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A London Snapshot

With the Olympics just around the corner, there has never been a better time to visit the city of London. Taking place between 27 July and 12 August, there is still time to organise your holiday to the UK. Even if the games aren’t really your thing, London is a city filled with culture and fashion, history and entertainment. Here is some useful advice for surviving the games or the capital city at any time of the year.

Getting there:

There are many airlines which sell flights to London. However none fly direct so perhaps a stopover can be used as an opportunity to have a separate mini-holiday? Depending on which airline you choose, you can stay a night or two in Kuala Lumpar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore or even the remote Chinese city of Guangzhou.

A stopover in any of these places should be relatively inexpensive in terms of additional ticketing costs and some airlines may even aid you in organizing such a stop such as offering discounted hotels or airport transfers, allow you the chance to see two cities for the price of one.

Staying there:

The Olympic stadium has been constructed on the outskirts of London's North East, close to Stratford. While accommodation will be expensive during the games, if you want to make the most of your time in London, stay as central as possible. Whenever I visit London I like to stay in the North West of the city as this is where you will find the ultra chic Paddington, Kensington, Mayfair and iconic Notting Hill areas.

Other popular areas include the central districts of Waterloo and Southwark with others preferring the slightly further out financial districts like Canary Wharf and Greenwich Park.

Regardless of where you stay, be sure your hotel is close to one of London’s easily accessible tube or bus stops. Most hotels are no more than a 5-10 minute walk from their closest one and from there you can travel the length and breadth of the city with great ease.

Getting around:

On that note, if you plan on using public transport during your stay (or even if you don't), it would be worthwhile investing in London's public transport integrated ticketing card; the Oyster card. This blue and yellow piece of plastic, roughly the size of a credit card is completely free to get (although a refundable £5 deposit is initially required) and can be topped up as you would a mobile phone.

An Oyster card can be used on any of the city's famous Tube or Overground trains as well as public buses and certain ferries. Pricing is dependent on a zone system and/or transport type with a typical single journey on London's City Circle line costing approx $2. The beauty of the card is that you will only be charged a maximum amount each day and after that, any journey's you take will not be charged.

If you choose not to use public transport and instead opt for a taxi after a long day or night, be aware that although plentiful, the iconic London Black cab will always charge more than a normal hackney taxi car. 

Things to do:

While London has many famous attractions; Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Madame Tussauds and the Tower of London, most these come with an unattractive price tag. Free things to do in and around the capital of England are plentiful and every visit should include these.

  • Visit the art galleries and museums – The Tate Britain, the Tate Modern and the British Museum
  • Big Ben & Westminster Abbey
  • Wander the Gardens of Hyde Park and visit the Princess Diana memorial fountain
  • Walk across London Bridge
  • Visit Harrods’s Department Store
  • Walk around Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus

Ultimately, London is a city with something for everybody and can be whatever you want it to be. Perfect for shopping, sightseeing and dining, you can watch the punks go by in Camben Lock, become a yuppy in Notting Hill or  simply join your friends for a beer in the pub while watching a Tottenham Hotspurs game. No matter what you are into, to quote the famous The Clash song, ‘Londons Calling’.

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Tips by
Niamh

Deal Expert, Sydney
Monday, April 23, 2012
See more Tips from
Niamh Walsh