We’ve all had dreams of traveling across the ocean to see what amazing sights countries outside of our own have to offer. For American residents, the UK has always had a particular draw to geeky Americans. The UK is the home to some of our real-life faves like J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling as well as fictional faves like Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Jen, Roy, and Moss from Reynholm Industries, and is a frequent favorite stop for the Doctor himself. It’s no wonder we flock over there in droves (apart from, you know, the history, beautiful landscape, and culture–WHATEVER).
Once you finally decide to save up the funds to get over to the UK, you definitely go through a bit of a traveler high at the thought of what awaits you abroad. While you’ve got to get a lot of ducks in a row in regards to travel, hotel, passports, and lining up non-geeky sights to see, I’ve got a couple tips to share to make sure you can focus on the fun of geeky sightseeing.
1.Regardless of what you do, bring cash in addition to your credit card. American credit cards can be a bit of a pain in Europe–though they do work–and cash can save you time. Plus, you’ll likely encounter several buses and taxis that only take cash.
2. Get ready to walk. A lot. Wear shoes that are good for long walks and rain, and if you’re prone to blisters, bring band-aids. You’ll thank me later.
3. If you’ve seen a friend’s picture from Platform 9 3/4, it looks like it’s just casually tucked away in the wall of King’s Cross Station. Not so. There’s a line, and it’s LONG. Always. Make sure you’ve got at least an hour worked into your schedule for working your way through the line.
4. The line may be long at The Platform, but the staff works hard to make sure people in the queue are having fun. You may bond with some of them over a shared house and they may even photobomb one of your pictures. It’s kind of fantastic.
They also play lots of different Potter-themed games with the people in line, and occasionally will give small prizes for winners. Avoid playing Bernie Botts Every Flavour Beans Roulette. You can’t untaste that vomit bean, kids.
5. The Platform 9 3/4 Shop has staff there to take a professional picture of you (they offered house scarves and wands to pose with when I was there). It costs about 15 pounds per picture, but they’re cool with someone snapping a picture of you as long as you’re not blocking the shop next door.
6. Most importantly, remember that this is a real train station, so you can take the Underground to the King’s Cross St. Pancras Station to get to the magical platform, but you don’t need an underground ticket to get to Platform 9 3/4.
7. Visiting The Eagle and Child–the pub where J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S Lewis’ club, The Inklings, met–isn’t only about the awesome history of the place. The pub’s got some pretty yummy food, too. The wait is also not as crazy as you’d think.
8. The Baker Street Underground stop alone is worth it for Sherlockians, as the stop is decorated to commemorate the famous literary character (not the Cumberbatch version, of course).
9. If you’re going to Cardiff for Who-related sights, bring an umbrella or raincoat. Really, bring one for London, too, but Cardiff rain does not mess around. Be prepared.
10. If you’re taking the train to Cardiff from London, there’s a bus that will take you from the train station to the Doctor Who Experience. It runs every ten minutes or so can costs about 1 pound 80, but you must flag the driver down or they will not stop. Seriously. No amount of stink eyes or standing sadly in the rain will compel them to pull over…or so I have read. *ahem*
11. The Doctor Who Experience is broken into two parts, the “Experience” and the Exhibition Hall. The Experience is an interactive adventure you take with the Doctor, and you can’t record or photograph it. You can snap all the pics you want in the Exhibition Hall.
12. The Wales Millennium Cenre (aka an entrance to Torchwood) in Cardiff is a couple of blocks from the Experience. You can walk it, but the bus I mentioned earlier does have a stop there. You can get out, take some pics, and catch another bus (and pay again), or just snap a picture from the bus as it drives past if you’re cool with that.
Above all, remember this is a monumental trip. Be flexible, get a map app for the Underground, get a solid international plan for your cell phone, and enjoy the adventure. You’ll be tired when it’s all over, but it’ll be SO worth it!
Have you traveled internationally? Have you done any geeky sightseeing? What are some of your tips for geeky sightseeing abroad? Any undiscovered gems people need to know about? Let’s talk travel in the comments!
Feature Image Credit: Warner Bros. Studios