I'm going to London (advice/meetup)

And I’m freaking out…

I just purchased a ticket to visit London for a week, in a week. Right after I finish my final, I start to head for the airport.

I went to Dublin for a week about five years ago, but that was with people who had been there before.

And I hate flying.

Anyway…I plan to visit the British Museum extensively; I’ve been wanting to see the mummies since I was about ten. My hotel is apparently near Buckingham Palace. I’m flying into Gatwick.

I can’t believe I’m going.

Brit-Dopers: Anything I should see? Anything I should watch out for? How hard is it to get from Gatwick to central London? (I don’t even own a guidebook for the city!)

Any advice welcome but don’t dissuade me since the ticket can’t be refunded.

And if anyone wants to meet the barely intrepid and not-at-all-well-known MerryMagdalen , let me know. The museums don’t stay open late, I don’t really know anyone (though a friend is trying to hook me up), and I know very little about the city.

(Also, any people with Goth tendencies, I’d love to go to a club.)

I’m so excited and petrified at the same time. GAAAAAH!

What sort of things do you like? The Museum of Natural History is also excellent, and huge. The science museum might not be so interesting, but there are a few notable exhibits - I went there on Sunday to kill an hour before going to see the Blue Man Group and I found the section on computing really interesting; they’ve built Babbage’s difference engine and they are in the process of building (I think) his Analytical Engine. If you go to the science museum though, don’t make the mistake of walking right through to the Wellcome Wing - it’s rubbish.

Hi sweetie,

Don’t freak out - just google, google, google!
I live in London (well at least for another few weeks), so panic ye not, we can get you sorted!

Its extremely easy to get from Gatwick to London - just get the Gatwick Express

That will take you into Victoria, then if your hotel is near BP just get a black cab from Victoria to the hotel. I expect it’ll be about £10ish depending on traffic.

Expect to be jetlagged, and a bit of a space cadet for the first day or so.

Things to see and do - the parks of course (though they are a bit dry at the mo), do all the museums (science, natural history), I’d also check out what shows, and what exhibitions are due to be on when you’re here. Take a long walk by the river, and check out how pretty the city is at night.

London is a city that is best explored from ground level - it doesn’t really have the spectacular views of other cities (IMHO), but unfurling by foot it is extraordinary.

Most importantly - relax and take the time to have a pint in a pub! London is busybusybusybusy and everyone is in a huge rush to get where they are going. Ignore the rudeness and go with the flow…

When you take the underground - be prepared! Get your tube map and a travelcard (daily or weekly, zones 1&2 will be mostly what you need), take water (its a victorian infrastructure, so gets scorching hot), and pay attention to what is going on around you i.e. stand on the right of the escalators so busy people can runpast you on the left!

I also suggest googling ‘hidden’ ‘secret’ forgotten’ London and seeing what you come up with to look at - London is all about history.

Also (and most importantly) London is EXPENSIVE. Really really expensive. Take all the cash you can, and then take half again! Don’t eat in ‘Angus steak houses’ or other crappy tourist traps. That’s why people go home and say ‘the food in the UK is rubbish’ - well it is if you eat in places like that!!

Checkout square meal http://www.squaremeal.co.uk/ and http://www.thisislondon.com/ for good places to eat - we’ve got the most ethnically diverse cuisine in the world, and (don’t believe the hype about food in the UK being rubbish) some divine places to eat.

Good luck - enjoy! Have a google and feel free to ask any questions you want too.


The Museum of Natural History is also on my list.

I love museums. I’m not so interested in most of the palace-y stuff (changing of the guard - meh), but I would like to see the Tower of London. I’m a not-quite medical student, so anything related to that interests me. I would like to shop a little, and as I said I’m a bit Goth (black clothes, not sacking Rome) so those clubs/shops would interest me. I like going to pubs and/or clubs (museums only stay open so late, you know).

It doesn’t take much to give us LonDopers an excuse to go out and drink, so i’d suggest chucking a thread up over on the NADS Messageboard (where a good chunk of the BritDopers and ex-BritDopers can normally be found). You won’t lack for replies. :smiley:

Take a wander round Camden Town on a market day and you’ll be happy as larry then.

Second that; I’m not a big fan of London, but the tube redeems it all for me; to be able to satisfy your curiosity about what is where by just going there is always such a great novelty whenever I go there.

I’d Get an Oyster Card if I were you; it’s a prepay card for tube and bus travel and you can charge it up with a bit of cash and just use it when you need to; there is a price-capping scheme built into it so that it will never be more expensive to use than the equivalent ticket or travelcard for the journeys you actually made. You can get the card at pretty much any station. You use it by touching it on a sensor at the barriers - listen out for a recorded announcement reminding you to “touch your oyster at the start and end of each journey” (oo-er).

How about a ghost walk exploring the darker side of London (Jack the Ripper 'n all that)?

Guide to Gothic London - this has links to UK goth sites etc…

Historic Royal Palaces Guide - includes Tower of London

I second Mangetout on the Oyster Card.

Take a walking tour. Some of them include stops at pubs.
London Walks

Tower of London is a can’t miss! You could spend the whole week in the British Museum - it’s fab. Wagamama’s is an inexpensive noodle place that is quite yummy - a couple blocks behind Selfridges off Oxford Street. A tip - you do NOT need to carry your passport, leave it in the safe at the hotel. Pickpockets are very prevalent at the top tourist stops so be very careful with your wallet. Best way to get money is thru an ATM - you get the best exchange rates. You’ll love it - have a blast!

Ooooh, I envy you, I love London, and haven’t been there in years. Two things I enjoyed:

  1. Boat ride up (down?) the Thames to Hampton Court.

  2. The gift shop at Westminster Abbey: they used to have actual original newspapers and maagzines as old as the 18th century for sale!

Thanks all; this is great stuff.

I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed right now…

Get the open topped red bus - you buy a pass and can get off and on again on the same ticket, plus there’s commentary Get a copy of Time Out magazine for listings and events. Tower bridge is the pretty one. Speakers Corner can be a riot and it’s right off Oxford Street for shopping. Walk along the banks of the Thames. I love the parks. Canal boat rides from Camden Lock. I love London - what a city - it’s really international. Brixton market. The Science Museum. Most museums have a day when it’s free.

May I once again plug my cousins’ firm, the Big Bus Company?

One excellent museum which is often forgotten about is the Museum of London which charts the history of London, including exhibits on the Roman period and the Great Fire of London.

Well, I’ve spent most of today researching and I feel much calmer.

Definitely going to hit the major museums, and the Tower of London (there’ll be jousting!) and the museum at St. Bartholomew’s sounds really interesting. (Thanks for the idea to search on “hidden London”.)

And I plan to Goth it up at Slimelight.

Thanks, and further suggestions are welcome!

Most of the big ones are free all the time.

Better forget about taking carry on’s and liquids. Hopefully, the hysteria will have died down well before then. Enjoy your trip, I wish I could go.

Tuckerfan I saw that on the news tonight. Only hyperventilated for a minute or so. That’s progress!

Some other things I need to know, from the Brits:

-Tipping: Who gets it? Barstaff? Waitresses? The guy who brings my bag to my room? And what’s the percentage?

-Clothing: I usually dress pretty conservatively for an American woman of my age (ie my underwear doesn’t show) but if I want to blend in, are t-shirts with slogans on them a bad idea? I wear mostly black all the time but generally don’t dress obviously goth.

He he he - Its London hun - remember punk? You can wear absolutely whatever you want and you’ll blend in! Its a very diverse and liberal city, so you’d probably have to be topless to get more than an eyebrow raise!

Tipping - generally for food and service, but not really in pubs. 10-15% I suppose, but normally if I go for lunch say, I’ll leave a couple of quid. If I get really good service in a pub I say ‘and one for yourself luv’ and then they’ll take the price of a drink (£2/£3) out of the change. Also, IMHO, I think there’s probably more than a fair chance you’ll be carrying your own bag to your room, it’s more of a ‘here is your key, there is the lift, you’re on the fourth floor, have a nice stay’ kind of culture. (Unless you’re staying in a posh hotel?!)

Tipping isn’t nearly so common in the UK as it is in other places. Of course, anyone to whom you give a tip will most gratefully receive it. It’s customary to leave a ~10% tip in restaurants, but lots of people don’t (and this never causes a problem), especially if it’s just an ‘ordinary’ place like Beefeater or Pizza Hut.

Bar staff? not in most places; hardly ever in a pub, although some of the posh ones might. If they give you your change on a little tray, that’s often a reasonable indication that they are expecting a tip. If you’re spending a little time sitting at the bar in a quiet pub, conversing with the landlord/lady or barkeep, it would be polite to offer ‘one for yourself’ when you’re buying a drink.

Depending on the hotel you’re staying at, there may not be a bellhop. I suppose if there is, then a tip is appropriate, but I have no idea what would be the correct amount.