HOW TO: LONDON (…on a budget)

Hello there!

As most of the university draws closer to exam time, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to fill you in on Easter Break news: My old university roommate came to visit me! She was a little piece of South African sun in between the UK grey and her presence made up for the fact that I wasn’t home for Easter.

This was her first time in the UK, which meant that I got to experience London as a tourist again too. I think we did a good job of whizzing through the major London sights – and on a budget!

Here’s a look at our first touristy day:

We woke up early, packed some lunch in our backpacks and made coffee for the train journey in travel mugs (student travel tip: many coffee chains, such as Starbucks and Pret a Manger, give you a discount if you bring your own travel mug).

The train from Guildford travels directly to Waterloo station in about 35 minutes. If you’re a student here, I’d say it’s definitely worth buying a railcard, as you get big discounts on train journeys. Waterloo is very central and there are a number of underground route options which take you from there to your next destination. Alternatively, you can get out at Waterloo and explore the Southbank area – it’s lovely to walk along the Thames pier and you get up and close to the London eye.

On our first day, however, we got the underground to Queensway station, on the corner of Hyde Park. There, we rented ‘Boris Bikes’ – now known as Santander Cycles. These are a great way to see a lot quickly! They only cost 2 to hire, and then you can use it in 30min sessions for 24 hours! There are  spots to park your bike and pick up a new one (within those 30mins) scattered literally all around London. We just cycled through Hyde Park, stopping at all the sights (such as: Kensington Gardens and Palace, the Peter Pan statue, the Serpentine Gallery, the Diana Memorial Fountain, Statue of Achilles and various other attractions.

Just along the side of Hyde Park, you can also see the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial.

After spending some time meandering through the grounds, we went to the Wellington Arch and walked down Constitution Hill to the Victoria Memorial, which gave a beautiful view of Buckingham Palace. We timed our journey so that we were there in time for the Changing of the Guards. It’s really quite a spectacle to watch if you can make it! The website should provide times.

Once we were finished there, we grabbed a quick coffee and walked down to Westminster Abbey. Just outside the Abbey, you’ll find Parliament Square garden, which has two South Africans in it (Jan Smuts and Nelson Mandela). From there, we walked all the way to Trafalgar Square, stopping to try and get a glimpse of 10 Downing Street (although, I’m afraid you can hardly see anything).

At Trafalgar Square you can pop into St Martin-in-the-Fields, which has a beautiful window! Another great thing about Trafalgar Square is all the museums – most of which are free! We wandered around Soho (lots of things to see, such as the crazy M&M world), of course stopping for a pint at a little pub later the afternoon.

We bought last-minute tickets to see the West End show 42nd Street. Seeing as the tickets were cheap, we were squashed very high up in the corner…but it’s still a fun experience! Another super-sneaky-student tip is to buy a snack beforehand – the ones they sell in the theatre are very expensive!

After all of that, we got the tube and then train back to Guildford, exhausted but exhilarated after our fully-packed day! There you have a quick guide as to how to do the top points of London.