Tips for London newbies

Moving to the big shmoke can be harsh on those who haven’t lived here before. Some tips to make settling in a little easier:

Transport

  • The TFL website will become your best friend
    www.tfl.gov.uk. Google maps is pretty useful too.
  • If you are going to use a pay-as-you-go Oyster card then get a back up one
    I actually have about four. There is nothing worse than being late for something and being unable to find your Oyster card, and believe me it will go walk about. Also you can lend your extra one to friends who come to visit and they will be disproportionately grateful (and may even buy you sweets to say thank you!).
  • Buses are a great way to save money on public transport
    Rather than taking two tube lines and the overground to get to somewhere why not just hop on a bus, especially if you have time to spare.
  • Cycling in the city is terrifying and actually quite dangerous
    Only attempt if you are a seasoned cycle pro.
  • Boris bikes are a great way to get home if the tube has stopped running
    But DON’T take one out for more than an hour otherwise it’s going to cost a small fortune.
  • You’re going to want a smart phone otherwise you will get lost
    Or maybe you are like me and prefer reading maps. Well then prepare to get frustrated by the number of times people will present you with a postcode or the name of a place just 10 minutes before you are meeting. Apparently full addresses are so 2009.
  • The Bakerloo and Northern lines are old and SLOW
    The Victoria on the other hand is speedy. Well speedy for a line that stops pretty much everywhere.

Shopping

  • Don’t go shopping around Oxford Circus, Regent Street and Covent Garden
    That’s where the tourists go. And you won’t be able to move.
  • Shoreditch and Dalston have some good markets and independent shops
  • Don’t bother with Portobello Market
    Especially if you want actual antiques. Try Brixton, or one of the smaller markets, or the food market and Christmas market at Southbank. Borough Market / Shepherd’s Bush are both excellent for snacks.
  • The Science Museum and the other galleries/museums are great for buying presents
  • Save money and don’t shop regularly at ‘Express’ shops and corner shops
    Make the effort to go to the larger supermarkets, they are much cheaper. Price is determined more by the size of the supermarket rather than the area it is in, but obviously it’s also worth buying food in the cheaper districts.
  • The Pound Shop is a god send
    It’s like a cap on inflation!
  • Independent shops are often cheaper than chains
    Support the UK economy and buy your latte in a local cafe (I’m sure they can do it with skimmed milk too if you ask!)

Going out

  • Go to Soho and Vauxhall for a messy/gay night
    If you go to Soho then a curry wurst from Herman Ze German makes an excellent pre-drinking snack.
  • Clapham is very varied but can be a bit grimy, Clapham Common is nicer
    Go to either to join the antipodean twenty-somethings swanning about eating over-priced burgers or dancing in packed bars. Just make sure you avoid the infamous Infernos. The 37 bus runs all night from Putney.
  • There is nowhere decent in Putney for a night out
    Fez is Putney’s answer to Infernos. That is all I will say about Putney nightlife, it’s not worth mentioning.
  • Brixton has great live music and attracts an interesting mix of people
    Brixton Academy, Brixton Jamm and Hootanannys are my favourite venues. There is a lot of ska/reggae/latino music alongside the usual club nights.
  • Research the night buses home before going out
    You don’t want to be gappling with your phone trying to work out how to get home while propping up a worse-for-wear flatmate at 3am.
  • Shoreditch/Hoxton/Dalston is full of pretentious media types
    However there are some super nice rooftop bars and craft beer places.
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