Polly Fletcher & Robert Arnold

Robert & Polly

October 21, 2020

The London Survival Kit

Are you visiting London or even looking for a gift for someone moving to London? People are often caught short when it comes to preparing for the English culture, travelling around and finding things to do. But don’t panic! Our London Survival Kit is for you.

Essential items for your London Survival Kit The London Survival Kit infographic

You’ll obviously need a flight ticket and  a passport to get here. But here are a few other items you must include in your survival kit:

  •  A credit card or debit card with contactless payment: A contactless card is not only indispensable because most places will accept them and you can use them in an emergency – nowadays they have replaced Oyster cards on public transport. No queuing for paper tickets: just hop on the Tube or a bus, tap your card and get charged for the journey you’ve taken. If you take more than one trip, you’ll never spend more than a daily travel card limit for the zones you’ve been in. Find out more on the Transport for London website.Of course, a credit card will also help you out if you happen to run out of money or run into unforeseen expenses, taking away any stress from your trip.
  • A phone that works abroad: this will be vital for your stay. You can call home easily if you need to and also use it to call UK numbers without having to spend a fortune. A good option is using an unlocked phone, so that you can simply purchase a pay-as-you-go SIM card. Alternatively make sure you can use the internet abroad on your phone, so you can send emails, research your stay and keep in touch with folks at home.
  • The local currency – the Great British Pound: This kind of goes without saying, but while most shops and restaurants now accept card payments, you’ll still need to get British pounds. Some of the smaller shops and restaurants only accept cash, so do make sure you check before you go in. The cheapest way to get British pounds in the UK is usually at an ATM – here you get the up-to-date market interbank rate. It is worth checking this before you travel.

London Survival Kit gift ideas

Are you looking to put together a London Survival Kit for a soon-to-be Londoner? Here are some ideas for you:

  • Membership to the Tate, London Zoo, the Victoria and Albert Museum or the British Museum. If you know their interests you really can’t go wrong with these.
  • A reusable water bottle – many places now offer water refills to combat plastic pollution.
  • Novels about London.
  • A nice umbrella – it’s a cliche but we’ve been to other places and can confirm the rain is somehow wetter here, so it’ll definitely be used.
  • A foldable coffee cup – yes, coffee makes the world go round, especially if you don’t have to bin the cup afterwards. You can find some particularly pretty and London-themed cups on well-known internet shopping sites.
  • Afternoon tea gift voucher – there’s even one in a tour bus. Bear in mind though that London buses can be quite bumpy so this may not be suitable for you if you are prone to travel sickness!

Getting around

The Underground (AKA The Tube) is the most famous form of transport in London and is the transport that will probably serve you best in getting around. If you know where you will be going, you can download a Tube map from Transport For London.

London also has  a very good bus service, which can get you around in a cost-effective manner. Buses tend to take their time during busy periods and with the general congestion of the roads, but they can reach areas the Tube won’t get to.

The same goes for taxis, which can also be rather expensive. Minicabs usually come cheaper than black cabs but they certainly lack the style and the Knowledge. Do make sure you use a reputable (and registered) minicab company.

What you’ll notice in London

As with most major hubs, London is a city that never sleeps. There are people milling around constantly and this creates a great atmosphere, whether you’re travelling or are here on business.

You’ll also notice that powering this hive of activity is an army of baristas. London has exceptional coffee and this indeed makes the world go round in London – especially in the mornings. Why not grab a cup on the way to your next adventure?

(Of course, let’s not kid ourselves: coffee is a usurper. As we know, the English are well-known for their love of tea and, if we’re being honest, tea has taken on almost magical qualities: you’re upset? Have a cup of tea! You’re cold? Have a cup of tea! You’re celebrating? You get the idea…)

If you travel on the Underground, you’ll notice the awkwardness that comes with the almost complete silence when you’re travelling around. One of the things that can make this more awkward is catching the eye of the person opposite and making eye contact. Don’t look! Or do – maybe you’ll be surprised.

Talking of the Underground, when you’re going between platforms, make sure that you stand on the right on elevators and don’t be in the way when trying to figure out where to go. The locals can get very grumpy with people blocking their path, as they rush around to do whatever it is they do on a daily basis.

Things to do in London

London is a bustling city and, whether you’re here for business or pleasure, you’ll find there’s plenty of things to do with your time.

You can take one of two options here: you can either do the general touristy things and see the sights (there’s a list to check out below), or you can take a wander off the beaten path. You could, for example, walk along Regent’s Canal up to Camden Lock, enjoy the view from Primrose Hill or Parliament Hill, or have a look at our Things to do in Chelsea article for more ideas.

If you want the full tourist experience (there’s no shame in it, it’s one of the reasons that London is so great), then you can do some of the following:

Visiting the pub or a restaurant?

It is worth noting that, in the UK, we tip around 10% on sit-down meals but we don’t generally tip for drinks – unless the service was really exceptional. In pubs you go to the bar to get a drink and don’t tip for service. For giggles, try to call someone ‘mate’ while you’re here.

Where to stay

There are plenty of excellent options in central London. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay check our fantastic range of serviced apartments in various central London locations. They are a great option and very affordable, especially compared to hotels.

That’s it! We hope that our London Survival Kit has helped you and will prove useful for your stay.