London may not be the cheapest city to stay in but there are ways to cut costs and still enjoy the many pleasures it offers – and plenty of opportunities to meet other solo travellers if you are visiting alone. Here are 10 solo travel tips for London.
1. Getting there Check your flight tickets and the likelihood is you will be landing in ‘London’ Heathrow. The airport is actually 15 miles out of town and there can be a few panicky tube changes to navigate for first-time travellers on their own. Do yourself a favour and make it an easy arrival by buying tickets for the Heathrow Express. This will drop you in central London (Paddington) in just 15 stress-free minutes.
2. Getting around #1
Pack light, pack layers and pack portably. Use luggage that has wheels or shoulder straps as London’s tube stations have a notorious amount of stairs and long walkways. London’s weather is changeable so layers will help you change at the drop of a dime (or a ten pence piece).
3. Getting around #2
The ‘Hop On Hop Off’ tour buses get you to most major sights and offer great value for money and plenty of opportunities to meet other solo travellers. If you are staying longer than just a day, however, you will need an Oyster Card and a Tube map. The Oyster Card will save you lots of money on both buses and tubes – it can be picked up from any tube station or online before you arrive from the Transport for London website.
4. Spend a penny?
Spending a penny is a British euphemism for using the toilet. Actually it is likely to cost you 30-40 pennies so keep some change on you when you are out and about.
5. Cheap chains
For quick lunches as you whizz round the sights keep your eyes peeled for chains such as Pret A Manger, Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), Giraffe, Pizza Express, Masala Zone or, more authentically, The West Cornwall Pasty Company.
6. Cheap shows
The TKTS ticket booth in Leicester Square can reward anyone who can be flexible on their times with West End show tickets at half price. This is great for solo travellers who can come and go as they please.
7. Free museums
Museums are great for the solo traveller, especially if it rains. Many world class museums in London are free – although a donation is expected – so take your pick from the Tate Modern, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery.
8. Plenty of pubs
Pubs are quintessentially British and London has some fine ones. An organised pub crawl is a fun way to meet other solo travellers – look up London Tavern Trails but there are plenty of others on offer.
9. Royal sights
Where to start? Well a flavour of the monarchy can be gained from Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London is pricey but, in its own way, priceless. Further afield it is easy to organise trips to Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace where Henry VIII ruled the roost.
10. Taking time out
It wasn’t just in the 1960’s that London was swinging. Music lovers can find gigs in intimate venues and stadiums all over the city and listings sites like Time Out can help you find the night out that is perfect for you. When the sun sets over the Thames the party is just beginning – enjoy yourself.