Who doesn’t know London?
One of biggest cities in the world and almost everyone dreamed to step into this city once. We are ones of those people who are getting curious on the-big-city vibe, although we both hate to live in it, but at least we want to experience a day to spend at it.
Without any motivation to see how cool Big Ben is or to learn more about British culture or to enter Sherlock Holmes museum eagerly, we were just thrilled to experience the first time we jumped into another UK’s city. No offense, London’s lovers, we both love living in small town and encountering journey between destination, so in the end, we were still grateful to meet London.
What are the essential preparation for us, budget travellers, to minimize our expenditure?
How to Get There
There are many transportation that you can choose to get there. From Manchester, people like to go by train because it is more comfortable and faster. You can arrive at London after three hours in train with more expensive ticket or you choose to ride a bus for five until seven hours for the cheapest. However, most people will suggest you not to drive a car to London due to difficulty of finding available car park and high price of parking yours.
From Manchester, we prefer to get there by bus (or coach, word they use). We got £20-ish bus ticket for two people from Manchester to London and back to Manchester. Moreover, we got 5 hours long drive with stunning view along the way. We hopped into Manchester National Coach Express at 8 AM and arrived at Victoria Coach Station at 1.30 PM because our bus got trouble and had to stop on the way. One tip for you, if you want to go to London by coach, make sure you get off in Victoria Coach Station because it is perfectly laid in the center of the city.
Since we were not in rush, we completely enjoyed our journey, our hot chocolate in the rest area, and the green view along the trip. Well, the green view is basically hills and grass, also cows (the black white one), horses and sheeps who enjoy their meal and hang out with their peers. The same thing goes with Indonesia’s highways, except Indonesia has its rice field, mountain and sometimes people’s houses on the side, also cows, chicken and goats.
How to Go Around City
If you have targeted to London’s city center only, I think you will enjoy to walk. It never occured on my mind that walking could be so enjoyable like this. London is a big city that has comfortable pedestrian walks around, so don’t worry to spend most of your time walking. Even though, people usually walk with high pace and Indonesians usually have a sluggish walk (including me! Even though I tried to walk faster, but still slow compared to them. Poor my short leg), you can take a very left or very right side-walk to not bother others.
Compared to other cities in UK, I think London has many options to help you wandering around the city. There are bus (and coach), underground train (or they call it tube), overground train (and there’s more on train) and river bus (it’s a cruise in a big river). You can buy ticket directly on every stop or if you don’t want to have a lot in your hand and get cheaper ticket to ride along, you can buy Oyster Card or Contactless Card.
Oyster Card is sold in Station mostly, I got one when I arrived at Victoria Coach Station. Buy a card itself cost £5, and you can top up as much as you want. If you don’t intend to come to London in the future, you can return your card and get the balance money (and £5 of card itself). Just come to tourist information center to get it done, it is available on almost every station.
On the other hand, Contactless Card usually comes with your Debit/Credit Card from UK’s banks. My husband used this to go around the city because he had the Debit Card from Barclays Bank, one of UK’s banks.
Where to Go
We were not interested to go to suburb London, so we stayed in city center. Actually, there are many things you can visit in London city center and Alhamdulillah, there are many free attraction too that you can enjoy. But, if you want to experience more, you can spend your money on some attractions.
First day, we managed to go around the city on foot, so from Victoria Coach Station, we go to Grosvenor Gardens to had lunch,
then to Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial (including Buckingham Palace Gardens and Green Park),
then headed to Mayfair Islamic Centre to pray.
We walked along the Piccadilly until Piccadilly Circus,
straight to National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Charles Statue,
walked along the Whitehall until Big Ben,
crossed the Westminster Bridge, until London Eye (not go up, only see from afar).
We rode river bus from London Eye Pier to Tower Pier other because after four hours walking we were tired and we would like to enjoy views along the river, so we did see bridges along River Thames (including London Bridge and Tower Bridge).
We visited Tower of London too.
After that, we managed to ride bus to Trafalgar Square since Tube near Tower Bridge were closed due to some rail improvement in several points, to continue riding Tube from Charing Cross Underground to Harlesden in Zone 4, where we stayed for a night.
Second day, we had a destination list to Islamic Cultural Centre and some museums which stood far enough to each other. In addition to this, we had to catch our bus in the afternoon, so we got a brief time, we decided to ride a bus. Starting from Craven Park Rd to Glentworth Street in the early morning,
to catch a quiet Baker Street to walk (it is usually a deafening place),
including Sherlock Holmes Museum (even though we did not entered this museum because we loved our money more).
We continued to walk and enjoy The Regent’s Park,
headed to Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque.
From The Mosque, we rode bus to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park (including Kensington Palace, even though there was a Marathon Event on this park and we couldn’t walk freely),
Science Museum (we both were more interested to go to Science Museum rather than Natural History Museum or Victoria and Albert Museum) and finally back to Victoria Station.
I think, what we missed during our journey is we did not check the event and the road or rail construction that currently being held or done. That’s why we had to look for alternatives route or attraction during the journey because we were surprised to see our plan did not work out. One most important thing is you must have access to the internet. Well, sometimes you get lucky to meet people who will give you right information, but sometimes misfortune can streak you too.
What I read to prepare our journey, mostly was London for Free.
Where to Sleep
Most Indonesian in Manchester suggested to go to Wisma Indonesia in London which cost £25 per person per night. Instead of agreeing to people’s opinions to stay in Wisma Indonesia, we still chose AirBnB, our favorite website since the first day we married to seek room to crash, and we got £30 for two people one night. The room we chose was in Zone 4, which seemed like far from city center, but it was one of the cheapest. You can also seek from other websites which offer rooms, flats, apartments or houses for you to rent, if you are interested.
How to Eat Halal Food (for Muslim)
As budget traveller, one of the things that we want to keep economical is food. Because for us, food is for life, not otherwise. So, we managed to pack meals for two days, mostly were fried. We brought indomie goreng (very yass!), bread (a lot of it), fried chicken, french fries, and all.
But eventually, we were hungry, I thought that was because we used up all of our energy in walking. Thus, we did research through the internet to find halal food. And we were bored of The Middle East cuisine, so we looked on the halal KFC – there’s a lot of halal KFC around London. So, don’t worry!
Where to Pray (for Muslim)
I think it is very convenient for us to pray by finding nearest mosque around us. There are plenty mosque around, and if you include it to your itinerary, I think it is not hard to find. But, sometimes you get too focused to enjoy your vacation, and you spend too much time wandering around, you forget to pray. And there is not enough time to find mosque. Actually, you can find enough space in the side-walk and extend your sajadah (or jacket, mostly) to pray. People give enough respect to let us pray.
Well, we only spent two days one night in October 2016 to go to London because we thought it was enough. But people surely have different opinions on how many optimum days to spend in London: some say three days, some say a week, it depends on your preference. Although, we were sure not to go to London again in the future, but life speaks differently. We are planning to visit London AGAIN next June to renew my passport since it will expire in January 2018 (but the real reason is WE ARE GOING TO WATCH ADELE CONCERT SINCE WE BOTH ENJOY HER SONGS OMG YEAAAYYYY!!!! Ahem, sorry for the excitement). Let’s hope there is no Ed Sheeran concert in the short time…please let us save our money more. So, I guess see you next time London!