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We will be visiting London September 10-12 of this year

Is it absolutely necessary to pre-book and reserve tickets for The London Tower, Churchill War Rooms, and Westminster Abby ahead of time? 

Will we regret not making reservations? Without them, any estimates of how long we would wait in line at that time of year?

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That's a tough question.  I've been in London several times over the last couple years, and the big sights were always full of tourists.  I don't know about the Churchill war rooms, but I pre-booked entry tickets for the Tower and Westminster Abbey and still had to wait in lines to enter at the assigned time, though not as long as the lines to purchase tickets.  And there is no way avoid security lines.   At the Tower, after entry, you likely will have another line to see the crown jewels.

 

I would rather not pre-book everything and allow for some spontaneity, but that seems less of an option these days, given the huge tourist crowds in the major cities of Europe and some attractions capping the number of visitors in a day.  (I don't know if any London attractions actually do that.)  My thinking is that with a short pre- or post-cruise visit, I want to spend as much time as possible seeing the sights and as little time as possible standing in line.  So, I pre-book, planning my day after researching how much time people typically spend at an attraction and how long it takes to get between them.   

 

Only you can balance the flexibility of not pre-booking with the risk of spending considerable time standing in lines.  As for how long in lines without a pre-booked ticket, I can't answer that. I imagine the time of day matters.  Sometimes the crowds are less towards the end of the day.  The day of the week might make a difference.  I would expect early Sept to still be part of the busy summer travel season, with lots of visitors.   Maybe someone who has done it can provide more specific information.   

 

Enjoy your stay in London.  It's a great city.  

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7 minutes ago, Joanne G. said:

I would expect early Sept to still be part of the busy summer travel season, with lots of visitors.

By 10/9, most kids should be back at school, so there may be some  reduction in numbers. Of course, kid-free folk know that so may pick that time to visit. I don't think I've ever been to the capital and it not be busy. 

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Couple of thoughts.

 

Lines can be bad. Frequently the lines are bad just to get to the ticket counter. You can buy the actual tickets on your phone and either show the PDF or the confirmation code at most attractions. Don't stand in line to actually buy the ticket! (A few years back at Windsor we actually had staff tell us to buy the tickets with our phone rather than stand in line! Best advice ever.)

 

(Yes, that means carry a smartphone with international data. The cost of data for 3 days compared to the overall cost of the trip will be negligible.)

 

This is a better option if you're there longer than 3 days, but you can actually join the Imperial War Museum for £99. That gets you free admission to the ticketed IWM sites and front of line privileges. The War Rooms are £32/person on their own. You'd come out ahead if you visited the HMS Belfast, for instance. Or were going to be in London again within 12 months. Or you paid £35 for flexibility. 

 

I have no experience with the current reservation system at the Tower or Westminster Abbey. You can certainly track availability and if there are fewer slots available make a decision then. If you're not committed to a specific date or time and availability looks OK, then you can wait and buy the tickets on your phone, realizing you may not get your first choice. We've had success and a couple of failures with that approach in the past at other London locations in the past (easily got tickets to the McCartney photo exhibit at the Portrait Gallery last summer but couldn't get reservations for the National Gallery when we ended up with a nasty, rainy summer day).

 

Tough call on how much to pre-book. Especially well in advance. Unfortunately with 3 days (or is that really 2?) you don't have a lot of flexibility or slack.

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We are still 3 weeks out and I have erred to wanting to chose our entry times and bought timed tickets for a slew of things and some plays, I am amazed at how many were already running out of choice times, as I did Winston War Museum last night & barely got our 9:30 preferred time for early July. I had done the sites most in demand over the last few weeks. Windsor, Tower, plays, the Abbey, etc.... London is very busy. 

I have a question I am hoping someone can help with, several of our bookings include audio guides or have audio guides for rent, there are 4 of us. I have also seen many suggest bringing your own headsets to use with those included or rental audios- if coming from the US- what are we looking for, any audio plug would work, just a conventional single plug, earbuds or over the ear because maybe there is a lot of chatter all around with things so busy. Something that plugs into a handheld device or is the person plugging into the information plaques in various rooms, but then you are tethered? Trying to envision what the audio guides are like to use- Bath, Windsor, museums, the Tower of London, Abbey, etc. Any hints on how to be prepared or if it is a specific UK type plug in? Super Appreciate any help. 

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5 hours ago, T-2 said:

I . . .have a question I am hoping someone can help with, several of our bookings include audio guides or have audio guides for rent, there are 4 of us. I have also seen many suggest bringing your own headsets to use with those included or rental audios- if coming from the US- what are we looking for, any audio plug would work, just a conventional single plug, earbuds or over the ear because maybe there is a lot of chatter all around with things so busy. Something that plugs into a handheld device or is the person plugging into the information plaques in various rooms, but then you are tethered? Trying to envision what the audio guides are like to use- Bath, Windsor, museums, the Tower of London, Abbey, etc. Any hints on how to be prepared or if it is a specific UK type plug in? Super Appreciate any help. 

I am not sure I can help, as I can't remember exactly what was used at the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, and Westminster Abbey, all of which I have visited.   But I'll comment that I have recently visited attractions in Europe for which the promised audio guide turned out to be an app for my phone, and I needed only my regular earbuds.   

 

I find it hard to believe that an attraction would offer an audio guide unit without also offering whatever earphones are needed to use them.  If someone is suggesting bringing your own for sanitary reasons, that's another issue, though I like to think the attraction sanitizes any equipment or uses disposable earphones.  If you feel more comfortable using your own, the units I have used took conventional single plug earpieces.

 

Sometimes the audio guide is on a device that you hold kind of like an old-fashioned telephone receiver, with no separate earpiece needed.   

 

I have never encountered any attraction or exhibit for which I needed my own headphones to plug into a fixed information plaque; headphones have always been attached to the exhibit for those.

 

I think as long as you have the earbuds or headphones that you use with your phone and are thus prepared if the audio guide is on an app that you need to download, you will be fine and shouldn't need anything else.  

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That makes a lot of sense in thinking what was being helpfully suggested, that the device was a bit hard to hear with but if you used headphones, you were able to hear much more clearly. I just couldn't tell if maybe it helped drown out the surrounding din of crowds or if the device itself was easier to hear with, as long as you had the aid of headphones as they probably lead a hard life with so many tourists.

I have never used them with my phone so if I was going to buy 4 sets, I wanted to be sure they would connect, but at the same time, only one of our phones is going to have the overseas service plan to work in England. I'm guessing I will only need one setup if its not actually connecting to a handheld device. Grateful to know the standard single plug is the norm in London as it is in the US.

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Supposed to be heading to london end july w nephew but starting to regret going ..already bought airfare and booked hotel. Seems like everything is now cashless and if you don't prebook and have a connected smartphone you are out of luck.  It feels like the trip with be micromanaged to see things...not the London I remember.   My smartphone will not be connected for this trip and I prefer to pay cash.  If we do manage to prebook something before flying out and show up early or late  say 1:30 booked but we get there 12:30 or get on wrong train etc and show up 2 pm ....what happens to our prebooked time?   

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7 minutes ago, LINDAE3213 said:

My smartphone will not be connected for this trip and I prefer to pay cash. 

I find this attitude, which we hear from time to time on this board, impossible to understand from an international traveller in 2024. Very much cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face!

 

9 minutes ago, LINDAE3213 said:

If we do manage to prebook something before flying out and show up early or late  say 1:30 booked but we get there 12:30 or get on wrong train etc and show up 2 pm

It’s impossible to generalise, of course, but many places will try to accommodate latecomers, subject to capacity, because they know plans can go awry. Less likely to get in arriving early, because you can always go and have a coffee (most places will take your cash 😀) and wait your turn.  

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23 minutes ago, Cotswold Eagle said:

I find this attitude, which we hear from time to time on this board, impossible to understand from an international traveller in 2024. Very much cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face!


I don’t get this either.  It’s a tool. It’s not an anchor. And cash just means you take a hit, sometimes both ways, on exchange. And both identify you as not from here. Which is the opposite of what most of us want. 

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8 hours ago, LINDAE3213 said:

It feels like the trip with be micromanaged to see things...not the London I remember.   My smartphone will not be connected for this trip and I prefer to pay cash.

 

You're getting the "micromanaged" impression because you're seeing lots of questions and plans from regular cruisers, who are outliers for micromanagement. The majority - probably the vast majority - of visitors to London do things pretty much on the spur of the moment without prebooking months in advance.

 

For example, there's a recent thread fretting about advance booking for Westminster Abbey not being available for a few weeks' time. This Londoner's reaction was: Who on earth books in advance to go in to Westminster Abbey? I'd bet that the vast majority of Abbey visitors buy tickets for immediate or near-immediate entry.

 

You don't need a connected smartphone, either. I don't use a smartphone (and I don't think I'm the only CCer who doesn't). There's almost nothing in London for which that's a barrier (and I'm not actually sure that it would be legal for a smartphone to be an absolute requirement to get in to something). You do need to be a little more organised, so you can't be quite as spontaneous. But this is far from impossible.

 

And cashlessness is actually amazingly liberating, as you'll discover when you do it. Unless you're a money-launderer, there are practically no reasons to prefer to pay cash - but plenty of good reasons for going cashless. (An entertaining sidebar: apparently even the cash-loving Dutch have discovered this, and have pushed criminal gangs who blow up ATMs to get at the cash into migrating to Germany.)

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1 hour ago, Globaliser said:

 

You're getting the "micromanaged" impression because you're seeing lots of questions and plans from regular cruisers, who are outliers for micromanagement. The majority - probably the vast majority - of visitors to London do things pretty much on the spur of the moment without prebooking months in advance.

 

For example, there's a recent thread fretting about advance booking for Westminster Abbey not being available for a few weeks' time. This Londoner's reaction was: Who on earth books in advance to go in to Westminster Abbey? I'd bet that the vast majority of Abbey visitors buy tickets for immediate or near-immediate entry.

 

You don't need a connected smartphone, either. I don't use a smartphone (and I don't think I'm the only CCer who doesn't). There's almost nothing in London for which that's a barrier (and I'm not actually sure that it would be legal for a smartphone to be an absolute requirement to get in to something). You do need to be a little more organised, so you can't be quite as spontaneous. But this is far from impossible.

 

And cashlessness is actually amazingly liberating, as you'll discover when you do it. Unless you're a money-launderer, there are practically no reasons to prefer to pay cash - but plenty of good reasons for going cashless. (An entertaining sidebar: apparently even the cash-loving Dutch have discovered this, and have pushed criminal gangs who blow up ATMs to get at the cash into migrating to Germany.)

Thank you.  I understand I am 56, old school and not tech savvy.  Several times now here in NJ my credit card has been compromised by card readers/skimmers just nearby at gas station,  grocery stores...so imagine if my 1  card gets compromised while in london ...when we cruise I never have issue to pay cash on the islands. 

Here in USA business must accept cash as not everyone has a credit card.

I guess I am truly spoiled by cruising as my phone goes in safe shut off and is not used until my free day to check emails then back in safe again. When we get off ship to visit an island phone remains in safe.

 

I understand London is crowded...lines everywhere for everything but if I need to lock down scheduled appts at every venue and constantly be checking the time to ensure we are somewhere i will feel stressed out.

Even the british museum that is free needs a timed ticket for entry.  I have this on the list for day 1 but can't honestly predict if we will get to hotel to drop luggage by x time so how am I supposed to pick a time for a free ticket?  Thankfully there is a backstreet line for non ticket holders.  In Washington DC which has free museums  you just walk in..whenever they are open.

 

I told my nephew at this point we might just walk around london and see things from the outside...if we can get a ticket and get in great if not skip it. 

Museum of brands does not require timed entry and that is on his list so yay to notting hill and we can see portobello market at same time.

 

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9 hours ago, markeb said:


I don’t get this either.  It’s a tool. It’s not an anchor. And cash just means you take a hit, sometimes both ways, on exchange. And both identify you as not from here. Which is the opposite of what most of us want. 

I seriously doubt i will blend in with my jersey accent...but what happened to being a tourist friendly destination?  And even if i connect my s9 galaxy android smartphone with an intl plan and pay the daily fee  and it does not work  ...i have verizon...then what?  Things happen...phones dont work  get lost get stolen  if my trip is tied to the use of a smartphone what's the backup plan?  

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Posted (edited)
48 minutes ago, LINDAE3213 said:

I seriously doubt i will blend in with my jersey accent...but what happened to being a tourist friendly destination?  And even if i connect my s9 galaxy android smartphone with an intl plan and pay the daily fee  and it does not work  ...i have verizon...then what?  Things happen...phones dont work  get lost get stolen  if my trip is tied to the use of a smartphone what's the backup plan?  


If you’re convinced your phone will get stolen, your cards will get skimmed and you won’t get to see anything, perhaps you shouldn’t travel. 
 

It’s simply a fact that London is becoming increasingly cashless and anyone without a smartphone is at a disadvantage.

 

Sure, you can get by using cash and without a phone but chances are you’ll end up paying more, queueing for longer and being turned away from some businesses.

 

I’m sorry you don’t like it but that’s just the reality of life in London - and many other major world cities - in 2024. 

Even the US is (slowly) moving forwards - try navigating Disney World without an app these days. 
 

Edited by gumshoe958
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55 minutes ago, gumshoe958 said:


If you’re convinced your phone will get stolen, your cards will get skimmed and you won’t get to see anything, perhaps you shouldn’t travel. 
 

It’s simply a fact that London is becoming increasingly cashless and anyone without a smartphone is at a disadvantage.

 

Sure, you can get by using cash and without a phone but chances are you’ll end up paying more, queueing for longer and being turned away from some businesses.

 

I’m sorry you don’t like it but that’s just the reality of life in London - and many other major world cities - in 2024. 

Even the US is (slowly) moving forwards - try navigating Disney World without an app these days. 
 

Understood...just trying to have backup plans here since i am not a sophisticated tourist. 

 

And it seems every single londoner rich or poor owns a smartphone and has a credit card that works without fail every single time.

 

Not really sure why they printed new paper money with King's face on it if london is cashless. 

 

My other option with the timed free entry tickets is to book in multiple times throughout days say an 1130 ticket and a 230 ticket and tie them to different emails ....then we have options..but then we are taking tickets away from others as we will be only using 1 time slot.

 

Can't speak for Disney as I don't go there.  

 

My sister took a TA from NJ to Europe last year and only used her phone on last day to schedule ride to airport.  

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I’d just like to point out that one of the reason’s Americans have had so much difficulty with credit cards is that they have been very slow to adapt to newer, safer technologies. 

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3 hours ago, Globaliser said:

 

You're getting the "micromanaged" impression because you're seeing lots of questions and plans from regular cruisers, who are outliers for micromanagement. The majority - probably the vast majority - of visitors to London do things pretty much on the spur of the moment without prebooking months in advance.

 

For example, there's a recent thread fretting about advance booking for Westminster Abbey not being available for a few weeks' time. This Londoner's reaction was: Who on earth books in advance to go in to Westminster Abbey? I'd bet that the vast majority of Abbey visitors buy tickets for immediate or near-immediate entry.

 

You don't need a connected smartphone, either. I don't use a smartphone (and I don't think I'm the only CCer who doesn't). There's almost nothing in London for which that's a barrier (and I'm not actually sure that it would be legal for a smartphone to be an absolute requirement to get in to something). You do need to be a little more organised, so you can't be quite as spontaneous. But this is far from impossible.

 

And cashlessness is actually amazingly liberating, as you'll discover when you do it. Unless you're a money-launderer, there are practically no reasons to prefer to pay cash - but plenty of good reasons for going cashless. (An entertaining sidebar: apparently even the cash-loving Dutch have discovered this, and have pushed criminal gangs who blow up ATMs to get at the cash into migrating to Germany.)

You are not the only ccer without a smartphone. I do not have one.

 

Our experience last summer was in London we did not need cash, but pounds were accepted. OTOH, in Amsterdam basically only cards were accepted.

 

And we spent hours in the British Museum, and did not pre-book.

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, ontheweb said:

 

 

Our experience last summer was in London we did not need cash, but pounds were accepted. OTOH, in Amsterdam basically only cards were accepted.

 

 

Pounds are cash!

USD would NOT be accepted.

@LINDAE3213

If you prepurchase GBP in the US you will likely pay a higher amount than using an ATM card in London to obtain them. Our bank and our credit union provide ATM cards for cash withdrawals vs. debit cards which can also be used for purchases.

Edited by TMLAalum
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3 hours ago, LINDAE3213 said:

... but what happened to being a tourist friendly destination?

 

Most tourists I see (which is thousands of them, all over London) manage perfectly well using payment cards rather than cash.

 

Almost all of them are also perfectly happy using their smartphones. Just a couple of hours ago, I watched about a hundred enter Westminster Abbey using their smartphones.

 

So there's nothing tourist unfriendly about this. If you insist on not using a smartphone and only paying in cash, you'd be an outlier even amongst tourists.

 

3 hours ago, LINDAE3213 said:

And even if i connect my s9 galaxy android smartphone with an intl plan and pay the daily fee  and it does not work  ...i have verizon...then what?

 

Number one solution, I reckon, is to go to any phone shop (or supermarket) and buy a cheap data-only SIM (and boy, are they cheap). Between that and free wifi available almost everywhere, you'd easily have enough connectivity to book tickets using your smartphone.

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4 hours ago, gumshoe958 said:

anyone without a smartphone is at a disadvantage

True. Although I can generally manage - I don't carry a mobile phone at all (yes, it does make me one of a tiny minority). The only aspect where I'm currently stuck is with a couple of car parks in my local town, which require you to phone and enter a card number to their system. Dunno why they are outliers on this - the other car parks either  take cash  or you can pay by card at the machine. 

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3 hours ago, TMLAalum said:

Pounds are cash!

USD would NOT be accepted.

@LINDAE3213

If you prepurchase GBP in the US you will likely pay a higher amount than using an ATM card in London to obtain them. Our bank and our credit union provide ATM cards for cash withdrawals vs. debit cards which can also be used for purchases.

Yes, I realize pounds are cash in the UK. I was saying we could use them, but if we had none, we would have been all right with just credit cards. OTOH, most places we went to in Amsterdam would only take cards, not Euros.

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2 hours ago, Globaliser said:

 

Most tourists I see (which is thousands of them, all over London) manage perfectly well using payment cards rather than cash.

 

Almost all of them are also perfectly happy using their smartphones. Just a couple of hours ago, I watched about a hundred enter Westminster Abbey using their smartphones.

 

So there's nothing tourist unfriendly about this. If you insist on not using a smartphone and only paying in cash, you'd be an outlier even amongst tourists.

 

 

Number one solution, I reckon, is to go to any phone shop (or supermarket) and buy a cheap data-only SIM (and boy, are they cheap). Between that and free wifi available almost everywhere, you'd easily have enough connectivity to book tickets using your smartphone.

Will look into this sim card for my phone.    Nephew has tmobile plus a newer phone and his intl plan is cheaper to use so we might try to connect him instead of me as we only need 1 phone to book things.  Thank you.

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4 hours ago, LINDAE3213 said:

Will look into this sim card for my phone.    Nephew has tmobile plus a newer phone and his intl plan is cheaper to use so we might try to connect him instead of me as we only need 1 phone to book things.  Thank you.

My $55 month t-mobile gave me free texts and all the data I needed for when we were out and about. Calls were .25 USD per minute.

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I have never had a card ‘skimmed’ in the UK, or elsewhere in Europe. It appears to be an issue that happens a lot in the USA? I think it’s a banking/security issue related to the USA’s system, so you can be more confident about using a bank card abroad. Also, I think credit card fraud/debt and the impact on credit rating/ID is more consequential in the USA? Europe social security & ID cards/systems means that a single card being compromised is less likely to compromise everything else in your life - even when they’re more secure.

 

Don't worry about it, enjoy being able to ‘tap and go!’ (P.s. you will always do the tapping, no one else touches your card)

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