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Geek Travel To London From the US — Tips?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the see-the-largest-paired-bluetooth-devices dept.

Earth 1095

Audrey23 writes "I am traveling to London from Washington state for two weeks in December for pleasure (use-it-or-lose-it vacation scenario) and was wondering if I should bother bringing my laptop. I know that I would have to change the region code on my wireless amongst other things and the power cord would have to be changed for a UK outlet. Would I be better off not bringing my laptop and just using Internet kiosks (do they exist in London?) or would having my laptop be a better choice to keep in touch, off-load my digital images etc? I plan on hitting the British Museum but was wondering what geeky things to do that are in London that might be worth going to and any tips hints on overseas travel for geeks? I travel quite a bit in the states but this will be my first trip overseas and want to make the best of my stay in merry old England. What words of advice do you travel seasoned geeks have for me?"

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1095 comments

dont overthink (5, Insightful)

PizzaAnalogyGuy (1684610) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211372)

Unless you want some time off from computer, take your laptop with you. It's still a lot easier than always going to a Internet Kiosk and can use it otherwise than just quickly uploading images off.

However when traveling, experiencing is the greatest thing. Not planning too much.

Let me give you an example.

At home it's easy to get oriented to the same ways always. Sure sliced ham, bacon, pineapple and roasted red peppers with provolone cheese on a parmesan crust pan pizza with barbeque sauce on it is nice (* [yfrog.com] ). You love it, it tastes good. But sometimes it's time to just go for it, doing the dramatic change without thinking about it earlier. Change that damn pizza to chicken breast, white sauce, smoked bacon and tomatoes on a provolone crust with a mexican sauce on top of it (* [yfrog.com] ). And if you're really going wild, order a chocolate ice cream with strawberries and m&m's on top of it!

What I'm basically saying is that just go and do something. As the geeky non-social persons we are, it's actually really easy to get to know new people when in a foreign country. Maybe because then you have a need to go to talk with people, or sound more interesting to girls since you're from other lands, or come out as mysterious because you dont even understand each others languages. Don't plan everything beforehand - leave there that possibility for problems. I visited Russia earlier this year and lost my immigration card while there. It took some planning out to get out of the country, but it was fun in the end.

Also, since you are near London, there's a great pizza place in Naples that you should visit.

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Heathrow (4, Funny)

da5idnetlimit.com (410908) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211532)

Bring :

- Something to read (for when the luggage tracking and transport system fails)
- Emergency underwear (for when they will lose your luggage)
- Anal lube (for when you complain about the delay and lost luggage)

If in addition you travel with british airways, I would say a dose of Valium or Prozac and a strong whisky would do the trick.

Have a great trip! (5, Interesting)

Pete (big-pete) (253496) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211382)

Take your laptop, the freedom to transfer your photos locally, and ready internet access with wifi will make it worthwhile. There are internet cafes around, but it'll be more fuss to find one and time out of your vacation, rather than just packing a power convertor and changing your wifi settings.

Other things you might want to do in London could include:

Of course, there are many other things too as people will list below, London is a big place with lots to see and do, enjoy your trip!

-- Pete.

Re:Have a great trip! (2, Informative)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211422)

I second the Science Museum recommendation - an amazing place to visit and it's free! The Planetarium [london-planetarium.com] is also worth a few hours.

Re:Have a great trip! (4, Informative)

legoburner (702695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211512)

And the natural history museum is just up the road from the science museum - perhaps the most impressive museum building in the world, built to be a cathedral to science and full of dinosaurs, rocks (including meteorites), a cool earthquake simulator, large mammals, and more dead things in jars than you will ever see anywhere else in your life.

The Victoria and Albert museum is over the road from that too, and has a gigantic old persian rug (and I mean gigantic), and the very impressive cast courts that preserve many european statues and facades which were destroyed in the various conflicts since the victorian era.

Re:Have a great trip! (3, Informative)

inkhorn (650877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211592)

I second the Science Museum recommendation - an amazing place to visit and it's free! The Planetarium [london-planetarium.com] is also worth a few hours.

Err, you haven't been in a while have you. It closed in 2006.
You'll be after the Peter Harrison Planetarium in Greenwich if it's astronomy you're into.

Re:Have a great trip! (5, Informative)

Jojoba86 (1496883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211452)

If you're there for two weeks get out of London too! Trains are quite good to places like Oxford, York and the South Coast to see a bit more of England, which are all quite different to London. Oxford is definitely worth a visit, and the steampunk exhibition that's on in the Museum of the History of Science should fill your 'geek' critea.

Re:Have a great trip! (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211504)

If you're there for two weeks get out of London too! Trains are quite good to places like Oxford, York and the South Coast to see a bit more of England, which are all quite different to London.

Oxford is definitely worth a visit, and the steampunk exhibition that's on in the Museum of the History of Science should fill your 'geek' critea.

Cambridge is 50 minutes by rail and 15 pounds return from London Kings Cross station. There's great geek history ( way better than Oxford :-P ) here!

NO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211526)

Do NOT go to Oxford, or if you do, only go for an afternoon. Once you've seen the university, it is an extremely tedious place.

Re:Have a great trip! (2, Interesting)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211626)

One interesting geek trip is to the Isle of Wight, where on one coast (the Needles) the British rocket testing facility lived for a while. There's also old and new artillery batteries there.

Re:Have a great trip! (1)

PMBjornerud (947233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211550)

Just back from a weekend trip (European) in London myself.

Google maps on my phone was extremely convenient. Lots of open wifi around so you should be able to use it without data also roaming costs.

Re:Have a great trip! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211600)

I doubt very much that you will have to do anything to your Wi-Fi - I just went to NY from London with my laptop and it was fine - it's just different bands being licensed differently in different countries - you'll find common ones though.

Get a second power cord for your laptop and just wire a UK plug on. Simple. No messing with adaptors. Check the PSU will work beforehand of course, but they all do now.

Tips for free WiFi:

Individual Pubs (http://www.individualpubs.co.uk/) there's only two of them in London. The Pembury tavern is well worth checking out and the landlord is a former Cambridge University security researcher and geek - check out his homebrew Linux/Python/PostreSQL EPOS till system!

JD Wetherspoon pubs (http://www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/) these are everywhere and should all have WiFi (open, bogus email signup required) unless the kit is broken.

Fuller's pubs (http://www.fullers.co.uk) I think all have free WiFi now (protected, key available at bar) - port 80 + DNS only, unlike Wetherspoon's wich you can use arbitrary ports.

Wetherspoon's do coffee, etc so you don't have to be drunk all the time!

Re:Have a great trip! (1)

qc_dk (734452) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211608)

Bring some really good walking shoes. Public transport in london is expensive and crowded. You'll get a lot more out of walking. But, you'll walk a lot.

The Tate Modern is worth a visit just for the building, doesn't matter whether you're into modern art.
The Natural History Museum next to The Science Museum is also worth a visit.
If you are into architecture I would recommend sir John Soane's museum.
Listen to rants and real life trolling at speakers corner.

Re:Have a great trip! (4, Informative)

Alphager (957739) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211672)

I would also recommend the Imperial War Museum [iwm.org.uk] if you are interested in ww1 and ww2.

Your power convertor should handle UK power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211394)

All you should need is a simple adapter that converts from US plug to the unwieldy british nightmare-plug. Got rad shack.

The most important rule for Americans in Britain is to not try to keep up with the natives when it comes to drinking. Don't even attempt it.

Re:Your power convertor should handle UK power (3, Insightful)

legoburner (702695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211474)

You can buy them easily from the airport too (especially coming into the UK). Changing wifi settings is not needed - it is still 2.4ghz, the standard only changes the power levels. If it works in the US it will work in the UK. For more geeky things, the welcome trust (featuring victorian medical curiosities like darwin's walking cane, a mummified south american, mad king george's hair, 19th century japanese sex toys, etc) and the british library treasures room (featuring the magna carta, gutenburg bible, domesday book, early maps, da vinci notes, shakespeare, beatles, etc) are great and are practically next door to each other. Most locals dont even know about them but they are definitely worth half a day or so between them.

Re:Your power convertor should handle UK power (2, Informative)

unts (754160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211692)

Changing wifi settings is not needed - it is still 2.4ghz

The UK allows a couple of extra channels (12 and 13) that I believe you can't use in the US. It might be necessary to change some settings to allow use of these channels.

However, few APs actually use these channels, so it's unlikely to be much of an issue.

Re:Your power convertor should handle UK power (2, Funny)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211528)

The most important rule for Brittons in Belgium is : don't try your drinking habbits on the belgian beer. it's much stronger(and better) than you're used to; furthermore : taste the effing beer please, in stead of gulping it down.

Re:Your power convertor should handle UK power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211628)

*The most important rule for cockneys in Belgium is...

Most important thing to do in London (1)

Gandalf_Greyhame (44144) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211398)

The most important thing to do in London is simple - Monopoly board pub crawl. Start at Old Kent road and work your way up to Mayfair. One pub per street on the Monopoly board

Re:Most important thing to do in London (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211648)

The mobile network operator o2 (who have many stores around London) offer pay-as-you-go 3G mobile broadband dongles for £30. Although other companies offer mobile broadband, only o2 offer a 14 day money back guarantee on it, so you if you want to be cheeky you could in theory get your £30 back. You can buy the modem at any o2 shop.

You also get free access to many o2 ("cloud") hotspots which are the most commonly found wi-fi zones in pubs, shops, restaurants and cafes.

http://shop.o2.co.uk/promo/o2mobilebroadband/tab/Pay_and_Go [o2.co.uk]

It think there's and iPhone app which tells you how close you are to one of them.

Power cord (1)

Jojoba86 (1496883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211404)

If you have a small enough laptop bring it. No need for a new power cord, just get a plug adapter, unless your power brick really won't handle 240 V (most modern ones do).

asdf (4, Funny)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211406)

I know that I would have to change the region code on my wireless amongst other things

What you say? I have never heard about it. Is that ordinary wireless LAN you are talking about or UMTS or something?

I plan on hitting the British Museum

Uh, I'll notify the police.

Re:asdf (2, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211464)

UMTS doesn't have such a thing as a "region code", anyway: either you've got the hardware to talk on rest-of-the-world radio frequencies, or you don't. Wi-fi is the same everywhere.

Re:asdf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211674)

I think he's talking about the Wifi regional settings, which sort of restricts the power output and channels based on the regions, in order to obey the spectrum licensing regulations.

Guess what. Nobody cares, if it works, surf away. Too many iPhones drowning everyone into radiation anyway.

Re:asdf (5, Informative)

Amarantine (1100187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211554)

Yes, there is such a thing. Every country can decide what channels are allowed to use. Not every frequency/channel is allowed for free use in every country in the world. Cisco accesspoints, for example, have a configuration parameter to specify the country it is used in, so it won't use channels it isn't allowed to use. Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WLAN_channels [wikipedia.org] .

Re:asdf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211678)

Meh, two fewer channels. It's never ever been a problem for me in Tschermanie with my US Lenovo laptops.

For starters... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211408)

Don't call it 'merry old England'.

Re:For starters... (5, Funny)

Harold Halloway (1047486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211694)

...and don't ask whether or not we have 'internet kiosks'. It's not the bloody Middle Ages here.

Remember... (5, Funny)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211410)

...speak to people LOUDLY and ask them if England is anywhere near London because they're all deaf and stupid just like you see on American TV. Tell everyone you meet how everything is bigger in the States and how proud you are to be a Republican. You get to win a prize if you can piss more than 25 feet from Landseer's lions in Trafalgar Square - its a well known custom.

Re:Remember... (3, Funny)

underqualified (1318035) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211468)

or better yet, ask them what language they're speaking

Re:Remember... (5, Funny)

Nomen Publicus (1150725) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211548)

Always ask any kilt wearing Scotsmen you see, "Is anything worn under the kilt?" Laughing, they will give the classic replay, "No, It's all in perfect working order." Remember to shout across the Whispering Gallery in St Paul's Cathedral. The name is historical and fools many tourists into missing the exciting results.

Re:Remember... (4, Funny)

dintech (998802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211516)

Also, if you make it up north to Edinburgh, "Scotland is my favourite part of England" will ensure you some new-found friends.

Re:Remember... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211594)

Intended as a joke, but if you have the time, I'd thoroughly recommend doing this. (The visiting Edinburgh part, not acting the stereotypical moronic american tourist.) Edinburgh is a facinating city. AC to preserve moderating interesting suggestions.

Re:Remember... (3, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211596)

Speaking of Edinburgh, if you hear a loud bang at 1pm, start running. Keep running. Never stop. That's the official signal that dragons have, in fact, been seen approaching the city, starving for human flesh.

Re:Remember... (2, Funny)

rosbif (71236) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211524)

Don't forget, you can always get a passing ragged urchin (you'll recognise them from the bow legs due to rickets and the sooty covering from sweeping chiminees) to take your message to the nearest telegraph office for a farthing.
One other thing - you must never mention the name Dick Van Dyke in London, otherwise you'll be hounded by a baying mob with pitchforks and faming torches

Internet kiosks? (5, Funny)

GuerillaRadio (818889) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211412)

Would I be better off not bringing my laptop and just using Internet kiosks (do they exist in London?)

What are these kiosks of the inter-net you speak of?
Why, here in blighty the modern mode of communication is the telegraph, which we run using steam, dontyouknow!

Re:Internet kiosks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211578)

lol...
Nah, seriously, there are some places like that.

Ah, btw, find yourself some time to cross to Ireland and enjoy a good pint of Guinness.

PS: I know that there are internet kiosks in Dublin :D

Re:Internet kiosks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211664)

"Ah, btw, find yourself some time to cross to Ireland and enjoy a good pint of Guinness"

Not that Ireland isn't worth visiting but you can get Guinness in London, (chilled or room temperature are usually both on tap so state yer preference up front).

--

You might not have to do much to your wireless (1)

thecross (1313393) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211436)

Channels 1 through 11 are here in the States, but Europe gets 1-11 plus 12 and 13, Japan gets 1-13 plus 14. If you don't change the drivers at all you will still be able to use 1 through 11.

When crossing the road (5, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211440)

LOOK TO THE RIGHT

Because everybody in north America drives on the wrong side of the road, you just don't know it yet.

I live in Australia (where we drive on the left) and I once had to work in South Korea where they drive on the right. I was okay as long as I thought about it every time I crossed the road. It was a mistake to talk on the phone to my wife back home while walking back to the hotel from the pizza shop.

Re:When crossing the road (4, Insightful)

AGMW (594303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211476)

Er ... scrub that!

Look BOTH WAYS EVERY TIME 'cos we do have a few one way streets in Ye Olde Londone

Re:When crossing the road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211486)

I think, my antipodean compadre, you will find that the _majority_ of the world drives on the right side of the road (the double meaning is intentional). I'm from Britain and infinitely prefer driving on thr right, it feels more natural and safer to me.

Re:When crossing the road (3, Informative)

Tolaris (31078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211522)

Most London streets have "look left" and "look right" painted on the road at the crossings.

Re:When crossing the road (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211604)

Yes. In Sydney too. Here in Melbourne we prefer our tourists to learn the hard way.

Re:When crossing the road (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211612)

Not most - you only see that in the more touristy bits of town.

Leave the laptop at home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211448)

Don't risk having it confiscated or damaged by the border thugs.

Bletchley Park (5, Interesting)

clap_hands (320732) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211458)

Bletchley Park is well worth a visit for some codebreaking + early computing. ~45 minute train journey from Euston.

http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/ [bletchleypark.org.uk]

Re:Bletchley Park (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211682)

If you're an uber-geek then Bletchley definitely has to be on your list.

You'll enjoy the trip more (5, Insightful)

strangemachinex (1659711) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211462)

Leave the computer at home.

Don't forget DVD region codes.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211466)

Due to the money-grasping stupidity of the media companies, if you want to buy & play DVDs whilst in the UK, you'll need to change your drives region code to Region 2. However, since DVDs cost more in the UK (also due to the aforementioned money-grabbing etc....) you may not wish to do that

English, and regular traveller (2, Informative)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211472)

Perhaps the geekiness has got to me, but, I always travel with a computer - for me, currently, my netbook, simply for size and battery life reasons - it's not a huge weight if I don't use it, it's encrypted and everything important is backed-up on my server back at home in case I lose it / it gets stolen, and is great for whiling away time at airports, checking what's going on wherever I am, as well as just keeping up with my email - different strokes for different folks, but, I prefer to be in touch and accessible (but not necessarily to work colleagues) when I'm away.

I wouldn't think too much about it, though - just pick up a plug adapter. If you're going to be bringing lots of powered appliances / chargers, I tend to find the cheapest / easiest solution is to bring a multi-way extender, and one plug adapter, rather than lots of plug adapters (although this is a habit I started for business travel, I now pack this for personal travel too, especially when travelling with my girlfriend, since it just makes things easier for charging phones, iPods etc.).

Feel free to drop by one of the local LUGs, if you're a Linux user, or just fancy a geeky chat - SCLUG's my local, down in Reading (about 25 minutes on the train, from Paddington, London) - or just message me on here, since I enjoy meeting new people!

Re:English, and regular traveller (1)

st0nes (1120305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211558)

especially when travelling with my girlfriend, since it just makes things easier for charging phones, iPods etc.

I've got a solar girlfriend, but she's not much use in London.

Re:English, and regular traveller (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211650)

especially when travelling with my girlfriend, since it just makes things easier for charging phones, iPods etc.

I've got a solar girlfriend, but she's not much use in London.

I bet she's hard to keep warm in November.

Bletchley Park (1)

peterxyz (315132) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211478)

If you're doing geeks on tour, consider going to Bletchley Park

http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/ [bletchleypark.org.uk]

It would be a daytrip on the train from London (it is easy walking distance (5mins?) from Bletchley Park train station

peter xyz

West-End (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211484)

Of course, visit the West End [wikipedia.org] , and if you like, go to a theatre.

Travel advice (5, Funny)

ultrasound (472511) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211492)

Public taxis are subsidized by the Her Majesty's Government. A taxi ride in London costs two pounds, no matter how far you travel. If a taxi driver tries to overcharge you, you should yell "I think not, you charlatan!", then grab the nearest policeman (bobby) and have the driver disciplined.

It is rarely necessary to take a taxi, though, since bus drivers are required to make detours at patrons' requests. Just board any bus, pay your fare of thruppence (the heavy gold-colored coins are "pence"), and state your destination clearly to the driver, e.g.: "Please take me to the British Library." A driver will frequently try to have a bit of harmless fun by pretending he doesn't go to your requested destination. Ignore him, as he is only teasing the American tourist (little does he know you're not so ignorant!).

For those travelling on a shoestring budget, the London Tube may be the most economical way to get about, especially if you are a woman. Chivalry is alive and well in Britain, and ladies still travel for free on the Tube. Simply take some tokens from the baskets at the base of the escalators or on the platforms; you will find one near any of the state-sponsored Tube musicians. Once on the platform, though, beware! Approaching trains sometimes disturb the large Gappe bats that roost in the tunnels. The Gappes were smuggled into London in the early 19th century by French saboteurs and have proved impossible to exterminate. The announcement "Mind the Gappe!" is a signal that you should grab your hair and look towards the ceiling. Very few people have ever been killed by Gappes, though, and they are considered only a minor drawback to an otherwise excellent means of transportation.

I can't take credit for this advice, source [siliconglen.com]

Not exactly the right season (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211494)

London's climate isn't particularly friendly this time of year. Anyway, if you need a computer, bring one. Laptops typically have power supplies which can take any voltage between 110V and 240V, so you'll only need a cheap plug adapter (do check!). US WLAN frequencies are a subset of the European frequencies, but most public WLANs restrict themselves to the US set of frequencies to avoid tech support for travelers not getting a connection. The number of open WLANs is shrinking though; definitely not ubiquitous. Don't rely on open WLAN if you need internet access on the go. The cellphone standard over here is GSM (or UMTS/3G) and the frequencies are different from those used for GSM in the US. Unless you know that you have a phone which works and a plan which won't bankrupt you, best get a cheap prepaid phone. Incoming calls and SMS are free in Europe.

Something to consider with the laptop... (1)

LordAndrewSama (1216602) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211496)

...is returning to america. don't you have some seriously mental border protection at airports and what not? don't worry about it at heathrow, it's a cake walk taking anything through there the twice i've flown from/to heathrow recently. then again, I've a UK passport, but noone else seemed to have any problems walking through either.

Re:Something to consider with the laptop... (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211636)

I've never had any problems getting my laptop in and out of the US when I travel there, despite the potential problems - I guess I just don't look suspicious enough.

bletchey park (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211500)

Have to take a day out to go here - http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/ which is where allies broke the codes on the enigma machines used by the Germans in the 2nd World War, as featured in the movie enigma. Alan Turing worked there during this period. It's not that far from London on the main rail line to Milton Keynes and then it's just a short walk from the station to the museum. Also a national museum of computing is there - http://www.tnmoc.org/ but only on restricted opening hours.

The science museum in central london is free and worth some time - http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum.aspx I also like http://designmuseum.org/ in SE london.

u r geek? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211502)

If you are asking the question about taking your notebook, the you should also if you area a geek

i guess this is why i never go to london.. (1)

bassdrop (693216) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211510)

It's full of hoards of stupid American tourists :)

There's more to "Eng-er-land" than London. It's a piss-filled city and really not that nice, which is like most capital cities around the world.

I personally wouldn't take a laptop, unless you like having a ball and chain around your neck.

Take some warm clothes, and the minimum amount you need, use London as a launch pad to the rest of the UK and Europe

Re:i guess this is why i never go to london.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211700)

Thankfully people with your attitude don't come in to town too often. Growing up an hour from London in one of England's ubiquitous market towns meant I too was small-minded and hated London, but that attitude quickly changed after I emigrated in 1996. London is an awesome city, and I'm glad I've returned to the UK. There's no way I could live anywhere else in this country though - if I'm in a position of having to leave London, I will move back overseas instead. I can get my UK fix by holiday here.

This blog has everything you need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211520)

http://diamondgeezer.blogspot.com

Check your voltages and frequencies! (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211530)

As well as changing power cords (or just buying travel adaptors) you should ensure your devices are actually world-voltage, 110-240v 50-60Hz. Also figure out what you're doing with your phone. If you're roaming, ensure the carrier's enabled it, and if you're planning on picking up a cheap SIM while you're here, make sure your phone is unlocked. In either case make sure that your phone supports (at a minimum) tri-band GSM. Wi-fi is universal, but expect to pay through the nose for it unless you're buying a large amount of capacity or your hotel/hostel provides it. Internet cafes are (fairly) cheap and plentiful but aren't a great option if you want to have your camera sitting there uploading umpteen snaps to Flickr.

With that settled, go to the Natural History Museum. Pick where you want to go, though, that thing will eat your entire weekend if you let it. And if you want to see real England, and not just London (even compared to the other cities, it's rather singular), get out of the city on the train for a few days. Canterbury is gorgeous, but that's just my preference. Heck, get your ass on the Pendolino and go up to Yorkshire, or Scotland. The Caledonian Sleeper will take you right up into the wilderness overnight.

Take one US powerboard, and 1 one only UK adapter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211666)

...

Various stuff (1)

paradigm82 (959074) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211534)

There's a big Science Museum (I think it is just called that) which is nice to see. If you're into war-stuff, go to to the Imperial War Museum. In the old days I used to go to Tottanham Court Road to buy electronics and computer games - they always had much cooler stuff than you could get here (Denmark). But now that all this stuff has become much more mainstream it's not that exciting. Just a lot of small electronics shops. You might consider going to Greenwich (easy to get to from London) to see the Greenwich Meridian and lots of associated museums. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site btw. Other trips could be Oxford or Windsor. I think you can also do a tour to Stonehenge but I haven't tried that myself. If you're into high street shopping, Regent Street (starting at Picadilly Circus) and Oxford Street (which intersects RS) are the places to go. Of course, Harrods (Knightsbridge) is a must too :) Be sure to bring an umbrella or buy one there - always raining ;) Be sure to go to their many great pubs and clubs. Since I'm gay I mostly went to those places (in the area around Old Compton Street) but otherwise I think they are passing flyers around at the evening in the area around Picadilly Circus, so you can see what is going on.

London = Costly... but you know that, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211540)

London is one of the more costly cities on the planet.

(People who work there can't always afford to live near it,
necessitating long commutes, in crowded public xportation.)

Why not enjoy Skype in a SkypePhone (video included,
unlike in AU, where only ver 1 SkypePhones work...)?

If Skype's not your choice, I'd go with something that
fits into my shirt pocket, out of sight from those who
might like to mug me for it... even though the security
cameras out number stray cats there (or so I'm told...).

There's lots to see in London, so... why not try "cold-
turkey" (eg, just a large-screen cell.phone for eMail)?

My 2 centavos

PSU (1)

Polkyb (732262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211544)

Make sure that your power brick is capable of 90-230V. I can't tell you the amount of visitors from the US I have had wander up to me and ask to borrow a UK PSU It's because they just changed the power lead to the PSU and didn't spot that it was rated at 90-120V. Once the magic smoke escapes, there's no other option than to buy a new one.

Your wireless and power supply will work (1)

Tolaris (31078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211552)

You don't have to change your wireless region, it will likely just work (few use channels 12 and 13 here anyway).

Just get a plug adaptor for your laptop. The power supply for most laptops supports 100-240 VAC, 50-60 Hz. If unsure, read the label on it.

Some more geeky places to visit (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211560)

Bletchley Park - within striking distance of London - the war-time code breaking centre.

Science Musuem - I was actually disappointed last time I visited the telecommunications exhibit, but the computation and maths exhibits are fascinating.

Natural History Musem - even if just to see the huge dinosaur in the entrance hall, which amazes me every time.

Greenwich - depends on your geekiness, but, you might enjoy visiting the Prime Meridian, in the courtyard of the Royal Observatory

Re:Some more geeky places to visit (1)

edjs (1043612) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211610)

Tip: when speaking to the customs/immigration officer, do not use the phrase "within striking distance."

Re:Some more geeky places to visit (2, Funny)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211638)

Nor say that you hope to have a blast in London.

As somebody who moved Toronto to London recently (5, Informative)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211562)

Where are you staying? If it's a secure place, then bring your laptop for when you're "at home" for planning your day, photos, etc. There are tons of coffee shops and even pubs with wireless, sometimes free. Personally though, I leave it at home and just carry a camera, A-Z and a Lonely Planet guide (along with a small but wind resistant umbrella, etc), but I can see the benefit to being able to check google maps and the TFL. BTW, tfl.gov.uk will be your best friend at figuring out how to get between any places, especially considering that large parts of the Tube close at the weekends for engineering works. Having a laptop with me around always ways on my mind due to the risk of it being stolen - yes, one of my work colleagues had his bag (containing work laptop) stolen from under a table six of us were sitting around, in a pub in Soho.

Other than that, get out an enjoy yourself. London is a walking city, even in December when the daylight is limited and it can be blustery and wet. One of my favourite walks is from parliament, down the South Bank to the Tower: London Eye, South Bank, Tate Modern, Southwark Cathedral, The Globe, St. Paul's Cathedral, Borough Market, City Hall, Tower Bridge, etc. Greenwich is ace. You can get a Soho walking tour from Trafalgar square. The Royal Parks are awesome. There are tons of little villages that have been over-run by London growing outwards. Then there are more free museums and galleries than you can shake a stick at, and always a trusty pub nearby when you want a break.

Re:As somebody who moved Toronto to London recentl (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211640)

I got distracted by somebody and hit submit before I finished. Anyway, don't worry about pissing around with wireless regions. My work laptop cannot configured for anything other than the US, which means no ability to connect to anything configured for channels 12 and 13. I've yet to have a problem (except when I configured the wireless router at the office for channel 13).

And how did I forget to mention the performing arts? You can spend hours just looking through listings of musicals. There are more theatres just in the West End than there are in some countries.

Re:As somebody who moved Toronto to London recentl (2, Informative)

gclef (96311) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211686)

A few quick translations for folks who (like the questioner) haven't been to London before:
    A-Z: the street maps of London are a (softcover) book of their own, called the A-Z. You can buy it once you get there. The streets of London can be *very* confusing without an A-Z, so if you're planning to walk around, one of these will be very valuable.
    TFL: Tube for London, aka the subway.

Personally, I'd recommend the following: If you have enough space on camera memory sticks to do without the laptop, do so. I spent a month in Europe this past summer, and the only tech I brought with me was a camera and an iPod Touch. The Touch allowed me to check mail/websites/etc and use Skype at various Wifi locations to call whomever I needed to, which realistically was all I needed while on vacation. I also grabbed a multi-country plug adapter that also included a USB power port, and just carried that in my bags (it was quite small). In short, your camera, some extra memory sticks, and a smartphone should be enough to cover what you need...I think the laptop is just extra weight.

Also, if you're going to be in the UK at the winter solstice, go to Stonehenge that day. Yes, it'll be a madhouse, but that's part of the fun.

Take your laptop, you'll be thankfull you did (1)

kaptink (699820) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211566)

If your after internet access around London, you can pick up a prepaid USB 3G modem from the local shops (Tescos, etc) and you should find they sell a decent range of geek goods and supplies, some supermarkets even sell laptops, etc. Internet cafes are not something I've seen a lot of but I havent really looked to be honest. I'd bring your laptop (I brought both of mine and use them ever day) You'll should find a few open wireless networks around the place. I haven't been anywhere yet that I haven't been able to borrow some internets. I bought a linksys wrt54gs and put ddwrt on it to use as a personal ap bridge in my apartment. It works a treat. For gettings around it's worth buying a GPS, tomtom, etc as the city is a bit of a maze. If you've got an iPhone, you could run tomtom on it. Bookmark journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk as its very handy for planing trips on public transport (works great via WAP). If you need some converters for your power adapters (most are 100-240v), you can pick them up for a few dollars off ebay. I bought two packs of 5 for about $10. Have fun.

i don't know about this british museum place (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211568)

but london does have the seventh-busiest greyhound canada terminal in terms of passengers

perhaps you meant to say you wanted to visit the university of western ontario?

Re:i don't know about this british museum place (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211658)

I had the opposite problem, I assumed that this [google.co.uk] was his itinerary.

Visit England too if you can (1)

Tepic++ (221291) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211570)

London and England are almost two different places (I'm a Brit who loves both). Depending on how long you're going, I'd recommend a day trip to England proper. Immediately west of London there is a lot of accessible, beautiful country side, villages and great pubs (it's a wealthy part of the country), and its easy to get to by train (although for those pubs a car is better). Winchester is a beautiful city and is about 1 1/4 hours by train, Windsor & Eton are more tourist orientated, but also beautiful places and even closer.

Train tickets and timetables: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ [nationalrail.co.uk]

Prepaid 3G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211572)

For internet access you're probably best of getting a local prepaid sim card, a usb modem can also be obtained fairly cheaply if you don't have gear compatible with the local networks.

Hotels and public internet cafes will probably charge you the same for one hour of access as you can get for a months access from any mobile network.

The local providers are Three, Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2. Last time I checked Three had the best pricing for prepaid access.

Buy A Pay As You Go Phone Here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211574)

It will cost you £6.95 for an entry level Samsung phone when you buy £10 of calling credit at Car Phone Warehouse http://carphonewarehouse.com. They are located on any high street (street in any town with lots of shops). You can choose a SIM for whatever network you like. There are options for calling the States for 5p a minute (on the Orange network I believe). You will save so much money by not trying to use your US phone in the UK. I seriously don't know why CPW doesn't have people selling phones at the airport baggage terminal. It would be a public service.

Plenty to do (1)

Crookdotter (1297179) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211582)

Science museum and natural history museum are good days out. You can probably do both in a day. Bletchley park as above is a great one to do, although it's a bit sparse through lack of funds.

Just don't advertise you're american by wearing shorts, a loud shirt and a baseball cap. When on the first day out, look at other people and then dress like them for the rest of the journey

And the best piece of advice is DO NOT SAY YOU ARE AN AMERICAN. Remember - you are a CANADIAN. This will serve you well to avoid problems. :)

Re:Plenty to do (1)

paradigm82 (959074) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211698)

Oh you mean he should dress up like all the chavs (I believe you call it?) you see everywhere on the streets? ;) I'm sure his normal clothes will be fine :)

London Deathrow (0)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211584)

Don't expect too much from London Heathrow Airport. Let's just say it isn't one of the top airports in the world, especially given the recent (and rumored ongoing) terminal 5 fiasco [wikipedia.org] . It has the nickname 'London Deathrow' for a reason.

Re:London Deathrow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211668)

I've been through terminal 5 several times in the last year, and it's been an absolute pleasure (and visual marvel) every time.

Get "The Geek Atlas" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211586)

All sorts of places to visit in London. Good book with other places all over the world but there are quite a few in London.

One tip (-1, Flamebait)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211598)

don't.

Stay quiet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211620)

Tips? How about don't call it "merry old England"...

And for that matter, don't talk loudly to everyone. I know this is a stereotype of American travellers, but it holds true far too often. Most American's I know in London do the intelligent thing and keep their head down.

As for places to go, St Paul's is always worth a look, while you are there walk along the river towards the London Eye (you have to cross for the better side)

As Hoffnung advised... (1)

lingu1st (778259) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211632)

Be sure to try the echo in the Reading Room of the British Library, and for out of hours relaxation, you can spot a brothel by the blue light above the entrance.

Bletchley + Faraday museum + Greenwich (1)

sagman (465807) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211654)

Bletchley Park, which has gotten plenty of Slashdot coverage over the years, is a must. It's just an hour north on the train and a short walk from the train station. Go to Euston Station for the ride north.

The Faraday Museum http://www.londondrum.com/cityguide/faraday-museum.php is worth the trip.

Greenwich Observatory and the National Maritime Museum are musts, as well. http://www.nmm.ac.uk/
You may want to read Dava Sobel's book about John Harrison before you go, if you haven't already. See the real H* clocks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harrison

Take the laptop.

Museums (2, Informative)

zoeblade (600058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211656)

The Natural History Museum and Science Musuem are practically next door to each other, and are both essential to any good trip to London. Google Maps link [google.co.uk]

British Museum (5, Informative)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211662)

Don't forget the British Museum recently* split into two, the British Museum, and the Natural History Museum - which used to be the British Museum (Natural History). The British Museum, which houses things such as the mummys, Elgin marbles, Rosetta stone and various other things we stole from around the world during our colonial past, is in Holborn, pretty central in London, and the Natural History Museum, with dinosaurs, big stuffed blue whale and a fabulous mineral and gemstone collection is in South Kensington, right next to the Science Museum (as mentioned previously) and Victoria and Albert museum.

Entrance to all of these is free. Some special exhibits need payment however (usually temporary ones).

When you get to the airport, as long as you're not feeling too lazy, don't try to get a taxi to London, it'll cost you $80 or more (it's a long way). Go to the underground, get an Oyster card with (say) £20 of credit on it (you'll have to ask at the manned ticket office for this), that works for all your underground and bus travel in London, much simpler and quicker than using cash. You can top it up if you run out (you can check your balance at the station or register online to top it up automatically).

Have fun!

Jolyon

* - in 1881. That's recently for us Europeans!

Don't bother (5, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211670)

London is a dank, seething cesspool of filth. The tube system is full of tramps, smells of urine, and is the best place to get a venereal disease without any of the difficult issues of actually making contact with anyone.

I recommend going to Blackpool instead. Much more classy.

Things to do in London... part 52 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211690)

Depends what floats your boat, but a few (more) of the historical tourist trail things...
Tower of London (including the Crown Jewels), The (reconstructed) Globe Theatre, St. Pauls Cathedral, Buckkingham palace, The Palace of Westminster, Tower Bridge (if you can get on a tour of the engine rooms to see the lifting gear), Madame Tussauds is also worth a look.
Museums: The Natural History, V&A (Victoria and Albert), Science, British Museum all worth a visit. A little further afield there's Bletchley Park (where we invented the computer), Hampden Court, The Imperial War Museum at Duxford and Windsor Castle

Then there's the whole West End... Soho is a fun place ;) Bear in mind that London at Christmas is a very very busy place (the main shopping ares (Knightsbridge / South Kensington / Oxford Street / Covent Garden / Camden Market can be hell) - and be aware that pickpockets are also very active in all these areas, (unfortunately this is especially true at that time of year).

Taxis (1)

Harold Halloway (1047486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211696)

Don't forget that it's illegal to tip London cab drivers and you will mortally offend them if you try.

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