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A Guide to London for Tourists
London in General
Member Name: Brooke3
London in General
Advantages: Lots to see and do
Disadvantages: Crime, pollution
This review is based on my experiences of London and there are still a lot of great things in London that I haven't had a chance to try, so obviously they will not be included in this review.
This is going to be a really long review so I've written a contents.
-Getting to London
-Transport in London
-Getting to London-
Getting to London is pretty easy. Assuming you are already in the UK you can either drive, get a bus or a train. I have done all three and my preference is to get the train.
Driving into Central London can be very stressful. In my experience the traffic is awful and you always have to worry about congestion charges.
The congestion charge is basically something that you pay if you drive in certain areas of London during certain times. For more information on the congestion charge check out tfl.gov.uk. I've also found that driving around London it is really easy to get lost, even with a sat nav!
Getting a bus into Central London is slightly less stressful than driving. You still have the traffic jams but at least you can sit back and relax and not worry about congestion charges or getting lost. I have travelled with both megabus and national express. If you are going to travel by bus then definitely go with national express.
My experience of travelling with mega bus is not a good one. I travelled with mega bus because the tickets were only £1 each way but when you travel with them you can see why they're so cheap.
The buses are uncomfortable and have little space for storing luggage. The buses don't run as regularly as national express and they do add on a booking fee of 50p which isn't much but it is a bit cheeky when they're claiming that you can travel for £1 each way. It also takes a long time to get to London compared with other forms of transport.
National Express on the other hand is quite a pleasant way to travel. The only real downside to it is that it takes so long to get to London and that you're stuck on a bus where you can't walk around or do anything for hours. This is of course the same with any buses that you get to London.
I have found that a lot of National Express drivers are very unfriendly and often rude. I've seen people literally reduced to tears by them and I'm not even exaggerating. I've found at times that they can be quite intimidating. It was for this reason that I started to take the train instead of using national express.
Their buses are generally quite comfortable and they have plenty of space for luggage. You can actually buy tickets for £1 if you book early, so the prices are even competitive.
And now onto trains, my preferred way to travel. I would always recommend to book trains in advance because you can get really good prices, and even upgrade to first class for less than the cost of a standard ticket. The tickets still aren't as cheap as travelling with the megabus but I personally think it's worth the extra money.
The first advantage is the time it takes to travel. Travelling by train is the fastest way to travel and there are many direct routes from the various train stations in London. I personally would much rather pay more to get somewhere faster.
I find trains to be the most comfortable way to travel but this actually depends a lot on where you're travelling to.
If you're travelling to the South West or South Wales then be sure to book in advance if you're travelling during peak hours, or even better, book first class. First class on these routes is amazing and often very cheap. You get free food, much more space and if you're travelling on a Friday night free wine. Travelling from Paddington you also get access to the first class lounge.
If you do opt for standard class you will often find yourself packed into a carriage with people having to stand in the aisles and the spaces in between carriages. If you've booked a seat this isn't too bad but standing for an entire journey is pretty unpleasant. You can avoid this by travelling in the middle of the day. These trains do have a travelling chef on board so you can buy drinks, sandwiches and other snacks.
If you're travelling to the south east then you won't be so lucky. The trains are not as comfortable and buying a first class ticket is a waste of money because the first class area is not much better. I find these trains a little bit too intimate. There is very little space between the seats that are facing each other and the seats themselves are not very big. Most seats do not have tables and there is very little space to store luggage.
You can't book seats in advance on these trains so you're lucky if you get a seat.
They do have a little cart that they use to sell drinks and snacks but during busy times they don't have space to wheel it down the train.
I don't really travel anywhere else in the UK so can't comment on trains to other parts of the country.
-Transport in London-
When you compare transport in London to other parts of the UK (or the parts that I've visited) it seems great, when you compare it to other European cities it seems awful!
I actually find getting around London to be quite easy. The underground can get you to just about anywhere in London and it doesn't take too long.
There are some lines that are better than others. I personally think that the Victoria line is the best one because it's just so quick. Likewise there are some lines that I try to stay away from. I find that the Bakerloo and Circle lines are both very unreliable and I always try to avoid them.
Admittedly the tube isn't the most pleasant way to travel. It's dirty, it's uncomfortable and it's overcrowded but it's still the quickest and easiest way to travel around London.
Please do make sure that you check out when certain lines are going to be closed as they do tend to do works on the lines at the weekends and often close one or more tube line (I've been caught out many times!)
I often opt to travel by bus now that I know London better but I wouldn't recommend this to tourists. Although it does cost less and the bus routes are quite extensive it isn't as convenient as travelling by tube. It has some great benefits, like not being stuck underground and actually being able to see London when you travel. I've also found that it helps me to get a better sense of where I am and to understand the layout of London more.
There are a lot of night buses if you're travelling after the tube has stopped running.
The most important thing to do in terms of transport when you get to London is to buy an oyster card. With an oyster card you get discounted travel and you can use it on buses and the underground.
For more information on transport in London go to tfl.gov.uk
There are always plenty of taxi's around central London if you need to flag one down, although you will probably have difficulty finding one on Friday or Saturday nights. This is a pretty expensive way to travel so if money is an issue for you stick to public transport. I rarely take taxi's and when I do I'm always shocked at how much they cost in London compared to other places.
I would not recommend using the rickshaws. I always wanted to go in one and did so last year but it was really unpleasant. Weaving through traffic on the back of a bike is a pretty scary experience and it's also really uncomfortable. It's not a safe way to travel and is of course only suitable for short journeys.
There is so much to see and do in London and you will never be able to do it all in one day. I've lived here for years now and still haven't seen everything that I want to see.
I would highly recommend taking one of the London Tour Buses. There are a lot of stops all over the city and you can get on and off the bus as you wish. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and I found them to be very amusing. They literally had me in stitches at times. Some, of course, are better than others but in general I've found them all to be very charismatic, well spoken (you wouldn't want a guide who mumbled!) and helpful. In my opinion this is the best way to see the city. If you don't have much of an idea about what you want to do then I would recommend just hopping on one of these buses and seeing what takes your fancy. Even if you decide not to visit any attractions you will end the tour with a much improved knowledge of London. I wouldn't take young children on this tour as they will most likely get bored but I have been on the tour with children aged from about ten years upwards and they all really enjoyed it.
I have written a number of reviews on some great places in London and there doesn't seem to be much point in repeating what I've already said but here is my list of the best places to see in London:
1. London Dungeon. The London Dungeon is a great afternoon or morning out but as the name suggests it can be pretty scary. I'm not a brave person but I have made it through this a couple of times, so obviously it's not that scary but probably not suitable for young children. The thing I like most about it is that it's so educational. I just love having fun and learning at the same time and there is no better place to learn about history while enjoying yourself than the London Dungeon. http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/sightseeing-national/l ondon-dungeon/1149004/
2. Covent Garden. I love going to Covent Garden and could literally spend an entire day there. I don't particularly enjoy shopping but there are a lot of nice and unusual shops there, as well as a market, that keeps even people like me interested. For me the best part of Covent Garden is the street entertainment. If you go during the day you will often find a variety of different performers around Covent Garden and there is usually something to entertain everybody. I also really enjoy sitting in one of their outdoor café/restaurants watching the world go by. In the winter these café's have heaters and some shelter so whatever the weather you can sit there and people watch.
3. Victoria and Albert Museum. This is my favourite museum in London and whenever I decide that it's time to go to a different museum I somehow always end up wishing that I'd just stuck with V&A. This is more of an adult museum and not one that I would recommend for families. The reason why I enjoy it so much is because I love looking at all of the different collections from around the world, particularly those that are based around religions.. For those of you who have a thirst for knowledge this museum would be perfect for you. It's quite big and houses a number of diverse collections. I find the building itself to be very attractive. http://www.vam.ac.uk/
4. Natural History Museum. This museum is fantastic for those who either have an interest in dinosaurs or fossils or for people with children. I actually don't find this subject to be that interesting but I love taking young relatives to this museum to see the moving dinosaurs. I still remember being completely awed by them as a child and although as an adult they aren't nearly as impressive as they were it's still a lot of fun to take children to see them. Please note that the museum is free but you do have to pay to see the moving dinosaurs.
5. Madame Tussauds. When I think about what Madam Tussauds is it sounds really boring. A museum full of wax works of famous people is not something that sounds appealing to me at all but I have been there three times and always had an excellent time. There are some parts that aren't suitable for children so please do keep that in mind if you're visiting with family. I've been there with some children who found the wax works scary so that's another thing to consider. However, for the most part everyone I've been there with has enjoyed it immensely.
6. The London Eye. Although for the majority of the flight your view is obscured by other capsules when you get to the top this attraction offers you amazing views of London. It is a bit expensive but I think it's possible to get tickets combined with other attractions or discounts. I certainly wouldn't pay full price for it but if you can get a discount then it's worth doing. http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/sightseeing-national/l ondon-eye/1148917/
7. The Tower of London. This is by far my favourite attraction in London. I love history and the Tower is just full of it! Included in the ticket price is a guided tour that was by far the best part of the day. I had such a great time that I'm planning to go back as soon as I have some time. http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/museums-national/tower -of-london-the/1166996/
8. China Town. I love going to China Town for dinner because in my opinion you get the best Chinese food there. I've tried a number of restaurants in the area and to be honest they're all pretty much the same to me. The food tastes good in all of them, they all have friendly staff and quick service and the prices are all pretty similar. As well as restaurants there are a number of bakeries where you can get Chinese cakes and desserts. I can't comment on how authentic any of it is because I've never visited China.
9. The Houses of Parliament. I love visiting the Houses of Parliament. As I said I love history and I also enjoy politics and you get both with a trip to the Houses of Parliament. If you get the opportunity to take a tour then do it. I learnt so much from my tour and left feeling like I had connected with the history of democracy in this country. It probably sounds a bit melodramatic but it was such a great experience and really renewed my enthusiasm in politics and democracy. For those of you who are more visual it is a very attractive building and is just as impressive inside.
I would have liked to have written a section on accommodation but I live here now and before I nearly always stayed in the Regents Park Marriott. http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/hotels-national/marrio tt-hotels-in-general/1166379/
I would have also liked to include a guide to eating in London but it's such a big place that I wouldn't be able to write an adequate guide. In general I would say that if you're looking for something cheap in central London just go for one of the chain restaurants where prices are the same as they are outside of London. If you can afford to spend a little bit more then London has some excellent independent restaurants and café's. Finding a place to eat should not be a problem because there are always plenty of places around. Most attractions do have their own café's and restaurants attached which tend to be of poor quality and quite expensive but they are very convenient. Do be aware that most places charge for service.
If, like me, you love musicals then London would be a great place for you to visit. There are musicals on six days a week (Monday-Saturday). I would highly recommend both Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You. With both of them expect weak storylines but fantastic music and dancing. I found both of them to be highly entertaining, even though I felt that the storylines were lacking.
Like in all big cities there is a lot of crime in London and you do have to protect yourself against it by taking the usual precautions (keeping purses hidden, not putting yourself in dangerous situations).
It isn't the cleanest city you will find, especially compared to many European cities but it is generally quite an attractive city, in my opinion. There are a lot of attractions and there's always something for everyone to enjoy.
Summary: I love London