Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Getting Around London

I had the privilege of hanging out in London for two separate weeks this year and I learned several lessons about the best way to get around, so I am passing them on to you.

The Tube, The Underground, the Subway, the Metro…call it what you like but that is the most efficient, cheapest and fastest way to make your way across London. First of all, get your Oyster Card (like a Metro Card) and then get a Tube Map called the Standard Tube Map which you need to study…and study some more.  I learned from an unfortunate experience that you should really, really, look at that map when you need to transfer, but the smartest advice is to ask. Londoners are lovely and very helpful and certainly proud of their city.

Walking: Central London isn’t very big. We walked from The Tower of London all the way along the Thames to The London Eye. The weather was good with lots of history along the way.  And a great way to learn about the city is the London Walks teaches you not only the history of that area but you also learn where “things” are. I remembered, from my first visit and London Walk, that Spitalfields is an open air market was in East London. I studied my little tube map and found my way with only a few questions asked, to my shopping destination! Yes, I was proud of myself!

Bicycling: London as in many other cities have joined the Bicycle Share Program Cycle-hire. Of course you really have to know where you are going and be aware that cars drive on the left (absolutely frightful!) so this is not for the faint of heart. However, it is easy and very inexpensive.  Perhaps for the younger set!

Rickshaw Drivers: After attending a wonderful cabaret show in Soho, which ended around 11:30 pm and we finally left at midnight, we attempted to find a taxi which seemed to be impossible. And when it started to rain, we were approached by a rickshaw driver who asked us where we were going. We said, Westminster is much too far, but he checked his little map and said no problem: 10 pounds per person. And we squeezed into the cab (where he put on a cover for us) and we were there in 20 minutes…with a story to tell! After all we were only 1 ½ miles away. More information from London Rickshaws.

Taxis: London taxi drivers are a colorful and fascinating breed and an endless source of information, but, unless you really cannot get there any other way, it is expensive and often takes longer because of the terrible traffic. That’s my opinion. We were told about the UberTaxis and, much like the protests here in Washington, there was a protest by the taxi drivers in London as well. I have not yet tried that option, but many have.

Getting lost: Yes I have much experience there. And it actually helped me find places I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I finally downloaded a compass app onto my “mobile” and that really helped me when the GPS said, “Head North!"

Double Decker Buses: Often they are the perfect way to introduce you to London and there are several types of those as well: ones with full blown tours like Bus Tours or the hop on hop off method from Hop On Hop Off Tours.  And there are just regular buses that take you where you need to go on  London Buses.  You can use your Oyster Card for that too.

Guidebooks: Montgomery County Public Libraries has many guidebooks with all this information inside their colorful pages:
• Fodor's 2015 London - Caird, Jo,
• Fodor's 25 Best. London - Nicholson, Louise
• Rick Steves' London 2014 - Steves, Rick
• Pocket London: Top Sights - Filou, Emilie
And travel e-books that you can download to your e-reader.

Any way you want to explore London, I guarantee you will enjoy, learn, and want to return.

lisa n

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