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2012 So you want to go to England - part 1 - Getting started · 12.06.12 by colin newell

In my life I have met people who are natural travelers – the sort who can live for 6 months on whatever they pack into a rucksack the size of a grasshopper’s scrotum – but I am not one of them. While most people come back from a vacation talking about their amazing adventure, the kindness of the locals and how their journey expanded their horizons, making them better people on a spiritual level, I complain about intestinal parasites, sunburn and being mugged by whatever passes for highwaymen in the place I have just visited.

This travel guide is for people like me.

Like many people the first country I visited was England, my first port of call was London and like many people I got my ass kicked; traffic was going in the wrong direction, my cousin and I were nearly hit by a bus and spent 6 hours looking for a hostel that did not exist. In fact, having my ass kicked may be too mild a description of my first day in London – it was a full 24-hour, size-12 colonoscopy.

Eventually I got the hang of the place and though over the years I’ve had many bungled trips to places the world over, I have finally achieved a kind of equilibrium with England. Since my first visit I have eaten blood pudding, married an Englishwoman and even stayed awake through almost an entire episode of Downton Abbey, all of which practically makes me an honorary citizen. I’ve also learned which seats on British Airways flights offer more leg and elbow room at no extra cost and how to avoid getting stabbed while out for a pint at your neighborhood pub. Now I’ve decided to share my hard-won knowledge with all other hapless travelers thinking of making their first trip abroad.

While travel guides like Lonely Planet feed you a line of crap, describing experiences you’ll have only if you look like the teenagers in a soda commercial, “So You Want to Go to England” will be the straight dope – unadorned advice for the ugly globetrotter. In coming weeks you’ll learn that the food served by Air Canada is “…uniformly awful and tastes almost exclusively of salt”, that you have about as much chance of having sex in a Hosteling International as you do in St. Peter’s Basilica and that in the Royal Family “the notable ones are all dead and the rest are floating on an ever-thinning cloud of good will.”

When to Visit:

Let’s get this out of the way now – whenever you visit England it’s probably going to rain. Not all day every day, but enough that the countryside will start to look the way a Dostoyevsky novel feels. This means that choosing a time to visit England will come down to what you want to do and how much you want to sweat under that rain jacket.

If it’s the tourist experience you’re after then April to September is your best time to visit – all the popular sites are going to be open and you have the best chance of catching good weather. The downside is, of course, that hotels are going to cost more and every hostel will be full of Australian backpackers trying to have sex with whatever they can’t drink.

Having visited England a few times in the fall and winter I can say that there are definite advantages to the cooler months: Bogan & Bru have gone home to uni, prices for accommodation are lower and while some attractions are closed (Buckingham Palace, for example, only runs tours in the summer) the ones that are open have virtually no lineup. Oh sure it rains like hell but you can hunker down in one of the many empty cafés and pubs that, in the summer, would be full of screaming American teenagers.

How Long to Visit:

Unless you’re traveling from mainland Europe, visiting England for less than two weeks will be a savage hell of jetlag and unintelligible accents. Two weeks will be bearable for families or couples who plan on exploring one or two regions or for backpackers with a pocketful of Benzedrine and a rail pass; three weeks or longer will give you freedom to explore more of the island without getting worn down by constant travel.

You’ll know you’re jet-lagged when one word makes
just as much sense as the other.

If this is your first trip abroad do not underestimate the power of jetlag, which is the profound confusion your body feels at being unceremoniously dumped into a new time zone. It will screw with your sleep schedule, put you in a fog at inopportune times and leave just as you’re getting ready to go back home.

Once you’ve nailed down your dates you’ll want to choose an airline and learn a little bit about what to expect from the English themselves. Luckily for you, next week we’ll have a primer on getting to know the people of England and the week after that we’ll start looking into which airline will make your trip the least miserable.

Comic, humorist, bon vivant and ranconteur, Brennan Storr is a Victoria resident and aspiring writer – from time to time we post some of his incredibly amusing words from

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