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Hey Guys! Advice Wanted--London next week

Hey guys,

I wanted to reach out and ask for your advice and tips on how best to get around London and suggestions of what to see and do.

I'm traveling to London for a week on Wednesday. I'd like to know what's the best and most economical option for getting around the city during the week? I understand there is an Oyster card. Should I grab a pass for 7 days or just pay with cash each time I use public transport? I will be relying on public transport primarily.

I'm staying in Paddington by Hyde Park. So I'll be right by the train station. I'd like to see the usual sights of course. I have a very loose itinerary. In fact, no itinerary. I'm up for anything. Should I look into snagging a London pass plus Oyster card for the week? I saw them on one of the travel sights for $230 for 6 days of "access" to both sites and travel I assume it was.

This is my first time in London and it's going to be just me and my friend. I'm open and up for any and all suggestions on things to see and do and the most cost efficient way to get around and see the sights.

Thanks for your time and I appreciate any input!

Posted by
28145 posts

Scratch around the search (yeah, yeah, it works terribly, but it srt of works), and limit yourself to the last 6 months and search on London Pass.

You will find that most people - but not all - say it is a waste of money. It includes more zones of travel than you will need, and except for a very few attractions - Westminster Abbey, The London Eye (although there are several skyscrapers now with better views and free roof gardens), the Tower of London - almost all museums in London are free anyway.

As you will be in London for a week, perhaps you will journey out of London for a day or two?

Since there are two of you, you may want to avail yourself of the Two for One deals available at the more expensive attractions which involve having the right type of transportation ticket. See the Days Out website for what you can see and what the conditions are https://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/2for1-london

Posted by
3706 posts

Nobody can say whether a pass will save you money until you work out the point-to-point prices for comparisons.

https://tfl.gov.uk/ is the government-operated guide to public transport and should explain the intricacies. That includes what an Oyster card is (essentially an electronic wallet) and how the zone prices complicate life.

Google Maps is getting better at sorting out itineraries and comparing various modes of transport. Not perfect, but very helpful.
https://support.google.com/maps/answer/144349?hl=en&ref_topic=3092425

You will feel more confident in the big city if you start practicing now at home.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks guys, very good info.

Harley, I will check that out. Good idea for the both of us.

Nigel, I was thinking of leaving London for a day or two. Maybe even hopping a Ryan Air to Ireland or something? Or even renting a car for a day or two and travel around the countryside. I'd really like to see more of the U.K. and possibly Ireland. Also, regarding the pass, that's what I was wondering. If I will actually need all that it's going to offer or if it would be more economical to not use it.

Southam,

Thanks for that resource. I'm going to check it out. I appreciate it. Yeah, you make it a good point. Since I'm kind of just traveling loosely it hard to predict how much I'll use it to be able to decide if it's worth it. I walk a lot, too. I walk up to 10-15 miles some days so I may not even use public transport as much for that reason as well. Nothing beats walking when exploring a city. But obviously for the further points of the city I'm going to want to take the subway.

Even though I'm going with my buddy. I think there will be days were we split up and do our own thing. You know how it gets sometimes being with your mate for too long, haha.

Posted by
8016 posts

You can visit inside Buckingham Palace, the State Rooms and Gardens, now through Oct.1. See if you can still buy a timed entry ticket for your dates.

Posted by
2576 posts

Even if you love to walk you will be using the tube if you want to get around. London is huge. And yes, you must get an Oyster card. We just returned from the RS London tour. For the few days before the tour, before we got our Oyster card, using the tube was very expensive. You don't say what you like but here are some high points: Tower of London-be there when it opens! See the opening ceremony, then go in. You'll have it to yourself. A few hours later you'll share it with 10,000 of your newest friends. Westminster Abbey-once again, get there early and if you can sign on for a tour, you will get more out of it. Windsor Castle-this is a tube then train ride but really worth it. Imperial War Museum-great if you like military history. And so much more-museums, theater, pubs. Your idea of getting into the countryside, Ireland? You don't have time, unless you want to spend a day in the airport, and trying to navigate out of London (you will get very lost). And don't minimize what it's like to drive on the left. I can't get it right so I avoid driving in the UK.

Posted by
1176 posts

Have you bought the RS London guide book, if you have not I would buy it. It is filled with lots of ideas, suggestions, tips, sites, and everything you need for a full week in London. Have you looked at the RS week long tour which lists all the activities they do during the tour week. This will give you a good idea of what to see and do.

Have you considered taking the London Walks which is 10 pounds, last about 2 hours each walk and they include pub walks in the evening. Look on their website for the listing of all the walks around London. If you like you can take a day trip to Hampton Court, Windsor castle or even Bath for a day. Have you considered buying tkts to see a play, I am going to see Wicked when I go to London next month. I have been to London and there are tons of things to see. Tons of walks, ride up the Thames river and the Tower of London, the National Gallery of Art, British museum and the Tate Modern, Churchills War Rooms ( even if you are not a museum person there are amazing museums to see in London). Tons of stuff on WWII. Walk and see the London Eye.

I could go on and on for pages about London. Read the guide book, look at the on line RS scrapbooks, look at the free YouTube videos there are of London. This will give you a better understanding of what there is to see and do in London.

I hope this helps.

I have tkts to see Wicked, Buckingham Palace, the Royal Mews, the Queen's Gallery, Kensington Palace and plan to go to

Posted by
3261 posts

There's too much to see in London area to waste time on a short trip to Ireland. What do you and your friend want to see-scenery, cathedrals, castles, palaces, museums-art or history, history-royal, ancient, WWII, So many wonderful possibilities in London and environs!
Day trips are easy on train. Definitely get Rick's London book and decide what you want to see-also know there are plenty of other great day trips that he doesn't mention in that book. Personally, I wasn't a big fan of Bath. Also look at the London Walks website to see what you might want to do with them-including possibly Cotswolds if scenery is important to you. And relevant to future trips you take-a lot of us start our planning a year in advance!

Posted by
1176 posts

Sorry, thought I finished my note to you. I plan to go to Hampton Court too and on the pub walks and maybe even Evansong at St Paul's Cathedral. I will be going to Westminster Abbey to tour and the Victoria & Albert Museum. You can also buy a ticket and go on the hop on and hop off bus which will orient you with the city.

So much to see and do just in London.

Posted by
28145 posts

Ryan Air well in advance - and accepting all the restrictions or being prepared to pay for them - can be quite cheap.

Buying a Ryan Air flight just before takeoff, or even a week or two out can cost a Fortune.

Posted by
5267 posts

With only a week in London I wouldn't consider that flight to Ireland. Save Ireland for another trip.

I burned up the miles with my 7-day travelcard, which works on buses as well as the Underground (not subway, that's a pedestrian underpass). The TFL website should explain it. I bought mine at Paddington and saved a bundle.

For a day trip from London, I'd suggest Oxford or Cambridge or York, all easily reached by train. But there's so much to see and do in London that you may not want to go anywhere else.

Posted by
14 posts

Suki, I just bought a ticket for next weekend for the palace!! Thanks for the idea!! Keep them coming.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks so much for everybodies responses. They're very much appreciated.

Alan, thanks for the suggestions. I love all the usual stuff. Very interested in history, WWII, the heritage, castles. I think Westminster and the Tower of London is something I'd like to see. What time about would you recommend getting there to see the opening ceremony?

I will heed everybody's advice on the Oyster card. I read I can't purchase one until I get there. Is this true?

Ann, thanks for all your suggestions. I just took Suki and your advice and bought the Buckingham Palace ticket. I want to get the mews as well. Also, please do go on if you'd like. I'd love as many suggestions as possible lol.

Cala, everything you mentioned is what I'd like to see. I will take everyone's advice and stay in London. Until Ann mentioned it, I'd never heard of London walks. Seems like something I'd enjoy. I assume it's just a walking tour to see many of the tourist locations?

Cala, a year in advance?! That's too long!! Haha. I like kind of going on the fly sometimes. I picked this trip a month ago. I was in Berlin last month. London this month then back to Germany and Prague next month.

Dick, your 7 day travel card is what I think I need. Is this the same as the Oyster card? Also, I'm going to be near Paddington station. Is this where I should wait to get it? I don't think it's something I can order online, right? I mean I suppose I could order it but I'd have to wait until I get to London to actually get the card, right?

Posted by
404 posts

For the walking tours mentioned above you need to check out www.walks.com. If you look at their site they also do some day trips out of London, which can work well if there is something of interest that fits in with your stay.

Posted by
2576 posts

You really do need to do some research. Above all, get Rick's London book. Most of your questions are answered there. If not, use the Internet. Buy tickets you can in advance. Plan your days and know how to get from A to B. Otherwise, you'll be wasting what little time you have there.

Posted by
6484 posts

Ignore the London Pass.

Yes get your Oyster card at Paddington.

Buy and read the RS London book on the plane going over. Besides the Oyster Card your best London travel related purchase.

Most museums are free. Pret A Managers and Starbucks nearly on every corner. Use the tube, busses and your own two feet to get around London. Don't miss seeing one of the markets. Boroughs, Camden Lock, Portobello, Spitafields all worth your time, each in different neighborhoods of London.

Walk along the Thames path, see the Tower of London, Leadenhall Market place, bike in Hyde Park, attend an even song in Westminster Abbey or St Paul's, have a Sunday roast, attend a theatre performance.......so much to see and do. You will never be bored.

Posted by
3261 posts

Casey, a person after my own heart! My favorites: British Museum-if you love it like we do, you should go early during your stay and schedule another visit-too much to absorb in one visit, and so much of it world class! Castle-Tower of London. Cambridge is a great easy day trip-go to Evensong at King's College Chapel but I suggest getting in line 45 minutes early. If you go to Cambridge, Jack's(next to Eagle Pub where Watson and Crick announced their discovery of the structure of DNA and you can eat lunch there) elderflower sorbet is one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth! Or you could go to Evensong at Westminster Abbey, but you need to do a tour there too to see all the monuments to people buried in the floor. There's something about people buried in the floor that adds a certain ambience to a church! If you like art museums(not modern art) National Gallery conveniently located on Trafalgar Square. I haven't been on a London Walks but they're(plural!) on my bucket list-my travel partners aren't big fans of tours.

Posted by
1220 posts

Because we like to get out in the relative boonies to visit places like Kew Gardens and Wimbledon, we just buy a 7 day all zones travel card on arrival at London Heathrow. Figure that gets us to and from the airport and to countryside-adjacent areas with minimal fuss

Posted by
1176 posts

This is information I have been saving and complied but have not been to any of the pubs. Thought this may help.
Princess Louise
French House
The Churchill Arms
The Admiral Codrington
The Windmill
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
The Jerusalem Tavern
Posted by
Kingston, Surrey

The Swan Pub — may be next to hotel Number 63 - check it out around the corner from the Lancaster gate tube

Jerusalem Tavern is wonderful but tiny. There are loads of great pubs in London. Among my favourites are The Kings Arms on Roupell Street, The Blackfriar, the Old Mitre by Ely Place, The Cittie of Yorke on Holborn (though that's Sam Smiths which is ropey beer) and The Old Bank of England on Strand

The Churchill Arms is a Fuller Pub. The beers and food are good.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese - I thought was ok, but in my opinion a little touristy.
The Jerusalem Tavern - good beer and not to pricey.

Harp near Covent Garden, quaint in it's own way, not necessarily "Historic" or hugely traditional, it is cramped, but these guys know Ale and Cider, have a great selection, many lesser known breweries, good variety. Maybe the only drawback is after work it is spilling out into the streets crowded.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese....certainly a historic quality, worth the visit, limited to Samuel Smith beers, which are good, but I do like variety.
The Old Bank of England pub is neat in that it is the old bank of England, upscale, but worth a stop.
On the South Bank there are a couple old Coaching pubs, the Old King's Head and the George Inn, very ancient, again worth the visit.

The Harp, as well as 6 others just made my list! I'm amazed how many are within a mile of my hotel. I'm a huge beer drinker myself although I don't experiment too much. I learned to drink beer while living in Germany, so although I enjoy many different brewers, I tend to stick with plain old ales, pilsners and lagers.

Posted by
424 posts

Casey,
I have to say my first reaction to your initial post was "NEXT WEEK? YIKES!" because I plan months in advance, but then I thought, "GOOD FOR YOU!", go for it.

When you get to London,
1) Get a paper tube map at any tube station. Invaluable.
2) Get a good paper map of central London. I like Benson's London Mini Map (https://www.bensonsmaps.co.uk/our-publications/london-mini-map/), sold at the Westminster Abbey gift shop and Stanford Books in Covent Garden (and probably a lot of other places too). Benson's calls their maps "superbly clear" and I agree. The Mini Map shows all the tourist sites, major hotels, churches, bus routes, shopping districts, etc. so you can see what's nearby when sightseeing. And it costs only GBP 1.95. Bargain!

Have a wonderful time.

Posted by
13225 posts

7-day Travelcards: there are two ways to get one. You can put one on an Oyster card (a plastic card you buy with a refundable deposit), OR you can skip the plastic and buya 7-day paper Travelcard at a National Rail ( not Tube) station, such as Paddington. You need a passport-size photo for this but can get this at a photo booth. The paper Travelcard gives you access to the 2-4-1 offers for many paid London attractions, including the London Eye, Churchill War Rooms, St. Paul's cathedral, HMS Belfast warship, the special,exhibits at otherwise free museums, Kew Gardens, and lots more.

https://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/2for1-london

To use these, you and your friend each need the 7-day Travelcard (which is good for transport on Tube, LightRail, buses, and a discount on the Thames water clippers). You also need a voucher (one per attraction), which you can either print out from the website, or pick up in a booklet at the train station---if you can find them. Paddington was usually out of these when we were there, but London Bridge station had a good supply.

Since many of these attractions cost £13 or more, you can save quite a bit with the 2-4-1 offers.

Posted by
970 posts

The TfL site's journey planner can be very useful as you can opt for a wide array of travel options around London, including walking. Tell it where you're going and where you're starting from and it will tell you very precisely how to get there via your chosen travel method, how long it will take, any problems ( like train downtime for service or other delays). The Citymapper app relies on TfL's real-time data and does the same thing, but has the advantage of tracking your current location. Very helpful when you aren't quite sure what that is.

I find the Travelcard/Oyster cost differences to be confusing enough that I just buy an Oyster and use it. I usually go thru a 30-pound Oyster in a week's visit. Remember both Oyster and Travelcard are really intended for use by commuters and the multi-layered pricing schemes reflect that.

Day trips: By train, Oxford is an hour, Bath about 2 hours from London. Cambridge is also close to two hours. South coast towns are an hour or more. If memory serves, Canterbury is two hours. You can do York in a day if you leave early and return late, like after dinner. (Always check the time of the last train back and target the next-to-last.)

Oxford, Bath, and York stations are short walks from their city centers. Cambridge and Canterbury are much longer walks. All cities have hop-on hop-off siteseeing tourist buses that, conveniently, stop at or very close to the station. They loop around by all the usual tourist spots and you can get on and off as you wish. So, e.g., last time in Cambridge, I walked from the station, bought a ticket, did the loop, then spent the rest of the day on foot. Until time to leave, which was when I used a hop-on hop-off to get my tired feet back to the station. (Regular city buses would have taken me to the station just as well, of course.)

Likely to be warm for your visit. A lot of the Tube is really very uncomfortably warm in the summer.

Rush hour trains, Tube and otherwise, are usually very crowded, as are the stations. Avoid them if you can.

Posted by
10 posts

Just to follow up on the previous poster who says it's likely to be warm. I'm afraid that in an effort to provide you with a truly authentic British experience, a stunning first half to summer has somewhat reverted to April, so bring a jacket!

Posted by
964 posts

Casey - if you are happy walking - and you are right, you see much more by walking than on the Tube - buy an Oyster card but don't put too much on it, you can top up as you go or as needed. See Ricks video blog from 27/7 where he illustrates exactly how to go about this better than any long winded description I could give here.

You seem to have got plenty booked already, so grab a map and walk, walk, walk. London has a surprisingly compact centre in the main, so walking is best if you are able. I love strolling along the south bank of the Thames, personally. If you walk as far as Wapping there's a fantastic pub called The Prospect of Whitby, which has an interesting history and a solid pewter bar! Off the beaten track , so rarely gets a mention here!

Hope the weather stays fair for you and you have great trip!

Ian

Posted by
631 posts

I'm staying in Paddington by Hyde Park. So I'll be right by the train station. you'll be at least 10 minutes walk from Paddington station, other side of the park would be closer to 30 minutes. But the park is ringed by Underground stations.

pay with cash each time I use public transport you can't pay with cash on London buses, only Oystercard or contactless (but not all foreign contactless cards work).

Posted by
332 posts

I just wanted to mention that most attention is usually on London's wonderful Tube---however, the buses are also terrific, and I think better. They may take a few minutes longer than a tube, but I found I enjoyed the buses more because you can see things as you travel (ie you are not below ground) The buses are safe, new, clean, on time, easy to understand. (just note you have to have an Oyster card; no cash on the bus). Google maps is amazing. you can put into the app where you are and where you want to go, and select the bus option, and you will find a variety of routes and times, and where the stops are. While you are on the bus, google maps will tell you how many more stops, the name of each stop, where you should get off, etc.

Also, before you go, you might want to check out London theater and buy tickets now to see a show. STOMP is a demonstration of incredible prowess and energy related to drumming. It is very funny, entertaining, for all ages: https://www.theambassadorstheatre.co.uk/Online/

Enjoy your trip.

SuzieeQQ