It hasn’t quite hit me yet and everything seems so surreal. I had boarded a plane to London and it was unbelievable to me that I have only dreamed of doing this. For someone who’s always the responsible one in the group and always had a plan it was nice to just let everything go and just go with the flow.
I flew with Virgin Atlantic and I was very impressed with the service, or it could be that I haven’t travelled internationally for a long time. I got my ticket from Statravel, for those of you that are currently students or under age 26 this site has the best deals. Keep in mind you get the lowest fares so don’t have high expectation for seat preference but I’m sure the dollars you save your purse strings will thank you enough. So for my flight I got to choose the side aisle and gluten free meals. They provided dinner and breakfast as well as bottomless drinks. The attendants were very accommodating and they all had the cutest accents! Virgin’s care package consisted of earplugs, eye patch, socks, toothbrush & toothpaste. Heathrow is one of the busiest and a major international airport, and I mainly chose it because it was the only airport that had a metro station that could directly take me to the heart of London, whereas for other airports I would need to find other accommodations that would be more costly and a pain to figure out.
*Take the underground metro, called the “Tube” and onto the Piccadilly line. Heathrow express takes you to Paddington Station and its much more expensive but a lot faster. London’s metro was fairly easy to understand and get around to, however the buses are much more of a challenge especially since they drive on the opposite side of the road! (READ THE SIGNS, and don’t cross the street until get more familiar because London drivers like to intimidate with the presence of their cars instead of honking) I got to understand the buses better toward the last couple of days here and a tip is that just make sure you are on the correct side of the road and make sure your bus that you need to take stops at that bus stop. *Memorize what the stop is because sometimes the driver doesn’t have to stop if there are no stops that need to be made. Or just ask and point 😉
*Oyster card or single ride tickets
Metro “The Tube”: Tap in and make sure you tap when you get out.
Bus: Tap only when you get in. Btw, you can’t buy tickets on the bus or use cash.
39£ for an unlimited 7 day use but only limited to zone 1-2 (which is mainly the city part). If you need to visit areas out of zone just pay extra to get there. Or instead of unlimited just put anything from 10-20£ and just top off “add more $$” as you go, and if you have a balance when you leave it will be refunded when you return your card. Make sure you keep your Oyster card since its 5£ deposit and you should turn in your card to get your money back. More info here:
ATM: Don’t worry if you came to Europe without exchanging money, there’s a ton of cash machines “Europeans use this term” and also lots of legit ATMs. Just use your common sense and be careful of your surroundings, do it in the daytime and watch your bags and the people around you. Do go to a bank machine not one from a local shop or on the street. Make sure you call your credit card company and your bank “for ATM card” and inform them of the countries you will be visiting as well as the time period you will be gone. You do not want to have your card frozen. Have $100-300 of your home currency and stuff it deep somewhere in your pack.
Currency Exchange: Don’t fret if you haven’t changed your home currency to pounds, always ask what the rate is changing from your home currency to the pound. It differs where you are and the day. Keep in mind when you exchange you will always lose more since you are converting money, just use the ATM and your bank card for the safest transaction. But if you have enough cash to exchange get most of your money by not exchanging close to major center intersections and look for those that don’t ask for commission rate. A little away off the major tourist areas can be up to 10-15% difference depending where and also differs in other countries, see a future post for more info.
Weather: Coming during the month of September it was humid and quite unexpected. I spoke with many locals and they claim it’s very unusual for London; it should be colder. Regardless of that, the weather is unpredictable in London so keep a umbrella or a water resistant windbreaker handy.
Hope this helps, more updates on my day to day in London in the next post!