Fresh off my trip to London, and I already can’t wait to go back! Despite only being there for two days, and a 40-hour trip delay caused by weather, I can’t wait to get back to Britannia sooner rather than later. What struck me the most was the eloquent approach to the history of London and the ceremony of the city – demonstrated by the memorial walkways, and the preservation of history, and the great care in the monuments of Parliament Square. Additionally, I was very impressed by the gardens of the city – each one having its own personality and artwork that seemed to complete the community.
While it was a quick trip, I was surprised by how much of London I was able to see on foot. More importantly was what I was able to catch in just walking – including the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, high noon striking at Big Ben, and the bustle of Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. While I didn’t stop down for tea time on Sunday, I did end up in a pub for a pint and a plate of bangers and mash! Despite what people say, authentic English food was delicious!
While my trip was a lot of fun, it reinforced a lot of travel lessons that I learned from my years as a student traveler. There’s plenty of adventure and excitement to be had in Europe, but knowing these great travel tips ahead of your trip can save you a lot of time – and hassle – when you get there:
1: Carry a credit card with an EMV chip embedded
This travel tip is one that I often read about, but didn’t realize how important it was until I stepped up to a ticket kiosk at the Underground. None of my cards would be accepted, nor would they fit in – the machines were configured to accept EMV chips only, and not magnetic stripes. Lucky for me, I just happened to have an EMV enabled card, and was able to buy my tube ticket with ease! While traditional cards are accepted in many places, automated machines (like the ticket machines and ATMs) only operate on EMV chips. Carrying one of these cards can be a huge asset, are available from several banks, and may offer consumer protections when traveling abroad (such as zero-liability protection if your card gets stolen). Every time I cross the pond, I have at least one EMV card with me.
2: Keep a schedule for your travels
I thoroughly enjoyed walking everywhere in London – and with the old downtown of the city so accessible, it makes sense to do just that! However, there was no way I would be able to walk from my hotel to the downtown , as my hotel was out by Heathrow Airport. For this, I utilized many different phone and tablet apps to keep my schedule running with the busses and the underground. This travel tidp helped me make sure that I could get wherever I needed to go – be it to my hotel, to one of the historic sites, and anywhere in-between!
3: Map out your journeys with a start and finish point
Let’s face it – London is an extremely large city, and it can be very easy to get lost on maze of one-way streets and back alleys. This is why having a map turned out to be one of the best travel tips I utilized on this trip. My map allowed me to easily navigate my starting points, my stops along the way, and how to get back to my hotel from the Tube. And while I kept a paper map in my backpack just in case, using my tablet allowed me to navigate in real time – plus, I didn’t obviously look like I was a tourist.
With one more leg of #EuroTour14 coming this weekend in Dublin, Ireland, I can’t wait to get back across the pond! Be sure to follow us on Twitter as I document my adventures (as WiFi allows). What travel tips would you give someone going to London for the first time? Leave me a comment with your ideas below!