London for first time...questions

Apr 4th, 2002, 08:07 AM
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Hey Mike, you could thank folks for a lot of great suggestions instead of just one word "bumps". A little Gratitude goes a long way.
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:16 AM
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For an excursion outside of London I recomment Evan Evans. They have good tours.

If, like me, you are not a math whiz, you can buy a small calculator that does the conversions for you. They are usually sold in travel shops. I use one from Eagle Creek travel gear You program it before the trip (very easily done) then you just punch in the British pounds amount, push a button and it gives you the price in American dollars.
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:16 AM
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I thought his "bumps" were rather cute. Makes a nice change from ttt
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:26 AM
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I am extremely gracious...I apologize for now having said so sooner. I've been so busy reading the replies but also the other posts here that I've not had time to craft a follow up.

I still will reply with more 'thanks' later as I'd intended, but I'll take a minute to say it now real quick.

So: thanks. The tips are awesome and I especially like the replies where people have asked for a report back after the trip. I've got less than 30 days and a pretty hectic business travel schedule between now and then so I'm scurrying...keep the good ideas coming!
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:34 AM
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And I'm blushing over the compliment on my 'bumps.'
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:42 AM
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Gee, I need to get back to London. Realized that I was there in 1998 and that's already 4 years ago! My suggestions, albeit dated, are:
-- excursion to Bath. Did one of the Evan Evans daytrips (Stonehenge, Salisbury, Bath) and wish we'd have more time to spend in Bath.
-- use the half-price ticket booth (cash only) in Leicester Sq. for theatre tickets. If you have your heart set on seeing a specific show, then forego this option & purchase thru broker or directly at theatre.
-- castles, castles, which castle to see? Didn't have time to see either Leeds or Warwick Castle. Do a search on this forum and can bring up previous debates on which castle to visit & why.
-- DO take Elaine up on her offer for her London file (if haven't already done so).
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:49 AM
enough with the bumping
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It seems to me that Mike has gotten a ton of information here. People have spent a lot of time crafting answers and offering huge files of info. What more does he want? Maybe take the time to read what you have and then come back with a few specific questions?
Apr 4th, 2002, 09:54 AM
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At tea time, make sure you have a scone with either whipped or clotted cream; scones in England are much lighter and yummier than here!
Apr 4th, 2002, 01:26 PM
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Just one point from your first post - don't worry about the 24hour clock - in normal speech 8am and 8pm (or 8 o'clock) are used. It would only be in things like bus or train timetables that you would see 0800 and 2000 used.
Apr 4th, 2002, 02:00 PM
Rosemarie the righteous
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We attended a trial at the Old Bailey. It was facinating.....Shades of "Witness for the Prosecution". Personally based on that one trail I would say that the prosecution there gets away with a lot more than in the USA
Apr 4th, 2002, 02:42 PM
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I've been reading everyone's replies and they sound great. As someone who goes abroad 3 or 4 times a year, I'm going to offer some suggestions for items to considering taking along. (Although some may laugh, I've been glad to have them along on more than one occassion.) Umbrella (already mentioned), electrical plugs for the UK (if you decide to take anything electrical)and a 6-foot extension cord. (this one I swear by - outlets seem to be in the most inconvenient places). Last, take some trail mix or dried fruit. The first several nights you are there, you will still be on US time and you're likely to wake up in the middle of the night famished. It will give you a little something to keep you until breakfast. (I don't even get on a domestic flight anymore without food. You never know when flights will be delayed, etc.)

I also want to underscore previous suggestions...............pack your bags and then leave at least half of what you want to take at home.

Have a great trip.
Apr 5th, 2002, 04:00 AM
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"Message: It seems to me that Mike has gotten a ton of information here. People have spent a lot of time crafting answers and offering huge files of info. What more does he want? Maybe take the time to read what you have and then come back with a few specific questions?"

You need to lighten up...that's what I want.
Apr 5th, 2002, 04:36 AM
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Specific comments/questions:

First, thank you thank you thank you. A lot of these posts gave me information I'd never have considered. Some of them spurred me to do more research as well in other areas.

xxx3, I contacted my credit card company and they explained how the fees and conversion and all that good stuff works. Sounds like the credit card (click click as my wife calls it) is the way to go. That was affirmed by a co-worker who was just in London as well. I'll take a couple hundred pounds and use the card for the rest.

Q: A question on this, should I do the currency exchange in the US or once I get to London?

Ellen, I hadn't considered the electricity thing. What I mean by that is I thought I'd just by a converter but your post spurred me to ask around and the consensus seems to be that I run the risk of losing anything I plug in.

Q: So, it seems Mrs. Mike will have to buy a curling iron when we arrive. Does that sound like the best plan? My room has a hairdryer so we shouldn't have to use any other electrical appliances.

Mavis, thanks for the 'tip' on tipping in pubs and going to the bar to order. Again, asked a few folks and you're right on the money. I'd have been sitting there forever waiting for service. Also the comment on watching the telly...I'm looking forward to it. I fall asleep every night listening to the BBC on NPR. I love getting news about the rest of the world and I love how they talk about the US as well.

The overwhelming comment is don't pack heavy. While I don't think I can get down to just carry ons, we will leave the steamer trunk at home this time and try to take only what we can manage.

I had thought we would take the tube, then a taxi to the hotel. Then I read Lori's suggestion on getting a car service. That is an awesome idea and I think that is what I'll likely do. That will let us relax a little and not be so nervous about the taxi etiquette. It's also an excellent way to begin a trip and something I did the first time my wife and I went to NY. Also, the umbrella comment...that would have stunk if I'd forgotten those. Thanks!

Q: Can the 7 day tube pass be purchased prior to arrival? Then again, that might be part of the fun of the visit so maybe I'll wait.

Elaine, you've got mail!

Sue, the extension cord suggestion is awesome. I don't know why I'd not thought of that before. It would make things so much easier in any hotel room. Typically I have to unplug either the clock that is supposed to wake me up, or the light that is letting me see my work...awesome idea. That will make it into my travel bag from this day forward.

Q: If I do get a car service, where will the driver meet me?

Jim, you've got mail!

Q: Is it advisable to take an empty suitcase for purchases we may make or should we ship them back? I hope Mrs. Mike and I stick to our budget, but that would be a first for both of us.

Well, back to work for me. Thanks for all the awesome posts and excellent information. And I will definitely post a trip report taken straight from the pages of my travel journal.
Apr 5th, 2002, 04:51 AM
beth anderson
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here's my advice:

1. TAXI. don't even consider other options - esp with a lot of luggage. I would say taking the Heathrow/Gatwick Express into town would be fine, but do NOT use public transport to get from the train station to your hotel. you will hate life with ANY amount of luggage.

my thoughts on traveling heavy/light - if you are more or less going to stay put, or, will have a rental car - pack as much as you like/need. The times I've spent wandering all over Europe, are the times I pack light. If I have a rental car or know I won't be moving about as much - bring on the porters fellas! I pack all that I need and don't worry about it.

At worst you'll pay a little extra (cab/rental car, versus taking a train). having to run around town looking for what you decided not to pack to save space/weight, in my opinion, is as much of a pain in the butt as the little bit of time you'll have to haul your luggage. in the end it's really only a money issue.

2. it's not a 24 hour society like here in the US. True, that seems to be changing and you will find more things open now - especially in London, but, the tube closes fairly early, shops close early (to us), not everything is open on Sunday, etc. that's the first thing that comes to mind.

3. as far as I know, yes. I tend to be more of a cash person, credit cards are for convenience mainly. I always pay 'em off the minute I get home anyway. so cash/credit is same thing. don't know about fees.

4. time for taxi ride to Victoria - ask your hotelier. if you want to save some money ask them to call a mini cab versus using a black cab.

once you are at Victoria Station - the train ride is half an hour.

usually 2 hours was enough, even post 9/11. I've been overseas 4 times since 9/11 - no probs. this time however I was there not quite 3 hours early and it was actually a good idea.

5. immigration? pretty standard, they'll stamp your passport and as long as you don't look like a nervous psychopath or anything they should wave you right through.

6. a walk in the many parks would be lovely... the flowers are really out now, and they should be even better in May - I was there the middle two weeks of May last year and it was GORGEOUS. sunny weather, lots of flowers...

St. James Park is especially lovely RIGHT now. the trees are all flowering, there's a lake, ducks, geese, moor hens (odd little things!) and other boyds all over. you can see Big Ben peeping out one corner, and Buckingham Palace on the other end. very nice..

7. TONS. go to the big tourist office close to Piccadilly Circus (your map will have a big I on it - it's between Piccadilly Circus and St. James Park... they have a 2 page printout with simple directions to the many day trips from London..

(bonus - there's usually an ice cream man parked right along this route - soft serve ice cream!! yum. nice for your picnic in the park.)

8. it's about 1.43 or so to the dollar. very easy. many times, the NUMBER is the same as what you would pay in the US - it's only the currency sign which will change. so figure you are going to pay 43% more for everything..

email me if you need any other help. I've lost count of the number of times I've been to London, now.

Apr 5th, 2002, 05:07 AM
beth anderson
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a few more things: (I just read your post)

don't take money with you. just use your ATM. very very easy. you will get the going rate, no conversion fees. if you bring money to convert, you lose on the transaction.

the electricity is completely different. you have to have appliances which will convert the current, not just change the plug shape. yes, you will lose your hairdryer/iron. buying one there is sensible.

actually, I never take an umbrella on vacation - it's usually brought me good luck (except in Ireland) and I figure if I really need one they are easy to find. (this goes against my pack whatever you want mantra but it's kind of like folks who wear their team's colors while watching the game - if it brings good luck, great!)

tube pass - very easy to get right there.

don't take an empty suitcase, buy it if you need it (coming from someone who has many suitcases bought overseas now)

hope this helps.


Apr 5th, 2002, 05:14 AM
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That's pretty extravagant, buying all those extra suitcases and umbrellas! I pack a collapsible fabric suitcase, and then on the way home I fill it with clothes and check it. My precious souvenirs go in the carryon!

Other than that I agree with Beth -- don't get pounds in advance, just use ATMs ("cashpoints") after you get there.

US extension cords won't be compatible - the British plugs are different. But you might want to buy a cheap one after you arrive.
Apr 5th, 2002, 08:15 AM
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RE: Currency Conversion Fees etc.

I'm going across the pond in a couple of weeks, and have called my cards. Our primary Visa (with USAA) charges no fees on purchases over there. Our Bank of America Mastercard does add a 2% fee on all purchases converted. Every card is different - please call them before you go. 2% may not be a lot, but when you put the cost of your hotels in there, it adds up.

May 9th, 2002, 12:35 PM
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to the top...
Jun 12th, 2002, 09:49 PM
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elaine would love to get your info also leaving in about 2 weeks to london and parifirst time also s 3 nights each eurostar to paris
Jun 14th, 2002, 05:32 AM
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When I went to China last year, I printed off a conversion chart (web site above) and referred to it all the time. Others in my group were wishing they had one.

Consider signing up for frequent flyer program with the airline you are using and then get their credit card. With most cards, you get one mile for each dollar spent. You can also get miles using their partner long distance service, hotels, car rentals, etc.

I use it for EVERYTHING and pay it off every month. With my miles from China and the credit card, after nine months, I have enough miles for two free tickets. I'm sure some rack up the miles even faster than I did.
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