London: our handy guide
Here is a recap of all the information we gathered before and during our trip to London in november 2014. (N.B.: Union jack found here)
How to get to London from France?
Since we had a small budget, we chose the low cost company Ryanair which is perfect if you plan to spend only a few days in the British capital. We found a two-way Nîmes-London flight for 40€ ($46) per person, unbeatable! However, it is good to remember that this kind of company does not let you have a lot of flexibility regarding your luggage. It says on their website that only cabin size luggage (1 suitcase with maximum dimensions of 55x40x20 cm and up to 10 kg + 1 small bag of 35x20x20 cm per person) are accepted free of charge and it will cost you 50€ ($58) per luggage transported in the hold. It is possible to test the size and weight of your luggage at the airport to ensure it is well within the dimensions defined by the company. However, our hand luggage, which did not fall strictly within their criteria, have never been tested on our several flights (we also went to Stockholm). It’s up to you to see if you want to take the risk!
From the airport
The Luton and Stansted airports are at about 1h-1h30 drive to the London city center. Once in the airport, go to the coach departures lobby and you’ll be spoiled by the choice between all companies. From Luton, we chose National Express for its price (two-way trip per person is £11) but also for the quality of service. At the Easybus desk (two-way for £9.45) the clerk wasn’t very nice and barely looked up when we asked her for information and Terravision was the most expensive (two-way for £15). You also have the train option which is much faster (30 minutes), but also more expensive (one way for £15!). From Stansted, we opted for Terravision which, this time was the cheapest (£6 each way) but the service was poor. On the National Express coach, the driver took care of carefully loading and unloading our luggage and wifi was available on board. For Terravision, each passenger is responsible for loading they own luggage, everything went to anarchy and we almost had a heart attack when he saw a woman standing on her knees on our suitcase on the laptop side! Unfortunately, the wifi is not available on thoses coaches but you can get a 2% cashback using iGraal, it’s better than nothing. Quick tip: It is possible to buy your tickets directly online and receive an electronic ticket on your smartphone.
Bus and subway
To take the public transportation in London, you can choose between the Oyster Card and the Travelcard. The Travel Card is valid for a whole one day of unlimited travel and costs £9. The Oyster Card is a subscription card you can buy in some metro stations, including Victoria for example. You will have to pay £5 to get the card and you will then need to charge it with the amount you want (at the desk or a machine). The cost of your trip is deducted every time you use it knowing that if you make a lot of trips in the day, the daily limit of £9 will be automatically calculated and it would be like having a Travel Card. Once your stay is over you can return your Oyster and get your £5 deposit and the remaining credit back. On the advice of a London girl, we opted for the Oyster option that was perfect for us. We didn’t take the subway that much, favoring outdoor walks, so it was perfect for us and we didn’t feel obliged to often take public transports in order to make it profitable. If you know you’re going to take the bus, make sure to buy your card in advance. The only way to buy a ticket on a bus is to use the contactless payment option on your credit card and you can’t buy several tickets with one card. We were significantly delayed on our arrival day for this reason! Learn to observe people in the corridors of the subway. Many corridors are respecting a certain flow direction (usually you have to walk on the left) and walking against the current can be quite disturbing. Same thing for the escalators where we must keep left in general, but sometimes the opposite applies. Be observant!
In the street
Remember that the English drive on the left side of the road so, before crossing the street, look right! When in doubt, look at your feet, it is often written on the ground on which side you have to look. Also, when the pedestrian logo flashes, it means that the light will soon go green for cars, most of the time it is better not to try crossing. Finally, note that the transition from green to red (or vice versa) is always done through the orange light.
Where to eat?
For our short stay in London we were housed and have not really had the opportunity to eat outside. Nevertheless, we can advise you the excellent Golden Hind Restaurant if you want to test the well-known fish’n’chips. We were very well received there and we loved it as we tell you here. For a quick sandwich on the go, we tested the Caffé Americi in the Holborn district which was quite correct and we also recommend you Crussh a fast food restaurant chain specialized in delicious smoothies but also provides sandwiches, salads and wraps. We got to taste the pooridge there, it was an interesting experience! Finally, do not miss a traditional English Breakfast. We went to Jamaica Road for ours but you can find it anywhere. We managed to get breakfast for 2 for about £10.
What to see and do
– Buckingham Palace and the changing of the Guards
– Big Ben, House of Parliament
– Wellington Arch
– Diana memorial fountain
– Kensington Palace
– The Monument
– St Paul cathedral
– London Bridge
– The Tower of London
– London Bridge Experience [/one_fourth]
– Serpentine Gallery
– National Gallery
– Science Museum
– Hunterian Museum
– Zoology museum
– Freemason’s Hall[/one_fourth]
[one_fourth_last]Walks and shopping
– Hyde Park and Serpentine Lake
– St James’ Park
– Camden Town
– Covent Garden
– Oxford Street
– Brick Lane [/one_fourth_last]
… want a hair cut, go to Roger’s on Romilly street. We came across this lovely barber shop by chance and Seb had his hair cut for only £6!
… are a geek, you have to go to Forbidden Planet. This place is a paradise where you will find figurines, books, comic books, board games and other products inspired by the Marvel universe, Game of Thrones or Star Wars, really nice!
… like top-class shopping, you can start by strolling the aisles of the Picadilly Arcade and the Burlington Arcade, which follow one another. We came across a store selling vintage Rolexes and we had fun looking for the oldest and the most expensive one displayed in their front. Verdict: 1915 and £19,920 !! Carry on to Bond Street where you will find all the couture stores from Chanel to Dior and Louis Vuitton.