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Short trip to London...advice please.

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Toronto, Canada
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Short trip to London...advice please.

I'm planning to visit London for the first time next month and need quite a bit of advice. I have a lot of research to do but thought I'd start by posting on this forum. I'm a 27 year old female and it will be my first time traveling solo ( a bit nervous). Thinking to spend 3-4 nights in London and then 3-4 nights in Paris.

1) After much thought, I've decided not to go with a tour group but plan on my own. Anyone strongly advise against this?

2) I'm extremely confused of the best area to stay in London. I also can't pick between a hostel and hotel. Can someone please recommend a good place to stay? The best hostel? I'd like a location close to a good night life. In terms of what I want to see...I need to do more research but I definitely want to see the Harry Potter studio tour.

3) Is it best to fly into Heathrow or Gatwick? Or does it matter?

4) Better to fly or train from London to Paris?

5) Any tips for a female solo traveler to explore the nightlife in London and Paris?

Appreciate any insights you may have. Thank you for reading.

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

1 - No. DIY holidays will be those that suit you rather than be planned to appeal to a generic group with whom you may or may not have much in common.

2 - Depending on when you plan to travel next month you may have limited choices of where to stay, as inexpensive hotel rooms will have been booked up well in advance. Please let us know when you plan to travel and your budgget in pounds (*not* $CAD) - use www.xe.com or www.oanda.com to calculate the exchange rate. If you have not booked the Harry Potter tour you may wish to do so sharpish as well.

3 - I would fly with British Airways to Heathrow, but flying with AC to that airport would be acceptable as well. Air Transat fly to and from Gatwick, and although some people are quite happy to fly with the airline I prefer a full service carrier.

Since you have not yet booked flights, consider booking an open jaw ticket to fly from YYZ to LHR and then from Paris CDG to YYZ. You will probably have to connect at Heathrow, and when doing so allow at least two hours between scheduled arrival and departure. Heathrow is a large and very busy airport and you must allow for potential irrops on the day.

3 - If your dates are firm, book the train to Paris as soon as possible at www.eurostar.com Tickets have been on sale for the last two or three months, and once inexpensive fares for the departures at times X, Y and Z are gone, they won't come back. If you book a train to depart at dark o'clock, keep in mind that you will need to be at St Pancras station at least 45 minutes before scheduled departure time to check in and go through Security and passport control.

4 - www.timeout.com/london should have details of clubs, events and nightlife. You will not find a single location in central London that is 'close to a good night life' but instead will have to use the Underground, buses, Night buses or taxis to travel to and from clubs or venues.

5 - Yes: you should sort out flights, accommodation and rail tickets as soon as possible. Once that is done you can look to how to spend your time, but in the interim read through the Eyewitness Guides and Rough Guides to London and Paris to give an idea of what you would like to see and do in those cities - think about what it is that makes you want to visit them.

Toronto, Canada
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2. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

Thank you. I was so certain I was going to do a tour but planning it on my way is much more preferred. I do not want to waste time on a 10 hour bus ride!

1350£ for flight and hotel is my hope. The best rates I found so far is 330£ from Toronto to Gatwick and 560£ from Paris to Toronto.

And yes, I understand it's a last minute trip. I see people on here planning trips over a year in advance while I made my decision last week! I am away this weekend but hope to have it all booked by Wednesday at the latest. I have a general idea of departure but am just deciding if I should add an extra day or two. >.<

A few hotels/hostels in London I came across which are inexpensive: Tavistock Hotel, Royal London, The Paddington Hotel, Tudor Cost Hostel, Lancaster Court Hotel, The Garth Hotel, Belvedere Hotel, 4 Star Hostel...

Any recommendations for an area to stay in London?

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

Also, can you advise more about "open jaw ticket"? I've never even heard of this term before until now! Any site recommendations to book this way? Sorry if this is such a ridiculous question! Expedia is primarily what I use while booking.

Toronto, Canada
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4. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

Ah nevermind. I'm a moron! I just realized open jaw is just like booking a multiple destination flight on expedia which seems much cheaper than book two separate flights. Thank you!

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

Thanks.

Open jaw tickets are also known as multi city tickets: you may book to fly from A to B and then from C back to A, in this case YYZ to LHR or LGW and then Paris CDG to YYZ. Booking directly with the airline is recommended rather than through third party online agents for several reasons. Two of the key reasons are that in case of irrops you will deal with the airline rather than have to go through the agent; the second is that third party websites can put together itineraries that do not take into consideration connection times at airports (allowing the bare minimum of time for a Heathrow to Gatwick connection, for example) or will cobble together flights with airlines from different alliances which could mean reluctance to check bags.

If you book with a third party, the airline's obligation with respect to changes in flight times is to contact (eg) expedia.ca who have acted as your agent. Expedia may or may not pass the information on to you - yet another reason to book with the airline.

Of the hotels you mention I would not book the Lancaster Court, the Garth Hotel or the 4 Star Hostel. The Royal London Hotel is not at all central, nor are hotels near Paddington station. What rates are showing for the Tavistock or Belvedere hotels? Please do let us know your budget as at this point that's going to determine which hotels you may be able to consider booking.

Let us know your travel dates as well. If you've found rates around £65 per night at a B&B type hotel near Paddington with the washroom down the hall and no lift in the building, there are better options for about the same rate, but it really does depend on when you will be in London.

Edited: 15 February 2014, 08:21
Toronto, Canada
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6. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

TravellerPlus, I think I need to pay you the $500 dollars I will be saving thanks to your advice!!! I am ecstatic right now! Earlier this week I did the multi-destination but included hotel stays and it was $5000 (crazy!) so I thought I was better off booking everything separately and did not even consider trying the option for flights only. What a money saving!

And appreciate your advice. I've actually booked every vacation (about 10) I've ever taken through Expedia and had no issues but I will check the Air Canada website right now and if the costs are the same, I'll book through them instead.

I am departing March 13 on an overnight flight and will arrive in London on March 14. Ideally spend 4 nights there, and then head off to Paris for 4 nights.

I will do further research on hotels and let you know. Thank you again!

Cardiff, United...
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7. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

"After much thought, I've decided not to go with a tour group but plan on my own. Anyone strongly advise against this?"

Absolutely not, you'll find it's a far more rewarding way to travel :)

" I'm extremely confused of the best area to stay in London. I also can't pick between a hostel and hotel. Can someone please recommend a good place to stay? The best hostel?"

When it comes to London I always think it is best to worry less about the location (anywhere in the broadly central area will be fine and the extensive public transport system means you can get to anywhere you want to get to pretty easily at any time) and focus more on a property that suits you and your budget. I find posters on this site tend to be fairly anti-hostel and steer people towards cheap hotels instead - which probably suits their own travel needs and may suit a lot of other people as well, but if you do want to keep things really budget then staying in a hotel may suit you. You do need to appreciate and accept what that entails - ie. sharing a sleeping place with other people who you don't know, shared bathrooms, etc. The plus side for someone traveling alone is that it does tend to be more social - easy to meet and share tips with other travelers also traveling on a budget.

If you think that may be for you, have a look at the hostelbookers website www.hostelbookers.com which is a booking aggregator for hostels similar to the ones you find for hotels and contains reviews and suggestions from travelers. That may help inform your choice and choose a hostel if you do wish to go that route.

On flights, when traveling on a budget, would again go for the flight that best suits your requirement and not based on arrival airport. Heathrow or Gatwick, you'll get to where you need to get to.

Edited: 15 February 2014, 08:53
Cardiff, United...
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8. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

Also, in light of your previous reply, book your Eurostar tickets asap. If you mean to travel on the 17th March, then I just checked and there are no tickets left for less than £73 (unless you don't arrive until after 2300 when you can save £11...). There are some cheaper fares the next day (as cheap as £39) on some trains, but you need to book this portion of your trip as a priority as the price will only go up.

Edited: 15 February 2014, 08:59
essex
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9. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

accommodation: Why not stay in a London borough at a premier inn, holiday inn or Travelodge? A daily London travelcard is less than £8 (roughly!) making it ideal to travel anywhere between zones 1 and 6 including bus travel and DLR. Premier inn tend to offer very inexpensive full English breakfasts, filling you up for the whole day! We live very near to London and used to live in London so can recommend places such as Gants hill Holiday inn, Tower hill, and any other London boroughs as they are in such close proximity of central London and will save you a fortune.

Also nistead of using the "tourist bus" to explore and paying a small fortune, use your travel card on any bus in London (trafalgar square number 15 is very good, sit at the top!) and you will get to see the sights.

MM

Cardiff, United...
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10. Re: Short trip to London...advice please.

Re post 9. PI Tower Hill would be £100 per night for the dates specified which I'm not sure is in the budget OP is looking for. The Holiday Inn near Newbury Park is fully booked, but there's a world of difference between Tower Hill and Newbury Park in terms of location and I'm not sure they should be lumped together as 'in close proximity' to central London!

I would not recommend staying so far from the centre (especially when OP has specified a location 'close to good nightlife'). Firstly, it's no fun. Secondly, traveling time would take up a chunk of the day. There are no travelcards for 'less than £8' a daily zone 1-6 travelcard can be had for £8.90 but that's off peak only which further restricts what you can actually do.

Edited: 15 February 2014, 10:07