I remember well my first days in London as a young 21 year old thinking what am I doing here.
London can be daunting place when you first get there, particularly for me when one day you are living in a town of 2000 people and 2 days later being in one of the bigger metropolis' in the world.
I look back at the way things were then and it must be so easy now - email, the internet, mobile phones, feasibly you could have a job even before you leave.
And I remember trying to drive around London in a campervan going around in circles saying "I think that's the fourth time we've gone across this bridge". Oh for a GPS navigator that day.
Well anyway here is a list of things that I would do and get before hitting London for your overseas trip.
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I would consider buying an Oyster Card, this in the long run will save you money, it calculates the lowest rate based on where you are going on the Tube and London Buses.
One thing you will need to be mindful of, is if you are taking the Tube, when you first get to London is that Heathrow is in Zone 6. So if you have a 2 zone travel card you will need to buy another ticket.
This is the website for London Transport
The other train option you have is the Heathrow Express which goes from Heathrow to Paddington station.
One single ticket for an adult is around £16.50 and they run every 15 minutes. The advantage of taking the Hearthrow Express is that it only takes 15 mInutes to Paddington Station a trip that would take considerably longer on the Tube.
If you are flying into Gatwick Airport there is a Gatwick Express going to Victoria Station.
The cost of a single adult ticket is £16.90 and must be better than taking the coach, which is what I did the last time a flew into Gatwick many moons ago.
This is the website for Heathrow and Gatwick Express
I'm not even going to try and give recomendations on where to stay but what I would do is pre-book somewhere to stay for the first couple days. Another thing is to book somewhere where its easy for you to get to ie if you are going to come in on the Heathrow Express then booking somewhere in Paddington or close to Paddington would be a smart idea.
If you're coming from Australia chances are you'll be landing early morning and you are going to be tired. Spending your first day looking for somewhere to stay is not good - trust me I've done it.
Get yourself a copy of TNT Magazine. TNT has information on what's happening in London, accomodation and job cassifieds and a TNT website and its all free
TNT comes out every Monday morning and you can get it in red bins usually near Tube stations
Take your mobile phone to London but leave your SIM card home. You do not want to be paying for international Roaming while overseas. You will have a new number but you can email it to your friends.
There are plenty of SIM card deals and looking at just one 0044 they offer mobile phone rates at 13p to Australia - that's about the same as what I pay here for a call in Australia.
There is a lot of competition in the mobile broadband market and the deals are cheaper than Australia so if you're taking a laptop its well worth while getting a Pay as you Go plan. Here is a page that compares plans from some of the leading companies - Mobile Broadband Pay As You Go
Chances are when you first get to London you'll want to do some sightseeing and there's plenty to see. There are some discount cards that will certainly save you money
London Pass gives you free entry to 55 charging tourist attractions in London and gives you priority access, apparently you don't have to queue. You can get cards from 1-6 days and you can easily find enough to do for 6 days. The 6 day card costs £90.00 for an adult.
If you consider that in those 6 days you went to 2 attractions per day I made a list of what I would see.
Windsor Castle, Tower of London, Churchill War Rooms and Museum, Thames River Cruise, Hampton Court Palace, HMS Belfast, Kensington Palace, Kew Gradens, Lords Cricket Ground, St Pauls Cathedral, London Zoo and Wimbledon Tour Experience. It would cost without the card a whopping £162.90.
So you can see, if you wanted to do some intensive sightseeing the London Card is worthwhile.
The Great British Heritage Pass offers free entry to more than 580 of Great Britain’s most popular heritage sights, including properties under the care of National Trust, English Heritage, National Trust for Scotland, Historic Scotland, and Cadw and has over £3000 worth of value.
This pass is available from 4 days to 30 day pass. A 30 day pass costs £115 for an adult.
You must be an International visitor visiting the UK to be able to buy the card.
Like the London Pass you are able to make huge savings using these cards.
If you are interested in the theatre Ace Card could be a good option as they have 2 for the price of one deals for a number of theatres, cinemas and comedy clubs
Cost of the Ace Card is £19.95
If you're wanting to travel throughout the rest of the the United Kingdom an English Heritage Membership might be useful for sightseeing.
As a member of English Heritage you will be able to gain free entry into 400 historic attractions including 1066 Hastings Abbey and Battlefield, Dover Castle, Tintagel Castle and Hadrian's Wall
The cost of membership is £43.00 but overseas visitors are able to buy an Overseas Visitors Pass for £19.95 but does not give as many benefits and has a prescribed time limit. I would buy the membership and it would be particularly good if you were renting a car or bought a campervan and were travelling throughout the UK.
Becoming a National Trust member gives you free entry and parking to 300 histroric homes and gardens and the Members Handbook that lists the places you can visit The cost is £35.63 by direct debit.
If you are going to work in the UK you'll need a bank account and back in the past it wasn't that easy.
Now it seems there are a number of banks that will open and account for you even before you get there.
This offer is from HSBC - HSBC Passport
If only it was so easy when I travelled in the UK. Now you can compare prices on eBay and there is so much information on the internet.
Back in the past you showed up to a vacant lot in the East End gave some money to a shonky dealer, registered and insured the car/van and away you went and then you sold it back to the same guy 12 months later for £2000 less.
Today if I was buying a campervan I would be investing in a GPS Navigator. You can buy a Tom Tom for £200-300 that will do the job. But I could write an entire article about this and will in the future.