2012 Olympics: Tips for Traveling to London

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So you’re traveling to London for the Olympics? How nice for you.

If this is your first trip, you are in for a real treat. London is beautiful when it’s not raining. Good luck with that.

Here are my travel tips for the London 2012 Olympics.

  • Pack lightly. I am not joking — you should only bring a sensible backpack and a small suitcase. That’s it. Despite what Londoners will tell you, it’s not a very fashionable town. Everyone is ugly except for the Ukrainian models. Bring a rain poncho. Clean pants. You’ll be fine.
  • Get ready to walk. The tube is for suckers and people who can’t read maps. Also, parts of the London Underground will be closed. You’ll do better above ground.
  • Don’t take the tube from the airport. If you can avoid it, avoid it. Try the Heathrow Express or arrange for a car service. You can’t afford a car service? Yikes, how are you planning on eating and having fun London? It’s expensive — more expensive than New York City.
  • Understand your data plan before you go. Take advantage of secure and safe wifi spots. And remember that Starbucks is the refuge of the modern traveler.
  • Be ready to be underwhelmed. London hotel rooms are usually loud and never have enough towels. If you want luxury, go to Maui.
  • Stand on the right, walk on the left. We should do this in America.
  • Hold on to your handbag and wallet. I know this firsthand. You won’t listen to me just like I didn’t listen to other people who warned me. So have a back-up plan. Keep your passport and some cash in your hotel safe. Only carry one credit card when you’re out and about.
  • Afraid of being targeted by a terrorist? I wouldn’t worry about it, actually. But if you are scared, don’t smile. Don’t talk so loudly. Those are common American mannerisms. As a side note, people used to say that you could spot an American by his size. Now everybody is fat. Who says we’re not influential?
  • Be prepared to be hassled. On any given day, London is full of foreigners who don’t speak English. Those are just the British people. Poor service? Someone disrespects you? Welcome to multiculturalism and diversity, baby. It’s the Olympics.

And my top tips for first-time tourists in London are simple. Do all the royal and historical stuff, of course. I love the Royal Parks because they are free and good for pictures. If you’re in London for the Olympics, you’ll probably end up at Hyde Park. I always feed the birds at the lake near the outer ring road of Regent’s Park. Queen Mary’s rose garden will be lovely in July, too. And I like the pelicans at St. James Park. For the best view of London, you can skip the London Eye. I think it’s worth climbing the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I would skip the inside tour of Westminster Abbey, too. You can’t take pictures and my husband is still complaining about that.

Be safe. Have fun. Don’t die.

USA! USA! USA!

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