So I was finally able to get back to London for the first time in over a year! Valeria and I took a coach there for her birthday last Saturday and returned on Sunday. It was a quick trip, but it was great to go back and see some friends I hadn’t seen for a long time.
As I want to make this both an interesting and informative post, I have chosen to break my trip up into three main parts: travel, food, and accommodation. In each part I will describe our trip, and then give any tips or information I think might be helpful, should you choose to go to London at some point.
As I mentioned earlier, Valeria and I took a coach (bus) to London. We booked our tickets online, the day before going, at www.nationalexpress.com. For two round-trip tickets, we paid approximately £30 total (£15 each). This seems about average for the coach, depending on the day and time you choose to travel (peak tickets are a bit more expensive). We left Birmingham Coach Station at 8:30 am Saturday morning and arrived at Victoria Coach Station in London around 11:30 am. It seems like a long ride, but it did go by quickly as I slept most of the way 😉
Note: Our return-trip on Sunday took just 2.5 hours. We left London at 10:00 am and got back into Birmingham at 12:30. It just depends on time of day and traffic conditions.
Once in London, we bought the 1-Day Travel Card for Zones 1-6. This cost roughly £8, but gave us unlimited access to the tube and buses for the entire day. Unfortunately, by the time we were leaving on Sunday, the travel card had expired so we had to buy a Single ticket from our accommodation in Elephant and Castle back to Victoria Coach Station. This was around £4, so it is definitely worth spending the extra money to get the travel card for the whole day if you will be using public transportation.
Traveling by coach is not the quickest or most convenient way to get to London. Like I said, we booked the day before leaving, so our options were limited. There are trains that run from Birmingham New Street to Euston and from Snow Hill station to Maryleborne. If you get on it early enough, I’ve been told you can get some really cheap tickets for these trains. The train trips take between 1.5 to 2 hours, so they are much quicker (and probably much more comfortable) than the coach. A couple of useful websites to plan and book your tickets are listed below:
www.thetrainline.com: Good to use for finding the right train, but they do charge a booking fee
www.nationalrail.com: Once you’ve found the right train, try booking it here to avoid additional fees
Note: Thanks to my friend Chris for the information on the trains. He’s from London and had some really good tips on traveling back and forth!
While there, we ate some amazing Pakistani food at a place called Bundukhan. This was my first time eating Pakistani food, and it did not disappoint. Our friend Ushbah (who I found out was an expert on Pakistani cuisine) was kind enough to show me around the menu. In the end, I ordered a potato curry dish (I can’t remember the name) and it was excellent. My favorite part of the meal was actually a traditional drink called Lassi. From what I remember, it is a mixture of milk or yogurt, mango, and sugar. While it was delicious, Ushbah’s brother, Waleed, informed me that drinking too much at once can make you tired and give you a headache.
After dinner, we got a drink at the Bavarian Beerhouse. The Bavarian Beerhouse (seen below) seemed to be a fairly authentic drinking establishment with wooden seats, classically dressed waitresses, and loud, singing patrons. We got there around 12, so we were only able to stay for one drink!
The best/most important restaurant at which we ate (according to Valeria) was Hummus Bros. If you’ve never heard of it, Hummus Bros offers great hummus at a very affordable price. There are four locations throughout the city, so it’s a convenient place to grab a nice lunch!
There are a seemingly endless amounts of great restaurants and pubs within London. As with everything there, you can expect to pay a little more than in Birmingham. With so many choices, it can be overwhelming trying to choose where to go. Of course, sites such as Yelp and Urbanspoon provide reviews to help with you choose. I would suggest, however, that if you know someone who lives in London, or travels there often, ask them for some recommendations. In my experience, these reviews have been much more reliable than the internet!
Our friend Carlos allowed us to stay in his flat while we were there. He has a really nice loft located near Elephant and Castle. I had never been out that far on the tube, so it was cool to experience a new part of the city.
If you don’t have a friend’s couch to sleep on, there are other alternatives.
The first choice for students on a budget would be a hostel. There are many options out there, so I would suggest searching online for the best price. Of course, make sure to read reviews and ask anyone you know if they have any recommendations. I know of several people who have stayed in hostels while traveling, and they typically have nothing but good things to say about them. Hostels do, however, get a bad rep (some of it may be warranted), so be sure you are aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your things!
A more costly, but secure, option would be staying in a hotel. If you are unfamiliar with the city, you may want to choose a hotel in a popular, tourist-friendly location. These areas would typically be around central London, and also happen to be where prices are at their highest. If you are planning to stay in a hotel, I would suggest booking as early as possible to avoid higher fees and ensure they have available rooms.
The last option would be to look on a website like Airbnb, or something similar. These websites offer affordable accommodation to people planning trips to different locations. They are typically cheaper than hotels, and give you the chance to meet a local (the person who is renting you the room) who can give you tips on where to go and things to do. Valeria and I did this once when we traveled to Marseille. We rented an entire apartment from a guy who was traveling, and it cost us much less than staying at a hotel! If you are interested in doing this, I would definitely suggest going on the website and taking a look. A really nice feature is that they typically offer a biography and reviews of the host, so you can see what past visitors have said about them before booking.
Well that’s it! My trip to London, sprinkled with some (hopefully helpful) tips and advice. If you get the chance during your time at Aston, definitely consider going to London! The city is full of life, culture, and adventure; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I am always looking forward to going back!
If you have any questions or comments, comment below!
Thanks for reading,