Earlier this week, I got back from a whirlwind of a trip through Europe during my mileage run vacation to London, Krakow, and Warsaw. I spent two nights in London which was two separate 23 hour overnight layovers when I went to Krakow and Warsaw. This isn’t my first time to the United Kingdom as I’ve been to London several times before. Here are 10 Things I Learned From My Recent Trip to London England:
1. The London Underground Tube has dynamic pricing – I always thought the Underground had a fixed pricing from zone to zone, but there’s also a price difference between peak and off-peak hours. Don’t forget to always buy an RFID based Oyster Card (5 GBP refundable deposit) whenever you’re using the London Underground. It makes life much easier when it comes to calculating fares because it’s automatic when you tap in and tap out of tube stations. All you have to do is top off your Oyster card!
2. The London Heathrow Hotel Hoppa is a rip off – I chose the Sheraton Heathrow as one of my <24 hour overnight layover accommodations and found out a third party called the Hotel Hoppa charged for hotel airport shuttle service. Apparently, London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) banned individual hotel property shuttles from operating and formed a shared bus shuttle service called the Hotel Hoppa. The Hotel Hoppa service is not free and charges 4.50 GBP ~ $7.05 USD for a single one-way ride from LHR airport to the hotel and vice versa which is a complete rip-off. However, one can avoid this by taking the free public bus from the Terminal 1,2,3 Central Bus Station at London Heathrow International Airport. Just use the Google Maps public transit directions and it will tell which bus to take.
3. Pub food is surprisingly good – It was my first time ever entering a pub and I ended up in three different ones during my two separate layovers in London. In addition to grabbing a pint, I checked out the pub menus and tried out tradition British food such as Fish & Chips, Sunday Roast, and Steak & Ale Pie. Pub food prices are actually quite reasonable as well.
4. Supermarkets are great for affordable meals – Last week I wrote about How to Eat Cheap in London on a Tight Budget and supermarkets are the way to go. Check out Tesco’s, Tesco Express, Sainsbury’s Local, and Marks & Spencer’s in London for some inexpensive eats and meal deals.
5. London is great for gamblers – Like I said in 10 Things I Learned About My Recent Trip to Warsaw, I’m a huge fan of casinos whenever I travel outside of the US. Leicester square in London reminds me of a mini Las Vegas because there are so many 24 hour casinos in small concentrated areas. There are also many Sports books such as William Hill, Paddy Power, and Bet Fair where you can almost bet on anything.
6. You can really see most major sights in a day – I got into Heathrow Airport at 9:30am and headed straight to the city via the London Underground Tube. I arrived at the London Bridge tube station and checked out Borough Market. After having lunch at Borough Market, I walked on the London Bridge and took pictures of the Thames River overlooking the Tower Bridge. I walked along the Thames River and saw the Poppy art display at the Tower of London. Afterwards, I took the nearby Tower Hill London tube station to Westminster underground station. A block away was the famous Big Ben at Westminster Abbey and you can also see the London Eye from a distance. After taking pictures of the London Eye, I walked towards Trafalgar Square and spent some time in Covent Garden. Then I walked to Leicester Square and nearby Chinatown before I called it quits. I wanted to visit Buckingham Palace on the same day, but I was extremely exhausted and wanted to get to my hotel before it started raining.
7. The best time to visit Buckingham Palace is in the morning – Before I headed to the airport, I made a trek down to Buckingham Palace at 7am on my second <24 hour overnight layover in London. There was not a single tourist at Buckingham Palace when the sun rose and this was the perfect opportunity to capture a clean shot. Changing of the guard happened at 11:30am later on that morning, but I didn’t have time because my flight was at 12pm.
8. The Piccadilly Circus area is a tourist trap – I know many locals avoid the Piccadilly Circus district because it’s very touristy and I agree with that. The area reminds me of Times Square and Hollywood Blvd because of the multiple large electronic displays and billboards along with a plethora of stores selling touristy merchandise. This area is also scam city during the day and night time which is full of touts targeting tourists. Avoid at all costs.
9. Borough Market really lives up to the hype – London’s Borough Market reminds me of the Farmer’s Market at The Grove and LA’s Grand Central Market due to the vast diversity of organic produce and ethnic food. You won’t find traditional British cuisine here, but you’ll find amazing German, Balkan, Indian, South Indian, and Ethiopian food.
10. There is a charge for driving in Central London – Believe it or not, the British Government imposed a ‘Congestion Charge’ which is 11.50 GBP ~ $18.02 USD per day (Mon- Fri) from 7am – 6pm if you drive your car in Central London. I find that kind of ridiculous, but at the same time New York City charges a high amount for their toll bridges and tunnels.