A friend was coming from Spain to stay with me and my daughter in London – just as we were going on holiday. I prepared this with her in mind, wondering how on earth I would be able to tell her things I considered useful hacks in a short space of time. I hope it helps you too.
An unlocked phone if you can, to get a pay as you go SIM card
An adaptor for our three pin plugs
Layers! British weather is notoriously unpredictable
An umbrella – we have had a hot, dry spell recently but normally you can never know when it’s going to rain…
Some things To do when in London that aren’t expensive or even free:
- Get: the number 11 bus and have a look at some key sites.
- Visit: a park- ideally on a sunny day: there are plenty! Hyde Park and Kelsey Park are a couple of my favourites
- Join: Internations or meetup
- Buy: Time Out and check out things to do
- Go: to a museum – many are free and art museums tend to just charge for entry to one section eg. Picasso at the Tate Modern
- Eat: in China Town
- Try: a village/country pub
- Learn: to make small talk about the weather ‘Isn’t it hot today?” ” Do you think it is going to rain?” Londoners can be friendly 😊
- Eat proper fish and chips from a chip shop- NOT fries! (if veggie you could ask if they do pineapple fritters)
- Walk: along the South Bank. You can enjoy great views along the river, take in a few sites and enjoy some street performers. One way is to start at Westminster underground, cross the bridge and head past the London Eye towards Tate Modern…
Avoid Oxford Street at the weekends, especially in Summer as it is super busy. For designer shops (window shopping) go to Knightsbridge or the King’s Road, Sloane Square.
in my opinion, more expensive supermarkets are-
Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. That said, they are good for speciality foods, as is M & S Food.
Middle of the range:
Asda and Morrisons
Lidl, Iceland (mainly frozen but has some fresh and tinned food) and Aldi
Wilko and shops such as Poundland
Superdrug; even wider range with more top end names: Boots
* these opinions regarding shopping prices are based on my own personal experiences, it can of course vary depending on what you buy and what offers are on.
Paying for transport:
You can queue up but perhaps a better idea for when you have arrived is an Oyster Card or a ‘visitor Oyster card’. Go to the TfL (transport for London website) to check out Oyster cards and for planning your journey around London. You can top it up at stations and newsagents with the oyster sign. If you have a contactless card, you may be able to use it to pay for your travel around London, but it’s not guaranteed.
When using the tube (underground) stand on the right of the escalator, walk on the left. Try not to block people with bags. Tubes are really frequent, so if one looks packed, it may be worth checking where a door was and position yourself roughly opposite while awaiting the next one.
Sometimes it is better to walk between stops in central London as the tube can get busy and hot.
If you are going to arrive where there’s a train station (eg Gatwick or Luton airport) buy a train ticket to wherever you are going. To do this, go to www.nationalrail.co.uk and purchase; make sure it’s an anytime single in case of delays. You can collect the ticket at the ticket machines on arrival as long as you have the same bank card.
From Heathrow if you need to get to Victoria with stair-free access, go to Green Park, get the lifts (after plenty or walking) and exit to the street. then take the bus from the top on your left.
Staff that work on the Underground and train stations tend to be super helpful. Ask them! They can give you tips regarding step free access, where lifts are and the quickest route.
Enjoy our wonderful City!
Let me know if you have any questions by posting a comment.