Saturday, October 29, 2011

Advices for people going to UK


It seems that I've an entirely different reason to post online so often now. Loneliness.

Oh what shall I talk about this time? This becomes kinda like chatting with an old buddy. Just that the world is my friend. Part of metta? For sharing it all out?

Well, since I've some topics I want to settle and post about anyway, might as well start with the United Kingdom.

I've just recently came back from the UK and thus I should be able to recall all the things that I did in UK... and give them as advices.

First things first. It is expensive in the UK.

The biggest currency around, pounds. The most expensive things, I think is the food. Convert it back to Sing dollar, you'll need to times by 2, back to Malaysian Ringgit, you'll need to times by 5. And a typical sandwich can cost 2 pounds, with a minimal of 5 pounds to get a decent meal. Fast food seems to be the ones that is almost the same after you convert it, but it is much cheaper compared to the others. The food over at France is even more expensive!

However, since the currency is so big, other stuffs looks much much cheaper there. Books costs less than 10 pounds, having lots of discounts a lot of the time, with yard sales going as low as 1 pound or even 50 pence (decimal system)! Electronic stuffs looks much cheaper there too, numerically. I've brought my Nintendo DSi there with 3 Pokemon games!

The cheapest stuffs there has got to be Primark's. Also there’s the 20% VAT refund that one should get. It comes with an admin charge and only refunded in the airport, within 3 months of departure, and you can’t go back to UK for at least a year. So buy a lot of expensive stuffs, electronics etc, make it all in one bill, then it’s very very worth it to get the refund. The admin charge is per receipt.

Soooooo…… here are some tips to save on $$$$$

  • Bring a rice cooker: you can cook anything inside a rice cooker, from rice, to porridge, to noodles, to even stir-fry it (takes longer). Buy the small, one person size rice cooker to bring to UK. Reduce the amount of clothes you’re bringing. One week’s worth is good enough, the others, do laundry there. You’ll save 1-2 pounds per meal, and it adds up to a lot. I average about 1 pound per meal, cooking non-meat meals, and to any amount that I like. Sometimes bloated full.
  • Walk to most of the places: If you’re in London or Cambridge or Bristol, then the city/town is small and you can walk to most places in the vicinity to get your food, entertainment, and to the train or bus station that brings you to other parts of the UK. However, if you’re travelling from the Airport to the place you live, it is recommended that you go for the tube/local buses for the first time, especially with all those heavy luggage. If you Cab, you’ll incur a very very very heavy fare. Heavy especially if you count in the exchange rate. Tubing in London, you’ll need an Oyster card. It gives you discounts and thus it is worth it. For the Tubes in London, the fare is counted by Zones. Zone 1 is within the centre of the centre in London, flat fare throughout. So don’t tube if your destination is just 2-4 stations away, cause the distance from one station to another is so near that it is soooo not worth it to take the tube for that short distance. If you’re tubing from one end of Zone 1 to another, then it is worth it to take the Tube, and then walk the 2.5 hour walk (if you know the general direction) back to your starting point).
  • Book and Plan every weekend very early on if you plan to go for sightseeing on weekends. The buses are cheaper the earlier you book it. I booked a 42 pounds bus that goes overnight to Paris to and fro. The bus boards on ferry in the middle and then continues on to France. (Warning, you don’t get to sleep much, and don’t just give one weekend to Paris, give a week! Paris is a bit more smelly than London too, for not covering their drains.) If you drag on the bus buying thing to that day itself, then… Be prepared to pay about 5-20 times more the price that you could had have if you buy it online weeks earlier.
  • Have a credit card to be able to pay for stuffs online. It is really convenient to shop for tickets online. And many other stuffs too, they’ll just ship it to a UK address for free or some fee. (I got Pokemon Soul Silver shipped to me for free from and a free earphone that I’ve to pay the shipping fee of 3 pounds.) Also apply for the Sainsbury card or Tesco Card and keep on collecting the points for the groceries that you shop for. You can redeem the points nicely. Plus do bring your own plastic bag/ environmental bag, for they give extra points for that!

Secondly, travelling.

Megabus is one of the cheapest bus you can get. However, only National express has the trip from London to Paris. So go to their website and do your research well. Trains are almost always more expensive and less of a price variable. For Birmingham, the International Airport is directly connected to the train station that connects to the rest of UK and also the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) where Pokemon National Championship event had been held before. It is not the same as the main Birmingham City, so there’s some travelling involved. Bus or train, find it out online.

For Bristol, the main city is Bristol University. Not any other University. So do not stop and get down randomly anywhere. Always bring your handphone, camera and the charger for both too anywhere you go. Lest you become like me, who got low battery in my handphone and almost got lost in Bristol.

Next in Cambridge, the maps are nice to read, and the whole city’s the University, so do know which place you’re staying in and take your time to read the map, photograph it if needed. For Paris, their train is insanely low tech near the edge of Paris. You should press a button and lift the catch to the door to be open when it arrives at the station. Some station doesn’t even have a ticketing pass, so some of the people could had ride for free. Just don’t get caught.

Walk to the bus station first before you’re supposed to go there on the first day that you use the bus station for travelling. Especially in London, the Victoria train station is not directly connected to the Victoria Coach station, they are near, but not so near. (Made me miss one bus over that point, Bristol) So do walk there before boarding it for the first time. Record the time you need to walk there and then plan to reach there at least half an hour before departure. Just in case. For the London-Paris Bus, reach at least 1 hour before, or else you’ll be wasting so much more pounds. They’ll need to verify your ticket and passport and therefore you should not reach there at 9:55pm for a 10pm bus. (Like I did, and I made it for the 11pm bus, luckily there’s a 11pm bus! Paris) Also remember to bring your printed or mailed tickets to your trip. Not just the to, but also the back. (Not like me, forgetting to bring my back tickets…, having to rebuy it. Birmingham) So do buy your own ticket, you’ll feel more ownership and therefore will not likely to forget about it.

There’s also the bike for hire, Barclays in London. Do use it for one day (needs credit card) for one pound and save the walking time. But remember to dock in every 30 minutes or else get charged extra.

Thirdly, Safety:

Do not move out of your dwelling at night. Drunk people hang out at night and drunk people are scary. Not that they might steal/rob you but they most probably will shout at you. Be cool, avoid eye contact, be in a group and then you’re cool. But better not to hang out after 9 or 10pm. It’s not as safe as Singapore. Oh ya, and riots can happen suddenly. I just left the day before the riots would had stroke at the place I would go to.

Be aware of the people in bright daylight too. Especially those that dressed with a bright vest. It doesn’t mean that they are the authorities and thus trust-worthy. Don’t borrow money to anyone. Give it to a begger if you want, but don’t borrow money, not even when they offer you to keep their car keys, flash their identity card on you, etc… (20 pounds gone because of that, not upset, but still, worth to be vigilant ).

Don’t simply talk to strangers too, they are generally bigger sized than you are and thus may physically do some strange things that are not of Asian culture (rude even in our culture) so, until we got used to the Western culture, don’t simply talk and reveal of your tourist nature.

Fourthly, Weather:

It’s cold. No kidding cold. Even in Summer you’ll need jackets that are thicker than what you are used to wear in aircon rooms (even SPS room). Imagine Winter. Dreaded cold. Wear an inner vest, 2-3 layers of T-shirt, a thick, winter jacket, long enough scarf, and thick gloves, thick jeans, thick socks, good shoes, etc… and then you might feel just a bit cold outside. I dunno, dreading winter now. Haiz…

Also as a side note, Imperial College London has a Science Fiction Library and a Buddhist Society! Get to join them when you’re in Imperial! That’s all from me now. Have a nice trip to UK! Feel free to add a comment if you think I missed out something.

No comments: