By Anna-Lotte Reitsma (first year UCG student)
London is, as most of you will know, the capital city of England and the United Kingdom. Founded around the year 43 by the Romans, it has been a major settlement for two millennia and is nowadays one of the leading global cities in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism, and transport. With more than 300 languages spoken in the region, London is considered a multi ethnic city, something that really stood out to me during my visit. The most prominent historic event that you will run into when visiting London is, in my opinion, the Great Fire of London, which broke out in 1666 and destroyed most of the medieval part of the city. While walking or driving around the city the memory of this fire can still be seen in memorials, signs and reconstruction.
- The currency in London is the British Pound. The Pound is currently, as a result of the recent Brexit, lower in value than it used to be. This means that in shops where you can choose to pay in euros or in pounds, where it first was cheaper to pay in euros, it is now cheaper to pay in pounds. This little trick has saved me around 40 euros during my stay.
- If you are planning on using the public transport regularly, I think it is worth it to get a Visitor Oyster card. The Oyster card is similar to the Dutch OV card, I think we got one for 5 pounds. As it never expires, you can keep it and use it when you visit the city again in the future, which makes it relatively cheap.
- This brings me to the next point, which is AirBnB. In my opinion, it is cheaper and easier to get an AirBnB that is a bit more expensive but closer to the city than one that is a little cheaper but further away. Public transportation can get quite expensive in London, so it might be good to look up the distance and price of the transportation to the city center before you book an AirBnB. Being closer also makes spontaneous trips to the city center easier.
- Don’t forget your RUG Student card! Most shops on Oxford Street, and even some pubs and restaurants, offer discounts to students. Even international ones.
- Go ride one of those stupid, touristy hop-on busses. Seriously. When I visited London for the first time, we bought tickets with which we could ride those busses for 48 hours. Not only did the tour guides provide me with really interesting information and fun facts (which eventually even led me to see the Queen), you can also just use them as a normal bus when you need to go somewhere. Two birds, one stone.
- Make the effort to go see the Big Ben, London Eye etc. by night. It is not as crowded and the lights are gorgeous.
- Instead of only doing your shopping on Oxford st., explore areas of the city such as Camden and Shoreditch. Camden has a really nice market where you can get Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and many other themed clothing for a low price. Shoreditch has a lot of nice vintage and remade vintage stores. Especially check out Blitz – besides selling gorgeous clothes, they also sell really cheap, well-known books. I bought a copy of Nabokov’s Lolita here for 3 pounds!
- Check out an Indian restaurant. Because of colonial history, there’s a lot of Indian people living in London. This means there’s also a lot of authentic Indian restaurants, and therefore loads of opportunities for you to try new things!
‘’A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else.’’ – Unknown