Top Tips for Surviving Your Gap Year in London

London is a top global destination that attracts travellers from different corners of the world. With so many events, attractions and of course work opportunities it’s a perfect location for a gap year. But once in London how can you fit in and not look like a tourist? How can you get around with ease, what are the travel options and how do you order drinks? The list of questions can become seemingly endless. However, good planning is the answer. Understanding what your budget is and what you want to do will help you make the most of your gap year.

“If you fail to plan you are planning to fail” is famously said to have come from Benjamin Franklin, who, despite probably not planning a gap year, realised that planning is crucial to a successful outcome. So, to help you plan effectively, we’ve put together some tips to help you make the most of your adventure in London. Join with LTR, come and crack the secret code of getting around London like a local. It will definitely help enhance your memories and enable you not only to survive but to thrive in your gap year.

1. Get used to the money
Whilst credit and debit cards are accepted at many retailers, restaurants and attractions there will be occasions when you need to use money. Getting familiar with the coins and notes will be very useful. You don’t really want to be fishing out big value notes and getting lots of change when a few coins would do the job. Let’s take a look at how it works. The British currency has one hundred units of pence which make up one British pound. Getting familiar with the coins and notes will be very useful. Basically the coins are one pence, two pence, five pence, ten pence, twenty pence, fifty pence, a pound and two pounds. In terms of bank notes the smallest is five pounds, then ten pounds, then twenty pounds and finally the biggest of the lot is the fifty pound note.

The coins take a little getting used to at first. Some of them can be quite fiddly. For example, the five pence piece is pretty small. It’s smaller than a one pence. The two pence piece is bigger than the higher value coins. All of this means that the size of the coin doesn’t have a direct correlation to the value of the coin. The twenty pence and fifty pence coins have straight edges whilst the other coins are circular. You can easily identify the lower value coins of one pence and two pence as they are the only copper coloured ones. The one pound coin looks fairly similar in colour and shape to a Euro coin so be sure not to get them mixed up.

If you try and use your coins as you go along you will save the need from breaking into your higher value notes. That will be very useful for when you need to pay for simple things like buying some snacks at a convenience store or paying for a short cab ride.

2. Travel the tube on your terms
Getting around the sprawl of London will involve you making decisions on whether to take a cab, an Uber, a bus, a boat, a cycle, a train, a tube or using your own legs of course and walking. At some point however, it is pretty likely that you will need to use the tube. The tube in London is basically an underground rail network. Some people call it the underground, some call it the tube and some refer to it as the metro. But however, you or others refer to it, there are a few things that you need to know.

The first thing to do is to grab a tube map. It’s always best to have an idea of where you and where you want to go. You will see that the underground network is divided into zones. You buy travel tickets according to which zones you need to travel in. Zone 1 is in the centre of London and then the zones spread out from there. The tube goes quite a long way out and it’s a convenient way to travel. However do take a good look at the map and discover for yourself where the stations are in relation to each other. You will then be able to work out whether you need to take a tube journey or not as you may be able to walk the distance. For example, the tube stations of Covent Garden and Leicester Square are really close to each other and whilst you could take a tube you may be quicker to walk. Don’t forget as it’s an underground system you need to factor in the time needed for getting up and down the stairs, escalators or lifts.

Talking of escalators, make sure you stand on the right but walk down on the left. That’s the unwritten rule. If you stand on the left you will soon be asked to move to let people pass. The tube is always pretty busy and more so in the rush hour. The peak times are 7-9 am and 16.30 -18.30 during the working week. This is when commuting is at its busiest so be prepared to get cosy with fellow passengers as space is always in demand and speak when you need to exit the tube or else you could easily miss your stop and be trapped inside the carriage. If you use the word ‘sorry’ as you start to make your move towards the carriage door you will find that people will stand aside for you. If you don’t say anything don’t expect anyone to move. How would they know that you want to get off? You could decide to just use body language to make your exit. Don’t worry it will soon become obvious what will work best for you as to whether you say anything or not.

3. Add up your travel fare options - Oyster cards, travel cards or single trip fares
The most expensive way of travelling around London is by buying single trip tickets. However, sometimes it’s unavoidable but as you are likely to be moving around London a fair bit (especially if you are working), it’s a good idea to look at the options available. Rather than buy single trip tickets you could buy either an Oyster card or a travel card, or both.

An Oyster card is an electronic smart card which can be used to pay for public transport in London. You can buy an Oyster card online, you can buy it before you leave for London and of course you can buy it at tube stations and certain retailers. You buy the card and put some credit on it. To use it you touch the yellow card reader with your Oyster card at the gates as you enter and end your journey. This is known as tapping in and tapping out. As you use the card the amount of credit on your card will go down. However, it’s easy to top up your card with extra credit as needed. Simply find a ticket machine in a tube station and click on the option to top up your Oyster card.

Oyster cards can be used within a wide area of London and in addition to being used on the tube, they also work for journeys on buses and trains. What you will need to find out is if your final destination is outside of the Oyster limits. For example, if your final stop is beyond the Oyster limits then you would need to pay for an additional ticket of some description.

Whilst Oyster cards are a cost effective way of travelling within most of London, they do have limitations in terms of how far you can travel with them. To go beyond the limits, buying a travel card would be an option. Travel cards come in different varieties. They are valid for either one day, two days, three days or seven days, so you can choose the best option to suit.

You can travel around London quickly and easily with the London Travelcard, which is essentially a paper ticket that’s valid on all public transport in the city. You can travel as much as you need. Whether you are planning to take the Tube, hop on a bus or catch a train, this all-in-one transport ticket has you covered for every journey.

Oyster cards and travel cards are similar in the way they can be used for buses, trains and tubes. How far they let you travel and how much travelling you will be doing in London will determine which card or ticket you need to buy. Check out the Visit Britain website for up to date information on the latest pricing and offers.

4. Keep an eye on the weather
The weather in Britain is a top talking point for many people. To say the weather can change quickly is an understatement and therefore it’s best to be prepared for all likely eventualities. Even in the height of summer it can still rain in London. In fact when the Wimbledon Tennis Championship is on at the start of July it always seems to run at some point during the two week competition.

Therefore, to be prepared and not get caught by the unpredictability of the weather, you could pack an umbrella, some sun cream and a fleece. That should help with whatever situation you find yourself in.

In the heat of summer you should carry some water with you especially when travelling on public transport and certainly when you use the tube. Some of the tube network is very old and doesn’t have air conditioning. Travelling on the underground can quickly become a sweaty experience which means you could suffer from dehydration unless you keep your fluid intake up. Some of the tube lines have air conditioning but not all. It’s best to be prepared.

5. Order alcohol the right way
At the end of a day of travelling around London or finishing a work shift you may fancy a drink. As long as you are at least eighteen years old you can buy alcohol. Don’t be surprised if you are asked for ID to prove your age. The good news is that there are numerous pubs, restaurants and clubs across London that sell alcohol. You will never go thirsty as long as you have money to pay for your drinks and of course understand what to ask for when it comes to quantity.

When it comes to ordering alcohol it’s fairly simple; spirits come in measures of singles or doubles, wine, sparking wine and champagne will generally come in glass sizes, half bottles and bottles. This is similar to how you order most drinks across the globe. However, when it comes to beer and cider being pulled from the tap, some people become confused as to what to ask for. In the UK you ask for either a half pint or a pint. If the drink comes from a tap it’s also known as being ‘on draught’ which means there are kegs of the drink held in the basement or cellar of the pub. Bottled beer (not on draft or on tap) comes in whatever size the bottle is. There you go, our simple explanation of measures of alcohol.

Remember that it’s rude to cut in front of a queue or line to order anything. This is especially true in pubs where getting a drink will usually mean waiting. Don’t jump in. You will not go down well. Just make sure you catch the eye of the server and you shouldn’t have to wait too long.

Funding your gap year

To help pay for your gap year you could decide to come and work as a temp in the hospitality sector. We have all sorts of roles and opportunities available. Imagine returning home and being able to say that you worked at some of the best events and best hotels or restaurants in London. How good would that feel before you then embark on the next chapter of your life?

At LTR we place candidates in all sorts of roles in a variety of events and venues throughout the year. From members’ clubs, restaurants and five star hotels in and around London we have job opportunities in both temporary and permanent roles.
We wish you much success in your endeavours, a thrilling gap year and if you would like to get fast tracked into hospitality opportunities then please contact LTR on 020 7357 9869 or email - info@learntrainrecruit.com

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Posted by: Learn Train Recruit