Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Help!! : First time trip to the UK (

Dan Dec 25th, 2002 10:41 AM

Help!! : First time trip to the UK
My name is Dan, a 29 year old single traveler who has long considered making a trip to the UK. I think I've finally saved up enough cash to do it right. My plan is to do it this coming Spring. Problem is, I wouldn't know where to begin, how to get around, what to do once I got there, etc. I do plan to get some books and brochures about the UK, but I thought I would start by asking anyone out there (including some English people), what I should do.<BR><BR>Some things that interest me:<BR><BR>History - Kings and knights and castles and such (I played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid).<BR><BR>Pubs - I've heard so much about English pubs and taverns. It would be great to see some real ones (not just ones filled with tourists).<BR><BR>Local customs - I'd like to meet some of the locals and get to know what it's really like to be English.<BR><BR>Countryside - I'd love to get out of the city and see the English countryside.<BR><BR>Thanks for any and all responses!

Belinda Dec 25th, 2002 10:53 AM

Dan, If you're new to Fodors you have come to the right place! Do a search on lots of different London and UK topics and you will find loads of info. Be sure to read other travellers' trip reports. Also, read anything written by Ben Haines, the resident London expert. <BR><BR>In the last few days there was a great thread recommending a website about British Pubs. Be sure to find it. Also, check out It lists guided walks by a company in London but will describe things that you want to see. <BR><BR>As you explore these things be sure to post other very specific questions to get lots of good advice from our London fans.<BR><BR>Happy planning!

here's to the great Dec 25th, 2002 10:58 AM


Carolina Dec 25th, 2002 04:56 PM

Hi,<BR>How long are you intending on visiting England for? Any advice depends pretty much on how much time you've got to spare.<BR>Certainly visit London, and then, maybe stay in a village in the countryside, one with good pubs and plenty to do nearby. Bed and breakfasts are very popular in England. They are usually reasonably priced and friendlier than hotels.<BR>Re. how to get around. The train system is good for long distances. In London, rely on tubes and buses - there are lots of both. Taxis are also used a lot but are more expensive.<BR>In the countryside, you can either hire a car from the nearest reasonably sized town, or pick where you stay carefully and use the local buses.

Dale & Kathy Dec 25th, 2002 07:05 PM

Our first trip abroad was about 10 years ago with our 8 y/o daughter . We spent 30 days in the UK and our total cost including air, room, food &amp; souvinirs was $10,200. I suppose it'll be more now but I think there's still lots of ways to maximize value.<BR><BR>We spent about 9 days in London (our first stop). Absolutely the best part was the walking tours (at about 4 pounds a pop). You'll see little cards in the rack at the hotel from a few different companies. Basically, find one you like and meet where it says when it says (like outside Charing Cross Station at 6PM). Our little girl liked the Jack the Ripper tour the best.<BR><BR>Back then you could get an unlimited tube pass inexpensively IF you bought it while you were still in the states. Car rental was also much cheaper if arranged ahead of time (do NOT rent a car in London for any reason).<BR><BR>Once out of London, there's all of Wales, Scotland, England, Ireland &amp; Northen Ireland to see. We took the ferry to Ireland and rented a second car (leaving our first on at the parking lot of the ferry terminal - it was the cheapest approach) and drove north to Dublin, Londonderry and Belfast. Had a great time &amp; everyone was very friendly - even at the military checkpoints in Belfast &amp; Londonderry.<BR><BR>Once outside London we stayed in little B&amp;Bs. Never knew where we'd stay, always picked a place by about 4 PM or so and was always treated well. We could go on and on, but the bottom line is - better value, better information and you KNOW you make a difference to the folks who let you stay. In Ireland once the poor kids got evicted from their bedrooms to make room for us. It was a 200-300 year old farm house and it was obvious that the money we paid made a real difference to that family.<BR><BR> much of the UK do you want to see? And how much time do you have? One positive note as far as budget: we found no good deals in the UK (ZERO!). It appeared everything was cheaper quality and more expensive than we could find at home. So our biggest souvinir was a carved piece of slate from Wales and a load of postcards.<BR><BR>There's more castles than you can shake a stick at - some are tourist traps while others are abandoned and yet others are B&amp;Bs.<BR><BR>English pubs are a ready source of [reasonably] inexpensive meals. And the beer is great. Another good meal is the &quot;fish &amp; chips&quot;. Skip the kidney pie (tastes like bile).<BR><BR>I'm sure my comments have offended a few (sorry, just my dick personality seeping through), but all in all we loved the UK and have returned to London several times and will again.<BR><BR>E-mail directly if there's anything we can help you with.

virginia Dec 26th, 2002 06:53 AM

Dan:<BR><BR>If you like castles and armor and all that good stuff, don't miss the Royal Armouries in Leeds. The best of all the British collections of armor have been moved there and are well displayed with excellent explanations of their provenance and use. It can be done in a day trip from London by train.<BR><BR>If you want to see real medieval castles (as opposed to fortified palaces and country houses) consider a visit to Wales. From Bangor in North Wales you can easily reach Caernarfon, Conwy, and Beaumaris; from Cardiff in South Wales, Cardiff Castle, Caerphilly, and St. Fagin's (the national musuem of Welsh Folk Life) are easily accessed. To see more about Welsh Castles, check out:<BR><BR>Of course, while in London, you will visit the Tower. Take the tour with the Beefeaters and if possible, try to arrange in advance a ticket to the Ceremony of the Keys, a nightly ritual in which the Tower of London is locked. If you search on the ceremony, you should find a website with directions for arranging the ticket.<BR><BR>Have a great trip.<BR><BR>V.

elaine Dec 26th, 2002 07:15 AM

Hi<BR>If you go elsewhere here on and look up the free information on London and nearby areas, it may get you started as to narrowing down your interests. <BR>As already said, it will be easier for people to make suggestions about how to spend your time, and where, if we know how much time you have in total. What is your per day, or per trip budget?<BR>When it comes to accommodations, what are your preferences--do you want private ensuite bathrooms, do you not mind sharing bathrooms, do you want elevators or don't care as long as it's cheap, etc.<BR><BR>You also need a map and a good general guidebook. Fodor's is very good, but other books like Frommers and Rick Steves have more suggestions at the lower budget end for places to stay and to eat.<BR><BR>Here are my ideas of the most popular attractions in and around London. You can do a little research on each by browsing in your bookstore; once you've looked at a few guidebooks you will find one or two that most appeal to your interests or style. Any of these topics can also be searched right here on this message board for previous information and hints.<BR><BR>Her Majesty's Tower of London (include getting separate tickets to the nighttime Ceremony of the Keys, make your request at least 6 weeks in advance as tickets are mailed)<BR><BR>St Paul's Cathedral<BR><BR>The British Museum (everything from a Viking boat to the Rosetta Stone to the Elgin Marbles)<BR><BR>The National Gallery (a great but not too overwhelming museum of art, Leonardo to Monet, and beyond)<BR><BR>The National Portrait Gallery (quite near the National Gallery, portraits of the famous, an &quot;easy&quot; museum)<BR><BR>Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms<BR>Nearby is the Banqueting House, the last remaining bit of Whitehall Palace. It is a beautiful room with a ceiling painted by Rubens. Outside of the Banqueting House windows, Charles I was executed. Also nearby is the Horse Guards, where they do their own daily changing of the guard, and with many many fewer tourists than at Buckingham Palace where it's hard to get a view.<BR><BR>Parliament/Palace of Westminster<BR>usually means waiting in a long line for a tour, unless you get advance vip passes from your embassy<BR><BR>Windsor Castle, an easy daytrip. Beautifully furnished rooms, their own Changing of the Guard, a nice break from the big city<BR><BR>Hampton Court Palace, also an easy daytrip, but not the same direction as Windsor. Mostly famous for the time when Henry VIII had it done up for Anne Boleyn, although William and Mary and other monarchs spent time there.<BR>Not so much in the way of furnishings, but beautiful grounds and architecture, and there's an outdoor maze that's fun for all ages.<BR><BR>Also popular daytrips or sidetrips:<BR>the city of Bath<BR>Stonehenge<BR>Stratford-upon-Avon<BR>Oxford<BR>Cambridge<BR><BR>and further afield<BR>York<BR><BR>I have a long file on London; if you'd like to see it, email me<BR><BR><BR><BR><BR>

Xenos Dec 26th, 2002 10:36 PM

Wales is pretty hard to beat for castles and countryside and if you get off the tourist track and visit some local pubs, you'll get an insight into what it's like to be English - i.e. a lot of the locals will suddenly start speaking Welsh as soon as you walk in!<BR><BR>The pub site that others have mentioned looks like a really good guide from what I've read so far. Having spent the last thirty-odd years visiting British pubs, it's been a real eye-opener to see some of the strange-sounding habits that we take for granted put down in black and white!

buzzee Dec 26th, 2002 11:11 PM

Wales has more than 600 castles and claims to be the home of Arthur. There are iron age forts and neolithic sites, cool churches, good hiking, fairly typical pubs and some awesome lamb dishes. <BR><BR>Try Tintagel in Cornwall for more Arthur Lore. Make sure you don't skip Scotland. You can take the train all the way up to Thurso and then take the ferry over to Orkney.<BR><BR>Get a big map of the UK so you can plot your course. A car is helpful in the hinterlands but driving can be scarey! <BR><BR>You should do both the North and South of Ireland also.<BR><BR>These are easy countries to get around in as the train system is good, there is reliable bus service - which is 1/3 cheaper than the train in most cases and in most places you should be able to understand the locals - if they want to be understood.<BR><BR>You might consider staying at a hostel as you will meet people to talk to and share experiences with.<BR><BR>All trips begin in London or Dublin. You can get the cheapest airfare to those two cities from the US.<BR><BR>The UK has excellent tourist offices in most cities and many towns. <BR><BR>If you get out of the major cities you will be able to find a decent pub that isn't crawling with tourists.<BR><BR>The best way to meet people is to find a smallish town and rent a room for a couple of weeks. You will fall into the rhythem of the place.<BR><BR>And you do save money if you aren't traveling all the time.<BR><BR>Good Luck! Researching this trip will be a joy!<BR><BR>Buzzee

EW Dec 26th, 2002 11:50 PM

Agree with all the above postings, especially Wales for castles. Edward II, Henry V and Henry VII were all born in Wales. One piece of very friendly advice if you venture outside England is please don't make the mistake of refering to the UK as England! Hope you have a great time here, and spring is the ideal time as the weather is beginning to get better (ha ha!) and the tourists have yet to arrive.

Virginia Dec 27th, 2002 05:53 AM

I have been traveling to the UK for the past 10 yrs on vacation (holiday) and have done cities and country. London is great and definately take time for the Tower of London, use the Tube to get around London, it is the best and very easy. Oxford is another favorite of mine and when I went by myself stayed longer in Oxford than planned. For a first trip try to see some of Wales, Snowdonia area recommended for first trip. Chester England is well worth the time. I have found renting a self catering cottage and renting a car the best way to travel and meet locals etc. The Cotswolds in England is my favorite place to stay in the area of Stanton, Stow-on-the-Wold, Upper and Lower Slaughter and Great and Little Tew. For London I found staying in South Kensington the most convlenient area for getting around, in June of this year I rented a flat on Earls Court Road and believe that is the only way for me to stay in London from now on. <BR>Your length of stay is important, good luck.

ed Dec 27th, 2002 06:11 AM

go to it is a great non-commercial info site.

Meg Dec 27th, 2002 07:51 AM

Hi Dan, another great source of information on knights in shining armour, castles, abbeys, manor houses, local customs etc, is &gt;&gt;;&lt;<BR><BR> While you're about it do a Google search for Ashby-de-la-Zouche in Leicestershire. You could spend an hour or two exploring the castle ruins, where Sir Walter Scott's &quot;Ivanhoe&quot; takes place.

Ecks Dec 28th, 2002 05:55 AM

Tintagel, in Devon I think, claims to have been Camelot.

egg Dec 28th, 2002 12:51 PM

&gt;Tintagel, in Devon I think, claims to &gt;have been Camelot<BR><BR>It's in Cornwall, but lots of places claim the title. Chester has recently put in a bid.

Ani Dec 29th, 2002 08:19 AM

I thought Tintagel claims to have been Arthur's least that's what's told in many Camelot tales....even thought Tintagel was built several hundred years after Arthur was supposedly born.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:55 AM.