Our first evening in London was pretty short. It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at the apartment where we’d be staying, and we were obviously just a little tired. Of course, being tired was secondary to being excited. We got cleaned up, into fresh clothes, and chatted with our host Rahul about our plans. I think I napped for a bit, but don’t really remember. We eventually made plans to head down to a restaurant at Canary Wharf for dinner. We could have taken the DLR, but it was a nice evening and we decided to walk.
Since it was late (our clocks were still on American time), we ate at a chain known for burgers and shakes. The burger was good, but nothing special, while the shake was one of the best I’ve had.
We eventually returned to the apartment, spending the rest of our first evening thinking about what we wanted to do the next day. Andrew read up on how best to make use of public transit in London, and figured out where we should go to buy a SIM card and service so we could get online during the remainder of the trip.
The Best Public Transit Payment System I’ve Seen
I can say every other public transit payment system we dealt with was inferior to the system in London. Remember the discussion last time about Google Pay? Well, we’d only need to tap in and out using our phones. No fare card to purchase or reload, and we automatically got the best rates for our travel. London has some longer-term pre-payment options that can be useful for regulars, but in our case paying as we went was the best deal.
Within London, after one or two rides from the apartment to downtown, we’d hit a daily maximum. After that, every additional ride was essentially free. Using the phone as the payment method, we didn’t have to do anything to keep it all together. As long as I used the same phone and credit card, at the end of each day I’d be charged that flat rate. Even better, Google Pay showed me a log of each check-in and check-out, making it easy to see how the fare was figured.
Of course, the rate structure was pretty accommodating–knowing where you got on and off meant that a very short ride could be charged a very small fare, and longer rides charged more. Unlike places like New York City, where it’s a flat rate per ride, you didn’t feel bad about hopping on to go a short distance.
Yes, it seems like a short day, basically running from an afternoon nap to dinner to bedtime. But it wasn’t really its own day, without heads on pillows in real beds since leaving Iowa. Our accommodations were extremely comfortable. The apartment was only a few months old, with a nice private bath and views of the Olympic stadium and London skyline. For less than $100 per night, it was more than adequate to catch up on some sleep.
Next time, we’ll head into London and start some of the super-touristy stuff. We still don’t have a plan; instead, we’re sticking to our plan of not planning.