Author Archives: Gemma

Hostel Rules and Regulations – Don’t Be THAT Traveller

The Society Hotel private dorm bed with curtains in a hostel

Looking for tips on how to handle hostel dorm etiquette? While hostels are a cheap form of accommodation, making a budget stretch further, they are not a replacement for home!

Learn how to avoid treating 8-bed dorms like private bedrooms with the following advice from seasoned backpackers.

In this guide, fellow travel fans have put together a list of hotels rules and regulations to help everyone sleep better at night. 

You may also be interested in finding out how we saved £20K to travel – click for our strategy, and how to plan for long-term travel.

What is a Hostel?

Hostels are an economical form of accommodation which comes after camping and couchsurfing in the international hierarchy of budget travel sleeping arrangements.

They usually offer some form of social setting whether that be a bar, garden or rooftop seating area, or even a swimming pool in warmer climates.

Hostels are a great place to meet new travel buddies because there usually is an element of organised fun through quizzes, pub crawls, themed nights and even cultural activities like city walking tours.  

Hostel bedroom at Taquile Island Homestay in Peru

What is a Hostel Like?

Contrary to belief, hostels are not just for party backpackers.

They come in all shapes and sizes from dives to rooms fit for divas. Sleeping arrangements differ depending on the hostel.

Some offer private rooms with private bathrooms, others have private rooms with shared bathing facilities.

There’s even hostels with outdoor sleeping options (in Budapest).

Most hostels have dorm rooms in common.

Green decorated HI Hostel private room Boston Massachusetts

What is a Dorm Room?

Forget North American sorority dorms and think more Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sleeping arrangements and you are halfway there.

Jokes aside, dorm rooms are rooms with beds which are usually in bunk form (one up/one down) to save space.

You can expect anything from a 2-bed bunk to 16-bed and the price of a hostel stay gets less the more beds in the room.

There should be a locker for you to place your belongings.

They sassier hostels have lockers big enough for your 60l backpacks.

Hostels are cosy, which means making friends is pretty easy.

The more modern dorms have privacy curtains, alternatively, opt for the bottom bunk and hang up a large scarf or flag.

The Society Hotel private dorm bed with curtains

Are Hostels Safe?

Hostels are only as safe as you prepare for them to be.

Just because someone carries a backpack like you it doesn’t mean they are not an opportunist.

This doesn’t mean every traveller is a thief, you just have your wits about you and be wise.

Don’t leave out anything you want to keep from going walkies and be cautious when charging electronics.

Charge a capacitor battery pack like our reliable Anker US / UK and use that to charge on the go.

Consider investing in a PacSafe net US / UK for keeping gear safe.

We travelled with it through the Americas (North, Central, South) and Europe and came home target-free.

To use, pack a day bag full of your expensive kit and passport then close it.

Place the bag in the PacSafe net before closing tight, wrap the wire around something non-moveable like a bed frame and then clip the padlock (TSA approved comes recommended) closed with the bag securely attached to the frame.

Now cover with a scarf.

Most hostel buildings have security call features at their front door to avoid anyone walking in and out.

You can read individual hostel reviews on the likes of Hostelworld which will help you also make a decision about each one.

PacSafe Net Travel Safety

Hostel Rules and Regulations

So now that we’ve covered the basics of backpacker accommodation lets move on with the tips for staying in a hostel.

Whether you are staying in a hostel for the first time or you’ve racked up the party hostel passport stamps, there’s a takeaway for everyone.

Hostel Dorm Security

Staying in a dorm requires a few quick checks.

Take two seconds to memorise the code for the door, or try your key in the lock to make sure it works – even if it’s open when you arrive.

That door is the only security you and your fellow travellers have and it’s really important that you keep it secure.

Even if valuables are in lockers inside the rooms, most locker padlocks can easily be picked.

So, make sure you always, always lock the door when you go out – that’s just good hostel manners.

By Danni Lawson |  Live in 10 countries

Granted, a dorm is never going to be as quiet as a private room.

Yet, a lot can be done to ensure the peaceful coexistence of all guests.

One of the unspoken yet basic rules in hostel dorms should be that of keeping the level of noise to a minimum.

Those checking out in the early hours should always make sure to pack their bags the night before, while nobody is asleep and preferably before 10 or 11 pm.

By doing that, they will keep noise levels at a minimum while everyone in the dorm is asleep.

It’s a simple, yet very nice gesture that doesn’t require that much effort and that goes a long way into making sure that even the most crowded of spaces becomes an oasis of peace.

By Claudia Tavani | My Adventures Across The World

Hammocks | Costeno Beach Surf Camp Ecolodge, Colombia

Do Not Turn On The Lights Between 11pm-8am

One of the most annoying things a traveller who is staying in a dorm room can do is to be inconsiderate when they switch on the light after 11 pm, especially when someone is already asleep.

Be polite, some people have an early flight and want their beauty sleep as much as possible or the ones who come home late from a party will surely not appreciate the bright light too early either.

If you need to do something, you can use the torch of your phone. It’s just a simple but nice act.

By Mary | A Mary Road

Bright bedroom in Cruz de los Andes Bedroom

Put Your Phone On Silent

One of the best things you can do for the people in your hostel dorm room is to silence your phone

. I have shared rooms with too many travellers who believe that everyone around them needs to know when they receive a text message or phone call, but it really just makes the rest of us stir crazy.

It is understood that if you’re waiting on an important call, you turn your phone on loudly so you don’t miss it.

But, if you’re casually texting, it can be done in silence (this includes turning off keyboard sounds on phones).

In addition, it is also rude to have a conversation on your phone late at night or early in the morning inside a dorm room.

Most hostels have a social space or living area where you can take care of these matters – your bed is not the place to do it.

By Megan | Meganstarr

Person on video call. Phone

How To Deal With Snoring in Hostels

We get it, you’ve had a hard night on the sauce and you are prone to a little open mouth, blocked nose snoring action but, it really is not fair on anyone else in the room.

Many of your dorm friends might be getting up a 3 am for a hike so your freight train breathing is going to ruin their paid excursion.

Some tips include, try moving the snorer if you know them.

Reddit recommends throwing M&Ms at the perpetrator.

Pack and use earplugs or consider a headphone headband.

Complain and request a new room.

If you are the guilty party, consider a private room in a hostel.

La Paz Bolivia hostel bar

Invest In Headphones

Listening to music and watching movies are great ways to pass time in the evenings or on a lazy day, but not everyone in a hostel dorm will want to listen at the same time.

Especially at night when others are sleeping, hostel guests should do what they can to avoid disturbing others – including sounds from phones and laptops.

Trying to fall asleep to the sound of gunfire in an action movie or a blend of three different people’s music at the same time is annoying and will surely draw complaints from light sleepers and people who like peace and quiet.

Popping in a pair of headphones is an easy way to keep dormmates from holding a grudge.

They don’t need to be expensive noise-cancelling headphones – cheap earbuds will do the trick so music or movies can be played all night if necessary.

By Kris | Nomad by Trade

Earphones, plant and laptop keyboard on pink background

Sharing Is Not Caring

Hostels can be a bit intimidating for first-timers but they are fun and inexpensive.

One of the downsides of staying in a hostel is the fact that some people can be disrespectful and clueless.

Paying for a shared space doesn’t mean everyone has the right to do what they want.

Asking yourself these questions:

Do I enjoy the aroma of dead-rat smelling shoes wafting around with the aircon-breeze while I’m contemplating life?

Do I want to see a naked lady changing bloody sanitary products while I’m thinking of what food to eat next?

The answer is always no!

Most hostels have shoe racks outside of dorm rooms.

Use it.

Girls, there is a toilet just 5 metres away from your bed, insert there.

It only takes a minute to spare someone from a life of tampon trauma.

Be a hero and do your ladies’ business privately.

By Christine Rogador | The Travelling Pinoys

Walking Boots Review Ragata Boots

Save Your Smells

Dorm bedrooms are usually small, thus any smell inside becomes X times stronger than outside.

Moreover, in AC rooms, all the smells are stuck in the closed space.

Bedrooms are mainly meant for sleeping, so it’s best to keep neutral/fresh scent there.

That means eating spicy food or any types of snacks is not appropriate.

There is a kitchen in any hostel, where you are more than welcomed to eat!

It’s also time to control your favourite perfume. Some people tend to apply more perfume since it becomes lighter outside because of the weather and wind.

The air is still in the room, so all the sprays from all the guests will mix and stay.

If you are a smoker, hang-out outside for a while till the strong smell of cigarettes will reduce to the minimum.

Many non-smokers are susceptible to cigarette scent and, most probably, they would not like it spread in the bedroom.

By Natalia | Mytriphack

Sandwich Rome food Trastevere

Dorm Rooms Are Not Laundromats

Long-term travel can’t be non-stop awesome travel experiences.

At some point, everyone needs to do their laundry.

Many hostels have washing machines that travellers can pay to use. Unfortunately, some travellers decide to save money and hang their wet clothes around the dorm to dry.

Some string a line from one bed to another. Others merely drape their wet clothes and towel over their bed and sometimes over other bunks.

This is not OK; having to navigate around someone else’s laundry is unpleasant.

Rather than hanging or draping their wet laundry around the dorm to dry, people staying in hostels should always use the dryer or hang their clothes outside on a washing line if there is one provided. Hostel staff can always advise what laundry facilities they have available.

By James Ian | Travel Collecting

Bunk beds in Flying Dog, Arequipa

Don’t Leave Your Sh*t In Communal Bathrooms

Hostels are normally associated with youth, freedom and a laid-back life, but that is not to be confused with lack of respect and common sense.

On the contrary, sharing space with others implies, or should imply, respecting one another and following unwritten rules of a certain kind of common sense which, unfortunately, not for everybody is “common”.

One of those rules concerns shared bathroom space.

“Shared bathrooms” means that the bathroom is shared among many people and therefore it’s not wise nor respectful to leave one’s toiletries in the little space available, be it a chair, a shelf or whatever that is available.

That space is temporary for the person using the facilities at that time.

Your toiletry bag is your storage, not the communal bathroom space.

It’s easy to understand, there is simply no room for everybody’s stuff.

By Isabella Biava | Boundless Roads

Eco Friendly Products  lined up on shelf

Don’t Steal My Sh*t

Don’t steal other people’s stuff. You might think that this is obvious, but the amount of times things go missing in hostels it is ridiculous.

From mobile phones and other valuables to dirty clothes, shoes and food from the fridge, why do some people think its ok to take other people’s stuff? It is never OK to take things that don’t belong to you.

Even if you’re drunk, eating someone else’s pizza is not cool.

Backpackers usually have a tight budget, which certainly won’t stretch to providing someone they don’t know with free food or anything else which takes their fancy!

Buy your own stuff, or just go without.

By Claire Sturzaker | Tales of a Backpacker

Scialla The Original Street Food. St.Peter's Basilica Vatican at Rome pizza food

You Can’t Sit With Us, Well Me (Name That Film)

For many travellers, staying at a hostel provides a built-in community on the road and potential new friends, which can be great – if you want that from your travel experience.

However, for travellers who are a bit more introverted or shy (or simply prefer solitude and travelling alone), hostels can quickly become overwhelming environments when others approach them constantly to try and make plans together.

When you’re staying at a hostel, be mindful of people’s personal space and aware of the cues they may be giving you.

If you sense that someone is enjoying being alone and isn’t looking for a new travel companion, respect their wishes.

Don’t insist that you eat together, hang out constantly, or travel together to the next destination. Travelling is an inherently overstimulating and often overwhelming experience, and lots of people are seeking solitude and reflection time (or need to work while travelling), not necessarily looking for a crew of new pals to hang out with on the road.

That being said, there are plenty of hostellers who are happy to make new friends and pick up a travel buddy – look out for them and don’t hesitate to reach out when people seem receptive.

By Sierra Dehmler | Passport Voyager

Backpackers on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua

Get A Room

I get it. You’re on holiday. You’ve found THE ONE.

Or maybe it’s the beer talking.

Anyway. Things get heavy. It’s time to take this somewhere… more intimate.

That towel you’ve put up hanging from the bunk above will act as the perfect sound and light barrier, right?

Surely no-one will hear you?

The answer, I’m sad to say, is no. Everyone will hear you.

No-one wants to.

Please, do everyone a favour and don’t have sex in a hostel dorm.

Unless you are: a) The only person in the hostel dorm or b)… to be honest, there is no B.

Just don’t do it.

If sex is something you find yourself doing, get a private room, or find a private place that doesn’t have a bunch of other strangers lying in the dark listening to your magnificent sounds.

However quiet you think you are being, and however fluffy that towel… they can definitely hear you.

And no-one wants that.

This also applies to tents incidentally.

By Laurence Norah | Finding the Universe

Huts in Costeno Beach Surf Camp Ecolodge, Colombia

Final Words

Over 10+ tips later from avid travellers, I think we can all agree on this hostel etiquette advice and move forward in our quest to travel carefree and happily into the sun.

Like it? Pin it!

Tips on how to survive hostels | Hostel dorms | Backpacking | Hostel dorm tips | Budget travel

What really grinds your gears in hostels?

25 London Gift Ideas For UK Fans

Tower of London guide. flags, blue skies

Big attractions, Royal palaces, flagship stores, luxury shopping, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the streets are paved with gold. Everyone wants a piece of this big city whether it be London souvenirs, a quintessentially British gift or an experience in London that you simply can’t get anywhere else in the world.

This British gifts guide will help you make sense of the unique from the twee, ensuring you don’t go ‘Pete Tong’ (wrong!) Unless stated otherwise, all identified London gifts online ship internationally so everyone can enjoy them!

Going to London? You’ll love our budget London hacks guide.

London Themed Gifts For All

London Gifts for Her

1. London Necklace

A sure hit with her, this delicate London skyline necklace is a simple piece.

The iconic backdrop of all the famous spots in London will pop against bright tops.Click here for the UK item // here for USA item.

London skyline necklace gold and silver on grey rock

2. Super-Cute London Print Apron

Something a little more on the ‘twee side’ is this cute London themed apron. A throwback to the 1950s, this apron has a halterneck top and tie for the waist. It fits sizes 4-14, waist 30″, and is 26″ in length, top to bottom.

The attention to detail is impeccable with red phone boxes, double-decker buses, Big Ben, cute city girls, the Tube logo, and bows. Bravo, Brendables.

The top of the apron is red with white polka dots. Click here for US item.

Sorry Brits, the above apron only ships to the US but there is a UK equivalent which you can view here.

Does anyone else think these aprons could be worn as dresses?!

Don’t miss our most romantic places in Europe roundup!

London print apron, red and white. Cute._

For Him

3. London Glasses

For statement pieces of glass, you need these. Create a set of conversation pieces with this glassware. Practical and stylish, your drinks table will look London chic with these.

For US readers, these London Marathon Map Rocks etched glasses are super popular for those who like a little something on the rocks.

For the British equivalent, you can have the exact area of London etched, with these personalized pieces (92mm x 78mm). Click here to view

4. For Difficult to Buy For Guys

If you really can’t decide on an experience gift, give them a hand with accommodation.

Hotels are not cheap in the Big Smoke! Tinngly offer this ‘3-night stay in cities‘ hotel package.

How does it work?

  • You order the gift
  • The certificate is instantly emailed
  • They choose the location, hotel and dates (doesn’t have to be London)
  • It is valid for five years so there is no rush

Gemma and Craig (Two Scots Abroad) have done Tinngly experiences all over the world including volcano boarding in Nicaragua.

Tinngly 3-night stay in cities hotel package. 

For the Home

5. Tea-rific in a Cute Red Bus Tin  

Let’s start you on the right track and ‘whet your whistle with a cup of Rosey Lee’.

Quintessentially British, this gift will soothe your weary bones and delight your friends. 

Serve in china with a scone for an authentic London afternoon tea experience.

The question, cream or jam first on the scone?

Tell us in the comments below.

6. Sweet Tea Set

You’ve picked the tea, you’ve got the box now you just need a tea set.

Sitting with your scones, jelly/jam, and butter this traditional British gift will wow all your afternoon tea guests.

Read next, our Paris lovers gift guide.


7. London Clock

Abbey Road, where music is made and dreams can soar

. Vinyl clocks are just the ticket if your gift recipient is into their vintage looks and the London Skyline. Check them out at Etsy.

You may also like our Scotland gift guide.

London Underground Gifts

Did you know that the famous ‘mind the gap’ announcement is over 40 years old?

The announcement was reintroduced to the original voice as his widow missed hearing her late husband’s words.

She used to visit a station just to hear this, after his death.

Now, London Transport has given her a recording of this iconic announcement.

With these London themed gifts, you’re sure to make everyone happy.

8. Mind the Gap Print

An iconic ‘Mind the Gap’ picture, makes a perfect London Underground gift.

Order from Jack on Etsy (check out his branding, super cool). 

Mind the gap framed image. Black, white, yellow

9. London Tube Bag

Everyone needs a bag to pop their tablet in, maps or just to keep everything safe.

Let’s make it the London look with this London underground map print bag by Hobby Girl Crafts!

This quality black Kona Cotton crossbody bag is perfect for just that at 8 x 10.5 inches.

Inside there are two compartments and the fully adjustable strap extends to 2.5 feet so you can retract it in to make it a shoulder bag, or pull it out for an over-the-body bag.

Great for security while moving through any city. 

London tube map crossover bag_

Best Souvenirs from London

Here are a few of the best England souvenirs.

10. London Crumpled Map

We all know that scene from Friends when Joey has to get in the map?

Well, we now have a solution. See the Crumpled London Map US / UK.

You can squish it up, get it wet, drop it and get in it because it’s already well worn in!

London Crumpled Map in Plastic Packaging_

11. Personalized Umbrella

Nothing is more British than talking about the weather.

To be honest, you can’t get much more British themed gifts than umbrellas.

This great product even lets you pop on your own photo, so you can personalize it with a perfect London scene of your own choosing. Ships internally and offers free delivery to the UK!

Most Popular London Experience Gifts

12. Coca-Cola London Eye

One of the most prominent features in the London skyline is the London Eye.

Also, one of the tallest observation wheels in the world, the forty-minute ride with bird’s eye view, is one of the most popular things to do in London.

This London eye ticket lets you fast track and ‘skip the line’ so visitors can save time and get on with their busy London itinerary.

Plus, from high heights, visitors can capture pictures to take home for their own unique London souvenir.

London gift ideas don’t get more practical than this. 

Big Ben through window of London Eye

13. Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour and Transfers

Did some say, Harry Potter? In a quandary as to what to get from London for the Potterheads in your life?

The obvious answer is to head straight to Diagon Alley.

It’s actually quite difficult to get the Harry Potter Studios in England so this tour with transfer from London to Watford via the Knight Bus will be appreciated.

Read our guide on how to get to Harry Potter Studios for more options.

 14. → Tight itinerary? Check out the Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour (2.5 hours, meeting place Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue).

Harry Potter model with wand

15. Tower of London Ticket with Crown Jewels Exhibition

One of the London bucket lists tasks is to catch the Ravens at the 11th century Tower of London.

Why not get your friends and family on the right foot with this ticket to the Crown Jewels and Tower of London?

The ticket also includes:

  • Access to the Tower grounds
  • Viewing of the Imperial State Crown laced with diamonds, pearls, sapphires, emeralds and gems
  • A tour by a Yeoman Warders (starts every 30 mins)

Never mind the best gifts from London, when you can give even better ones for London.

Read next, everything you need to know about Tower of London.

London Gifts Experience, London Tower, UK flag, tree, blues skies

16. Black History Walks

Guided walking tours in London focusing on African history in England’s capital.

Tours last around 2-3 hours and cover 2000 years of London’s Black history.

Some are tours can be done by foot, others are on the river!

Reserve your spot here.

Private tours available on request.

17. Uncomfortable Art Tours

‘Display it like you stole it’ – Alice Procter takes visitors around London’s popular museums and shares the story they don’t want you to hear.

Many of the UK museums display items looted by Brits which were never returned.

This tour aims to take a look at ownership and identity of these items which Britain has ‘inherited’.

Uncomfortable Art Tours take place at the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain and the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum).

18. London Theatre Gift

No trip to London is complete without a theatre experience. 

Whether it’s a London experience for 2 or that special ticket that your loved one has been dropping massive hints for, you’ll find these next links something to make a song and a dance about.

What will they see?

Foodie Gifts London

19. Cadbury’s Gift Packs

From one shop in England to an international empire, Cadbury’s chocolate is not only a household British name but an instantly recognizable brand around the world.

Pick up this pack of Cadbury’s goodies US / UK including Flake, Crunchy and Caramel.


Alternatively, a throwback to their trip with M&S Percy Pigs – suitable for vegetarians.

20. Harrods Mug

Every shopper’s London itinerary includes a trip to the lux store, Harrods.

Buy your London fanatic the iconic mug in dark green with gold branding is a classic.

21. Eat London

Will your loved one by sniffing out the culinary options from Michelin-starred restaurants and street food in London?

This Eat London food guide US / UK highlight the best food spots over 14 chapters.

It delves into the chefs, makers and the international food community in the city.

Bonus feature: recipes from the likes of A. Wong, Balthazar, Morito and The Palomar.

22. Thames Lunch Cruise

Walking and sightseeing work up an appetite. 

Reward yourself with an afternoon tea aboard a Thames cruise nonetheless. 

A boat ride over the Thames is one of the top-rated experiences in London, according to GetYourGuide customers.

It might not be with the Queen, but it’s sure to give them a rest from all that walking and see London from the Thames.

London Baby Gifts

Thinking about getting a unique baby shower gift?

Then this next section will give you some awesome ideas.

23. Comfy Baby Blanket

This darling mink or cotton baby blanket/toddler security blanket is super London with its Big Ben, double-decker, Guards of London and brolly icons.

Customers can choose between three sizes and four backing colors.

The print uses eco-friendly, water-based inks on natural and synthetic fiber textiles.

No additional chemicals used.

Suitable for snuggly security blankets, tummy time, nursing, cribs, cots and car seats.

It is also popular with wheelchair users.

Mink or cotton London print baby blanket-toddler security blanket

24. London, Baby

Wow, another Joey from Friends reference!

You can’t go wrong with a London baby vest for photos and vomit. Variety of sizes available.

Pregnant and looking to make ‘thee announcement’?

Moxie and King do these sweet ‘world traveler’ baby vests for you to snap at the perfect location.


Baby vest, white with London baby text in black

25. Liberty of London Dresses

For the little Princess in your life, baby gifts from London don’t come more special than a London Liberty dress.

Well known for their fabrics, this will ensure the child wearing it, stands out from the crowd. 

See the USA version here // UK version here.

Final Words

So, whether it’s English gifts, British souvenirs, gifts for him, her or the home, this guide has covered a wide range of ideas for all of your London-loving friends and family. 

Save for later!

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What cool gifts from London did you purchase? Tell us below.

Author – Ruth is a school teacher and a travel fanatic with a bucket list that’s getting smaller. A passion for shopping and deals. Bringing you gifts and trips to make your life easier.

7 Travel Hacks So You Can Enjoy London On a Budget

Big Ben through window of London Eye

I love London but my bank balance definitely does not. Always creating inspiration with affordable travel on the mind, I’ve pulled in London expats, Charlie and Kristina from MapTrotting, to share their London on a budget track hacks with us so you can enjoy the Big Smoke without a big bank statement.

Two Scots Abroad saved £20K to travel – click to find out how.

London On a Budget Tips

1. Visit London Attractions That Are Close Together

This might sound like an obvious one, but planning your time in London will really help to take the stress out your trip. There are loads of things to see and do, with attractions spread far and wide across this sprawling metropolis.

It’s easy to fall into the old trap of trying to see everything in a short time and burning out. Plan to visit two or three attractions per day which are close to each other to minimise your travel time.

There’s no point in zigzagging across London via transport when many sights are within an easy walk of each other.

Just focus on one area each day and you’ll have a much more relaxed London experience. Attractions can usually be ‘bunched’ together into areas to make things simple.

Here are a few of the main ones:

  • Kensington – 3 amazing free museums (Victoria and Albert V&A, Science Museum, and National History Museum – 7 days a week), Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park.
  • Westminster – Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, London Eye and Buckingham Palace. You can take a free tour of the Houses of Commons (Gemma actually did work experience, read about it here).
  • London Bridge – Tower Bridge, Tower of London and St Paul’s.
  • South Bank – Tate Modern, Globe Theatre and Borough Market.

2. Use an ‘Oyster Card’ Instead of Cash

The London Underground (metro) system is a great way to get around the city and travel between attractions. It’s one of the biggest mass transit systems in the world, not to mention the oldest, with the first trains running in 1863.

An average of 1.37 billion journeys are made per year via the Underground, affectionately known by locals as ‘the tube’, so it’s good to gen-up on this before visiting.

Another one of our suggested London travel hacks is to obtain an ‘Oyster Card’ to use on the Underground, buses, and trains.

It’s basically a plastic card which you pre-load with credit and then tap on the readers at stations to pay your journey fare.

Getting an Oyster Card means you don’t need to stand in line at ticket machines, plus you’ll pay much less per journey than using cash.

For example, just one adult journey in Zone 1 & 2 where all the main attractions are found would cost you £4.90 in cash. Ouch.

The same journey with an Oyster Card is £2.40 (£2.90 4-7pm) and your charges will be ‘capped’ off at a maximum daily rate.

Double win!

You can grab an Oyster Card at any Underground Station or in advance with the London Pass, more on that later…

3. Pedal Your Way Through London

Why not stretch your legs and get around cheaply with London’s hire bike scheme.

Visitors can collect a bike from any of the docking stations and hire for as little as £2!

There are over 750 docking stations with over 1000 bikes.

Santander London Bike Scheme Docking Station

4. Seek Out the Free Stuff!

London is notoriously expensive to visit.

If you’re not savvy then the costs can soon mount up, with some of the big attractions costing £20+ per adult to visit.

Thankfully there are loads of free places in London to visit at no cost to you.

So, you can save your pennies for that tacky Beefeater hat you’ve always wanted.

Here’s a quick list of a few free, or donation only, places to seek out. Some might have private exhibitions to visit but the main collections should be free to visit.

  • Tate Modern – massive modern art gallery on the South Bank of the River Thames.
  • Science Museum – discover something amazing in their interactive exhibitions, great for kids.
  • V&A – large museum of fashion, architecture, and design.
  • Natural History Museum – explore the world’s natural wonder, also great for kids.
  • City of London Churches – whilst St Paul’s costs to enter the nearby churches are free and contain some true London hidden gems.
  • Royal Parks – amazing green spaces to chill out in and create a picnic.
  • South Bank Stroll – a great walk from the London Eye to Tower Bridge alongside the river.
  • Festivals and Events – loads of exciting free events all year round, check ahead.

While some tours are not free they are worth the investment to learning about culture in London.

Check out Black History Walking Tours and Uncomfortable Art Tours (National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain and the Queen’s House).

5. Explore Beyond the Centre

Most visitors only wander around close to the attractions of Central London but there is time to be saved if you head to London’s other neighbourhoods.

Another bonus is that you can escape the crowds and see a different side of the city past the tourist hotspots.

Sidenote –  Do expect to see an explosion of cultures and a mix of locals and ex-pats, London is a melting pot.

  • Richmond – (Zone 4) is a charming royal borough of London with a massive park and lots of riverside pubs to eat and drink in.
  • Greenwich – (Zone 2) is just a 30-minute boat ride east from Tower Bridge. Here you can enjoy the large royal park with a stunning view across London from the top. Also, don’t miss the daily market and handy visitors centre close to the Pier.
  • Shoreditch – (Zone 2) is one of London’s hipster central and tech startup hub. As you’d expect there are lots of funky bars, restaurants, and entertainment to match plus the classic Brick Lane packed with delicious curry houses.
  • Stratford – (Zone 2+3) is the home of London’s 2012 Olympic park and the massive Westfield shopping mall. The London Aquatics Centre is now a public swimming pool if you fancy a dip.
  • Hampstead – (Zone 2+3) stroll on the epic Hampstead Heath and pretend to be in an English costume drama.

6. Secure Discounts in Advance

If you’re going to visit a few of the famous London attractions during your stay, things can quickly become expensive. Many of the most popular sights will cost between £20 and £30 per adult to enter.

Thankfully there is a simple way to save some time and money whilst you explore the sights, get yourself a discount visitor card.

A good example would be the London Pass card.

Put simply, you pay a set price for the card (or now smartphone app) and can then use it to enter as many places as you like.

Doing some quick math, if you were to buy tickets for a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour, the Tower of London, Windsor Castle and the View From The Shard it would cost £181 total.

You could buy a 1 day London Pass for £84, saving you £97. If you buy a Pass for 3 or even 6 days the saving could really add up. Nice.

For more info on the discount card, costs, savings and suggested itineraries check out this full London Pass review.

» Harry Potter fans: here’s how to get to the Warner Bros Studios

Harry Potter, cloak, wand

Cheap London Tours and Attractions

Since you don’t want to miss out on the top London things to do here is a list of attractions under £30 worth considering.

7. London Budget Cheap Eats

It is safe to drink the tap water in the UK so buy yourself a sustainable water bottle (great for the environment too) and download the free Refill app to see which establishments let you fill up for free.

A great way to keep food costs down is to visit one of the many markets that run throughout London.

You can try cuisines from all around the world every Sunday at Brick Lane – poutine (Canada), arepa (Peru) and curries (from varies countries). Filling your belly without lightening your budget! London’s largest market, Camden Market, is also popular with locals and visitors.

It’s open every day from 10am and has over 1000 stalls filled with food, art, crafts, clothes and records. Buskers keep the vibe alive too.

Frank’s Cafe can be found nestled behind the Tate Modern and sells ‘lethal fry-ups, an excellent hangover cure.

A secret ex-pat tip is to follow the workers in suits at lunchtime to find the economic sandwich shops before heading to one of London’s many parks for a picnic.

Download the Too Good To Go app for food collection at the end of the day.

London Budget East Brick Lane Market

Cheap Accommodation In London

I know it sounds like the UK’s city that doesn’t sleep but you will need to rest your feet and lay down your head to re-energise for the next day of sightseeing but at first glance, you may be thinking, damn accommodation is expensive.

Here are a few hacks to help you out:

  1. Consider a cheap hostel in London with the Youth Hostelling Association’s (YHA) six hostels. They are in central areas such as Oxford Street and St Pancras.
  2. Not a fan of dorm beds? St Christopher’s At The Village has cool capsule beds so you can sleep in private in a multi-bed dorm. Private rooms also available but more expensive. Click to see.
  3. Airbnb in Zones 2 and 3 are your most economical option. Be cautious of noise though (Gemma stayed near Brick Lane and doesn’t recommend it!)

London Packing List

  • A waterproof coat like this Marmot Precip US / UK or Mountain Equipment Rupal US / UK
  • Comfortable shoes – Salomon Ellipse trek shoes stylish and comfy US / UK
  • Camera and battery
  • Anker battery pack US / UK
  • Osprey bag cover US / UK
  • Eco water bottle as there are heaps of places to fill up for free – the practical Tree Tribe US / UK
  • Or Water to Go Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off]
  • Bamboo cutlery set US / UK, especially if doing food markets/trucks
  • Skross universal travel adaptor with USB slots US / UK
  • Pacsafe safety net US / UK
  • Hydration tablets US / UK if participating in some London bar hopping!

How to visit London on a budget | how to save money in London | London travel tips | budget travel in London | how much to spend in London | cheap travel in London | best things to do in London for free | free things to do in London

Final Thoughts

Getting to London doesn’t have to be expensive either, check out the overnight buses leaving from all over England and even Scotland – sleep while you save!

Megatrain can also provide some steals for day trippin’ in and out of London. Visitors to Europe shouldn’t be put off by London’s expensive reputation. It is possible to visit the city on a budget with these seven travel hacks.

By Charlie and Kristina from MapTrotting.

Any questions? Ask below.

How to Get to Harry Potter Studios London? 7 Best Options

Hogwarts street sign and lamp

If you are an avid Harry Potter fan, then you will have read the books and seen the films. You don’t ever want that magic to die, so what’s next? Now it’s time to visit the Harry Potter Studios. London is a mecca for those who love all things, Harry Potter, and fans can even visit the set! This guide details how to get to Harry Potter Studios from London. 

You may also like: 7 budget travel hacks for London.

Harry Potter model with wand

Why Visit Harry Potter World?

This is the only place to go and see the making of Harry Potter and experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

Behind the scenes, you will be able to wander in the footsteps of the actors who were made famous by these films, and a wee inside secret for you, often you can bump into these actors who love to revisit these studios again and again. 

Some of the extras who were in the films, are now guides for the tour and are full of information that you have always wanted to know! As you wander through the film lots, you will be on a treasure hunt for Golden Snitches. 

You can learn to ride a broom, have your pictures taken in Hagrid’s Hut, watch in wonder as the Dragon breathes fire at any who try to steal the treasures of Gringotts and see the spiders in the Forbidden Forest. 

Is it just for kids? 

No! I am a 40 something and I have done the Harry Potter Studios Tour in London, five times now. 

Each time I go, there is something new to see, but don’t take my word for it, come and see for yourself. Muggles and No Majs welcome!

Where is Harry Potter World?

Traveling to and finding Harry Potter World London, is an adventure in itself. The studio is located 20 miles outside of central London in a place called Watford. 

Most visitors don’t want to hire a car and attempt to drive on the ‘wrong side of the road’ and on top of that try to navigate the biggest car park in Britain, more commonly known as the M25. 

With this in mind, I have put together a list of ways to get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter leaving you plenty of time to explore and enjoy the Making of Harry Potter, London.

Harry Potter glasses and book

How to Get to Harry Potter Studios UK

London is a huge city, with more train and tube stations in the heart of it than you could imagine. 

Navigating these can be somewhat of a magical puzzle if you are visiting. A simple way of avoiding these busy places is to go by coach. 

Here are a few options for you to choose from. 

Harry Potter Studio Tours from London

1. Harry Potter: Warner Brothers Studio Tour and Transfers

Taking the Harry Potter bus from central London for this magical full-day tour of the Warner Brothers Studio, you are taken to the studios and then brought back to the original pick up point. 

This ticket includes your round trip transportation and your entrance ticket. Board the bus at 4 Fountain Square, 121-151 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SH

From $131 or £105 This depends on how far in advance you book your ticket | Check availability here

As this tour is likely to sell out, there is a slightly more expensive option and also from Victoria Station in London.

2. Harry Potter Tours from Victoria Station

With this tour, a luxury coach will collect you from Victoria Coach Station in London, take you to the Harry Potter Studios in Watford, then take you back to the point of origin. 

The ticket includes your round trip and entrance ticket. Buses depart from Victoria Coach Station, 164 Buckingham Palace Road. 

From $125 or £99 again depending on how far in advance you book your tickets | Check availability here

With both options, when you arrive you will have your entrance time all booked. 

This ensures that there is no waiting in lines to get in and begin to explore the magical world of Harry Potter.

If you are traveling as a family of 4, you can opt for the following.

3. Harry Potter Family Package with Transfers from London 

Taking the bus from central London for this full-day tour of the Warner Brothers Studio, you are taken to the studios and then brought back to the original pick up point. 

This ticket includes your round trip transportation and your entrance ticket. Board the bus at 4 Fountain Square, 121-151 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SH. 

For two adults and two children under 15. Prices are $460 or £360 | Check availability here.

Another option for getting to the Warner Brothers Tour London is a private transfer.  

4. Harry Potter Studios and Private Transfer from London

Experience the magical world of Harry Potter on a tour of the Warner Bros. Studios north of London. Benefit from round-trip transport by private car rather than on a coach.

You meet in front of Starbucks Coffee on the corner of Baker Street and Porter Street, London. You will be able to recognize the car by the GetYourGuide logo on the window.

This tour includes your entrance ticket as well as your transportation to and from the Warner Bros studios.

Price per person: $194 or £155 | Reserve your private car here.

Gringotts Wizarding Bank

Image credit: ‘Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.’

Public Transport to The Warner Brothers Tour London  

For those of you who wish to use the extensive public transport, this will help you navigate the train stations and give you the information needed.

Harry Potter Tours from Victoria Station

Getting to the Harry Potter Studios tour from Victoria Station can be a little more complicated. 

You need to take the Victoria Line from Victoria Station to Euston Station (both stations also have underground stops that are well signposted), which should take six or seven minutes.     

From London Euston Station

From there you get a train to Watford Junction. 

The trains depart from London Euston station every 30 minutes. A return ticket from London Euston to Watford Junction costs around $27 or £21. 

From Watford Junction to Harry Potter World

From Watford Junction, there is the Harry Potter Shuttle Bus, which will take you there and back. 

These buses run every 20 minutes. The cost is $4 or £3. 

You must have a valid day ticket from the Studio Tour to use this service. 

Harry Potter World Prices

The Warner Brothers Harry Potter Tour is the pinnacle of all things Harry Potter.

As you wander around what can only be described as the Harry Potter museum, you can see all the props, costumes and parts of the sets used. 

The Harry Potter Studios tour ticket pricing is as follows:

  • Adult: 16+ $65 or £51.50.
  • Child 5-15 $50 0r £40 (must be accompanied by an adult)
  • Family. 2 adults & 2 children OR 1 adult & 3 children. $202 or £160.00.

The Hogwarts ticket purchased in advance, you choose the time which suits you, so there is no waiting to get in.

Read next our guide to London inspired gifts, including Harry Potter presents!

Harry Potter London, Harry Potter Studios, Harry Potter Tour, Harry Potter bucket list, Hogwarts, Harry Potter Museum, Harry Potter fans, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London The Making of Harry Potter, London England, Things to do in London Scotland, London Things to do, London Tower, London Travel, Cheap budget, free London, Secret London, what to do in London, London England travel, London photography

About the author – Ruth is a school teacher and a travel fanatic with a bucket list that’s getting smaller.

11 Cheap Things to do In Newcastle: Music, Museums & Pubs

BALTIC Newcastle Great Exhibition of the North

If you’ve not visited Newcastle upon Tyne in a while you won’t recognise this northern city in England! Most Brits associate a trip to the Toon as an excuse to get tanked up in the Bigg Market but the city, and its neighbouring town Gateshead has so much more to offer than just a party (albeit socialising still makes up a big part of the city’s vibes).

Craig and I (Gemma) had the pleasure of venturing down south to catch a show at the Sage Gateshead, check out the museums and have a few drinks at the cool Ouseburn neighbourhood. This guide details cheap things to do in Newcastle, we’re all about affordable travel at Two Scots Abroad!

Newcastle River Tyne

Cheap(ish) Things to do in Newcastle

it is easy to spend 2-3 days in Newcastle and Gateshead.

We arrived on the Friday evening and left late on the Sunday, giving us two nights and two full days.

There is a great mix of history, art, culture, sports, music and socialising to be done in Newcastle so pack your comfiest city shoes.

1. Holy Jesus Hospital

For 700 years this building looked after the needy and sick but today it is only to open to the public on National Heritage Days (we have Open Doors Days in Scotland, I love behind the scenes opps aka time to have a nosy).

This Grade II building was not only a hospital but also a base for Henry VIII’s Council and a museum in the 70s.

It is located at City Road.

Across the road from the hospital is stairs down the Quayside which are hidden amongst lots of trees, plants and a derelict historic building.

Can anyone help me out – what is this called?

Holy Jesus Hospital Newcastle

2. Get High

As always, we seek out the best rooftop bars in cities and Newcastle’s The Botanist (Monument Mall) was our go-to.

Recommended by our Facebook followers, we hiked the 76 steps to the top floor, opening the door to what looks like the Garden of Eden.

The views of the city are subtle, nestled among plants and rustic wood. Smoking cocktails come in pots and planters, very Instagram worthy – I ordered the Apricot and Peach Smash (and then two other punters followed suit).

This rooftop is roofless so if the typical British weather pours head downstairs for live music and a park in a pub vibe.

3. Ouseburn

One of the best things to do in Newcastle is to wander around the hipster Ouseburn (Oose-burn) area down towards the water and along the Quayside, stopping for a few drinks at the bars along the way.

For a bustling outdoors, pull up a pew under the big sheep street art at the Ship Inn (screens for sports indoors) or grab an empty spot of cement or grass across the road at The Cluny.

Ouseburn Newcastle

Take the path along the water, admiring the street art along the way, to The Tyne Bar for live music and end your Ouseburn pub crawl with views of the River Tyne at the Free Trade Inn (free jukebox to boot).

It goes without saying that each of these establishments offers an array of craft beers, I even managed to find a raspberry one, hooray!

The Tyne Bar Newcastle

4. The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle

This art gallery (16 Stoddart St) is located just before the cool Ouseburn neighbourhood and is home to the largest independent arts, craft and design gallery in the UK.

The former Victorian warehouse also hosts private parties, meetings and craft fayres.

There are four exhibitions per year which exhibit approximately 250 artists each quarter so even if you’ve been before it’s always worth another look.

The Factory Kitchen serves fresh food and nice views of the city.

5. Victoria Tunnel

The most interesting UK cities have a historical story underground and Newcastle joins the ranks with its award-winning Victoria Tunnel (55 Lime Street).

The Tunnel located in Ouseburn Valley used to allow the passage of waggons transporting coal from the 1840s-60s then used again during WWII as an air raid.

The tour takes you underground and explains what stands above including Hadrian’s Wall! Pre-booking is essential.

6. University of Northumbria

It’s worth taking a detour through campus to see the likes of Burt Hall and the 18th century Sutherland Building (below).

Burt Hall, formally the Minors’ Association Building, was named after Thomas Burt, General Secretary of Northumbria Minors, MP and then Secretary of State of Trade.

7. St James Park

Have you ever heard of a football stadium smack bang in the middle of town?

Well, that’s how they roll in Newcastle.

Newcastle United’s stadium offers tours for football fans which includes a guided tour through the changing rooms, down the tunnel and into the media room.

Since the Toon Army’s pitch is up high you also get a great view of Tyneside thrown in!

Getting there takes 10-min walk from city centre or 5-minute walk from Monument Metro.

8. Grainger Market

Swing by Grainger Market (Mon-Sat 9am-4pm) to see local vendor sell fruit, vegetables, fish and crafts in the Grade I building standing since 1835.

If you like markets, stroll down to the Quayside on Sundays for art, fashion, plants and snacks.

Newcastle and Gateshead’s Museums

9. BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Head over the Millennium Bridge to Gateshead’s contemporary art museum, BALTIC.

Just like Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle (S Shore Rd), Gateshead’s BALTIC is the cool place to be.

This is by far my favourite museum in Newcastle, I knew it would be before we set foot in it for two reasons.

Firstly, it is located in a converted mill, I’m always drawn to those orange bricks and love to see buildings with history being used for something new.

Secondly, at night an installation by Tim Etchells lights up which reads ‘go with the flow/swim against the tide’ – this calls to me.

As we entered, Craig makes a Dad joke about needing a coat since it is going to be ‘baltic’ (cold) inside…

Staff advice is to start from floor five for the best views of the city and then to work your way down the exhibitions.

BALTIC Newcastle Great Exhibition of the North

My favourite floor was four, titled ‘Idea of the North’.

For me, the main focus was on how the North of England is perceived by people and artists.

I really enjoyed ‘A Northern Dream’ by local graphic designer, Jimmy Turrell which is his interpretation of the daring Tyne Deck.

In the 1960s, architects Ryder and Yates initiated talks of creating a large deck to develop the decrepit Tyne riverside and unite the city of Newcastle and the town of Gateshead.

The deck would include a large concert hall (before the Sage was born) but the idea was flushed away and deemed unrealistic.

Today, seven bridges do unite the two areas, the Sage Gateshead (that big silver armadillo) which sits by the water is the city’s plush concert hall and plans to create a £200m arts and leisure centre have been unveiled.

Maybe Northern dreams do come true, just not over the water!

Other exhibitions include images of The Station, Gateshead’s underground music scene by Chris Killip, a massive dome-like house which homes in on sustainable resources by the MaterialDriven collective and a storyboard about the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison who is buried in Morpeth.

BALTIC is a good starting point for the art and innovation trail too.

Jimmy Turrell Baltic Newcastle

10. Sage Gateshead

The Sage Gateshead, BALTIC’s next-door neighbour, has the shape of Glasgow’s SECC but aesthetics of the Scottish Parliament wearing a snazzy tinfoil jacket.

Don’t be fooled by Sage’s music performance status, there are no sticky floors in this venue.

The plush Sage One seats just under 1700 and this is where we attended the once in a lifetime show – The Great Northern Songbook hosted by charming Northers, Field Music.

Great Exhibition of the North | Sage Gateshead

11. Great North Museum

Great North Museum (Barras Bridge) is reached walking past Grey’s Monument and through the park at St Mary’s Place.

There are a few green spaces around Newcastle that make you forget you are in what was once a heavy industrial city.

The Which Way North exhibition held at Great North Museum celebrates the Northern pioneers from inventors to engineers, scientists and designers.

Space geeks, like Craig, will be impressed to see the spacesuit worn by the first British astronaut in space… a woman (Sheffield-born Helen Shaman).

I was also happy to see Barbara Castles, the cabinet minister responsible for the UK Equal Pay Act, memorabilia.

Great North Museum

Newcastle Restaurants

For an easy lunch close to the shops head to Olive and Bean which serves salads, sandwiches and tray bakes like bookends.

City centre eats were also recommended (by a trustworthy local) at the vintage Tyneside Cinema.

Head of Steam down by the Quayside has a ridiculous amount of craft beers on offer as well as pub grub.

For an award-winning Sunday roast (choice of beef, sausages or vegetarian) dine at Tanners Arms in Ouseburn.

This pub has a nice front with seats for warmer days.

Outdoor seating and vegetarian options are available at the Ship Inn also in Ouseburn as well as a Sunday BBQ at the Trade Inn.

Weekend brunch has been recommended at Ernest (close to the Biscuit Factory) too.

Tanners Arms Newcastle

Newcastle Accommodation

There is a variety of accommodation in Newcastle from hostels dorms to boutique hotels so there is something for every budget.

The city itself is easy to navigate by foot so location is not as important as it may be in say London.

Newcastle Hotels

We stayed at the modern yet affordable Motel One Newcastle on High Bridge which is close to the action of the Bigg Market yet avoid the noise on a Saturday night.

The Quayside is a 10-minute walk from the hotel with Ouseburn around 30 minutes away by foot.

High Bridge street has lots of restaurants, bars and the Stand Comedy Club. Rooms are compact with a large TV, hot water and free WiFi.

There is a bar onsite and continental buffet breakfast is available for £10.

Newcastle Hostels

The last time Craig was in Newcastle for a boozy day out he crashed at the Albatross on Grainger Street because it is a 3-minute walk from Central Station.

The hostel was voted the best hotel in England by Hostelworld customers themselves.

Getting Around Newcastle

We discovered the city by foot (easily) but there is a metro underground system and bus service.

Bus tours are often a great idea for those on limited time.

This Hop-on/Off City Sightseeing tour includes 18 stops and includes an audio guide, panoramic views (on a dry day!) and flexibility.

Mobikes are the nifty city bikes that don’t require any docking station so you can pick them up and leave them anywhere in the preferred locations!

The bikes are tracked by GPS and unlock through an app.

Newcastle Beach Quayside

Getting To Newcastle

Newcastle International Airport is 6.5 miles from the city centre and connected by the Metro (approximately 25 mins) and bus service.

There is also a free bike park for cyclists.

Train services operate from all major UK cities (train from Edinburgh to Newcastle is less than 1.5 hours and can be booked for as little as £12.30 in advance).

Essential Information

Newcastle upon Tyne is in the northeast of England and the town of the Gateshead is located over the River Tyne, the two are connected by the Seven Bridges of Newcastle.

The currency used in England is the British Pound (GBP £).

ATMs are widely available and most shops, restaurants and hotels accept all credit and debit cards.

Locals are known as Geordies and speak English with a Geordie accent.

Don’t forget your travel insurance.

We use True Traveller, I had to claim out in Canada after getting sick in Vancouver and they paid out promptly with no issues.

Check to see if they are right for your trip here.

Two Scots Abroad Ouseburne Newcastle

Final Thoughts.

I honestly feel like Newcastle and Gateshead has hit a turning point and I’m happy that we are at the forefront of advertising this development.

Hopefully, we’ve encouraged those who have been before and those that have yet to visit that the ‘new’ Newcastle has more to offer than just a Saturday night for a stag party.

Comments or questions? Please leave them below

Disclaimer: We were invited by Newcastle and Gateshead to review the Exhibition. As always, opinions are our own and we were genuinely excited.