Planning your visit to the London 2012 Olympic games
There is so much to look forward to with the London 2012 Olympics. Not only is it an opportunity to see more world class sport in a blink of an eye than you might see in a lifetime, it's also a great excuse to explore London.
You might be visiting from abroad, a Brit from outside London or simply someone who really doesn’t know the east of the capital very well. Either way there is lots to see and lots to do. The best bit? We're going to tell what not to miss, and how not to, by using the best websites, gadgets and apps the capital has to offer.
Get a map
Before you do anything it’s absolutely vital you get yourself a paper map. The delights of 3G and smartphone mapping apps can help, but what happens when you lose data connection? Or your carrier blocks your phone for running up a gigantic bill while you get lost. Trust us, without a map London is instantly turned into a maze of back streets and dead ends.
So which one to opt for? You don’t want some gigantic AtoZ flapping about in the wind - not only does it make you look like a vulnerable lost tourist, it's also irritating as hell. Best grab an offline mapping app then, say Smart Maps-London.
Fancy doing it differently? Try something like the Moleskine London City Notebook. It combines guidebook and super trendy notebook in one, so you won't get lost and will look cool at the same time. The Moleskine also throws in things such as a Tube map and even transparent sticky sheets so you can overlay them on the maps and trace out routes.
Get some apps
There are a few applications which will really help you get around and about London. Absolutely vital to your app setup should be something that keeps you posted on transport status. You need to know what Tube lines are working and where, to avoid getting stuck while trying to negotiate London.
For Android we recommend London Underground combined with London Bus checker and National Rail Enquiries. This way you have absolutely every base covered when it comes to transport. On the iPhone try London Tube Deluxe, National Rail Enquires and BusLondon. The three will keep you posted on every possible transport eventuality.
You haven’t come to London just to sit on trains and buses however, nor are the Olympic Games all the city has to offer. So pick up an app like TripAdvisor London City Guide or Around Me to get a better idea of what there is to explore in your surroundings. Time Out also does a great London app as does Wallpaper for the trendier among you.
Finally, for the Olympics themselves it is worth getting the Official London 2012 Join In app. It acts like a big Filofax for the Games, giving you directions, updates and even a heads-up on other goings on in the city outside the Games themselves.
Get a pay as you go SIM
All that app usage is going to require quite a bit of data and if you aren’t from the UK then this can mean a seriously hefty phone bill. Avoid this by grabbing a pre-paid mobile SIM.
Networks like Three will offer you as much data as you want along with 300 minutes and 3000 texts for £15. The alternative would be using something like GiffGaff which charges £10 for the same deal but with 200 minutes and unlimited texts.
Surfing the web before you set out on your Olympic expedition is most definitely a good idea. There is a lot to discover in London and the internet is the best place to prep for it. Before you get started, ensure you head over to both Transport for London and the Official London 2012 websites. Subscribe to email updates on both, just so you can keep up to date with what's going on.
Another great and locally curated website is Londonist, which features plenty of handy guides to help you find events in the capital.
Take a camera
We know it seems silly, but make sure you bring your camera. Even more importantly, for the pro photographers among you, try to ensure it doesn’t exceed the guidelines that the Olympic authority is stipulating. They can be found here, but essentially any huge lenses or multiple pro cameras on monopods are not allowed.
If you are looking to pick up something special for the Olympics, then Panasonic’s FZ150 or Canon’s Powershot SX40 HS are both good ideas. Being bridge cameras, they come with immense zooms yet are still relatively compact. This way you can get close to the action without having to lug a big old DSLR around the Olympic site.
Pack a good rucksack
The unique weather of the British Isles means you could be confronted with one of two meteorological situations during the Olympic games. Either you will end up being very sunburned or totally soaked. Whatever happens, a good day bag is essential. Grab something like Kata’s DR-465i, which can be used as both a camera bag and a rucksack. Make sure you stick a decent fold up waterproof in there, say a North Face Resolve, which is cheap and breathable but will keep you dry. Then you are also going to want sunscreen, should the weather improve.
Under the Olympic visitor guidelines, you can take food into the venue, provided it fits in your bag, and an empty plastic water bottle to fill up inside the venue. You cannot bring in liquids over 100ml. The Thermos Stainless King range is definitely one of the best liquid carriers to go for.
Get out of London
You don’t need to spend all your time in the UK just in London, there is plenty to see elsewhere. If you do fancy having an explore, then why not check out our section on geek weekends which will keep you posted on the tech goings on of just about every major city in the UK.