You remember a year or two ago when everyone in the USA got obsessed with DNA profiling (like Ancestry or 23andMe)? It seemed like everyone around you was some mix match of different nationalities. I mean – the US is literally nicknamed “the melting pot”. People would post “I’m 28% Spanish, 14% Eastern European, etc etc”. My husband learned that he is mostly Irish with French Canadian and a teeny tiny percent Benin and Togo.
I completely nerded out over this ordeal. I was bursting at the seam to figure out my compilation of different countries. I knew I had to be part German given my last name, but what laundry list of countries am I made from?
Well after giving all of my saliva, my laundry list turned into more of just a single point. Not even worthy of a list really….
I’m more British then most people in Britain. I’m dead serious. My report came back with 72.1% British (mostly traced to the London area) and 99.9% Northwest European. No offense to anyone in the UK, but HOW THE ACTUAL HECK?? My family fought in the Revolutionary war and have been in the United States for over 200 years….and you’re telling me that we only ever got with other Brits? I’m literally so confused by this to this day.
Well I tell you this because the UK is on my top list of countries….however, I still question the bias of that statement. Maybe it only makes the list because it is literally in my blood? I guess it is for you to decide.
If you have never traveled international and nervous about diving into different customs, then I would recommend starting in a country like the UK. The UK would be a “soft introduction” to travelling abroad. First of all, they speak English so you don’t have to worry about the language barrier when it comes to simple things like asking for directions or ordering dinner. Secondly, they have very similar customs (I mean, we were once a colony not that long ago).
However, I say this with as much niceness as I can – the food in the UK could use some work. If you venture outside the variety of London or my personal weakness of a Welsh breakfast, most all food is either fried, has no seasoning other than salt, is served in some sort of meat pie, or comes with my least favorite vegetable of peas. So apparently, the foodie in me that loves all things spicy came from the 27.8% minority “Sarah”. However, I did inherit my love of “chips” from the English.
When it comes to activities though, there is nothing short of things to do and see. Keep reading for some of my “top hits”
Accommodation – As mentioned several times before in my posts, I always try to stay somewhere between the Ritz Carlton and Motel 6. I don’t need anything fancy, but I want to be safe, sanitary, and close to the action. England (especially London), in my opinion is a bit on the pricey side given the currency conversion. Word of caution: you never “feel” like you are spending a lot. This has tricked me every time I have been there. In my mind I would be thinking “cool, only 100 pounds” and in reality that was $135 dollars. Over a week or two, that really adds up.
Back to the accommodations, I would expect around $200-$250 a night to be in London city center. If you are less “picky” you might be able to score something cheaper. A few times, when I was travelling solo, I stayed in this place that had small “pods”. It was perfect for just me. The room is updated with technology, the storage space is very clever, and when I walked outside of my room I was looking at Westminster Abbey. Best part it was $140 USD a night – super cheap considering my location!
Food – Food can dramatically differ as in a lot of places. However, I would expect to pay about $40-55 USD per person per day. Of course, this can be lowered if you grab breakfast at the hotel or even a meal at the pub.
Flights – You can expect a basic economy flight to the UK from a gateway location to run about $1000-$1500 (including tax). Depending on the time of year and how far in advance you book, you can find pretty reasonable direct flights from major hubs for less then $800. I’m lucky enough to have LAX as my home port, so I’ve managed to get a ticket for about $650 direct flight before!
Transportation – Depending on what you want to visit in the UK, it is not always necessary to rent a vehicle. London has an excellent public transport system that I would highly recommend. The London transport should also be on every tourist checklist:
For payment, it is easy to get an “Oyster card”, which is essentially a card that you pre-load with funds. It is 5 pounds for the card, then you add how ever much you think you will need. The funds never expire. Personally, I just keep my card with me for every time I have been back since so I don’t have to buy a new card every time. I would estimate to put 15 pounds or about $20 USD for a two day visit. You can easily load more onto the card at the station if you run low. Your oyster card can also be used on the double-decker bus! Also, if you were wanting to visit outside of London, you can easily catch day trips to the major tourist attractions.
If you do rent a car, just a reminder that they drive on the left! Meaning, the “fast lane”, roundabouts, the stick shift, driver’s seat, and rear view mirror are all REVERSED! I’ve worked in Wales quite often over the last few years, and it is always an adjustment going there and then returning home (a lot of curbs hit). It is not impossible though, I would just recommend a rental car that has lane departure sensors! Haha.
Did you know? – The London Black cabs are more officially known as “Hackney Carriages”, named after the former village of Hackney that is now absorbed into London. Hackney supplied the horses that pulled the precursor to the cab. There are approximately 21,000 operating in London. London taxi drivers have to pass a test called “the Knowledge” in order to prove their knowledge of the streets and popular landmarks (no using GPS!).
Let me know any discount tricks you might have in the comment section!
As always, Happy Travelling!