Solo Travel to London!
In the Spring of 2012 I first visited London. What a fantastic city! If you love the arts, enjoy history, and just generally like exploring new places & ideas, you will find lots to make you happy in London. There are even gorgeous gardens!
London is special for me, because it was the first place I traveled to after suffering for years with a very painful, chronic, injury. And I went solo. This was a little daunting, as I hadn’t been travelling at all for many years, and it was about 15 years since I had done solo travel. I was a bit worried about safety, and finding my way around.
Invaluable sites for London visitors
Before I went did plenty of research online, talked with friends who had been, studied the tube map & Google Streetview to familiarize myself with the places I was going. I also made constant use of the journey planner at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ These things helped me feel confident about not getting too lost, and checking the times listed on the journey planner meant I had an idea how long I might have to wait at a bus or tube stop at night after going out. They could help you, too. I’ve also found a brilliant app for my smartphone. I swear by it- it is even better than the tfl journey planner: CityMapper . Try it!
Do a Bit of Re-Con
Of course nothing as the same as being there, seeing it with your own eyes. For me it was helpful to not have anything planned on the 1st afternoon; just walking around and orienting myself. I knew there was a concert I wanted to see, & might have to walk home from at night, so I did the route first during the day to judge journey time and see if it felt safe. On the walk I found that I could take a bus for the vast majority of the route, which eased my mind. Perhaps all this pre-prep it seems silly, but I’d never been to such a big city before & I wasn’t sure what to expect. Plus, hubby back home felt better about my solo travel safety, too! Google Streetview is also a big help in visually knowing what to expect.
Keeping Updated Helps!
I made good use of Twitter beforehand and during mt visit, following London accounts to keep updated on travel/tube disruptions & weather as well as London accounts that interested me. Twitter is fantastic as it keeps you updated in real-time, which is invaluable when there are transport disruptions & you need to know ASAP. If you make a specific Twitter list, a quick check will tell you what you need without have to sort through unrelated tweets in your main Twitter stream.
|Stay In A Great Location|
I tend to stay in the City, at St Paul’s YHA. Because I’m a culture vulture on a budget & (ideally) visit London often, in order to do that I have to stay inexpensively. St Paul’s is perfectly located for me, near loads of Tube & train stations (Blackfriars, for example makes it easy to get to Gatwick airport) AND it is in the heart of a cultural quartet which I visit often- Tate Modern, Barbican Centre, Southbank Centre, and Sadler’s Wells Theatre.
The #4 bus stops just up from the hostel and will bring you easily to Southbank at one end, & Sadler’s Wells Theatre at the other (and beyond.) The hostel is near plenty more, too- for example, Somerset House, the London Museum, and you could throw a stone & hit St Paul’s Cathedral, it is that close. The tourist office is just round the corner,too. Many places are within walking distance.
The YHA St Paul’s isn’t fancy, and the building dates from the 1800s, but for location & value in London it is hard to beat. The area is much quieter than other parts of London, especially at night (except for the bells- bring earplugs— but MUCH better than the wailing sirens you often hear elsewhere.) The hostel has private rooms, and gender specific dorms of 6 beds each.
If you aren’t great at climbing, ask for a bottom bunk, as there are no ladders.
Also there is only 1 (!) electrical outlet in many of the dorm rooms so bring an extension lead if you can. Makes sharing charging time so much easier.
The rooms have a sink, but toilets & showers are shared. I’ve been 6 times and have always found everything very clean.
Breakfast buffet is £5. There’s plenty on offer, but I’m not keen on the quality of the meat products- I’m used to lovely Irish sausage & rashers I guess 🙂 & the coffee is not great.
There is a Marks & Spencer food shop full of ready to eat, tasty food across the street from the Cathedral & hostel. An inexpensive way to keep fed 🙂
Another great tip for solo women travelers is to check out #WeGoSolo Twitter chat Wednesdays at 4pm GMT– women who (sometimes or often) travel solo and love to share tips, ideas, and stories with other women traveling solo or considering solo travel. Mariellen from BreatheDreamGo started the #WeGoSolo Twitter chat & it is growing by leaps & bounds. You can read more about how it started, & follow her blog- she is an expert on India in particular.
Here are a few of the other women in the #WeGoSolo community:
Andrea Rees, Founder of The heART of a Woman Project, a mobile photography intitive to empower women impacted by poverty & create a sustainable income through photographic art sales. Current Project: South Africa #thoawsa
Sharon of Dream Travel Magazine, an online travel magazine.
Clare Laming, a Belfast girl with a passion for travel and food.
There are many others, too! Join us all in the Twitter chat next Wednesday. You don’t always have to be a solo traveler to join in- many of us are married & just travel solo sometimes. Only criteria is that you are a woman. Sorry, guys 🙂
|London; Serpentine pavillion, Art @ Saatchi Gallery, the view from Southbank, & Chelsea Physic Garden corepsis|
|Morning sun, the Thames, London|
|Chelsea Physic Garden is a historic & beautiful garden in London|