L O N D O N | Top 10 Travel Tips


Aah, London. I had always wanted to go to London, more than anywhere else in the world - it was a big dream of mine since I was a child.
It was the first place I visited on my first big trip to Europe in October 2014, and since then I've been lucky enough to visit three times. Being all in the last two years, the memories and feelings of excitement arriving for the first time are still very fresh.

To me - London was everything I had imagined and more.
The history of the city, the enormity of it. I still struggle to fathom it! There are more than twice as many people living in London than there are in my whole country - it really did blow my mind. It is full of so many hidden treasures, beauty and wonder.

I wouldn't say I am a London expert at all, but it was a city I quickly fell in love with, and as a recent London first-timer myself, I thought I could share some of my top travel tips in case you might be going there for the first time too.
This is the first part of my London guide series. For specific recommended places to visit, check out part two: L O N D O N | 25 Top Spots to Visit!



              Top 10



Tips!


1. Plan well

I had a lot much fun planning my first trip to London because there were just so many things I wanted to do, and as I was going for nearly two weeks I thought there was plenty of time. Sadly, I was wrong and missed out on quite a few things on my to-do list (not surprising as it was very long!).
However I did prioritise and booked certain things in advance, and my top things I most wanted to do I did first, so I was more than happy with that - I just knew I needed to go back!


London is a massive city. If you plan too many things you want to do in one day (like I did), you might be disappointed. There are more often than not long lines, tube delays and probably a whole lot of getting lost, so try to pick just two major things you want to do per day and stick to those and group the activities together that are in nearby areas.

If you happen to have time for more then great, but also don't exhaust yourself, you want to enjoy your time there and not run yourself down!
If you are going to popular tourist attractions try to go as early as you can.
For example, if you're going to The Tower of London, aim to arrive slightly before the opening time, as the lines get very long after that.

I was lucky enough to visit the Tower of London during the 100 year anniversary of Remembrance Day

2. History, museum & art heaven

If you are interested in history, science and art you will be very happy, as London is home to so many world-class museums and art galleries - and most are 100% free! Many also have complimentary wifi.
Absolute must-sees are the Natural History Museum (dinosaurs!) and the British Museum. If you love art then be sure to visit the National Gallery (full of historical art) and the Tate Modern (modern art).
Other popular museums and galleries include: Imperial War Museum, Museum of London, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Air Force Museum, Science Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and many more, there's really something for everyone.

The Natural History Museum

3. London theatre

Spoiled for choice, London has some of the world's best theatre with musical shows, world class plays and West End performances. The talent is amazing and most shows play at least twice a day, so there is always something on.
My favourite was The Lion King musical which was astounding. It really brought the movie to life and the Disney child in me was very happy! I also saw The Book of Mormon which was very funny (written by the creators of South Park), and Wicked.
I absolutely would love to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - I need to go back to London stat!



4. Budget advice

I'm sure you've heard that London is an expensive city - and in some cases it can be, but overall I don't think it's that bad. Don't let those rumours put you off! I went to London expecting it to be very pricey, but was quite surprised to discover that my own city (Wellington, New Zealand) was more expensive. Then again, I know New Zealand is also (clearly) pretty expensive.
I found spending in London as a whole, to even itself out. As in - one day you could spend hardly anything (going to the free museums and art galleries, walking around), which would make up for the other days where you would spend more on the likes of theatre tickets or perhaps a Harry Potter studio tour.


I think the most you will spend your money on in London is definitely accommodation which yes is expensive, that's a given.
But the shopping is really good. You can buy quality branded clothing, shoes, makeup, all sorts of products for half the price that I was paying for at home.
Food and drink are also very reasonable, with large pub meals often going for 10 pounds, and a pint going for 5.
So overall considering it's London- I was not offended by the cost of things.
When saving for a trip I like to roughly budget $100 a day (50 pounds) including activities, food and drink. Some days I'd spend more, some days less, but as mentioned it evened out pretty well. 
Set yourself a budget depending on what you can manage and research prices to get a good idea of how much you'll need.


5. Book online

Many big tourist attractions and tours are available to book in advance online.
This is both a convenient money saver as well as a time saver. You can choose a time slot for yourself and beat those alarmingly long queues. I'm not joking - lines for The London Eye for example, are often at three hours waiting time. If you book online you can skip this and save yourself 20% as well. Win win.
The London Pass and Madame Tussauds as well as many more are other examples you can book online for to save time and money.

The London Eye at South Bank in the evening

6. Getting around

I highly recommend purchasing an Oyster card as soon as you arrive and using the tube (London Underground) as your main method of transportation (even directly from the airport). The Oyster card gives you discounted fares on the tube and you can also use it on buses. When you leave you can hand in the card and get your money back for it.


Walk where you can if the weather's nice - it's a fascinating place to walk around.
The streets of central London are filled with beautiful historical buildings and amazing shops. The South Bank walk is one of my favourites. Start from the London Eye and if you're up for it walk all the way down to Tower Bridge. It's a bustling walk full of people, buskers, eateries and fantastic views of London's landmark buildings across the river Thames. See Big Ben, Old St Paul's, the 'Cucumber', the Shard, the Tower Bridge.


Catch a big red double decker bus at least once, it's definitely a novelty! Try to get a spot at the top and do a loop around the main city area. It's a lot cheaper than getting a bus tour of London and you get to see the same things (minus the commentary). But if you want to do the Hop on Hop off tour by all means go for it, it's a great way to see more of London and you learn a lot about the history as well (it's just rather pricey).
There is also the famous black London taxi cabs if you need to get somewhere fast, and you can even get around by boat on the river Thames which is really pleasant if the weather is nice.


7. Download the tube app

This one needs a whole point to itself because it is actually a lifesaver! If you are using the tube for the first time and are not used to massive transportation systems and underground maps - you need this in your life!
It's free to download and you don't need wifi to use it. It is very simple to use and makes navigating around London a breeze. Simply input where you are, and then where you want to go and it will come up with a list of easy steps to get there (often you have to change lines and directions). It is colour coordinated, as are the different lines in the underground which make it easy to follow and it also gives you an estimate of how long it will take to get there, so you know in advance what time you will need to leave by if you are heading somewhere further away. Highly recommended app!



The many lines of the Underground!

8. Free attractions

As mentioned, most of the museums and art galleries are free and there are many other attractions around London that don't have to cost a penny either.
A great one I would recommend starting with if you are new to London is doing a free walking tour. These are run by volunteers and the tour usually goes for about three hours walking around the highlights of London. It's a great way to be introduced to the city, get your bearings and learn a lot of interesting facts and about the history as well.

It is of course free to see the many famous landmarks (from the outside) such as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, you can go for a walk across Tower Bridge. hang out and people watch in Trafalgar Square, browse the giant M&M World, visit the Greenwich Meridian Timeline, explore the many excellent markets, watch the Changing of the Guard - there's no shortage of fun free things to do!



London is also home to many fantastic royal parks, including Hyde park, Kensington Palace gardens, Greenwich park, St James's park. A walk through any of these is wonderful, and not just because they're full of squirrels!


9. Dress for the weather

Known to be a tad damp at times, bring a waterproof light rain jacket with you and wear waterproof and comfortable shoes, as you will be walking around a lot.
Packing a small umbrella that fits easily in your bag might be a good idea too if it looks a bit gloomy. London does have some very nice days as well, but in case it's not, don't let the weather spoil your time. Perhaps just expect it to be drizzly so you're not disappointed, and if it's not - hooray!



10. Enjoy the food & drink

London is full of delicious and enticing food and drink. Home to the Full English breakfasts, scones with jam and cream and Sunday pub roasts, you will find them no better anywhere else!


Being such a culturally diverse city, London offers a vast range of cuisines.
If you love Asian food there are fantastic Indian and Japanese restaurants, and China Town is a must see and place to eat. Spanish, Italian, Greek - they have it all.
A traditional Cornish pasty is sublime, really filling and a perfect lunch option. Similar to a New Zealand and Australian pie - it's a delicious pastry filled with savoury meat and veg on the inside.
There's also the classic Fish and Chips with mushy peas to try (yum!), Bangers and Mash, Beef Wellington, Eton Mess if you like your sweet things, and if you have the budget for it, having a 'High Tea' is a delightful treat in the afternoon.
(Can you tell I love food? Don't even get me started on their Sunday roasts with Yorkshire puddings soaked in gravy!)
A traditional English pub is perfect for a pint of your favourite ale and they offer great ciders as well. There are plenty of riverside pubs and rooftop bars to enjoy a drink at.

The Sherlock Holmes Pub near Trafalgar Square

Bonus number 11 tip!

Of course, there is so much more to London than just it's bustling city centre, but for first timers it's a good idea to stick to it if you aren't there for that long, as there is more than enough to do.
If you do happen to have the time however, then I would highly recommend exploring wider and taking a day trip. There are so many surrounding places that are wonderful to visit.
I took a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath and absolutely loved it! There is also Cambridge and Oxford nearby if those places tickle your fancy too.
My first time in London I stayed in Trafalgar Square which was perfect, but the second and third times I stayed in Tooting which is in South London, and I really enjoyed that too (apart from the exorbitant tube fares!).
I got to experience a different side of London, with its classic British rows of matching brick houses, the cultural diversity and the best part about it were the foxes that ran around the streets at night - so cute!

The classic British street I stayed down in Tooting

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I hope you enjoyed my travel tips and found it helpful. It's hard to really explain my love for London, but I hope it shows in my writing how much of a huge spot it has in my heart.
I've been lucky enough to travel to over 20 countries recently, including many many cities, probably well over 50, and still London - my first love, is undoubtedly my favourite city in the world.

Happy Travels,

Solo Travel | My Top Tips


As some of you might know, last year I went on an exchange at Konstanz University and lived in Germany for 6 months, and before and after my semester I travelled as much of Europe as I possibly could. You can read here all about my Solo Travel | My Experience & Thoughts.

I know so many people that have no desire whatsoever to try solo travel, as the thought of being alone or bored positively terrifies them. They worry about the danger or would rather wait to have someone to share those experiences with.
Succumb to these fears, or waiting around as an excuse however, and you could miss out on one of the most addictive travel experiences around.
The idea of going it alone on a big trip is daunting for anyone and perhaps more so for women, for whom safety issues can be more of a concern. But don't let this put you off!
Travelling solo opens up a whole new world of experiences as you learn to navigate situations on your own, make new friendships and basically do whatever you want!

Don't waste any more time waiting for that perfect travel companion who may never come! Your perfect travel companion- is you. I couldn't recommend solo travel enough. 
It is honestly empowering and life changing for the better.
Here are my tips to prepare for a successful solo adventure, so if you're thinking of taking the plunge- you will nail it and never look back!


My Top Tips!


Learn to like your travelling companion: You

"But I can't" or "I'll be lonely!" is perhaps the most common cries from people who've never travelled alone. People who depend on other people and feel like they can't do things on their own are often in hiding from themselves.
Travelling alone brings you face to face with yourself- with your failings and your strengths.
That confrontation is inevitable in life; don't put it off.
You really do learn a lot about yourself, and as cheesy as it sounds- it's true that you get in touch with yourself as well.
Learn to enjoy your own company, plan an epic fun trip filled with everything you have always wished to do. and you will have the time of your life! You may even find you prefer to travel alone and want to do it every time!

If you are a bit nervous write yourself a letter before you head off. In it put all your feelings of excitement and why you are going. Perhaps you want to challenge yourself, see something you've always desired, or move on from a bad breakup.
When you're away, open it up and read it when you need it most, which will refresh your excitement and it might even be a humorous keepsake to look back on years later after all you've accomplished! Know why you have decided to travel alone and be happy with that as this will help you with many hundreds of decisions you'll make on your trip, from where you go to who you decide to engage with. Take that positive mindset with you; it will open so many doors.



Revel in your selfishness

Having no one but yourself to decide what to do each day is a rare luxury. Imagine: no one to sneer if you want to find the local art house cinema and watch old black-and-white movies all day.
No one to sigh over your love of eclectic novelty museums. No one to gripe when you whip through a gallery in 30 minutes instead of taking the tour. You won't have to apologise for missing that train from Florence to Rome or for sleeping in late.
You don't have anyone else's feelings to take into consideration, and that is sometimes the most encouraging reason to travel alone.
You get to do exactly as you please, because it's all about you. Trust me- you will really enjoy it and wonder how it took you so long to do this before!



Be confident

Sometimes you really do have to fake it until you make it. Walk confidently even if you are lost, with your head held high.
Nothing says clueless more like standing on a street corner with a huge map and a terrified expression!
 The key to travelling solo is looking confident, even if you don't always feel it.
Eventually you will learn the ropes and confidence will become natural. 

Just know that everyone has to start somewhere, and the important thing is that you're doing it alone, so gain confidence from that and trust your instincts. What you are doing is pretty dang awesome, so throw on some shades and walk around like you belong there.



Book in advance 

Spontaneous trips are always fun- but if you book well in advance it is so much cheaper. Flights, buses, accommodation, everything is a much better price.
Book these as soon as you can to get the best deal and then there's no going back!
Hash out the rest of the details later (like activities and things you want to do there).


Get there early!

I don't get nervous travelling except for the getting to the airport, train or bus station on time part. That part stresses me out because I would absolutely hate to miss a flight or ride and be stranded especially if you are on a tight budget.
Pack everything up and have your bag ready the night before and get to the airport or station as early as possible. Take into account the traffic, hold ups, waiting in line, all these things can affect your time so go extra early so you don't have to worry. I've had a few very close shaves before and I'll tell you, it's not good for the heart!



Prepare well

Plan ahead- especially if you are a woman, so you know what you should be wearing and to avoid arriving in a new place late at night. Read up on what is culturally acceptable and what is not. That way you avoid drawing attention to yourself for the wrong reasons.
It's also handy to learn a bit about the country you're going to, and if you have the time to learn the basics of the languages of the countries you will be travelling to.
Even if that is just 'hello', 'goodbye', 'please' and 'thank you.' It is seen as very polite and can get you a long way with the locals.
Always carry a copy of your passport and have all your documents and information organised.
If you go to quite foreign places like I have been- some tickets are not in English.
Even certain airlines that I used weren't in English and didn't have the option to change.
So before you leave, take the time to use google translate if you need to, and print all of your tickets out to double check and highlight all the important things like the time, place, address, how long you need to be there beforehand and so on.
While I was travelling I had a light clear plastic sleeve with my print outs that I carried in my backpack with my laptop. It was all in order for when I needed it, for example, bus ticket, directions and map to my accommodation, accommodation confirmation, and so on.


Walking & bus tours

A lot of cities these days have free walking tours and offer different activities such as food and drink tours, or a bicycle ride tour or castle tour etc.
It's a great way to be introduced to the city and being by yourself it's the perfect opportunity to meet and interact with new people. You are in a group for a couple of hours and the tour guides as well are always really friendly and stick around at the end to answer any questions.
Hop on Hop off bus tours are another great way to see the city. Usually there are options for 24, 48 or 72 hours and you can use it as you please. They go to all the main tourist attractions as well as cover a lot of the city and perimeters which you probably wouldn't see otherwise. They usually also include organised walking tours as well as river cruises which is perfect. I did Hop on Hop off tours in Vienna and Budapest and I really enjoyed them.


Hostel advice

Hostels are great to socialise and meet new people and if you don't mind sharing a room with strangers then go for it, it's your decision. But if you're a female and alone then you do actually have the option in a lot of places now to stay in female only dorm rooms, so I would really recommend that.
Hostels usually always have activities and social events on every night of the week.
I'm not one to stay in hostels myself now, unless I'm with someone I know.
Just my preference. I've stayed in mixed rooms a few times in the past and they've all been really bad experiences. Some guys are so creepy and it's just not fun and could potentially be very unsafe. So on my big Europe solo trip I did at first look into female only dorms, but then I discovered Airbnb.


Airbnb

Use Airbnb! You can browse online and filter for places in your price range, where exactly you want to stay, if you want your own room- even your own self-contained place.
Choose places that are verified and have good reviews and comments about them.
I used Airbnb for Vienna (I had my own student style full self contained unit), Budapest (this was so cheap- 10 Euros a night), Krakow (this was an amazing modern loft with great views and the girl went away for the weekend so I had the whole place to myself for 3 of the nights!), Prague (a huge town house located right in the town centre), and I also used it in Dublin and Rome with my friends- in both cases we booked a whole house/apartment out just for us and it was much cheaper than a hotel. Here's the link here if you want to check it out: Airbnb website.


Be adventurous

Don't let being by yourself hold you back from doing the things you want to. For example dining alone- there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating alone at a restaurant or going to the pub by yourself for a couple of beers.
I did that all the time! Yeah, people do look at you and wonder, but let them.
You're there to enjoy yourself and I especially am there to eat good food- it's one of my greatest loves of travelling- to try the new foods and drink, so of course I'm going to walk into restaurants and cafes and say, "Table for one".
Sometimes I read a book on my phone while I'm eating or catch up on the news if there's free wifi.

Dining alone in Hungary
If I'm at a pub sometimes I will sit at the bar if there's a space, and quite often the bar tenders will have a chat to you and I've had people sitting next to me start conversations with me, which leads to my next point:


Talk to strangers

(But only if you're comfortable- don't talk to anyone that makes you nervous.
You can usually tell straight away if the person is friendly or just plain weird).
I ordinarily am a pretty shy person and don't normally go out of my way to talk to strangers- except for when I travel, I do love to meet new people from different places and cultures.
It leads to opportunities and even new friendships.
One evening I had alone in Athens I was sitting at a table in an outdoor restaurant looking at a menu, when two guys around my age that were sitting next to me invited me to join them- which was so nice. Potentially awkward, but they looked cool and friendly so I said yes, which is my next tip:


Say yes

Say yes to opportunities and situations that might be outside of your comfort zone.
If people invite you to hang out with them or do something fun and you feel safe about it, then why turn that down?
It turned out these two guys were German- from Berlin, so we had a lot to chat about and we even went out for a few beers after dinner. They showed me a really unique street and took me to a cool rooftop bar overlooking the Acropolis which I went back to again another time- it was a magical spot.


Pack light

I won't bore you with this tip, as I'm sure you've heard it all before! But be conscious that you have to carry everything on your back or lug it around in a suitcase all by yourself- through stations, up stairs- everywhere! So really do leave behind things you won't need and only pack essentials.
I have the biggest bad habit of packing too many clothes, as I usually end up always wearing the same things all the time!



No need for a selfie stick...

I know it's totally your choice if you want a selfie stick (I really don't like them- but that's just my opinion!). It may seem handy for capturing those winning selfies, but- seriously you don't need one. People have been taking their own photos for many years- by way of asking others to take it for them.
Go 'old-school' and browse a friendly looking and trustworthy couple for example who are probably taking photos themselves. You can exchange and take one of them and then they take one of you. It's extremely common and more often than not others will probably approach you first so jump on board!


Ask for help

Definitely do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it. The kindness of strangers has even overwhelmed me and helped me out of a few tight spots many times.
I've had a restaurant owner give me their wifi password to help me as I was lost, I've asked a random guy in an airport to use his phone because mine didn't work and I had no way of contacting my friend I was supposed to meet an hour before, and even just little things like directions, and which train to catch because you don't know where you are and its not in English...the majority of people have no problem with helping those in need.


Stay positive

Don't let the little things get you down. Not everything is going to be perfect and not everything goes to plan. But if you go in with a carefree and easy-going attitude, then those little hiccups that are bound to happen are just going to bounce right off of you.


Stay in contact

When you can, always let someone know where you are (city/country-wise).
I relied solely on free wifi so whenever I had the chance to use it somewhere I would message my fiance to tell him where I was etc.
I had also typed up an itinerary for my accommodation and travel information and sent that to him and also my mum, in case they didn't hear from me, they would at least know where I was at all times.


Enjoy!

My most important tip is to enjoy yourself!

It's an incredible experience and one
that will truly enrich your life. 

I really encourage solo travel, you really get in touch with yourself and it's wonderful and freeing being able to do exactly what you want and when you want.
It's also a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and push boundaries you wouldn't normally push, and meet interesting new people from all over the world.



I hope these extra tips will help towards successfully preparing you if you are looking at a solo adventure for the first time.
To sum up- get excited, plan exactly whatever you want to do, be brave and prepare well, and you will have the absolute time of your life! The world has so much to offer- you just have to go out there and find it. Solo travel is an incredible experience, and one that you will look back on and be really proud to have done.

Thanks for reading, let me know in the comments if you're preparing for your first solo trip, or feel free to ask any questions if you have any.

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*This post contains images that are not my own

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