London did not just happen to me. It had always been on my list of things-to-do-in-life ever since I was 16. I never thought of devouring the city as a tourist, but always dreamt of being a part of it someday. It took me 13 years, a lot of determination and hard work, a barrage of questions regarding the how, when and where of it, family’s endless attempts to stop me from flitting off, but I could finally make London happen to me. I will let you in on the details too but let us talk a tad about London, shall we?
Let us begin with a list of things to keep in mind when travelling to London:
- Accommodation: Airbnbs and hostels are your best bet in a city like London. If you are moving permanently, websites like SpareRoom and GumTree can really be helpful. Accommodation in London can weigh heavy on your pockets, so avoid the last-minute exorbitant prices.
- Hasn’t it always been about the window seat?:I love photography and aerial photography is one of my penchants. If you would love the best free aerial views of London before the touch down, you might want to bring out that inner child in you and try to book a window seat on the right-hand side of the aisle on the plane (be mindful of the wing seat though :P). You’ll thank me later. If your flight is scheduled to land in the wee hours, wake up and get ready to be dazzled from the sky!
- Stay connected, stay safe:You can either purchase a local sim card right at the airport (recommended for expats), or use the existing sim card and top it up with a bundle that enables international phone services. It is very easy to get lost in London. Ensure that you always have internet on you. Like most major international airports, there’s free Wi-Fi at Heathrow terminals, so you can make use of it before you step out.
- The world is your Oyster Card:London has an absolutely fantastic public transport network. Most Londoners depend heavily on the underground tubes or the red buses for which you will need your Oyster card, available at the tube stations or at the airport for £5 which is refundable upon returning the card. You could also use your contactless debit/credit cards. To access the tube routes and timetables, Tube Map app can be helpful. You could always rent a bike to go around the city or take a ferry or uber, but if you have time, I recommend walking. You could wander and get lost, but you will never regret the time lost on it.
- While using the escalators, always always keep to your right or expect a lot of ‘sorry’.
- Discounts: There are some great deals and discounts for the UK students. Download the apps UniDays or Student Beans and register to avail the discounts. Even travel on oyster is discounted by 30% if you have a student oyster. More can be found out on tfl.gov.uk.
- Always carry an umbrella and a jacket:While in winters London makes a great frost impression, ‘English weather’ is really a thing. Even though the city looks magical during Christmas, you wouldn’t want to miss the summers when the sun stays out till 10.30 pm!
Life of a Londoner typically revolves around its parks and pub culture. The city is so cosmopolitan that it has a place for every kind of person on this planet. While there’s so much to do here and so many places to be in, here’s a list of my favourites and regulars.
1. Pubs: Life in London, as fast as it can get, can also be quite laid back. No matter how bummed one might be after work, a casual stroll on the streets, or one look at the pubs brimming with people and their after-work drinks right in the middle of the week might give the weekend feels. London is loaded with beautiful pubs but here are my favourite hang outs:
- Soho – Immerse in London’s live music and clubbing along with the casual pubs
- Bar Kick, Shoreditch – kick back with a light beer or wine whilst you enjoy foosball and great music
- The Anchor, Clink Street
- The Albert Pub, Victoria Street
2.Restaurants: Whether it’s a chic classy dinner or an elite Sunday brunch, there’s no dearth of restaurants for a Londoner to try every week. My regulars:
- Coppa Club, Lower Thames Street
- Aqua Shard, London Bridge
- Sky Garden, Fenchurch Street
- Sketch, Mayfair
- Brasserie of Light, Selfridges-Oxford Street
If you don’t care so much for an elite brunch and would love a lazy right-out-of-the-bed brunch instead, Camden Lock is your place. It offers all the cuisines in the world, well most of them. For your sweet cravings, you just can’t miss the Bubble Waffle. Get your customised waffle made here. Camden Lock is a great graffiti site as well.
3. Parks: There are a number of parks in London for anyone to just come out and enjoy the summer sun. Here’s a recipe for it: some berries and sandwiches, good wine, your favourite book, good country music and voila! You’ve got your perfect summer noon in London. Some of my favourite parks to laze around:
- Regent’s Park – I fell in love with this one since the first time I came here with a friend. The natural flora and fauna is simply amazing and makes me feel so alive. Don’t miss the little cosy pizza shop here, The Regent’s.
- Primrose Hill – This is another one of my favourites. You can always walk up from within Regent’s Park and enjoy the greenery around, or you could take the route outside the park on the pavement and enjoy the view of beautiful houses alongside of it. This is the highest natural point of London and gives you a beautiful vantage point.
- Hyde Park – This one gives you the beautiful views of Kensington Palace and the famous Kensington Gardens as well. The park is extremely big, so you need to choose your entry point carefully to get to the palace if you don’t want to walk too much. As long as you’re there, try the Victoria Sponge Cake of Kensington Café and enjoy it with some Earl Grey.
It’s really difficult to put such a colourful city into just a few words. I couldn’t contain my excitement when Ankita asked me to write a piece for her on my experience of the big move. Working as a Corporate Tax Consultant with Deloitte in Hyderabad, I no longer knew the difference between day and night while trying to move up the ladder at work. I love my job, but back then it left me feeling stagnated, with very little or no time for life. Amidst the chaos, I figured that moving away from home to do my independent-girl thing, never meant I stopped travelling. I have been skipping cities and countries since then. Eventually, I took my work to London and held on to the opportunity of studying ACCA here. So folks, over a year and a half later, here I am, and this is the story of my London. Well, for now. Who knows where my wanderlust takes me!
The writer of this guest blog is someone I have known since 8th grade. Though separated by oceans and time difference, friendships like this are rare. Vidushi Khanna though a rather shy kid has transformed into one of the most exceptional women I know! Before her parents decided to settle down in Dehradun (Uttarakhand) – where she comes from, she moved around northern India a lot, given her father’s transferable job. It was also one of the reasons why she ended up in the boarding school of Nainital – St. Mary’s Convent, where she first met me. Evidently, we go back a long time (16 years)! Although our career choices made us part ways after high school, who knew we would be brought back together due to one of our very common interests – travel. After school, Vidushi went back home for a bit and got her first degree in BBA from Institute of Management Studies, thereafter completing MBA from Jankidevi Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. She did a short stint with Axis Bank, Dehradun, as an Assistant Manager for over a year and then took on the role of Corporate Tax Consultant with Deloitte, Hyderabad. Now, she continues in the same role in London and halfway through, in the process of becoming a Chartered Accountant (ACCA).
In her spare time, she loves to indulge in some elaborate cooking. Home décor and interiors interest her a lot. Of late, her life has only been about travelling. More than that, she loves to do an extensive research about the places she wants to see (guess she gets this from her parents with whom she has covered almost entire India). She is extremely fascinated by the latest gadgets and excelling in photography is high up on her list. She loves to write about her experiences more than she loves reading non-fictions. Reading maps, history and geography of places amazes her to no end and yet she can snuggle in her blanky and binge-watch her favourite series, without going anywhere or doing anything, over-night.
The travel bug bit her in 2017 when she made her first international trip ever to Australia, solo. Five months after her return in January ’18, she was travelling to the UK and by September she had already planned her birthday in Cyprus. By then it was also time for her to make the ‘big move’ in 2019 and rest, is history. Now, she can’t wait to start visiting the nearby places and has several vacations already planned, even as she writes this. 🙂
When it comes to travel, I would say, ‘to each, his own’. However, here are a few things I swear by:
- Do not rely much on the in-flight entertainment. Always keep enough of your favourite book, series or movies handy for the onward and return journey.
- Never go around carrying your passport once you have reached your destination. Always keep a couple of copies and that should suffice in most places. Travel without insurance – not recommended.
- Carry a power bank and a hard disk and keep backing up your pictures to keep your phone/camera memory free and pictures safe. Alternatively, use google photos and keep uploading pictures if you have sufficient data or wi-fi.
- Always carry some protein bars and chocolates. Even the best of hotels in some places might not be able to satiate your taste buds, plus you would always have something to eat.
- Planning to rent a car overseas? Consider going through the reviews thoroughly if payment is required right away. Planning to rely on Uber? Ensure you have researched well since a lot of countries might not have Uber and the public transport, not very reliable. Carry your driver’s license and get acquainted with the traffic rules if you are comfortable driving around the new country.