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Geek Travel To London From the US — Tips? 1095

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

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  • Have a great trip! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pete (big-pete) ( 253496 ) * <> 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.

  • 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. []

  • by AaronLawrence ( 600990 ) * on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:02AM (#30211626)

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

  • by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@fredsh o m> 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.

  • by hairyfish ( 1653411 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @07:53AM (#30212012)
    Actually, the right side is the wrong side. Back in the day is was custom to ride your horse on the left, as most people are right handed and this allowed easy access to you sword should you encounter any nasty highway-men on your travels. During the French revolution, the socialists decided that riding left was a sign of imperialist bourgeoisie so decided that riding on the right was how the new republicans (real republicans - not the phoney US kind) would do it. So since then it evolved that the English her imperial colonies rode, then drove on the left, and French republican colonies rode, then drove, on the right.
  • Re:Remember... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LizardKing ( 5245 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:38AM (#30212320)
    Whether the rudeness reputation is deserved or not, it really has given all US tourists a bad name, and it's one that is going to be hard to get rid of. Part of the problem is how insular many people from the US are - it's a big country, with a big population and a lot going on. As a result, most Americans knowledge of the world beyond the US is gleaned from occasional news stories about generally negative events, or Hollywood/TV stereotypes. Take the foot and mouth outbreak in the UK from a few years back. My company had US colleagues refusing to come to the UK because they thought they were going to die from some strange disease, a bizarre notion that they got from the narrow view of events provided by US media.
  • 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 [] (place suitable for geeks) outside Southampton.

  • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:59AM (#30212462) Homepage

    ...visit the Falkirk Wheel [] 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 zzg ( 14390 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:09AM (#30212558)

    As many airplanes as you can shake a stick at. []

  • by bencollier ( 1156337 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:12AM (#30212584) Homepage
    G.O. is really stunning and worth visiting. Go in the afternoon, then take one of the fast boats up the Thames from there to Central London as the sun is setting. Really very excellent, but make sure you know the boat times in advance. Visit LMNT in Hackney ( - It's a crazy restaurant and you'll see a different part of London. You could have gone to White Mischief ( for some Steampunk goodness, but it looks like it's not on while you're there so how about The Horse Hospital ( Plenty of interest to see there. Don't bother with a laptop, there's too much else to be spending your time on.
  • Food advice. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:49AM (#30213612) Homepage

    I lived in England for two years. Skip traditional "English" food, it's bland and tedious unless you have strong feelings about boiled meat. The one exception is probably pub fish and chips; it's an authentic part of the experience and you don't want to miss that.

    Otherwise, stick to ethnic food; in London, you can usually eat the world within a few blocks. England was a nation that had to conquer an empire just to find a delicious meal. We'd hit Thai joints in Cambridge and London with an American Thai speaker; every time he'd open his mouth, the price would halve, and the portions and pepper heat would double. It was fantastic.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith