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Travel Tips for England, Including New Heathrow Premier Inn

I've just returned from 7 weeks in England, Wales and Jersey (Channel Islands). A few things came up that I thought might be helpful for others to know:

  • Due to budget cuts, there may be limited printed information available from local tourist offices, and you may be asked to pay about £1 for a local map or a brochure that includes a small map.

  • Many tourist offices have been closed, including those in towns and cities of considerable tourist interest like Brighton and Weymouth. Check online before departure. If you don't find an address, that's a warning sign.

  • Some towns (including Brighton) have marked "tourist information points". Those are unstaffed spots with a rack of brochures for local sights. Normally there will be a free map among them.

  • In some towns there is an informal location that hands out maps and might have someone willing to answer a few questions when not otherwise busy. That's at the Pavilion in Weymouth, a book shop in Mevagissey, and in the local museum (I think in Arundel). A museum is a good place to check. You can waste a lot of time wandering around, tracking down locations where--it will turn out--the tourist office used to be but no longer is.

  • A smart/helpful entrepreneur has put small map-vending boxes in and just outside some train stations. The cost is £1, and I think they only take an old-style £1 coin. I believe I noticed the vending boxes in East Anglia and down around Brighton, but they may be more widespread than that. The train ticket-agents will probably know where the box is located, if there is one. One agent swapped me an old pound coin for my unusable new one.

  • There's a relatively new Premier Inn at Heathrow's Terminal 4. (Note that I did not write "in".) I'm sure the situation will not continue once its existence is better known, but I got a room that would sleep three people for £45. I made the booking some weeks in advance, but I noticed that the rate was still under £60 the day before my arrival. The hotel, unlike the Yotel (which was up to about £100 by the time I made my reservation), is not in the terminal. It's located in the same direction as the Hilton, and you should follow signs for the Hilton until "Premier Inn" begins to show on the signage. You end up taking a skywalk across some sort of road. The skywalk is nominally enclosed but not totally sealed against the weather, so it could be quite chilly in the winter. It's perhaps a 15-minute walk from the T4 tube station and maybe 10 minutes from T4. If you are departing from a different terminal, the lifts for the shuttle trains are just on your left after you walk back into T4 from the hotel. There's a 24-hour food operation at the hotel; it may have been Pret a Manger. I was very happy with the hotel.

  • There are "suggested donation" boxes at the free museums and at some museums with entry fees. Don't be in a rush to make your donation. You may encounter a costly special exhibition you want to see, in which case I wouldn't feel the need to make an additional voluntary donation. Or you may find that the museum (Imperial War Museum in this case), has no separate map for sale, the only source of information being the £4 guide book which "counts as a donation". I was annoyed, because I had already made my £5 donation.

  • One can exit the tube at Waterloo Station without going through a ticket gate and tapping out with an Oyster Card. That incurs a penalty fare (around £7, I think) that isn't covered by the daily Oyster cap. A kind Underground employee reversed that charge for me and walked me over to the small scanners I had overlooked. They were positioned to the side and were easy to miss. I don't know whether there are other stations with similar layouts.

Posted by
8889 posts

One can exit the tube at Waterloo Station without going through a ticket gate and tapping out with an Oyster Card.

The DLR (Docklands Light Railway) does not have ticket barriers. Instead it has machines to tap in and tap out, usually against the wall near the entrances and exits. With random ticket checks by ticket inspectors. They can check you on the train, or at the station after you get off the train. The DLR interchanges with the normal tube (at Bank, Canning Town and other places). So it is possible to enter at a tube station with barriers, and exit at a DLR station with no barriers, where you have to find the machine (watch everybody else) or get surcharged.

Posted by
20787 posts

Thanks, Chris. I'm puzzled about how I didn't notice that I hadn't tapped out, but it was my third tube ride of the day, and there was a good bit of walking down corridors, etc. I hope, having once committed the offence, I'll be unlikely to zone out and do it again.

Posted by
242 posts

Thank you for the tremendously helpful mention of the new Premium Inn at Heathrow Terminal 4. I have stayed at the Heathrow Hilton Terminal 4 on several occasions. It is very helpful to know there is an alternative. When I have a very early morning flight out of Heathrow, I prefer to be in walking distance from the terminal and not to have to wait on a hotel shuttle bus.

Posted by
4674 posts

That's the Waterloo & City Line if anyone reading this wants to know which route to be careful on. I'm not sure quite why it doesn't have gates at Waterloo - possibly due to confined spaces.

Posted by
205 posts

Don't be in a rush to make your donation.

As a UK tax payer I would ask you to contribute. You will, after all, be saving on the ridiculous tips you don't need to give because we have laws about minimum wages.

Posted by
20787 posts

I wasn't suggesting that tourists not donate at all, but if I'm paying close to £20 to see a special exhibition, I don't feel morally obligated to put a £5 in the voluntary-donation box in addition. I'm merely suggesting that museum visitors take a good look around to see whether they are going to visiting parts of the museum with entry fees--or buying a £4 guidebook because there is no other floor plan available, before deciding how much to drop in the donation box.

Posted by
8293 posts

"Don't be in a rush to make a donation" to the free entry museums. You needn't be in a rush to do so but it would be the decent thing to do when visiting a world class museum funded by tax payers.

Posted by
20787 posts

I agree. I guess I'm not explaining myself clearly. The free museums often have very pricey special exhibitions going on. I figure if I'm paying for the special exhibition, I don't need to make the suggested voluntary donation.

Posted by
3564 posts

Hmmm, but the moralization for the other sky high admissions (Westminster Abbey, Tower, St Paul's, Eye) has always been "but the museums are free."

Otherwise, very practical info posted.

Posted by
4577 posts

The free British museums should be free only to residents of the UK who pay taxes. For the most part in the rest of the world the vast majority of museums charge an entrance fee (although the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC are a welcome exception to this).

As for paying extra for special exhibitions, we all have to pay extra even those residents who are already subsidising the entrance fee so the additional 'donation' on top of the special exhibition fee is not really too much to ask.

Posted by
20787 posts

To me, £20 is costly for an exhibition that fills only a small part of a museum. £20 is more what I would expect to pay for a very high-quality large museum in its entirety if said museum wasn't touted as "free". Granted, I live in Washington DC, not NYC, so my point of view is perhaps warped. I have no idea what NYC museums cost these days.

And I will repeat what the folks at the Imperial War Museum said when I expressed my disappointment (after having made my donation) about the lack of a simple museum diagram available for purchase: Buying the £4 guidebook "counts as a donation".

Posted by
4627 posts

The "counts as a donation" classification is just so UK taxpayers can Gift Aid it and the institution concerned can claim back the income tax paid.

For non-UK income tax payers this is somewhat irrelevant.

The same reason is why places that pay for admission offer year-long tickets slightly above the regular one-day price.

If you aren't viewing the normal collection and just going in for a special exhibition then I don't see any moral obligation to give more. I once found myself in the opposite situation many years ago at the V&A where I somehow stumbled into a special exhibition: I guess through what was supposed to be an emergency exit which was open and unguarded. I donated on exiting it.