Monday, July 30, 2012

Surviving London During the Olympics: A Visitors Guide

Photo by Siddie Nam

This is a guest post by Charlotte Jones

The official line is that London will be busy but is very well prepared to cope. Behind the scenes however, you can bet your last Olympic-souvenir-penny that those in charge of delivering the London 2012 Games are secretly saying it’s going to be chaotic and they’re completely unprepared for just about everything that’s about to be thrown at them. If you’re heading to London to contend with the chaos enjoy the Games this summer, here are a few tips we’ve put together to help you during your time in London. Whether you’re from Beijing or Birmingham, they might just come in handy. How can we help make sure you survive?!

Travelling Through the City

When using the London Underground (or the Tube as we call it) it’s customary to stand for the elderly, wait patiently while others board/alight the train and not to play loud music or chat too loudly. In reality, during the Games, prepare to push, shove, scream and bite in order to get to where you want to go. Already stretched to bursting point, they say the Underground is the circulatory system to our country’s heart: all I can say is that you might want to pack some aspirin.

If you’re not a fan of being packed into a small metal tube with a thousand other angry people with questionable body odour and breath that could turn milk, you might think it would be easier just to walk from place to place, taking in the sights and sounds of the capital. Oh, how wrong you are. Aside from the fact one-third of London roads are to be out of bounds for anyone that isn’t a dignitary or rich enough to act like one, London is a maze of streets, backstreets and passages leading to backstreets. Unless you’re good with a map, it’s best to stick with either the Tube or a bus. If you want to have some fun and survive your travels around London, take a rickshaw, the best way to see a city, in my opinion and they’re surprisingly cheap for London!

Finding Accommodation for Your Stay

If you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to reserve some accommodation and quickly. Some enterprising hoteliers have seen fit to double, if not triple the prices of their rooms during the Games to make a quick pound or two, but there are still options available. There are some great hostels in London perfect if you’re travelling on a budget and many are in great locations, right in the centre of the action. My advice would be to book before you arrive, since many people are looking for somewhere to rest their weary legs in London at the moment, but don’t be too shocked if prices are a little inflated during the coming months. Some people have even decided to rent out their homes during the games, so if you’re travelling in a big group, this may be worth looking into. Just make sure that they’re going to be out of the house when you’ll be staying. We’re a friendly bunch in London, but even sharing a bed is going a bit far... Want to make sure you survive? I’d suggest a hostel: they’re cheap, comfortable and filled with foreigners.

Making Friends with the Locals

London is a capital European city, so as you would expect, be prepared to be shouted at, pushed and shoved when dealing with the local population. The government have tried to make it a criminal offense to not have a permanent smile stretched across your face during the duration of the Games, but that particular initiative doesn’t seem to have panned out, so expect to see some frustrated, grumpy Londoners. That being said, London’s population at any given time is around 99% tourist, so the chances are you’ll probably never even see a bonefide Cockney, great news for you. Here are a few tips to surviving a chance encounter with a native Londoner on the street:

- Pretend you don’t speak English.

- Pretend you didn’t hear them and just keep walking.

- Pretend you’re an equally unhappy, rude Londoner.

If these tips fail and you do have to engage them in conversation, use the following tips to help you survive a real conversation with a real Londoner:

- Complain about how the Games are interrupting your day to day life.

- Complain about all the money being spent on the Games.

- Complain about the weather.

That should make sure your time in London is an authentic and traditional experience of the capital. For more information about accommodation, take a look at Equity Point for some great hostels in the capital this summer. If you’re looking for flights to the city, check out a price comparison site, since there are still some cheap flights available, believe it or not.

Charlotte Jones is studying Modern European Languages at University of Liverpool. She loves foreign languages, travelling and advertising.

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