Last day in Siem Reap! We only had time in the morning until a little bit after lunch time, then needed to head back to the airport. Since we haven’t looked around the Old Market, I suggested to go there. It should be a great place to buy some souvenirs from Siem Reap. Besides, I love walking around in the market and seeing what kind of product they sell and if they have any local / authentic product to bring home as souvenir.
This place is in the center of city near Pub Street so it is very easy to reach. If you have been to Vietnam or Thailand, you will not be surprised with the scenery around the market. Although, this one is dirtier than the other two. As expected, there are a lot of things to see! I enjoyed strolling around but I don’t think my friend enjoyed it as much as I do. It is really a great place to look for souvenir or just to shop for yourself. Don’t forget to bargain for a lower price though. I usually try to lower it around 20% to 50% of the offered price, depending of the item. If they don’t agree, just leave and find another shop. BUT, if they agreed with it, you should buy the item. That’s the general rule of bargaining in the market to avoid angry seller, bargain and if they accept then you have to buy it. Unless, you don’t care if they angry at you then it’s up to you 😀 So, try to bargain as lower as you can as long as it’s still reasonable. I bought some peanuts with special spices from this market to give to my friends. They said it was nice but I didn’t buy it for myself. Bummer! Anyway, to see the overview of the market, please take a look at the pictures below 🙂
Hap Guan Street
Hap Guan street is a very nice area to hang out, and even shopping! There are cafes and small local shops standing side by side along the street. It is a perfect area to hide from the buzzling city center. Too bad a lot of shops were closed when we were there. At least, we managed to visit a local spice shop and a coffee shop!
Located in Hap Guan street, this place is a must-visit for spice lovers. They are selling local spices and also the mixture of it. There are some unique mixtures that is great to buy for a souvenir or even for youself. Assorted spices that they sell are kampot pepper (famous from Cambodia), curry powder, wild turmeric, lemongrass, amok spices and many more. While the mixture of spices for example chili & pepper and salt or black pepper and salt. They also have a unique mix spices such as wasabi and salt, sun salt ( turmeric, chili, pepper, salt), flower salt ( white hibiscus, butterfly pea, keffir lime, marigold, salt), healthy salt (white maringa, spirulina, green tea, lime, salt) and many more. All of the salt mixtures are homemade with kampot salt. Other than spices, they also sell Alcoholic Jam. Interesting, isn’t it? Even the jam in Cambodia has alcohol in it! lol
The Little Red Fox Espresso
After shopping for spices, we found a small coffee shop nearby so we went inside. The name is cute! The little red fox espresso. It was packed inside so we sat on high chairs until we found out there is a second floor! So we moved upstairs. More spacious and artsy. My friend was up to the challenge and ordered Charcoal Latte ($3.75 (small), $4.25 (large)). Unfortunately, it was disappointing. We couldn’t taste anything but milk. Even too milky for a latte.
After a long chat over coffee, we felt hungry (if you think how is that possible to feel hungry right after a cup fo coffee, it is very possible for us! lol). We looked for a place nearby for lunch and found Vibe. It’s a vegetarian restaurant, but hey it won’t be that bad right?! I ordered Japanese Macro Bowl ($6.5) and it was a very huge portion! It has a lot of vegetables (well doh! it’s a vegetarian restaurant…). So what’s in it? It contains wild seaweed, homemade kimchi, miso tempeh, radish, cucumber, pickled ginger salad, sesame, peanut, with ginger dressing. Yup, really huge and packed with veggies. I couldn’t finished it. Apparently, this restaurant is famous with their campaign . For every meal we buy there, the money will go to The Good Vibe Foundation that aims to feed 10.000 healthy meals to school children in Cambodia. How nice is that! I just wish the food tasted better as well to support that.
We decided to go back to hotel by walking (also decided no more vegetarian food for a while). As we walked, I took some photo of the city and enjoyed it the last time before we headed to the airport.
At the airport has a lot of souvenirs to choose. If you don’t have time to shop in the city, or too lazy to haggle in the market, can go directly to the airport and buy from the shops at the airport. They are combined in one big area and you will pass by there anyway to go to the boarding gate.
The trip to Siem Reap has come to an end! Thank you for everyone who gave suggestions to us and for those who stop by at my blog to read the story 😉
Woohoo! Finally visited Siem Reap! As Indonesian, I don’t need a visa to visit Cambodia, but my friend needed one because she is Dutch. To learn more about whether you need a visa or not and what kind of visa you need to enter Cambodia, please read this post here. Other than a visa, we also needed to fill out 2 forms, an arrival card (and departure card) and customs clearance card. I didn’t bring my pen so I had to borrow from my neighbour on the plane.
Once we landed in Siem Reap, we entered the arrival hall and I went straight to Passport Control, while my friend had to go to Visa on Arrival counter with many other people. After she finished with the visa and paid $30, she then proceeds to passport control. I was done before her so I just waited near the baggage belt. We didn’t have checked-in luggage though, only 1 small bag for the cabin. But I think if we checked in a suitcase, it wouldn’t take long to retrieve it since the queue for passport check and visa takes some time.
Once we’ve done inside, we went to customs area and handed over the form to the officer. We tried to find our shuttle from the hotel but couldn’t find my name so we decided to buy a sim card first. The sim card seller is located on the right side from the exit. I bought the one from metfone because of what I read before I flew. It said metfone has the best coverage even in suburb area. The price is $3 for 7 days tourist sim card with 5 GB data. My friend bought cellcard sim card from the next shop because it was cheaper. Tourist sim card for 7 days was $2 with 1.4 GB data and 50 cents balance for call. At first, I thought I needed a lot of data and no need of phone balance but later that day I found out I was wrong…
Once we got our sim cards, we went back to exit area to look for our driver. This time we found him! A guy name Bun Rong held my name on the paper. He introduced himself to us. His english is really good! We walked to the gate where he asked s to wait for him there while he picked his tuktuk. We called it tuktuk because it’s easier. The vehicle is called remorque in Cambodia. Hence, there is remorque tour.
I was excited to ride it! It can fit 4 adults and less shaking than Thailand’s tuktuk.
We arrived at hotel 20 minutes later and proceed to lobby to check in. The staff explained many things but he has an accent when he speaks so we hardly understand what he said. I got better understanding at his English compared to my friend, maybe, because I’m used to Vietnamese speaking English with their accent as well. Even so, I missed some words too.. In short, he explained about the tour and how to reserve it. We told him that we want to see Angkor Wat for sunrise and he told us the normal price for tuktuk is $18 but since it is very early, there is a charge of $5 (so total $23 for 8 hours tour, sounds reasonable!). He also told us that the hotel will prepare our breakfast in a box so we can carry it and eat it at Angkor Wat. Great service!
After all the explanation, he showed us our room at 2nd floor. Holy molly, the room is huge! We picked room with 2 twin beds and it is not two-single beds but two-queen beds! The bathroom also spacious, it has shower area on one side and a bathtub on the other side. They provide bath robe and slippers as well. A fridge, and a safety box. In one corner, there is a dressing table with a huge mirror. Really nice for a very good price!
We tried the safety box but it said error and nothing we could do so we called the reception to ask about it. The staff came to our room to check and he told us how to do it. I explained to him that we followed the instruction on the leaflet but still error but he insisted that we should try again later after 20 minutes. Fine. To be honest I didn’t like that respond but I let it go since we wanted to go out first. We were hungry and want to find some food!
Our hotel is located near city center. The famous pub street is about 10 mins walk. Our destination that time was something else. I saw it on the app and it has good review so we were interested to try it. We walked with the help of google map and took some photos on the way. The road was busy and there is no pavement which made it hard for us to walk. The weather was nice at that time and it was almost sunset. After about 15 mins walking, we reached Genevieve, the restaurant that we wanted to try. Unfortunately, they were closed! 😦 We didn’t know there is a holiday going on at that time. We found another restaurant nearby but it was also closed. There is another restaurant, about 6 mins walking, called Wat Damnak which is also nearby. My friend suggested we call the restaurant first. This was what that phone balance for! I couldn’t call the restaurant because I didn’t have any balance on my sim card. Luckily, my friend’s 50 cents balance saved the day. She called the restaurant and found out they are open but they are fully booked for the night. Bummer.
We decided to walk back to city center and find something there. On the way, we saw a Cambodian restaurant in a guest house, named The Oasis Siem Reap, so we decided to try it. We ordered the curry, steamed amok fish and mango salad. For the drink, I ordered Cambodia Beer because what’s more refreshing than beer after a long walk 😀
The mango salad was good, fresh and a little sour. It has fish in it though. Curry was just so-so. It was very bland and the curry taste also very thin. Also, the chicken was very small pieces and less than 10 pieces (yes, I counted it!). Amok fish was okay, a bit bland as well. In the end we didn’t satisfy with our food. I was still thinking that it might be because of the restaurant was not good enough. The total cost for two persons was $11.
Cambodian Chicken Curry
Steamed Amok Fish
We continued our journey to City Center and this time our destination was the famous Pub Street. It took about 10 minutes to reach the Siem Reap old market area. There are a lot of shops on the side of the street selling Cambodian handcraft, souvenir, massage, snacks, clothes, and many more. The streets are very vibrant and lively. And there we arrived at Pub Street! You won’t miss it. They put a big sign with lights on it. Cafes, bars, restaurants are there along the way. Even if you don’t like night life, you will still enjoy it. Okay, maybe for a shorter time. It actually reminded me of Pham Ngu Lao area in Ho Chi Minh City. Very busy and loud street but this one not as loud though.
There are some local restaurants that offer Cambodian Cuisine cooking class in the area. One of them is Khmer Family Restaurant. We went there to order cocktail because we were still full. My friend ordered Kampot Pepper Mojito and I ordered Passion Fruit Mojito. Somehow I couldn’t taste the alcohol in it. The prices for cocktail and alcohol in general is cheap though, especially compared to Singapore (well doh! lol).
After we finished our drink, we head back to hotel because we need to get up very early the next day. The pick up to Angkor Wat will be at hotel by 4.30am, which mean we have to get up at 3.30am at least. Eek! We really hope the sunrise and Angkor Wat really worth the effort…
I woke up at 7am because I forgot to turn off the alarm. Doh! then we had breakfast at the homestay. Their food is pretty good. While waiting for the food and after the meal, we made plan on what to do today. We heard about the big festival that is going on at the old capital. It is only about 6 km driving. I couldn’t drive motorbike so the daughter of homestay owner offered her cousin to take me there and back. The cost was 100k vnd for that service one-way and I thought it was too expensive because the cost for renting a motorbike is 150k vnd per day. Ugh..
The brother of the girl asked me to try the motorbike and see if I can drive it. I was scared because I never really drive a motorbike before. I did learned a little bit when I was in high school. Only on a small street and my brother used to make fun of my speed because I drove like a snail. But after a trial with the guy (he sat on the back, and me driving), apparently, I can drive a motorbike! In the end, we rented 2 motorbikes. My friend with her son. and me alone. We drove together and slowly to the old capital city.
There are a lot of people who asked us to stop for parking on the way to entrance. We picked the last parking spot and the lady said 20,000 VND. We didn’t agree, and the lady reduced the price. 5,000 VND it is! Luckily, the guy from our homestay told us the price for parking there. Thank you, Em!
We strolled around the old capital. Taking A LOT of photos, especially when we found out that there is an event in one of the temple there! Many people wearing traditional dresses and there was a ceremony as well. I don’t know what ceremony was that but it was very interesting. We didn’t stay until it finished though.
On the way out, we stopped by at an ice cream place. 20k for celano ice cream. It was lunch time but my friend didnt want to eat there because of the previous food poisoning case she had on her trip to another cities in vietnam so I just hoped that ice cream would make my tummy calm until we found food! We walked a bit to the other gate, and on the outside of the palace there are many small stalls. I found an interesting water bottled brand in one of the stall! I thought it was Aquafina because it has the same design and color, but it wasn’t. It was Aquatoka! I don’t think they are from the same company…
We continued walking until we found a small pagoda. It looks new but still we took some photos there anyway. After we looked around a bit, we walked back to our motorbike and went back to the hotel to have lunch there.
In the afternoon we just stroll around the village riding a motorbike to take some photos. Then my friend’s son need a rest so we went back to the hotel and returned the motorbike.
Later on, my friend and I walked to the street next of the homestay. We met some people who said hello to my friend on the way, including a boy who passed by in a bicycle and showing us his middle finger while smiling! Whaaat?! I wonder if he understand the meaning of what he just did..
When we were about to take a photo of abandoned boat, a small girl said hello to us. Her name is Yen, and she is 12 years old. She lives nearby. She was so happy to meet us because she’s been wanting to practice her english. And her english is great by the way. When I was 12 years old, I couldn’t speak English at all lol. She was taught since 5 years old by her mom, through youtube! And now at school she is learning English as well. She was so excited to show us around and didn’t want to leave us. I asked her if she needs to go home and do homework, she said no need, she just want to speak english. Cute! There were 2 of her friends joined us as well but their english is not as good as hers so they only responding in Vietnamese.
She asked us if we want to visit her school and we said yes, so she brought us to her school! What a unique experience! Haha. I’ve never been to a local school. It looked awesome though. I missed my school day just by looking at it. When it was the time to say goodbye, she desperately wanted to chat more but we couldnt. We really need to go back for dinner with the boy (who were asking where is his mom, been away for some time while he was sleeping lol).
We were having dinner together at the hotel when the owner lady joined us and she explained about her plants. In Vietnamese. We used google translator by voice and communicate very well with the lady. Very convenient! We decided not to go to the festival to see fireworks and it was the right decision. The daughter said it would be traffic jam and packed with people there. Her mom (the owner lady) turned on television and we could see the ceremony of the festival live! There were a lot of people at the old palace. I felt like we made the rigth decision by not going there. Not that keen to be in a crowded place. The lady also treat us an ice cream! I picked coconut ice cream and it was so good! Its texture was more like sorbet but sweet like ice cream. Delicious!
We finished eating ice cream by 10pm then I need to stay awake for awhile to digest this but I dont think I can do it, too sleepy. Better sleep now. Good night!
It was my birthday trip and I never been to Nha Trang before. Excited to see how it looks like! We took flight with VietJet in the morning, and was delayed for almost an hour! My husband booked a car from the hotel to make it easier. But actually you can take taxi to the city as well. There are Mailinh and Vinasun in Nha Trang. The trip from the airport to our hotel took about 40 minutes. Yes, it was far!
We stayed at Alana Beach Hotel because the location is good and their price is reasonable. One of the reasons for their low price is the new construction building next to them which block the view to the sea! From our room, we could see sea about half of the window. Not bad, but would be better without that building though! The most damage made by that new construction is in the bathroom. There is a big window next to bathtub intended for guests to enjoy the sea view while taking a dip. Now it is blocked by the construction, and of course we need to close the curtain. Unless you don’t mind being watched by the workers lol.
The hotel provided a flower bouquet and a small cake for my birthday! I’m sure it was a request from my husband though for the flowers because the color was red and white. Just like our flag color. My birthday is the same as Indonesian Independence Day. Hence the color of the bouquet. The upsetting part was when I realized that I couldn’t bring the bouquet home 😦
It was past lunch time when we arrived at the hotel. We ate the cake to fill up our tummy before going out to find a place to have lunch. My husband reminded me about nem nuong which I love in Saigon. He said new nuong in Nha Trang is different. More authentic and taste so much better. He found a place called Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa, not far from our hotel. About 13 minutes of walking. Off we go to that place!
The place was very empty when we arrived. It was past 1.30am so no wonder no one was eating there. I just want the nem nuong. My husband ordered beef as well. They served the food quite fast. Nem Nuong consists of crispy fried rice paper (which I like so much) and grilled pork. They came with vegetables and dry rice paper. We need to make the roll our self by putting everything we want on the rice paper and rolled it. Can add the sauce as well.
First bite and I was in heaven! It was so good. The combination of vegetable, pork, crispy rice paper, cucumber and mango were really nice. I loved it! Totally recommended this place for lunch or dinner. They have another branch on the same street just a bit further away.
After lunch, we walked to Sinh Tour which is close by as well. I wanted to ask about private tour with them. When my friend came to Vietnam last time, they went to Mui Ne and they used Sinh Tour’s private tour and it wasn’t expensive, so I wanted to try it in Nha Trang as well. For private tour, the minimum is 4 people. Since there were only 2 of us, the price was too expensive. The guy then offered us to rent a car, which would cost about 700k vnd for 4 – 5 hours. Still a bit too much for us. We also asked about Island Tour. And in the end, we didn’t use their tour service.
I haven’t made any itinerary for this trip, so everything was decided on the spot. For next destination, my husband suggested Long Thanh Photo Gallery. On google map, Long Thanh Gallery is located near Nha Trang Cathedral and Long Son Pagoda. Both about 10 minutes walk from the gallery. So first we go to Long Thanh Photo Gallery by taking a taxi, and it cost us 31k vnd which is not bad.
At the door, there is a sign “Please press the bell”. I pressed the bell and waited until someone showed up to open the door. It was a lady who opened the door. Followed by a guy which is the photographer, Mr. Long Thanh. It is a small gallery but filled with many beautiful photographs. All in black and white style. We strolled around the gallery and found some interesting photo to buy, but the problem is we didn’t know the price.
I started a conversation then with the photographer. He is very friendly and helpful as well. He gave me the price list and explained about his work. All of those photographs were taken with an analog camera in black and white film. So it is different than the one taken with a digital camera in monochrome style (Yes, he is very proud of his work. I would too! if I were him). He developed and printed it himself. He also told me that he likes to collect cameras. There are about 45 cameras that he owns now. That’s a massive number! I asked him why didn’t he exhibit his camera to the customer, like in a museum. He explained that he doesn’t have a proper storage to store his camera downstairs, and it is hard to maintain it. Now he put all camera in his working room inside special boxes that will protect the cameras. Make sense. Truly a photographer who loves his camera.
It is not allowed to take picture in his gallery, so I asked him to take photo with me instead after he packed up my purchases. If you are visiting Nha Trang and love photography, make sure to stop by at this gallery. He gave me discount as well for my purchase! And you can pay with credit card, not necessarily pay in cash. The photos are packed in a sturdy tube (We put it in our luggage and it is still good when we arrived back in Saigon).
After saying goodbye to Mr. Long Thanh, we continued walking to Long Son Pagoda. It took about 10 minutes of walking to reach it. This pagoda is huge and there is a certain area (the main hall) that you can’t go in if you don’t wear appropriate clothes, but you still be able to explore another area. My purpose here was to see the big Buddha statue! We climbed up the stairs and found something on the left area. Sleeping Buddha statue!! It is so majestic and nicely made. After taking some photos, we continue our journey to the top. Bring a bottle of water with you if you do this. Or you can always buy a drink there. There is small shop which sells drinks and coconut.
From the top area, we could see the city as well. The other part of the city though, that is full of buildings. The Giant Buddha statue reminded me of the one in Lan Tau Island, Hong Kong. But this one slightly smaller. Took some pictures and off going down back to the entrance. After the climbing, I felt very exhausted (getting old??) so we decided to go back to hotel first to rest. At the entrance, we took taxi from another company (not Mailinh nor Vinasun) and already prepared for getting scam with the fare. The trip from Long Son Pagoda to our hotel is about 12 minutes of driving, and it cost 61k vnd. My husband thought this is too much but maybe not really. Need to compare more.
After resting for a while, it was time for dinner. I wanted to eat seafood since we were in beach city. My husband found a place in Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street number 79. In the afternoon we passed by a place in that street that looked interesting. We checked them out to see if it’s the same place. Apparently not. This first place (I forgot the name) has smaller number than 79. And while we were waiting to be served, my husband checked on their review. It was 4.5 out of 10! Time to keep moving.
We walked to the other direction for bigger number, and tried to find number 79. It was a long walk and all we could see was number 75! There are so many building with number 75 (even inside a small street, still have number 75). When finally we arrived at number 79, we were disappointed because the place has changed. It is not a seafood restaurant anymore but selling Vietnamese noodle instead 😦 We also visited a restaurant with 79 on its name just in case, but they also don’t sell seafood.
With hungry stomach and tired legs, we decided to try Lee’s Grill. It has a good review as well. The place is clean and comfy but their menu is very minimal. I couldn’t find any interesting dish to order! (Well there was a spicy Korean noodle with seafood on the menu, for 70k vnd, but nope!!). My husband ordered assorted seafood skewers to share, and a Korean style clam soup. Then we got a portion of salad and garlic bread for free!
The skewers were pretty good. My favorites were grilled baby octopus and bacon with cherry tomato. Baby Octopus was not hard to chew and it tasted yummy as well. Marinated well. Bacon is bacon. Never wrong.
After dinner, we walked back to hotel but made a stop at T-shirt shop, named Ginkgo. Their t-shirt has a unique design and good material. They are using organic cotton. The price is a bit high though. Average prices are 310k vnd for a man t-shirt and 400k vnd for ladies t-shirt.
Continued our journey to the hotel afterward. Around 9 pm, we went to Sailing Club. It is a famous club in Nha Trang. Entrance fee was 150k vnd and we got a ticket for drink. We had to choose which drink we want, was it beer or a cocktail (vodka mixed with orange juice). I chose cocktail of course for that price!
When the drink came, I just remembered that I don’t like vodka! Silly me. Fortunately, this cocktail was acceptable. The portion also quite big for a cocktail. We also ordered chicken wings because we suddenly felt hungry. It was very yummy! The sauce on the wings were delicious and it tasted like they were using worcestershire sauce. Must try! Then dip it in cheese sace if you fancy. But even without it, already finger-licking good!
The Sailing Club that night was full, but not many people were dancing on the floor. Music was cool and updated. MC was trying so hard to ask people to join her dancing. There were some people smoking but I didn’t mind it because it was an open-air. What I hate about pub in Asia is they smoke in the room!
After enjoying the music and atmosphere for a while, we went back to hotel and rest for the day.
I’ve just returned from a trip to London. Yes! London. As you have read on my previous post about how to apply visa to UK, finally that day has come!
London is a HUGE city! I was confused by how to make my itinerary there because I didn’t know any area in the city. I got help from some friends who lived there before, so that was convenient. They pointed out some places to go and I marked it on my google map app. I also did some researches on website. One of the them that I used more was the official visit London website. They have many things to learn about your trip to London. Although some are confusing until I arrived there and tried it myself.
If you’re too lazy to read that link and wonder how did I do my trip, keep reading. Psst, it’s easier to understand 😉
What currency should I bring?
London uses Poundsterling (£) as currency. You can either have it before your trip or after you arrived there. I always bring USD whenever I traveled, and exchange it to local currency on destination’s departure hall. So for this time, I brought some USD as usual and exchanged it to GBP (£ ) at airport. At Hearthrow terminal 2, there are 2 money changer. They are from the same company, which is Travelex. Their rate is pretty bad though. For my trip, 1 GBP = 1.43 USD, while on online listed 1 GBP = 1.27 USD. Such a big difference! But I still recommend you to do it there. First, it is easy and convenient. Second, if you exchanged more than USD500, no commission fee. And lastly, if you have leftover £, you can exchange it back to USD with same rate by showing the receipt. They gave me receipt on paper and via email.
Where to buy a Prepaid Simcard?
Okay, this one is important. Everyone wants internet haha. There are many fending machine at airport selling simcards. How cool is that?! A simcard fending machine. If you want to buy there, select vodafone or lycamobile or 3. And not more than £20. It depends on how long is your trip as well. But for £20 you can get internet access for a month period. So if you’re staying less than a month, it would be more than enough.
There is a booth as well where you can buy a simcard with internet package included. I was interested to buy there but I saw the price was not reasonable (more than £20), with a very minimum package of internet data. So I waited until I reached my hotel before buying a simcard.
If you want to buy it in the city, try finding a Tesco (or Tesco Express). It is a supermarket and they have prepaid simcard. I bought mine at Tesco Express. £0.99 for cards only. Then I bought a top up voucher there as well, for £20. The guy at the shop might not know how to activate the package. But don’t worry, just connect to wifi and go to the provider website, and follow the instructions there. I bought simcard from Lycamobile, you can read it here on how to activate the data package.
How to Reach my Hotel if I don’t have any internet connection yet?
This was what happened to me as well. I didn’t have any connection on my phone. And trying to connect to wifi at airport was taking too long (then failed in the end..). But I wasn’t worried because I have been searching the route to reach my hotel before my departure. I took some screenshots on my phone on all possible route with train. I didn’t want to take taxi or Heathrow Express. So tube train was my only option.
I downloaded Citymapper app on my phone. It is available for both iPhone and Android. For London, it is easy to use this because it is listed as one of the city. This app doesn’t have some cities. Only big cities in the world. Changed your city to London, then find your way from Heathrow to hotel. Take some screenshots on every possibility (not too many though! Or else you’ll get overwhelmed or confused by it lol). Once I arrived in London, I opened the screenshots and followed the fastest route (less stations to reach my hotel). I went to ticket machine and bought a one way ticket to nearest tube station from my hotel (it was Tower Hill). The ticket price was £6. It would be cheaper if I used Oyster Card ( I will explain about this on next section below).
Another way to reach city from airport is by Heathrow Express. They claimed to be faster than tube train or taxi, which is true but not by far actually. You can buy the ticket online or on the spot. For on the spot ticket, it was £27.
The last resort to reach your hotel is by taxi. They are the easiest but most expensive way to reach your hotel. For my case, it would be around £70. Or you can use Uber as well which is much cheaper, would be around £40. These rates were from estimation on google map. It could be higher as well depends on the traffic.
It takes almost 1 hour to reach my hotel from airport by taxi, which is about the same if I take train. That is another reason why I choose train. About the same time to reach hotel but a lot cheaper!
But after I rode the train, I found out that the train was narrow and was packed with people along the way to my destination. So if you have a big suitcase, you might want to find a place in the corner to make it easier for others (and to not getting on people’s nerve..). Also it would be easier for you to get off of train. I sat on the seat with my suitcase in front of me, and it was hard for people to pass by (and for me to get to the door). I got up to reach area nearer to door 2 stations before my first destination.
Another thing you need to consider is how many time you will change the line. If your hotel is located near one of station on Piccadilly Line, it is easy. Mine wasn’t at it. I needed to change line to reach my final destination. So it was not much a hassle. If you are unlucky though, you can get off at station without elevator, stairs all the way to exit. I have no idea which station has no elevator. I only know Tower Hill has it 😀
How to get around in London?
One thing I like about big city in a developed country is they have a really good public transport system. London is one of them. It is very easy to get around in the city. There are many ways you can take :
The easiest and the most expensive transport in the city. Some area will cost you a lot if you take taxi, because of the bad traffic. Area around Westminster Bridge to Westminster Abbey is always busy. There are 2 type of taxis in city, the normal taxi (fit about 4-5 persons) and large taxi (it fit up to 8 persons). Their rate also different, the large one is more expensive.
Tube (Underground Train)
Tube is a convenient way to travel around the city. Their routes cover most of the place in the city especially for visitors. To ride a tube, you need to buy a ticket or oyster card or travel card. This one I read it before on visitLondon website. Rest assured I’m gonna suggest you which one you should buy. My friend suggested me to buy 7-day travel card for zones 1-2 because there are where all the attractions mostly at. From the website, I read about Visitor Oyster Card and I tried to buy it before my departure date (because it is said you can only buy it via online and not in London). Sadly, they don’t deliver to Vietnam. So I was thinking to get a travel card instead once I was there.
For zones 1-2 and 7-days travel card, it costs £38. I arrived on Wednesday and would leave on Monday. Not exactly 7 days but I thought still okay. When I was about to buy it, I saw a notification paper next to the machine, where they encouraged people to buy Oyster card (pay as you go) because there is no limit on the usage per day. I thought travel card was like that, wasn’t it?! In the end I bought Oyster Card. And after using it during my trip, I highly recommend it! Buy Oyster Card when you travel to London.
You can download the map first to your phone. Or if you are using Citymapper app like me, you don’t need to carry map. Another thing to be considered is walking tube map. It provides you on how long will you take to walk between the tube station. And why is it important? Because some stations are very far to reach the train. Sometime it takes the same amount of time to reach the train and to reach the next station. So, you can plan ahead which mode of transport are you gonna take.
How to ride a tube : If you have experience with subway system in big city, it won’t be a problem with you so you can skip this part. When you entered a station, tap your oyster card and wait until the light turned green and the portal opened. If you have ticket, put it inside a slot, and take it at top side of the gate, then you can enter the portal. Do not forget to take your ticket because you will need it to exit the station on your destination. For oyster card, tap again on the gate once you reached your destination. So, tap > enter > find your train > get on on the train > get off > tap > exit station.
How to buy Oyster Card : Oyster Card can be purchased at any tube station. There are 2 types of machine, small and big. The small one only accept card and coin, and doesn’t give change. You need exact amount of money, or else the leftover won’t be returned to you. The big one accepts anything (coins, notes, card). On the machine, press “Next Customer” if it is not the main page. There is a split screen on main page. On the right side, pick new oyster card. Then pick how much money you want to be in it. They will charge £5 for the card. And later on you can return the card and get your money back before your departure from London.
How to Top-Up Oyster Card : On main menu, choose top up oyster card on the right side. Then tap your oyster card on the machine. Pick how much you want to top up. Lastly, tap your oyster card at the machine again, and it’s done. Very easy.
Boats (River Bus)
I only tried this one time during my stay. I traveled from Tower Hill pier to Embankment Pier. I could traveled with train as well, but decided to take this boat just to try. The one-way ticket was £8 per person. Quite pricey indeed. We went to the waiting line with a bunch of people there who wanted to go to the same direction. The boat was big and convenient. It has a small shop that sells snacks and drinks. We (the boats) stopped by at several piers before we reached our destination. You can use oyster card to ride this as well (the reason we bought one ticket was because we haven’t had enough credits on our card haha).
Bus is one of my favorite public transport. You can only ride a bus with oyster card (and easiest way anyway). When you get on on a bus, tap Oyster Card on the machine and take a sit. The bus will have announcement of which number is it and where is it heading when you boarded it. If you want to stop on next station after they announced it, press the “Stop” button nearby. When the bus reached your destination, the driver will open the door and you can get off the bus. No more tapping! I was confused when I first ride it haha, apparently for bus in London they charge flat rate everywhere! £1.5 for each ride everywhere.
There are many bike for rent in the city. We didn’t try it. But I saw one of the machine, and you can pay with bank card. To read more information about it, you can check out their website.
If you want to travel between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks, then you should try Emirates Air Line Cable Car. It is said to have a magnificent views over East London. We didn’t go to those areas so we didn’t have a chance to try it. If you want to read more about it, check here.
London is a nice city to walk around. If you plan to walk far, make sure to wear a comfortable shoes and don’t bring too many stuff on your bag. I walked so much there that my feet sore… On 2nd day of my stay, my friend was visiting me from another city, so we walked around the city (rode train in between). I checked my step counter that day and it was 28.942 steps! But I really enjoyed it 🙂
How to pay on Self Check Out in supermarket?
This is for just in case you go to local Supermarket like we did 🙂
I never done this before. Coming from Vietnam and Indonesia, I haven’t seen something like this. But I guess there is always something to learn when you travel!
We were at Sainsburry’s local supermarket, buying some snacks. We didn’t bring any bag, so we just clicked on “Start”. Then we scanned our item one by one. Each time we finished with scan, we needed to put the item on the metal area. After we finished scanning all of them, the machine asked if we want a plastic bag for 5 pences. We didn’t take it because it was still manageable with my bag. And finally we had to pay for it. This machine accept every payment; coins, bank notes, cards. Very convenient!
How to get tax refund in London?
No, I’m not gonna buy anything in London. Really?? Even I didn’t think that! I knew I’m gonna buy something there. Therefor I need to know about the process for tax refund. What you should know about tax refund in London are : 1) not all shops participating in this scheme; 2) different shop will have different minimum purchase condition. Make sure to ask the shop attendant about this. I had an experience where the shop attendant didn’t know the minimum purchase condition but she gave me tax refund form. It was more than £100 though.
These are the step by step on how to claim tax refund : 1) Ask for tax refund / tax free form; 2) The shop will need to put signature and stamp on it, so make sure your form has it; 3) Before leaving to airport, fill in the details on form and sign it; 4) At the airport, go to tax refund claim BEFORE checking-in your luggage. If your total purchase is more than £5000, then you can do it after check in (that was what I understood from the officer, but better check it again here); 5) Present your goods to the officer and they will check all the form, passport and boarding pass; 6) They will pay you the tax minus administration fee in currency other than GBP. I chose USD instead.
If you want to get your tax refund, make sure to arrive at airport at least 3 hours before your flight.
How much should I give for a tip?
Tipping is unusual for me, that is why I liked it in Netherlands when they don’t normally give a tip 😀 In London, tipping is ‘optional’. Most restaurants put it as service charge included on bill (some put it as ‘optional’ under your total spending, which is a bit awkward if you don’t pay that..). Few of others don’t put it on the bill but it will be at the machine when you pay with card, then you can choose how much you want to add as a tip for them. The average service charge in London is 12.5%. It is quite high, but overall their services were great.
Should I buy ticket (shows, trains, attractions) on the spot or online?
Online. Plan your trip and find everything on internet, from musical shows, train tickets to another city, madame tussauds, warner bros studio, etc. Everything is better to do via online booking. Some tourist attractions need you to queue to buy their ticket. Come early if needed.
What if I have another question that is not listed here?
Then ask the receptionist at your hotel or Google 😀 I put everything that I know and experienced here. Hopefully this can help you and your upcoming trip.
Most importantly, enjoy the city! Explore, Experience.
Extra tips! If you’re planning to take picture of Tower Bridge, do it in the afternoon before sunset. If you joined a tour though, it will be tricky since they usually go to that area in the morning to visit Tower of London.
Extra tips #2! If you want to take picture of Tower Bridge on sunrise, you can do it at London Bridge. The view will be Tower Bridge with sun in the background.
I will post about places to go in London soon! Until then, ciao!