London was the fourth stop on our “round-the-world” trip. After about a week in Paris, a day in Brussels, and two days in Amsterdam, we were back on the road headed to the UK. Since we had a rental car, we got a ticket to take the Eurotunnel (auto train) from France to outside of London. Just a half hour later, we arrived in the UK!
We stayed at a Holiday Inn hotel about 30 minutes from London which was a lot cheaper than staying in the city proper. This was made easier because we had a rental car, of course. The only issue was that like any other large city, there was tons of traffic so we spent a lot of time in the car trying to get around London. So it probably would have been best to ditch the car and take buses and trains around the city, given the short amount of time we had there.
London is only one of two trips we’ve ever wanted to (and did) cut short. But unlike the other country (which shall remain anonymous), we would love to return to the UK someday. In our short time there, we did visit the main touristy sights, including Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park and St. James’s Palace on Cleveland Row. We cut our trip short primarily because of the crappy weather (which made it hard to enjoy the sights), extra expenses, and also because we wanted to get back to France to spend a few more days there before leaving for Italy.
If you’re planning a trip to London, here are a few tips:
Book the Eurotunnel ahead of time
If you’re planning to take the train from France to the UK, plan ahead! Buying our train tickets ahead of time could have saved us a significant amount of money. I think it cost us around $250 for the train tickets, but we were told that if we had booked ahead of time, it only would have cost us less than $100. The UK is already ridiculously expensive (and this is coming from a New York City resident) and we could have used that extra cash for other parts of our trip.
Expect it to rain. All the time!
Ok, to be fair, we were only in London for about two days but during those two days, I barely remember more than five minutes (at a time) of blue skies. It would rain in frequent, periodic intervals (and by rain I mean a downpour) so it was difficult to really see and enjoy the sights. We spent a lot of time standing under buildings or trying to stay dry under our umbrellas, while waiting for the storms to pass.
Make sure to exchange your money for British pounds
This sounds like a no-brainer but we honestly forgot. After spending over a week in other parts of Europe, where we survived on nothing but Euros and U.S. dollars it didn’t even dawn on us to exchange our money once we hit the UK. It wasn’t until we tried to order food with those Euros and dollars (and were denied) that we were instantly reminded of this.
Be prepared to spend, spend, spend!
As I mentioned London is EXPENSIVE! In our brief time there, we spent more than most other places we visited. Everything was pricey: our hotel, the auto train, fuel, meals, parking, shopping, souvenirs – everything!
Most people advise you to just ‘go with the flow’ while traveling. It’s what I typically do, and that can be good if you don’t have particular things in mind that you want to do or see. But in my case, I really wanted to visit the London Eye and once we finally got there, it was closed! It wasn’t even that late in the evening but I wrongly assumed it would be open so I missed out.
Yummy fish and chips 🙂
While traveling, I am not always that adventurous when it comes to food because I don’t want to get sick and lose time that could otherwise be spent enjoying my trip. But in London I tried a few new foods, like Marmite, which I actually liked! (I decided to save the blood sausage for my next UK trip though. LOL)
Harrods is the best department store in the world
I have been shopping for a very long time and at a lot of different places, so it takes a lot for me to get excited. But browsing inside Harrods was like taking a kid with a bad sweet tooth to the proverbial candy store. The largest candy store you’ve ever seen, with some of the most unique and delicious candy! Seriously, I was in awe. I only stopped in Harrods to pick up a few souvenirs for my mom and aunt but I didn’t want to leave! It’s definitely on my list for the next time I visit London, and it should definitely be on yours too!
See more highlights from our London trip, below:
Have you been to London? What were your favorite places to go?