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London 2017 trip report - 1st time travel

London 2017 trip report - 1st time travel

Apr 6th, 2017, 03:36 AM
  #1  
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London 2017 trip report - 1st time travel

Just wrapped up 5 nights in London and heading the Paris via Eurostar so I decided to give a report in hopes it will help those who need it.

day 1: mid day arrival
day 2: free walking tour with Sandemans and went to Oxford and Bond Street area for shopping
day 3: Changing of the Guards and Chinatown area(food was excellent and authentic)
day 4: Old City walking tour with SANDEMANs
day 5: Borough Market, Tower of London, random navigation towards theater district for sightseeing

We of course did all the typical London attractions but we used Sandeman's walking tour. Great company. They offer a free tour about 2.5-hrs and it covers a lot of the typical attractions/monuments us visitors like to see. Some hints we learned:

-If the Changing of the Guards at Buckhingham Palace is on your list, check online for their schedule. It varies and it's not always every other day as many think. Our tour guide even told us every other day and when confirming online, it ended up being more days that every other day. If you want to see the Queen's band, they start at St James Palace which is where the ceremony starts. They match to BP along the mall. However this does mean you will not be close to gates of BP to view the actual changing of the guards. If you'd rather do that, get there early so you can be in the front but you WILL be packed like sardines because everyone wants to be at the front.

-Our walking guide as well as another on the streets both said the Towet of London is a must do and it was. The star of the show are the Crown Jewels of the royal family. They also have beefeaters working there and you are much closer to them than at BP. A lot of history in this amazing and huge castle. Leave a good 3-4 hours for this.

-The Borough Market is an open food stand/farmers market place that's worth visiting. Great selection of food and pastries for a good price.

-there is a cocoa roastery right along the streets that surround the Borough Market. Forgot the name of it but being a cocoa roasters, they make the BEST mocha based drinks I've ever had. starbucks and Peet's can't compete.

The tube(subway) is very easy to use and reading the map is like back in the states.

We stayed at the Hilton Bankside which was excellent. Great staff, acccomodations, heated indoor pool....no negatives at all. We were on the opposite side of the river of all the main tourist areas but the tube station was within minutes walk and we were surrounded by pubs and mini markets so it was very convenient. However, we may look for something more central next time to Covent Garden as we happen to always go to that area.

Shopping is great if that's what you like. If you are looking to buy European brands,it's cheaper in London than in the US. Even tho the pound is valued higher than US dollar, it is cheaper and you get VAT back. For example Adidas is german brand and cheaper in London than US. I compared online while shopping. PRIMARK is a great place for clothing especially souvenir clothing. It's a quick to market fashion store with great items and imo better than buying souvenir shirts on the streets.

We managed to get around without using a local mobile phone. We brought our US phones and hopped on wifi and various coffee and fast food type establishments. Hint: when on wifi, map out where u want to go via google maps then screenshot so you can have a map as you're walking around the city.

They do have Uber here and it was a great choice from hotel to train station. however, when using it at Heathrow to our hotel, it didn't work out. We went to the assigned pick up area but when driver didn't arrive we ended up taking taxi. We got charged $10 for cancellation which we complained and got refunded. Since we did not have a local number the Uber driver could not contact us. Taxi ended up being 100 pounds to our hotel! We had too much luggage to take subway but subway does go into London so that's a viable option.

Hope this helps. Fee free to ask questions. I mainly stayed within the greater London area so I did not go west of Buckingham Palace. Did not take any tours outside of London, 5 days didn't really allow that.
gotta_luv_the_foie is offline  
Apr 6th, 2017, 04:10 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Nice write up, hope that Paris works out as well

Uber, "tax dodging for the masses"

"Even tho the pound is valued higher than US dollar, it is cheaper and you get VAT back. " LOL
bilboburgler is offline  
Apr 6th, 2017, 08:40 AM
  #3  
 
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<< If you are looking to buy European brands,it's cheaper in London than in the US. Even tho the pound is valued higher than US dollar, it is cheaper and you get VAT back. >>

There is a lot of inaccuracy in this. First, it's a gross overgeneralization. Even with the favorable exchange, "European brands" are not necessarily less expensive in London. Second, to "get VAT back" you need to either buy a certain value of goods at the store, if they refund VAT, or go through the bureaucracy of obtaining a VAT refund. Just because you're a foreigner purchasing in the UK doesn't mean you get a refund.

Why you uber'd from Heathrow is a mystery. This board is chock full of posts and comments suggesting DEPENDABLE car services that will pick you up from the airport for about 35 quid and every such post will tell you to NEVER take a taxi.

You only have "more" beefeaters at the Tower than at Buckingham Palace because there are no beefeaters at the Palace. They are the Yeoman Warders and assigned to the Tower.

A subway in London is an underground passage for traversing busy intersections like Oxford Circus. The local train lines are either the Underground or the Tube.
BigRuss is offline  
Apr 6th, 2017, 08:57 AM
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It sounds like you had a wonderful time and I hope Paris goes just as well.



A great way to avoid that £11 per day congestion charge! I second the notion of using a car service from LHR to London hotel. Taxis are fine in town but not LHR.

I hope you post about Paris.
Trophywife007 is online now  
Apr 6th, 2017, 07:48 PM
  #5  
 
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What tourist pays the congestion charge? That's for people who drive themselves.

"The greater London area" is huge - 600 square miles. I think you mean Central London, and that extends west of BP.
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 6th, 2017, 11:04 PM
  #6  
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Yes when I stated "greater London" area I meant the area outside of the city of London. Our walking guide, a local, used that term because city of London is a tiny 1 sq mile and he called "greater London" the areas outside like Westminster.
gotta_luv_the_foie is offline  
Apr 6th, 2017, 11:11 PM
  #7  
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One note about Tower of London, yes there are Yeomen there and they are dressed completely different from Beefeaters.

However I believe there are Beefeaters assigned to guard the Crown Jewels building.

I will put it in layman's terms, there are guards with red uniforms and black furry hats at the Tower of London. If they are not Beefeaters, they sure look like them!
gotta_luv_the_foie is offline  
Apr 6th, 2017, 11:40 PM
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Sounds like you had a great time. Some loose ends/explanations:

>>yes there are Yeomen there and they are dressed completely different from Beefeaters.

However I believe there are Beefeaters assigned to guard the Crown Jewels building.

I will put it in layman's terms, there are guards with red uniforms and black furry hats at the Tower of London. If they are not Beefeaters, they sure look like them!<<

You mixed that up a little. Yeoman Warders ARE Beefeaters. They are the same thing. Beefeaters is the 'nickname' for Yeoman Warders. Yeoman Warders are retired senior NCO's and they live within the Tower of London.

The ones you saw at the Changing of the guard at BP are active duty army personnel.

This is the 'everyday' uniform for the Beefeaters/Yeoman

http://blog.hrp.org.uk/wp-content/up...TOL_CHRP-3.jpg

This is one of the regiments that covers the Guard change at BP

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/JPsTqfqfPIY/maxresdefault.jpg

You will see a few soldiers in similar uniforms at the Tower -- like I said they are active duty and patrol the Tower.

>>Our walking guide, a local, used that term because city of London is a tiny 1 sq mile and he called "greater London" the areas outside like Westminster.<<

He may have said something like that -- the 'City of London' is officially the square mile. But maybe he said 'London' or 'Central London' instead of greater London -"Greater London" includes parts of several counties and covers more than 600 square miles.

Next time you get to London do NOT use uber from the airport and do NOT use a taxi. Either pack lighter and take the tube/Underground (not subway) OR pre-book a car service like justairports.com That would have cost you about £30 (or £40+ if you have a boat load of luggage)
janisj is offline  
Apr 7th, 2017, 06:11 AM
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Uber in London is not tax dodging. Al fares/ earnings are posted and easily controlled. The Uber drivers MUST pay similar to a mini cab yearly licensing fee for their services which is over 2,000GBP.

So.. not sure where you get that idea, Bilboburger. Very regulated in England.

other "slower to regulate"- countries.. perhaps not.. but no tax dodging there in England.
lincasanova is offline  
Apr 7th, 2017, 10:35 AM
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Blow me lincasa you are right https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/taxis-an...re-regulations
bilboburgler is offline  
Apr 7th, 2017, 11:15 AM
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A problem w/ uber is they will generally be more expensive from the airport than just a regular car service (many car service drivers also do uber - but they charge more when they do)

I personally would never ever use uber in central London though. I just don't think it's a level playing field -- Cab driver with years of training and having to pass The Knowledge vs. some bloke with a satnav.
janisj is offline  
Apr 7th, 2017, 02:05 PM
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Thank you janisj for your insightful comments and clarifications!
gotta_luv_the_foie is offline  
Apr 7th, 2017, 02:24 PM
  #13  
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Been 2 days in Paris now.
Arriving at train station from London via Eurostar was very easy. Took advice of others to buy those tix early. It was double about a month out, I purchased 2 months prior.

Avoided all the "taxi" drivers who were soliciting rides from the mass hoard of people arriving from London. Taxi signs were clear and we took that to our hotel in the 9th. Hotel Joke is highly rated on TA. They offer a complimentary fridge stocked with drinks as well as a 2pm-2am beverage and snack time. They also offer this complimentary beverage/snack service at their other locations if we wanted to use it at those locations. We chose not to take the RER or subway because of luggage size.

We used the underground "subway" or "metro" a lot. Close to our hotel and to where we want to get. The map is easy to read. Paris is also walkable or by using the underground so taxi isn't needed much. Plus, so much to see when walking around.

On the day we went to Versailles, we took the underground metro to another station to connect to the RER. The ticket offices at each station has someone who speaks enough English to help out and we wanted to make sure we were in the right RER for Versailles. RER is the faster train compared to underground metro which is more for city travel.

We have not had a problem eating at restaurants. They either have English translations or the staff can help with translation. We went to a restaurant where the host helped us since the waiter did not speak English.
gotta_luv_the_foie is offline  
Apr 7th, 2017, 04:38 PM
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Don't forget to use the buses while in Paris... The view is so much nicer than on the Metro! We used Google map directions which gave all the needed details.

Enjoy your time!
Trophywife007 is online now  
Apr 8th, 2017, 10:27 PM
  #15  
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Going home to the states today!
We ended walking a lot because of the great sights to see and using underground as transportation. Somehow walking in Paris was not as tiring as London despite walking even more in Paris.

If anyone likes French food is a higher end setting, Le Ciel is fantastic. Great view from the 56th floor and the cost of food is "nominal" compared to same caliber in the States.

Also, the PABLO machines at CDG are amazing. They are the automated versions of customs and works if the retailer uses a barcode form. Scanned the form, put into envelope and mailed right there. NO customs stamp required, no need to present good to customs. My purchases in London did require customs to stamp. They did not check my items.

Hope this was helpful. Thank you to contributors who will make my next trip even better.
gotta_luv_the_foie is offline  
Apr 9th, 2017, 04:58 PM
  #16  
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Quick update: layover/connecting flight from Paris was in Dublin Ireland. They have a US customs office there and it was there that we did our declarations. At SFO, got our bags and no customs. Our layover was only 1.5 hours so obviously NOT enough time. Customs started calling people for flights. So if you don't have 3 hrs or so for layover, consider another layover because it appears the US set up customs in Dublin.
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