This is for my travel buddies, so that we can keep up-to-date on what's happening in London. It's easier than doing a newsletter every week. I have compiled a list of links, as well as info gathered from Fodors.com. I want everyone to do some research, so that when we get together in March or April, we can discuss where we want to go and what we want to do. This should help you get on your way.
By Mass Transit
Several passes for tube and bus travel are available at tube and rail stations, as well as some newsstands. The Visitor's Travelcard may be bought in the United States and Canada for three, four, and seven days' travel; it is the same as the LT Card and has a booklet of discount vouchers to London attractions. In the United States, the Visitor's Travelcard costs $29, $39, and $49, respectively, plus a $10 shipping fee. It is available from travel agents or, in the United States, from BritRail Travel International (1-800-677-8585).
London's bus system consists of bright red double- and single-deckers, plus other buses of various colors. Destinations are displayed on the front and back, and the bus number is on the front, back, and side. Not all buses run the full length of their route at all times. Some buses still have a conductor whom you pay after finding a seat, but there are a lot of "one-man" buses on the road, in which you pay the driver upon boarding. London is divided nto six concentric zones for both bus and tube fares: The more zones you cross, the higher the fare. One-way fares start at 90p in the central zone.
Buses stop only at clearly indicated stops. Main stops--at which the bus should stop automatically--have a plain white background with a red LT symbol on it. There are also request stops with red signs, a white symbol, and the word "Request" added; at these you must hail the bus to make it stop. Smoking is not allowed on any bus. Although you can see much of the town from a bus, don't take one if you want to get anywhere in a hurry; traffic often slows to a crawl, and during rush hour you may find yourself waiting 40 minutes for a bus and then not being able to get on it once it arrives. For details on bus service within London, contact London Transport (tel.0171/222-1234) or ask at a Travel Information Centre for a free London Bus Map. Green Line buses (tel. 0181/668-7261) cover a 30- to 40-mile radius of London, ideal for excursions. The Golden Rover ticket allows unlimited travel for one day (£6).
Known colloquially as "the tube," London's
extensive Underground system is by far the most
widely used form of city ransportation. Trains run both beneath and above ground out into the
suburbs, and all stations are clearly marked
with the London Underground circular symbol.
(In Britain, the word "subway" means
"pedestrian underpass.") Trains are all one
class; smoking is not allowed on board or in
There are 10 basic lines--all named--plus the East London line, which runs from Shoreditch and Whitechapel across the Thames and south to New Cross, but which is currently closed indefinitely (a replacement bus service is in operation); and the Docklands Light Railway, which runs from Stratford in east London and from Bank and Tower gateway to Greenwich, with an extension to the Royal Docks. The not-yet-built Metro Express, which will run from Haringey to Wimbledon underneath Soho and Fulham, may start appearing on maps, too--it's the light green line. The Central, District, Northern, Metropolitan, and Piccadilly lines all have branches, so be sure to note which branch is needed for your particular destination. Electronic platform signs tell you the final stop and route of the next train, and some signs conveniently indicate how many minutes you'll have to wait for the train to arrive.
London is divided into six concentric zones; the fare goes up the farther out you travel. Traveling without a valid ticket makes you liable for an on-the-spot fine (£10), so always pay your fare before you embark. For one trip between any two stations, you can buy an ordinary single (one-way ticket) for travel anytime on the day of issue; if you're coming back on the same route the same day, an ordinary return (round-trip ticket) costs twice the single fare. Singles vary in price from 70p to £3.10--expensive if you're making several journeys in a day.
For information on Travelcards and train routes check out The British Rail Website
The units of currency in Great Britain are the pound sterling (£) and the pence (p): £50, £20, £10, and £5 bills; £1 (100p), 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p coins.
For the current exchange rate try CNN.Com
A movie in the West End costs £5-£9.50 (less on Mondays and at matinees); a theater seat, from £6 to about £20, more for hit shows; admission to a museum or gallery, around £3 (though many are free and others request a "voluntary contribution"); coffee, £1-£2; a pint of light (lager) beer in a pub, £1.70-£2.20; whiskey, gin, vodka, and so forth, by the glass in a pub, £1.50 and up (the measure is smaller than in the United States); house wine by the glass in a pub or wine bar, around £2, in a restaurant, £3.50 or more; a Coke, around 50p; a ham sandwich from a sandwich bar in the West End, £2; a 1-mile taxi ride, £4; an average Underground or bus ride, £1.30, a longer one, £2.30.
For a conversion table from dollars to pounds check out this site.
Mandeer Under £15
21 Hanway Pl., London W1
Buried in a basement, with tile floors, brick walls, and temple lamps, the Mandeer is useful for being central (off Tottenham Court Road, where there's nothing much else), and extremely cheap at lunchtime, when you help yourself to the buffet. AE, DC, MC, V. Reservations not accepted for lunch. Closed Sun., national holidays.
Wagamama Under £15
4 Streatham St., London WC1
London's gone wild for Japanese noodles in this big basement. It's high-tech (your order is taken on a hand-held computer), high-volume--there are always crowds, with which you share wooden refectory tables--and high-turnover, with a fast-moving line always at the door. You can choose ramen in or out of soup, topped with sliced meats or tempura; or "raw energy" dishes--rice, curries, tofu, and so on--all at give-away prices and doggy-bag sizes. So successful has this formula proved, there is now an entire range of clothing, so that grateful diners can wear Wagamama. Many of them alternate this Wagamama experience with the newer one at 10a Lexington St. (tel. 0171/292-0990), near Oxford Circus. No credit cards. Reservations not accepted. Closed Dec. 25.
The North Sea Fish Restaurant
7-8 Leigh St.
This is the place for the British national dish of fish-and-chips--battered and deep-fried whitefish with with thick fries shaken with salt and vinegar. It's a bit tricky to find--three blocks south of St. Pancras station, down Judd Street. Only freshly caught fish is served, and you can order it grilled--though that would defeat the object. You can take out or eat in. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun., national holidays, Dec. 25.
The Coffee Cup
74 Hampstead High St.
A Hampstead landmark for just about as long as anyone can remember, this smoky, dingy, uncomfortable café is lovable, very cheap, and therefore always packed. You can get anything (beans, eggs, kippers, mushrooms) on toast, grills, sandwiches, cakes, fry-ups, and so forth--nothing healthy or fashionable whatsoever. There are tables outside in the summer, but no liquor license. No credit cards. Reservations not accepted. Closed Dec. 25.
89 Regent's Park Rd.
On a very pleasant street near Regent's Park is this superior version of London Greek--large and light, friendly, and packed every evening. Besides the usual mezedes (appetizers), souvlakia (kebabs), stifado (beef stewed in wine), and so on, there are interesting specials: quail, perhaps, or gemista (stuffed vegetables). No credit cards. Reservations essential for dinner. Closed Sat. lunch, Sun. dinner, Dec. 25.
98 King's Rd.
This café has been crowded since the '60s with hungry people after hot, filling, and inexpensive food. Expect nothing more fancy than pasta, omelets, salads, stews, and casseroles. The menu changes every day. No credit cards. Reservations not accepted. Closed Dec. 25
Links to other cool London Sites
This is London...an insiders guide to the City. This is a cool site because it is written for English visitors to London.
British Airways Find your seat and what movie is playing on our flight.
Check out the Hotel
Find out what the weather will be at The Weather Channel's Homepage