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Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

Alberta
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Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

My wife and I are planning a trip and will be spending a few days in London (likely 3) and we have been going back and forth on whether or not to book formal tours or simply relax and take it as it comes. We are not worried about getting around on our own as the public transportation has been described as easy to use. We have not booked accommodations yet but leaning towards Victoria, Bloomsbury or possibly Soho.

As these area are located within reasonable walking distance from the major sites, is it worth the extra expense to book formal tours?

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1. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

I would doubt very much whether it's ever worth booking 'formal' tours though you would need to post links to any you are considering to be able to say so definitively.

Many sites - the Tower, Westminster Abbey to name but two, have audio guides or tours by Vergers/Yeoman Warders which are as good if not better than any 'outsider', however well qualified. The British Museum, the V&A etc likewise are easy to do on your own or have frequent introductory or special guided tours (check websites for details).

The locations you've mentioned are all central, so walkable to some, others you will need to use bus or tube which is easy enough, and has the added benefit, providing you use the right type of travelcard, of offering discounts on admissions. No one location is going to be walkable to everything anyway. Personally I'd rather do it myself especially in a country which speaks roughly the same language as I would interact more with it and spend the diffference on the occasional taxi, or a really nice dinner somewhere. YMMV!

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2. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

In a word - NO, not worth the expense. So many of the traditional tourist sites are within Zone 1, and all accessible via tube, bus or on foot. You really only need to book a tour if you are headed to Stonehenge or someplace less accessible with public transport.

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3. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

(missed edit time). I should add that especially in London it is enjoying the random and serendipitous on your travels that is often the most worthwhile. Read some of the trip reports for ideas and examples of what I mean.

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4. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

>> if you are headed to Stonehenge or someplace less accessible with public transport.<<

Even with Stonehenge you don't really need a tour, as it is easy enough to do by yourself by train and bus.

I'd say the vast majority of attractions in and around London are easy enough to do without a tour.

Edited: 1:37 pm, February 01, 2014
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5. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

If you want to visit the likes of Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace or the Harry Potter Studios - eg, the places that get sold out in advance, then for those, yes, go ahead and book in advance. Also, while most museums are free to enter, some special exhibitions require timed entries.

Otherwise, just wander and enjoy. Soho and Bloomsbury, especially are very walkable.

As an 'in between', take a look at the www.walks.com website and if you like the look of what's on offer, just turn up at the relevant tube stop, pay your money and enjoy.

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6. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

This is a free walking tour http://www.newlondon-tours.com/ it might just give you a taste of what you want to explore in your own time later, but it is remarkably easy to get a feel for London, most sights/attractions are within a few square miles in the centre so you can walk quite easily from one to the other if you have a good map.

Enjoy.

Edited: 2:16 pm, February 01, 2014
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7. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

You sound like a sensible bloke Woody. If you check the major sites and their location they are easy to get to. Between their websites and the reviews here you should be able to make yourself a relaxing time without the time constraints or rigidity of an organised tour.

I usually print off a paper map and mark the sights. Then sort them into groups that are accessible in a day. Then if I can vary it if I'm in the mood to or get distracted by something more interesting.

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8. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

If it is a tour you are after, you could consider a guided two hour themed tour of London, from London Walks. No need to book in advance, just show up.

http://www.walks.com/

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Alberta
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9. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

Thank you all, your input was appreciated.

10. Re: Tours vs Freestyle Exploring

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