I consider myself a London travel veteran these days. Having traveled there 10 times in the last decade or so, I’ve learned a lot about London, learned to love it, learned to hate it, learned to enjoy it despite its problems.
The problem is that I usually only get to go once a year and there’s a lot of pressure to fit in everything I want to do in the time allotted. Almost always I’m never able to get done everything I wanted to do – even if I spend the whole trip running around.
That said, I’ve spent a colossal amount of time in London that’s been completely wasted. I’ve also made some poor decisions that have led to some trips not being so great. So, in an effort to spread our London knowledge, I thought I’d share some of my biggest regrets and mistakes learned from previous London trips.
As we count down the days to our next trip (in London from June 1st – June 7th), here’s a few things we hope to not repeat.
Hotel Room Internet Saga
Circa 2004, hotel room wifi was not as common as it is now and if you did get it, it did not work very well. Back in 2004 I was still a student and Anglotopia wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. I was just your average internet junkie. It was our first trip with a laptop and I was very happy about this so I could keep a trip diary but also keep up with the internet.
Our room in a shitty hotel (which will not be named as it’s probably changed since then) included free Ethernet in the room. I was quite excited about this fact. I plugged it in and assumed it would just work.
What followed was hours spent trying to get the damn free internet to work.
I never did.
And rather than spend one more night on the streets of London before we left, instead I spent it in a crappy hotel room trying to get the internet to work.
Lesson learned, the internet will not die without me and I can live with it the other 360 days of the year I’m not in London.
Skipping watching the boat race
The Oxford vs Cambridge boat race is one of the biggest sporting events on the London Calendar and thousands turn up on the banks of the Thames to watch the race. The year I first heard about it, I was actually in London during the race.
Despite the fact it’s free to go down to the Thames to watch the race, I decided better to watch it in the hotel on the tiny little TV.
Since, I’ve become a big fan of the Boat Race and watch it every year. Ever since, I’ve wished I’d gotten off my butt and gone a few blocks down the street to the Thames to watch the race in person as I haven’t had the same opportunity again.
Taking the Tube EVERYWHERE
I get it – the Tube is amazing. Most Americans come from cities with little to no public transport and if there is public transport – it’s certainly no fun to ride. Riding the Tube for the first time is so much fun – it’s intoxication. It goes everywhere, it has its own rhythms, its own smell, its own culture and life.
You’ll love it so much that if you’re not careful, you’ll end up taking it everywhere and your entire geography of London will be built around it.
This is a big shame because there’s so much more to London than just where the Tube goes. Most of central London is actually pretty close together – so close you can walk to most of the major sites. If you just take the Tube everywhere, you miss the chance to explore London’s streets. You miss the chance to get lost. You miss the chance to discover something not in the guidebooks.
So, while it’s smart to rely on the Tube – don’t rely on it to take you everywhere.
Not Budgeting Enough Money for the Trip
I made this mistake not once, but twice. Back when I was in college, we used to use our grant money that we had leftover to fund our first trips to London. While this was not the best use of the money (we worked full-time so we thought of it as bonus money) this led to sloppy budgeting.
We literally ran out of money in London twice. With several days left to go in the trips.
It was pretty scary – we were in one of the most expensive cities in the world and we literally had no money, our credit cards were maxed out and we were counting our change to buy Burger King.
Thankfully, desperate phone calls back home resolved the situation (Thanks Mom & Dad). When we got home, we were even more broke.
But after making the same mistake twice, we resolved for that to never happen again. It’s so important to budget enough money to enjoy yourself in London. While it’s easy to do London through the gutter with no money, it’s certainly not fun (unless you’re a masochist). So, we always make sure we save enough money for our trips. What is enough?
We budget £100 a day in spending money. This does not include hotel, transport, etc. This is pocket money for food, souvenirs and whatever else comes up.
Not Taking More Day Trips out of London
Our geography of Britain is very London centric. I’ll be the first to admit that. We’ve only really been to Dorset, which is a shame (well Dorset’s great though!). I really wish we’d taken more day trips in the past and it’s certainly something we’ve built into our itineraries nowadays.
Day trips don’t have to cost a fortune, it can be a matter of buying a train ticket and exploring a town at the end of the line. I’ve been to England 10 times now and I haven’t been to Oxford, Bath, Cambridge, Stratford, York, Bristol, Brighton, Canterbury, Birmingham, Manchester… I could go on.
As a card-carrying Anglophile, this is criminal and something we’re rectifying on future trips.
The problem is that once you get into London, you get comfortable being there, it’s hard to pull yourself away and take the risk in exploring somewhere else.
Sticking to Chain Restaurants Because they’re Familiar
I have strange eating habits, I’ll be the first to admit that. So, when I’m in London I generally just stick to what’s familiar and usually just default to getting a burger and chips.
There’s sich a variety of food in London, this is just as criminal as never leaving London. I wish I was a little more adventurous and tried a different variety of foods. I wish I tried hole in the wall restaurants rather than sticking to chain restaurants where everything is familiar.
Not Making Many Friends
This is a hard point to make because we’ve made lots of friends in Britain through our travels, I just wish we had more. That said, the friendships we have made will last a lifetime and I suppose it should be about quality over quantity.
Never Going For More than a Week
On 10 trips, the longest I’ve been in London has been just 1 week and as few as 4 days. This is almost always never enough time, which is why we haven’t taken many day trips outside of London. There’s never enough time to do what we want to do.
Our next trip to Britain is 17 days – while it’s not possible for most people to take a trip that long – it seems like a good amount of time and I hope we can see and do everything we want to do. We probably won’t.
Go for as long as you possibly can. If you can miss a full week of work – cram in both weekends and make it a 10 day trip. This way you can visit neighboring cities as well. You won’t regret spending MORE time there.
Thinking it will be like the Movies
Our picture of London is very much built-in our heads by movies and TV shows. It’s so much more than that. The fictional place you build in your head does not reflect reality much – just try going to Notting Hill these days, nothing like the movie and overrun with tourists and Americans who moved there because of the movie (driving up property prices).
I actually hated London the first time I went because it was nothing like I expected to be.
So, the biggest lesson we can pass on here is that you need to understand London will not be what you think it is. It will be something completely different from what you imagine.
But it will be awesome, better and REAL.
Missing London 2012
When London was chosen to host the London 2012 games in 2005, I resolved to be there for them. Back in 2005, when I was still in college, my line of thinking was that by 2012 I’d be well established professionally and I could make it happen.
Well 7 years went by a hell of a lot faster than I thought they would and we had a few life hiccups along the way (one in which prevented us from visiting Britain for nearly 3 years). Generally Anglotopia and Londontopia can make these things happen (and they still might). But after we weren’t chosen for any tickets last year, we decided there’s not really much point in going.
I wish we hadn’t been so defeatist. There’s going to be so much going on in London during the time. It will be an atmosphere filled with excitement and anticipation. London will put on its best show. London will be the most alive it could possibly be.
And we won’t be there.
I will forever regret that. There won’t be another London Olympic, at least not in our lifetimes and we won’t be there to see her at her best.
What’s your biggest London trip regret? Let us know in the comments!
Just arrived back to the States from England, and London 2012 is EVERYWHERE!!! There is a definite “crackle” in the air every place you go getting ready for the Olympics. I’m trying myself to get back for August. Let’s hope the crossed fingers work!
Phoenix Frank says
During our first trp to London we were with a group and all events were structred. That was for the birds the life of the city should be allowed to ebb and flow without restraint. Use the great pubic transportation system as much as possible and take day trips to out of the city as vacation time permits
Susan Dorris says
Our rule of travelling on our stomachs is “don’t eat what you can get at home.” Chain restaurants are out, unless they are are native only to the locale. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants (usually recommended by the locals or guidebooks) are a treasure. Eat where the natives eat. Get the house speciality. You won’t be disappointed.
Cathleen Clark says
My biggest regret is being a little shy about talking to Londoners…because they always seem to be in a hurry and not have much time. It’s difficult to actually pin one down and have a conversation because they are always rushing off somewhere! However, this last trip, we stopped in a Nero’s coffee shop. And we discovered several Londoners that did want to chat! So, now I know where to find Londoners that might have a few moments to talk. 🙂
Not taking more money. xp MAJOR mistake! The adage I heard before I left is correct. Take half as many clothes as you think you’ll need and twice as much money.
Not taking more day trips, which had everything to do with not having enough money to take them.
I was staying in London for a week and then going on to Ireland for 5 days so I had a lot of luggage. I flew into Heathrow and though I would save myself some money by taking the tube from the station to my Hotel near Buckingham Palace. On the map I could see that Victoria Station was close by the hotel, just a few blocks away. One of my larger suitcases had wheels so I thought I’d be fine.
Turns out that it was a schlep at the airport just to get to where I would catch the tube and then the train I caught required me to change trains halfway to Victoria Station. No problem except the station did not have a lift and I had to go up a huge flight of stairs and then down another huge flight of stairs in order to change trains and when I got to Victoria I had to climb a large flight of stairs to get to the street in order to begin the several blocks’ walk to my hotel. By the time I got to the hotel I was hot and sweaty, and exhausted. Going back, I took a taxi and paid the money. It was so worth it not to be worn out by the time I got to my destination.
So IF you are going to try to save money by taking the tube, you should have only a backpack and a SMALL suitcase on wheels and anticipate that you will encounter big flights of stairs, no lifts, and no skycaps like we have in America.
Interesting that you haven’t been much out of London during all of your visits! Our last trip in 2010 was for 11 days and we drove 1500 miles around England – the country is beautiful and the people friendly. Hubby mentioned this morning that it was time to go back! I would say that my biggest regret is trying to do too much. Most days we had two places to go see which meant we were in and out and rushed. I wish we had taken the time to enjoy it a little more and wander around the villages,towns and cities we were in instead of see-the-castle/cathedral-get-in-car-and-leave. The down side of course would be that we wouldn’t see as much and I hate to think of not seeing any of the places we visited because they were all amazing. Always an excuse for another trip I guess :).
I’m glad you mentioned being very Londoncentric. As a Brit who just moved back to the UK, and relied a lot on your site while I was in the US, this has always been a bit of a niggle for me. I’m now living in Yorkshire and have no desire to even go to London, let alone read about it constantly. England is an amazing and diverse place and London no more represents the whole country than New York City represents America.
I do appreciate the work that goes into your site and I enjoy reading it. I just think I’ll enjoy it a lot more when you finally get out of London and see the sights.
By the way, I realize I’m on Londontopia, so of course you’re London-centric! I was actually referring to Anglotopia. Sorry for the confusion!
Louise – We actually started Londontopia as a response to that very criticism. We occasionally share the big articles between the two sites, but we try to keep them separate. 🙂
I am glad that you have separated the 2. I look forward to your talking about the away days you will have had when you get back from over there. I must recommend Bath and Brighton and Avebury rather than Stonehenge. I’m really fond of Hastings as it represents Childhood beach memories (ouch) You go and find out why I said that. I am visiting with my Husband this year and hope to see several places we missed last time 33 years ago.
Idaho Dad says
We did that “run out of money” thing once, and it was not fun. I had to run to a small magazine/snack shop near London Bridge before it closed on a Sunday in order to get money wired from home.
The biggest blunder we made on our last trip was going to Piccadilly Circus at night with kids. We had wanted to visit some huge souvenir shop called Cool Britannia on our last night to load up with junk. Problem was, this store’s merchandise wasn’t even decent junk. So not worth the time it took to go to Piccadilly, and there was nothing else there worth even looking at. And then, trying to get back to the hotel around 11pm was madness, as all the cabs were full. We had to walk 7 or 8 blocks to finally flag one down.
The most valuable lesson I learned about the souvenir situation is, the best ones are in the museum gift shops. Just stick with those and you’ll be fine. Oh, and if you miss getting something? Wait until you’re home and order it online. Almost all the museums have online shops.
This one’s in response to your item about watching the boat race on tv instead of going down to the river to see it live.
Many years ago (early 70s) I was in the Air Force and stationed North of London in East Anglia. One night on the spur of the moment, several of us jumped on the train to London in order to be in the crowds to watch the pomp and circumstance of Princess Anne’s wedding. We spent the night on the sidewalk with the crowds, and I stood at the end of the Mall facing Victoria’s monument and Buckingham Palace (St. James Park to my back) watching those amazing carriages go by and thinking “millions are watching on TV but I will always be able to say I saw it live!” I’ve always been so glad we made the effort and be able to say that I was there for something so unique. One of my photos even captured the Queen looking right at us and waving.
So yeah, when it comes to something truly special and you have the chance to be there – by all means make the effort!
R Stickler says
We’re planning a trip to the UK in the fall, with only 2-3 days in London. Been there, certainly not ‘done that’, by any means, but there’s so much to see in the rest of the country, too. Can’t believe you’ve been so many times & only to London! Try meals at pubs – usually pretty good & fairly reasonable, considering where you are. We’ve often picked up food stuffs at Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco, Safeway, and had really good meals at really reasonable costs.
Our biggest issue with trip planning is car vs other transport; gas is darned expensive but rail passes can cost as much as just the car rental and aren’t as flexible as self-driving. Getting turned around or taking the wrong route (aka ‘almost lost’ ) leads to interesting venues that might otherwise have been missed.
GET OUT OF LONDON! Discover some of the rest of the country!
Hi Jonathan. I was really startled to read that out of ten trips you had not seen any of the places you listed! I have been to London 15 times, usually for only a week or 10 days at a time, alas. I always take one trip out of London, usually around the middle of the trip . Generally it’s a day trip to Canterbury, Dover, Stratford , Bath , Oxford etc. During my royal wedding trip last year I needed to leave the huge crowds behind and went to the Cotswolds. Due to the double Bank Holiday on the Friday and Monday the villages were terribly crowded and that was a shame. The day after the wedding I took a long boat ride up stream to Hampton Court and hung around enjoying the sun and the families picknicking & chatting to folks I met. London is the greatest city in the world but it’s not England. I agree 100% on the Tube. I rarely take it. I love to walk, walk and then walk some more, exploring alleys and hidden corners and just discovering my own private London. I also love to take the bus and be above ground and see everything and everyone. I do take the tube from Heathrow with one carry on (never check luggage!) & that works just fine. Half the clothes and twice the money is so true, whoever came up with that wise advice. I would love to be there for the Jubilee but have no desire to be there for the Olympics for some reason. The Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Cenotaph in November is a wonderful experience and one I plan to repeat one day. Very moving and you meet the real heart of London & the UK as folks come in from everywhere to pay tribute to the war dead. Definitely not one to just sit & watch on tv. Love your blogs and hope you get a riverside seat for the flotilla let by the royal barge. That will really be something!
Pickled Wizard says
Interesting to read the comments here. There is so much more to the UK than London and it’s coffee shop culture, but if you are thinking of travelling away from London, and you know your schedule anything up to two months in advance, you can order train tickets way cheaper than just turning up on the day and buying them at the ticket office. Have a look at http://www.nationalrail.co.uk
Or, you could rent a car, but bear in mind petrol is loony price over here at the moment (£1.43 per litre = £6.51, or $10.54 per gallon , and, we do drive on the correct side of the road. Diesel is even more expensive. Thanks Tony Bliar and Gordon Brown.
Hotels in London, like any city are pricey, but here in Cornwall, expect to pay £25 ($40) bed and sumptuous breakfast (no waffles and maple syrup, but enough cholesterol to bung up the arteries of a whale!), and to be honest, you are better travelling by taxi having arrived by train, or even hiring a car locally, rather than the hassle of driving from London at higher speed, on much more crowded roads than you are maybe used to (despite the official speed limits, average motorway (freeway) speeds are eighty , often rising to ninety miles per hour, and you are expected to go with the flow – if you are not an experienced or confident driver, it can be very stressful – and thats not what you came on holiday for!)
So, pack some sarnies and take the train to the south West and get the pictures that none of your friends will have – you can always get a photo of Nelsons column off the internet, but you’d be hard pushed to photoshop yourself at the opening to Gunnislake Clitters mineshaft, or looking into ding Dong lode! (look ’em up on the interweb)
I just read in the Telegraph that there are more London 2012 going up for sale, and remembered this post about your regrets, including not being able to go to the games.
For now it is on the front page.
Cool! Thanks for thinking of us – we’ll take a look!
Helene K says
I have been to England many times. I love London but I also love getting out of the city and seeing the rest of the country. Bath is worth a few days and from there you can take side trips to the Cotswolds. Oxford is good for a day trip or overnight and if you are a fan of Jane Austen you should visit her home in Chawton. I was there in Nov and we were the only two visitors in the house. We had the place to ourselves. We walked around the town in Janes footsteps. It was delightful
I was there for one of the Tube strikes, and I made the mistake of thinking I could just take the bus. The bus stops are NUTS when there’s a strike, so after a few minutes, I just gave up and left the bus for people who needed to get somewhere in a somewhat timely manner. Then I did what you suggested and walked. My hotel was near Paddington and I walked to Kensington Gardens, then down to the V&A Museum, then over to Knightsbridge after time in the museum. On my last trip that ended up being much of what I did: take the Tube to some spot then walk and walk. I really got to know more of the neighborhoods!
I also recommend daytrips. My favorites have been Brighton, Oxford, York and Salisbury. I’ve actually spent two weeks in Bath on two separate trips, and was able to do fun daytrips with the company Mad Max. One went to Avebury, Lacock, and Stonehenge, and the other to the Cotswolds. These are minibus trips, so not a huge crowd, and really interesting guides. I also did the Salisbury daytrip from Bath just taking the train myself, and I splurged and got a guide to do a daytrip out to Stourhead Gardens.
I love London, so I can sympathize with how hard it is to get away. I’m lucky in that while I’ve had far fewer trips (only 3), I’ve been able to make those trips run anywhere from almost 2 weeks to almost 4 weeks, so I feel like I’ve really seen a lot in the UK. Of course, there’s still so much more to see, and whenever I pick up a magazine there’s some new exhibit at one of the museums or a new show at a theater which I wish I could get to see. Oh well! Hopefully there will be a next trip someday!
jill alden says
I have been to London twice and I will never get enough!!! Can’t wait to go back
and plan to AFTER the Olympics. Love the museums and my English friends….
a very warm and wonderful people!!!!
Donna Manz says
Jonathan, I’m perplexed … WHY is it you will “miss” the Olympics? Because you will be in London in June? That makes no sense to someone who gives us other things to travel (like me). You want to be in London for a few days during the Olympics? GO! Go toward the end when airfares begin to fall for the tourist season …. the Olympic committee has been forced to release thousands of hotel rooms because tourists are NOT swarming to London for the Olympics as the committee had hoped. Do you buy coffee at a cafe back home? Give it up to save money …. movies in a theatre? Rent one instead …. Last year, I came home from a three-day trip to London, spent three days home, and then, turned around and went to Paris for four days. I don’t “eat out” …. I love to travel and, so, my whole lifestyle is centered around saving money to do so. I don’t know where you live, but, if you live near a hub, you should be able to get a moderate airfare toward the end of the Olympics. Good luck and make your dream come true!
We chose to invest our yearly trip budget in covering the Diamond Jubilee because we couldn’t get tickets to the Olympics. We’ve already spent the money, it’s too late to change our plans. Thus the regret!
Donna Manz says
Truthfully, Jonathan …. I think the Diamond Jubilee will be more unique, more distinctive, more “British” than the Olympics, anyway! Don’t waste good time “regretting” the London Olympics; the Olympic games are pretty-much the same everywhere, but, the Diamond Jubilee for the Queen is SPECIAL! Enjoy … Donna
Christina Wheeler says
My husband and I moved to England as young newlyweds back in 1987. After 2 kids and 3 years we moved back to the states, but have always felt that we’ve left a piece of ourselves in our first home. After the baby graduated high school, we took her back to her birth place for two weeks. Although we were based out of London, we took several day trips so she could get a true flavour of the country. A wonderful tour bus driver in Cambridge made the whole trip worth while, by letting her sit in the driver’s seat during one of his breaks and explaining to her how she would drive the bus. He also referred us to a wonderful restaurant for lunch, now our favorite. After lunch, we hoped back on his bus and stopped at a local shop he recommended and bought her a sundress souveneer. We could never have gotten this from a London bus driver. Get out of London and talk to anyone willing to strike up a conversation with you. Ask what they recommend and do it! We’ve been back twice and go for two weeks each time. We never do the same thing and its always a great trip. This Sept I’m going back but this time with my mom. She’s not been in over 20 years. Her last visit was after the baby from the earlier trip was born. I can’t wait till we get there. Again, we will be based out of London for the first week and still plan to make some day excursions, Leeds being one of them. We’re mixing it up a bit this time and heading to Belfast Ireland and Dublin for the second week. Wish us luck, as neither of us have ventured further north than York! Next trip will be Scotland and maybe Wales, God willing! Love your sites! They are very informative and fun! Good job!!!
Brenda Bradford says
TWICE I made the mistake of booking tickets to a play on the evening I arrived in London after an overnight flight from the sttes. I went to sleep in Bombay Dreams and the Lion King and left at the intermission. Bever again will I make that mistake. I love the West End Theatre. Have seen Blood Brothers three times. Keep wanting to share it with fellow travelers.
Brenda Bradford says
Day trips from London to the Cotswolds, Bath and Stonehenge, and other sites are a wonderful use of time and so easy. York and Oxford are not to be missed and one of my favorites is the samll town of Keswick in the Lake District. This is my first summer in ten years not to visit the Uk and I am very nostalgic.
Dave Ehnstrom says
I regret assuming that one could get to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club simply by taking the tube out to the Wimbledon station at the end of the District Line. It seemed a reasonable assumption, I thought. When I watched The Championships on TV here in the states, they always made it seem like Wimbledon was right in the middle of London. This is not remotely true. I took the train out to the Wimbledon stop (which is the terminus), and there was nothing there. Some friendly person noticed my perplexed expression and was kind enough to tell me that the best thing to do if I wanted to see the Club where The Championships are played would be to get back on the train and get off two stops back in the other direction, at Southfields. Even from there, it was a lengthy walk and not easy to find. And by the time I did find it, it was closed – and this was my last day in London. I was devastated. Painful lesson learned: do your research before heading out somewhere!
Got back a few weeks ago and loved every minute of it. Went to Oxford, Stratford-upon-avon, and the Warner Bros Tour in Watford. Nice to get away from the hectic London but nevertheless still enjoyed London. I was so sad to leave.
Just so you know, it isn’t too late to make it over for London 2012! I work for a travel company and the market just got FLOODED with hotel rooms because LOCOG released a ton. So, hotels are panicking and selling them off cheaply (as are tour companies!). I can give you info on my company’s packages if you want via email, but I’m not trying to spam you…so just know it’s out there and a possibility!! Don’t give up on that dream yet 🙂
Denise Thompson says
-Taking a mini cab ONCE. Big mistake. They will rip you off as they have no meters. Always stick with the regular cabs. Learn from other peoples mistakes……..
-Overloading my suitcase. A bus driver tried to tell us he didnt have room for our luggage. He was being a jerk as the other driver found room for them. This was one of our earlier trips & we just had too much. The bags were really too big to lug around. Try your best to pack light & use small cases. The steps in the tube stations are a killer with luggage unless you plan your trip to take the tube from Heathrow to a tube station with a handicap sign then take a cab to your hotel from that station.
-Not taking enough shoes because I ALWAYS get blisters. Now I always pack LOTS of bandaids & if it is warm enough the sandals (& sometimes when it isn’t) go on so there is no rubbing. I walk a lot.
-Not watching the train times more diligently & getting on the wrong train Then getting kicked off & getting off at the wrong station that our train was not going to stop at. Fortunately we got a lot of wonderful help from some very nice men including the ticket guy who didn’t charge us when he could have.. He even left the booth to help us with our bags. God love those people over there!
-getting on the wrong tube car for not checking the END station & going the wrong direction. Always be aware of station closings too. It can be a nightmare! It took us an hour to get from Oxford street to the Gloucester Road station. We could have walked faster. The down side of using the tube a LOT is that you miss out on the scenery…… but they are faster than cabs. Rely on the tube but use a cab once in a while.
-Not knowing exactly where the theater was when going to see a show & walking for blocks & blocks.
-Trying to get to other cities by bus. Total waste of time. Takes too long. Train is always better.
-Not taking my camera because I thought I had seen everything…. I will always find something that I want to get a picture of even though I have been there so many times in 25 years.
-Not checking the times of the places we want to see. We went to Cardiff …by bus. After checking in we ran across the street to the castle only to find out we had missed the last tour by 15 minutes. We had to leave the next day, first thing in the morning, so we totally missed it. What time we had left of that day didn’t allow us to see much of anything. (this was before computers) So plan your journeys well. Check out the places you are going to see online before you get there for TIMES & WHAT MONTHS THEY ARE OPEN & HOW TO GET THERE
-staying at a hotel too far from town – Chester. Ridiculous & expensive to be taking a taxi in & out of a city you want to see. That time there was a bad accident & we could not get a cab back to our hotel. We were stuck in a pub for 2 hours before we could get a cab that we called for, to pick us up. TRY TO STAY AS CLOSE TO THE CENTER OF TOWN THAT YOU WANT TO SEE.
-getting on the train & just going out to other cities or taking a city bus to get to an out of the way manor like Castle Howard out of York. Just being adventurous.
-talking with Brits & getting to know them. They are the nicest people but don’t impose yourself on them
-taking in all the free museums or walking in Hyde Park or along the Thames or the Camden canals
-eating in pubs (never eat at chains) WHY EAT FOOD YOU CAN EAT AT HOME! Try new things.
-not being afraid of Paris & taking the Chunnel for the day trip there.
I also made the mistake of going to restaurants that I knew – it was more because of the price though, to be honest. I was worried everything else would cost too much :/ I read another article on mistakes in London which i also found quite good: http://travel55.co.uk/community/top-mistakes-visitors-make-in-london/
Yes DO leave London. Apart from what you have already mentioned, there is Georgian Stamford, former capital Winchester, Arundel with its fantastic castle library, Warwick, Saffron Walden, Rye….
Richard Hunt says
Referring to the comments about the cost of rail travel to get out of London, the last time I was in London, it was for the start of a transatlantic crossing on the QM2, out of Southampton. I did the research and was able to get tickets on the MEGATRAIN. The Megatrain is the same company as the Megabus in the U.S. Depending on how far out you plan your travel, the less you pay for a ticket. I was able to get tickets from London to Southampton for 1.50 GBP! Something to keep in mind next time you are travelling in Britain.
One of my biggest regrets was taking one of those rickshaws. Okay, it was my mum’s birthday, we went for a walk from Marble Arch to Piccadilly and our feet hurt, but it was just so expensive – twenty pounds per person for a 10 minute ride. A cab would have been cheaper and in the end it was just frustrating. Our attempt to ask the rickshaw bloke how much it’ll be back to Marble Arch just weren’t answered. Never again!
Charlotte Macpherson says
My husband and I went to London in 2010 and I fell head over heels in love! We went for 11 days and took days trips to Windsor Castle, Bath, Hampton Court and also a one day bus tour of the Cotswolds. We’re returning this fall (2014) and flying into Edinburgh, then doing York, Lincoln, a week in the Cotswolds in a cottage attached to a 17th century inn and finishing the trip with a week in London at a flat in South Kensington! We’ve listed more stuff to do in London that we didn’t have time for before and I’m sure we won’t be able to get through the list. I agree with your points about the Tube – walking London you get to see some extraordinary architecture and the lovely green spaces.
Penelope Shaffer says
I am lucky in that my mother was from England and I have relatives in several parts of England. But there are two things I regret not doing~~first is not searching for genealogical records while I’m there and not visiting the places where my mother grew up. I did learn to buy rail tickets in the United States at http://www.britrail.com where I can get them cheaper than in the UK. It is an awesome way to travel anywhere. The other thing I learned is that if you want to visit the Cotswolds, the only way is to rent a car (or have relatives or friends with a car) as the train does not have as many covered areas as other parts of England. They tell me that is the reason the Cotswolds has retained it’s “little English village” look.
Other readers are right—get out of London and see what a beautiful country this is.
Elizabeth West says
Biggest mistake: waiting 30 years to go back. 🙁
BUT…I’m going to visit family this autumn for 18 days, also going to Wales, planning a quick jaunt up to Scotland on the sleeper, and have bookmarked about a million off-the-beaten-path things to do in London. I will have a lot more fun than I did when I was 18 and stupid. I simply cannot wait.
This sounds wonderful. I have waited 19 years so far, and it’s much too long. Next trip I do hope to get to Scotland, too, and visit my grandmother’s home town for the first time.
One of my biggest regrets is not enjoying London because I was too worried taking photos. It’s happened to me twice, but it won’t happen again, because next time I go I will stop worrying about the camera and I’ll start feeling the city under my feet. That’s what I tell everyone: Best memories remain in your mind, not in your photo album.
And I regret not going for more than 4 days (which turn into 2 and a half days).
Yeah, putting down the phone these days would be another good tip. You can read Facebook at home!
Thank you for sharing! I’ve been to England only once, in 1996, and it was fabulous and exactly like what I expected. We used an internet cafe to send emails home. Because we were there 11 days, we had time to take 2 day trips, one to Liverpool and one to Windsor, each on a day the Tube and cabs were on strike, but we were able to hire a car one of the days and flag down a non-striking cab the other. Both trips were a delight. The English travel agent I used (in Texas) told me the changing of the guard at Windsor Castle is wonderful and much less crowded than at Buckingham Palace, and I can highly recommend it, too. I did read guidebooks for several months before going, so we wasted very little time being confused or indecisive or ill informed. Still, I’d rather be confused, indecisive, and ill informed in England than anywhere else!
Terry Gonzales says
You are doing a diservice to yourself if you do not visit anywhere but London. It is so easy and the difference, well it is like comparing staying in NY city and San Francisco. My teen agers noticed that there not only was a different sky line in London than we tought, that we can get over ofcourse it is the 21st century…but there are more people from other countries like Poland, Ukraine, Russia than England. We took a train out to Sailsbury stayed one night went to stonehenge. As the train left London and announced the stops along the way each person getting on changed as did their dialect. It was quite an experience. We then went on to my family in Bidford on Avon, stayed in Stratfor Upon Avon. Oh my gosh totally different people, experience… never eat at a chain that you can eat at in America. Get out into the country rent a car… we would never have experienced a country “boot sale” yard sale out of your car trunk…if we had not ventured out. My 2 sons still have the cricket bats they bought from that boot sale. Went to Upton on Severn where my mother was evacuated to during WWII. You can never just stay in London…my goodness. Especially since the british Isles are so small you can drive from one end to the other in 4 hours and see 20 different villages, their people and traditions. Spending so much money for air fair and not venturing out is a waste of time and money. Especially with Air BnB rates being so low. you can have a base and rent a car and venture out.
If I had a nickel for everyone who said something like this. This site is dedicated to London, it’s what it says on the tin. If you visit our other website: http://anglotopia.net – you can see that we’ve traveled all over the UK and continue to do so. We love all of Britain, but we also love London. You can love both.