Relying on public transportation in London was one of our best decisions. I’m sure there would be advantages of renting a car if we were staying long enough to travel beyond London, but for sightseeing and staying in London proper buying an Oyster card is the way to go.
You can buy an Oyster card at the airport, an underground station, or a convenience store (look for the Oyster card logo). The Oyster card is incredibly flexible, and I’d recommend you take a look at the website to navigate what will fit your trip best.
We chose a weekly pass that was £40 each and covered the actual card (£5 which can be refunded), buses, and underground zones 1 and 2. It can also include a boat that travels on the Thames, but it ended up not fitting into our day trips, but here’s their website and a bit more info on how it works with the Oyster card and its routes.
The underground is so convenient and puts public transport in BC to serious shame. It took us everywhere we needed, the station was incredibly close, and we didn’t need to navigate traffic in London, like parking, driving on the other side of the road and in the other side of the car, the actual craziness that is London traffic, as well as the fee that, according to the Canadian Government website, they charge to drive in central London during the week.
Speaking of which, I would check out the .gov website on travel to wherever you’re going for important little tips.
The buses are also convenient and pair nicely with the trains. Try to find seats at the very front at the top. Watch the traffic and be thankful you’re not the one driving in it.
If you’re flying into London via Gatwick, there’s no public transport from the airport to London proper. So to get to Clapham, the best option we found was via the Southern Railway. Fares were £25 each (including return fair) and the departing and return times are flexible. The station is at the south terminal, but there’s a shuttle from other terminals. You can purchase tickets online in advance and print the tickets at the South Terminal.
Having never been to France, we could not pass up the opportunity for a day trip to Paris. The train ride via EuroStar leaving from St. Pancras was only 2hrs and 20 minutes, and really, how often are you that close to Paris?
We took the underground to St. Pancras early and arrived in Paris by 10am. We bought the tickets online, allowing for extra planning and budgeting. The prices are not fixed! Meaning if you keep an eye out and buy early, you will get better prices. Treat it like buying airfares.
If you’ve been to Paris and don’t want to revist (unlikely?!), EuroStar offers more destinations. I’d say it’s totally worth it.
Iceland was a completely different scene. We rented a car through Expedia, which included the insurance already. Check with your rental company first to make sure what’s included and what is not.
Driving is relatively similar to here. Some key differences: cars are often manual, though they do have automatics available; most cars run on diesel; lights turn yellow then red then yellow then green. Yellow means get ready, to stop, or to go. Cool, right?
I think that’s it! Any other questions you may have feel free to comment below. Happy travels!
Photos by and post co-written with my personal travel agent, Vini.