London Check List
If you are planning a trip to London then this list will help you along the way. Here we cover everything from your arrival at the airport, accommodation, finding a school, sightseeing, getting around London on buses and the tube and some important advice about luggage.
Flights To London
So many airlines fly to London it is well worth searching for the cheapest flights. London’s airports are:
- London City
All airports are connected by rail and coach to London. Coaches are cheaper but take longer. The cheapest way to travel from Heathrow to the centre of London is by tube on the Piccadilly Line, however this can take over an hour and at busy times it can be difficult if you have a lot of luggage.
Luton is the furthest airport from London. There is a coach service which runs 24 hours a day. Coaches run every 20 minutes and take around 1.5 hours.
When arriving at the airport you can ask for information about coaches – all airports have information desks.
It is sensible to carry some pounds sterling to London, but the easiest way is to use a debit card to withdraw money from cash points. London is a relatively safe city and cash points are usually on the walls outside banks so they can be accessed any time. It is always sensible to have a back up in case one debit / credit card is not accepted.
How much money do you need? It depends on the length of your stay and if your accommodation is paid in advance. On average you will need around £50 a day for food, travel and tourist expenses. If you are coming to study then you can survive on less, but travel and food is expensive. £20 a day would be minimum after accommodation is paid for.
Finding Accommodation in London
A word of caution – hotels in London are expensive. You biggest cost when visiting London will be your accommodation – unless you plan to party every night! However, like in all cities there are cheaper alternatives to hotels, but these are not always as safe or secure.
If you are staying for just a short time then you will probably have to pay extra for a hotel or bed and breakfast, or stay in a hostel. If you are staying for longer, for over a month, then you should be able to find shared accommodation.
Many people in the UK live in shared houses. You will have your own bedroom but share the kitchen, living room and bathrooms. Most are managed by landlords (property owners) who will collect rent weekly. They tend to like cash payments.
It is worth mentioning that the prices in London vary greatly. The centre of London (Oxford Street, Soho, Notting Hill, Knightsbridge and surrounding areas) is very expensive. To find cheaper rooms you need to travel on the tube lines to areas such as Hackney, Finsbury Park, Clapham and Walthamstow.
Her are some average rents in London for rooms in shared accommodation;
- Single room for one person (single room): from £ 60 to £ 150 per week on the outskirts of London
- Double room for two people (double room): from £ 60 to £ 120 per week on the outskirts of London
- Multiple room for three people (triple room): around £ 85 to £150 a week on the outskirts of London
Our Accommodation Experience
Marcia first stayed with a host that was arranged through her first English school. The accommodation was cheap but she was the only student and it was not a happy experience as the landlady insisted that she turned her lights out by 10pm each night! Marcia then slept on the floor of a friend’s bedroom before we renting our first place together.
Our first rented room together was in a house in Harringey which had 8 rooms. There were 4 double rooms and 4 single rooms. The house was home to us, 2 Spanish women, a Spanish man with his English partner, 2 South Africans, a Kiwi (somebody from New Zealand), a Greek rocker who was avoiding conscription, and a couple of other who we did not see much. Many houses in London are like this – expect to meet people from all over the world.
We paid £85 a week for a double in 1999. This included electric and heating. We kept most of our food in our room as people would often help themselves if it was left in the kitchen!
The main advantage of renting a room in a house with others is the price. It is the cheapest way to live – even cheaper than hostels – and most landlords do not work with contracts – you pay cash in advance each week and can leave with short notice.
Want To Learn English?
If you are planning to study English in London then you should arrange your tuition in advance and ensure that you have all the paperwork from the school with you when you travel. There are many good English schools in London, we have them listed on our school pages.
Be warned though – English tuition is not cheap. It will be one of the biggest expenses of your trip after accommodation costs.The best English schools in London are recognized by the British Consulate.
Get The Right Visa
If you live outside of the EU the chances are you need a visa to visit London. Tourist visas are most popular and allow you to stay in the UK for up to 6 months. However, on a tourist visa you cannot work. Also, if you want to study a tourist visa does not allow you to stay for an academic year. But you can arrive in the UK with a tourist visa and then request to change it to a student visa if you decide to study at a later date.
Student visas allow you to study but you are still not allowed to work. In the past students from outside of the EU could work for up to 16 hours a week if they were studying English full time but the British government changed the rules in 2009.
You can apply for a student visa when you arrive into the UK, however, like tourist visas these only allow you to stay for 6 months and you cannot work.
If you wish to work while studying then you can apply for a Student Tier 4 Visa. You can learn more about Student Tier 4 visas on the British Home Office website: http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/studying/adult-students/
Documents To Enter The UK
Immigration rules in the UK are getting tighter and you now need to show several documents when you arrive – these are vital if you want to clear immigration. People do get denied entry and sent back on the next plane, so be warned!
- A return plane ticket. Immigration officials want proof that you are planning to return to your country after your stay in London.
- Evidence of Money. Living in London is expensive so it is wise to have evidence of money. A couple of payment cards is a good idea, and also bring a bank statement showing that you have funds. I you appear to have no money immigration will assume that you plan to work illegally.
- Evidence of Accommodation. It is wise to plan some accommodation in advance. If you book a hotel for the first week or two bring your reservation confirmation (most hotels will confirm booking by email which you can print). If you are staying with friends or relatives ask them to write an “invitation letter” which must include their full name, address, your name and the dates you plan to stay. It is also a very good idea to write in the invitation letter that your hosts will be providing you with accommodation and food during your stay.
- Your Visa and passport!
Your luggage depends on how long you are staying and what time of year you are visiting. If you are from a warm country you will be in for a shock if you arrive in winter. London gets very cold, it rains a lot, and in winter snow is becoming more common, even in London. However, in summer London can be very hot, and the underground gets very hot too.