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Top 5 “Must-Haves” When Exploring London

by Aliza McAndrew
AIFS Study Abroad in London, England - Abbey Road

Last Updated on September 27, 2019 by Aliza McAndrew

Everyone travels and explores a new location in their own way, but practical advice from someone that has “been there and done that” is always worth considering. If you are planning a trip to England or about to study abroad in London, the following must-have items may come in handy!

A Good Rain Jacket

Depending on where you’re from, you may not be used to constant rain. Well, in London there is always a chance of rain! Carrying around an umbrella can be bulky and annoying, so I recommend a rain jacket as your best bet. I studied abroad in London during early summer, and a rain jacket was totally necessary.

Believe me, you won’t regret the convenience of a rain jacket when you are caught in a sudden rain shower as you are out and about exploring this amazing city. Find a rain jacket in a style that you like that can be carried or easily stashed away when you don’t need it. I found one that I was able to put in my backpack or purse when I didn’t need it, and trust me, it was the best thing ever to have that on hand to pull out in a sudden downpour.

An Oyster Card

Aliza McAndrew - AIFS Study Abroad - London, England - Top 5 Must HavesThis probably sounds super weird to someone that hasn’t visited London, but an Oyster card is a pass to ride the tube (what they call the subway in London). You may be given one by AIFS depending on your program — if not, absolutely buy one.

The tube is the main form of transportation in London and is very convenient. The class I took included many museum visits, and the easiest way to travel to and from museums was by way of the tube.

Also, all the fun tourist destinations you’ll want to see are only a tube stop away. On the weekends, we would take the Piccadilly Line down to Covent Garden to shop and eat. You could also hop on another line and go to Camden, which is a great place to grab a bite and hang out.

Pocket Change

Make sure to keep your change. Bathrooms in London are not always free (usually under 1 euro), so keep your spare change in case you need to run to the restroom. Also, never pass up a free restroom. It may seem like a strange suggestion now, but when you’re up and on the go, you never know when you’ll run into a bathroom next.

Also, they don’t use dollar bills in England. The one-pound currency is a coin, so you can expect to carry around a lot of change. I strongly advise carrying a wallet or purse for pocket change, so you’ll always have coins when you need them.

A Good Camera

London is a beautiful city, and you never know when you might want to snap a shot. I’m sure most people have smartphones so this is not a huge issue, but if you have a digital camera, I would advise you bring it.

I personally brought along a Polaroid camera, and the shots came out amazing. Pictures are a great way to share what you’re doing with family and friends back home, and you’ll love looking back at photos from your time abroad to reminisce in the future.

Plenty of Patience

While this is obviously an English speaking country, there are many differences between the way English people and Americans speak and communicate with each other. Although you may have been speaking English all of your life, it might not be as easy as you’re expecting to make yourself understood as an American in London.

You shouldn’t hesitate to get out and speak to Londoners to learn about the city and make new friends, but remember to be patient when you encounter travel frustrations. If you stay relaxed and friendly, you’ll find it easier to make the most out of your visit!

This post was written by Aliza McAndrew, who is studying abroad this summer with AIFS on our European Art and Architecture traveling program.

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