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If you're travelling with an infant.....

Just completed a ten day trip to London with my wife and six month old infant. Was lucky to have two good friends who guided me properly and ensured that the trip went off smoothly despite London experiencing the worst spring in 60 years. Yes, London was hovering between -2 and 5 in March! Thought of passing great tips I received:

1. If direct flights are available, book them even if they cost more. It's worth every penny. In our onward journey, we had to catch a connecting flight at Dubai but we missed it as the flight from chennai got delayed. As a result, we had to stay overnight at Dubai and took the 3 AM flight.
2. Block the bassinet seat for the entire journey. It's the front two seats with provision to hold the baby in a bassinet. We had it 75% of the time, and found it very useful.
3. Buy a pram. One can use it almost anywhere. Most places outside India are pram-friendly. It's a very useful investment.
4. And buy a rain cover for the pram to protect against old winds and rains. One can get a good one for 10 pounds at Argos.
5. Once you land in London, the first thing to buy is 'Oyster' card for 5 pounds and fill it up covering the duration of the trip. Unless you're filthy rich, it's not wise to take non-public transport ( black cabs) in London.
Get it for the first three zones, most places of importance are covered within these zones.
London is divided into different zones. The downtown or city center is zone 1. Then a concentric ring around zone 1 is zone 2. It costs 36 pounds for one week to travel 1-3 zones.
The advantage of buying this card is that one can make unlimited trips in any mode within the zones one has purchased- whether it is tube, bus, national rail.
6. The second important thing to purchase is a pre-paid SIM card. I got Lebara and charged it for 10 pounds. The SIM card is free. People will try to charge you for that.
The best thing is one can call India at one pence a minute! The SIM was working beautifully in Dubai and Delhi, and they also provided free internet for 50 MB a day, not bad while travelling 
7. Talking of mobile charges, I lost my mobile at the Dubai airport. But thankfully both the Dubai airport and the hotel where I stayed had free Internet access. And I had $10 google voice credit. It worked beautifully and it was cheap. We called twice to India to get a number of a relation in Dubai, spoke with that relation and then used the same to ordinate for taxi. And the total spend was less than $2.
Compare this with Airtel- they charge something like Rs 120 - Rs 240 per minute. Some benefit from losing my mobile.
8. Avoid traveling during the peak times in London. It's very crowded, unless one wants to experience Mumbai suburban rail traffic.
9. We all have heard of black cabs in London. But sadly they are expensive. At best, use them for short distance travel in zone 1. For others, London has call taxi system which is approved by the government. But the catch is one has to pre-book the taxi. Just google and one will find umpteen number of cab services like that.
Sample this: it cost me 33 pounds to travel from Streatham hill to terminal 3 of London. Heathrow airport. My friend says if I had availed black taxi I would have paid at least 80 pounds.it is also hard to find a black taxi in zone 1 and 2.
10. And for buying stuff for friends and relations, Asda is the best place for chocolates. When you're in Asda please buy an umbrella, its the cheapest there. Lots of online deals were happening when I was there for different retailers. But I couldn't buy.
11. The best way to see London with an infant is to take the ferry from Westminster pier to Greenwich pier- a journey of 65 minutes. It offers very nice views. And more importantly the lower deck is warm, spacious and infant friendly.
And most ferry operators provide 30% discount to Oyster card holders with a valid travel card- that is not just the card but has some charge left for travel. As a result,  I paid only 20 pounds for the return journey for two adults from Westminster to Greenwich.
12. And finally please don't change currency at the airport. It's daylight robbery. The rates are at least 10% costlier.
 

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