During our recent Round-the-World trip, we had a 12-hour layover in London en route to Cape Town, South Africa. I've visited London before but hubby hasn't, so instead of waiting all day in the airport, we decided to take the opportunity to explore the city. Here's what we did...
We prefer to use credit card when we travel and most places in London accepts international credit card. However, knowing that we will be visiting Borough Market and some vendors may not accept credit cards, we withdrew some cash (GBP) from the ATM machines in the airport. There are plenty of ATM machines in the airport and we concluded that ATM is the cheapest and most convenient option to obtain local currencies.
If you are able to check your bags all the way through to your final destination, then great! Unfortunately, we were not able to do so even though our flights were booked on one ticket (apparently because our layover was too long and we were switching airlines from United to South African Airways). Even though we only had one backpack each, we didn't want carry it all around the city so we decided to store it at the Excess Baggage counter at Heathrow airport. It costs £11 per item for 2-24 hours.
The cheapest option to get from Heathrow Airport to the city is getting either the Oyster card or the Off-peak Day Travel Card. The minimum cost for a pay-as-you-go Oyster card (not the visitor version) is £10 (£5 credit + £5 deposit), while the Off-peak Day Travel Card (Zone 1-6) costs £12.30. The costs would have been about the same for either option, but we opted for the Travel Card, as it allowed us to travel as often as we like on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and National Rail services. You can easily use cash or credit card to purchase these cards from the ticket machines at the Heathrow Underground station.
Getting to the city on the tube is extremely easy and it takes about 45-60 min. Heathrow airport is on the Piccadilly line. Just hop off wherever you want along the line to get to your destination or switch to a different line. We started our sightseeing at Hyde Park, so we got off at Hyde Park Corner station.
London is a very walkable city and you can easily cover most of the main attractions in London within a few hours. Our sightseeing route brought us through Hyde Park, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, Westminster Abbey, Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, London Eye, London Bridge, Borough Market, The Shard, and Tower Bridge. Scroll to the end for our detailed itinerary.
Borough market, London's oldest food market is also one of the most famous food markets in the world. Of course we can't miss checking it out. The market is touristy and food isn't cheap, but there is a wide variety of food and we tried the grilled cheese, cheese and olive stick, and duck confit sandwich.
Now that we've seen the sights and filled our stomachs, it's time to make our way back to the airport, refresh and relax before continuing our journey to South Africa! Follow along as we continue our journey around the world.
So how much in total did we spend to see London?
Call me crazy but I actually made a pretty detailed itinerary for our layover. =)