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UK travel, cheap travel to England, cheap travel to United Kingdom
By: Leslie Farnsworth (justin) 2012.01.06

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(and Bristol calling, and Cardiff calling, and Liverpool calling...)


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Europeans wrinkle their noses at Americans on whistle-stop tours: "How can they honestly say they've been to a country when they only stay in one city for a day or two?" However, these wrinkle-noses have a point. Even if you plan to squeeze a dozen countries in your two-week vacation next year, why not try exploring one country in depth this summer, expanding your knowledge of the region and its culture far beyond the major sites?

The United Kingdom travel is a primo spot for such exploration. In other countries, venturing off the well-beaten path requires some knowledge of the language if you're planning to learn much about the region beyond simple observation. Although regions of the UK do preserve their ancestral language, such as Wales, in all cases they speak English as well (though you might not always recognize it).

So here's one solution: check out London and its immediate environs for a week or two. It's easy to bob around London for a few days before running off to Paris, or Munich, or any other place in Europe, but truly understanding a country requires a more in-depth look. Using London as a base, get out to see Beatles kitsch in Liverpool, catch a Man U. match in Manchester, or take on Cardiff's castle.

London herself is a truly astounding city. Even if you've been there before, you can have an entirely different experience the next time around. London is well known for its major tourist attractions, such as Buckingham Palace, Westminister Abbey and Big Ben, but digging one level deeper into this complex city is more rewarding. Samuel Johnson wasn't nuts when he said that "(a) man who is tired of London is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." Even better: all that life can afford is easily accessible via London's comprehensive transit system. A London Travelcard, purchasable from any train or subway station, provides access to every possible public transportation link. Travelcards can be purchased by the day or by the week (or by the month or year, if you're planning a really long vacation). Weekly Travelcards require a London Transit photo ID card, which require a passport-sized photo.

Outside London, transportation is less extensive, but the smaller towns surrounding London can easily be explored on foot. In fact, they should be traveled on foot, as you'll see and experience more while walking.

Getting to these surrounding towns is no trouble. The UK has a sweeping train and bus system that can take you anywhere for reasonable rates. And, unlike in the United States, long-distance trains and buses (and their stations) are usually reliable and safe; they're the preferred mode of travel for most Europeans. Train tickets can be purchased at the station of departure; you can find out which station you'll depart from by asking any transit employee. Bus tickets can be purchased at any bus station at any date prior to or on departure; a good bus station to head for is Victoria Coach Station, as it handles pretty much every possible bus line and gives you innumerable options.

As for lodgings, the UK is overflowing with hostel options, most of which offer a range of rooms and prices. Few destinations within the UK are without at least two. However, rooms book quickly, especially in the summer months, so plan ahead. A good place to start browsing is on the Youth Hostels Association's Web site, at

If you want a break from hostels, there are bed and breakfast options for almost every budget. If you must have a room in the center of London, you can expect to pay around 70 pounds a night, but bed and breakfasts a little further out are likely to be nicer and cheaper: The White House in the Crystal Palace neighborhood costs 23 pounds a night for a single with a refrigerator and some cooking facilities, and a huge, delicious breakfast comes with the room. Bed and breakfasts in towns outside of London are generally much cheaper overall, no matter where in the city you choose to hole up. Expect to pay half the price you'd pay in London for most bed and breakfasts in many of the UK's smaller cities.

Speaking of breakfast: what about food? Unfortunately, the rumors about most British food are true: it's awful. And, like everything else, it isn't cheap. To skirt this problem, you can pop into grocery stores and independent markets for food many have ready-made food options that are good and much cheaper than a sit-down meal; a hunk of bread with cheese and ham can take you far. Take these meals to any of the many beautiful parks in any town – the British love their well manicured green spaces for a nice picnic.

Yet there are cheap restaurants. They won't be what you'd consider cheap for home, but they're a bargain by UK standards, and a person needs to sit down to a pampered meal every once and a while. Outside London, little cafes and diners offer lunches for a decent price, though it's likely to be staid English fare, such as steak and kidney pie. In London, options abound. Wander around a little looking for places off the tourist path. Also, London's Indian food is as heavenly as you can get outside India itself, and you shouldn't miss tasting it while in town. Chutneys, off the Warren Street Tube stop on Drummond Street, is a vegetarian Indian food restaurant that's cheap and with a curry to die for. For lunch on weekdays and Saturdays, and for all day on Sunday, Chutneys offers a huge, all-you-can-eat buffet for less than five pounds. That's cheaper than any Indian buffet I've seen, and it's a great deal tastier and more extensive, too.

You can't really go too wrong on any choice you make in the a href="/mod-Pagesetter-viewpub-tid-10002-pid-490.html">UK whether on accommodations or food, clubs or museums. The UK is familiar enough as not to be frightening to even the novice traveler, so don't over-schedule yourself; go with the flow and allow for some surprise decisions. You'll see more that way and have a better story to show for it when you get home. And if you get lost or want to get a local's scoop on something to do? Ask anyone around-they'll speak English.

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