19 February 2013

Backpacking in London - Part I

Welcome to my first travel post! Thank you for reading and I hope this entry helps you if you're planning a similar trip too :)

Let's get down to business: I stayed in London for 6 days during the end of December 2012. It was winter then so it was raining a lot; mostly light, sometimes quite heavy, but completely unpredictable. Sometimes it felt kind of romantic walking after the rain, looking a the glistening old buildings and streets reflecting the Christmas..... but then the wind would come. It would strip away that feeling in a second and leave you with the sensitivity of an ugly, old, buzzing heater.
So the weather was horrid, but at rare times the sun would come out to give you the best feeling ever. That's when you snap out your camera for sunny shots :)

Make use of the weather app on your smartphone! You can also check out sites like ukweather.com for daily weather forecasts. The weather here is for February by the way.

I travelled mostly using the train, Tube, bus and once with the taxi while in London. My bro-in-law's sister was travelling with me at the time ( let's call her Al ). We booked tickets for the train almost 2 months in advance if I'm not mistaken, so we got them at a reasonable price - about £90 return from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston Station. As for getting around town, the bus wins over the Tube. There are plenty of London buses throughout the day, they aren't as crowded as the Tube (unless on Boxing Day - avoid them at all costs) and even though they have different routes, most will get you to your destination, wherever that may be. The only plus side for the Tube is that its way faster. Oh, we also took the London Hop On-Hop Off during Boxing Day since there was no public transport (except for a few buses which were crowded beyond imagination). The service was fair; the buses will bring to all famous locations in London - from Kensington Gardens to Madam Tussauds to the Tower of London - literally all corners of the city. But the timing was awful.. The bus only seemed to keep on schedule in the morning....come noon, we completely abandoned the schedule and got on the any bus we could catch. Btw, we booked with Golden Tours and the staff at their office, plus their bus driver were really nice. As for the taxi, let's just say it scores low on price and friendliness. Keep that as a last resort.

List of buses to Oxford Street is on the left. This bus has a different route (the red line) from the bus in the picture below, but they still get to the same place. And there are loads of buses to choose from.

Bus number 10 to Oxford Street. It was horrid there on Boxing Day by the way so avoid that and you will be fine. For more maps, click on the photo. (Courtesy of tfl.gov.uk) 

The Hop On Hop Off bus map. This is the usual route all tours take so don't worry about missing out on any location. Photo from www.city-discovery.com

We booked a Tune Hotel room a month in advance and got a 4 day/3night stay for £178. This included towels/toiletries and WiFi which had to be added on. Tip for booking hotels: search for your hotel on Google Earth or view in Street View so you can get familiar with your surrounding. This helped me a lot. When I reached the hotel I felt completely familiar with the place since I had already 'explored' Edgware Road beforehand :) 

Seeing as it was a budget hotel, it was really small. It was really clean though. We took a double bed and although the entire room may have fit two Asian girls nicely, it may not be as comfortable for others. The WiFi at the hotel wasn't that great honestly; it kept disconnecting so it did its job just fairly. We slept pretty well at night though you do hear ambulances now and then considering there was a hospital nearby. Also, our room was on the first floor so we had a good view of the streets and we just kept the curtains shut for privacy. At night I left milk and other foodstuff on the windowsill to avoid from it getting bad. That worked for about 3 days so yay for innovation!

Stay tuned for the second part of this entry to see the real adventure unfold! (and misadventures)

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