Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Island has long been a draw for tourists and locals alike for its serenity, nature, and shrines.  Visitors are consistent in voting Miyajima Island one of the top scenic spots in Japan. A quick look on a map and you’ll find that Miyajima’s actual name is Itsukushima.  In Japanese Miyajima means Shrine Island, and the nickname has stuck. With easy access by boat, Miyajima Island makes for a perfect day trip when visiting nearby Hiroshima.

Sunset on Miyajima Island - Itsukushima, Japan

Sunset on Miyajima Island

Traveling to Miyajima Island

You’ll find Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Bay.  Travelers visiting Hiroshima can add an extra day in the region to visit Miyajima Island.  It is easy to reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima.  The trip is less than an hour and makes for a perfect day trip.  Visitors will reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima by train and boat.

To reach Miyajima Island most visitors in Hiroshima will board the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station.  The JR Line is the fastest way to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The popular Japan Rail Pass that many tourists use to travel around Japan covers the JR Sanyo Line.  Those that did not buy a Japan Rail Pass have two options to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The fastest route is to buy a round trip ticket for the aforementioned JR Sanyo Line.  The cheaper, and slower, alternative is to take the Number 2 Tram Line from central Hiroshima bound for Miyajimaguchi.

Upon reaching Miyajimaguchi Station follow the signs to the Miyajimaguchi/Miyajima Ferry Port.  This short walk leads you to the boats sailing to Miyajima Island.  At the Port, Japan Rail Pass holders may use the entrance marked JR and board the next available boat bound for Miyajima Island.  Those without a Japan Rail Pass will need to buy tickets at the nearby kiosk for the next available sailing.

Travelers without a Japan Rail Pass can reach Miyajima Island without boarding a train.  Two other docks, at Hiroshima Peace Park and Hiroshima Port, offer direct boat rides between Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.

Arriving at Miyajima Island

Regardless of which boat you take to reach Miyajima Island you will disembark at Miyajima Pier.  From the Pier turn right and walk along the path next to the waterfront.  As you walk along the path, and throughout Miyajima Island, you may come upon deer roaming free.  These deer appear tame and comfortable around humans, as long you do not bother them.  Visitors enjoy taking photos with the deer, but be sure to treat the animals with care.  Remember, the deer are wildlife.  Approach the deer with caution, stay at a safe distance, and do not touch or feed the deer.  The deer will eat paper tourists are holding in their hands.  Be mindful if you are holding maps or brochures near the deer.

To the left of the waterfront pathway you will find local owned businesses on the streets of Omotesando and Machiya.  Miyajima artisans are fond of using wood to create everything from trays to containers.  You can even find pieces of woodwork with etchings of various Miyajima sights.  Rice scoopers are one popular item the wood makers craft.  As you walk among the stores keep an eye out for a display featuring the largest rice scooper in the world.

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

At the end of the streets with stores and restaurants you will come upon Itsukushima Shinto Shrine.  The Shrine’s buildings, along with the nearby Five-Storied Pagoda and O-Torii, have the honorable designation of being a UNESCO World Cultural Site.  Most visitors are familiar with Miyajima Island because of the O-Torii, or Grand Torii Gate.  The O-Torii is first visible from the boat one takes to reach Miyajima Island.

Viewing the O-Torii is a different experience depending on whether you visit during low tide or during high tide.  Upon disembarking from the boat that brought you to Miyajima Island visit the nearby Information Booth for a posted sign with times for low and high tide.  Pre-planners can find tide times posted online if you need to know the times before your visit.  High tide is the perfect time for photos as the O-Torii sits surrounded by water.  Low tide offers visitors the chance to see the O-Torii up close as you may walk up to the Gate.  The ground is wet, muddy, and slippery, so wear proper shoes for the walk to the O-Torii during low tide.

Mt. Misen (the Sacred Mountain) and Observatory

Included in the World Heritage designation is Mt. Misen, known as the Sacred Mountain.  The landscape of the Island has drawn many spiritual beings to Miyajima.  As you hike Mt. Misen, you will find large rocks and trees amidst temples and religious statues.  To hike any part of Mt. Misen requires being in good physical health.  It is possible to hike from the base of Mt. Misen to the top.  Most visitors will ride the Miyajima Ropeway, which will allow you to bypass a large part of Mt. Misen.  From the waterfront follow the signs to the Momijidani Station and use the Ropeway to reach either Kayatani or Shishiiwa Station.

Even taking the Ropeway to the furthest point, Shishiiwa, still leaves hikers with a strenuous trail to the top most observation deck.  The reward in reaching the observation deck is stunning views of Seto Inland Sea and the surrounding Islands.

 

Daishoin Temple

With its deep connection between nature and spirituality, Miyajima is home to many temples.  One in particular, Daishoin Temple, is one of the grandest on Miyajima Island.  The grounds for Daishoin Temple makes it one of the larger temples to explore on Miyajima Island.  The easiest way to locate Daishoin is if you position yourself with the Miyajima Ropeway behind you, and the O-Torii Gate in front of you.  At that point turn left to reach Daishoin.  Take your time walking and admiring the serene grounds, various halls, and thousands of religious statues.

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Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Pier: 34.302092, 132.322270
Omotesando Street: 34.299070, 132.321860
Machiya Street: 34.298441, 132.322490
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine: 34.296083, 132.319915
Five-Storied Pagoda : 34.297129, 132.320752
O-Torii Gate: 34.297253, 132.318134
Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station: 34.293247, 132.326782
Mt. Misen Observatory: 34.279436, 132.319529
Daishoin Temple: 34.291864, 132.318628
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Miyajima Pier
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Omotesando Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Machiya Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Itsukushima Island 広島県, Japan
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Five-Storied Pagoda
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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O-Torii Gate
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Mt. Misen Observatory
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Daishoin Temple
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan

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Vancouver’s Granville Island

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Granville Island in Vancouver is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Set along the waters of False Creek, Granville Island offers visitors scenic views. Spend the day shopping or eating at the various stalls within the Public Market or in the surrounding buildings. Unwind while perusing galleries or drinking beer at the Granville Island Brewery. Enjoy the waterfront while strolling along nearby Island Park Walk. Granville Island has so much to offer that tourists will find it one of the top highlights of their trip.

Getting to Granville Island

Tourists planning to visit Granville Island will arrive either by car, bus, or boat. Granville Island is accessible by car but you will be fighting with other drivers for the few parking spots available. The better plan is to arrive at Granville Island by bus or by boat. To get from Downtown to Granville Island you will board the #50 bus. The route for bus #50 runs through various Vancouver districts. Visitors staying in and around Gastown, Chinatown, Downtown, or Yaletown will take bus #50 southbound. Hop on the #50 bus labeled False Creek via Granville Island and exit at the W 2 Ave at Anderson Street stop. From the bus stop it will be a four-minute stroll to Granville Island via Old Bridge Walk.

A unique way to reach Granville Island is via boat on the waters of False Creek. Two boat companies sail along False Creek, Aquabus and False Creek Ferry. Both boat companies have eight docking locations along the waters of False Creek. You can catch one of the boats in popular tourist locations such as Yaletown or near BC Place at the Plaza of Nations. Boats land at each of the docks every 15 minutes so you won’t have to wait very long to catch the next boat. The simplest thing to do is arrive at the dock and hop on to whichever boat company arrives first.

Once on board you’ll pay the driver the fare to ride the boat. The boats hold between twelve and twenty passengers at a time. Passengers sit on benches next to windows so everyone has a view during the ride. The boats sail quietly along the waters of False Creek and offer a relaxing journey while sailing past the buildings of Vancouver. Exit the boat at the Granville Island dock. From the dock you are steps away from the main building for the Granville Island Public Market.

Granville Island Public Market

The most popular place to visit on Granville Island is the Public Market. Inside this building you will find a vast array of vendors. You can buy baskets of various fruits or bouquets of flowers. Other vendors sell pastries and bread still warm from the oven. Locals decide between fresh pasta and ravioli to bring home to cook later. It’s easy to check off your grocery list at the Public Market.

A few vendors at the Public Market sell food products you can eat on site. Lee’s Donuts is a must for those with an inclination towards fried dough. The Honey Dip Donut is a popular choice and tastes delicious. Enjoy your food with a cup of coffee from either JJ Bean or Petit Ami. If you are in the mood for more pastries and heartier fare stop at Laurelle’s Fine Foods. Laurelle’s is a bakery deli that sells meat pies and muffins. The dough on the meat pies flake right off and melt in your mouth.

Next to the Public Market are more buildings full of shops, galleries, and other food options. Those who wish to sample a local beer will want to swing by Granville Island Brewing. To maximize your tasting opportunity order a flight which allows you to sample up to four different beers. The Island Lager is their original beer and a fan favorite. For a true Canadian experience be sure to sample the Maple Shack Cream Ale. In addition to beer Granville Island Brewing offers a food menu with dishes such as poutine.

Island Park Walk

After you’re finished with Granville Island head to nearby Island Park Walk. This path just on the other side of Granville Island offers views of Granville Island plus residential homes and boats docked at the harbor. The path is especially stunning in the fall time when the leaves have changed colors. Here along the path visitors can dream of living next to Granville Island. Imagine waking up on a weekend morning and heading over to pick up items for brunch at the Public Market.

If daydreaming leaves you famished, at the end of Island Park Walk you will find Go Fish. This popular eatery sells quality seafood dishes from a simple shack. For fried golden perfection order the classic fish and chips. Or try the fish sandwich with either seared ahi tuna or salmon. Afterwards take Island Park Walk back the way you came towards either the #50 bus or to the Ferry Creek docks to catch the next boat home.

 

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Granville Island

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Granville Island 49.270622, -123.134741 Overview of Vancouver, Canada and Vancouver’s Granville Island

 

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Overview of Vancouver, Canada

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Ask ten different people what their favorite thing to do in the Canadian city of Vancouver is and you are likely to get ten different answers. The reason you get varied responses stems from the fact that few places in the world compare to Vancouver. To the casual observer Vancouver is just another metropolitan city. Yet Vancouver differs from other major cities because it embodies diversity. In one day visitors can hike Stanley Park in the morning and then shop Downtown among the masses in the afternoon. Foodies buy produce at Granville Island one moment and enjoy fine dining in Yaletown the next. Convention goers attend meetings at Canada Place and then lounge waterside at English Bay Beach. Tourists walk historic Gastown before slurping noodles in Chinatown. These dichotomies exist in harmony with the diverse people of Vancouver.

With something for everyone Vancouver as a tourist destination appeals to even the most discerning of travelers. First time travelers looking at a map of Vancouver might notice that the city looks like an oyster shell. As anyone who loves oysters knows, you’ll want to crack that shell open and dig into what Vancouver offers. Vancouver isn’t a difficult city to navigate but the easiest way to get oriented is to begin somewhat in the middle of the city in the Downtown district. Downtown is home to the financial and business districts of the city. Among the skyscrapers you will find the Vancouver Central Library. This stunning building is an architectural contrast to the stark skyscrapers. In Downtown you’ll want to make your way to Robson Street. This is one of the main thoroughfares in Vancouver and stretches the length of the city.

On one end of Robson Street is BC Place, a stadium where one can catch either a sporting or musical event. Continuing on and around Robson Street you’ll find a variety of shops. A number of the stores are global brands but a few, such as Roots, are Canadian brands. Few tourists will walk the entirety of Robson Street, but those that do wind up at Stanley Park. If you don’t wish to walk, or don’t have a car, you will reach Stanley Park by bus. Stanley Park is a massive public space with paved paths for bicyclists, roller bladders, and walkers. Here visitors enjoy trees, totem poles, and the waters of the Vancouver Harbour.

To the east of Downtown you will find Canada Place. If you arrived by cruise ship, you will have most likely disembarked at this spot. Besides being a cruise ship terminal, Canada Place is home to a convention center and hotel. Near Canada Place is the oldest neighborhood in the city, the historic Gastown. First time tourists visit Gastown at least once, to see the Steam Clock and a chance to shop for souvenirs. Next to Gastown is Canada’s largest Chinatown. Vancouver’s Chinatown traces its history back to 1885 and to this day is full of shops and restaurants. While in Chinatown you will want to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This tranquil spot is a wonderful place to recharge and center oneself.

West of Downtown, in simplest terms, is synonymous with food. The regions of the West End and Yaletown are quintessential foodie neighborhoods. Here you will find well-established diners among up and coming restaurants. Further west, across the waters of False Creek, is Granville Island. Here at the Granville Island Public Market are vendors galore. Visitors can buy fresh produce, straight out of the oven breads and pastries, and a plethora of other food products.

Regardless of how you spend your time in Vancouver you will find navigating the city easy. Those who enjoy walking will find wide avenues and flat surfaces. Bus routes traverse throughout the entire city. Ferries sail to Granville Island or further afield to places such as the city of Victoria. Vancouver’s rapid transit system, SkyTrain, runs through parts of Downtown. The SkyTrain connects Vancouver to the cities of Burnaby, New Westminister, Surrey, and Richmond. For those arriving in Vancouver by airplane, the SkyTrain’s Canada Line will get you from Vancouver International Airport to your destination in no time.

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Vancouver

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Vancouver Central Library: 49.279754, -123.115679
Robson Street: 49.284605, -123.124824
BC Place: 49.276750, -123.111999
Stanley Park: 49.298319, -123.137684
Canada Place: 49.289124, -123.116498
Gastown: 49.282808, -123.106688
Chinatown: 49.280600, -123.100553
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: 49.279649, -123.103913
West End: 49.285646, -123.130621
Yaletown: 49.275702, -123.119907
Granville Island: 49.270622, -123.134741
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Vancouver Central Library
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver Public Library- Central Branch, West Georgia Street, Central, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Robson Street
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Robson Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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BC Place
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
BC Place, Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Stanley Park
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
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Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park

Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Canada Place
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver Convention Centre West Building, Canada Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Gastown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Gastown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Chinatown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Chinatown, East Pender Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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West End
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
West End, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Yaletown
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Yaletown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Granville Island

Overview of Vancouver, Canada
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Vancouver’s Granville Island


Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, Canada

 

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A Hong Kong Day Trip

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A great Hong Kong day trip is one where the experience differs from that of the districts of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Hong Kong is more than just city escapades through skyscrapers and shopping malls. Allocating part of your trip to visiting other districts of Hong Kong allows you the opportunity to see another side of Hong Kong. A Hong Kong day trip means seeing first hand a bustling fishing village or hiking lush green hills. You can pay homage to a gigantic Buddha or soak in Portuguese influence. These Hong Kong day trips give you a glimpse into how locals live on outlying islands. Four unique Hong Kong day trips are those to Cheung Chau, Lamma Island, Lantau Island, and Macau.

Boats in Cheung Chau's harbor - Hong Kong, China

Boats in Cheung Chau’s harbor

 

Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau is part of Hong Kong’s Island Districts. You reach Cheung Chau by boat in under an hour from Hong Kong Island’s Central Ferry Pier 5. Unlike Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, Cheung Chau is a bustling fishing village. The harbor is full of fisherman working on their boats. At the waterfront vendors sell fish at markets while restaurants serve up fresh seafood dishes. Besides seafood tourists will enjoy Cheung Chau’s narrow streets with their shops, bakeries, and food stalls. Cheung Chau may translate from Cantonese into “Long Island” yet the island itself is small enough to entice visitors for a few hours. This makes Cheung Chau a perfect island for those tourists on a time crunch but still wanting to explore one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands.

Check out our article on Cheung Chau for more on visiting this island: Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island

 

Part of the Lamma Island Famly Walk Trail - Hong Kong, China

Part of the Lamma Island Famly Walk Trail

 

Lamma Island

Lamma Island is one of Hong Kong’s largest islands and one of the closest to Hong Kong Island. The island’s proximity and size is why Lamma Island is a perfect day trip for those visiting Hong Kong. The lush green hills of Lamma Island and lack of vehicles makes this Hong Kong day trip a peaceful change of pace from Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Lamma Island has two main villages, Sok Kwu Wan and Yung Shue Wan. These villages connect to one other by a concrete trail that takes 1-1/2 hours to walk. The trail has amazing views of the island and the surrounding waters. Besides the trail, Lamma Island has beaches that are great for hot days and restaurants that serve delicious seafood. Visitors will reach Lamma Island by boat in under an hour on direct sailings from Hong Kong Island’s Central Ferry Pier 4.

Check out our article on Lamma Island for more on visiting this island: Hong Kong’s Lamma Island

 

Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island - Hong Kong, China

Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island

 

Lantau Island

Lantau Island is Hong Kong’s largest island and one of its least populous islands. What draws visitors to Lantau Island is the giant Tian Tan Buddha. Located at the Po Lin Monastery this bronze Buddha is one of the largest seated outdoor Buddha statues in the world. Visitors can get closer to the Buddha by climbing a staircase consisting of 268 steps. Travel to the Monastery and Buddha begins by reaching Lantau Island using either MTR (Mass Transit Railway) or by boat. The MTR Station you need to arrive at is Tung Chung Station, Exit B. If you are traveling by boat you will leave from Hong Kong Island’s Central Ferry Pier 6 to Mui Wo. Once on Lantau Island you will travel on a gondola (Ngong Ping 360) or bus to the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha. The gondola ride leaves from the MTR Tung Chung Station and is a 25-minute ride. Buses from either MTR Tung Chung Station or Mui Wo Ferry Pier will get you to your destination in 40-minutes.

 

St. Paul Ruins - Macau, China

St. Paul Ruins – Macau

 

Macau

Of the four destinations listed in this article Macau is the only one not part of Hong Kong’s Islands District. In fact Macau isn’t part of Hong Kong but its own city. As Hong Kong was once under British rule, Macau was once part of Portugal. The mix of Portuguese and Chinese influence makes Macau an interesting Hong Kong day trip. To visit Macau from Hong Kong visitors must leave from the Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island. The trip takes an hour by boat. Tourists will want to visit the ruins of St. Paul and the Kun Iam Statue and Temple. Besides the sights enjoy walking the mosaic-tiled streets amid buildings painted in calming shades of yellow, orange, and red colors. Take your time exploring the neighborhood’s shops and restaurants. A quirky spot to visit is the Macau Fisherman’s Wharf Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Centre’s buildings are replicas of ancient Greek and Chinese architecture. Visitors who gamble will enjoy Macau’s status as the Las Vegas of Asia. There are plenty of casinos to gamble at such as the Sands Macao, Wynn Macau, Venetian MacauMGM Grand Macau, and Casino Lisboa.

 

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Hong Kong Day Trips

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Cheung Chau: 22.201618, 114.026501
Lamma Island: 22.200006, 114.135017
Lantau Island: 22.253985, 113.904984
Macau: 22.198745, 113.543873
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Cheung Chau
Cheung Chau: A Hong Kong Island

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A Hong Kong Day Trip

Cheung Chau, Hong Kong
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Lamma Island
Hong Kong’s Lamma Island

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A Hong Kong Day Trip

Lamma Island, Hong Kong
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Lantau Island
A Hong Kong Day Trip
Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong
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Macau
A Hong Kong Day Trip
Macau

 

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Hong Kong Transportation

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A key to being a world-class city is having accessible transportation. Hong Kong transportation doesn’t disappoint with a variety of options that will get you to where you need to go. From the moment you land at the airport to the end of your trip you’ll have made it around Hong Kong with ease.

Please note that any times, prices, and currency conversions listed below are only correct for February 2016. For up-to-date pricing visit the Hong Kong transportation websites.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)

You’ve landed at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), gone through customs, and retrieved your baggage. Now you’re wondering how you will get to your hotel. Just as you leave baggage claim you will find a helpful desk that sells tickets for the Airport Express. The Airport Express is a train that runs on a track with station stops at Asia World Expo, Airport, Tsing Yi, Kowloon, and Hong Kong. Travelers with hotel reservations in either Kowloon or Hong Kong Island will want to exit at the corresponding station stop. The best Airport Express ticket for tourists that are staying in Hong Kong for three or more days is the Airport Express Travel Pass. This pass allows for round trip passage between the airport and either Tsing Yi, Kowloon, or Hong Kong Stations. In addition, the pass includes three consecutive days of unlimited travel on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). This pass is only available to tourists and the round trip passes costs $350 Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). With currency conversion that equals $45 United States Dollars (USD).

Once you have your Airport Express Travel Pass you will walk within the airport from baggage claim to the Airport Station. This short walk has you on your train in no time. Trains leave from the airport every 10-12 minutes and will have you in Central Hong Kong within 24 minutes. Another perk is that once you have arrived at either Kowloon or Hong Kong Station you can board free shuttle buses that will transport you to your hotel. Just read the signs for which bus line goes to your hotel, board the corresponding bus, and you are on your way. This same hotel shuttle is available for you to return to the train station to catch your return trip on the Airport Express.

Airport Express - Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong’s Airport Express

Station sign for MTR, Mass Transit Railway - Hong Kong, China

Station sign for MTR

Mass Transit Railway (MTR)

Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is fast, clean, and efficient. You will find stations throughout the city labeled in English and Chinese.  With only five dedicated (color coded) subway lines the MTR makes it easy to get around Hong Kong without having to rely on taxi drivers.  Signs posted throughout the MTR stations make it easy to decipher what direction you need to head to find your next train. For long distance destinations you transfer between train lines and walk to the correct platform. Station stops broadcast over loudspeakers within the trains in both English and Chinese so you won’t miss your stop. The only cautionary thing to keep in mind is that if possible avoid the MTR during peak commute times. During commute times so many people ride the MTR that you might be squished into trains. If you did not buy the Airport Express Travel Pass to ride the MTR you can buy tickets at the various MTR stations. If you plan on riding the MTR multiple times you can buy a one-day Adult Tourist Day Pass. The Adult Tourist Day Pass costs $65 HKD ($8.35 USD). A single ride ticket fare depends on the distance traveled and the cost ranges anywhere from $4 HKD ($0.50 US Cents) to $8.50 HKD ($1.10 USD).

Star Ferry

The Star Ferry has just one purpose. It takes passengers between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon by sailing over the Victoria Harbour. Tourists will want to ride the Star Ferry at least once during their trip for the magnificent views offered crossing the harbor. Ferries run every 8-20 minutes depending on the time of day. A one-way adult ticket is $2.50 (HKD) on weekdays and $3.40 (HKD) on weekends and public holidays. Converted into USD the fare costs 32 Cents or 44 Cents. This low fare makes the Star Ferry one of the cheapest modes of Hong Kong transportation, and the cheapest way to get between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Keep in mind that the Star Ferry can get packed with locals and tourists alike during commute hours.

Star Ferry with Kowloon in the background - Hong Kong, China

Star Ferry with Kowloon in the background

Star Ferry with Hong Kong Island in the background - Hong Kong, China

Star Ferry with Hong Kong Island in the background

There are three main piers for the Star Ferry. The Star Ferry runs between the piers of Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui and between the piers of Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. Kowloon’s pier of Tsim Sha Tsui is within walking distance to Nathan Road and various shopping opportunities. The Hong Kong Island pier of Wan Chai is near the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. From Wan Chai Pier you can walk twenty-minutes to the Wan Chai District, where you will find many great restaurant choices. The Central Pier on Hong Kong Island is a short walk to the MTR Hong Kong Station if you need to get to other parts of the city. In addition, the Central Pier is where you will catch other ferries to any of the neighboring islands.

Central Ferry Piers - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

Central Ferry Piers on Hong Kong Island

Island Ferry - Hong Kong, China

Island Ferry for Hong Kong

Island Ferry

If time permits you may take one of the various Island Ferries to nearby islands. Passengers embark on these Island Ferries at the Central Piers (accessible from either Central or Hong Kong MTR Stations). Many of these boats take travelers to outlying islands where locals live. Islands of note that tourists may find interesting to visit include Cheung Chau and Lamma Island. The cost of a one-way adult fare depends on two factors and the first is the ferry you take (ordinary, deluxe, or fast). The second is if you travel Monday to Saturday or on a Sunday and Public Holiday. Regardless of the ferry or day you select, fares are still cheap. One-way fares range from $13.20 HKD ($1.70 USD) at the low-end and $37.20 HKD ($4.77 USD) at the high-end. One of the 10 piers serviced by Central Piers is the Star Ferry service to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon.

Taxis

There are many taxicabs available to use as Hong Kong transportation.  Depending on your destination taxi fares are cheap. With cheap fares you may find cab drivers won’t take you to your destination if isn’t far enough or worth their time. Short distances are best traveled by the MTR. If you plan on taking a taxi have your destination written in both English and Chinese characters. Many taxi drivers are not fluent in English so having the place written in Chinese will make it easier for you to get to your destination.

Line of taxis - Hong Kong, China

Line of taxis in Hong Kong

 

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Hong Kong Transportation

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Airport Station at HKG: 22.316058, 113.936503
Kowloon Station: 22.304306, 114.161475
Hong Kong Station: 22.284681, 114.158177
Wan Chai Pier: 22.283391, 114.176217
Tsim Sha Tsui Pier: 22.293810, 114.168227
Central Piers: 22.287843, 114.157384
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Airport Station at HKG
Hong Kong Transportation
Airport Station, Hong Kong
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Kowloon Station
Hong Kong Transportation
Kowloon Station, Hong Kong
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Hong Kong Station
Hong Kong Transportation
Hong Kong Station, Hong Kong
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Wan Chai Pier
Hong Kong Transportation
Wan Chai Ferry Pier, Hong Kong
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Tsim Sha Tsui Pier
Hong Kong Transportation
Star Ferry Pier, Hong Kong
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Central Piers
Hong Kong Transportation
Central Piers, Hong Kong

 

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Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia

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English-speaking travelers will find Hong Kong an accessible gateway to future travel through out Asia. Hong Kong was once a British colony and many who live in Hong Kong today speak English. With the language barrier removed Hong Kong is a perfect city for English-speaking travelers to acclimate to life in Asia. You will find signs and menus written in both English and Chinese. First time travelers will stick to the two main sections of Hong Kong, Kowloon in the north and to the south Hong Kong Island. Victoria Harbour separates Kowloon and Hong Kong Island and to sail across Victoria Harbour you will board the Star Ferry. Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is another way to travel between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. MTR is the fastest way to reach the parts of Hong Kong you will want to visit for sights, food, and shopping. The top two sights for Hong Kong are Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak. Those who wish to shop can find stores in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district and on the streets around and on Hennessy Road on Hong Kong Island.

View overlooking Convention Centre, Victoria Harbour, and Kowloon - Hong Kong, China

View overlooking Convention Centre, Victoria Harbour, and Kowloon

Victoria Harbour

You will enjoy iconic views of Hong Kong while sailing across Victoria Harbour. As you sail through the harbor you’ll be able to take fantastic photos of the buildings on both the Kowloon side and the Hong Kong Island side. If you’re lucky a junk boat will pass by just as you’re snapping your photo to enhance the image. The easiest form of transportation across Victoria Harbour is on the Star Ferry. It is possible to traverse Victoria Harbour underground using the MTR but you won’t see the scenery traveling that way. The Star Ferry operates every 8-20 minutes depending on the time of day. So if you miss the ferry you know another one will be along soon. At the time of writing this article a one-way adult ticket was $2.50 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) on weekdays and $3.40 HKD on weekends and public holidays. Converted into US currency that translates to 32 cents and 44 cents. This low fare makes the Star Ferry one of the cheapest modes of transportation in Hong Kong, and the cheapest way to get between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Sailing over Victoria Harbour towards Hong Kong Island - Hong Kong, China

Sailing over Victoria Harbour towards Hong Kong Island

Victoria Peak

Besides Victoria Harbour the other place in Hong Kong to take postcard worthy photos is atop Victoria Peak. The journey to the top of Victoria Peak is part of the sightseeing. From the MTR Central Station you take the J2 exit, which places you in the middle of Chater Garden, a garden surrounded by striking skyscrapers. From Chater Garden you will continue ahead up Garden Road. As you walk Garden Road you will pass St. John’s Cathedral. The Anglican cathedral may appear out-of-place in the middle of the financial district yet this simple cathedral is an oasis of peace. The cathedral is open to the public during the day unless a religious service is taking place. Continue on Garden Road from St. John’s Cathedral and follow the signs to the Peak Tram Terminus.

Exterior of St. John's Cathedral - Hong Kong, China

Exterior of St. John’s Cathedral

Doorway into St. John's Cathedral - Hong Kong, China

Doorway into St. John’s Cathedral

At the Peak Tram Terminus you will buy tickets to board the Peak Tram. The best ticket to buy is the round-trip Peak Tram Sky Pass, which allows you passage on the tram and access to the Sky Terrace 428. The Sky Terrace 428, located atop the Peak Tower, offers stunning panoramic views of Hong Kong. At the time of writing this article the round-trip Peak Tram Sky Pass for adults is HKD $83 (US $10.64). The Peak Tram operates everyday from 7am to 12-midnight and departs every 10-15 minutes. Both the Peak Tower and Sky Terrace 428 are open from 10am to 11pm (Monday through Friday) and 8am to 11pm (Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays).

Peak Tower on Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

Peak Tower on Victoria Peak

The Peak Tram can get full of tourists so the earlier you can arrive at the Terminus the more peaceful your journey will be. As you exit the Peak Tram you will find yourself right inside the Peak Tower. From here you will go either to the top of the building or outside to the ground level of Victoria Peak. There are shops and restaurants within the Peak Tower and nearby at the Peak Galleria. Within Peak Tower you will ascend multiple escalators to reach Sky Terrace 428. Once there you will see a magnificent view of Hong Kong. Included in the view is the financial and downtown district of Hong Kong Island you walked through to get to the Terminus. You will see a multitude of office buildings, housing, and in the distance Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. Once you’ve soaked in the scenery return to the Peak Tram and retrace your steps back to the MTR.

View From Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

View From Victoria Peak

View From Sky Terrace 428 on top of Peak Tower on Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

View From Sky Terrace 428 on top of Peak Tower

Shopping

In Kowloon shopping is king. Whether you arrive by ferry or subway the moment you disembark your form of transportation you will find yourself in front of a store. Begin either at the shopping centers of iSquare and Tsim Sha Tsui Centre & Empire Centre or by walking Nathan Road with its many stores. In the evening the Temple Street Night Market comes alive in the streets on and surrounding Jordan and Yau Ma Tei.

The entirety of this shopping goodness is in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon. This is a mecca for shoppers looking to buy tailored suits or watches. If you are traveling to Hong Kong with the express intention of purchasing tailored clothing or jewelry you must do your research before your visit. Tourists are easy prey for con artists selling inferior products. Prior to your trip use the Internet to find reputable businesses to make sure the products you buy are of high quality and will last you a lifetime. As for the pushy sales people on the streets just smile and say “no thank you” as you walk by them.

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of Tsim Sha Tsui is too much to handle. For a reprieve and a chance to escape the crowds duck into Kowloon Park, located just off of Nathan Road. This large public park has trees, a garden, and a playground for children. On Sunday enjoy a free demonstration of Kung Fu or a lion dance. Decompress in this sanctuary of serenity before reentering the throng of people on Nathan Road.

Times Square shopping center in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island - Hong Kong, China

Times Square shopping center in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island

On the other side of Victoria Harbour, concentrated in the eastern part of Hennessy Road, is the shopping on Hong Kong Island. This section of shopping is accessible from the Causeway Bay MTR Station. Here you will find the Times Square shopping center and stores throughout the many streets leading off of Hennessy Road. Farther south on Hong Kong Island is the outdoor Stanley Market. Stanley Market is a tourist trap but even so it makes for a great place to find souvenirs for your loved ones.

 

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Hong Kong Sights

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Victoria Harbour: 22.287826, 114.174385
St. John\'s Cathedral: 22.278691, 114.159750
Peak Tram Lower Terminus: 22.278069, 114.159554
Victoria Peak / Victoria Tower / Sky Terrace 428: 22.275883, 114.145532
Nathan Road (Kowloon Shopping): 22.310549, 114.171156
Kowloon Park: 22.298716, 114.171936
Hennessy Road (Hong Kong Island Shopping): 22.279765, 114.182689
Stanley Market: 22.219052, 114.212853
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Victoria Harbour
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong
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St. John's Cathedral
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
St. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong
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Peak Tram Lower Terminus
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus, Hong Kong
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Victoria Peak / Victoria Tower / Sky Terrace 428
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Victoria Peak, The Peak, Hong Kong
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Nathan Road (Kowloon Shopping)
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Nathan Road, Hong Kong
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Kowloon Park
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Kowloon Park, Hong Kong
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Hennessy Road (Hong Kong Island Shopping)
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Times Square, Hong Kong
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Stanley Market
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Stanley Market, Hong Kong

 

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Travel As A Local

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When we travel sometimes it’s as if we never left home, what with the buildings being different but the corporate logos being the same. Crave a hamburger and you need only find the golden arches of McDonald’s. Need caffeine and Starbucks can fulfill your wish. Forgot to pack your favorite top and you can buy the same shirt at the Gap. This familiarity makes it easy to avoid the local scene. Yet why spend your hard-earned money traveling to another state or country just to buy what you could at home. By using the Internet and talking to people you meet along the way you can escape globalization and travel as a local.

Local Lodging

Hotel Monaco - Portland, Oregon

Hotel Monaco is a boutique hotel in Portland, Oregon

The easiest route in booking a hotel is to stay with a brand you’re familiar with, such as Hilton or Sheraton. The downside to this approach is that these well-known hotels carry a hefty price tag. Unless you’re willing to stay in out-of-the-way locations such as near the airport. The name brand hotels often lack charm and regardless which part of the world you have traveled to each location is the same.

There are other alternatives and sites such as Hotels.com can help you discover local hotels or boutique hotels, such as Hotel Monaco in Portland. Other websites such as VRBO and Airbnb have listings for vacation rentals such as bed & breakfasts or apartments. By staying at these places you can imitate a local’s way of life. Be sure to cross-reference any lodgings you are thinking of staying at with websites such as TripAdvisor. You can read reviews by past occupants to make sure the lodging is up to your standards and is in a safe location of the city.

Local Meals

Aside from sightseeing the biggest thing for tourists to do is eat the local cuisine.   Still, fears of eating something you’re not familiar with can lead you to slipping back to your default and eating at restaurant franchises you can find at home. This can happen if you’re tired and don’t want to figure out where to eat. If you do this then you’ll be missing out on amazing new food experiences. The best thing to do is to research places to eat before you even leave on your trip. With a list of places to eat throughout the city you will have a restaurant choice no matter where you are in the city during the day. When hunger strikes you can eat at one of the many restaurants you’ve pre-selected.

The easiest way to avoid fast food chains is by using websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and similar region specific ratings websites. These websites will include both tourist and local reviews. You’ll know which restaurants serve good food, based on reviews from other travelers and people who live in those cities and eat at those restaurants regularly. Don’t be afraid to use a search engine such as Google to find websites and blogs of travelers and use their suggestions on where to dine. Another suggestion is when you check into your hotel ask the staff for recommendations. The hotel workers live in the city and will have recommendations for the best restaurants on any budget.

Food purchased at local market - Nice, France

Food purchased at local market in Nice, France

An alternative is to skip the restaurant and visit a local farmer’s market or grocery store for a meal you can bring back to your hotel. A sampling of local bread, cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, and candies can turn into one of your most memorable meals. If you are traveling with checked luggage bring a bottle opener with you to use on an alcoholic beverage. A local beer or wine from the market will enhance your hotel picnic even more. Cities such as Nice in France are perfect for such meals. You can dine in the comfort of your hotel room on local delicacies such as foie gras, comté, and salami. Pair your food with a slice of fresh baguette and a glass of French wine for a delicious meal.

Local Shopping

Pedestrian zone with stores and restaurants - Bern, Switzerland

Pedestrian zone with stores and restaurants in Bern, Switzerland

Chances are you packed more clothes than you’ll ever need for your trip in your suitcase. It’s human nature to over pack. What’s unfortunate is that the heavy suitcase you’re now lugging over town and over cobblestones has made you crazy. The next time you travel, consider not filling up your entire suitcase. Pack enough clothes to begin your journey and buy the rest of your clothes.

Pedestrian only zones, such as those found in Bern (Switzerland), are great places to find local brands of clothing. Shopping while on vacation is an adventure and it will help freshen up your wardrobe. Plus the clothing you wear will resemble the clothes the local population wears. If you wear local attire it allows you to blend in and trick the locals into thinking you aren’t a tourist. In addition clothes make a great personal souvenir and when your friend asks you where you bought that article of clothing you’ll be happy to tell them where.

When using your credit card if the store, or restaurant, asks if you wish to pay in your home currency versus the local currency always select the local currency. If you choose to pay in your home currency you may find your credit card company will charge you additional service fees. The service fees will be on top of getting the worst currency exchange rate possible for that day. Save yourself money and pay in local currency every chance you get.

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London Holiday Travels

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Christmas tree in front of St. Paul's Cathedral - London, England

Christmas tree in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral

Those of us who are able to revisit countries we’ve visited before are fortunate. Each revisit brings with it a renewed interest in that country. Of course that first trip will always hold a special place in your memories. The next visit may not have that same emotional punch but it may hold even greater surprises. A first time visit often means a hectic itinerary rushing to and from sights and eateries, with nary a break for rest. Follow up trips means that you won’t have that same necessity to see the requisite sights again. You certainly may but there won’t be the same crunch on your time.

National Gallery - London, England

National Gallery

Another visit means exploring areas of the city you didn’t get a chance to the first time. You’re able to eat at different restaurants, or try something else on the menu at a favorite restaurant. The biggest gift in revisiting a country is the opportunity to experience the cities in new ways. Spend time in local coffee shops or parks or even go grocery shopping. Stroll the streets and get in sync with the ebb and flow of the city and how the residents spend their time living there.

Deer in front of Covent Garden Market - London, England

Deer in front of Covent Garden Market

An especially stark contrast is to visit the same city during different times of the year. Doing so can bring an entirely new perspective on a city you thought you knew. You can see how the locals relax under the summer sun versus how they handle snow in the winter. This holds especially true during the winter holiday season as cities are decked out in their festive best. City squares are filled with Christmas market stalls and monuments are decorated.

London Eye Lights - London, England

London Eye Lights

London in December is particularly filled with holiday cheer. Many of the streets, including those leading into Piccadilly Circus, are dressed up in holiday lights and signs. St. Paul’s Cathedral has two Christmas trees, one on each side of the Cathedral. A large tree adorned with lights is lit up in front of the National Gallery as well. Covent Garden Market has a giant topiary reindeer to get visitors into the holiday spirit.

Fireworks and the London Eye - London, England

Fireworks and the London Eye

This festive cheer culminates in a spectacular New Year’s Eve celebration. The best viewing areas are by The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower (often referred to as Big Ben) and across the riverbank from the London Eye. Along the riverbank are crowds of happy people partying and dancing to music being pumped out on large speakers by local disc jockeys. It is behind the London Eye that an array of fireworks is fired into the night’s sky for a dazzling display at the strike of midnight. After the fireworks show the city of London does a nice job of ushering out the crowds through specific streets and back safely to their hotels and homes. To view London through the lens of the holidays gives visitors a newfound appreciation of this wonderful city.

Wherever in the world you may be celebrating, Check Before You Trek wishes you a very happy holiday and a happy new year! May your next year be full of travels to both new and familiar locations!

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London During the Holidays

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St. Pauls\' Cathedral: 51.513845, -0.098351
National Gallery: 51.508929, -0.128299
Covent Garden Market: 51.511732, -0.123270
Houses of Parliament: 51.499629, -0.124648
The London Eye: 51.503324, -0.119543
Piccadilly Circus: 51.510101, -0.134661
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St. Pauls' Cathedral
London Holiday Travels
St.Pauls' Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
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National Gallery
London Holiday Travels
National Gallery, London, United Kingdom
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Covent Garden Market
London Holiday Travels
Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom
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Houses of Parliament
London Holiday Travels
Houses of Parliament, London, United Kingdom
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The London Eye
London Holiday Travels
London Eye, London, United Kingdom
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Piccadilly Circus
London Holiday Travels
Piccadilly Circus, London, United Kingdom

 

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Day Trips From London

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A week in London means a packed itinerary and a day trip to another town may be the furthest thing from your mind. Even so, you should devote a day to a city besides London. Visit other parts of England near London to allow yourself the opportunity to explore another side of the country. Day trips that offer a different experience than staying in London are Bath, Oxford, Reading, Stonehenge, and Windsor. Travel times listed in each heading are one-way train trips from London’s Paddington Station.

Bath – 90 minutes

Walk around London and you can’t imagine that Britain was once part of the Roman Empire. Travel to Bath and that evidence hits you smack dab in the face. The town of Bath is known for its hot springs and the Romans built bathhouses to harness the restorative water. Tourists can buy tickets for admittance into what was once a functioning bathhouse and learn the history of the town. Unlike hot spring locations in other parts of the world, Bath does not have public bathhouses open to visitors. Thermae Spa is the only place in Bath where you can pay to take a dip in water flowing from the hot springs. Before heading home stroll through Bath and admire the Roman architecture and quaint streets.

The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul - Bath, England

The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul – Bath

Oxford – 60 minutes

Tourists looking to explore England’s famed university towns choose between Oxford and Cambridge. Both are solid choices but Cambridge is a two-hour journey from London while Oxford takes an hour to reach by train. Oxford boasts over 30 different universities within walking distance. Just by being in Oxford one feels smarter as if intelligence is increased by osmosis. You will have the urge to duck into a library to crack open a book and study. When you arrive at the Oxford train station stop by the tourist information booth and buy the 2£ map that includes a walking tour. The walking tour will guide you past the top sites. Plan on the walk to take an hour to complete. The walk will take longer if you walk at a relaxed pace, explore the universities, and eat at one of the many restaurants in Oxford.

The Radcliffe Camera - Oxford University, England

The Radcliffe Camera – Oxford University

Reading – 30 minutes

Reading is not a town brimming with sites, but that’s the appeal. The streets from the train station lead you past various shops and to the Oracle shopping center. The Oracle provides a chance to shop in a mall without the same crowds that you find in London. Behind the Oracle is a riverfront reminiscent of a scaled version of the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. Plenty of restaurant options around the river will replenish you during your shopping excursion. If you need a pause from the hustle and bustle of London consider Reading that break.

The Oracle Riverside - Reading, England

Reading – The Oracle Riverside

Stonehenge – 3 hours

Photos of the monument Stonehenge are recognizable around the world. Years ago tourists to the fabled grounds of Stonehenge could walk right up to the massive stones and place their hands directly onto the monument. Even though the experience of touching the stones is no longer allowed this prehistoric monument is a site to be seen. With a six hour round trip, this destination is the longest on this list to reach by train. The better plan is to tack Stonehenge along with another location such as Bath. Companies, such as Gray Line, have a bus tour that is nine hours and includes transportation to both Bath and Stonehenge. Travel with a tour group means that you will be on a schedule when at each location. At least you will visit both sites without having to spend six hours sitting on a train.

Stonehenge - Wiltshire, England

Stonehenge

Windsor – 35 minutes

The highlight of Windsor is Windsor Castle, one of the many residences of the Royal Family. If you see the Royal Standard flag flying above the Castle then you know the Queen is home. Tourists primarily descend upon Windsor by tour bus just to visit the Castle. Windsor is more than just the Castle and worth a few extra hours beyond the tour of the Castle grounds. If you arrive at Windsor & Eton Central railway station upon exiting the train are various shops and restaurants. Around Windsor Castle are more shops and restaurants. Next to Windsor Castle is Windsor Great Park that includes pathways such as the Long Walk. Another nice walk is across the River Thames to Eton College, a boys’ boarding school. The streets leading to Eton College are lined with shops and restaurants.

Windsor Castle - Windsor, England

Windsor Castle

 

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Day Trips From London

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Bath: 51.375801, -2.359904
Oxford: 51.752021, -1.257726
Reading: 51.454265, -0.978130
Stonehenge: 51.178882, -1.826215
Windsor: 51.481728, -0.613576
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Bath
Day Trips From London
Bath, United Kingdom
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Oxford
Day Trips From London
Oxford, United Kingdom
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Reading
Day Trips From London
Reading, United Kingdom
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Stonehenge
Day Trips From London
Stonehenge, Amesbury, United Kingdom
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Windsor
Day Trips From London
Windsor, United Kingdom

 

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Transportation Options in London

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A trip to London is expensive for a variety of reasons. Americans who travel to London will have a currency conversion rate that won’t be in their favor. As of November 2015 on average 1 British Pound equaled 1.50 US Dollars. The cost of the airline ticket runs high since flying into and out of London includes a slew of various taxes and fees. Your hotel and meals will be a big part of your budget. The need to pay for ground transportation on top of everything else is daunting. Fortunately, it is possible to save money when it comes to transportation.

From London Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Express is one of the cheapest and fastest ways to get from Heathrow Airport into London. The Heathrow Express is a train that you board from terminals 2, 3, 4, or 5. Trains leave four times an hour. Depending on which terminal you board the train at it takes between 15 to 20 minutes to reach the London Paddington Station. From London Paddington Station you can connect to other parts of the city using London’s other means of transportation, such as the Underground. You buy tickets for the Heathrow Express online or at the station’s ticket office.

Heathrow Connect is a popular means of transportation for employees of Heathrow Airport because of its stops in nearby suburban districts. Heathrow Connect is a slower train alternative to the Heathrow Express, but it is useful for tourists. If you are not traveling into London but need rail connections to other parts of England then you might need to use Heathrow Connect. For example, you can buy your ticket at the ticket office and take Heathrow Connect one stop to the Hayes & Harlington Station. From there you can find a connecting train to Slough or any other train station that has multiple connections that can whisk you away to your destination.

Paddington Underground Station - London, England

London Underground

The London Underground, nicknamed the Tube, is an inexpensive and quick way to navigate London. Tickets available to ride the Tube include single ride tickets, day passes, multi-day passes, and a pay-as-you-go card. Two factors will help you decide which ticket to buy. The number of days you plan on staying in London and where in London you will be traveling. London is separated into various zones, the number of zones you cross using the Underground will help you decide which ticket you need to buy.

To save money you will want to buy either the Travel Card or the Oyster Card. The Travel Card is a paper ticket that can be used within the center zones of London for a set number of days. A seven-day Travel Card exists but is not available to buy in London and must be purchased before your trip. The Oyster Card is a plastic card that can be used in most zones. An Oyster Card has a balance that is deducted as you travel. A benefit of the Oyster Card is that it has a travel cap limit each day. This means once you’ve reached that limit any other journeys on that day are free. For that reason alone if your plans include many trips on the Tube you will want to buy the Oyster Card.

Transport for London is a UK government website with a plethora of information, including information on the various ticket buying options. Visit Britain, the “official shop of the British Tourist Board” has a page on their website with advice on which transportation ticket you should buy when in London. You can buy your tickets online through Visit Britain, including the aforementioned seven-day Travel Card.

Shard and Underground - London, England

Shard and Underground

Other London Transportation

The iconic taxis you can find throughout London are ready to take you to your destination. Each taxi driver must pass an intense exam to become licensed. The taxi drivers have memorized London’s streets and can navigate with ease without needing a GPS device. Besides taxis London has an extensive affordable public bus system. Additionally, various companies offer Hop on Hop off bus tours for a fee. Gray Line is a company that sells Hop on Hop off bus tours, specific tours of London, and day trips from London.

Taxis in front of Buckingham Palace - London, England

Taxis in front of Buckingham Palace

Destinations Beyond London

If your travels will take you elsewhere besides London you will want to consider purchasing a rail pass. It is pricey to buy just one-way point-to-point train tickets for multiple trips. With the right rail pass you can save money. BritRail Passes are not available to buy in Great Britain so you will want to be sure to buy them before your trip. Which pass to buy will depend on where you will be traveling. For example, if you will travel to popular tourist destinations such as Bath or Oxford then you will want to buy the BritRail South West Pass. If you plan on traveling through out Great Britain the best pass will be the BritRail GB Pass. Rail passes are bought for a specified number of days, used either on consecutive days or over a set number of days. The Visit Britain site has a visual breakdown of which destinations each BritRail Pass services. Besides Visit Britain, Rail Europe is another site with information on the various BritRail Passes available. You can buy the BritRail Pass through Visit Britain or through Rail Europe. During checkout the companies will ask what your departure date is to make sure that you will receive your tickets before your trip. Before boarding your first train be sure to visit a train ticket office to have your pass activated.

First Great Western train - England

First Great Western – one of the train companies operating in England

 

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