One of my favorite quotes from The Alchemist is, “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” This was the case for my London trip in 2013, when the jurors of Big Blog Exchange (BBE) chose me as one of their finalists. Years before BBE, I told myself that if I was going to Europe, I want London to be the first destination. Never in my life have I imagined that was going to come true. Of course, winning was only part of the equation. I had to face several obstacles along the way before my visa finally got approved. I guess, what I’m trying to say here is that if you want something so bad, you still have to work hard for it, and God, the Universe, or whoever Higher Being you believe in, will help you achieve it.
Despite my excitement, I didn’t have enough time to prepare for my trip to London. There was just too many things to consider, like my schedule with BBE and if it was possible to extend my trip further (the travel agency told me to book my flight when I was already in London because it’s cheaper, a risky move that actually worked!). So if you’re going to London anytime soon, here are 30 things you need to know:
- You can survive with £50 a day. For reals.
- Many of major museums, such as the British Museum, doesn’t have any entrance fee.
- Most visitors arrive at Heathrow Airport while some from Gatwick Airport. Make sure you know which airport you’re coming from/heading to.
- Some countries are required to apply for a visa before visiting the UK.
- They use a three-prong flat head plug, similar to Singapore.
- For mobile Internet, I used a Three mobile prepaid. One sim cost £15 (+£5 if purchased at the airport vending machine).
- The public transportation in London is so efficient and extensive — you’ll never run out of options!
- Black cabs are expensive, but they’re only recommended for late-night rides and group sharing trips.
- London Underground (The ‘Tube’) is the quickest and easiest way to get around the city. It’s also the cheapest way to travel if you avail an Oyster Card.
- Buses, on the other hand, are great for short stops.
- Or you can go green by renting Barclay Bikes around Central London.
- When it comes to the major attractions, the London Pass is a queue-jumping entry pass you should avail.
- Want to explore without burning a hole in your pocket? Here are top 23 things to do in London under £30!
- There are also a lot of FREE walking tour and things to do while in London.
- London is loaded with markets, I love it! Head on to Portobello Road for vintage finds, Borough’s Market for food, and Camden Market for fashion.
- Potterheads, listen up: The Harry Potter Studio Tour is located outside of London, in Leavesden. To get there, go to London Euston Station and take a railway train heading to Watford Junction Station. Alight there, and wait for the Harry Potter shuttle bus located outside of the station. If you feel lost, ask or follow the tourists.
- When in London, forget about Forever 21. Go to Primark. You’re welcome.
- Carnaby, Regent, and Oxford Street are best-known streets for shopping in London. Great if you’re buying branded items.
- London shops generally open from 9AM or 10AM to 6PM or 7PM from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays, most shops are only open in the afternoon.
- Non-EU visitors are entitled to claim back 20% VAT on purchased goods. Always look for shops displaying a ‘tax-free’ sign.
- The best place to change money is at any local post office branch.
- You can also get discounted theatre tickets if you know where to look.
- For indie fashion and thrift shops, try the Old Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane.
- For bookstores, go to Charing Cross.
- Stand on the right on escalators, and don’t ever forget your umbrella!
- It’s free to watch UK democracy in action, provided there’s a session at the Parliament.
- If you’re on a budget, stay at YHA Hotels! YHA has several branches located in London and the rest of England and Wales.
- Avoid giving money to people begging on the streets. Most of them have a place to stay.
- Your trip to London will never be complete without an authentic Sunday’s Roast!
- VisitLondon.com and Timeout.com/London are really useful websites to plan your London trip.