Before I set off for England as a solo traveler, I tried to search for information on using trains and the subway for getting around. I wasn’t able to dig up any useful information. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places. After spending three weeks in England, I have the knowledge to give to anyone who is planning a trip of their own.
England is easy to navigate.
I am one to easily get lost. I spent the first day wandering the streets for about eight hours. I got lost, but with the help of locals was able to find my way back to my hotel every night. I spent four days in London, three days in Cambridge, three days in Oxford, three days in Bath, and one week in Hebden Bridge.
1. The London Pass
You can buy the London Pass online before you arrive. Print out the receipt which will have a barcode. You must go to the London Pass office in Trafalgar Square to get your pass. You will not be able to use the barcode on the receipt for entry into any of the sites. You must have a blue card, the London pass. The pass allows you to visit up to thirty sites for free.
The two-day pass allows for riding the Hop-on Hop-off bus for one day, 9:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. You can’t ride the bus the following day. The second day allows you to visit the sites listed in the guide book given to you when you get your London Pass.
There isn’t any real-time commentary on the bus. You can collect blue earbuds when you enter the bus, and everything is prerecorded. I highly recommend going to pick up your pass when they open and get on the first bus. The traffic in London will hold you back for about an hour.
Note: In many countries and cities, the Hop on Hop off buses are red. All of the public buses in England are red. The Hop on Hop off in London is blue. It’s easy to get confused.
2. The Oyster Card
You will be issued an Oyster pass with £15. You can use this for both the “underground” and buses. The underground may be confusing, but once you figure out the main stations of Victoria, Piccadilly Circus, and Paddington, you will be a pro. When in doubt, ask. The English are friendly. The map feature on your iPhone will help you get around.
Note: Remember to download the walking directions when you have wifi. There were times I found myself wandering around without directions because there was no wifi.
Free wifi is available in some coffee shops, others will require you to buy something before giving you the code. I always went back to the same coffee shop because the code never changes. Cosi is a great place to have coffee and sit for a while when it is raining.
Are you planning on traveling to other towns in London? Download the train line app. Enter the dates and times you want to go. The training app provides you with information to help you choose the most comfortable, cheapest, or fastest route to your destination. Make your reservations at least three days in advance and get discounts. The tickets are non-refundable. The seats are comfortable. I recommend you do not travel during the busy morning or evening commutes. The trains can become very crowded. The evening trains have some grumpy travelers because they are trying to get home from work.
Note: Download the step by step instructions on your phone. There is wifi on the train to keep you on track.
Buses are trickier to navigate than the underground. Schedules are posted at the bus stops. The tricky part is trying to figure out where the bus stops. I never trusted my instincts on this one. I always asked before getting on. You must have a travel card or “contactless “ card. I used my Oyster card until it ran out. I can honestly tell you I only rode the bus twice. I preferred to walk.
I like walking. You can see so much by getting lost. I always come upon an event I would not be able to experience if I were on a bus or underground. I observed the Queen’s horses being transferred from one stable to another. I found a pub on Downing street and ate my first fish and chips and listened to an American banker discuss how to apprehend a black suspect with an English lawyer. The waitress apologized for their loud voices and hoped they weren’t infringing on my lunch. They weren’t. They put away about six drinks each before they walked out.
I walked about eight hours everyday in every city I visited.
Footprints has free tours in Cambridge and Oxford. Students of the various colleges of the university are the tour guides. My tour at Cambridge was three hours in the rain. Cambridge, like Oxford, is not one university. They are both umbrellas for at least twelve colleges on their campuses. Some of the colleges have no more than six hundred students. We were not able to enter the gardens of these colleges because they were taking their final exams and preparing for May Balls, part of their graduation ceremonies.
Note: The guides do ask for a tip, £5, that goes into the Footprints project.
Kings College is the oldest building on the campus of Cambridge. It took one hundred years to build. Our Footprints guide told us the only way we could see the inside of King’s College Abby was to attend an Evensong performance. The choir sang, and the tourists listened. Evensong is a religious service performed in the evening by the Anglican church. Evensong takes place in most of the Abbeys and is opened to the public. You may enter in casual wear.
Note: No pictures are allowed in the Abbey.
Go to England! Get lost and enjoy!