Traveling Solo to London in two weeks!

Hi, I was wondering if anyone had any tips, for a female traveling solo to London. This is my first trip outside of the United States. I am staying in the Bayswater area. Any advice at all would be fantastic! Thanks

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2013 posts

Know London is a very walkable city. Public transport is plentiful. Grab a pocket size tube map to carry with you. Often available at the manned ticket counter windows. Most museums are free and a great place to find a bathroom as well as have a nice meal in their cafes. Pub grub is good and you don't have to order alcohol. ALWAYS cross the street with the lights. Will take awhile for the brain to imprint the change in traffic flow. Although pricey if you use a black cab you'll get knowledgeable drivers who are a wealth of information. London's cab drivers must take a test to get their licenses. Get a Timeout magazine when you arrive at Heathrow. Has up to date and pertinent info about theatre, galleries, museums, and what special events are happening. Info always includes times and tube stops. If you ride a bus try to sit up top in the front. Nearly floor to ceiling windows and a great POV of London passing by. Parks are wonderful spots to sit, picnic and people watch. Lovely gardens in each. Bayswater is a vibrant and ethnically diverse neighborhood. One of my favorites. Cafe Diana on Bayswater road is a good breakfast spot. There's a launderette over by the Greek Church. Prince Edward Pub on Prince's Square is a nice respite. You'll have two tube stops to use Bayswater and Queensway. A lot of good restaurants along Westbourne Grove Road. Remember I had a good meal at Al Waha. Pret A Manger sandwiches and soups are fresh and good. Never had a bad seat when I purchased tickets at the 1/2 price booth in Leceister Square. Caffe Costa, Starbucks and Cafe Nero's all have free wifi. The East End has gone through a great deal of evolution and is presently the hip and happening spot of London. Fun galleries and shops. GREAT city. Enjoy yourself.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Hi Samantha. I'm staying in Bayswater right now and am a solo female traveler in London. I like this area a lot and I didn't feel unsafe walking back to my hotel at 11:00pm by myself. IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, HAVE A RELIABLE INTERNET CONNECTION AND CHECK THE TUBE WEBSITE EVERY DAY. I didn't do this yesterday and when I got to the Tube station ( Bayswater) I found that the entire Circle line was down. I spent 50 minutes on the Tube trying to get to the Tower of London. I planned to change lines at Bank but found there that the Monument station was closed. I called my friend who was in London for the weekend and she met me at the Bank station and took me to Tower Hill. Don't make the same mistake I did! Check tfl.gov.UK every morning!

Posted by Richard
Memphis, Tn, USA
37 posts

Learn the Tube but also learn the bus system. Then go up to the top deck and watch London go by.

Posted by Bonnie
Boston, MA
109 posts

Definitely get to know the bus system; easy to use and so much more fun to see London as you travel it, than be underground. If you have time, take a London Walk - they are so informative and interesting. I did one my first day and it was nice to establish where things were and gave me points of reference, and a good history too. Have a great trip!

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2900 posts

Adding to Sarah's Post ... I suspect that the Circle line was down on Sunday due to planned engineering works. You can check for planned works in advance and it is a good idea to take note of these before your visit. To check this, go to tfl.gov.uk click on the "Live Travel News" tab Click on "Future Dates" When the calendar appears, you will see a link that says "View all station and track closures". If you click on "tube", it will show you all the planned tube closures for the next 6 months in a pdf: www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/livetravelnews/realtime/tube/track-closures.pdf Similarly, you can click on "station" to see station work. My main advice when traveling solo is to look for evening activities. Some of my favorites are theatre, London Walks, and visiting museums that have evening hours. A good reference for things to do is timeout.com.

Posted by Brian
Los Angeles, California
1986 posts

You have received some excellent advice. I would just add- dont try and cram too much into each day. Pick one or two major "wants" (preferably close together) each day. That way you will allow yourself time to thoroughly enjoy them. If the weather is good, walk from one to theother- you will see much more that way. Have a few close by "maybe" sights- just in case you dont spend as much time as expected in the main sights.Walk along the river any opportunity you get. Staying in Bayswater, you have an opportunity of walking through Hyde park and Kensingon gardens on your way back in the afternoon
Enjoy London

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
956 posts

Some excellent advice so far! I would only add that finding your "local" pub and dropping in a few times (even every night) for a half pint of lager or an orange juice would be a GREAT way to make friends, ask questions, find out about local resources that might not be on the web (or if they are, you wouldn't know where to look for them). Dropping in to your "local" in the UK is NOT the same as wandering into a bar anywhere in the states as a single woman. You can expect to not get hit on. You can expect to meet nice people. And it's great when traveling solo to have a place to go to talk to people who aren't on the fly (or aren't sales clerks or tour guides). Have a great time!

Posted by Samantha
Minneapolis, Minnesota
3 posts

Thanks everyone for the helpful information! Sarah was the best way to get to Bayswater from Heathrow the Paddington express and then taking the tube to the Bayswater station?

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Hi Samantha. I can't help you with the Heathrow to Bayswater question because I took the Eurostar from Paris. But it's easy to transfer from the Paddington station to Bayswater. From Paddington, follow the signs to the Circle line (southbound OR away from Edgware Rd - you may have to look at the line map on the wall of the tunnel to make sure you're going away from Edgware). Your next stop is Bayswater. The Queensway stop on the Central line also serves the Bayswater area and is about a 5-minute walk from the Bayswater station. Queensway is a more direct line if you want to go to the British Musem (Tottenham Court Road) or shopping (Oxford Circle). Also, get a good map. By good I mean one that shows every single tiny street. You will need it!!!

Posted by Matt
Kent, WA, USA
107 posts

Sarah, I did a London trip last year and was staying near Earl's Court... I took the Paddington Express from Heathrow to Paddington Station and then the tube to Earl's Court, and it was VERY easy.. Navigating the customs/immigration, and security hassles at Heathrow was the most time consuming part of the trip. Finding the station for the Paddington Express at Heathrow seemed a bit confusing at first, but it really wasn't bad. I thought I could find it on my own, and probably could have, but at one point I wasn't sure, so I asked for some help from a Heathrow Information person, and it was obvious.. From Paddington Station to the Tube was also simple.. Since the tube lines aren't really oriented north-south-east-west, its not always obvious if you want a north-bound or south-bound, so you just need to be aware of the starting and ending stops on your route and which one you want to be heading towards. In your case, for example if you ride the District Line from Paddington to Bayswater, you DON'T want a train (or platform) for Edgware Road, but a train to Wimbledon would be going the direction you want.. The Tube is an excellent system, and can be a great resource, and is really pretty easy to navigate. Don't Fear the Tube!

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Matt is right. The Tube is a wonderful resource; learn how it works and you'll be set. I'm still pining for the sublimely easy-to-navigate Paris Metro but I've now learned how to use the Tube. Most automatic train announcements don't use endpoints like the Metro. They say northbound/southbound or eastbound/westbound, which is why you have to pay attention.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2900 posts

Samantha, if you want to save some money you can take the tube from Heathrow to Bayswater. Take the Piccadilly Line to Earls Court. At Earls Court, change to a District Line train in the direction of Edgware Road and go 3 stops to Bayswater. This will take you about 50 minutes. You can take the Heathrow Express to Paddington and then switch to a Circle/District line train. This will take about 30 minutes, but it will cost a lot more. Also, the transfer to the circle line involves a rather ugly set of stairs.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

Laura - the "ugly set of stairs" must be those linking to the Hammersmith & City/Circle platforms. I'm pleased to say they are now history, since (in time for the Olympics), a spiffy new ticket hall was opened to replace them. Also, for Bayswater, Samantha wouldn't have used those platforms anyway, but the tube station at the front of the station. All that apart, I second the advice to forget the Heathrow Express and just use the tube to Bayswater. It may be a 25 mins longer journey, but it is cheaper and, I think, a bit less hassle. I'm not femaile, if that matters, but do travel solo a lot for work and often tack on a day or two for sightseeing - my tip is to take a book (or e-book) with you when you set out each morning. You will be stopping for tea, meals, just because you're dog-tired and need a rest etc. And whilst people-watching is OK for a while, after a bit I'm glad to have something to read rather than stare vacantly at the walls.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2900 posts

Keith, the stairs I was talking about used to be when you connected from Paddington to the Circle/District line towards High Street Kensington (anti-clockwise). They were after you walked down the corridor from the tube station ticket hall. There used to be a rather awkward connection where you went up about a dozen stairs, crossed over, and then down about 30 or so stairs. If they have reconfigured that, that is great to hear.

Posted by Laurie Beth
Was MN, now TX
638 posts

Samantha, I live in the south Minneapolis/Edina area and would be happy to meet you at a Caribou to discuss one of my favorite cities. I usually travel alone and one tip I would give is, at night I feel more comfortable on the wonderful bus system than in the Tube. A perk of the buses at night is less traffic and, especially if you go up top, you feel like the city is laid out all around you.

Posted by j.c.
Cary, NC, United States
842 posts

Well.. London is a great city. Don't overpack. Worse comes to worse, you can buy it there if you need it. Google "TFL" and the "Transport for London" site will be the first offering. On weekends, several Tube stations and lines are usually down for repairs and maintenance. Those are posted at the TFL site, and on large white signs at the entrance of Tube stations. A good number of phone apps for the Tube are also available. They track downtime, etc., and can alert you when something's up. Wear shoes you have broken in and know will be comfortable. For a tourist, London is a very casual and informal city. Early October may be warm, or cool, or dry, or wet. But, it won't be really cold, and it probably will be windy sometimes. Heathrow Express is the best way to get from Heathrow into Paddington Station. It's also the most expensive. But, I've found it worth the price when I'm dragging luggage, even one bag. The Express has bins for luggage, the Tube does not. From Paddington you can grab a cab. (The taxi rank is outside to your right as you leave the train.) The Express and cab route to Bayswater costs more than the Tube, but it's a tiny expense compared to the cost of the entire trip. Frankly, I find the Tube is a tiresome hassle after flying all day or night and then waiting at Passport Control, etc. I'm in collapse mode by then. Take it easy the first day to acclimate to the time change and you will have a great time.

Posted by Kathy
Chicagoland
113 posts

The TfL website has a great Central London map available for download. I put it on my tablet and referred to it every night, since it not only had the Tube lines, but the bus lines as well. I knew the areas we were going to so well that I was able to give two Londoners directions once! Oh, and don't forget that the Heathrow Connect train only takes a few stops and costs half what the Heathrow Express does.

Posted by Ruth
Portage, canada
48 posts

I agree with Brian. Don't try to cram in too much. My first night there alone, I went down to the waterfront and it was really exciting seeing everyone gathering down there, great art installations, people watching. Of course, that was summer, so not sure what it would be like in October. Great parks all over the place to stop in to have a rest or eat your lunch. Enjoy!

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

London and northern England have been getting an above average amount of rain, so bring a sturdy umbrella (London is windy, which I didn't know) and a waterproof jacket. Be prepared for rain every day, even if it only lasts a few minutes. Pay close attention to the weather now and check it every day when you're there.

Posted by JS
Bay Area
2081 posts

you will be fine if you use common sense. get to your base bef dark until you are comfortable w/ walking and the area youa re staying in. when lost ask a police person (bobby) for assistance. the museums are great for meals if you are uncertain about meals.most people are quite friendly and will give you accurate directions. remember aot of the key museums are free so see them. get the list and enjoy your stay.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8757 posts

today is 2 weeks from when Samantha posted that she was leaving in 2 weeks. I hope she is having a good time.

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2013 posts

Agree with Nigel. Hope you are there Samantha and having a wonderful time!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8757 posts

BTW - those of you who suggested she take an umbrella would have been right the last couple of days. Both Friday and Saturday nights I got (according to my weather station near the bird feeder) between 0.92 inches and 0.96 inches of rain. Mebbe a tough less in London, but we were dry on Friday day and they were quite wet.

Posted by Samantha
Minneapolis, Minnesota
3 posts

Thanks for the advice everyone! Sorry i didn't get on sooner, the week before my vacation was jam packed. But yes i did bring an umbrella. best decision i could have made!