My Peregrinations

Winging my way through life

Category: Solo travel (Page 2 of 3)

Tips for getting around London

Getting around London is very easy, once you’ve gotten the hang of how things work. I was travelling on a budget, so I was determined not to set foot in a single cab during my time in the city. Cabs are notoriously expensive, not to mention shady if you inadvertently flag down a non-legit one. So it was buses and the Tube for me.

I used this website to figure out which TravelCard would give me the best value during my time in London. Based on my itinerary and length of stay, I bought the 7-day Zones 1-2 TravelCard, which would allow me unlimited rides on the Tube and buses to cover my entire time in London. I used Google Maps to find my way around. I also bought a prepaid GiffGaff SIM card that let me use data with abandon.  If you’re in Singapore, there’s a distributor that will send you the SIM card free. All they ask is that you like and share their Facebook page.

On the Tube

An empty Tube carriage. This was taken during my journey to the airport for my return flight, early in the morning on a Saturday.

The Tube system is very comprehensive for getting around London. You don’t have to walk very far before you chance upon a Tube station. That also means that the network is rather convoluted, and the underground tunnels that connect lines and platforms can be confusing, as well as tiring to traverse. Ventilation is an issue, which is why Transport for London has signs all over the place reminding people to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated during their journeys.

Not all Tube stations are disabled-friendly, so if you’re travelling with someone who is wheelchair-bound, you’ll need to check if there is a little wheelchair icon next to the name of the station you would like to use. If there is an icon, that means there is step-free access. Even if you’re able-bodied, the sheer number of stairs that you have to navigate can be very tiring, especially if you’re making your way to or from the airport with luggage.

Buses are really easy to ride – every bus I rode had an electronic destination display that told me the name of the next stop. The only trouble was that sometimes, the stop name didn’t match what was in Google maps, so I found myself missing my stop once or twice. It wasn’t a big deal, though. I simply backtracked, and resumed navigation.

Docked bike-share bikes - Santander Cycles

Docked bike-share bikes – this one is by Santander Cycles.

If you’re very confident on a bike, and have good navigation skills, then getting around London on a bike might be for you. There are a few bike-share schemes in London, and they are available at docking stations all over the city. They’re great for short trips within the city. You simply pay £2, which will get you the first 30 minutes of your journey free. Thereafter, you pay another £2 for each extra 30 minutes. I didn’t try this because I don’t like cycling on the road and London traffic isn’t very forgiving – more than once, I saw altercations between motorists and pedestrians. I also didn’t want to be encumbered by a bike while exploring.

Public transport is really your best option for getting around London. Trains and buses run till late, are affordable and convenient, and are generally safe. Before I left home, I read a few TripAdvisor forum posts by travellers who were worried about their backpacks being slashed while on the train. I was naturally slightly concerned, being a worrywart. So I decided to bring a messenger bag instead of a backpack, thinking that it would be safer. Big mistake – the messenger bag wreaked hell on my neck and shoulders, and I ended up buying a £60 Herschel backpack on my second day. As long as you’re alert and sensible, you should be able to carry a backpack anywhere in London with no fear.

London in five days: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was the first attraction I visited on my first day in London. The main reason was its location less than 20 minutes from the AirBNB apartment. I simply caught the train from Bermondsey to Southwark and took a 15 minute walk to get there.

A visit to the Globe costs £15 and grants you access to an exhibition about the history of the area south of the Thames, the growth of the local theatre industry, and Shakespeare’s role in all of it, as well as a guided tour of the theatre itself. I didn’t find the exhibition particularly interesting. Perhaps I was woolly-headed from the red-eye flight.

The tour, however, was excellent. My group’s guide, Callum, was not only engaging but extremely knowledgeable about the Globe’s history, as well as about Shakespeare’s work. Listening to him speak about the construction of the theatre, how plays were staged in Shakespeare’s day, and how they are staged today, was enlightening. He also tended to declaim passages from various Shakespearean plays at the drop of a hat, so it was like a free performance thrown in. We didn’t just stand on the ground floor and look up at the stalls, we went up to the second and third levels so we could see the view from above. If you’re looking to attend a play at the Globe, I think the best seats are to be found on the second level. The seats are hard wood, though, so you’ll want to rent a cushion for comfort.

The tour alone was worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, you don’t get to pick your guide. When you buy your ticket, the person manning the counter will tell you what time your assigned tour group will depart.

I would have liked to watch a play at the Globe during my trip. A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth were playing but predictably, tickets were sold out. Maybe next time!

London in five days: Borough Market

The Shard towering over Borough Market.

The Shard towering over Borough Market.

I love visiting markets, so Borough Market was on my London to-do list. Unfortunately, my visit was on a Monday, which is a limited market day, but there were some interesting things to see nonetheless. I popped by around lunchtime, and many of the more popular stalls such as Pie Minister had snaking queues in front of them. That made it quite difficult to get nice pictures. 

Huge pizzas to share. I must say that they were very generous with the prawns!

Huge pizzas to share.

I wanted to buy some fudge for the man, but there were so many to choose from I was paralysed by indecision and leaving empty-handed.

I wanted to buy some fudge for the man, but there were so many to choose from I was paralysed by indecision and ended up leaving empty-handed.

I really wanted to try Pie Minister’s pies, but having just had lunch, I couldn’t find space to eat anything except coffee. So I headed to Monmouth Coffee Company, which was just across the road from Borough Market.

Monmouth Coffee is supposed to serve the best joe in London.

Monmouth Coffee is supposed to serve the best joe in London. They roast their own beans, and they do it very well too, if I do say so myself.

My filtered coffee being prepared.

Londoners seem to take their coffee very seriously, so I had to queue for at least 15 minutes before I got my stained cup of long black. There are bowls of sugar to help yourself from, if you must have your coffee sweet.

I paid a few quid for this cup of coffee – can’t remember how much exactly, but I savoured every sip.

While my visit to Borough Market wasn’t super exciting (should have planned to drop by on a Friday instead), the cuppa more than made up for it! I was definitely fortified for a walk across London Bridge right after.


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