Cut Costs to Enjoy the Historic Sites of London

Physician's Money Digest, January 2006, Volume 13, Issue 1

Europe has never been cheap, and Londonhas always been expensive, but now the weaknessof the US dollar against the British poundcan make the cost of a London vacation prohibitive.Fortunately, there are ways to cut costs. If you intendto enjoy London theater, you can pay in advance indollars at Keith Prowse (www.keithprowse.com) andget the best seats in the house for a nominal surcharge.If you're going to utilize the London Undergroundtrain system (www.tube.tfl.gov.uk), which iseasily understood and much faster than taxis, you canbuy your tickets before you go to Britain at specialfavorable rates. Another way to get around London'sscattered landmarks and attractions is with the BigBus Company (www.bigbus.co.uk).

You can also make reservations conveniently onlinefor attractions like the British Airways LondonEye (www.ba-londoneye.com)—the huge wheel rotatingbeside the Thames River and giving a 25-milebird's-eye view of the city's famous landmarks. If youprepay for the Eye, you will lock in the presentexchange rate even as the dollar continues to fall.

Soak Up Culture

Most of London's museums are inexpensive orfree. A classic is the British Museum (www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk) with the largest collection of Egyptologyoutside of Cairo. It houses both the RosettaStone, which enabled scholars to translate Egyptianhieroglyphics, and the Elgin Marbles, which were rescued(or stolen, depending on your viewpoint) fromthe Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin around 1802.The museum was started in 1756 from the personalcollection of a physician, Sir Hans Sloane.

Two miles across town is the Victoria & AlbertMuseum (www.vam.ac.uk), touted as "the world'sgreatest museum of art and design"with its superbexhibits of furniture, fashion, sculpture, and jewelry.Nearby, the Science Museum (www.sciencemuseum.org.uk) offers exhibits spanning medical history fromthe time of ancient Greece to the present, and has ondisplay the first CT scanner ever built. The historicalexhibits are based on the gift of pioneer pharmacistcollector Sir Henry Wellcome. The National Gallery(www.nationalgallery.org.uk), which contains theNational Collection of Art, is located on the northend of Trafalgar Square.

Eat and Sleep Cheap

Restaurant meals can be pricey, but a tradition withlocals is the pub lunch served in a local bar, which isconsiderably cheaper and should fill you up nicely.You should also allow time at your hotel for afternoontea one day and hope for complimentary scones,strawberry jam, and the celebrated clotted cream.

There are many hotels in London, and while manyare famous, none are inexpensive. However, severalare working to give added value. Two luxury hotels,both members of Red Carnation Hotels, the MilestoneHotel and Apartments (www.milestonehotel.com) and41 (www.41hotel.com), began a program in 2005 totreat the US dollar as equal to the British pound andcharge Americans in dollars, which is a stunning concession.The Milestone is beside Kensington Palace,and 41, located at 41 Buckingham Palace Road, is theclosest hotel in London to Buckingham Palace. But it'snot just price and location that are appealing. Bothhotels are superb, award-winning refuges from thenoise of this bustling city, and their staffs are determinedto make your London visit a special one.