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Geek Travel To London From the US — Tips? 1095

Posted by timothy
from the see-the-largest-paired-bluetooth-devices dept.
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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Geek Travel To London From the US — Tips?

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  • dont overthink (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PizzaAnalogyGuy (1684610) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:30AM (#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.
    • Heathrow (Score:5, Funny)

      by da5idnetlimit.com (410908) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:50AM (#30211532) Journal

      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.

      • Re:Heathrow (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Z00L00K (682162) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:53AM (#30212426) Homepage

        Luggage is only lost at Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

        And pray to some deity that you don't have to be involved with Air France.

        That can make most other airlines seem friendly.

        But don't worry too much - it's the UK, not a third world country you are going too. Just bring a warm pajamas since not all hotels are up to winter standard. And expect the faucets in the sinks to be single faucets and only provide warm or cold water, not mixed temperate water.

        There are a lot of things that are a bit funny in England aside from the fact that they drive on the wrong side. But that's just making things more interesting.

        Don't worry about the food - it's far better than the rumor has it.

        Places to visit depends on where you go, but if you go south you can visit Winchester (old capital of England) and the Eling Tidal Mill [bedug.com] (place suitable for geeks) outside Southampton.

        • Re:Heathrow (Score:4, Funny)

          by Alinabi (464689) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:57AM (#30213720)
          What are you talking about? I fly Air France all the time and it is one of the best out there. Food is still free and quite good by airline standards, checked bags don't cost extra, and I never missed a connection because of them. I would pick them any time over Delta or American. Now, those are some nightmarish airlines, with some very rude crews. Also, when in England, if you ask someone for directions, keep in mind that, no matter how official they look, they will always give you two pieces of information, one of which is wrong.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AmiMoJo (196126)

          > Luggage is only lost at Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

          Be careful at the airport in general though. There are a lot of criminals picking on confused and jet-lagged easy targets who are trying to concentrate on all the signs rather than their bags.

          > And pray to some deity that you don't have to be involved with Air France.

          British Airways are not much better. Their staff have an unfortunate habit of going on strike at short notice, and BA will do fuck all to get you to your destination. A hotel for the night

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by frisket (149522)

      Region code? WTF is a region code in your wireless setup? I've lugged laptops over half the planet and never needed to reset anything to get wireless...

      Power cord is easily changed, or buy one of those multi-prong adapters. No new transformer charger should be needed: all laptops seem to be auto-voltage-sensing now. But yes, bring the lapdog. Internet cafes are all over London, but they're a hassle compared with having your own machine.

      Make sure the laptop is charged before both outward *and* return flights

      • Re:dont overthink (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jonbryce (703250) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:29AM (#30212268) Homepage

        Also, when you get to England, get a pay as you go HSDPA modem. It is much cheaper than using WiFi hotspots, and you get much better coverage.

    • NO LAPTOP (Score:3, Insightful)

      by K2tech (1685250)
      DO NOT TAKE YOUR LAPTOP I'm an IT manager with 15 years experience and work for a company with global operations and travel often. I was also in the USAF and traveled to Europe (primarily Germany) many times. That having been said, the laptop is more hassle than its worth. Unless you have a real-time business need, leave it behind. Its a hassle while traveling and you'll worry about it constantly not to mention the extra bag. Bring a camera and maybe a digital voice recorder or a movie camera. Enjoy a th
  • Have a great trip! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pete (big-pete) (253496) * <peter_endean@hotmail.com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:31AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shrike82 (1471633)
      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.
      • by legoburner (702695) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:49AM (#30211512) Homepage Journal
        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.
        • by Fred_A (10934) <fred.fredshome@org> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:38AM (#30211880) Homepage

          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.

          Coming from the US, he has probably seen enough large mammals in the aisles of his local supermarket to last him a lifetime.

          The Natural History Museum is great though. I remember all the little bats (engraved) at the top of the columns in one of the rooms. In the 19th (it looked late 19th), they still took the time to make nice buildings (we're lucky enough to have a lot in Paris as well, among lots of earlier and later ones).

          And regarding your trip. Depending on how long you stay there, if it's more than a week, try to find a neighbourhood pub (a real one preferably, not one of those modern things) and meet the locals. Pubs are an important part of the British social life. And don't ever order US beer. Try the local bitters, see if they have any local breweries, try anything you've never heard of. Beware, they are served warm by US standards (where any drink is served just above solidification temperature). Putting ice in your beer will be considered weird.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by TapeCutter (624760) *
            Yes, the buildings themselves are fascinating. Westminster blew me away and no geek should visit London without paying respects to Newton who is burried under it's floor. As others have mentioned the British museam is awsome and will easily cost you a full day. The Rossetta stone is just the tip of the iceberg, you cannot look at the greek/egyptian stonework and fail to be impressed with such skill and precision from bronze age and earlier tools. The hyroglyphs(sic) in particular look like they've been carv
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Fred_A (10934)

              Yes, the buildings themselves are fascinating. Westminster blew me away and no geek should visit London without paying respects to Newton who is burried under it's floor. As others have mentioned the British museam is awsome and will easily cost you a full day. The Rossetta stone is just the tip of the iceberg, you cannot look at the greek/egyptian stonework and fail to be impressed with such skill and precision from bronze age and earlier tools. The hieroglyphs(fixed) in particular look like they've been carved into the red granite with a laser beam.

              Coming back from Egypt (again) I have to say that it is indeed very fascinating (not only because the Christians pretty much stole most ideas from their pantheon). They started lots of ideas in numerous domains that others later built upon. It's a very interesting civilisation. The main collections are at the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum thanks to our pillaging of the colonies in the last centuries (and in Egypt of course, although it's much more of a mess there).

              In the field, there are still innu

          • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:58AM (#30212452)

            Try the local bitters, see if they have any local breweries, try anything you've never heard of.

            Amen to that. In fact try everything that sounds stupid or wierd. Our beers aren't called 'Bud Cool' or 'Rugged Macho' or anything like that, they have quirky names like 'Crop Circle', 'Granny wouldn't like it', or 'Piddle in the Hole'. Try them all, there are hundreds of different hop and malt combinations that make some of them similar to pils, but nicer, through to ones that look and taste like chocolate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by inkhorn (650877)

        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.

      • by djkitsch (576853) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:25AM (#30211792)

        ...but the Planetarium closed down a few years ago. It was turned into a "celebrity cinema" bit of Madame Tussauds, showing showbiz movies. Philistines.

        However, the Greenwich Observatory has their own, new planetarium - it's brand new, and right by the Greenwich Meridian:

        http://www.nmm.ac.uk/visit/planetarium-shows/ [nmm.ac.uk]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I agree about the Science Museum, but I think you'll find the planetarium a disappointment - they've shut down! Instead, consider a visit to Greenwich which *does* have a working planetarium.

        Also - don't bother with the London Eye - it's very expensive and mind crushingly dull.

        Since you are in London for 2 weeks, consider a trip to Oxford or Cambridge, both are possible as day trips. Cambridge has a great little museum of scientific equipment that I can highly recommend. (http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/whippl

    • by Jojoba86 (1496883) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:41AM (#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.
      • 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!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AaronLawrence (600990) *

        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.

      • by xorsyst (1279232) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:55AM (#30212034) Journal

        Get up to Bletchley Park, home of the UK WW2 code breaking effort. And Oxford is good too (way better than Cambridge, and cheaper to get to).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Malc (1751)

          Yeah, there are two bus services to Oxford who both run 24 hours per day, often 3x per hour. I think they have free wireless too. I prefer Cambridge though as tourist. Ugh: all the hordes of visiting school children and other tourists around Carfax is enough to put anybody off Oxford. At least it's close to Blenheim Palace and the quaint village of Woodstock.

          Is Bletchley Park easy to get to from London using public transport?

    • 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.

    • by Alphager (957739) <florian...haas@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:08AM (#30211672) Homepage Journal
      I would also recommend the Imperial War Museum [iwm.org.uk] if you are interested in ww1 and ww2.
      • by SMoynihan (1647997) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:23AM (#30211772)

        I second the Imperial War Museum. For bonus geek points, the building in which it is housed used to be Bedlam.

        Two other, slightly less well known places:

        Hunterian Museum at the royal college of surgeons - incredible array of medical curiosities.

        The Wallace Collection - Incredible array of art and armour housed in a splendidly ostentatious yet intimate townhouse. One Sunday a month, the rooms are lit candlelight.

        For a Cthulhuesque experience, you can trace the two halves of Babbage's Brain

        (*spoiler* one is in the science museum, the other the Hunterian)

    • by MoogMan (442253) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:34AM (#30211854)

      Take a four-way power strip as well as an international power adaptor, it's most useful for charging.

      UK is ~240V, so duoble check that your device chargers cover that range.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jacksonj04 (800021)

      Small but incredibly useful tip if you plan on travelling around London to see the sights and intend on using the tube (It's easier and in most cases faster than anything else):

      Get an Oyster Card [tfl.gov.uk] instead of buying individual or daily tickets. Cheaper fares, easier getting through the gates, and it works on busses as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Ironbridge [wikipedia.org] looks like a very interesting place to visit if you can spare the time outside London. Lots of early Industrial Revolution relics. Speaking as an Australian, there's no part of England that's too far away from London to visit - but your mileage may vary!

  • 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

  • asdf (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary.addres ... NosPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:37AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sockatume (732728)

      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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Amarantine (1100187) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:52AM (#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].
  • For starters... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:37AM (#30211408)

    Don't call it 'merry old England'.

  • Remember... (Score:5, Funny)

    by DiamondGeezer (872237) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:37AM (#30211410) Homepage
    ...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: (Score:3, Funny)

      or better yet, ask them what language they're speaking
      • by Nomen Publicus (1150725) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:52AM (#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.
    • by dintech (998802) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:49AM (#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: (Score:2, Funny)

      by rosbif (71236)

      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

    • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:21AM (#30212678)

      oh oh oh! I know this one... (but a little dated)

      Advice for tourists

      The Brits have peculiar words for many things. Money is referred to as "goolies" in slang, so you should for instance say "I'd love to come to the pub but I haven't got any goolies." "Quid" is the modern word for what was once called a "shilling" - the equivalent of seventeen cents American.

      If you are fond of someone, you should tell him he is a "great tosser" - he will be touched. The English are a notoriously tactile, demonstrative people, and if you want to fit in you should hold hands with your acquaintances and tossers when you walk down the street.

      Habits
      Ever since their Tory government wholeheartedly embraced full union with Europe, the Brits have been attempting to adopt certain continental customs, such as the large midday meal followed by a two or three hour siesta, which they call a "wank." As this is still a fairly new practice in Britain, it is not uncommon for people to oversleep (alarm clocks, alas, do not work there due to the magnetic pull from Greenwich). If you are late for supper, simply apologise and explain that you were having a wank - everyone will understand and forgive you.

      Universities
      University archives and manuscript collections are still governed by quaint mediaeval rules retained out of respect for tradition; hence patrons are expected to bring to the reading rooms their own ink-pots and a small knife for sharpening their quills. Observing these customs will signal to the librarians that you are "in the know"- one of the inner circles, as it were, for the rules are unwritten and not posted anywhere in the library. Likewise, it is customary to kiss the librarian on both cheeks when he/she brings a manuscript you've requested, a practice dating back to the reign of Henry VI.

      One of the most delightful ways to spend an afternoon in Oxford or Cambridge is gliding gently down the river in one of their flat-bottomed boats, which you propel using a long pole. This is known as "cottaging". Many of the boats (called "yer-i-nals") are privately owned by the colleges, but there are some places that rent them to the public by the hour. Just tell a professor or policeman that you are interested in doing some cottaging and would like to know where the public yerinals are. The poles must be treated with vegetable oil to protect them from the water, so it's a good idea to buy a can of Mazola and have it on you when you ask directions to the yerinals. That way people will know you are an experienced cottager.

      Food
      British cuisine enjoys a well deserved reputation as the most sublime gastronomic pleasure available to man. Thanks to today's robust dollar, the American traveller can easily afford to dine out several times a week (rest assured that a British meal is worth interrupting your afternoon wank for).

      Few foreigners are aware that there are several grades of meat in the UK. The best cuts of meat, like the best bottles of gin, bear Her Majesty's seal, called the British Stamp of Excellence (BSE). When you go to a fine restaurant, tell your waiter you want BSE beef and won't settle for anything less. If he balks at your request, custom dictates that you jerk your head imperiously back and forth while rolling your eyes to show him who is boss. Once the waiter realizes you are a person of discriminating taste, he may offer to let you peruse the restaurant's list of exquisite British wines. If he does not, you should order one anyway. The best wine grapes grow on the steep, chalky hillsides of Yorkshire and East Anglia-try an Ely '84 or Ripon '88 for a rare treat indeed. When the bill for your meal comes it will show a suggested amount. Pay whatever you think is fair, unless you plan to dine there again, in which case you should simply walk out; the restaurant host will understand that he should run a tab for you.

      Transportation
      Public taxis are subsidized by the Her Majesty's Government. A taxi ride in London

  • by GuerillaRadio (818889) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:38AM (#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!

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:40AM (#30211440) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Bletchley Park (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clap_hands (320732) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:42AM (#30211458) Homepage

    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]

  • by strangemachinex (1659711) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:42AM (#30211462)
    Leave the computer at home.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Whalou (721698)
      Last time I went to France I bought a portable hard drive with an integrated media card reader to backup my pictures. The one I got was from Wolverine Data and it worked well. Except for the lack of claws.

      Here's a link to their product page [serverlab.net]
  • 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 a

    • by st0nes (1120305)

      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.

    • by raju1kabir (251972) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:47AM (#30211968) Homepage

      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.).

      I go the other way. After making 10-20 international trips per year I was fed up with dealing with all the plugs.

      I picked one plug type to standardise on for all the devices I travel with. I went with the US earthed type because they're the most compact and they don't fall out of the sockets. My laptop, phone charger, etc., all have that plug (and I have a power strip of that type at my desk at home).

      Then I carry a little 3-way cube (one plug and three sockets). It's tiny, 2.5cm per side plus the pluggy bits sticking out. picture here [redhillgeneralstore.com]

      Then I bring the appropriate single-purpose adapter for the countr(ies) I'll be visiting. I hate the multi-plug ones (the kinds with slidey bits to change which plug they go into) because they always fall apart. The single-purpose ones last for years. I use WonPro WA-II series, which have no moving parts, provide proper earthing when possible, and accept any type of plug. pictures here [wonpro.com]. They cost about $3 each at shops in town and are indestructible.

      I plug my stuff into the cube, the cube into the country-specific one, and the country-specific one into the wall. This approach is more compact, more reliable, and way cheaper than the alternatives. From one outlet (often all you'll get in a hotel), I get 3 US-style outlets and one universal outlet.

  • by ultrasound (472511) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:46AM (#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]
  • 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 l

  • by Polkyb (732262) *
    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.
  • by Malc (1751) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @06:53AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gclef (96311)

      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 w

  • 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?

  • 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 p
  • Museums (Score:3, Informative)

    by zoeblade (600058) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:07AM (#30211656) Homepage

    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 (Score:5, Informative)

    by jolyonr (560227) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:08AM (#30211662) Homepage

    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!

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:08AM (#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.
  • Where to start (Score:3, Informative)

    by Karem Lore (649920) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:17AM (#30211736)

    You have:

    London Tate Gallery
    British Museum
    British Library
    British Science Museum
    British Natural History Museum
    London Dungeons
    London Eye
    London Aquarium
    Madame Tussauds
    SOHO (just roaming around late at night)
    Wembley Stadium for a match or gig if one is on.
    River Thames Boat trip.
    The Tower of London
    Visit the Houses of Parliament
    Shakespear Globe tour
    Royal Opera House
    National Gallery
    National Maritime Museum

    The list goes on: http://www.visitlondon.com/ [visitlondon.com]

    Just a word of advice, if you are going for 2 weeks and are relying on the underground, look into getting an Oyster card. This will save you money on using the tube: https://oyster.tfl.gov.uk/oyster/entry.do [tfl.gov.uk]

  • Remember security (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:34AM (#30211856)
    If you elect to not take your laptop so that you are typing passwords in on someone else's computer, make sure to change all your passwords before you go. When you get back, change them back. You never know if there is a keylogger or other such things, and so make sure to treat every computer as hostile.
  • by ra1stlin (686227) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:37AM (#30211868)

    As far as I know the channels that change between regions in Wireless cards are the extremes, so you don’t have to have problems to connect to the majority of wireless Access points without changing anything.

    For electricity voltage you have a change to take into account, in the USA electricity is 110-120 volts 60Hz, in Europe it is 220 volts 50Hz, so you will need a charger that supports dual voltage or one specific for European electricity.

    My advice, take your laptop with you if you plan to connect to internet every day, it is practically sure the hotel you stay on will have Wireless for clients, or at least you can find hotspots all over London.

    Things to do in London (tourist mode ON)

    • Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
    • Go to South Bank, here you can see the London Eye, Tate Modern, The Globe Theatre
    • Visit some street markets. The most popular are Camden Market and Portobello Market, following closely by Greenwich Market.
    • Visit Westminster Abbey
    • Visit the Tower of London
    • Visit St Paul’s Cathedral
    • Visit the Tate modern and the National Galleries
    • Visit the British Museum and the Natural History Museum

    NOTES for tourists:

    In England the cars travel in the left lane, remember this when you cross a street

    In England the subway arrives from right to left, not form left to right.

    The average temperature on December is 4C (39F) so Wrap up warm

    London is a city with a lot of places to go, so take your time to search de web and find the ones that are interesting for you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LizardKing (5245)

      In England the subway arrives from right to left, not form left to right.

      There's no fixed rule. On my daily commute, the Jubilee line train arrives from the right at Finchley Road, and from the left at Londonbridge. Your "things to do" list is spot on, but it's also worth pointing out that the museums are free entry.

  • Netbook (Score:3, Insightful)

    by barzok (26681) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:45AM (#30211950)

    If you must take a computer with you, get a Netbook on a Black Friday sale deal and just take that. Don't risk your expensive laptop with lots of personal data on it.

    I don't see a need to take one at all, aside from backing up photos from your camera, watching movies, and maybe checking in with family back home. You're on vacation - unplug!

  • by twoshortplanks (124523) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:58AM (#30212056) Homepage
    You can buy a pay as you go phone at the airport or on any London high street. A cheap model shouldn't cost you more than 20 pounds. This solves the problem of a) your phone not working here because you don't have roaming b) People not being willing to call you back because you've only got a US number when you roam c) Stupidly high roaming charges.
  • Take the Eurostar (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mad flyer (589291) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:06AM (#30212106)

    And also spend a day or two in Paris. It's a quick and cheap ride.

  • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:10AM (#30212144) Homepage

    Take your laptop. Make sure your hotel has WiFi. Use the WiFi without changing the settings and without fear; the US uses a couple of extra radio frequencies that the UK doesn't, but since all the access points / routers will be British, your laptop will only lock on to the British frequencies, so it isn't a real issue. You absolutely will not get hassle for this.

    Forget internet kiosks. They're as crappy in the UK as they are everywhere else in the world. Even being quaintly retro-fitted into a traditional red phone box with an innovative stainless steel vandal-proof trackball doesn't detract from the universal crappiness of internet kiosks in general. If you absolutely must, use a proper Internet cafe, but even so you'll be better off with your own laptop and free WiFi at a normal cafe. Lots and lots of cafes offer free WiFi. You can also get pay-for WiFi at many pubs, and those which are part of the British Telecom BT Openzone [btopenzone.com] network will allow you to carry over WiFi credit from pub to another pub.

    Take only one British plug adaptor (you can buy them at the airport) but take a multi-way gang lead. That way you can plug multiple American electronic devices into one British socket. Hotels the world over have a shortage of sockets, this is no different in the UK, so make the most of one socket rather than buying converters for several.

    Make sure your cell phone is compatible with GSM/3G/UTMS and that your cellular provider is aware that you are travelling to the UK.

    The British Museum is pretty good, albiet small, and offers a lot which American museums don't. Bear in mind that the Rosetta Stone is not as large as you might imagine. The Science Museum covers pretty much the same things as other science museums in other capital cities around the world, it's good but not particularly different from what you have back in the US, unless you desperately, desperately want to see a working version of Babbage's 250-year-old mechanical computer. If you want a second museum day, consider the Victoria and Albert museum which has lots of steampunk and design things.

    If you have only one day out of London, visit Bletchley Park [bletchleypark.org.uk], the WWII codebreaking base with lots of old computers. You can catch a train from Euston station, takes about 45 mins. If you have a second day out, visit Oxford [visitoxford.org], the quaint picturesque university city with Cotswold stone buildings and lots of really distinctive museums. You can catch a train from Paddington station, takes about an hour. Neither Bletchley nor Oxford train station are in the middle of where you want to be (it's difficult to plan infrastructure in towns built a thousand years ago), so expect some walking.

    Absolutely do not hire a car. Firstly, the steering wheel and handbrake will be on the wrong side of the car, secondly it's expensive, thirdly the roads are significantly more crowded and more wiggly than you are used to, and fourthly we have lots and lots of roundabouts which are entirely different to four-way stops in ways which you can probably not even imagine.

    Taxis are expensive. Use the plentiful and frequent underground (subway train) service, buy an all-day or all-week pass. This pass will also cover you for the busses.

    Get the London Popout Map [amazon.com]. This covers the main pedestrian areas, underground map and bus routes in a very compact form, slips easily into a small pocket and uses a very geeky, very neat origami folding method which means you can quickly and discretely open it in a confined space, without looking like a potential mugging victim.

    Get an Underground Overground tube map. You can buy these from dispensers on the underground platforms. They show the actual physical route and actual physical distances the tube trains take; the traditional symbolic map doesn't demonstrate the real distances between stops. You

  • British Library (Score:5, Informative)

    by macklin01 (760841) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:13AM (#30212160) Homepage

    Go see the British Library. It's free, and they have a great collection of illuminated manuscripts [british-library.uk], Da Vinci sketches, etc. My wife and I really enjoyed it, as it's a well-hidden gem. Really enjoyed seeing a copy of the Magna Carta [www.bl.uk].

  • by OneSmartFellow (716217) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:56AM (#30212440)
    I'd stay long enough to change planes and head for someplace nice. Try a cheap flight to Malta, or Cyprus. Life's too short to be in England in the winter.
  • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:59AM (#30212462) Homepage

    ...visit the Falkirk Wheel [thefalkirkwheel.co.uk] in Sterling, Scotland. It's quite a feat of engineering, and thanks to Archimedes' principle, it takes very little power to turn it since the two boat slips always weight exactly the same regardless if one has a huge boat and the other is empty!

    Of course Edinburgh and Inverness are beautiful in their own right, so a jaunt through Scotland wouldn't hurt.

  • by thaig (415462) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:02AM (#30212490) Homepage

    The Science Museum gets my top vote - I love it. You can see Babbage's difference engine, for example, or the NeXT cube that the WWW was born on.

    If you can afford a day then get on a train to Cambridge - there is a bus from there to the Duxford Imperial War Museum. There are a lot of wonderful aircraft (e.g. see the TSR2) and there is a land warfare exhibition too which is enormous. It's a lot of travelling but I loved it.

    There is a very good RAF museum that's closer at Hendon which is good if you can't make the longer trip.

    At Greenwich (gren-idge) you can see the observatory at 0 degrees longitude. The main geek interest here is seeing how the longitude problem was solved - I thought it was a wonderful story with a great moral for computer scientists and engineers about complexity.

    The Imperial War Museum in Lambeth is also pretty good.

    But it's worth catching a play or some music because those are the things which are best here.

  • by zzg (14390) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:09AM (#30212558)

    As many airplanes as you can shake a stick at.

    http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london/index.cfm [rafmuseum.org.uk]

  • by Rufty (37223) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:18AM (#30212636) Homepage
    Remember, English food is bland, so if you get "pub lunch" you will need to cover everything with lots of English mustard. Better to go for some Indian meals, but even there Englishness has blanded everything down. Ask for a "Vindaloo" or better yet a "Bangalore Phal" and make sure you get it extra spicy. As for drink, there are parts of England that make a speciality out of cider (Sumerset and Herefordshire in particular) but anything called "scrumpy" (more natural, unprocessed cider) is fun for a jug or two.
  • My tips (Score:4, Informative)

    by rpjs (126615) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:25AM (#30212714)

    * Get yourself an Oyster Card [oystercard.com] - you can get one from the tube stations at Heathrow Airport and are valid on most public transport in London [tfl.gov.uk] including all Underground (tube) trains, all local (red) buses in London, some "overground" (i.e. not tube) trains (from 2nd Jan 2010 almost all trains in London will take it) and some river-boat services [tfl.gov.uk] (the river boats are not cheap but can be a great way to see the sights along the river). You have to pay a £3 deposit plus whatever credit you'll want to start with, but you can get that back plus any unused credit by surrending the card at a tube station when you leave.

    * If you're flying into Heathrow and you don't have too much luggage, then the tube to central London is by far the cheapest option. There are also two "overground" rail services, the non-stop Heathrow Express [heathrowexpress.com] (15 mins to central London) and the stops-at-local-stations Heathrow Connect [heathrowconnect.com] (25 mins to central London). Both are rather more expensive than the tube, the Express especially so, and neither take Oyster. There used to be an Airbus services from Heathrow to central London but that stopped a few years ago. National Express [nationalexpress.com] run some coach (long distance bus) services to/from central London that call at Heathrow but they will be the slowest option and you may need to book your tickets in advance.

    * If flying in to Gatwick, then your best choice is rail to London. There are two services: Gatwick Express [gatwickexpress.com] is a bit more expensive but faster and has more luggage space. Southern [southernrailway.com] is likely to be a bit cheaper and not quite as fast. Be aware that although the two services are run by the same company, tickets on one may not be valid on the other. Neither will take Oyster as Gatwick is well outside the city boundary of Greater London. In the unlikey event you fly into Stansted (which doesn't have many flights to/from North America) then the same applies to the Stansted Express [stanstedexpress.com] rail link. There are cheapish coach links from Gatwick [nationalexpress.com] and Stansted [terravision.eu] but they will be a lot slower.

    * Wherever you fly into, DON'T take a taxi into London unless you really need to and have LOTS of money! Having said that, if you're not sure how to get to a particular place, London cabbies have to spend several years learning "The Knowledge" [tfl.gov.uk] and will always be able to get you to where you want to go, for a price.

    * I second the motion to go to Bletchley Park [bletchleypark.org.uk]. This is outside of London but only about 45 minutes from Euston railway terminus by train. It is an absolute must see for any geek: not only does it have working replicas of the Turing "Bombe" and Colossus machines, but it has subsidiary museums [bletchleypark.org.uk] on site of computing and other technology.

    * Amberley Chalk Pits [amberleymuseum.co.uk] museum in Sussex might be of interest to you too, with displays of agricultural and industrial technology, transport and communications (TV and radio museums). It's about an hour and a half from Victoria railway terminus.

    * If you're interested in transport, then the London Transport museum [ltmuseum.co.uk] at Covent Garden in the centre of London is a must see.

    * If you do travel outside of London by train, then unless you're going long distance (more than a couple of hours from London) you won't need t

  • Bring a lot of money (Score:3, Informative)

    by neurovish (315867) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @02:46PM (#30216896)

    Not sure if anybody has mentioned this, but London is insanely expensive. Imagine New York pricing on everything, except multiply that by the current exchange rate ( 1gpb = 1.65), plus add in some VAT. Basically, if you run in an off license (british for kwikie mart it would seem) for a bottle of water, it will be about $4 for something non trendy. Also, don't expect your credit/debit card to work anywhere, all the cards over there have chips and vendors either don't want to use the mag stripe or don't even know that it is possible. Fortunately though, most ATMs will work (and your bank will probably charge you $3 each time you use one).

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