Tips from a study abroad student in London
1. London is expensive- save money. The first thing that people will tell you about London is that it’s expensive. Between the exchange rate, going out and if you’re like me and can’t walk by a gelato shop without walking in get ready to spend some serious money. Before you go try to save up as much money as you can because whatever you think you’re going to spend, you’ll probably spend more. Things like a security deposit, buying books or forgetting something small will add up. And of course you want to have a little fun while you’re here too!
2. Show your student ID. Showing a student card can get you discounts at retail stores, restaurants and clubs. In terms of going out in London, most places have a cover charge but there are ways around it! For a lot of places, something as simple as adding your email address to a mailing list will get you free entry! Also, many bars and clubs have free cover if you go earlier before it gets crowded. You might be the first ones there but after seeing the cover charge add up over the weeks you won’t mind after a while.
3. Get an Oyster Card. One of the best student discounts London offers is the oyster card. It is a discounted card for the London Underground System. I thought that I would hate taking the tube to class everyday but it is essential to getting around London. A student rate for a monthly unlimited pass is about £80 and it will pay for itself in about a week. Almost everywhere is accessible by the tube so this card will become your new best friend.
4. Don’t let the weather/being lazy spoil your plans. It’s easy to let the weather or the excuse of a lazy Sunday intimidate you from going through with plans you may have had. Some days you’ll be tempted to stay in and watch tv or movies but there’s so much to do in the city it’s important to force yourself to get out.
5. Apps to get. There are a bunch of apps to get that will make your time in London a whole lot easier, whether for staying in touch finding a restaurant or catching a cab.
• Viber is great for texting (and calling as long as you have wifi.)
• Whatsapp is for texting. Download these two apps before you go as they will send you a confirmation email to register.
• Citymapper tells you how to get to any address via the tube, bus or walking. This app has been a lifesaver!
• Hailo finds cabs nearby and allows you to pay for in through the app with a credit card if you’re running low on cash.
• Tripadviser lists the top attractions and will give basic info like how much it costs, the hours and a general description.
• Zomato uses your location to find restaurants in your area. When looking for places on a budget it’s a lot easier than walking the streets and settling on a place out of hunger.
• WeHostels If you’re heading off exploring for the weekend, check out this easy to use app to find affordable accommodations. It’s easy to use on the go with great reviews of concerts and festivals.
6. Pub life. If you want to meet local British people your best bet is to go to the quintessential London pub. You will see people out drinking at pubs at noon and all throughout the day. With the lack of open containers laws at night people will linger outside of pubs spilling onto sidewalks and the street. Throughout the week, pubs are the place to be. Also, by going to bars and pubs by local British universities you can ensure you will meet British people your own age.
7. Commit yourself to a football team. You might not be a fan of a particular team before you come but you will be by the time you leave. Even if you don’t go to a game, watching one at a pub with friends and cheering on your team can be a great way to experience London culture. I was able to take a tour of the Chelsea football team stadium, locker room and press room through a school trip so now I have dedicated myself to Chelsea. GO BLUES!
8. Walk a new way home everyday. This tip was told to me by one of my flat mates’ brother who studied abroad in London a few years ago but I liked it so much I am passing it on. By walking a new way home, to class, to a different tube stop or even just walking to walk, you pay more attention to your surroundings. By walking places, you’ll see more of different areas or neighborhoods and find hidden spots you may want to go back to.
9. It’s okay to be a tourist. The London Eye, Tower Bridge, Big Ben etc. are sights that you need to see. What’s great about London is that many of the sights are free. Most of the museums and main sights you can see for free and if not, that student card I mentioned before can get you in at a discount rate. London has a history dating back over 2000 years, there’s so much to see that no one should miss!
10. Do all the touristy stuff right when you get here. When you first get to London everything is new and exciting and you’ll be motivated to take it all in right away. The longer you let pass, the less likely you’ll be to go out and see the city. Within the first few weeks of getting here, go out and see all the cliche stuff. You can always go back another time too but don’t leave London without seeing all the major attractions!
11. Write down your experiences. This one may seem corny but it’s a good idea to write down the places you go or travel to, what you see and how you’re feeling throughout your abroad experience. You’re going to want to be able to look back and remember everything you did. Whether you write in a journal, a word document or go as far as to write a blog to share with others, you’ll be happy you have it to look back on. Better yet, share your experience with the College Tourist. Create an author’s profile here.
12. Force yourself to take pictures. I am not a person who usually takes pictures but since being abroad I have tried to force myself to document everything I see and do. As a general rule, if you think you’ve taken enough pictures, take more. That way, you’ll guarantee you have at least one good photo from everywhere you go. You might think you’re taking way too many but you’ll be happy you did when you have good pictures to show from your travels. . . . .