If I disappear into the London tube...

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Jan 20th, 2011, 06:58 PM
  #1
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If I disappear into the London tube...

will there be someone to rescue me?

This trip that I'm planning takes me into Gatwick and leaves out of Luton with about a 14-hour overnight stopover.

It seems to be easier to travel into central London, sleep for a few hours and then head out of London for Luton instead of trying to go from directly from Gatwick to Luton and spend time sleeping on the floor of Luton Airport.

Which is the best tube station in Central London to be close to?

Will the tube system swallow me up?

Will the bus system be safer since it is above ground?

Do the druids come out at night?

Any help you can give me to help me decide on this portion of the trip will be muchly appreciated. I can't remember the last time when I was alone in London and not guided by a more knowledgeable Britisher.
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Jan 20th, 2011, 07:20 PM
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Train is the way to go, it's not hard if you do some research before you leave. There are 3 trains to choose from that run from Gatwick Airport to central London - Gatwick Express is the most expensive and quickest (by about 5 mins, why people use this is beyond me but hey, that's just my opinion) and Southern and First Capital Connect. You can get train timetables and fares on www.nationalrail.co.uk

You need to take the tube between wherever you arrive in central London (from Gatwick) and the station to depart to Luton. Then get another train out to Luton Airport Parkway station. Don't get off at Luton - that's the town. You want the airport station. There is a shuttle bus which takes you about 2 miles to the airport, it used to be free but I think is now £2. Taxi is about £6.

Tube info, including how long the journey takes and fares is on www.tfl.gov.uk

There are about 3 hotels out at Luton Airport, you could stay out there if it's just a matter of sleeping and if you won't have any time for sightseeing - which it sounds like you don't. We stayed at The Ibis hotel for about £55 a couple of years ago as we had a very early morning flight and walked to the airport, it took about 20 mins on a flat path.

You will be fine. Do your research, have a plan and if in doubt, ask a station employee or a fellow traveller for help. Try not to get in the way of locals on their way to work, they will be in a rush and annoyed if you stop mid-step in front of them to consult your map.

One other thing, there is nothing around the Ibis Hotel near the airport, no shops or restaurants, so be prepared. If you want a cheap (for London) hotel near St Pancras / Kings Cross you could try The Premier Inn or the Novotel but if it was me, I'd rather get the journey over with, then crash.

Good luck.

Kay
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Jan 20th, 2011, 11:37 PM
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It's beyond me why you're worried about using a transport system millions of people - many unable to speak the local language - happily and effortlessly use every day. It's even more beyond me why you've got this thing about safety.

But apparently you are. So the simplest (except currently at weekends) thing is to buy a FULLY FLEXIBLE single ticket at Gatwick to Luton airport, then get the First Capital Connect train into London. The widest choice of hotels is immediately around St Pancras. The two quoted by Kay are fine: so is the Hilton in Upper Woburn Place and the nearby Comfort Inn and Premier Inn

Get off, RETAINING YOUR TICKET, at any central London station on the line, sleep, then get back on the train the following morning, using the same ticket (Fully flexible tickets on trains operated by ATOC companies allow limitless breaks of journey for a week or so. Off peak singles are valid only on the day of issue: pre-booked heavily discounted tickets don't allow journey breaks).

At weekends, the same principle applies, but you have to negotiate the tube system at present, since there's work being dione on the line. In practice this makes using one ticket complicated. Buy an off peak single to St Pancras, which will be valid on the tube connection, then another single to Luton airport the following morning.
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Jan 21st, 2011, 01:15 AM
  #4
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Kay: thanks a mil for your input.

I was looking at the Ibis and other lodgings near Luton Airport or stopping off at Victoria Station. You've helped me to make up my mind, since there appears to be a lot of construction being done around Victoria Station until early 2012, and your point about getting the transit over with is a good one.

flanneruk: "It's beyond me why you're worried about using a transport system millions of people - many unable to speak the local language - happily and effortlessly use every day."

It's because the British don't believe in putting up signs, so whether one can read a non-existent sign or not is beside the point.

If one gets lost, the usual answer is "go upstairs" or "go downstairs" and the way still isn't signed.

"It's even more beyond me why you've got this thing about safety."

It's because some of us on the West Coast of the US travel around mostly by car and don't feel it's quite normal to be in dark tunnels like moles.

But travelling above ground does have its hazardous side as well. The British still drive on the left side of the road in order to keep their sword arm free, don't they? See, I'm just afraid some British gent is going to stab us with his sword as we whiz by on the bus.

[Do lighten up, flanneruk.]

Thanks for your input on the correct trains to take.

Could you bear another question? When does the "weekend" start for the train schedules? Friday night or Saturday morning?

Oh, and if you want to get the heebie-jeebies, just read the reviews of Luton Airport on Skytrax.

Thanks again.
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Jan 21st, 2011, 01:57 AM
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Weekend starts on Saturday, underground is safe and easier than buses because on buses you have to work out where to get off. The sineage is pretty good...get your head around which lines you need and which direction before you go in.
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Jan 21st, 2011, 02:33 AM
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To reassure you, here's a list of cities where folks travel around in dark tunnels like moles (strangely a couple seem to be on the west coast of the US) http://bit.ly/foNLzf
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Jan 21st, 2011, 08:31 AM
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alihutch: thanks ever so much for the weekend information and for the interesting link.

Howsoever, the West Coast rapid transit systems are only single lines and none of them have druids appearing at night. San Francisco's BART is the only one that comes close to metro systems in other parts of the world. Personally I've always driven into San Francisco but haven't heard of any druid sightings on BART. We do have other kinds of sightings on BART, though.

Thanks again. All this information is very, very useful.
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Jan 21st, 2011, 10:01 AM
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I must admit that I've been to London at lest 15 times and been on the tube many times each trip. And while I find it irritating that it shuts down at night (being a New Yorker I expect everything to run 24/7) I have never been lost or confused. directions always seem perfectly clear (and having a map helps).

Is the problem claustrophobia? Nothing odd about riding in a train - on or above the street - or under it. Do you have the mole/tunnel problem when you drive a car through a tunnel? I must admit I don't get it. (But then I have a friend who wont drive a car over a bridge - ever since she saw one collapse in an earthquake in SF. She will use only tunnels to exit Manhattan.)
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Jan 21st, 2011, 10:06 AM
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Sigh.

I don't get it either.

Forget I ever asked.
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Jan 21st, 2011, 02:29 PM
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I can understand your worry over travelling in the tube if you are used to always using cars to get around. We lived for a long time in a city where everyone travels by car, then moved to the UK where we travelled almost exclusively by public transport, which was wonderful. We learnt an awful lot about tickets and finding the right platform and even the fact that the tube and train systems are totally different. It opened up a whole new world but if you aren't used to it, then it is bewildering.

A couple of things that might help -

If you do decide to stay at the Ibis near Luton Airport, you can catch a taxi to the hotel or ask the shuttle driver to stop near the hotel. There used to be one stop before they reached the airport but didn't always stop there, so make sure they know you want to get off, otherwise you'll have to walk back.

Also at St Pancras, if you are looking for the First Capital Connect trains, walk from Kings Cross underground bit, past the Eurostar area, along a longish corridor with shops on either side, to the end. FCC is up at the end and you are right, the signage may have changed but initially it was non-existent.

There are quite a few places to eat at St Pancras (and burger type places at Kings Cross next door) and you can get food to take on the train with you, or to eat once you reach the hotel.

Ask if you have any other concerns, we're here to help.

Kay
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 10:54 AM
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hi easytraveler. As you know, I'm from CA too -- relax it will be easy. The signs are (mostly) good and there are staff members you can ask if you get turned around.

You won't see any more Druids that you might in the Castro or Union Sq
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 11:02 AM
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Hi, Kay:

Thanks for working with me and thanks for your help.

I had been using this website to help me with my planning.

http://www.londontoolkit.com/travel/...n_transfer.htm

The situation with the trains is that my flight in arrives too close to the first First Capital Connect train departure time at 00:50, which I'll probably miss because of customs, etc. The next train doesn't leave until 02:05 and gets to Luton somewhere before the ghastly hour of 05:00. Then there's the bus to take from train station to Luton Airport itself. So, then it didn't make any sense to stop off in a hotel because the flight out of Luton leaves slightly after 10:00.

I then started looking into the buses which seem to be more frequent. The National Express bus leaves about hourly and takes about 90 minutes to arrive at Victoria Coach Station. From Victoria Station there are easyBuses that leave every 20 minutes or so and takes about an hour to Luton. The easyBus has the advantage of stopping right at the terminal. Have you taken the bus to and from the airports?

Either way, it doesn't make much sense to check into a hotel for just a couple of hours. Guess it'll have to be a bench/floor at Luton with a nice fat book for several hours!

Many, many thanks again! I really do appreciate your help!
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 11:05 AM
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Hi, Janis:

You've seen druids in the Castro and in Union Square?

(as the kids used to say) Cool!
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 04:27 PM
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Get a few hours sleep in the Gatwick Yotel then take an early train to Luton - don't sleep in unless you want to share a train with several thousand commuters
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 05:17 PM
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Hi, the bus could be the answer if they run more frequently. We haven't used the buses to the airport but I know with Easybus, if you book online ahead of time, it's really cheap. Another advantage would be that if you happen to fall asleep - with all that travelling and the motion of the bus it would be very easy for me! - when you arrive at Victoria or Luton I assume everyone will get off and you'll be woken up by the driver. If you're on the train you would just carry on, asleep, to the end of the line.

Alan's suggestion of a few hours sleep and maybe a shower to wake you up, at the Yotel at Gatwick is a good idea. We stayed there overnight once because of a very early flight and it's right inside the terminal, so very convenient. I'd be a bit concerned about sleeping in, so maybe set a few different alarms. Yotel has a 4 hour minimum booking, then you pay for each hour.

Also don't underestimate how long it will take you to reach Luton Airport. You will need to wait at each step, for the train and shuttle etc. If you are on a cheap airline they have very strict rules and if you are one minute late for check-in, you will have to pay top price for a new ticket.

And the security line at all the London airports can be incredibly long, though they usually move quickly. So check-in, go through security, then get a coffee and something to eat and relax with one eye on the electronic board that will show your gate number.

Have a good trip, where are you going by the way?

Kay
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Jan 24th, 2011, 06:08 AM
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sssh....
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Jan 24th, 2011, 11:20 AM
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Hi, all - and especially Kay -

thanks for all your wonderful and invaluable advice and help.

After much searching, I think I've found the perfect answer:

https://www.executivelounges.com/en/

Apparently, for a fee, one can stay in one of these lounges right inside the airport. These lounges are in airports all over the UK. Wish I'd known about them before!

At Luton, their lounge opens at 5:15am and for a fee of 18.5 pounds, I can stay 3 hours. One can purchase only 3 hours online at Luton (amount of time at other airports differ as does the fee), but I emailed them and they said one can add more hours on arrival.

This is really wonderful, as the thought of lugging my luggage around train/bus, change train/bus, hotel, more bus, etc. after having been on the road for 30+ hours wasn't exactly the most exciting proposition in the world.

Hi, Kay - wish I knew definitely the destination, but it changes weekly - right now it's either France or the Netherlands or Norway. It just depends on when my relatives over there have time.

Thanks again, everyone!


Does anyone know why a comment would be removed from this thread???? What did it say? This is such an innocuous travel thread...
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Jan 24th, 2011, 12:34 PM
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"Does anyone know why a comment would be removed from this thread???? What did it say? This is such an innocuous travel thread..."

It was either advertising or maybe a post from a banned Fodorite.
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Jan 31st, 2011, 11:02 AM
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The stuff that's on the internet is absolutely amazing. Here's a guide to how to sleep in airports! Gatwick seems to be crowded at night! Who knew!

http://www.sleepinginairports.net/index.htm


For those who have a long wait between flights and are likely to doze off, here are a few tips on how not to have your luggage stolen:

"Bring a gigantic, crisp plastic bag and put everything you own in it. If anyone tries to access that bag, loud alarming crunches will be emitted.

OR. Sleep in front of the security desk.
OR. Find a camera and sleep in it’s view.
OR. Form a group of other sleepers, and take turns staying awake, and maintaining the perimeter.
OR. Dress like someone from the Hells Angels.
OR. Prop yourself up against a wall while standing, and make it appear that you are awake(whilst you are really sleeping(albeit in a very very uncomfortable position))"


Or travel light and have less to worry about.

I did have a 12-hour wait once in a God-forsaken part of this world.
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