What to know before tackling London

Claire Galvin travelled to London over break, and she's now here to share five tips you need to know before making the trip over the Atlantic. (barnyz/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Over Thanksgiving break I had the pleasure and privilege of traveling to Europe for the first time. I spent eight days exploring the city of London and the nearby regions with my mom and sister. We had an absolutely wonderful time. I cannot wait to go back, and I would highly recommend everyone experience London for themselves. Here’s what I learned, both about traveling in London and in Europe for the first time.

1. London is huge: We took the public transportation every day, which was a big help in saving our aching feet. However, none of us truly understood how giant London is. The city of London is fairly small and manageable, but the line is fairly unclear and many common attractions are located outside of the line. For example, we stayed in the southeast region called Peckham. On our first day, we attempted to travel to the northwest part of London. Two train rides and one bus ride later, we arrived too late to our destination. The next day, we allowed more time for travelling on the public transport.

2. Public transport: Continuing on that topic, the public transport system is necessary to get around. Pick up an Oyster card, which is similar to the reusable Charlie card that is offered in Boston. Choose the “pay as you go” option, because the different zones of London charge different fees. If you are only traveling around Zone One, your fare will be much less than if you traveled from Zone Five to Zone One and back every day. Invest in some good maps, one for public transportation and one for walking around the streets.

3. How to save: London is notoriously expensive, and I can’t refute that in any way. However, there’s a few ways to save a couple of pounds. Because we had access to a kitchen, we ate breakfast inside every morning. We packed sandwiches or cheese and crackers for lunch. Eating only dinner out every night saved us a lot of money. When we did eat lunch out, we usually looked for chain food restaurants to pick up a quick meal. In the middle of our week, we ate lunch in the weirdest KFC I have ever been in.

4. Planning your stay: We stayed with an Airbnb host for the first time, and the experience was completely positive. For $100 a night, we had access to our own kitchen, small bathroom, garden area, full-sized bed and a twin-sized bed. We even had our own private entrance. The flat was cozy, and our hosts were amiable and eager to help us find our way. The personal touches were a welcome relief over the sterile hotels I am used to.

5. Londoners: In my short, eight-day experience I found the locals to be kind and incredibly helpful. Being able to ask for directions in the native tongue made a big difference. London is a smorgasbord of cultures and nationalities and the opportunity to meet new people was a wonderful part of the trip.


Claire Galvin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.