First time to London–all alone

Why wouldn’t you take advantage of combining two of your favorite things? In this case, I stumbled upon one ticket for Ed Sheeran’s Divide Tour. The catch was, it was in London. Well heck, I’ve always wanted to visit London, screw it, ‘lesgo.

I flew Norwegian Airline to London Gatwick Airport. At this time in my travel career, I was still a little nervous traveling to other countries. I found London incredibly easy to navigate. My #1 recommended app for navigating around cities is Citymapper. This app single-handedly turned me into London public transportation expert. Similar to your vehicle GPS, you enter where you would like to go and the app tells you how to get there and what modes of public transportation to use. This app even works with no cellular service on the Tube (London’s underground transportation).

Upon arrival at Gatwick Airport, I hit up the ATM, to grab some local currency. I have found this to be the best way to convert currency. Try to avoid the currency conversion kiosks, they have horrible rates. I use my Capital One debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees at ATM’s. For everything else I use my Chase Sapphire card, which also has no foreign transaction fees.

I had zero knowledge of London’s public transportation system prior to hopping on that plane. I booked a ticket on the Gatwick Express train to get me to my hotel in the Westminster neighborhood. This turned out to be a great idea to get a feel for things, but in hindsight, there are many other cheaper options.

I booked my room at HUB by Premiere at Westminster Abbey. This was perfect for me. Although they do have rooms that can accommodate 2 people, they cater to solo travelers. The hotel was very clean. Rooms are tiny, but for the price, this hotel was 100% worth it. My biggest struggle was my room had no windows, so I had a hard time judging what time of day it was as I attempted to conquer jet lag. Premier hotel group has HUB locations all throughout the UK. I highly suggest checking this out if you are a solo budget traveler. Most rooms appear to be under £100/night. At the time I booked a few years ago it was under £60. The location was just steps away from Westminster Abbey, and many tube stations. These HUB hotels and their new ZIP hotels are really changing the game for budget travelers.

During this trip, I decided to purchase the London Pass. This turned out to be great for me. It gives you admission to many area attractions, and an optional travel card to use on public transport. Not many people agree, but one of my favorite things to do in a new city is to take one of the Hop on Hop off buses to get the lay of the land. Super touristy, but you know what, I am a tourist.

Using my London Pass, I took the hop on hop off bus to places like the Shard, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, The British Museum, Madam Tussauds, Westminster Abbey (wow!) and many other experiences and discounts throughout the city.

Next up was the main event! Ed Sheeran at Wembley Stadium. I ended up meeting the people I bought the ticket from and they turned out to be great concert company! I don’t know if it was just my section, or if this is how all concerts are in Europe, but everyone was so polite and respectful, there was no knocking people over to get a better view, no drunken tumbles, just everyone enjoying a great show. Even leaving the venue was an organized process with a little sing-a-long waiting to enter the tube station.

I love the history this city offers. I was overwhelmed at how amazing Westminster Abbey was. The changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace was also quite the production, but get there early if you want any chance at a good view spot! London quickly became one of my favorite travel destinations.

Do you have a favorite thing to do in London? I’d love to hear about it!

~Kel

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