Travelling around London

Travelling in London is very easy, maybe even one of the easiest in the world (in my opinion). Buses, Underground, Overground and even the Thames clipper connect every region and area within the city. London prices are determined by zones and the duration of travel, buses are £1.50 (as of 2018) for any 1 hour of travel, meaning you can use as many buses within the hour. The underground is charged through the number of zones you pass through, zone 1 is the most expensive to travel, overground is the same whilst the Thames clipper is a little different. London transport are also connected with the Oyster card which is used instead of cash and the paper tickets. Oyster cards can be used with any of mode of public transport apart from the taxis.

The iconic London buses is great for tourism as they journey to nearly every location and attracti20170406_122541.jpgon in the city. Each driver or conductor (which some buses have) are trained very well to answer any enquiries from tourists. London buses are also very easy to ride as you will just tap your oyster card or credit/ debit card upon entry. You may ask the conductor or driver for assistance  whilst audio and visual aid are also available to determine the current location. Like many cities across the world bus journeys are determined by the number and destination at the front of the bus. Be aware that London buses no longer accepts cash and tickets (fares) must be bought before including oyster card credit unless you are using your contactless enabled debit/credit card.

Underground (tube) in my opinion is more comprehensive than its European equivalent, it is a quick and convenient way of getting around London especially for longer distances. The only downside could be in peak times (rush hours) around 07:00 – 09:00 / 15:00 -17:00 when the underground is jam packed full of people, which is undesirable to tourists. Oyster cards are used in tubes and are credited depending on the journey you take (not the time). The tube system is divided into zones, with zone 1 being the most expensive and outer zones being cheaper. The London underground basically covers 80% of the city’s area and there are many different lines specified by colour and special names (such as jubilee line, Piccadilly line and many more).  Many of the Underground stations are just a 15 minute walk form each other so going to your target attraction could be accessible by 2 or even 3 stations.

 

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Tube map on from tfl.gov.uk

 

The river transport called Thames clipper is an incredible way of getting around London however can be varied in destination and somewhat slower than other modes of transport. Nonetheless the Thames Clipper has the best views and go to the main riverside sites such as Westminster, Temple, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Greenwich and many more. The Thames Clipper can also use the oyster card but will be more expensive than other modes of transport.

thames clipper
picture from thamesclipper.com

 

Taxis in London are one of the most iconic in the world, they are also known as the “London Black Cabs“, they can be taken and stopped anywhere in the streets or designated taxi bays.

Santander Cycles or better known as the Boris Bikes are available and used by both locals and tourists. All you will need is to find a cycle bay, input a credit card, take a bike and ride until your heart desires (or when you reach your destination). It is charged by how long you use the bikes, and when you are finished you simply find another bike bay and re- dock the bike so that the timer stops. The charge will be put on your credit card.

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As a tourist there is no need to rent a car as London has one of the most accessible public transport in the world. However walking is not advisable as London is one of the largest city in Europe.

Overall London is a very tourism friendly city in terms of transport, unlike many places around Europe, London have help present in every underground stations, whilst bus drivers would be happy to help with any knowledge they know. All transport is safe and very comfortable.

Reference

https://www.thamesclippers.com/
Tfl.gov.uk


Photos

thames clipper map  https://www.thamesclippers.com/
underground map tfl.gov.uk

(other photos are own)

 

Vienna

Type : City Break
Best Date : April-May, September- October, December
Expense :  Medium
Things to do : Sightseeing, Christmas Markets
Points of Interest: Schonbrunn Palace, Prater, St Stephens Cathedral, Hofburg, Belvedere, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Rathaus ect

Brief

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Vienna is Austria’s capital and largest city with a population of about 1.8 million. Vienna is a widely German speaking city and is known for its rich imperial buildings, the orchestra and Viennese events. Most notable names that graced this city is Beethoven, Mozart and Franz Schubert.

The Place

So why did I choose to go Vienna?

Yearly I have made it a tradition to go to a country which is known for their Christmas Markets. In the year 2016 after previously going to the Berlin Christmas Markets, I planned to go somewhere other than Germany, It was a choice of either Brussels, Vienna, Prague or Budapest. I somehow resulted in choosing Vienna from many research and many colleagues having only good opinions towards it. My own personal opinion have also been positive.

Firstly I’d like to state that all Christmas markets are placed upon many of Vienna’s attractions (points of interests) such as Schonbrunn Palace, Maria-Theresien Platz, Belvedere Palace and the city hall at Rathuasplatz, so visiting a Christmas market would mean also visiting a Viennese attraction. The Christmas markets in Vienna usually starts on the second week of November till around Christmas eve or boxing day, some also open till the new year.

Belvedere Palace is a world heritage site now used as an art gallery. Its gardens and stables are a sight to see with its main appeal being the pond at the front of the palace. It is free to enter the gardens and exterior of the palace, however a fee is required to visit inside.

Large public square Maria-Theresien Platz is another attraction to visit. Central to many of Vienna’s museums such as the ‘Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien’ or their ‘natural history museum’. Theatres and parks are also very present in this area of the city.

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One of the most important building in the country is ‘Schonbrunn Palace’ a hunting lodge gifted to Emperor Joseph I from his father Emperor Leopold I. Through the years the building has grown and improved, with many different notable residents. With over 1441 rooms in this baroque palace (a former imperial residence) and a spectacular garden with exceptional scenery this is one of the top places to visit in Vienna.

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Spittelberg Quarter is a good place to visit for fine foods and its Christmas market.

Rathuasplatz which in my opinion the largest and main Christmas market in Vienna. Situated right in front of the beautiful lit up City Hall. The Christmas market usually opens early November and right through till early January. It has plenty of different stalls, from glassware, leathered goods, wooden products and many more. There is also many food stalls and an iconic ice ring (open till early March) centring the market.

Prater is a theme park in the heart of Vienna, it is a place for families and younger tourists. The theme park is one of the oldest in the world, and consist of cafes restaurants, bowling alley, cinemas and other attractions like Madame Tussauds . It is free entrance and you only pay for the rides you wish to ride, the main attraction is the Wiener Riesenrad (Viennese Giant Wheel) built in 1897.

 

Overall Vienna was a pleasure to visit, every area had an delightful festive atmosphere. Although when I visited (late November) it was a bit warmer than I thought or would have liked it to be, the city still sets the desirable winter trip. I do advise that if you are visiting Vienna, you visit on a weekday rather than a weekend, as the city seems to be close all day on weekdays (no shops and restaurants) so this will not be desirable for visitors.

Transport.

Getting There

(As of 2018)

Depending on your point origin, there are various ways to get to Vienna. From London Heathrow there are 3 carriers which offer direct flights, a trip from LHR to Vienna is around 2hours and a half flight time. Austrian A which is on average the cheaper out of the three carriers from Heathrow. British airways which is more frequent to travel to Vienna, meaning more choices of travel times and lastly Air Berlin which somehow has a single journey daily from Heathrow to Vienna however proving to cost more than the other carriers.

Easy Jet are the only carrier from Gatwick, and they do 2 journeys a day.

Lastly Eurowings journeys from Stanstead once a day and could be the cheapest carrier flying from London.

In Vienna

Please go to page ‘Travelling in Vienna’

Travelling around Vienna

Vienna is a relatively small but very accessible city, with no prior planning we was able to move around the city with ease. Like London and other big cities, ‘Vienna’ has five modes of transportation which connects the city together.

U-Bahn which is their underground or subway system, for me it was the most used transport system in Vienna, it went to all tourist attractions or at least a 10-15minute walk away. All trains came at a good 3-5 minutes apart, I didn’t experience them being overly packed like in London, Rome and Barcelona.

S-Bahn their overground train is usually used for longer distant journeys, this was only used when we arrived in Vienna and needed to transit from the airport to central Vienna, Pratastern station which ultimately linked us to the U-Bahn straight to our hotel.

Vienna also have their traditional tram system known as the Straßenbahn, which is the 6th largest tram system in the world. I saw newer modern trams in Vienna but they have also kept their traditional ones at smaller routes.

Vienna buses (autobus) are also very active around the city. As I didn’t really know the routes of the buses, I didn’t take them, as the U-Bahn takes you to plenty of the touristic places. Buses in Vienna are smaller than the usual, and I didn’t see no double decker buses.

Travel tickets can be bought at a fixed price, and they can be used on all Buses, Trams and U-Bahn underground, however extra will need to be paid for journeys to and from the airport.

Like all cities taxis are ever present, we used this as an emergency to the airport as we were a bit late. Taxis in Vienna are pretty easy to get and the driver we had understood English very well. Taxis are the easiest more comfortable way to get around however can be more expensive than other modes of transport.

Stranded at the Airport

“Ending my 2017 with a Christmas trip to the Philippines, the unthinkable happened.”

Finishing my last day at work before Christmas on the 22nd (3 days before the holidays), I decided to make a quick 2 week trip to the Philippines, to spend Christmas and New year with the rest of the family. I booked myself a standby ticket (airline staff), knowing very well it was going to be very busy. The flight I took would be a London Heathrow to Hong Kong and a Hong Kong to Manila journey. Keeping in mind standby tickets are basically chance passengers I would have to check my luck in each sector. Heathrow was fine, I checked in as normal and a ticket was given to me. However upon arriving in Hong Kong (now 23rd, 2 days till Christmas) the unthinkable was a reality. There was about 7 flights to Manila (from Hong Kong) in total spread across a single day, so I thought my chances of getting a flight in a day would be easy, but  I was very wrong. Due to the festivities, all airlines weren’t only fully booked but overbooked (a usual for all airline companies at busy times), meaning even full paying passengers would get bumped off. To add to the problems, I weren’t the only chance (staff) passenger, which put me way down the pecking order to get a seat. We were all given a ticket number, and hearing this from the announcement, would be like winning a lottery.

Hours passed and flights went by, with only a few ticket numbers being announced for lucky standby passengers, but still a waiting game for me. One final flight before its game over for the day and would need to try my luck in the next morning, but still hopeful. Thinking of a plan B should the last flight be full, I went over to the nearest hotel (airport hotel) to enquire for their availability and price. Nothing was going my way and the hotel was fully booked and only had an Executive suite costing £300  which i would only need for approximately 5 hours should i miss the last flight of the day.

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Walking back to the terminal, accepting that there was no plan B should the last flight of the day be full. Seeing the number of people still waiting in front of the check-in desk my head was telling me there’d be no seats left whilst my heart was still hopeful. After about another 1hour of waiting and wondering the airport, it was time for the final call-up for hopeful standby passengers. There was still a huge crowd of people waiting for the same flight. One by one numbers were called up (far from mine) about 3 or 4 numbers were called up until the sentence everyone hated to hear “sorry the flight to manila is full, please try again in the morning” was announced. My head just turned and with no more flights and the nearest hotel fully booked, I realised that I’d be sleeping rough at the airport.

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Being my first time to sleep at the airport, I looked for a good spot to take a little rest, I found myself a little bench where I just put my luggage as a foot rest and my jacket as a blanket. I got a little to eat and drink then managed to get a rough 2-3 hours of sleep.

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24th December Christmas Eve, hours before Christmas. After waking up from a restless sleep, more bad luck came and a new wave full of (Manila bound) passengers came, and I was contemplating on returning back to London. However after a few hours and a couple more full flights, at around 2pm luck turned my way and from what I believe was a small gesture of the airline changing a smaller capacity aircraft into a large one, a huge amount of standby passengers going to Manila were called up and hearing my number felt like hearing a winning lottery ticket.

As a staff standby passenger I would probably never travel at super peak holiday seasons again such as Christmas, Easter and children’s school holidays where airlines are expected to be overbooked.

The flight got me to Manila safely and in time for Christmas eve dinner.  At the time I was very stressed (although I had no right to be as a standby chance passenger), however thinking about it I’m glad Ive experienced it. Missing a total of 9 flights and 2 days (as a staff standby) is not normal but given the festivities the amount of people were plenty and as any airline staff know travelling standby you always come last which is understandable.

 

Next Trip: The Majestic South America

Its now 2018 and i’ve got more travel plans on the agenda, this year I’m looking for something new, somewhere I’ve never been, doing activities I have never done.

So my initial plans for this year are:

  • Lima/ Cusco/ Aguas Calientes (Peru)
  • Sao Paulo/ Rio De Janiero (Brazil)
  • Tokyo/Osaka(Japan)
  • Edinburgh (Scotland)
  • Marrakesh (Morocco)

And many more across the UK and the Philippines.

To start off this year (in March) I’ve got my first ever trip west from Europe and I have chosen ‘South America’ instead of the richer more developed ‘North America’. With only 7 days to spare from work, ill be visiting 2 different countries, 5 different cities and 2 of the ‘7 world wonders’.

The Journey

Firstly I fly to ‘Sao Paulo/ Brazil’ where ill spend a single day. I plan to visit the city’s Cathedral, Municipal Market and other attractions allowable within my time frame. I will then leave Sao Paulo for a short layover at ‘Lima’ in ‘Peru’ where I will arrive late night and only have a few hours till I leave early next morning for a 5am flight straight to ‘Cuzco’. I’ll probably stay at the airport due to it being late night and only having a few hours, not a problem as I will have plenty of time to roam Lima on my way back. ‘Cuzco’ will be my base for the next 4 days but will excurse to one of the world wonders ‘Machu Pichu’ whilst staying overnight at the nearest town ‘Aguas Calientes’ where I’ll have a whole day to roam the small town before heading back to Cuzco. After returning to base at ‘Cusco’ I plan to visiting many more attractions within the Inca trail including the ‘Moray’, ‘Sacsayhuaman’, ‘Coricancha’ and plenty more. I will then return to Lima for a longer period to roam around the capital, probably at the city’s central. Then to end the vacation its back to Brazil but this time into ‘Rio De Janiero’ the samba and carnival capital of the world where I will stay for 3 days. Here I am not sure what I’ll be doing but I will most definitely visit another of the world wonder in the ‘Christ the redeemer’ statue. Overall its somewhat of short boomerang trip.

South America trip

The Complications

There are a few potential problems in this trip, from my busy jam packed schedule, the hurdles of Peru’s undeveloped cities and Brazils reputable crime rate. My daily itinerary is so tight and busy that if I miss a single flight, it will ruin the following sector and mess up my whole schedule which could result in wasting valuable time, missed reservation and higher spending. Furthermore even with early planning I’m finding transport a little difficult in Peru where trains and buses seem less straight forward and find myself with a huge chance of getting lost. The two countries also speak very little English which will toughen my trip should I need assistance or enquiries. Another precaution of this trip is the altitude of ‘Cuzco’ and ‘Machu Pichu’ peaking at 2,430m which will probably be the highest I’ve ever been, hopefully altitude sickness is something I don’t get. Finally the main thing I’m cautious about is safety in the regions I’m visiting more so for Rio De Janiero, with the city being a metropolis for snatchers, pickpockets and robbers that sometimes carry weapons, the dangers loom and I’ll need to be vigilant.

So why am I going?

Apart from all the negatives and risks these two countries retain, they both have the most beautiful landscapes, attractions and culture in the world.

According to Lonely Planet’s 500 best places, Peru’s ‘Machu Picchu’ is 3rd behind only to the ‘Great Barrier Reef’ 2nd and the ‘Temples of Angkor’ in Cambodia winning the title of best place in the world. Brazils ‘Christ the Redeemer’ 170th and ‘Ipanema Beach’ is 440th. Visiting these places will just be a spectacular and an amazing experience the reason for taking this trip even with 7 days.

What I expect form this trip?

Well its not going to be a relaxing trip, that’s for sure!

In Peru I expect to experience new cultures, somewhat familiar to the influx of tourist but still hold ancient values some maybe influenced from the Inca empire. I expect to find tourism to be the breadwinner in Cuzco, so maybe people will be very welcoming but also aggressive on selling products, tours and food as it has been in many rural tourist spots I’ve visited in the past. However I hope to find new ways of life that I’ve never seen before and lastly to witness probably one of the most majestic villages left by the ancient world in ‘Machu Picchu‘. Lima would probably be a developing city, a metropolis of Hispanic influence.

Brazil is probably more livelier as I’m visiting two huge cities ‘Sao Paulo’ and ‘Rio De Janeiro’. I expect ‘Sao Paulo’ to be a busy business and industrial centre, whilst ‘Rio’ will be the messy but beautiful party and cultural region. I am aware of the dangers in Rio and although I wont ignore them, I will try and enjoy the city for what it is. In the country overall, I envisage to find a division between the rich and poor as shown in many movies, shows and documentaries.

South America will be very new to me and although the two countries can have influences and similarities to places such as Spain and Philippines, I expect to find a new side to Hispanic cultures.

Picture Credits:
Cover Photo
Machu Picchu -Lonely planet (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/peru/machu-picchu)
Christ the redeemer - https://wall.alphacoders.com/by_sub_category.php?id=210814&name=Christ+The+Redeemer+Wallpapers