I set off in early August, the flight that I booked was straight through from Auckland to London Heathrow with a transit in L.A. On a side note, if you’re traveling via America don’t forget (like I did) that you need a visa – everyone traveling though the US must get an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation prior to their flight, even if you are literally just getting off and on the same plane like I was. I don’t get it, but I don’t really get much about America so yeah :P It should have been something you do online prior to your flight which costs $14, but when you have no idea about it and you need it for your flight that’s in 2 hours to leave the country, expect to pay $70 at the airport for an urgent one. Booo that.
Anywho…I flew Air New Zealand which is hands down the best airline in the world. Yes it may be partly playing favourites because I’m a New Zealander, but also because Air New Zealand is HANDS DOWN THE BEST AIRLINE IN THE WORLD. While I’m not a huge fan of airline food, I was impressed with the tub of Anzac Coconut Cookie Kapiti ice-cream, it was so good that it almost turns you into that person who turns to the stranger next to you and say “you gon’ eat dat?” (I didn’t do that but it crossed my ice cream brain). My flight left late at night so during the day I’d been to Two Birds in Hamilton for a few chicken/avo rice paper rolls to take on the plane which made a good light dinner, along with the 50 million other plane snacks I had in my bag (I think about 5kgs of my hand luggage was snacks).
I’ve flown to and from London-Auckland a few times when I was younger and used to live there, so I knew how painful the flight could be. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and non-brutal the long haul flights were (12 hours to LA and another 11 to London). I’ll write more about tips for surviving long haul flights later in these Blogs. I arrived in London at around 11am, I had booked a room at the Ibis Hotel at Heathrow Airport for one night before I headed into the city. I did this because it was close and I could just go straight to the hotel and change my clothes etc after not having a shower for 48 hours and feeling slothy as, then sleep for a good 12 hours. The next day I headed into the city where I was to stay for the next 6 nights and have my first experience at hostel life.
Accommodation: SafeStay Hostel Holland Park
The rooms –
I chose a room that was a mixed dorm and had 6 beds (they have rooms ranging from 4-33 beds), the beds were allocated so you needed to make sure when you got to the room that you used the right bed (I will explain about the importance of this in the upcoming Dublin blog). They tend to put you in rooms with people who are around the same age as well which I was glad about, because I really wasn’t keen on being stuck in a room with drunk teenagers and being that annoying person who puts a damper on things because anything past 9.30pm is pushing limits. Instead I was that annoying person who got up at the crack of dawn stumbling around the dark room at 5.30am trying to be quiet getting my shit together because I wanted to go watch the sunrise then get Starbucks.
The rooms have bunk beds (so much more room for activities……..not really the rooms are tiny), so if you have a preference for whether you bags top or bottom, you gotta get to reception early for check in to get your pick. They have curtains around the bunk beds too which cuts out the awkwardness when you’re lying in your bed in your PJs and an attractive face mask doing your nightly Instagram scroll and you don’t wanna make eye contact with anyone.
Keeping your things safe –
One of my first thoughts about staying in a hostel was “where do you put your stuff without it getting stolen?”, not that I was leaving anything of value at the hostel during the day and I hardly think anyone would want to steal my 2.5kgs of left over snacks. This hostel had cages under the bed which were big enough to hold a suitcase, you just need your own lock.
The hostel really had everything you needed with WiFi (most important), café/bar/lounge, laundry, bedding provided, personal storage, secure rooms, house keeping, towel hire etc. The bathroom in my room was modern and always spotless, as were the rooms. The hostel is really funky looking on the inside too, including a bright pink coloured staircase!
The location of the hostel was perrrrfect, situated in Kensington, right on Holland Park (you actually have to walk through the park to get to it). Kensington High Street which has food stores and shopping is about a minute walk and you have both Holland Park and High Street Kensington tube stations within 5 mins. A couple of the nights I stayed there I was treated to an Opera concert too which was held in the park next to the hostel, lovely jubbly!
Other good things –
Staying in this hostel you get to meet and hear other people’s stories, where they have come from, where they are going etc. From the Spanish girl who was asking me if she should dye her hair pink (she did) to the Californian now living in the South of France who kept calling me Australian – it really warms your heart to hear all the different stories about peoples lives (even if they are insulting you by calling you an Aussie :P Jokessss).
Things To Do in London –
- Hire a bike and ride around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park (2 pounds for 24 hours hire), they have bike stations at the entrances to most parks in London and around they city
- One day I did a big walk from Kensington through Hyde Park, Royal Albert Hall, down to Buckingham Palace, through St James Park, Big Ben, London Eye….and then I got the tube back because I couldn’t’ be assed walking anymore :P It was a fab way to see everything/get some fresh air/have many coffee stops
- Other touristy-must-do’s are Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Oxford Street (shopping), Covent Garden, Camden Markets and Piccadilly Circus to name a few
- If you’re wanting to do a day time out of London some cool places to head towards would be Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Cotswolds and Stonehenge. I used to live in Eastbourne when I first moved to England and love it there (seaside town) which I would recommend. I also lived in a place called Milton Keynes with my family for almost 5 years which will always have a place in my heart…….and that I will give a shout out to…..but as a tourist destination……..wellllll! (in Google Images type in ‘what is Milton Keynes famous for’ and you decide) :P
Food Situation –
While I was in London for 6 days I didn’t really eat at restaurants, I just ate takeaway meals and snack things to eat. Pret-a-Manger/Marks & Spencer were my go to for takeaway meals, and also Whole foods Market Kensington for EVERYTHING YOU COULD EVER WANT – seriously, this place is amazing.
Getting around –
If you plan to use public transport a lot while you are in London (let’s face it, you will), it’s worth getting an Oyster card when you get there, you can get this at most of the stations and just top it up as you need too. If you’re not familiar with the underground system, its pretty straight forward once you get used to it – pick point A, pick point B and connect the lines! (or ask somebody when you get lost :P )
Other things you may like to know –
- If you need to charge your phone and don’t have a portable charger, head to Starbucks (like I needed more excuses to go there). Starbucks always has power points so if you need charge on your phone while out and about because you’ve been taking too many tourist pics and selfies, head there!
- I was thinking about buying a sim card for my phone while I was there but I didn’t need too, they have free WiFi everywhere in London so if you don’t really use calling/texts then you’ll be sweet.
- Lastly, pennies are REALLY annoying. They make your purse really heavy and you don’t know what to do with them because you don’t want to chuck them away but you also don’t want to be that dick in the supermarket line counting out your pennies to buy a salad and some chocolate.
Costs (NZD) –
- Air New Zealand flight from Auckland – London Healthrow 1 way (booked through Webjet) $1150
- Ibis Heathrow Hotel, 1 night (booked through booking.com) – $100
- Safestay Holland Park Hostel, 6 nights (booked through wotif.com) – $260
- Spending money (including activities/attractions/food/transport etc) over 7 days – $600
Check out the little video of my travel shenanigans in London & Edinburgh below or here, you can check out my previous Vlog filmed while in London here and here, and if you have any questions please flick me a message! :D Next Blog – Edinburgh
Thank you for looking x