Finding the best way to get into and around London is your first decision. Whatever, you do, do NOT rent a car and drive to London from the airport. After a 9+ hour flight, trying to drive on the left into a congested city with little parking is not the way to go. If you choose to drive through the countryside later in your trip, we suggest going back to the airport or some other rental location outside the city and rent a car there. (See our section on the Thames Valley.) Or better yet, take a day or overnight tour and get all the history without driving stress.
If you are only a few people without too much luggage, you may wish to consider the Heathrow Express, a train from Heathrow directly to Paddington Station, or the Gatwick Express train from Gatwick into Victoria Station. From there it should be (depending on traffic) a quick cab ride to your West End hotel. London Taxis provide one of the best cab rides you will ever experience. They are the cleanest cabs with the most knowledgeable drivers in the world. We have yet to give an address to a London taxi driver and he not know where it is.
Alternatively, or if you have a large party arriving from either airport you need another alternative. We suggest a Private Arrival Transfer service from that can be arranged from any of the london airports. These services are availabel for groups of from one to 8 people, so they will most likely accommodate the full number in your party. Unlike over services that make stops along the way, this one is completely private. There is also a similar service for departures for return to the respective airports.
The TUBE is the fastest and most cost effective mode of travel around London. It’s easy to use, goes everywhere you want to go and they have 1 and 3 day travel passes that put the transportation at your fingertips all day for one low price. If you plan in advance you can even buy these travel cards coupled with the London Pass at a substantial savings depending on the number of days for which you buy the pass.
Your next question is “where to stay?”. London has everything you are familiar with plus more. The strategically located Hilton Hotels provide good value for the money and some great special deals (we especially enjoyed the Park Lane near Hyde Park), The Radisson Edwardian Hotels (particularly the Mountbatten, in the heart of Covent Garden), Holiday Inns and the Marriott on the river Thames are all choice locations for touring.
It all depends on your pocketbook and what kind of experience you are looking for. The hotels mentioned above are located in the central part of the tourist area of London. This will put you in good proximity to all of the attractions you may want to partake. If you are staying a longer time and want to experience more of the neighborhood feelings in London, hotels in Mayfair, Chelsea, South Kensington or Bayswater would be good choices. For a short stay, the West End is your best for convenience and efficiency. For more on Hotels, check back soon as we will be adding a more descriptive section on them.
And here’s a final tip: Especially if this is your first trip to London, you will want to do one of the double-decker bus sightseeing trips. One of the best, The Original London Sightseeing Bus, can be booked online so you are ready to go when you get there. The process is simple…just purchase the ticket and print it out before you leave. (Don’t forget to pack it for your trip!)
The London Pass
The London Pass includes many of the places you would most like to see like St. Paul’s, the Tower of London and many of the private museums and galleries. It also has discounts on theatre tickets for specified shows and on specified restaurants. Take stock of what you are going to see, when, and what the charges are. The pass must be used for consecutive days if you buy more than a 1-day version. And the more days you buy, the cheaper the daily rate.
Some of the major museums like the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert are free, but there are often special offers with the London Pass such as a free guided tour, discounts at shops, etc. at these locations, so be sure to read all the details to get the most value for your money.
Now that you’re here, let’s explore all the possibilities!