By: Jacqueline Grace
As a peer advisor I love talking to prospective students about their program of choice. After studying in London during the summer of 2019, I am always extra excited when a student expresses an interest in London. I have the habit of getting way too ahead of myself and offering random advice for living in the city when most students haven’t even finished their application yet. I do believe this advice will help students have a fun and cost-effective trip, so I outlined some basics below.
Opt for a Monthly Oyster Card
There are a couple of different options for traveling around London but in my experience, the monthly travelcard is the easiest and cheapest option for students on the go. Buying a monthly pass alleviates the pain of topping up your card weekly and can save you some money in the long run. No matter what you do, do not opt for the pay as you go option. This adds up in a matter of days. Save that money and buy yourself a cute souvenir or put it towards a train ticket for a nice weekend trip!
Get an International Credit Card
You would think this is common sense, but yours truly LOVED to whip out her Wells Fargo debit card to pay a 3% transaction fee every time she left her credit cards or cash at home. If you’re a credit card person, I would advise getting a Capital One card to use. There are no transaction fees and it is super easy to track your spending. If you already have a credit card, make sure to call the company and tell them you are traveling! Many companies will flag international payments and suspend your card if they’re not aware.
Buy a SIM Card Rather Than an International Plan
You will need phone service while you’re abroad and rather than pay extra fees to your American provider, I would recommend heading over to Carphone Warehouse and purchasing a temporary SIM card. This will give you a British phone number and make it easier to contact people in the UK and the States. There are a ton of different plans you can choose from so pick wisely!
Use Trainline For Easy and Affordable Train Tickets
Trainline is an independent ticketing website based in Europe. I used Trainline a lot for traveling outside of London because the tickets were always a few pounds cheaper and the app made it easier for me to keep track of all of my tickets. I have a few more app recommendations below, so if you don’t have phone storage check out Trainline on desktop!
Download the Citymapper App
Citymapper saved my life. It is an app similar to Google Maps, just better in every single way possible. It offers directions through a bunch of different modes of transportation from walking to taking the tube. It gives estimated arrival times and alerts when certain tube lines or bus routes are out of service.
Tesco Meal Deals
Tesco is a British grocery chain that offers what I think is the greatest meal deal of all time: one main dish, a snack and a drink all for £3. Don’t feel like cooking one night? No need to fear, Tesco meal deals are here.
Okay, I know there’s a few Primark stores in the States but listen. Going to Primark on Oxford Street is an adventure in itself. You need to experience it… Just once.
Ask for Student Discounts!
The UK is the most student-friendly place I have ever experienced. Bring your student ID with you everywhere and don’t be afraid to ask for discounts in shops, restaurants and everywhere in between. You can use your Temple ID, but if you have a temporary one from Arcadia, Goldsmith’s or any other school you are studying at try to use that one so it is recognizable to locals.
Use TodayTix to See Shows
TodayTix is an app (that can also be used in the States) to buy discounted tickets to shows. The app has a lottery for specific shows you can enter the morning of and get great seats for super low prices. England is known for its theatrics and has a ton of great plays showing in the West End all the time.
Embrace your Homesickness.
You’re going to be sad. It’s normal. The good news is, you’re going to be sad in London and personally, I would rather be sad in London than anywhere else in the world. If you miss your mom, text her, I’m sure she misses you too. Facetime your dad while you’re walking around Hyde Park. Send your siblings a postcard. What you’re feeling is normal and it will go away. Push through it, go see some amazing landmarks and make a playlist of your favorite British musicians to help you through the day. You’re doing amazing and we’re so proud of you.