Mad Scientess Jane Expat
(I'm cross-posting this in my personal journal on the chance that my LJ friends will provide feedback.)
I've been reading this community for a few months now. I've been living in London for about seven months myself, and after watching the same questions surface here again and again, I thought I'd take the liberty of compiling a short guide to London for short-stay visitors to the city. Additional comments and suggestions are welcome.
A short guide for people making stays of up to 6 months in London.
- Getting around/Transport
- Don't buy or rent a car. It's a waste of money. You won't be able to find parking, you'll have to pay the congestion charges and petrol is expensive. You probably won't need it anyway unless you live out past Zone 4.
- Get a London A-Z (£5.95) and carry it in your backpack, pocket or purse. It's a comprehensive map of the streets. Also, get a London All-In-One bus and tube map (£2.50). Carry them everywhere.
- Should you forget either of the above and you are lost in an unfamiliar area, remember that the bus stops sometimes have local maps of the area.
- A travelcard for the tube will work on the buses. Simply hold up your travelcard with the date facing the driver when you board.
- Learn to use the buses rather than the tube. It can be scary and you will misjudge your stops at first. Do not expect assistance from bus drivers. If you ask and you get any help, be appreciative.
- Always stand on the RIGHT side of the escalators in the tube stations.
- For stays longer than a month, consider getting an Oyster card. I recommend using the Pre-Pay option to save money on each bus or tube journey.
- The St Christopher's hostels should suffice if you're a young person looking for cheap temporary accommodation.
- If you're looking for good mid-range B&Bs and hotels, purchase a guidebook. My personal favorite is the Lonely Planet guidebook for London.
- Avoid the expensive hotels. They're mostly no cleaner, safer or better than the cheaper ones.
- If you're looking for more long-term accommodations in a flat or a house, people on this community have repeatedly recommended Gumtree.
- For fairly comprehensive coverage of mainstream nightlife options, consider purchasing Time Out. It's a weekly magazine that comes out every Tuesday and can be found at nearly every corner market or newsstand. It has theater, cinema and TV listings for the week as well as lists of shows, venues and clubs for the more popular styles of music.
- If there's a particular subculture you're into, and judging from the posts here, a lot of people in this community are, your best bet for finding shows and clubs is to find a venue or a music shop that specializes in that kind of music and collect flyers. For instance, Resurrection Records for the goth/industrial scene, or the Purple Turtle or the Barfly for indie. The Underworld, located under the World's End pub, hosts a lot of metal shows. (Note: These are all in Camden because that's where I live. Suggestions for other locations needed.)
- Despite what some people will try to tell you, you don't need a passport to cross the Thames. There's a lot of fun to be had south of the river after dark.
- For cheap gifts, souvenirs, clothing and food, the street markets are your best bet. Nearly every major thoroughfare will have a side street with a market that's open on the weekends. The opening times and locations of the larger markets can easily be found via Google searches. Try Camden, Portobello, Spitalfields, Brick Lane and Whitechapel.
- For cheap flights from London to other European cities, try EasyJet and RyanAir.
- American visitors
- Be prepared to talk about politics a lot.
- Be prepared to buy a lot of beer to smooth over disagreements and, if your inclinations lie that way, as a poor apology for the actions of your current government.
- For questions related to immigration, consider posting your questions in brits_americans. Also, if you're wondering the types of visas for which you can apply, go here.
- If you're thinking of bringing possessions over that will not fit on the plane, don't. Options for rapid shipping overseas are expensive. Cheap options are likely to take two months or more to arrive. If you can live without it for eight weeks, the chances are you can live without it for the duration of your stay.
- Further reading