London is an extremely expensive place to visit and live, with visiting the cinema not being an exception - from the price of tickets to the price of food and drink. However, there's an Odeon Limitless Pass which allows those living in London and across the UK to see as many films as they like each month for less than a price of a two-course meal in a restaurant. More importantly, an Odeon Limitless Pass (Monthly) costs less than the price of two cinema tickets. Therefore, for those who love going to the cinema to see the newest films released, it can easily become expensive as cinema tickets can cost up to £15 per person.
There's two different versions of the Odeon Limitless Pass: Without Central London and With Central London. The main difference between the two would be that the Odeon Limitless Pass With Central London allows the user to see films in ODEON Luxe Leicester Square, ODEON Luxe Haymarket, Covent Garden, Tottenham Court Road, Camden as well as the rest of the cinemas across The UK. However, The Odeon Limitless Pass Without Central London excludes the cinemas mentioned above but allows users to visit any other cinema in The UK as much as they want. Regardless of the Odeon Limitless Pass the user has, they can receive 10% off selected food and drink purchased at these cinemas as well as exclusive preview screenings especially for Limitless members. Other benefits include 30% off at selected restaurants, including Frankie & Benny’s, Garfunkel’s, Chiquito, Coast to Coast, Joe’s Kitchen and Filling Station.
From July 2017 until July 2018 I had a Limitless Pass which was priced at £17.99 per month with a 12 month minimum contract period. Throughout this time I saw 50 films with regular trips to my local Odeon every week or at times seeing films twice a week since I used my Odeon Limitless Pass to my advantage. This should’ve come to £650 as the current ticket prices are on average £13 but I only paid £215.88 (£17.99 a month). A saving of £434.12 on tickets alone! When films such as Deadpool 2, IT, The Incredibles 2 and other popular titles came out, tickets were priced as much as £15. However, with an Odeon Limitless Pass I was able to make a return on my investment as soon as I saw one film per month at the cinema and then saving even more if I wanted to see another film during the same month.
The current price of an Odeon Limitless Pass as of September 2020 are:
Those that want an Annual Odeon Limitless Pass can save 5% off the total cost of their pass. Additionally, for those that want to make sure they can get their money's worth, they can simply deduct the cost of what a ticket would've cost them from the total of their Odeon Limitless Pass if they pay upfront.
More information regarding the Odeon Limitless Pass can be found by clicking here.
HMV was first introduced to London’s high streets in 1921 with the first store opened on Oxford Street. It was met with a wide array of excitement and popularity as people came to HMV to buy all forms of DVD’s, CD’s, vinyls and lots of different forms of merchandise. Even throughout recent years HMV has introduced events such as live band performances and meet and greets for those wanting to meet their favourite artists and bands. However, with such popularity in London it’s become a shock to see what once was bright lights and an entertainment hub to now cold and dreary closed stores. HMV had such a huge presence on Oxford Street but now all that remains of the entertainment giant resembles an abandoned shop which looks as if it came straight out of a horror movie.
Even though there are some HMV stores still open across London, there is a simple answer as to why stores across London and the UK were closed down - they were unprofitable. The Mirror reported that it’s always been a rocky road for HMV as they’ve fallen into administration twice throughout a period of 6 years with profits falling rapidly. The Mirror went on to report that unfortunately this has also led to nearly 500 people becoming redundant at the closure of over 25 stores across the UK. Such a notable change has shocked many as the HMV on Oxford Street was even given a blue plaque stating that it’s “The World’s Most Famous Music Store”, even playing a significant role in the career of The Beatles.
But with such popularity, why would such a popular and important store close? With the rise of digital downloading, both illegal and legal, from films to albums on platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music - there is simply no need for physical albums and DVD’s. Netflix and Amazon Prime have become leaders with thousands of films and box sets readily available for users for just a small fee per month - this fee being a lot smaller than the cost of one single DVD. For consumers this is a win-win situation as the cost of a DVD can be as much as £15 whereas on sites such as eBay and Amazon, these films can be bought for as little as £5 for a new version or even £1 for a used DVD. For example, Rocketman came out on DVD in late September and on HMV’s website it was listed for £12.99 however on eBay it was listed for £5. Frankly, HMV has become too expensive for the average consumer and when there’s other alternatives presented, it’s a no brainer situation that consumers would want to save money in an ever increasing world where saving money has become a priority.
Not only has the digital age been to blame for the closure of HMV stores across London and the UK, the rising business rates cost of physical retailers play an important role. According to The Independent, Desigual has become a new face of Oxford Street, with the rent being £700 per square ft which works out to be just over £1.2 million per year. The reason the rent is so expensive would be since the location of this specific store is categorised in Zone A, one in which has become one of the most expensive zones to set up shop in. According to Savills UK, Inglot agreed to a 10 year lease for their store which cost a total of £625,000 per year, with a presence in the West End being an important part of the brand’s identity and for the chance to further sales and from there profits. Not only do companies have to consider the ever climbing rent across London’s high streets but other factors involved including staff and the sales of the store itself. All of these factors come into play, with the rent being too expensive and low sales, which then give companies no choice but to make cuts to not only save the company but their overall profits.
A Merlin Pass, which is an annual pass which allows entry to over 30 attractions throughout the UK, is priced at £119 per person for a Merlin Standard Annual Pass. For those who want more than the standard benefits offered, the Merlin Pass also extends to a Merlin Premium Annual Pass which is priced at £159 per person. For this specific blog post, I’m going to focus on the Merlin Standard Annual Pass as it’s the most popular option for those wanting to experience the attractions across the UK throughout the year.
What Is Included?
Entry Into Over 30 Attractions Across The UK
Free admission to popular theme parks such as Alton Towers Resort, Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland. Additionally, visitors can also visit the London Eye, The London Dungeons and even see everything that SEA LIFE London has to offer. If you live outside of London then there are attractions such as Warwick Castle, The Edinburgh Dungeon and Madame Tussauds Blackpool.
Up To 20% Discount on Food, Beverage & Retail
Once inside these attractions the Merlin Pass will allow visitors to get benefits such as a discount on food, beverage and retail. As someone who previously held a Merlin Pass, there will always be instances where you will find yourself thirsty, hungry or both and as we all know food can be very expensive - 20% goes a long way. If you have children who have learnt that pester power will occasionally work then 20% off in the gift shops will make a souvenir not cost an arm and a leg.
Discounted Entry For Family & Friends
If you plan to visit any of the attractions that the Merlin Pass offers but are visiting with someone who hasn’t purchased the pass, then you’ll be able to get them into these attractions at a discounted rate. These discounts can be as big as 50% as well as each pass holder being able to use it up to five times for family and friends.
Although the Merlin Pass offers incredible value for those wanting to visit attractions across the UK, there are certain dates that members will be unable to use their pass during. For example, during the month of August visitors holding a Standard Pass will be unable to visit The London Dungeon, SEA LIFE London Aquarium, DreamWorks Tours Shrek’s Adventure! London, Madame Tussauds London, and The Coca-Cola London Eye. The same principle applies for Bank Holidays throughout the UK as well as specific dates leading up to Halloween - which prevents pass holders visiting Thorpe Park as there’s Fright Night Restrictions.
Price of Each Attraction
Prices are representative of buying tickets on the day as well as being correct as of July 2020. Attractions in London are highlighted in bold.
If you lived in London and visited all of the attractions at least once throughout the year then without a Merlin Pass then it would cost you £217.50 compared to if you were to buy tickets on the day. These six attractions have a ticket price that is more expensive than the Merlin Pass itself. However, it should be kept in consideration that if you were to book in advance then tickets can have discounts as big as 50%, such as Chessington World of Adventures offering tickets throughout the year for £25. Even though the Merlin Pass gives incredible benefits as it allows free entry into over 30 attractions across the UK it would be worth researching what you’d actually do and see. For example, if you want to visit Legoland and a few other attractions then it may be worth investing solely into the Legoland Annual Pass which is currently priced at £59 whereas one ticket on the day costs £60 - it’s a no brainer.
Overall, the Merlin Pass seems good in theory if you plan ahead - you can save yourself hundreds upon hundreds of pounds if you visit these attractions at least monthly. Unfortunately, the only downside I find to the Merlin Pass is that there is a restriction to when you can visit certain attractions throughout the year - especially during August, which ruins plans of those wanting to take their children to these attractions during the summer holidays. But then again, these attractions need to make money somehow and have found a way in which during the busiest period of the year, they can do so.
The National Health Service, or more commonly known as the NHS, is a public healthcare provider that works throughout the United Kingdom. For those who have access to NHS healthcare, they can receive free healthcare from hospitals and doctors with the only payment needed for prescriptions, which is currently priced at £9 for a single item. For someone who has a heavy dependence on the NHS, I am more than grateful for the access I have to free healthcare and access to the help that I need. It’s most noted that these differences are seen when travelling abroad to countries that do not provide free public healthcare. For example, when I travelled to New York I had to pay $150 to see a doctor and a further $80 for two sets of medication which only lasted for a week. If I needed a doctors appointment and two prescriptions then this would only set me back £18. However, many people abuse the services of the NHS simply as they do not know the other services that the NHS offers.
Even though this isn’t an NHS service specifically, self-diagnosis is something that I would recommend for those who have symptoms that they recognise for illnesses such as the common cold or a simple headache. For those wondering, I have seen someone come to Urgent Care since they had a nasty cold - simply keep on taking paracetamol and carrying on some home remedies. Then make the decision to visit a doctor if it doesn’t shift within the next few weeks instead of using time and resources at Urgent Care. Additionally, if you bought paracetamol as a prescription then you would be charged £9 whereas paracetamol and cold/flu tablets cost less than £2 for both.
The first level of the NHS would be a pharmacy which can be either used to pick up a prescription or gain advice to a specific illness or ailment. These pharmacists can give advice as to what tablets to take with specific illnesses or what you’re allowed to take if you’re already on certain tablets. These pharmacists can recommend certain products for you, which there is no need to buy there, since it may be found cheaper in supermarkets or discount stores (as long as you have the name of the item or a picture which you can reference). Even when I cut my head open, my first stop was visiting a pharmacy to get a quick check over before then being recommended to go to Urgent Care as the cut seemed quite deep and it may need stitches.
The next level of the NHS would be seeing a GP through visiting a surgery, which there are hundreds across London and the surrounding areas. An appointment can either be made my phoning up early in the morning or queuing up outside before the surgery opens or booking an appointment in advance. However, it should be noted that appointments are hard to come by nowadays and some surgeries don’t accept appointments in advance and make some patients phone up on the day. Unfortunately, this can be one of the reasons as to why people turn to Urgent Care & A&E for simple illnesses such as the common cold or an ongoing headache. However, if you get a doctor’s appointment then be warned that these appointments only last 10-15 minutes and in some cases you may need to write down what you want to talk about (just to make sure you get the answer you’re looking for).
Urgent Care or a Walk-In Centre is the next level of the NHS which is used for those who cannot access a doctors appointment and in a sense need urgent care. Urgent care offers a service which is open a lot longer than surgeries but they’re not open 24/7 like A&E would be. Illnesses that can be treated at Urgent Care would be sprains, emergency contraception, cuts and grazes as well as ear and throat infections to name a few. A full list of what can be treated can be found by clicking here. Although, in some instances you may be turned away from Urgent Care if they’re closing soon and there’s a lot of patients that need to be seen. In Urgent Care, there is not a first-come-first-served basis, once you state your illness the receptionist will prioritise patients who need care above others. Moreover, this has led me waiting over 5 hours in Urgent Care when I had my cut my head open and was referred from a pharmacy.
A&E is one of the highest forms of NHS services in relation to going there if your illness needs immediate attention and care from doctors and nurses. For example, when I was unable to walk, I constantly suffered pain when I was breathing, I made my way to A&E and was diagnosed with a terrible kidney infection. From there, I was told that I would have my blood taken, a urine test done and from there I would be put on an IV Drip which would also lower my heart rate as it was at 120 beats per minute. Either way, my wait in A&E was very short since in my instance, it was a very serious condition and needed urgent treatment. However, I’ve been to A&E in the past where I’ve had to wait 5 hours to be seen, which once again depends on the time of day, the number of doctors and nurses as well as the amount of patients needing to be seen during that time period. A&E is a place where patients can be assessed and dismissed or be kept in hospital for more treatment and tests to be run.
Another form of treatment from the NHS would be the NHS 111 service and the NHS 999 service. The NHS 111 service is for those who need medical advice which can either be given online or through the phone. For example, when I had three panic attacks in one day and my body went into shock a family member called 111 to speak to someone who would be able to advise her on what to do from home (self-care advice). Other services that NHS 111 can offer would be connecting patients with a GP service, a nurse or a pharmacy as well as being told what medicine to take. However, the NHS 999 service is to be used in emergencies since it would directly put you in contact with a call handler who will possibly send out a response unit. In most cases this will be an ambulance or rapid response vehicle for those suffering illnesses such as experiencing symptoms related to a stroke, chest pain, uncontrollable bleeding or serious head injuries.
More information regarding NHS Services can be found here:
Whether you’re moving to the UK from abroad or you’re travelling from different parts of the UK to move to London, you’ll have heard that London is very expensive. These costs can differ depending on what part of London you’re living in as well as if you’re living in university accommodation, a house or a flat. There are a lot of different opinions as to how much living costs will be, which then again depend on the lifestyle of the person and how much money they have to spare.
These prices are representative of a person renting their accommodation - I have researched numerous prices and have listed the median price. Although, each areas have their expensive areas and their inexpensive areas, to which rent prices can differ massively.
If you want to purchase a flat, house or any other form of accommodation outright whether it’s in North London or even South London then the median price will be over £600,000 - some houses can be bought for as cheap as £300,000 whereas newer buildings in areas such as Central London and East London can go into the millions.
Source: Transport for London, Eurostar & Trainline
Medication & Prescriptions
Groceries & Household Essentials
There are hundreds of different supermarkets and shops that sell food - from markets to chain supermarkets, each offers their own products and branded products at a range of prices. Supermarkets such as Tesco and Lidl are known for being relatively inexpensive whereas supermarkets such as M&S and Sainsbury’s are a little more expensive for the higher quality provided.
London has hundreds upon hundreds of different activities to do - whether it’s rain or shine, there’s a wide range of activities with price tags that vary on where you visit and what you do. Each person has their own taste and preferences but regardless London is very expensive in this aspect.
London is renowned for its shops, from Oxford Street to Westfield Shopping Centre, there isn’t a shortage of shops to spend all of your money on clothing. Primark is known to be guilty of fast fashion with t-shirts selling for as little as £2 and jackets for little as £20. However, if you went into a shop such as H&M or Zara you can expect to pay as much as £20 for a t-shirt and £30 for a jumper, especially if they’re branded with a celebrity or TV show.
Getting from these airports into Central London is much simpler than it sounds and it's a lot cheaper than you think. There are various ways to get from London City, Stansted and Luton Airport into Central London which comes with different price tags but there are transport modes to suit everyone's needs. This blog post will focus on these modes of transport: using the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) & London Underground, trains, taxis and buses/coaches.
London City Airport
London City Airport is the only airport in London which makes it the closest airport to Central London. London City Airport offers both domestic and international flights - short haul and long haul flights too. However, it only has one single runway in the airport which only meant around 4.5 million passengers flew from this airport per year in 2017. Even though I’ve never flown from London City Airport, it’s one that I would consider if the prices were reasonable enough as well as the flight times suiting my needs.
More Information Can Be Found Here:
Stansted Airport is located 42 miles from Central London as it’s located in Essex. In 2017 nearly 26 million passengers travelled through Stansted Airport to over 140 direct destinations including Vienna, Budapest and Dubai. I’ve flown from Stansted once before, which only took a simple train ride to get there - making it both inexpensive and cost efficient. Additionally, as I travelled late at night there was more than enough options for me to find a place to rest as well as find somewhere to eat.
More Information Can Be Found Here:
Previously known as Luton International Airport, Luton Airport is located 28 miles from Central London. It’s been named the fifth busiest airport in the UK with nearly 17 million passengers travelling through the airport in 2018. Passengers admire Luton Airport for their services through airlines such as easyJet, Ryanair, TUI Airways and WizzAir for both domestic and international flights. Even though I’ve never flown from London City Airport, it’s one that I would consider if the prices were reasonable enough as well as the flight times suiting my needs.
More Information Can Be Found Here:
All prices are correct as of April 2020.
The Tutankhamun Exhibit, which is in residence at The Saatchi Gallery until 3 May 2020, has been highly advertised all over London for having 150 authentic pieces from Tutankhamun's Tomb as well as more than 60 of which are travelling outside of Egypt for the first time. As The Tutankhamun Exhibit has seen widespread popularity across various countries it found its primary popularity in Paris as it became France's most attended exhibition of all time with over 1.4 million visitors. Even though the Saatchi Gallery has closed due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) temporarily, it’s worth seeing whether The Tutankhamun Exhibit is worth the price, as it’s priced at £28 per ticket with reduced admission for children and students (with a valid form of student ID), under 16's and senior citizens over 65 are entitled to purchase concession tickets.
Throughout London there has been advertising all around the capital, from coffee cups to billboards, to then online adverts to an array of advertising from numerous influencers and bloggers. I’m sure that everyone in London has heard of The Tutankhamun Exhibit at The Saatchi Gallery, even if they’re unsure as to what this exhibit presents and holds. Either way, as it was advertised as one of the most unmissable events with authentic artefacts from Egypt coming to London, I made sure that I attended to see what all the hype was about and whether it lived up to the popularity I’d been seeing online. After booking up tickets with a friend, we first questioned whether £28 was too pricey for a simple exhibit that would last less than 2 hours as well as excluding transport costs and any gifts we’d like to buy afterwards. However, since we have a fascination with Ancient Egypt and wanted to see these 150 authentic pieces from Tutankhamun's Tomb before they were flown back to Egypt, we reluctantly bought tickets and selected our time slot from the various times listed. As we’ve both visited Paris together, we found this exhibit to be rather expensive in consideration that we were able to see The Mona Lisa and the rest of the artworks at The Louvre Museum for €17 which in turn proved to be much better value.
Upon arriving at The Saatchi Gallery it was simply unmissable as there were posters upon posters of the coffinette, which can easily be mistaken for the notable Death Mask, as they were surrounding the entrance. Even though this has been the prominent image around London to advertise the exhibit, it seems very deceiving since many people will think they’re seeing something very rare and special - which may then lead them into buying these extortionately priced tickets. However, we then presented our tickets and were told to queue to the left - a line in which stretched from the entrance of The Saatchi Gallery to the gates surrounding it. Even though we had already paid for tickets we were then made to queue up for another 20-30 minutes. Another queue then formed when visitors were asked to open their bags for them to be checked by security and then once inside there was another never ending queue for those who wanted to get a picture in front of a green backdrop. Even though we decided not to get a picture we were then made to stand another 10 minutes in a queue to actually enter the entrance to The Treasures Of The Golden Pharaoh. While waiting in line we were then asked if we’d like an audio guide, something I’d regularly get, except there was a small price tag of £6 that came along with it. As I’ve just paid £28 for a ticket, I thought that these audio guides should be included especially with the sheer popularity of the exhibit.
Once we finally made our way into the actual exhibit, visitors were put into a room, with staff allowing as many people as they could that fit, to watch an introductory video about Treasures Of The Golden Pharaoh which lasted only a few minutes which in retrospect I barely saw any of it since visitors tried to get the best view in the room by pushing to the front. Once this video finished visitors were ushered to the next room, with the next group of visitors being led into the room we had just been in. It seemed as if this exhibit followed the same structure as a revolving door, with the main goal to get people through as quickly as they could, which in retrospect seems that they have sold a large quantity of tickets to which they need to deliver their promises on. Even though there were certain themes for Treasures Of The Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery including Weapons, Gods, Inside the Burial Chamber and Discovering The Tomb, each room was as full as the next. Therefore, by the time we had moved through to one room, there was another group coming through who in turn tried to push and shove to get to the front of the artefacts, which of course were protected by glass exhibit cases.
On reflection, there was a range of different artefacts on display but once again I felt deceived when there were small items of jewellery that individually counted as one artefact. Furthermore, even though there were a range of artefacts on display, there were more images of artefacts rather than physical ones, once again taking away from the experience of the exhibit. Therefore, the 150 artefacts promised turned out to be a lot smaller and underwhelming than advertised. Moreover, even though the nature of the exhibit is quite professional in nature, it should be noted that a screaming child didn’t lighten the mood nor give me the focus that I was looking for on top of everything else. Additionally, I appreciated the fact that The Treasures Of The Golden Pharaoh is open to schools and colleges, but in retrospect they should’ve been given their own time slot since this added to the fact that there were enormous crowds with school children trying not to get separated from their group. Overall, when considering that there are 5,000 artefacts that were recovered with only 150 on display, this is a very small quantity with only 3% on display at The Saatchi Gallery.
After seeing all that the Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh Exhibit had to offer, we made our way through to the exit but first stopped at the gift shop. Even though I wasn’t overly keen on the exhibit itself, there were a range of beautifully decorated items that were handmade and from Egypt which were very moderately priced. On the other hand, there were items such as pencils and pens which were charged at £2 and £5 - with a simple design that outlines the name of the exhibit and an image too. The Official Catalogue was priced at £40, which in my opinion is expensive, but in consideration of the sheer size of the catalogue and the work that had been put into it - it may be worth a lot to those who are interested. After leaving, it was apparent that the most expensive exhibit in Britain was nowhere near worth the money paid, it’s a way to exploit people into seeing artefacts that they wouldn’t normally see. It’d be much better to simply watch a range of documentaries on the matter to gain further insight regarding the story and artefacts that Tutankhamun presents.
More information regarding Tutankhamun: Treasures Of The Golden Pharaoh can be found here:
The National Art Pass allows visitors to “See More. For Less” with entry to over 240 museums and galleries as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions included. The National Art Pass is priced at only £70 for the entire year as well as a discounted rate of £30 for those who are under 30. Passes are also available depending on whether you’d like a lifetime membership or a double lifetime membership but the price ranges into the thousands. Additionally, there’s an extra discount for those wishing to pay by Direct Debit as 25% of the original price will be taken off - leaving The National Art Pass at only £52.50 for an Individual Membership for a year. It gets even better with an Annual National Art Pass for people under 30, who choose to pay by direct debit, as it will come to the grand total of £33.75.
Not only does The National Art Pass allow visitors either free or discounted entry into museums and galleries but has additional benefits such as a guidebook to using your pass at over 700 venues. Benefits also include a subscription to Art Fund’s magazine which is said to have “insightful and exclusive features” which provides readers with interesting content and comments regarding art, artists, galleries as well as highlighting what The National Art Pass can offer readers of that month - any special exhibitions currently being held mostly. Another benefit would be the stream of emails that highlights any special offers as well as news regarding art across the UK.
To see whether The National Art Pass is worth it, I’m going to list every free entry venue as well as those that offer 50% off with the pass in London as different parts of the UK. All prices are correct as of February 2020.
Free Entry Venues
Apsley House - (Standard entry price £9)
The Brunel Museum - (Standard entry price £6)
Carlyle's House - (Standard entry price £7)
Chiswick House & Gardens - (Standard entry price £8)
The Courtauld Gallery - (Standard entry price £0)
Charles Dickens Museum - (Standard entry price £10)
Dulwich Picture Gallery - (Standard entry price £7)
Eltham Palace and Gardens - (Standard entry price £14)
The Fan Museum - (Standard entry price £4)
2 Willow Road - (Standard entry price £7)
Ham House and Garden - (Standard entry price £11)
Handel & Hendrix in London -(Standard entry price £10)
Horniman Museum and Gardens - (Standard entry price £0)
Household Cavalry Museum - (Standard entry price £8)
Jewish Museum London - (Standard entry price £9)
Keats House - (Standard entry price £7)
Kensington Palace - (Standard entry price £16)
Leighton House Museum - (Standard entry price £12)
Marble Hill House - (Standard entry price £7)
Osterley Park & House - (Standard entry price £11)
Ranger's House - The Wernher Collection - (Standard entry price £8)
The Foundling Museum - (Standard entry price £12)
Cartoon Museum - (Standard entry price £7)
Red House Bexleyheath - (Standard entry price £7)
Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) - (Standard entry price £1)
Heath Robinson Museum - (Standard entry price £6)
Altogether, there are 27 museums and galleries in London that offer free entry to those who hold The National Art Pass - even though there are two museums and galleries that are completely free to the general public - which then makes it 25. Altogether, if a pass holder visited every single free venue throughout the year, it would cost them £204. However, with the price of some venues as little as £1 or £4 it really does depend on what venues the person chooses to go to. For example, if they want to visit venues that cost £10 and above, it would be a no-brainer to get The National Art Pass as they could easily get their money back in less than 7 visits.
50% off Exhibitions
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Imperial War Museum
Museum of London
National Maritime Museum
National Portrait Gallery
Natural History Museum
Victoria & Albert (V&A)
Even though most of these museums are free, some exhibitions throughout the year are not currently free. For example, The British Library holds three exhibitions a year which require an entrance fee - for which those holding The National Art Pass they would be able to get a discounted price. For the price of The National Art Pass, it seems more worth would be gone into just visiting the museum and galleries themselves rather than paying for The National Art Pass to get 50% off of certain exhibitions that you may or may not be interested in.
Overall, The National Art Pass can be an opportunity for hundreds in savings if you plan to visit these museums and galleries as well as if you’re interested in the extra benefits such as a subscription to Art Quarterly and an email subscription. However, the downfall of this pass if the 50% off exhibitions as it still means that visitors would have to pay extra on top of the price they have paid for the pass. It would be worth doing your research into what exhibitions are currently being displayed as well as to how long they will be on display for. In most cases exhibitions can run as long as 6-7 months, allowing visitors to visit them in their own time rather than being rushed. For £33.75, which allows an annual pass for those under 30, the savings could be as much as £170 with just the free entry to venues regardless of whether or not they take advantage of the 50% off exhibitions.
More Information Regarding The National Art Pass Can Be Found By Clicking Here.
The O2 has been open for a little over 10 years but has seen thousands upon thousands of different events being held there, from comedians to performances on ice, The O2 has seen it all. However, with a capacity of 20,000 as well as numerous restaurants around The O2, it can become quite difficult when leaving The O2 as well as making sure that you don’t miss the last Tube of the night or the last bus of the night. Either way, after seeing an event at The O2 the last thing on your mind should be panicking as to how to get home.
After The Event
Whether you’re visiting The O2 to see your favourite comedian or your favourite singer, most events will finish between 10pm and 11pm. For example, when I saw Jack Whitehall at The O2 I was told that the event would finish no later than 10pm to which was accurate as the show finished at 9:50pm. Even though I was told that the show would finish no later than 10pm, I would still need to plan my route home as well as allowing time to exit The O2 as well as allowing time to get into the station and then waiting for the Tube.
There are a few options when you’re seeing an event at The O2. The first being that you can leave around 5-10 minutes before the event formally ends, in which the performers or artists thank everybody for coming and formally end the show. These people will beat the crowds and make a dash for the Tube, the taxi stand or the buses departing from North Greenwich. It should be noted that The Emirates Air Line does not operate past 9pm meaning it’s not a suitable form of transport for those leaving The O2 after an event. The next group of people will be the majority of people leaving The O2 just after the event has finished which leads to a sea of people flooding the exits of The O2. Unfortunately most will be stopped in their tracks by staff and security working there since they want to prevent overcrowding as a health and safety risk. The last group of people will be a small few who will go for something to eat and wait until the crowds have disappeared to make their way home through the various forms of transport that North Greenwich has to offer.
There are 8 different buses which depart from North Greenwich which takes passengers all across London, with various connections to The London Underground and other bus routes. The following buses depart from various stops outside of North Greenwich Station:
During the weekend, which is when most events are held at The O2, the final bus departing from North Greenwich for the 129 departs just after midnight which is very similar to other buses that don’t operate on a 24 hour basis. Even though these buses are very frequent, it’s advisable to wait until one or two buses pass since people will swarm onto it and try and fit as many people as they can onto it. Especially if you’ve had a drink, the last thing you’d want is having to stand squashed up onto a stranger that you recognise from the toilets at The O2.
North Greenwich is only part of the Jubilee Line but connects with stations such as Stratford, London Bridge, Waterloo and Westminster which means it’s perfect for those travelling across London from The O2. As mentioned before, the Tube is a popular option for those travelling home which leads to an influx of crowds travelling towards the station, which can lead to a queue to get into the station and then a queue while waiting for the actual Tube. Luckily, the barriers are open to prevent crowds pushing one another and therefore preventing more of a buildup up. However, this doesn’t mean that visitors should try and avoid paying their fare since at their final destination the barriers may be closed.
There are two directions as to which the Tube travels to: Eastbound and Westbound. Each of these routes have different stops and it would be advisable to check what direction you'd be travelling in to prevent going to the wrong platform and then having to go back upstairs and change. The Tubes are very frequent with ones arriving and departing every 2-5 minutes, which higher frequency during the peak of crowds departing from The O2. Another benefit of using The London Underground would be the times in which these services run: the last departure towards Stanmore leaves just past midnight as well as the last departure towards Stratford leaving just past 1am. However, if you’re travelling along other lines then it would be advisable to see what timetable it operates on as well as when the last Tube departs.
If you do find yourself using The London Underground and want to get a seat then the easiest option would be moving down the platform. By the time you walk to the end of the platform then you’ll find that a Tube will have arrived and most likely be empty with lots of seats. If you get onto the platform and run onto the first Tube you see, then chances are you’ll be regretting your decision within seconds of getting on. There’s always people either commuting to or from work as well as those travelling back from Central London so there’s no shortage of people if you’re worried about travelling back alone.
North Greenwich Station operates its own taxi ranks for London’s Black Taxis which are deemed to be the safest option for those wanting to travel home quickly and without fuss. However, these taxis are known to be rather expensive but after a night out, a licensed driver in a licensed taxi will ensure your safety throughout your journey until you get to your final destination. The taxi rank is next to North Greenwich Station and is accessible by walking through the station and taking a right to which you will see a sea of taxis lining up, waiting for visitors to The O2 to leave, to which there is no short supply.
If you prefer to book on the night the RoyalBorough Minicab operates an office next to the Indigo At The O2 which also operates a 24 hour service throughout London. It should be noted that RoyalBorough Minicab is the only Minicab service that operates at the O2 alongside Black Taxis - any other service claiming to be taxis could be fraudulent and put passengers and their safety in danger. If you’re getting into a taxi, regardless of whether it’s a Black Taxi or one provided by RoyalBorough Minicabs, you should always ask for ID and take a picture of the license plate to which you can send to a friend or a family member.
If you’re travelling to The O2 by means of private transport such as your own vehicle or a family/friend’s vehicle then there are a wide range of options for drivers. Firstly, if you want to pre-book in advance to avoid disappointment if the car park is full, this can be done up to 4 months in advance through the Internet. If you go through The O2’s Official Website then you will be taken to a page which outlines the different events and shows planned, to which you can select your event and pre-book parking from there. There are a wide array of different options in terms of vehicles such as Blue Badge, Coach, Valet Parking and MiniBus which all come with different price tags attached. The standard price for a parking space would be £18-20 which allows passengers to park there from 10am in Car Park 1 (which is designed specifically for those visiting The O2 for events).
However, for those wishing to visit The O2 for their wide array of entertainment, shopping and dining then there are designated spaces: Car Parks 2, 3 and 4, to which hourly tariffs apply. If you’re dropping off passengers or picking them up, then Car Park 1 allows a free service to do so - all you need to do is follow the signs.
More Information Can Be Found Here:
BBC News recently reported that fare dodgers throughout London have cost Transport for London, or more commonly known as TFL, over £100 million per year. Each year fare dodgers find different ways to avoid paying fares when travelling across buses, trains and throughout other forms of transport in London. However, in recent months there has been a crackdown on those thinking they can avoid these fares, where a journey that costs less than £2 can then turn into a journey that costs £40 or £80.
There are a lot of reasons why people decide that they’re exempt from paying the full fare for their journey. Throughout living in London I really have heard every excuse under the sun, ranging from they forgot to top up their Oyster Card or their phone ran out of battery so they cannot prove they had tapped in. In other circumstances, the bus driver may let the passenger onto the bus in full knowledge and awareness that they have not paid their fare but may be fooled by the excuse “I’m only travelling for a few stops” or “I’m waiting for my pass to arrive in the post”. Even though these are valid reasons, they aren’t valid enough to excuse one person being exempt from paying when every other passenger has paid their fare. In a sense it’s like a slap in the face, if one person is let off then why shouldn’t everyone else be?
Many people will question how fare dodgers get through the barriers at stations as well as get onto buses without touching their Oyster Card or credit/debit card onto the yellow reader. The answer is unfortunately a lot easier than it sounds, on buses, passengers can simply state that they’ve lost their pass or simply jump on the back of the bus and move undetected. The most easiest maneuver would be following a passenger when they’re tapping in or out at a station, since some passengers will go through barriers that will stay open for longer. Even with the rise of technology that Transport for London are using to catch these fare dodgers, there will simply be too many people to catch and the cycle will begin again. Regardless, this is not an excuse for fare dodgers to keep on carrying out their act of avoidance since eventually they will be caught. Bus inspectors and plain clothes detectives could be anywhere and could be anyone - they simply hide in plain sight and wait for the right moment to confront those avoiding paying the full fare.
Fare evasion happens in many shapes and forms, there are hundreds of different reasons as to how fare evasion is committed. The most common being that people may not touch in and out when travelling throughout London - whether it be at their original destination or at their final destination. Another form of fare evasion would be using an Oyster Card that’s registered to someone whose entitled to free or discounted travel, these people being those with a Freedom Pass or an 11-15 Oyster Card. If caught by a ticket inspector then you would be charged a penalty fare for knowingly using a pass that doesn’t belong to you and the pass will then be taken off the person for abuse of the card. If you’re carrying an Oyster Card which requires additional information to be carried at all times when using the card and you’re found without this information, another penalty fare will be given out. Fare evasion has even gone as far as people buying an Oyster Card with Zones 1-2 on them and tapping in or out at these destinations and then avoiding tapping in or out when travelling beyond these zones. Therefore, they will avoid paying the correct fare that’s a lot more than what their current fare already is. Or more simply people will jump the barrier or walk straight through if the barriers are open, this is blatant fare evasion for fare dodgers that really have no care for paying their way.
Unsurprisingly, fare evasion happens a lot more commonly to those who do not commit fare evasion on purpose. For example, if I was travelling throughout rush hour and I tapped my Oyster Card on the reader while the barrier was open then I may mistake my card tapping for the person in front of me. Then if I got to my final destination and I was caught out by a ticket inspector then even though I didn’t evade the fare on purpose, there is no reason as to why I shouldn’t be given a penalty fare. It also happens to those travelling on London buses who may not be able to reach a reader if they get onto a packed bus or simply because they’re told that the machine isn’t working. Regardless, passengers have a responsibility to make sure that they have made an effort to pay their full fare. There is simply no excuse that will stand with a ticket inspector when you’re face to face with one throughout an unpaid journey. Moving forward, passengers should make sure that they’ve tapped in and out when travelling on the London Underground or tapping your card onto the reader when boarding a London bus.
Even though a journey here and there doesn’t seem much, in a sense it may be only a couple of pounds and pence, the overall reality comes out to over £100 million in unpaid fares for Transport for London. With this extra money Transport for London could easily make major improvements to the network as well as employing more people to make the transport network more efficient. In a sense, imagine having a smoother journey as well as improved station facilities across London. Even though those will argue that these penalty fares in turn cover the losses that Transport for London state, people forget that members of staff will be using their time and efforts elsewhere - these people also needing wages and essentially resources from Transport for London. As someone who travels throughout London it’s infuriating to see members of the public try and avoid a fare that can be as little as £1.50 - something that everyone needs to pay regardless of your objections as to why you shouldn’t.
Boxing Day, instead of spending the time at home with family or friends and enjoying the merry season, there are a large handful of people who just cannot miss out on incredible deals. In 2018, The Mirror reported that over 28 million people were out on Boxing Day all across the country spending millions upon millions - with discounts ranging from 50% to 90% at some stores. These deals can last for either a day or a few days but each year it’s dependent on stock.
How Are You Going To Get There?
As all public transport ceases to run on Christmas Day, Boxing Day will see some public transport running but with a limited service. For example, The London Underground will see a reduced service with it being compared to a Sunday service as tubes will depart later than usual as well as less tubes being available throughout the day. Regardless, I’ve used the Jubilee Line on Boxing Day and there was around a 8-10 minute wait for a tube whereas during the week I’d be able to wait less than a minute or two for one. Before going out to enjoy the sales make sure you check your route of transport - TFL provides a lot of information regarding services across numerous stations. More information can be found by clicking here.
Shopping Centres or The High Street?
On Boxing Day you should have a plan of where you’d like to go - list down all of the shops you know have discounts and deals that you simply cannot miss. For example, every year Lush have a 50% off sale on their Christmas items - the only sale throughout the whole year that Lush have as well as Next having a sale with up to 50% off. If you know the stores you’d like to go in then plan where you’d be better off going to. For example, if you live near a shopping centre but there’s nothing there - then don’t bother going! You’ll be caught up with the thousands of shoppers who have the same idea as you. If you visit Oxford Street then you’ll have a wide variety of shops to go to as well as being able to go outside and grab some fresh air if needed to.
Opening & Closing Times
Except from Next, which is set to open at 6am, there are reduced hours for shops and businesses opening on Boxing Day - similar to Sunday trading hours. If you get to a shop at 8am, which is the usual opening time, then I’d hope you’ve got your thermals on since you will be in for a shock. Even through using Google Maps the opening and closing times may not be fully listed as “hours may differ” - I’d do my research through social media and if anything ask the retailer themselves. However, if you’re an early bird then I’d recommend arriving around 10-15 minutes before opening and if you’re a late riser then around 1-2 hours before closing. These workers want to go home as soon as they can - not spend the last two minutes before the store closes serving customers who couldn’t come earlier.
Could You Avoid The Crowds and Shop Online?
Most companies will have both an in-store sale as well as a sale online whereas companies that only operate online, such as Amazon, will have unmissable deals on their website. If you can avoid the crowds and stay at home, with the chance to order your favourite items at the click of a button - then do it! You’d be able to relax from the comfort of your own home and avoid being shoved from side to side in the attempt to get £30 off a jacket you know you just don’t need. The only downside to shopping online throughout Boxing Day will be a long wait for your item as not only will the company be overwhelmed with purchases but postal companies such as Royal Mail will not deliver on New Year’s Day.
Returns & Exchanges
All these deals and offers may be exciting, so much so that you forget to ask the store you’re in what their returns and exchange policy is. The reason being is that Boxing Day allows retailers to get rid of merchandise that’s either going out of season or merchandise that they need to get rid of in general. Retailers are not obligated to give customers a refund nor exchange - so you may be stuck with that jacket that’s two sizes too small for you. Either way, there should be signs located near the tills and staff members should be able to explain the refund and exchange policy, if they have one, as some returns may be reduced from 28 days to 14 days. There may be the option of a credit note given instead of a full refund either in cash or on your debit/credit card.
Do You Really Need That?
The excitement of getting money off products that you would’ve paid full price for may lead shoppers to grab as much as the can for the sake of it. My advice would be to withdraw a certain about of cash, whether it be £20 or £100, so that once your money has run out - you can call it a day and return home. I admit I’m guilty of picking up bath bomb after bath bomb in Lush simply because it’s 50% off - I spent £70 in Lush in less than 5 minutes and my bank account really took a hit that day that it never recovered from. If you make a list of items you’d like to get, then stick to it - don’t feel tempted to buy something that you know you will not use and won’t come in handy in 6 months time. When you look at an item think if you will use it and if not then put it back on the shelf - someone else will find a use for it.
Bags, Bags & Even More Bags!
We’ve all been there - you spend £101.20 on an item but 5p for a plastic bag? Utterly outrageous. Even for online shopping, I’m willing to pay £400 for an item but £3.95 for delivery? No thank you. To avoid having to buy plastic bag upon plastic bag then buy durable and reusable bags. There’s bags that you can buy in Sports Direct or even Tesco which are around £1 but can carry a lot more than the standard 5p plastic bag - which also prevents the embarrassment of your bag ripping and clothes going everywhere. Not to mention you’re not doing anything for the environment if you keep buying bag upon bag that you know you don’t need, especially when you have another 100 in a cupboard at home. Additionally, keep your shopping separate from your receipts - you will spend hours upon hours searching for your receipts if you just shove them into a bag.
You’ve got your list, you’ve planned where you’re going to go and you’ve made a budget but have you thought about the weather? It could be raining or snowing, this weather is really unpredictable, you don’t want to be walking down Bond Street with Louboutin’s on trying to keep your balance. For just this once, I’m sure you can leave the heels at home and wear trainers or boots with a low heel. Make sure you’re warm by wearing a jacket that will keep you warm but not to the point where you begin sweating when shopping. If you’re going to leave early then make sure you have a good hearty breakfast and bring some water with you - there’s nothing worse than going out and possibly feeling faint as you’ve barely eaten or drunk anything.
Buy Ahead For Next Christmas!
As much as the idea of getting a t-shirt or a bag discounted is fun, think ahead - further, further and go 330 days ahead. One of my favourite places to visit on Boxing Day and the days towards New Year has to be Clintons and Card Factory and even stores such as Poundland, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. Simply because all of their Christmas items will be reduced. Last year I bought most of my Christmas cards for 2019 for under £10 - which I would’ve spent around £30 on if I had bought them at full price. Even wrapping paper can be as cheap as 30p per roll compared to £1, it all helps and saves me buying it the following year. Even if I find Christmas books or books that children can colour in - I save it for a stocking filler for next year as they can cost as little as 10p. Either way, there are items such as luxury crackers that can be saved for the year after, with everyone thinking you spent a fortune but instead you've simply spent a few pennies or pounds.
London, with over 30 million visitors per year as well as over 8 million residents, remains one of the most visited cities in the world. Not only is this number growing rapidly with visitors wanting to see what London has to offer but London is becoming more difficult to navigate through for people using wheelchairs. A daily challenge that many shouldn’t face as well as feeling as if they’re less important or a second class citizen.
The London Underground has 270 stations, making it an efficient way to get around London, but these 270 stations are only accessible for those who don’t need ramps, step-free access as well as numerous lifts to navigate through the station. Only 71 stations throughout London and surrounding areas support those in wheelchairs but unfortunately not independently in some instances. For those who want to navigate independently then this number drops to 50 stations which are fully accessible - this being around 18% of stations allowing independent travel and only 27% allowing passengers to travel with some independence but with additional help such as by the use of ramps and assistance at stations.
The Guardian reported that Transport for London’s spokesman, Ruben Govinden, stated that “Some of the network is more than 150 years old – accessibility wasn’t even considered worth thinking about then”. Indeed, this statement is factually correct in the sense that the London Underground network was the first public rapid transport system which was opened in 1863. However, over 150 years there has been a wide range of changes and updates to the London Underground, the most notable being more lines being expanded as well as the addition to free WiFi at certain stations. With the progress being made digitally as well as expanding the network to reach more areas, there should be a priority of making the London Underground more accessible. Even though there’s plans to make the London Underground network more accessible in the next 20 to 30 years, this is simply not good enough for those wanting to navigate independently, which they should have the right to do, without being stuck and faced to take an alternative route.
Not only is the London Underground’s network itself a problem for those with wheelchairs, there’s the added scrutiny of those unwilling to give these people the space they deserve throughout their journey. On each journey passengers will see a symbol that states that a specific area is giving priority for those in wheelchairs - which many people tend to ignore, especially those with prams and young children. Many a time I have seen arguments between a wheelchair user and a mother pushing a pram over who should be in that specific space - a degrading occurrence that happens far too often over a fact of priority and respect. Another problem with the London Underground would be the regular occurrence of maintenance work on lifts, some lifts taking months to fix and the shortage of assistance for those needing to change their route to the next station. This can mean extra charges by using public transport such as a bus or in extreme cases needing a taxi to get to a station with accessible facilities.
London’s buses aren’t any better in terms of accessibility. Even though buses throughout London and surrounding areas have stated that passengers using wheelchairs have priorities throughout their journey but this is simply easier said than done. London’s buses are fitted with ramps but it’s been seen recently that discrimination against wheelchair users has seen members of the public taking matters in their own hands to allow passengers off the bus to carry on with their journey. The most notable occurrence happening out of London with Ian Barrington, The Metro reported that a “Bus driver refuses to help disabled man and tells him to ‘speak English’”. Not only did the driver refuse to help Ian getting off the bus but made remarks stating that “‘I don’t understand foreign languages, I understand English!’” and then went on to state that she couldn’t get the ramp out since she had a “backache”. Whether this is true or not, bus drivers should be fully equipped and in full health to help both able bodied passengers as well as those in wheelchairs needing assistance.
In 2012 TFL implemented a new set of rules to which stated that wheelchair passengers have priority to the space in the middle of the bus - which can be used as a standing area or a place for those with prams or luggage. Once again, this is easier said than done, as there have been many times when I have been travelling throughout London and either the bus driver refuses to make people in that space with prams move or the two people with prams arguing about who should fold down their pram. This not only making a bigger state of the matter but also treating individuals in wheelchairs like they are second class citizens since people are more concerned about their prams rather than a person. There have even been arguments between wheelchair users and passengers with prams regarding the reason they should have to move - it’s stated nearly everywhere that users in wheelchairs deserve priority and a simple fact - it’s not something that people can dispute or argue against.
I’ve experienced a lack of responsibility from bus drivers and TFL when I was trying to get my grandmother onto a bus, since she’s in a wheelchair. It was very cold so I made the point of leaving just a few minutes before the bus came to prevent her staying out in the cold too much, when the bus came I firstly made the point of tapping my Oyster Card as well as my grandmother’s. I then stated that she’d need to lower the ramp onto the pavement so I could easily manoeuvre the wheelchair onto the bus safely. The bus driver seemed to comply and stated that she would move the bus to get closer to the pavement but in the end stated that she couldn’t lower the ramp down - with no apology nor explanation as to why she couldn’t lower the ramp down. Two members of the public even came over and offered to help - why should members of the public help? A bus driver should be trained in all areas of operating a bus, from lowering the ramp and operating in such a way that allows all individuals to use the bus. The experience was not only humiliating for my grandmother but also made her wait in the freezing cold for the next bus, with her asking me whether it was her fault we couldn’t get onto the bus. The return journey was unfortunately met with the same bus driver but this time the ramp seemed to magically work and there were no problems getting onto the bus. However, when pressing the button specifically designed to alert the driver that a wheelchair would be getting off the bus - therefore the bus will need to be lowered and a ramp used - the bus driver completely ignored the bell and drove onto the next bus stop. Not only did my grandmother feel invisible but it meant we had to make the journey of an extra 15 minutes to get back to the original stop.
Moving forward a lot needs to change. Firstly, TFL need to address the situation of the London Underground network, it may have been built over 150 years ago but regardless there has been 150 years of time to change the fact that it was built while disregarding it being accessible. There needs to be a discussion regarding the impact that certain planned works will have on passengers, specifically those using wheelchairs - it’s a bigger impact that it originally seems as well as the fact that people may have to alter their routes. From there, there needs to be extensive training for bus drivers to make sure they have the knowledge and practice to allow wheelchair users onto the bus - additionally fighting in their corner when they have the right to space on the bus over pram users. The public attitude needs to change also, we need to come together and help those who may need additional help if there’s no staff around or those unwilling to help. For example, if you see something that you know is wrong - someone unwilling to move out of the area for wheelchair users - take the point of explaining that they need to move out of the area for the fellow passenger.
£21. The average cost of a meal for one in London or more frankly the amount of money that I have in my Current Account. In London it’s very hard to find affordable accommodation, especially when you decide to book accommodation surrounding one of the busiest international airports in London with over 80 million passengers passing through. Therefore there is quite a high demand for accommodation regardless of the season. Whether passengers are travelling through Heathrow Airport or they’re carrying on their journey elsewhere, the rooms are not cheap around this location usually. However, a strike of luck came my way when I found a hotel room at a flat rate of £21 for the chosen dates I had picked. I was simply amazed that I would be able to stay in a hotel room with the added amenities that came with the room itself.
Travelodge was the cheapest option for me when looking for a place to stay before an early flight the morning after. The room itself was priced at £21 for one night - an incredible price which accounted for two people staying - which came out at £10.50 each. I purchased WiFi for 24 hours which was priced at £3 which should've been included but regardless I wasn't fussed about paying as it allowed me to watch Netflix and download my boarding passes for my flight the following day. On top of that I purchased two meals (which came with a starter or dessert and a main meal) which was priced at £12 each which came to £24 for two people. The total of my one night stay came to £48 (£24 each for WiFi, food and a place to stay for the night) which is still a lot cheaper compared to other hotels in the area. Either way, if I had decided to live without WiFi or if I had brought my own food in or have found a restaurant elsewhere, it still would’ve cost me the grand sum of £21 - or £10.50 each if I really wanted to be specific.
Upon arriving at the hotel, which was around 3pm, the woman on reception was friendly and even gave us a choice of where we wanted our room to be. Make sure you bring ID if you're dropping someone off at the airport which can be done through bringing your passport or driving license. We were moved to the 5th floor and to get to any floors you would need to use your key card - which added an extra layer of security throughout the hotel. The room was moderately sized which came with a large desk area and a chair as well as a kettle with mugs and tea sachets. From the desk there was a beautiful view and it was nice to be able to sit at the desk while writing notes and checking emails. There was a range of USB ports next to the bed as well as a small ledge to put my phone on while it charged overnight - which was useful as it allowed me to check the time throughout the night to make sure I didn't miss my alarm. The bed was very comfy which was surprising but meant I was able to get a good night's sleep before an early morning flight. The bed gave more than enough space for two people even though I was told it's only a double bed. There was a small wardrobe area with hangers to put my clothing for the next day on as well as space to store my suitcases so they were out of my way. The TV has a range of channels which range from the news to movie channels - more than enough to keep you entertained if you decide not to purchase the WiFi. The AC in the room kept the room cool throughout our stay and I was able to change the settings if the room became too hot or too cold. The only downside I found to the room itself was that the windows couldn't be opened but in retrospect the AC was more than enough to keep the room cool. The bathroom was on the smaller side but there was more than enough space to move around comfortably. The shower had high water pressure and I was able to take use of the free shampoo to wash my hair as there was a hairdryer provided. There was more than enough towels provided - I would advise laying a towel down next to the shower as the shower curtain did leak a little bit when I left the shower. There was a large mirror and sink provided as well as space to leave my toiletries which was handy. The only problem with the bathroom was that the toilet was located right next to the door, which meant you would be sitting with a door handle right next to you and making it awkward to move around. Regardless, the room served its purpose and for the price you can't go wrong!
Even though the hotel is located in Heathrow and not in Central London, it’s still an incredible price, which you would’ve got the gist that it’s £21 by now, especially for those travelling on a budget. Overall, this specific Travelodge has received a 3.5 rating from over 600 reviews on TripAdvisor with a 3.5 star rating also on Google with over 1,200 reviews. The hotel states that it’s a 3 star hotel, therefore it won’t be the luxury experience that some people may expect. Companies such as Travelodge and Premier Inn are known for their inexpensive prices which are represented in the quality of the rooms and service.
One fact that I know is whether you’re in first class or not - you’ll still get to the same destination at exactly the same time as other passengers on the train. However, other passengers like the idea of added luxury throughout their train journey whether it be the free refreshments, free WiFi or even just the extra legroom. When I needed to book train tickets upon hearing the news of a family emergency, I found that there was only a slight difference between Standard and First Class Tickets - in my case, with a 16-25 railcard, a First Class Ticket would only cost me around £5 extra. This working out £2.50 per way to have the added luxury that Greater Anglia prides itself on as well as access to the First Class Lounge at London Liverpool Street.
First Class Lounge
Upon arriving at London Liverpool Street I quickly bought some newspapers and magazines for the journey as well as treating myself to breakfast. Looking for the First Class Lounge took a lot longer than usual as it’s very hidden next to Platform 10 near where Lost Luggage can be found. Accessing the First Class Lounge was easy since I wasn’t asked to show my ticket nor have to wait long to get in - I simply pressed a button that opened the automatic doors and I was in. The First Class Lounge is small but wonderful, it was a nice peaceful place to sit before boarding my train. To my surprise there were tea and coffee making facilities as well as free bottles of water available. Considering that I had only paid £5 extra, with these free tea and coffee making facilities I had saved myself at least £5, not to mention the free bottles of water. There were a range of different seats, if you wanted to and charge your phone or whether you wanted to use your laptop within the lounge - you were sure to be comfortable. There’s even a small screen outlining the future departures, which allowed me to keep track of my train without feeling rushed or anxious that I would miss my train. If you’re travelling from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport then help yourself to the free magazine on offer.
First Class: London Liverpool Street to Norwich
When boarding at London Liverpool Street the first carriage is luckily First Class - which allowed me to get onto the train and relax, rather than walking miles upon miles to get down to the front of the train. For this specific journey there were only two carriages for First Class but it was more than enough as there were only 6 people in my carriage as well as even fewer in the next carriage.
Each seat in First Class allows passengers to have a table, whether it be a single seat or a double, there is more than enough space for a laptop or a notebook. That was at least one promise that Greater Anglia kept to including the extra legroom which was perfect for tall people such as myself. For one journey I was able to stretch out rather than trying not to hit the chair in front of me with my knees. Within the seating area there was the option to allow sunlight in with the curtains, unfortunately for me these thin curtains still allowed the light shine right into my face. Luckily for me though there were other seats available as within First Class as there’s no reservations on seats which allows passengers to move around as they please. Another added benefit of First Class is the plug sockets next to every seat which worked perfectly throughout my journey. However, I’ve travelled with a Standard Ticket and have had the luck of finding a plug socket next to my seat, even though these opportunities are few and far between, it’s a guarantee in First Class.
WiFi? The WiFi throughout First Class wasn’t working on my outbound journey and my inbound journey from Norwich, which was very frustrating. Even though it’s a benefit that Greater Anglia list on their website, they have also noted that the WiFi is currently not working. For me, this was a huge disappointment since one of the reasons I wanted to pay the extra upgrade for First Class was to be able to use WiFi to complete some work on the go as well as go through the hundreds and hundreds of emails I had. Exchanging emails with the Customer Service Team was quick and easy, although they were unsure as to why the WiFi wasn’t working even after trying every method in the book and giving numerous bits of information. Although, on my return journey I was given an answer, rather than a solution, which reads “This Train is being affected by a known issue, there is a hardware fault and as such WiFi will not be available unit its is Physically fixed". Furthermore, this led to me eating up most of my mobile data for the majority of the journey which meant I had to ration it between emails and checking my website.
Yuck. That’s all I can really say about the toilets. There’s no separate toilets for those in First Class which isn’t that much of a problem if the toilets weren’t dirty and disgusting. Not only is there the problem of staying on the toilet throughout a rocking train but one in which isn’t in the best of conditions. It wouldn’t have taken much to make the toilets a little cleaner throughout the journey, considering that it’s just a little under 2 hours. Either way, when you need to go to the toilet and there’s a toilet there, there’s little you could do.
Once again there wasn’t the availability of refreshments throughout this train journey. This is understandable as Greater Anglia had stated that throughout journeys on the weekend there will be no refreshments provided but on my return journey the same rule seemed to apply even though I returned on a Monday. It seemed at this rate, I had been shown a very different picture than the one that was painted when booking the tickets. Even though I had already eaten beforehand as well as taken full advantage of the free drinks that the First Class Lounge had to offer, it was still a shame that there was no trolley service that would’ve provided even the smallest of snacks - simply since I love freebies.
Is It Worth It?
Greater Anglia have currently stated on their website that “When there is engineering work between London and Norwich, services may be formed of electric multiple unit stock and will not offer table seats, refreshments or WiFi. Availability of First Class Advance tickets may be restricted on engineering work days”. In essence, the perks of First Class have been limited in such a way that it’s simply luck whether you’ll travel with them or be stuck without them. If all the perks were included - free WiFi, refreshments and even the guarantee of a table seat then I would recommend travelling First Class. However, if you have the mindset that everyone will get to the same place at the same time regardless of their seat preference, then travelling with a Standard Ticket would be the best option. If you have to pay a lot more than I did for an upgrade to a First Class Ticket, then I’d advise against it.
Ever since the O2 opened in 2007 it’s been an entertainment hub for those wishing to see artists and special events as well as those wanting to visit the cinema, play a game of bowling or visit the never ending row of restaurants. Now there’s a new edition which makes the O2 seemingly complete - the ICON Outlet which is home to over 85 stores including popular names such as Jack Wills, Levi’s, Nike, Adidas and Ted Baker, to name a few.
Getting to the O2 is simple as there’s a range of public transport links including the Jubilee Line which allows passengers to use the London Underground as well as a bus station just a few minutes walk from the O2. The buses that stop at North Greenwich are the 108, 129, 132, 161, 188, 422, 472 and 486 which go towards both Central London, South East London as well as locations just outside of London such as Bexleyheath. There’s even a Cable Car connection that goes from North Greenwich to The Royal Docks which is notably known for the ExCel Exhibition Centre where events are held constantly throughout the year.
The ICON Outlet at the O2 has gained popularity very quickly for the impressive discounts which can be up to 70% in some cases. This seems too good to be true, but it really isn’t! When I first visited the ICON Outlet I was overwhelmed with the displays stating these amazing discounts and upon further inspection they were right - a Levi’s jacket was £95 but had been discounted to £25 but then rung up at £15 at the register - my bank account was safe for another day as I began planning my new wardrobe. Even in shops such as Yankee Candle I was in discount heaven - candles that had an RRP of £30 were as cheap as £11 and there wasn’t a shortage of accessories and gift sets. Shops such as The Body Shop runs on a basis such as ‘the more you buy, the more you save’ which is great for those wanting to stock up on their favourite products without breaking the bank. If you have a sweet tooth then Lindt Chocolate doesn’t disappoint with visitors being able to pick and mix their favourite chocolates which is weighed per gram. The ICON Outlet is a great idea for those wanting to get presents for any occasion, admittedly I had plans to buy friends and family gift sets from Yankee Candle, The Body Shop and even some clothes from Adidas and Nike.
Not only is the ICON Outlet a hub for shopping but also offers discounts to visitors such as a free shopping drop for those going into the actual O2 Arena. To be honest I was surprised that this shopping drop was free but then again the O2 Arena operates on a basis that limits large bags coming into the O2 Arena for security reasons. Additionally if you do spend over £150 then you’ll be happy to know that you’ll get your shopping delivered directly to your home. Luckily this saves carrying around masses of bags that begin to make you wonder how and when you bought so much and whether you actually need these items - of course you do! However, if you don’t want to break the bank then there’s the option of 4 hours free parking when you spend over £35 which seems more likely for those travelling here. My personal favourite offer from the ICON Outlet is the option to buy a gift card, which doubles up as a present or a bank card for the day to prevent you overspending - once your money runs out then it’s time to call it a day. Other services here at the ICON Outlet include wheelchairs and scooters available to hire for the duration of your stay and Changing Places toilets onsite. These Changing Places are quite large and were made specifically for those who may have additional accessibility requirements.
If you’re an early bird or someone that prefers shopping later in the day then the O2 Outlet has you covered - with an opening time of 10am and a closing time of 10pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (times vary depending on the day). If you want to make a day of it then I’d recommend visiting around midday, then going for lunch with the numerous restaurants throughout the O2 itself. Then there’s the option to see the latest release at the cinema in the Vue cinema or you can treat yourself to a game at bowling at Hollywood Bowl. There’s even an indoor trampolining park called Oxygen Freejumping which is fun for both children and adults. Even though the shops at the O2 are mainly directed for adults, there’s the option to treat your child in the Build-A-Bear Workshop within the ICON Outlet. Not only is there a wide variety of bears and accessories to buy but there’s the option to hold birthday parties here which starts at £11.
The ICON Outlet has even more offers, which I wish I would’ve known before visiting as there have been numerous deals I have missed out on. Currently there’s an offer with Yankee Candle that allows visitors to claim a free melt warmer when a purchase of £20 or more is made. If candles aren’t your thing then Clarks are currently offering guests the offer of buy one, get the next one half price. The same deal is currently happening at Asics as well as two short sleeve tops being £24 or three for £32 on selected items. However, you should check when these offers expire as they change frequently and you do not want to miss out on these savings.
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