A not-so-sudden visit to London: Part C

Many people have asked for the minute details of how I planned & executed this short trip to my dream destination, and so here I am breaking it down into 4 essential steps that I followed.

A. Applying for the VISA

B. Long wait for the VISA to arrive (but there are many things to plan for instead of sitting idle)

C. Book flights, ho(s)tel, and any other special tour you want

D. Reach London and take care of some basic requirements while you tour around

C. Book flights, ho(s)tel, and any other special tour you want

The VISA will definitely arrive if all the factors are favorable. But once it does, you should start booking immediately.

Places to stay

London has many offers on hotels and hostels, but if you are alone and truly want to go around exploring the city then go for a hostel. It’s convenient, cheaper, usually accessible and has many friendly faces to offer.

For any budget hotel and hostel, look up on Booking.com website or app (Android/iOS). It is a multi-country database offering places to stay at really affordable prices, and give the most reliable reviews. I opened the application on my phone and typed London, put the filter ‘Hostel’, and several places popped up. London is filled with budget hostels. It became quite difficult for me to choose during the wait time for VISA. I kept saving places and shortlisted them based on proximity to Central London, and a Tube station within walking distance. Wouldn’t want to lug my heavy trolley for too long a distance… London cabs are pricey, and I had no intention of getting into one!

What I finally chose over every other option was the Smart Russell Square Hostel on Guilford Street in the Bloomsbury district of London (I came to know Bloomsbury is quite a good place for solo backpackers). It was located just behind Russell Square Underground station (literally 2 minute’s walk) and 10 minutes from the British Museum. It was near two big parks (London has many famous parks) and plenty of cute coffee shops.


Not too many people will agree with me, but if you want a comfortable journey to and from a foreign country in UK/Europe, and you are an Indian, the most convenient option would be AIR INDIA or VIRGIN ATLANTIC. Flights cost the most on the trip to Europe, and it was a momentous factoring decision for me whether to spend such huge money or not. A round trip in Economy costs around 60k rupees, which was the cheapest. Two websites were of big help to me, one being Skyscanner and the other being good ol’ IRCTC Air. I constantly kept checking for price fluctuation of so many options, and you can choose even cheaper options, but those come with a caveat.

There would be too many breaks and transits along the way, maybe in Doha or Abu Dhabi. Breaking so many times on one leg of the journey would tire you out more than you can imagine. In any case, traveling on flights for more than 12 hours is not natural for human beings. Imagine yourself being cooped up in a coach for 18 hours, or maybe 24 or 36 hours! I chose to avoid the long routes and opted for the ones where I wouldn’t have to deal with any in-transit hassle. It was my first time abroad, and there were a lot of questions on my mind. Air India offered the cheapest and shortest option of a 9.5-hour direct flight to Delhi, and a 9-hour direct return flight to Hyderabad. Along with the connections to Kolkata, it cost me 87k bucks. I consciously considered sacrificing a little more of my money but gaining more rest and less anxiety. Perfect Opportunity cost!

I traveled by this flight, solely operated at great time by AIR INDIA. Remember, you are probably going to end up an hour or two at Customs on landing from outside the country, so plan your flights accordingly. Almost all flights from India land at London Heathrow airport, accessible by its Underground station to all of London. The other one is Gatwick Airport, which then offers transport to London via Gatwick Express (you can travel this train with the Oyster card too). Here are some of the flights which are the best in quality, price, and services:

Weekend tours you can book

There is the London sightseeing tour on a Hop-on-hop-off bus, which I would recommend to you only if you are seeing London for 2 days and need to cover the main city fast but efficiently. Otherwise, walking tours are the best to see this city. You can choose from plenty of guided tours, and photography tours and even select the Harry Potter special walking tour through the city, or at Warner Bros. studios.

“London’s one of the most walkable capital cities in the world. Indeed, in many ways, London is the anti-L.A.: here people think you’re mad if you do drive a car around town… London existed long before there were any forms of public or private transport more sophisticated than a horse.” — Timeout

You can check different tours out here: https://www.timeout.com/london/attractions/london-walking-tours

Timeout has helped me a lot in planning my trip across the city, way before I even set foot in the UK. You can check their website for all kinds of information and guidance about the city. But always remember, try to cover London as much as you can on foot or by public transport such as the Underground, Bus and the Ferry. If you are there for 3-5 days, do not leave London. Explore the city to its core, and you will marvel at its vibrant warm personality and culture. If you are here for more than 5 days, you can plan for a day trip to Stonehenge/Oxford/Cambridge. These tours will get cheaper if you pre-book them, rather than going for them on the spot. You can try attending plays at the Theatre district in your evening spare time, you never know what you will discover! So plan meticulously!

Some final things to remember and carry

  1. Your VISA and Passport
  2. Your COVID vaccination certificate
  3. Your return flight ticket, hotel or hostel booking
  4. Your forex and credit cards
  5. A jacket, thermals and ear-cover/cap
  6. External battery charger

You mostly should focus on having the best time of your life out there! Things will fall into place easily enough once you land there. On this note, I will end the post here, and start off, with the final blog in the series, what all went down once I landed at Heathrow…


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