Hotels.com offers top tips on getting ready for the biggest event of the year, the London Olympics
NOTHING brings people together across different cultures and nationalities quite like sports. This year, London will see this ring true as it hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics. With travellers from all over the world coming to cheer on their national teams, visitors to the British capital will get to soak in an atmosphere they’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
Planning to join in the party? Hotels.com shows you how to survive the year’s biggest event, with tips on getting the most out of your experience.
To get around effectively during the Olympic season, make sure you have two things — an Oyster card and comfortable walking shoes.
The lucky few who have managed to score a ticket for an Olympic event on the same day will be glad to know that public transportation is free for them, but if not, the Oyster transit pass is the cheapest way to pay for single journeys on the Tube system, public buses, trams and most National Rail services in the country. Besides costs savings — a standard 2.30 (RM11.30) bus ride will only cost you 1.35 with the Oyster — it also saves you the trouble of having to queue for tickets at every transit.
Alternatively, taking to the streets may reduce your travel time and help you avoid tourist crowds taking the Tube. The majority of London’s central locations are within walking distance and the revamp of public transit, cycling routes and pedestrian trails to connect most parts of the city easily to main Olympic venues means that walking to your destination is now easier than ever. Besides saving money on transportation fees, you will also get to take in more of the sights.
If neither walking nor taking the Tube is for you, consider getting around on two wheels by hopping on a Boris Bike. This cycle hire scheme allows anyone with a credit card to rent a bicycle from any of its 400 docking stations. With miles of wide, uninterrupted, traffic-free cycling paths in London — many of which are being spruced up and connected in light of the Games — not only is this a great way to avoid meat-packing yourself in the London Underground, it’s also a pleasant way to soak in the city’s atmosphere, one street at a time. Besides, if the trip is less than 30 minutes, you don’t even have to fork out a single cent.
BEATING THE CROWD
While one can easily beat the crowd and crammed tube carriages with alternative transportation methods, there is unfortunately no way to completely avoid a crowd staple: Pickpockets.
The good news is protecting yourself is fairly easy, as long as you keep your wits about you and take the following practical steps to protect your valuables:
• Never carry all your money, credit cards and passport — try to keep the bulk of your money in your hotel safe instead.
• Spread your money out — this ensures that if you do get pick-pocketed, you’ll still have enough money to get back to your hotel.
• Try not to keep your wallet in your back pocket, but if you must use a pocket to store your cash and cards, use the front pocket of your jeans and do check it from time to time.
Lastly, remember you will be dealing with professionals, so don’t ever think, “It will not happen to me.”
WHAT TO PACK
If there is one word to describe the weather in London, it has to be “unpredictable”. While you don’t quite get four seasons in a day, you can be sweltering in a T-shirt one day and shivering in two sweaters the next, making packing somewhat of a nightmare.
Britain has a maritime climate, so it is not unusual for the weather to change from sunshine to a heavy downpour within minutes — even in summer. As such, aside from packing nerves of steel and a truckload of patience to deal with the crowd, it will be wise to bring an umbrella or a raincoat wherever you go as well as some warm clothing such as scarves and jackets.
The basic key to dealing with this weather volatility is simply to pack clothes that allow you to either add or remove layers through the day.
If you failed to score tickets to the London 2012 Games, fret not, as there are still other means you can catch some of the world’s top athletes live in action this summer.
There will be a number of Olympic events that are free to watch along the streets of London, including road cycling, triathlon, marathon, race walking as well as the ranking rounds of archery.
Regardless of which free events you decide to catch, it is still highly recommended that you fit in a visit to the Olympic Park, where you can catch a glimpse of the unique stadium architecture and soak in the buzz, and spirit of the Games.
Wish to take a breather from the Olympic craze and crowds? Then get out of typical tourist hotspots.
Head over to some of the city’s lesser-visited but equally interesting museums, like the Imperial War Museum, which features exhibitions on conflicts from the First World War to today, or the Fashion And Textile Museum where you can learn more about how international and British fashion has evolved from the 1950s to present day. Alternatively, you can also simply pack a picnic and check out some of London’s greenery at the Chelsea Physic Gardens, Hampstead Heath or Battersea Park.
If visiting a few popular attractions still remains a part of your agenda, consider getting a multi-sightseeing pass, which is a great way to save both time and money. The London Pass is by far the most thorough, offering entry and queue hops to more than 55 of the most popular attractions, and at the same time, providing the benefits of an advance ticket with increased flexibility over your visiting times.
These will be the busiest few weeks London has seen in quite some time, so the rule of thumb is essentially to think ahead. London is definitely a city where researching and planning your itinerary, and routes in advance will be an advantage, so do plan ahead to make the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime experience!
WHERE TO STAY
Here are some places to stay near the venues of your favourite games.
Hilton London Wembley, four stars.
Rooms start from S$346 (RM869)* per night on Hotels.com. The hotel is only one kilometre away from Wembley Stadium, home to the English national team and the largest of six venues hosting the London 2012 Olympic football tournament. Football fans staying here can simply cross the road to catch their favourite footballer in action.
It is also close to the Brent Cross Shopping Centre and is located just 20 minutes away from West End, so you can get some retail therapy, and catch some of the world’s best musical productions as well.
2. Tennis Mk Hotel London, 2.5 stars.
Rooms start from S$330* per night on Hotels.com.
The newly renovated hotel provides tennis fans with accommodation in the heart of London. Located near Wimbledon, home to the oldest tennis tournament in the world, the Wimbledon Championships, visitors looking for some racquet action will be pleased to know that this hotel is conveniently located near Putney Bridge station, where they can take a short Tube ride to Southfields station, where the Olympic tennis tournament will take place.
Other nearby points of interest include the Royal Albert Hall, known for hosting performances by world-famous artistes such as Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin, as well as Craven Cottage Stadium, home to Fulham Football Club.
3. Swimming, diving, synchronised swimming ibis Styles London Leyton — formerly All Seasons, three stars.
Rooms start from S$162* per night on Hotels.com
The world’s swimming stars have always made a splash on the front pages of newspapers and this year will be no exception as they gear up for yet another Olympic season in London.
While accommodation near the Olympic Park is fast running out, ibis Styles London Leyton still has vacancies available. Located near the Aquatic Centre where the swimming, diving and synchronised swimming events will take place, this hotel puts visitors practically next to the Olympic action.
Other attractions nearby include White Hart Lane Stadium, home of the Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club as well as the Olympic Village, offering opportunities to catch a glimpse of the world’s top athletes up close!
Prince Regent Hotel Excel London, three stars.
Rooms start from S$610* on Hotels.com.
Witness history being made once again at the London Olympics this year, as the world’s biggest track and field stars aim to break world records, and pit themselves against each other to make their nations proud.
Located near the Olympic Stadium is the Prince Regent Hotel Excel London hotel, providing visitors with comfortable and convenient accommodation in which to relax after an excitable day of cheering on their favourite athletes.
Travellers who weary of track and field action can also take a jaunt near the hotel to Boleyn Ground Stadium, home venue of West Ham United Football Club, or visit The O2, a historic venue that has hosted performances by world-renowned artistes including Bon Jovi, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson.
Prices are correct as of June 2012 and are subject to availability and change. Terms and conditions apply.