I’ve been in London a little over a week now, and over a month in Europe. I think I’m still trying to get the lay of the land though. I’m living in Greater London, in an area called Brockley. It’s a little far from Central London, but the flat I’m staying in is quite nice and cozy with a lovely backyard, and great kitchen.
I miss Berlin a bit, I loved my neighborhood, and living on my own, and being near my childhood best friend. Also the coffee/sitting culture in Berlin is so great, and doesn’t seem to be the same here in London.
So far, I’ve done a lot of wandering, but haven’t really gotten to feel quite in the swing of things here. Hopefully a free weekend will help with that.
But, I did want to share a few things I’ve learned about semi-living in Europe as an American, in case they may be useful to some of you!
- Money: Know the exchange rate, and use cash. It’s much quicker and easier then using your credit card, and will limit foreign transaction fees, which can be a bear. (I recommend taking a large amount of cash out at the first ATM you come across, don’t exchange money.) Just before leaving DC, I opened a Charles Schwab bank account, because they don’t charge foreign transaction fees, or ATM fees. This has been great, as those costs can really add up. However, getting money into that account has been a bit frustrating. They aren’t a normal bank, so you can’t go to them with cash and make a deposit. I’ve been relying on direct deposit from work, and the occasional mobile deposit from my other bank account. BUT, believe me when I say it’s worth it to avoid those extra fees!
- Phone: T-mobile has almost been too good to be true, but it has been true! They have lower monthly rates then Verizon, and include unlimited data and text messaging in tons of countries. This means I can use the internet, email, skype, and even facetime anywhere I am. Honestly, this has been invaluable, as searching for wifi hotposts can be frustrating, and being able to use Google maps to look up directions anywhere is so freeing.
- Where to Stay: So, I don’t really have good tips on this front yet, but I will leave you with a few things. 1. Airbnb can be great, you get a decent service, and they are pretty transparent. However, I am learning that the rates you’ll pay for your room or apartment are much higher then the standard market rate. In the UK people have recommended SpareRoom.com as a more cost effective option. But the rooms I’ve seen there, while cheaper, don’t seem quite as nice, and there isn’t quite as much information available about what you can expect. Additionally, London is huge, and the public transportation is pretty good, but if you’re not in a Central area it can take quite awhile to get around. It unfortunately takes me at least 35 minutes to an hour to get to most of the things I want to see, and that can be a frustrating thing!
That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’m sure I’ll add more! This weekend I plan to visit Borough Market and the Tate Modern, and visit Brick Lane and the Columbia Road flower market. I’m quite excited!