London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

Mind The Adventure - Our First Trip to London - Getting Around

27/09/2005, By Mike Turvey

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 22669 votes

Richard the Lionheart

As regards transportation, we strongly suggest you watch for special offers on British Airways. We traveled BA's Club World (business class) which was listed as costing $17,500 per person, per round trip. Taking advantage of an offer BA made around Thanksgiving of 2004, good for 12 months, we flew Club World class for $2000 per person, round trip. The service was perfect, with hostesses anticipating our needs before we realized them, and projecting a sincerely happy attitude in performance of their extensive onboard and airport lounge services.

The amazing seating arrangement had individual seats shaped like lounge chairs, with built-in TV screens and earphones that allowed us to view a long list of movies or games without disturbing anyone else. When we tired of that entertainment, we could listen to a variety of music, raid the galley at will (which was kept well-stocked with sandwiches, snacks, and beverages) or we could just recline our chair hydraulically, into a completely flat and very comfortable bed, and donning the padded blindfolds provided, drift into sleep.

Flower Beds outside Buckingham Palace

To counter jet lag and to orient you to London, we recommend a flight that arrives early in the day, allowing you to drop off your luggage at your hotel. Hotel check-in is not likely to be permitted until after 1 pm, but a good hotel will secure your luggage until their appointed check-in time. While waiting for check-in you can then take a double-decker bus tour, preferably from the open upper deck with plenty of sunshine, which my doctor explained would help my body adjust to the new time zone more easily. Both Original London Sightseeing, or Big Bus Tours offer such a service.

In getting around London, we strongly suggest purchasing London Travelcards that cover the anticipated zones in which you have planned to travel. The travel zones used are viewable via map on the London Travelcard website. Be aware that Travelcards covering only 2 or 3 zones may be limited to use outside London's morning and evening rush hours. We had plans that took us to all six zones, so our cards came with the added advantage of being usable anytime, day or night, on any transportation mode we chose. We rode the tube, the buses, the trains, and took boat cruises, without any restrictions, as often as we wished. This is critical to accomplishing any itinerary, unless you can afford a $15.00 taxi ride at least twice a day, or are interested in renting a vehicle and learning a whole new way of driving.

Nelson's Column from Whitehall

In the area of support, we urge you to find a guidebook that contains maps that cover large sections of the City, and in addition have lots of pages with smaller maps containing more detailed layouts of the area you wish to visit. We recommend carrying our favorite guidebook, the DK Eyewitness Travelguide to London. You should plan to carry such a guidebook with you each day. It will help you extract yourself from the situation that every visitor to London has experienced since they opened the gates and let in strangers, that of being lost.

It is not an unpleasant thing to have happen in London since one is never more than one wrong turn away from a marvelous courtyard, or shaded churchyard bench, or park, offering unanticipated calmness or intriguing sights. We came to anticipate these unplanned delights as a normal part of walking in a town that chose not to use the boring pattern of gridlocked streets that almost all other cities use, or the boring habit of keeping a street name the same for more than 6 blocks. Iím hoping you can begin to see why those, like us, feel London is not just a remarkable place to visit, but a never-ending dream-like adventure just to walk around in.

The Famous Gherkin

For those times when dinner reservations, or theatre tickets insist that you cut short the adventure and arrive somewhere in town at a specified time certain, it is most helpful to carry these two items; the small trifold brochure that shows the different tube lines you can use to plan an underground move from point A to point B, and the foldout map that shows all the bus routes and all their interconnecting points. These two items are available at most any tube station.

Do not give up when you first view the bus map. It is easier to read than it appears. Just realize that you are overloaded with information on the map, and that you only need to look at your proposed destination, and find a bus number, then follow it backwards to your starting point, and take the bus(es) that make the connections you need. Be assured that if you ask the bus drivers, while they are stopped of course, they will tell you how far it is to the stop youíre seeking. It wonít take you long to become a veteran bus rider, and itís slower but infinitely less confining than the tube. Just think of your options this way, faster and no sights means the tube; slower and sightseeing means the bus.

If you need to keep in touch with those at home, a cell phone and an email account will serve you well. The best of several cell phone deals we found was with CellNation in London, and one of the easiest email accounts to set up is GMail available free at The GMail account is reachable at any computer that has internet access. Such computers can be found in the lobby of some hotels, or at internet cafes, which are all across London. Expect to pay a pound sterling for 30 to 60 minutes online.

In doing our pre-trip planning our most complete source for reviews and links to everything imaginable regarding London was The Thoughts of Juerg, a unique and massively comprehensive site.

Mike Turvey

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