but least flexible) on all routes (except private companies such a preserved railways) as long as you are travelling after 9:30 am on weekdays, and valid on all times on weekends and on bank holidays.

You can save actual big lumps of money. Use Advance tickets with a Two Together Railcard and you are laughing...