Our tenth anniversary trip to London was amazing!!! We had a magnificent and wonderful time. I love traveling and seeing different places and meeting people from different parts of the world. London is a very multi cultural city, much like New York. There are many different places to eat and explore, plus it has rich history with many sites and museums to see.
I have compiled a list of things to know if you ever travel to London.
1) Electrical adapters. Electrical outlets are different everywhere. Make sure to bring your own adapter to plug in chargers, hair dryers, etc. You may also want to make sure you pack your own hair dryer, especially if you have long hair! The hair dryer in our hotel blew minimally!
2) Currency. Be prepared to think in pounds. Also know that it is much easier to use a credit card. They do not charge an extra fee for the transactions. Be sure notify them that you are traveling out of country so that they don’t cut you off and think your card has been stolen. You can usually do this online. Andrew was able to download a PayPal touch app and use his debit card without the fee the bank wanted to charge to use the debit card.
3)Transportation. We purchased what is called an Oyster card upon our arrival in London. This allowed us to take the tube or the buses all week, without having to worry about the card expiring or running out of cash. With as much travelling as we did all over the city and the prices of tube and bus fares, it definitely is worth the money up front. When taking the tube, beware to “Mind the Gap”! This is what the automated voice says when people are getting on or departing the trains. The “gap” is more significant in some stations versus others. Another very important thing to be aware of is drivers drive on the opposite side of the road. When crossing the street you first have to look to the right, and then the left. To be on the safe side, use the crosswalks!
4) London Pass. We purchased what is called a London Pass. You can purchase the London Pass and the oyster card together, but we did the math and it is was cheaper to buy just the pass, and then the oyster card separately in London. We purchased the three day pass, and picked out all the sites we wanted to see that were on the pass and did those during the three days. The pass also allows you priority entrance on some of the sites, so you don’t have to wait in line as long. We actually was able to see everything we wanted that was on the pass in those three days with a couple exceptions, the London Zoo and Kew Gardens. We chose not to do these two mainly because they are farther out of the city, and because they are activities that would take pretty much all day. We had other things we wanted to see on the passes that were more important to us.
5) Time and Temperature. The time difference from Central time in the U.S. to London is six hours. We had an overnight flight going to London, and when we arrived it was about noon. We then had to manage to stay awake the rest of the day. We made it till twenty hundred hours and then crashed. Almost all the rest of the world uses the metric system of measurement. So when we arrived in our hotel room we had to do metric conversion to figure out what to set the thermostat to. Also, be sure and check the weather every day. Some days it was cool and cloudy with an occasional shower, other days it was warm and sunny.
6) Water. I guess because I am an American I am spoiled to the plentifullness of water that we have. In America when you ask for water, you get water! And it’s typically free! In Europe when you ask for water you get a question in return. What type of water? Still, or sparkling? I’m like, “Water, just plain water please!” You have to pay for your water too, no matter what type you order. It’s about the same price as a soft drink.
7) Communication. Check with your phone provider as I believe they are all different on international travel. We had free data and texting, but calls were twenty cents a minute. Thank heavens for video calling!! I was able to talk and see my babies!! I can’t imagine traveling in a time before video calling!
8) Restaurant protocal. If you go to a pub in London, you have to order your food and drinks at the bar and pay. Then they will bring it to your table. The pubs have amazing food by the way! In a restaurant the waiter will wait on you. When you are ready to pay your bill, ask for your bill. Don’t ask for your ticket or check because they will look at you like, “what?”.
9) Bathrooms. I found the public bathrooms to be overall very clean! Much more so than in the U.S., and their toilet paper is much better too! 🙂 The flushing mechanisms are different, and you have to figure out each bathroom sink as they all seemed to have different soap dispensers and faucets. They all had automatic hand blowers.
10) Face cloths. I don’t know if this was just our hotel or if this was a London thing, but our bathroom did not have wash clothes. When we arrived we discovered that there were bath towels, hand towels, but no wash clothes in our bathroom. No wash clothes? Where are the wash clothes? How are you supposed to properly bathe without a wash clothe? I began reading the little hotel booklet that says if you forgot to bring tooth paste, tooth brush, or any such toiletry needs please let us know and we will be happy to provide them for you. On the list was face clothes. I took a wild guess that face clothe and wash clothe must be the same thing and called housekeeping to request face clothes. Sure enough, I was right! We then had to request face clothes every time we needed clean ones. So maybe next time we will pack luffas!
There are so many places to see and things to do in London! I recommend planning out each day and the transportation routes in-between each site before hand. It will save time, and sometimes phone data is very sketchy. We discovered this after day one and then planned it all out before each day. Here are some picture highlights of our trip. If I posted every picture we took there would be like a thousand! 🙂