London for Less! Guest Post by Riddhi Mahimkar!

IMG_20140905_171250

I’m really excited to introduce Riddhi Mahimkar as a guest blogger for BeyondBoredom. Trust me, it wasn’t easy getting her to write about her travels. She’s as lazy about documenting her journeys as she is passionate about travel. Unlike most of my other female classmates who are finding bliss in the arms of their new husbands, Riddhi quit her job to travel the world, or at least as far as she could afford.  Now broke and unemployed she does odd jobs for a living (life of a vagabonder!). You should definitely look her up when in Mumbai for a pretty offbeat tour of the city. She also has quite the knack at finding the best deals and the cheapest ways to get around and agreed to share with us some of London’s inexpensive attractions !

You can follow Riddhi @ It’s a Wanderlust Life

________________________

London is brilliant. But it is expensive. Very very expensive. Also, considering I was an Indian tourist in Britain, every GBP I spent was more than INR100 deducted from my account. But I did a lot of scavenging over the internet and did come up with my own list of tourist hacks to see London on a budget.

Before you read on, just FYI…

Duration of stay: 15 days in August 2014

Accommodation: FREE! It is great to have friends living all over the world! 🙂

Total expense on Food, Local Travel and Sight-seeing: ₤350

Sightseeing on a Budget

Sandemans Free Tour

The best way to get yourself introduced to the city is through the Sandemans Free Tour. I did not take the one in London as I was staying in the city for quite a few days and did a lot of self exploration on my own. Also, I did the Bicycle Tour which was one of the to-do things with the London Pass (more about it on #2). But I swear by the Sandemans Free Tours with my experience of them in rest of Europe. It is the best and the most fun way to know the city. The guides are extremely knowledgeable, friendly and they do know their city inside out. All you have to do is be present at the said time and place as per the website and they will take care of you from there. And you may even meet new tourists like yourself on the tour. In case you traveling solo, isn’t this the best way to find some company for seeing the city? Read up more about them here.

The London Pass

To anyone who wants to see the most of London in a few days, I recommend the London Pass. It is the most money and time saving pass you will be buying in London. They have an option of 1,2, 3, 6 and 10 day passes. I bought a 3 day Pass for ₤72 and boy, oh boy! It was worth every single penny. In 3 days, I visited tourist places worth 170GBP! The pass acts as your ticket and also gives you fast track access to more than 60 tourist attractions in the city. Well, it is impossible to visit them all in the given number of days and some aren’t worth it either. But with a little pre-planning, you can cover places such as The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace and more! It also includes a Thames River Cruise (don’t miss it!) and the London Bicycle Tour. Plan your days and make the most of this Pass. One of the options is also buying the Pass with the Oyster Card so that even your travel in taken care of for those many days. So we are talking unlimited travel in tubes, buses and overground trains + sightseeing! Sounds like a great deal, aye?

Free History Lessons!!

Other than the paid tourist attractions, there are quite a few ones which are free to go to. I would recommend the Natural History Museum (It has a marvelous architecture. Gives you a feel of being in Hogwarts.), Victoria & Albert Museum (It is truly the world’s greatest museum of art and design), the British Museum and the Imperial War Museum.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

The Trafalgar Square

The Trafalgar Square which was once the King’s Mews, is now one of the must visit tourist spots. Take a walk down the road and see the Palace Guards at the Buckingham Palace. I wouldn’t recommend waiting for hours in the crowd just to see the changing of the guards ceremony.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

The Palace Guards

The Palace Guards

And who doesn’t love to just laze around!

In case museums do not fascinate you much, you could always take a walk down the South Bank of River Thames, sit on one of the benches and marvel at the Tower Bridge while sipping on some hot chocolate on a cold rainy day or some beer on a sunny day if you’re lucky. Pack your picnic basket and spend a lazy afternoon at Hyde Park. Take a delightful walk around West End and Covent Garden, shop at Primark, see the famous Kings Cross station, take a picture at Platform 9 3/4 and meet Mr.Holmes at 221 Baker Street.

London MotoG

London Eye vs St. Paul’s

One thing that everyone visits when is London is the London Eye. Well, you know what? I don’t recommend it. It is way too crowded, expensive and lasts just 30 minutes. Instead, if you want to see London from a height, I recommend buying a ₤15 ticket to St. Paul’s Cathedral. You get to see the Cathedral’s awe-inspiring interior and a visit to the world famous dome from where you can get a magnificent view of London city. Cheaper, better and less crowded than the London Eye.

DSCN0657

Travel on a Budget

London transportation is expensive. A single once way tube ticket can cost as much as ₤2.5 on a tube. The most economical way to travel is to buy the Oyster Card and top it up with a 7 Days, Monthly or longer period travel cards. I bought the 7 days travel card and used it to the fullest. With this top up, I could travel unlimited for 7 consecutive days on the Tube, Overground and the Buses. It was great for me as I lived in the suburbs so I used the Tube everyday and then the buses within the city.

Eat on a Budget

The cheapest meal you can have is the packaged Sandwiches priced around ₤4-₤5 which you will find at Tesco or M&S Food Store. They aren’t very great but they help. I enjoyed an occasional meal of fish and chips on some days and sometimes I made sandwiches from home and carried them. Do have a Pub meal for the experience but don’t go overboard with it! You are on a budget, remember!? 🙂

DSCN0653

DSCN0655

Advertisements

Waiheke Island

Lazing around at the Jumeirah Beach here in Dubai reminded me of Waiheke Island, near Auckland, probably one of the best beaches I have ever been to, so here are some of the pictures of the lesser known Waiheke Island.

603953_564416460245261_1211599305_n

Waiheke is just a 35 minute ferry ride (under 50$) from downtown Auckland and is best explored on a cycle, which can be rented for 25$ for the entire day, although you’d need to be in decent shape to cycle around the many slopes. But if you can, its a beautiful place to cycle around with the many beaches and the deserted roads. You won’t come across too many people, as most of the locals work in Auckland. The ones you do come across are really friendly, helpful and mainly European. Waiheke is popular for its Wine and Sail tours which you can sign up for when you’re buying the ferry ticket.

Its one of those beaches where you can sit down on the sand after a nice ride and stare across the vast expanse of the ocean, sipping on some chilled beer, feeling completely isolated and just be there, listening to the sound of the waves.

My photographs aren’t the best and can’t do justice to this gorgeous island and like all things amazing, can only be experienced.

You can visit http://www.waiheke.co.nz/scenic.php for a more pictures and detailed information about the place.

562334_564415893578651_1472920084_n

561858_564416310245276_427544132_n

559957_564416850245222_1991709108_n

551552_564416800245227_1183284574_n

149422_564416666911907_971856717_n

544677_564416123578628_894780110_n

546157_564415796911994_1059676097_n

17897_564416620245245_856451571_n

12386_564416196911954_400214259_n

383089_564416093578631_31054951_n

525340_564416433578597_1926511910_n

Merida – The Roman City in Spain

317500_10150753819035184_1269653_n

Ancient Roman architecture

Merida is the small but beautiful capital city of Extremadura, Spain. It’s a city that takes you straight to glorious heart of ancient Spain. Friendly folk, engaged in their lively banter in cafes on the narrow streets, Roman ruins scattered across the city, the rich aroma of roasted meat in the air are captivating to say the least. The Roman bridge across the river, the aqueducts, cafes nestled in ancient Roman ruins add a historic and timeless charm.

The ruins of a Roman amphitheatre

The ruins of a Roman amphitheatre

Gearing up for a performance at the Aqueducts

Gearing up for a performance at the Aqueducts

I visited Merida in Aug 2011 and stayed with a Spanish family for all of 7 days. Such a culturally rich experience. Had a wonderful host family and even managed to pick up a bit of Spanish. Ignacio the younger son could speak English, which was such a help, considering practically no one in the town speaks English. Made our lives so much easier.

Most of the locals here work in Madrid and come back home during the Summer holidays. It’s a sparsely populated town and its practically a ghost town on Sunday especially in the afternoons. People adore their siesta and wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Ignacio, the younger son of my host family.

Ignacio, the younger son of my host family.

 

Friendly locals offering me some mouthwatering pork

Friendly locals offering me some mouthwatering pork

Narrow lanes

Beautiful narrow lanes

Pretty houses

Pretty houses

602989_10151802890520184_1351803572_n

A deserted town on Sundays

 

Practically a ghost town on Sundays.

Quaint roadside cafes – quintessential Europe

Roman Trojan entrance

Roman Trojan entrance

302968_10150753826975184_6540986_n

Cafes  comfortably nestled in the ruins

Cafes comfortably nestled in the ruins

316094_10150753826500184_3760693_n

Mérida is very small, and the best way to experience it is to walk through the town. Although, the summers can get quite intense, every street has a nice little watering hole to help you along your way.

Merida was my first trip outside India. And even though all my trips are amazing and unforgettable, this city along with my host family will always be amongst the most meaningful journeys.

My First Visit to a Mosque

20150206_175707

On Friday, I visited the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. My first time at a Mosque and I was blown away by it’s majestic beauty. It is the eight largest mosque in the world and its design unites the cultural diversity of Islamic world, the historical and modern values of architecture and art.

20150206_182539

It features 24 carat gold dilded chandeliers and and the world’s largest hand knotted carpet, 82 domes, over 1,000 columns and has a massive capacity of 40,000 worshipers. Its namesake Sheikh Zayed is buried here.

20150206_183003

It was amazing to see ancient Persian, Mughal and Moorish architecture blend with modern contemporary lighting and design. Reminded me of the Taj Mahal. A must visit if you’re in the UAE.

Vagabond Wisdom – The menace of the media

‘But is it safe?’ I asked my uncle. He had just been to Mexico, on holiday. He was a science professor in North America, and was now in India.

‘Yeah?’ He looked at me slightly confused.

‘Is it safe like you know to walk down the street alone?’ I probed a little more. The minute Mexico is brought up I imagine drug cartels shooting their way through rundown streets.

‘Of course, its just like any other city, just like walking down a street in India. Maybe safer’.

I looked away embarrassed at falling prey to stereotypes the media had fed me. Americans and Europeans think India is unsafe.They also expect to find people traveling on elephants and cows on every street. India isn’t like that and neither was Mexico filled with only drug lords.

While India maybe a tad bit unsafe (especially for women) it isn’t quite like how the media portrays it, we are not subject to violent crime every now and then. At least, I’ve never been mugged in Mumbai but was on the verge of getting thrashed in Auckland by a group of locals (in New Zealand which is apparently the most peaceful country in the world).

Lesson learned. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers. The world is a lot safer than we think it is. Or rather after the recent attacks in Paris and Sydney, maybe no place in the world is truly safe.

So take everything you read with a pinch of salt. The media will always sensationalize a story even when there is no story. Don’t be scared of traveling to ‘developing’ countries. They are a lot safe than you think.

 

Image Credit: Lifehacker.com

Image Credit: Lifehacker.com