Here are answers to some of the questions the last-minute Olympics-bound traveler might have.
CAN I STILL GET TICKETS?
Yes. Though most tickets have been allocated, some are still available for certain competitions, including some basketball, gymnastics and volleyball tournaments, according to a recent search at CoSport.com, the Web site of the Games’ official ticket agent in the United States. The company also sells packages that include tickets to some popular events like certain men’s and women’s swimming finals and lodging, from about $4,700 a person for three days and two nights.
Even without tickets, visitors can watch several events live by staking out a good spot on the sidelines. The Olympic marathon will pass such landmarks as the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. The men’s and women’s road cycling races will begin on the Mall in central London and head southwest through the city and out to Surrey for several circuits around Box Hill. And Weymouth will be welcoming 60,000 to 70,000 visitors a day to watch sailing events from its shores, according to
If all else fails, the BBC is running official “big screens” around the country — from Norwich to Plymouth and from Dover to Middlesborough — with live coverage of the events.
WHAT ABOUT FLIGHTS?
Flights are still available to London during the Olympics, but fares are high, with most round-trip tickets costing around $1,100 to $1,400, according to Farecompare.com. That’s about 13 percent higher than this time last year. Act fast, as fares are only expected to rise as the Games near.
Travelers can usually find some relief by flying into an alternative European airport and making their way to London by train or a low-cost carrier like Ryanair — although if you’re late booking your ticket, even this strategy will prove tricky.
Warren Chang, vice president of Fly.com, a flight search engine, noted that Berlin and Madrid are two exceptions. “Flying to Berlin from New York City instead of direct to London is a potentially good option,” with fares about $650 in late July through mid-August, he said. “Same goes for Madrid from Dallas. The rest of the fares are either more expensive to other cities, or just aren’t cheap enough to offer savings.”
ARE AFFORDABLE HOTELS SOLD OUT?
“It’s not difficult to find a room,” said Tom Meyers, founder of EuroCheapo.com, which reviews inexpensive hotels in dozens of cities and recently pulled up about 425 London hotels with availability for the Summer Games. “It’s just difficult to find a deal.”
Even at bare-bones accommodations, prices are up considerably, with many charging double the standard rate or more, he said. The Seven Dials, for example, which Eurocheapo describes as “a cramped two-star hotel in just about the best location possible,” on Monmouth Street in London’s West End, is offering rooms from £230 (about $362 at $1.56 to the pound) a night, up from £115 on average.
But for the budget-minded, there are other options, from apartments to home stays to hostels. To avoid scams, check VisitLondon.com for a database of lodging companies recognized by the London Olympic organizing committee.
You can even pitch a tent at designated sites in the city. Camp In London, a pop-up campsite on a field in Walthamstow, East London, is just four miles from the heart of the city and a less than 10-minute free shuttle bus ride from the Olympic Park. Pre-erected tents cost £40 a person or you can pitch your own for £15 a person. For more campsites visit www.2012camping.co.uk.
Wherever you decide to stay, be sure to consult a map before booking. London has more than 100,000 hotel rooms throughout the city and its 32 boroughs, according to VisitLondon.com, and the Olympic Games are taking place across the city. In fact, some destinations like parts of southern Essex or even Hertfordshire, which is north of London, are more conveniently located in relation to the Olympic Village than parts of West London.
Also, while London is the host city, events will be taking place across England, including soccer matches in Coventry (an hour by train from London), Manchester (two hours away) and Newcastle (three hours); sailing events in Weymouth (two and a half hours away); and cycling in Essex (an hour away). So, you may want to make sure you are near the event you are interested in, or at least near a train station.
WHAT ABOUT THE CROWDS?
Whether you’re a procrastinator or not, you’re going to have to deal with crowds. The huge number of spectators, combined with the usual tourist mobs and people using the transport system, means that London will be significantly busier than normal. Heathrow is bracing for the crunch, with a temporary terminal dedicated for Olympic athletes and with 1,000 volunteers to help travelers. Approximately 80 percent of spectators are estimated to be traveling by rail, placing extra demand on an already busy network, according to London2012.com, the official Olympics site.
At this point there is still time to map out a strategy for getting around so you’re not stuck watching Jordyn Wieber’s balance beam routine on a TV in an overcrowded bar.
Getaheadofthegames.com, developed by Transport for London, offers an interactive map that shows how mass transit will be affected in London during the Games by date and time so you can plan your trip accordingly. In general, allow extra time to get where you need to go. Mass transport will be particularly busy before the start and at the end of sporting sessions.
You can also sign up for free travel alerts for warnings of Tube and Docklands Light Railway service delays at the Transport for London Web site, tfl.gov.uk.
Walk whenever possible, or consider biking. Although demand for bike rentals is expected to be high, parking stations may be within walking distance of events. For more information, visit the London Cycling Campaign at lcc.org.uk.
Tom Hall, editor of LonelyPlanet.com, and a lifelong Londoner, recommends the Thames Clipper, a scheduled ferry that tends to be less congested than the Tube or buses. For about £6, he said, “you can ride from the London Eye to Greenwich, getting a great view of the capital’s main sights along the way.”
Museums, monuments and other tourist attractions are also expected to be mobbed, so try to buy any tickets online in advance. The London Pass, which starts at £46 per adult and £29 per child for one day, gives you free admission to more than 55 attractions and the ability to skip the lines at various tourist sites, including the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle and the London Zoo. And festival.london2012.com offers ticket information for the Cultural Olympiad, a series of live concerts and events — some of which are free — from June 21 to Sept. 9.