So ladies and gentlemen, that was a 1200-word version of back-story of trip to London. Now, on to the valuable lessons:
- Check for multiple transport options and routes for an important intra-city, with their respective costs. Ask a local if possible.
- Avoid midnight arrivals and departures from an unknown city when travelling solo.
- There are both good and bad people. When travelling solo, if keeping bad at bay requires an arm’s length from good, it isn’t a bad deal.
- Commuting in London is as tiresome as they say. No exaggeration. It takes AT LEAST an hour to get anywhere by trains. And that is because they have a dedicated track. With cabs and buses, add at least an hour to Google predicted time during peak hours.
- Carry a bottle of water – always. Force yourself to stay hydrated. And try not to OD on coffee and fizz.
- Police in England (unlike Germany and Pakistan) are extremely friendly and helpful. No issue is a nuisance for them, so seek them out instead of talking to strangers.
- Carry a handbag with a zipper and ensure that it is closed at all times. It is the basics that screw us up more often than not. My dad recommends wearing a pouch to hold all your documents, and cash.
- Print your boarding pass if possible, or at least have it on two devices. Technology will fail you when you least expect it to.
- Flights within Europe are often delayed. Try not to have important flights on consecutive days.
- Keep emergency contacts and addresses in a notebook/diary/paper with you. This should include family, friends and police.
- Keep at least 10 Euros/Pound in coins (ideally denomination of one).
- When booking flights for over 200£, opt for flexible option (where you can rebook). It costs a little more but can save a lot more when things go south.
- To get to or fro London from Stansted Airport, opt for a coach instead of train if you have more time. It is less than half the price.
- Keep your ID and passport separate from money. Pickpockets only care for cash, and I don’t even want to think about the consequences if my German ID and Pakistani Passport were in my wallet *shudders*
- In crisis, don’t give up. Be resilient. When you are traveling solo, you are all you have got. It is mostly amazing but it can get dicey sometimes. Just get through it.
- Tickets to Pakistan are much cheaper from London than most European countries (Germany included).
- If you have friends and family in the area, get in touch pronto. It would have been a lot more difficult to get through for me if it weren’t for the Khala gang (for which I am infinitely grateful).
While I feel a little shaky around airports and the idea of going to London this weekend isn’t my favourite thought, I know that I will get over it. Travelling is in my DNA (I have got two very distinct moles on my feet, if you know what I mean). Also, I liked what I saw of London and want to go back to decide how I feel about the city.
And, there is an upside – I arrived at the airport today two hours before my flight.
* As you must have already gathered, first three days were great.