Stefan Juchem is an economy and accountancy student from Germany who recently visited London with the Internship Programme, an Erasmus+ funded venture that enables European students to gain work experience abroad. He wrote an article for his blog about how to be money savvy in London and we have had the pleasure of republishing it here. You can also read a German version on his website.
London is one of the most beautiful cities on earth. But it is also one of the most expensive ones. If you are planning a trip to London, be prepared and read my guide to how to handle your cash.
The national currency of the United Kingdom is the Great British Pound (GPD). I advise you to exchange a bit of money at your local bank in your own country, where you will pay less fees. If you want additional cash in London you should check if your local bank is a member of the Global ATM Alliance. If it is, you won't have to pay any fees using an ATM tied to a bank that is a member of that alliance. For example, since I am with Deutsche Bank I was able to take out money from every Barclays ATM without paying an additional fee. Another point to remember is that you shouldn't take too much cash with you when you are going out. Remember that London is a huge city, meaning that your purse will most likely be gone forever if you were to lose it.
2. Public transport
The London tube is the oldest underground network in the world. You are probably already familiar with the red circle of the underground sign as well as the world famous double-decker buses. Even if you are not visiting London for the purpose of work experience like I was, you are going to have to figure out how to get from A to B.
The best known option for travelling in London is the Oyster card, where you can choose from top up payment or purchasing a Travelcard. The Oyster card is a contactless payment card on which you are charged for travelling through the city. But be aware of the difference between the Visitor Oyster and the regular one. Normally a Travelcard will be charged on your Oyster card whereas it is not possible to do so with a Visitor Oyster card.
The question left is: Which option is the best for you? This depends on your situation. An Oyster card is a smartcard used on all London public transport. You put an amount of money on your Oyster and then you have to touch in and out of every station via a card reader by the gates and it will calculate the journey for you. Even if the gates are already open it is important to touch out, otherwise you will be charged a fee.
A Travelcard is a flat rate ticket. For example if you buy a seven day Travelcard for Zone one to four, you are able to travel however much you want within these zones for £47.30. You just have to touch in and out, like I explained before.
However, if you travel with a topped up Oyster card, the fee will be capped if you happen to exceed the cost of a Travelcard. This is a good option in case you are unsure of how much you will travel.
To figure out which option is the most suitable for you, take your intentions and plans into account. For example, I had to travel from the home of my host family to my workplace, Monday to Friday. Both were located in zone four, although I had to go through zone two and three to get there, as well as to zone five, where ADC College is located. In the end, I opted for a Travelcard between zone two to five, which is £32.80 per week.
Have a look at the Transport for London website for more information.
You might have heard of the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel at the river Thames, or the platform on the top of the Shard, the largest building in western Europe.
But there are also attractions with less or even free entry if you don't want to spend the extra cash.
Ever heard of the Sky Garden? It is on top of a building called the Walkie Talkie and is a part of the London skyline. There is no entry fee for visiting the Sky Garden. It is located on the highest floor of the building, where you can find a luxury restaurant with a terrace and two bars. I was there twice and both times a live band was playing music. If you want to know why it is referred to as the Sky Garden take a look at the pictures...
Are you fond of museums? Then you will appreciate London. A lot of the museums are free and will only charge for specific exhibitions. Check out British Museum, the National Gallery and the Imperial War Museum to name a few.
Another way to avoid high prices is to explore London by foot. Just walk around the city centre and marvel at Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace or Big Ben. If you are interested in finance or simply a fan of skyscrapers, you should go on a journey to Canary Wharf - the new financial district of London.
4. Don't underestimate the weather!
When I visited London, it was pretty hot back in Germany and I didn't bring a coat or jacket. So on my first day at work it was very stormy and rainy and I had to walk all the way to the underground station in just a suit. Let's just say I got pretty wet. So, in the evening, I went to Oxford Street to buy a new coat. I advise everyone to try and avoid this experience and be prepared for fast-changing weather.
London is a very lovely city that at times seems endless. I recommend it to everyone who loves the feeling of a big city. If you have the chance to do work experience here through your school and in cooperation with the ADC College, use it! I will remember my experience for the rest of my life.
Have you ever been in London? Please write a comment about your experience and impressions of this city!
Stefan visited London with our Internship Programme, a project eligible for funding from Erasmus+. Now we are also arranging work experience projects in Dublin. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about what we do and how to get funding. Call a Country Manager today on +44 2084249424 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.