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How to Do the London Olympics

By Heather Carswell | Lonely Planet,

It’s less than a year until the Olympics get underway in London. The stadiums are nearly finished, the medals have been made and eager fans have snapped up tickets. If you’re planning a trip around the Olympics, here are a few tricks you should have up your sleeve:

How do I get tickets?

The majority of Olympics tickets were booked up early this year, but further tickets are set to go on sale in the (UK) winter on a first come, first served basis. Residents of the UK and designated European countries can buy tickets to both the Olympics and Paralympics through the official London 2012 site during sale periods. The Paralympic Games start on August 29, 2012, and tickets are on sale from September 9, 2011. If you live elsewhere, check out your National Olympic Committee (NOC), National Paralympic Committee (NPC) or their appointed Authorized Ticket Reseller (ATR). It’s also possible to get tickets as part of a travel package (here’s the list of authorized package providers). A number of bogus ticket sites have sprung up so only buy from appointed retailers to avoid getting landed with fakes. If you don’t manage to score tickets, consider going to see the London Prepares series, which will feature a wide range of sports in the Olympic venues. The series starts in July 2011 and events will take place until just before the Olympics.

When should I book accommodation?

If you can, sort out your accommodation now. Getting a bed in London can be expensive at the best of times so book early to avoid wallet-wincing hotel prices. Plenty of budget options are available, including hostels, camping and an extra 30,000 beds in the form of student accommodation. Details can be found at Visit London or check out Lonely Planet’s range of London accommodation. There are also plenty of great places to stay outside of London which are close enough to travel in for the day. Brighton, Oxford and even Brussels and Paris are all possible bases. Note that although there is less demand for accommodation near the Olympic venues that aren’t in London, you still need to book well in advance. Less traditional options are also a good way to go - book a spot in someone’s spare room or house with websites like AirBnB, Crashpadder or Holiday Rentals (which has a special section dedicated to Olympics visitors); if you’re strapped for cash, you could stay on someone’s couch. You could also consider a home exchange (there’ll be plenty of Londoners interested in getting out of the city while the games are on).

Where are the Olympic venues and how do I get there?

The majority of events will be taking place at venues in and around London. The focal point is the Olympic Park, home to the newly built Olympics Stadium and the Aquatics Centre in Stratford, East London. This has further transformed the once gritty eastern parts of the city and led to improved transport links and facilities. To get to any of the London venues, public transport is your best bet. Stratford has good transport links and can be reached by train, the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and the Tube. Elsewhere, some of the UK’s top venues will be holding Olympic events, including Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and Manchester’s Old Trafford which will be hosting football matches, and Weymouth and Portland on the south coast where the sailing will be taking place. One of the best ways of reaching venues outside of the capital is by train. Advance timetables have been released so you can book your ticket now.

I don’t want to spend a fortune during my stay in London. Any tips?

If you want a break from watching the Olympics, there’s plenty to see and do in London that won’t cost you a penny, from world-class galleries and museums to browsing the colorful markets. Factor in time to see some of the sights - and avoid disappointment by pre-booking tickets to popular attractions such as the London Eye. If you’re spending a week or so in London, a weekly travel pass for Tube and bus journeys is a lot more economical than individual tickets or day passes.

Are there any free Olympic events?

The marathon is free along with four cycling events. Even if you don’t have a ticket for an event, it’s still worth heading to Olympic Park and marveling at the architecture, art and green spaces that the Olympics team have created.

Originally published as “How to Do the London Olympics” (c) 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved.


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