Guest Post by Abhishek Jha
London can be a bit intimidating. With a central population of close to 9 million people, it’s one of the world’s biggest cities. A hub for world commerce, a home of unique fashion, and a cultural melting pot for generations, London is definitely worth an extended visit. Seeing the sites is easy.
We all know Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Tower Bridge, but what do you do when your done with the basics? London’s charm is in the fact that history abounds at every corner and it has no true centre. Hiring a local guide is a great option if you want to delve a little deeper. Here’s why!
Save Time on Transportation
London’s streets are so complex taxi drivers must study for years before passing the licensure test. Likewise, the city’s bus network is an efficient, but confusing criss-cross of local routes. The metro, affectionately known as “The Tube”, is a deep labyrinth of long transfers and platform changes.
Mastering transportation is a skill locals must develop to survive daily life. Don’t waste your time on the wrong train or bus. Taxis are also notoriously expensive and traffic can be a total time killer. If you only have a few days in the city, a local guide can be a real value. London’s sites are so spread out; have a guide help you perfect your route plan before you arrive.
Don’t Miss out on History
In London, historical landmarks are everywhere. You could be wandering down a street once strolled by Shakespeare, or the sinister Jack the Ripper. Worst of all you’d never know it. By booking a local guide, you can bring them to multiple sites. Have them show you where your favourite writer is buried at Westminster Abbey, or explore the nooks and crannies of the enormous British Museum.
Only a true expert can help you understand the massive collection of British masterpieces at The National Gallery. In London, history is in the most expected places, and only a local can show you the true gems.
Eat Better, Drink Better (FOR LESS)
Dreaded tourist traps aren’t just overpriced attractions. More often than not they are restaurants and bars as well. Places recommended by hotels, tourist maps, and travel sites charge a premium and usually, offer lower quality. Furthermore, bars and clubs can change prices at the door, meaning that flyer you bring is totally worthless.
The only way to find truly authentic recommendations for food and drink is through a local guide. For example, many tourists stop for a London staple, curry on Brick Lane. All these restaurants have Tripadvisor and Yelp stickers and banners adorning their doorways. So how do you choose? A local guide would be able to direct you to an unheralded nearby Pakistani restaurant, Tayyab’s, for a more affordable, more delicious, and more authentic Londoner experience.
Furthermore, a guide can direct you away from the tourism industry’s hollow profit motive. In Trafalgar square, and around SOHO you will find bar/club promoters handing out coupons or flyers. Do you really want to go a bar full of tourists? These places will be expensive and feature none of London’s unique flavour.
A local guide could tell you the cheapest pints in SOHO are located inside the French House. This converted brothel is full of pre-war history and eccentric characters. Likewise, Bradley’s Spanish Bar is a truly low-key spot for fans of antique decor. Afterwards, head to Camden Town or Shoreditch for a less hyped, but still fun night out.
Customise Your Time
We are all different. By this point, you probably know what you like and what you don’t. Travelling with a local is a great way to find your niche. They know the city well enough to direct you to areas they know you will like.
If you’re not a fan of going out on the town, they can pick up advance tickets to one of London’s fantastic, Broadway-level productions. Not huge into history, they can arrange a tour of the city’s ubiquitous street art. Really into food? How about a day scouring London’s Borough Market for ingredients to a traditional English meal? If the weather’s nice, pack up a picnic basket with fresh snacks and head to the gigantic greenery of Hyde Park. Like food, but don’t like cooking, you could always have your guide take you on a tasting tour of the city.
Essentially, with a local guide, you’re ensuring you have a good time by molding the city to you. In London, and for that matter anywhere around the world, if you’re tired of being a tourist, it’s time to go with a local guide.
About the Writer
Abhishek is an avid traveller and budding blogger. For him traveling is about exploring different cultures and experiencing local cuisine. Abhishek is digital content manager at tourHQ, a marketplace for connecting local guides with travellers around the world. You can follow him on Facebook.
Have you ever made use of a local guide to get the most of your trip? What was your experience like? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.