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As we consider your feedback and keep moving forward with Scrubba air sleeve development, we thought we’d talk a bit about the practicalities of technology when it comes to travel. This topic has been of such recent interest to us not only because of our latest product, but also because the question that seems to be on every travellers' lips these days, "Should I travel with technology and, if so, what kind?" continues to return near infinite responses! More than just a little confused, we here at Scrubba HQ finally decided to put our heads together in an attempt to share our own advice on the world of tech-travel.
The prototype Scrubba air sleeve
To tech-travel, or not to tech-travel:
Although our portable devices may irritate us from time to time, most of us have gradually accepted the fact that we just can’t live without them, and indeed it sometimes feels as though our entire lives are stored neatly behind those glossy screens tucked away in our bags and pockets. This can present a bit of a conundrum when it comes to travel: On the one hand, we want the convenience, social connection, and immediate entertainment that tech bestows; on the other, we worry about losing said tech (and the information that helps run our daily lives), damaging it on a bumpy journey, or having it stolen.
These anxieties might be enough to persuade you to leave your valuables behind for your next big trip, but we recommend that you carefully weigh up your options before reaching that decision. After all, if there’s no doubt that travelling with technology can be worrisome, there’s even less doubt surrounding that same technology’s convenience and practicality. Take it from the avid travellers over at Jetlag Jerry, who certainly know a thing or two about travelling with tech and were kind enough to share their experience with us:
I always travel with multiple USB or portable disc drives for a few reasons. If you’re working remotely, it’s important to back up your stuff if something goes wrong, like your laptop breaking or getting stolen. I also make digital copies of legal documents (passport, relevant visas, etc). If you lose your passport, it can be a nightmare proving your identity without documentation. Digital backups help the process of re-confirming your identity and expediting the replacement process.
Details like this render it so important, if not absolutely necessary, to master the art of tech travel, but unfortunately this conclusion alone does nothing to answer the question of exactly what technology is the best. To help you solve the final part of the problem, therefore, we’ve put together a quick comparison of the different gadgets you may be considering packing for your next journey:
“I travel all the time, both for business and leisure, and packing a laptop has become an essential part of my routine.”
So says Scrubba managing director, Ash Newland. Although it may seem as though a recent wave of new technology has smothered the relevancy of laptops, these portable devices remain the “must-have” gadget for travelling, especially for those who work, blog, or actively create content on the road. A plethora of options enable you to customise as necessary, and with plenty of lightweight models, most of which are more than sufficient for the average traveller, available, you can easily browse, upload, and download, all without turning your suitcase into a heavy, unmanageable brick. Typically decent battery life, abundant storage space, and SD card slots further elevate the importance of laptops when it comes to globetrotting, while the ability to use them as a backup phone or tablet charger while on the go can be invaluable. Just be sure to invest in a sturdy, lightweight protective case to keep your luggage light and your tech protected, which is, of course, where our air sleeve will come in super handy.
Tips: Stick to 13” for travel and consider the weight and size of your chargers to ensure your bags remain as manageable as possible. Be sure to select a model with good battery life, especially if you're considering using your laptop to charge your smaller devices, and invest in a high quality, protective case that will give you peace of mind even when you’re watching those baggage handlers toss around luggage like it’s made of foam.
Enthusiastic traveller, office admin guru, and mother of one, Sarah, told us:
“Tablets are great for keeping the whole family entertained. They’re also quite compact, meaning they can easily be used by kids on long drives and can be stored without hassle when it comes time to adventure.
For those who are more interested in browsing content than in creating it, a tablet may be sufficient for your needs on the road. After all, the recent emergence of apps for almost every imaginable service - including popular desktop programs - coupled with the fact that tablets are typically cheaper, lighter and slimmer than laptops without compromising on battery life or storage capacity, make tablets a great alternative to the more traditional laptop. It can be even more important, however, to invest in a decent case, as tablets can be highly susceptible to damage from knocks and other forms of impact.
Tips: Check battery life and storage carefully to ensure your model is suitable for travel. If possible, invest in a tablet that carries a SD card slot. We also suggest you explore a number of apps and integrate them into your day to day activities to ensure that you're capable of working solely from your tablet before you head off on your journey.
“Couldn’t travel without one” was the refrain that chimed, almost in unison, from every voice in our office.
Although some people still prefer to leave their phone at home or to exchange it for a cheap brick when abroad, a smartphone can be invaluable on the road. After all, besides the practical convenience of being able to call for services, help, and information, the ability to access the Internet at the near infinite number of WiFi hotspots that have cropped up on every corner, coupled with the numerous communication, entertainment, travel, navigation, and language translation apps that can be conveniently downloaded and carried right in your pocket, offer near unparalleled convenience on the road. As smartphones are also equipped with cameras, they're great all-in-one tools for those who really want to slim their suitcases down. Enabling easy contact with friends and family and helping to keep basic affairs in order – all while remaining far lighter and smaller than the alternatives – a smartphone is a necessity for most travellers, so be sure to do your research well in advance if you decide to leave yours behind.
Tips: If possible, use a local sim to avoid extortionate charges and be sure to turn off your data to dodge potentially astronomical bills upon your return home. Keep your phone in a protective case to lessen the chance of cracked screens or chipped corners.
“Nothing beats the photos produced by a good quality camera, and seeing as such photos offer a gateway into the past, contributing to your life story in full, vivid colour, a camera is the one thing I always make sure I pack.”
A filmmaker who also serves as digital content creator in our office, it’s hardly surprising that Dhruv would think this way, but if travel has taught us one thing, it’s that you no longer have to be a professional in the field of digital media to be packing some quality gear. Indeed, it seems that everywhere you look these days singles, couples and families alike are towing bulky DSLRs with multiple lenses. While I’m not suggesting you invest that much money – unless you really want to, of course – the quality you’ll get from even a basic point and shoot is typically far superior to, say, the camera on your tablet and is often more satisfying to use than your smartphone. Cameras are also obviously much better equipped to be used out in the field than other digital devices with photography capabilities, so if you want to preserve your trip in detail, you really shouldn’t look past this invaluable piece of tech. It will work much better and be more fun to use than your phone or tablet, trust us.
Tips: Don’t forget to pack your camera in a good quality case and consider using a neck or wrist strap for additional security while out and about.
Having graduated with a major in literary studies and been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, an E-Book Reader is, for me, a truly invaluable piece of tech. Although nothing quite beats the feel of a physical book, an E-Book Reader is a fantastic alternative for those who want to save space in their suitcase, browse the latest travel guides, or avoid roughing-up their precious hard copy volumes. Small, light, relatively cheap, and boasting excellent battery life with screens much better equipped for reading in sunlight than, say, tablets, E-Book Readers are the perfect solution for avid readers who just want to lounge on the beach devouring one title after another. Reading apps are, nevertheless, readily available for tablets and smart phones, so those who would prefer to scale down their tech may just find that another device sufficiently covers their literary needs, especially if more conservative in their reading habits.
Hard drive/USB/SD Card:
To reiterate the wise words of the crew over at Jet Lag Jerry:
“If you’re working remotely, it’s important to back up your stuff if something goes wrong, like your laptop breaking or getting stolen.”
Our team couldn’t agree more! Think ahead and plan your media carefully, because photos and videos drain storage space fast, not to mention that the device you’re keeping them on is not immune to damage, loss, or theft. As you might just never forgive yourself if your precious memories evaporate into an irretrievable abyss, it can pay to take along a small, lightweight hard drive or similar device for peace of mind.
Tips: If your primary device has plenty of space, you don’t plan on creating much media, or you already use online backup systems, you can probably leave this piece of tech at home.
Now that you’ve considered the technology that is the best for travel, why not investigate an option for keeping your laptop safe during your journey? To help us innovate and design the best, most relevant product, please contribute to our short survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/227JSL8
Thanks for your input and happy adventuring!
People travel for vastly different reasons including work, leisure, and education, but despite the different locations and purposes behind these journeys, most will agree that travel is singularly unique and beneficial. Indeed, many who have sampled a piece of the world map admit to becoming afflicted with a sort of insatiable wanderlust that constantly manages, against all odds, to overcome financial and other barriers. Why is this? What is it about travel that crosses age and cultural divides and links us through the shared identity of ‘the traveller?’ Why is it that so many people are scrambling to organise their next trip despite, at times, encountering hefty travel expenses or difficulties navigating remote or even dangerous regions that are exacerbated by challenging terrains and climates?
The reasons for travel are unique and often reflect the personalities and aspirations of individuals, making it difficult to generalise to the travelling population as a whole. Nevertheless, we here at the Scrubba have pooled our travelling experience to compile a top 5 list that we’ve all managed to agree on, so we thought it only fitting to share it with you here! If you’ve ever wondered what's so great about travel, or have struggled to explain your love of globetrotting to friends or family who are content to stay at home, we recommend you memorise the following list! Who knows, it might even give you or your non-travelling friends the infamous ‘travel bug’.
Expand your horizons:
Who doesn’t love to change things up a bit by adding new notches of experience to the belt of life? Visiting places that look a little different, that are governed by different laws and filled with unfamiliar people who have different cultural traditions, practice different beliefs, wear unfamiliar clothes, eat new foods, and look after plants and animals you’ve never before heard of, is a great way to expand your horizons and perhaps evaluate your own life from new, enlightening perspectives. Learn a little about humanity and the threads that connect us, whilst simultaneously gaining some knowledge about yourself through association with that which is vastly different. There’s nothing quite like it.
Meet people and make new friends:
One of the greatest benefits of travel is meeting people from all over the globe and connecting with them through the unique experience of travel. Travel fosters friendship precisely because there’s no better bonding experience than attempting to conquer a foreign landscape whilst drinking in new, awe-inspiring sites, especially if you’re travelling solo (find out why you should) and are just jumping at any opportunity to speak to strangers in order to fulfil your daily ‘human contact’ quota. Global friends will expand your horizons, will almost certainly teach you something new about both yourself and the world, and will ultimately provide the invaluable comfort of a familiar face and possibly even a cosy home in an alien environment. It’s the sort of unique connection that everyone should experience, and it’s just one of the reasons why we’ll never stop travelling.
Learn something new:
Not only a new language, but a little geography, a touch of history, a sprinkle of politics, a dash of architecture, and just a drizzle of global culture and international relations. Oh, and did we mention the art of cooking and testing out new culinary styles? In short, travel teaches you an abundance of things, from previously unknown facts to more abstract qualities within yourself. Once obtained, these qualities can be further practised and developed anywhere in the world, giving you the practical skills to conquer any imaginable scenario. We keep travelling precisely because the knowledge to be gained from it is infinite, and even if you’re convinced you have no interest in gaining said knowledge, it pays to remember that travel is a great way to discover a passion or hobby you never knew you had. After all, it only takes one unique animal or building or culinary dish to redirect your approach to a certain topic, enabling you to find beauty where you couldn't before.
Meet new flora and fauna:
No single country can boast all the world’s diverse landscapes and ecosystems, so we have to go looking for them! Lush rainforests, dense woodland, rolling deserts, sweeping tundras, vast icefields, infinite mountain ranges, raging oceans, colourful reefs, plunging cliffs, and docile lakes, all teeming with the unique vibrancy of life, make up just a handful of the earth’s beautiful, constantly changing surface. Travellers don’t just want to visit these regions – they have a burning desire to explore and experience them. After all, there’s nothing quite like seeing the sparkling ocean, the glistening snow, or the twisted peaks of rocky mountains for the first time. The traveller’s passion is to constantly recapture this sensation by visiting new and totally unfamiliar places that promise not only to change perspectives of the world, but to add even more fuel to an ever-increasing desire to scour every inch of it without delay.
Try new experiences and challenge yourself:
Why not hike up a mountain, swim with dolphins or sharks, skydive, bungee jump, take a cooking or language class, dog-sled, or rent an apartment and try living abroad for a few months? Travel not only gives you the opportunity to try things you might not be able to try at home, but also gives you the drive and confidence to experience them. From conquering a fear to checking something off your bucket list, travel can take you from one corner of the globe to the other, creating unforgettable memories in the process. It also provides a little time to disengage from this fast-paced, media-driven world, enabling you to spend some quality time reconnecting with the earth and, most importantly, with yourself and the relationships that add a little colour to your life.
And there you have it, the reasons behind the traveller’s rapidly dwindling funds, ridiculously large collection of novelty souvenirs, and rather haggard, jet-lagged countenance. We know it’s not always easy, but in exchange for new friends, new knowledge, new experiences, and unforgettable memories, it’s totally worth it!
Following on from our 5 Things to Do in London That Don't Cost a Penny blog, posted earlier this year, 5 Things to Do in Paris … is the latest instalment in our new See Without the Fee series. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to share our favourite and entirely free experiences around the globe because, you know, who doesn’t love free things? Travel is, of course, the crowning jewel of freebies. Achieving our travel goals without spending a cent is all the more exciting precisely because it often seems impossible to become so much richer in experience and memories without becoming a whole lot poorer in the actual money department. Thankfully, we’re here to dispel that downright pessimistic mindset with our list of the top 5 things to do in Paris for free.
Aimez-vous Paris? You’re not alone. In fact, according to l’Office du Tourisme et des Congrès “Tourism in Paris in Key Numbers” brochure, the Greater Paris region entertained 36.5 million tourists last year alone, easily making it one of the most visited destinations in the world. Maybe it’s the air of romance, the high quality cheap wine, or the powerful allure of renowned landmarks like La Tour Eiffel, L’Arc de Triomphe, and Notre-Dame de Paris, but whatever the reason, it’s clear that people just can’t get enough of the beautiful French capital that refuses to take even a transitory break from its eternal quest to awe its many visitors with outpourings of history, culture and fine dining (of which, we want to make absolutely clear, cheese is undoubtedly the most important element). There’s simply so much to see and do in the City of Lights and its surrounding regions that even the most frugal traveller can rack up quite a bill, especially when you consider that seeing this sprawling city with any degree of seriousness demands quite a lengthy stay. Thankfully, there are some amazing parts of Paris that are totally free to visit or admire, and the following list sums up a handful of our favourites.
No Parisian blog would be complete without it, and as luck would have it this particular attraction happens to be free, earning it top place on our list. Perched anything but discreetly on the banks of the Seine, Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) is a staggeringly large Gothic cathedral that took around 300 years to complete following the start of construction in the 12th century. One of the oldest examples of Gothic architecture and one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses, Notre Dame has become a staple of the Parisian skyline, admirably surviving the test of time and the many conflicts that have accompanied it. Today it lies in the heart of the city where it is easily accessible on metro line 4 thanks to the nearby Notre-Dame and Cité metro stops. Jaw-droppingly magnificent both inside and out, the cathedral has been celebrated in many art forms, and is today one of Paris’ most visited attractions.
Parc du Champ de Mar:
Enjoy the Eiffel Tower in all its dominating glory from the beautiful, sprawling Parc du Champ Mar. Comprised of lush pockets of vivid green grass periodically intersected by neat paths that offer spectacular central views of the famous 300m high Tower, the park is a fantastic place to relax by day and to admire the shimmering lights of La Tour Eiffel by night. If the prospect of sitting in the Tower’s shadow and craning your neck up at its observation deck becomes a little too daunting (or perhaps a little too depressing if you lack the cash to scale the monument yourself), you can always turn your attention to the impressive Mur pour la Paix (Wall for Peace), a recent monument built in the tradition of Jerusalem’s famous Wailing Wall. Bearing the word ‘Peace’ in 32 languages and 14 alphabets, its letterboxes enable visitors to post their wishes as a symbol of the continuance of time and the transference of messages across generations. Both the park and the beauty that lies within its neatly trimmed borders are well worth a visit, promising a highly enjoyable excursion that offers up copious amounts of Parisian culture and history for the most budget-conscious traveller.
A Ton of Famous Buildings (from the Outside):
One of the great things about Paris is that the vast majority of its most famous attractions are highly accessible from the street, enabling visitors to freely bask in their stunning architecture and total embodiment of near impossible feats of engineering, without having to so much as open their wallets. Not only the Eiffel Tower, but also L’Arc de Triomphe, the largest arch in the world, can be freely visited at ground level without anything to hinder your view. In fact, situated in the middle of what is quite possibly the world’s most frightening roundabout and lying at the end of the famous Champs-Élysées, it would be difficult to find a monument that is more accessible to the public, proudly showing off its beauty from the second it leaps into view right up until the jaw dropping moment you walk beneath the famed archway that was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806. Today, the arch serves as a tribute not only to his military battles, but also to the fallen in general, acting as the site of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose flame is rekindled daily at 6.30pm. Le Louvre, famously approached by the romantic, padlocked-lined Pont des Arts, also presents the opportunity to admire a beautiful façade completed by an impressive glass pyramid, while the Pantheon Paris, not to be outdone, boasts its own superb neoclassical architecture. Of course, your visit will be infinitely enriched by venturing inside these famous buildings to experience the treasures that lie within, but if you lack the time or money to do so you can rest assured that you can still experience Paris (and take the photos to prove it) without emptying your bank account.
Basilique du Sacré Coeur:
It might not be quite as famous as Notre Dame, but the Basilique du Sacré Coeur is well worth a visit. Located in the historic Montmartre region, one can both admire and enter the Romano-Byzantine style church for free, although what you save in money you might just lose in disposition, as your prize can only be reached by ascending a large, sweeping staircase that proves challenging for many visitors. Nevertheless, the views of Paris from the top are absolutely stunning, and make for some beautiful photo opportunities for those eager to commit their visit to Paris to the eternal. Brimful with culture, atmosphere, and history, the Sacré Coeur is only around a ten minute walk from Anvers station, reached on the number 2 metro service, and is definitely a must-see for young and old alike.
Jardin du Luxembourg:
These impressive gardens, covering 25 hectares, comprise both French and English separated by a large pond and forest. Boasting 106 statues along with the impressive Medici fountain, the park can become overrun with tourists and locals alike in fine weather, who quite understandably flock to the historic grounds to enjoy a spot of sunshine in a beautiful location. Despite this, Jardin du Luxembourg offers a great way to take a break from the bustle of Paris by immersing yourself in nature and observing Parisian life and flora and fauna from afar, all without spending a cent!
Yes, it’s not the best way to see the city and no, you won’t get to climb the Eiffel Tower or experience da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, but hopefully this list has helped to convince you that Paris offers many exciting attractions for even the most budget-conscious traveller. So put away those Euros for just a moment and get back to the heart of the city by admiring the features that complete its skyline … just try not to blow your savings on a huge pile of crêpes afterwards!
If you’ve ever thought of staying at a hostel or similar type of budget accommodation, odds are you’ve had the image of a cramped, dirty, and slightly ramshackle, overflowing building reserved for only the most budget-conscious travellers. Perhaps opportunistic pick-pockets have even swum, unbidden, into the back of your mind. If you’ve ever actually stayed in one, however, it’s likely you realised fairly quickly that the rather mundane reality couldn’t be further from this dreary image. In fact, as travel becomes increasingly accessible to people of all demographics and locations, hostels are becoming a staple form of accommodation across the globe and are consequently expanding their appeal to reach groups far broader than the lone backpacker in need of nothing more than a bed and roof for the night, the image that that has, somewhat erroneously, come to be virtually synonymous with the very word ‘hostel’ itself. Indeed, aside from the uniting theme of ‘budget accommodation’, most hostels are now fairly adaptable, typically offering both dorm and private rooms, shared and private bathrooms, and sometimes even free breakfasts and entertainment in order to accommodate a wide array of guests with diverse travel needs.
This increased effort to appeal to a broad range of travellers, coupled with the vast number of hostels now available, make it fairly certain that most globetrotters will, at some point, come across at least one that appeals to them. Since the bulk of hostels offer reasonable, affordable accommodation that allows travellers to save money and thus see and do more on their adventures, we here at the Scrubba wash bag think it’s important to dispel certain preconceptions about hostels that may have scared you off in the past, and instead give you some tips to make your first stay as cosy as possible!
Although hostels can be a little different from other forms of accommodation, we’re confident that these tips will equip you with all the tools you need to quickly and easily familiarise yourself with hostel-living. There’s no better time to jump out of your comfort zone and onto the hostel bandwagon, just remember to:
Pack a lock:
A great number of hostels now offer lockers for extra security as part of their general facilities, but often this service doesn’t extend to the fundamental feature itself – the lock. Although most hostels will sell locks at reception, you can save a little money, not to mention invest in a lock you trust and find easy to use, if you come prepared and bring your own! It’s only a simple precaution, but it might just help to dispel some of the fears about dorm rooms you've cultivated in the past, ensuring that you get to focus on the scenery and culture around you instead of panicking about the state of your valuables throughout the day.
Take a power board:
Some dormitories are incredibly well equipped, while others achieve a certain charm by demanding a greater degree of cooperation from their guests. This means that it’s rather likely you’ll eventually find yourself bunking up in a bustling room of power-hungry travellers who, due to limited supply, resort to scrambling over the handful of available power sockets every night. With the bulk of travellers now carrying multiple devices that require charging at the end of a long day, even a plethora of sockets can be quickly snapped up in the peak charging times that typically occur after dark, rendering a power board or similar device that is capable of charging four or five devices all from one socket, incredibly useful not just for you, but also for your roommates. Who knows – you might even make some new friends by offering some much-coveted power to your fellow dormers.
Bring your own amenities:
Although this doesn't apply to all hostels, the general rule by which I abide when staying in budget accommodation is: If it’s not bolted down, assume it’s not included. Typical, everyday items that are important to consider include sheets and pillowcases, bath towels, and toiletries like soap and shower gel. As with the lock, most hostel receptions will offer these amenities for an additional fee, but you can generally save money and play to your own preferences by planning ahead and bringing your own gear. Hostels that include bedding and bath towels in the price of the room seem to be becoming more common (especially in regards to private rooms), and in my experience it’s entirely possible to complete a lengthy trip without ever having to fork out extra for these services. Nevertheless, it’s important to familiarise yourself with your hostel’s inclusions to ensure you’re prepared for all scenarios. In the event that you do need to carry some extra gear, you can save space and reduce bulk by purchasing an ultra-portable and highly absorbent microfiber Scrubba travel towel.
Pack a pair of thongs/flip-flops:
This might not be as crucial if you’re staying in a private room with an ensuite that gets cleaned every day, but in the case of dorm rooms or other shared bathroom facilities, it’s incredibly important to both respect your fellow guests and take basic precautions against, for example, the sort of foot fungus that might just ruin your adventure by putting a huge dint in your plans to hike that mountain that’s been on your wish list for about a million years.
Be mindful and respectful:
Hostels tend to be vibrant, pulsating places regardless of whether you’re staying in a shared or private room. After all, they appeal largely to solo travellers who love lounging in common areas and participating in planned entertainment/movie/game nights in order to meet people and make new friends, so you’re bound to cross paths with loads of other travellers during your stay. This heightened contact renders it particularly important to remain aware of your fellow guests and to consider their feelings when, for instance, setting your alarm at two in the morning to make that ridiculously inconvenient flight that only runs once a day at the least appealing hour! flight. Late nights and early mornings are often unavoidable, but you’ll get along much better with your fellow guests if you minimise the disruption you make at these times by using a torch instead of flicking on overhead lights, and having your bag packed and ready to go the day before so that you don’t need to rummage around before your departure. Other common courtesies include ensuring that any mess you make in common areas or shared kitchens/bathrooms is promptly cleaned up so that other guests can benefit from the space. You should also stay mindful of how much equipment, from power sockets to cooking pots, you’re using at any one time, as there’s likely a queue forming behind you. Be sure to also respect people’s privacy, which means leaving their gear alone, but definitely don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and make friends, as that’s what hostels are all about!
As travel adapts and evolves to cater for more people, so too do hostels. This is, perhaps, the reason why this form of accommodation is now more in-demand than ever, appealing to those who are looking for basic services in exchange for low prices and, more often than not, great inner-city locations. With many hostels starting to offer more services and facilities, not to mention multiple room options, they often now also appeal to those who, although eager to save money and meet new people, aren’t quite cut out for the traditional hostel experience. A little different at first, but truly unique and rewarding, hostel travel is something that everyone should experience at least once. Just remember to follow these handy tips and to carefully check your hostel’s inclusions before making your booking! Good luck and happy travels.
It’s a well-known fact, albeit one perhaps yet to be totally verified by science, that it always tastes better, looks better, feels better, sounds better, and basically just [insert verb here] better when it’s free. Yes, one of the things we all seem to love most in the world is saving money, which is precisely why travel can, at any given time, act as both our best friend and our arch nemesis, bringing us a wealth of new experiences and memories even as it threatens to thwart our careful budgeting at every turn. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that low cost travel has become so high on the agendas of so many.
The search for low-cost adventures is underline by a unique fervour when it comes to London, one of the most visited, bustling cities in the world that is unfortunately located in the United Kingdom, a country whose currency, the pound, constantly feels stronger than a fire-breathing, poisonous gas-snorting, fiercely charging rhino encased in spiky armour, rendering your own currency about as valuable as Monopoly money. Believe it or not, however, there are some highly intriguing, rewarding, and one hundred percent free sites in this spectacular city of history, culture, and architecture. It’s okay – we figured you wouldn’t be that easy to convince. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five of our favourite destinations that will help keep London firmly on your ‘to-see’ list:
The British Museum:
It may be an obvious candidate that shows up on virtually every list of British tourist attractions ever written, but that doesn’t make it a less deserving one. The British Museum is simply overflowing with amazing artefacts and intriguing glimpses into history, and is gracefully complemented by the beautiful Greek-style architecture that houses its priceless exhibits from all over the globe. Some of the world’s most recognised pieces lie within its famed galleries, including the Rosetta Stone, the Mummy of Katebet and, more controversially, the Parthenon (Elgin) marbles, while countless others sprawl across a huge number of rooms accessed by a central, sweeping staircase. Located in the heart of London, widely accessible by public transport, and committed to education and research, it’s an unmissable London destination for travellers from all walks of life. While you’re at it, why not visit some other famous free museums including the Natural History Museum, the Museum of London, and the Tate Modern.
Hyde Park is a magical oasis of shimmering greens and blues that rises majestically and somewhat incongruously from the concrete hustle and bustle of one of the world’s busiest metropolises. At 142 hectares (350 acres), it provides a perfect, if transitory, escape from the visual and aural assaults of the city, and makes for a beautiful stroll amongst glistening grass and frolicking squirrels on one of those rarer sunny days. Visitors can pause for some active debate at Speakers’ Corner, admire the views from the banks of Serpentine Lake, and weave their way between innumerable statues and fountains including the famous Diana Memorial Fountain and the dominating Apsley Gate. Located in the heart of London, frequently hosting concerts and exhibitions, open daily from 5:00am to midnight, accessible by Tube on the Central and Piccadilly lines, and within close proximity of many famous attractions including Kensington Palace, the monumental Wellington Arch, the beautiful Marble Arch, and Harrods, Hyde Park is a definite ‘must-see’ for your freebie list. If you want to explore even more of London’s leafy paradises without opening your wallet, we also recommend the beautiful St James’s Park, the oldest of London’s Royal Parks with some great views of the London Eye, the lush Kensington Gardens, themselves adjoining Hyde Park, and Postman’s Park, with its famous Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice.
A pulsating, vibrant square in the centre of London, Trafalgar Square is a fantastic place to spend a relaxed afternoon sprawled amongst the pigeons in the shadow of the dominating Nelson’s column, reclining by the famous stone lions, looking out at the regal Charles I Statue, or gazing up at the unique Fourth Plinth. Surrounded by many fascinating museums including the beautiful National Gallery, the Square is made even more appealing by its frequent hosting of celebrations and events, its high accessibility on the Bakerloo and Northern Tube lines, and its close proximity to the vibrant China Town. Brimming with history and culture, Trafalgar Square is a tourist’s haven, liberally adorned with stunning statues, colossal columns, awesome architecture and fabulous fountains. Other free squares and public spaces that may capture your imagination and that are only a short walk from Trafalgar Square include Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.
Wander Across Tower Bridge:
Not to be confused with the better known but far less recognised London Bridge, Tower Bridge is the perfect backdrop to the famous Tower of London and is appropriately adorned with the turrets that so often leap to mind whenever we think of London’s Medieval history. It might surprise you to learn, therefore, that the bridge, unlike the neighbouring 11th-century Tower of London, wasn’t actually constructed until the 19th-century. Although entry and the exhibitions within incur a fee, simply walking the bridge offers some fantastic views of the Thames, all while serving as a practical walkway between some of London’s biggest attractions, including the aforementioned Tower of London and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Completely free to walk, photograph, and admire from the banks of the river, Tower Bridge is a wonderful feat of engineering and is not to be missed. While you’re in that neck of the woods, it would be criminal to miss the nearby and also 100% free Millennium Bridge and, you guessed it, the actual London Bridge (at least the modern version of it).
We know, we know, we’ve already discussed Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square, both of which lie within Westminster, but this area deserves a little more focus because some of the world’s most recognisable tourist attractions are situated here, and although most, if not all, incur a fee to enter, their external architecture is totally free to admire and photograph. This is why taking a day to explore Westminster, although absolutely critical for everyone, is perfect for those desperate to see London on a Budget. Head over to Big Ben and the beautiful British Parliament, revere the ancient Westminster Abbey, get regal by the gates of Buckingham Palace and political by the doors of number 10 Downing Street, and afterwards relax by watching the slowly revolving London Eye. There’s simply so much to see and do in Westminster without racking up a huge fee, and this is crucial because, let’s face it, you’ll get enough of that with food and accommodation.
It might not be the best or most comprehensive way to see the city, but this list certainly proves that the historic and culturally rich London is accessible for even the most budget-conscious traveller. So take a couple of days off from forking out a fistful of pound notes every hour and instead wander the parks, streets and rivers while admiring the architecture, bridges and monuments that complement them. Meet the people, see the sites, and, most importantly, enjoy London without breaking the bank!