Today’s travel guide to Oxford is a little bit different. Because today we’ve got our beloved host and fellow Nas Daily traveler – Eisa Al Habib giving us his top tips from his recent trip to Oxford.

I’ve always loved to travel. Ever since I was a kid, going on family trips to different parts of the world was the highlight of my entire existence!

So of course, when I grew up, it became my goal to travel to all the coolest places in the world. But here’s the catch – I hate being a tourist. I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing and would rather explore stuff that I’m interested in and if you’re like me, you’re going to enjoy this guide!

visit oxford

Here are some of my adventures and recommendations from my most recent trip to Oxford:

Travel guide to Oxford: What are some things to do?

1. Check out the cafes

Since Oxford is a student city, there’s always a cafe just a stone’s throw away. You could literally spend a whole day drinking cappuccinos and lattes from different cafes around the city. If you ask me, I would recommend Art Cafe for its caramel hot chocolate and Vaults & Garden for the amazing location inside a 14th-century university building.

2. Bring out your inner nerd

Potterheads unite! I have to confess, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and when I realised that some scenes were shot in Oxford I had to go to every single place. I could’ve easily spent the whole day just googling places and trying to recreate those scenes! So wear your robes, take your wand and step into Christ Church in Oxford – you’ll feel like you’ve stepped inside Hogwarts (because Hogwarts is literally designed after this place).
christ church oxford

3. Explore beautiful architecture

No travel guide to Oxford can be complete without visiting the ancient buildings and museums in the city. One of the best museums I saw was the Oxford University Museum of Natural History that’s got 450 million-year-old dinosaurs in it. So if you’re a history buff – it doesn’t get more historical than this. Not to mention the architecture is absolutely stunning – with high ceilings with glass windows, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into an old movie!

4. Bring out your reading glasses…

Because Oxford is FILLED with books. The Bodleian Library has over 11 million printed items and is every book lover’s dream. It costs about 9 pounds for a tour of the library, although you can do a “mini tour” for 5 pounds as well!

5. Sneak INTO a university and attend a lecture

I know I know, this is a travel guide to Oxford, not a “get in trouble” guide, but I just couldn’t help it. Oxford University has so many interesting courses and classes like Amateur Filmmaking and Writing for Performance, all of which are quite relevant to a creator like me. So do sneak into a class if you’re curious like me – Oxford University is HUGE anyway, you might just pass under the radar!
oxford university

6. Take a boat ride on the lake

However, if you want to get away from the city and the buildings you can take a boat cruise across the river to explore the city in a different way. It’s quite a scenic route, and the food on the boat is absolutely delicious!

Where to Eat in Oxford

Oxford is home to people from all over the world. So expect to find options that cover all cuisines. For this travel guide to Oxford however, I’ve listed some of my personal favorit places to grab a bite to eat.
  • Bella Italia: uncomplicated Italian food that’s inexpensive and tasty.
  • Nef Istanbul: for when I miss Middle Eastern food and kebabs. They have really great ones.
  • Kazbar: if you love tapas as much as I do – you’ll love this one. I don’t drink alcohol but I’ve heard their drinks are great too.
  • Zhang Zhi: I love warm, filling bowls of noodles or rice when it’s cold and this place does it amazingly. Really hits the spot.
  • Chester Arms: what would a trip to England be without a stop at a pub. You can try really authentic pub food here.
guide to eating out in oxford

Where to spend the night in Oxford

No travel guide to Oxford could be complete without some amazing hotels and hostels to try while you’re there. Oxford’s historic status can be seen even in the accommodations which perfectly fit the surroundings. Fair warning though, they can be expensive.
where to spend the night in oxford
George Street Hotel: I stayed here during my last visit to Oxford, it’s around 10-15 min walk from the train station and it is in a very good location in the city as everything is walking distance. However, the hotel is tiny and has virtually no lobby, breakfast area, or much space – the rooms are nice though.
Malmaison Hotel: This is a hotel with a very cool concept. It’s a former prison, and they’ve converted the cells into hotel rooms. But it’s super luxurious and like nothing you’ve seen before.
The Porterhouse: A very English-style hotel. But the highlight is the Breakfasts, which sometimes comes with steak, sausage, bacon and black pudding. It’s the full, full English.
Central Backpackers: If you’d like a hostel experience – Central is (as the name suggests) very central. You can find comfortable sharing rooms here just walking distance from all the main sights.

Packing list for Oxford

For my Travel Guide to Oxford, I’ve included some of the things I never travel without. These were especially useful to me, and I think they will be for you too.

Pro tip: Never try to predict the UK Weather. The first day I got there, it was hot, and the sun was not playing around. Then it rained and then it got cold in the morning and then hot again. And I ended up getting sick because of this. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Carry these:
  • A small umbrella: the UK weather is so unpredictable. Having this in your bag will save you and your clothes.
  • A great waterproof backpack: I like to be ready for anything, so a great backpack which can carry my gear or a change of clothes, and still stay dry is amazing
  • My Gear: I love my GoPro, and the gear to take amazing videos in any terrain or any weather. It’s a great investment I think any video creator will appreciate.
  • Sneaker Wipes: I wear white shoes. And I think being able to keep them crisp all the time is great.
  • Nas Daily Tee: I love being able to connect with people all over the world, and this is the best tshirt to do it in.
  • A great jacket for women and men: It’s always great to have an extra layer with you. Depending on when you’re traveling – you may use this more than you think

How to get to Oxford

Oxford does not have an international airport of it’s own. So flying into London is your best bet. You can choose between Heathrow or Gatwick airports, and then take a bus, train or (long) taxi from the airport. I personally took the train and had an awesome experience.
how to get to london
Bus: From London Heathrow and Gatwick airports, you can take The Airline coach service, which runs 24 hours a day.
Train: From Heathrow, you can get to Oxford by train via London. From Gatwick Airport, you can go via Reading. If you do land at London Stansted airport instead, take the Stansted Express train service to London Liverpool Street and then take the tube to either Paddington or Marylebone for direct trains to Oxford. There is also a National Express 737 coach service you can check out.

How to get around in Oxford?

Use those legs

Walk, walk and then walk some more. Oxford isn’t a huge city and most of the places I’ve mentioned above are actually within walking distance of each other. And if there’s anything this travel guide to Oxford has proved, it’s that the city is beautiful – so taking a walk there is a treat!

Get a bike

Since Oxford is filled with students from all over the world of course the easiest and cheapest way for them to travel is by bike! There are multiple companies to choose from but for the purpose of this travel guide to Oxford I can narrow it down to Donkey Bike Rental and Summertown Cycles for short-term or long-term hires.
cycling in oxford

Take the bus

The local bus network is quite comprehensive, and it’s pretty easy to catch a bus there. You can always check the schedule and plan your trip on their website.

Take a taxi

If public transport isn’t your thing, you can always take a taxi/Uber. Do bear in mind that they can be expensive and I would recommend only taking them if you’re going somewhere farther away. I went to Oxford for about 4-5 days for a shoot, and probably just used a cab 1-2 times.

Drive a car

I would only do this if I wanted to experience driving in Oxford, because other than that there’s literally no need for it. Oxford also isn’t the most car friendly place, with very few street parking spots. That’s why if you ask the locals they’re going to tell you to Park & Ride it. Basically park your car at a bus station, and take the bus to your destination!

You can always rent a car from companies like Avis and Hertz.

how to get around oxford

Travel Guide to Oxford Money saving tips

Walk everywhere

Like I said most of Oxford is quite conveniently placed, so you can go to most places walking or by bike.
walking in oxford

Shop smart

There are hundreds of shops selling Harry Potter knick-knacks, but the bigger ones tend to be more expensive. So go to the smaller, local ones and buy your magic wands from there!

Use Groupon

If there’s one thing I’ve realised in my travel it’s that you’ll always find something cheaper on the internet. That’s where Groupon comes in. Here you can get upto a 70% discount on restaurants, activities and places and it’s quite popular in Oxford too!

Only splurge on the essentials

I always tend to stay in the cheapest hotels – because I would rather spend my money on activities and things that I can actually experience instead of a bed. I usually use Hostelworld to find the best deals on hotels around the world!

Do all the free stuff

Walking tours. Museums. Making friends. Taking 100 selfies around Hogwarts. All of this stuff is free – and honestly, it’s the best way to experience Oxford, so as your travel guide to Oxford, I had to include it.
harry potter oxford

Bonus: Books to read about Oxford

I can’t write a travel guide to Oxford – the university that produced C.S Lewis, JRR Tollkein and Oscar Wilde – without mentioning a few books. I always like to carry a book with me whenever I travel. These are the ones I would recommend for Oxford:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I chose the Philosopher’s Stone (or the Sorcerer’s Stone depending on where you are) first because you and Harry are going to share the same sense of wonder and excitement when you see the places all around Oxford because they also happen to be the places where some Harry Potter scenes were shot.

The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe

St. Mary’s Passage in Oxford is said to have inspired C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It’s got a beautiful doorway with two fauns flanking a giant lion’s head. There’s something magical to read a book hundreds of years later at the same spot where the author’s inspiration might have struck – and that’s why I had to recommend this one.

I couldn’t resist this entire Hardcover collection: Amazon.com

Visa Requirements

You will need a UK Visa to visit Oxford.

If you’re just visiting, a Standard Visitor Visa is all you need. But if you’re coming to Oxford to study, you’ll need a Student Visa. There are a few different types based on how long you’ll be staying. And the process to apply is a little more detailed than a Travel Guide to Oxford can hold.

Here’s what you should know:

The standard visitor visa can be valid for up to 6 months. So you can actually visit more of the UK and discover other great cities like Oxford instead of only sticking to the main capital of London.

uk visa to visit oxford

As a Kuwaiti citizen, I was surprised by how easy it was to get a visa to enter the UK. I got my visa within 3 hours and it was all done online. Citizens of some countries can get this “electronic visa waiver” and it was so easy to fill out online.

But no matter which visa you need, you’ll need to apply for it through UKVI – that’s the UK Visas and Immigration Bureau. Their process is super easy to fill, but you will have to wait quite a while to receive your visa. In my book, that’s just more time to plan the best trip ever.

You’ll definitely need Travel Insurance when you apply for a visa, and I particularly love these two – Safety Wing and World Nomads. They’re designed for people who travel a lot, and especially people like me who are always working on the go.

Final thoughts…

Oxford is an amazing place filled with energy and history. I loved every minute I spent there because of its amazing vibe. And even though it CAN be expensive, I hope this travel guide to Oxford has given you some hacks to explore it on a budget.

That’s all from me, I hope this guide was useful, and I hope to see you in Oxford!

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