This Side of Europe – Part I

I just came back from a 3-week sojourn to the United Kingdom and some parts of the European Union. As always, it was one memorable trip. Planned 8 months ahead, 13 travelers in tow, working on a meagre budget. By meagre means, we did the planning and the booking on our own, without the help of any travel agency. 🙂 This is one trip with an ambitious itinerary, that includes seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland and putting items off our bucket list. All these came to be, because of a 50% off airfare offer from Philippine Airlines and Citibank – thank you!

Our first stop – London.

Coming back after almost 5 years, the excitement hasn’t changed. Albeit a bit expensive coming from a third world citizen’s point of view, London is worth all the trouble and worth every penny I have painstakingly saved for this trip.

Nevertheless, there are ways on how to survive London on a budget. On top of the list is the Visitor Oyster Card. We bought this at the VFS office after our Visa was granted. It is pre-loaded, worth 1,900.00 or roughly £25, can be used at the London Tube, Bus and DLR.  What makes it worthy is that you can only be charged a maximum of £8.50, more or less,  on a daily basis, regardless of how many trips you make on a bus, or the tube. 🙂 I assure you, you can never go wrong with an Oyster Card.

Anyway, one tip to note is – secure your oyster card in a luggage tag  attached to a spring clip, (talk about being creative lol) just like the photo here – so that you can easily access your oyster card, without having to reach for your wallet,  saves you the time digging on your purse looking for it, also making you less vulnerable to thieves.  You can always top-up your Oyster card when needed. You must have at least £5 or £7 load in your card.

Second – download the Metro App. This is the most valuable app on my iPhone when I’m out traveling. It practically teaches you (nah, spoon-feed, if I may say) how to get to your destination using the Tube. With the complicated London underground, you can actually get lost. But thanks to the Metro App – all you need to do is to read and follow instructions. 🙂 It basically tells you which line to take (and the direction), where to change lines, and where to get off. It also gives you how many stops before your destination, and the time of travel. You could actually pass as a local using the Tube in confidence, and plan your daily itinerary with the help of the Metro app. Honestly, I prefer the London Underground over the Hop On – Hop Off bus, which to me is outrageously overpriced. The tube can get you anywhere you want to go, particularly all the tourist spot you must visit. And oh, Metro is an offline app. You don’t need to be connected to the internet to use it. Brilliant isn’t it?

If you are a sucker for musicales, the West End is your heaven. Pre-book your tickets online. West End classics are usually fully booked on weekends, even the matinees, so it is best to plan ahead and book online. This website: lets you compare tickets on different booking agencies in London. It saves you a lot of quid, because it can tell you where to get the cheapest tickets online. We were able to watch the classics such as Les Miserables and Wicked on a fairly bargain price.

There’s so much to see even outside London. Oxford is one worth the visit. There’s also the Cotswolds, Lacock, Salisbury where the Stonehenge is and also the equally famous Bath. Post about these places soon! Please stay tuned. 🙂



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