Hotel quarantine survival guide

Photo of a girl in hotel quarantine

In March 2020, the Morrison Government introduced mandatory hotel quarantine for all residents returning from overseas. Whether the drastic measure is considered effective or a costly overkill is hotly debated, and it looks like it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. ๐Ÿจ

After looking on from afar for months, it’s now my turn to do my time in quarantine. Following a string of flight “cancellations” due to caps on international arrivals, it seemed like the least of my worries. โŒ

Note: this is based on my personal experience as a single in Brisbane; check out this great guide for families. There are also a number of variations between hotels and jurisdictions.

At the airport

On arrival, you will queue (observing social distancing) and continue to wear masks. There may or may not be Wi-Fi; Sydney provided it, Brisbane did not.

First, you’ll follow standard e-passport customs clearance and baggage collection. If you need to pee, go now! ๐Ÿšป

We also queued for a sniffer dog check.

Next you’ll speak to the police and have the Quarantine Direction read out to you and be informed of your hotel name and address. You’ll also receive a bunch of paperwork, so carry a pen and a document sleeve.

Afterwards, you’ll be ushered to a waiting area until everyone has been processed.

Finally, you’ll be called to board the coach under military supervision. They will load your bags while you have your attendance checked before you board. There’s a police escort to the hotel and more military waiting at the other end.

Ah, great to be home circa 1788. โ›“๏ธ

At the hotel

Photo of empty food delivery paper bag

Check in was quick as we’d filled out our forms at the airport. Plus, hotels have been going through the motions for months now.

You’ll be informed of your room number and handed a welcome pack containing details about meals, room facilities and services, as well as who to contact if you feel unwell or need help.

Some people get lucky, but chances are your room won’t have a window that opens or a balcony. I find setting air-conditioning to 23ยฐC is tolerable but you may struggle to adjust initially. ๐Ÿคง

Three meals are provided per day and you cannot opt out of this service, nor the cost. Food intolerances are accommodated, but overall meals are hit and miss. There will be limited kitchen facilities (if any) in the room; I have a kettle and a coffee machine, and I do dishwashing in the bathroom basin.

Your room will resemble a studio flat and will most likely feature a desk, futon, large bed (or two), cupboards, shower and probably a separate bath.

You’ll receive calls every other day from both the local health department and the Australian Red Cross. This is to see how you’re coping, check whether you’ve developed any Covid-19 symptoms, and to ask for your consent to do testing.

I advise that you opt into testing (which occurs on the 4th and 10th day), as failure to do so will mean you stay an additional 10 days at your own expense. ๐Ÿ’ธ

Getting ready

Photo of a person typing on a laptop

Knowing what to expect can take the edge off the experience, especially in the first days. But being prepared is even better. This is what made a big difference for me:

  • Bring Vitamin D supplements โ˜€๏ธ
  • Pack travel adapters for all your electronic devices from overseas or a power board, which would only require one
  • Pack a HMDI cable or Chromecast to stream from your devices to the TV
  • Bring cutlery, a bowl and plate. Hotels provide disposable cutlery and packaged food. So unless you want to cut steak with a plastic knife or pour cereal directly into your mouth, BYO
  • If you don’t have an Australian SIM card, see if you can pick one up at the airport or order online
  • Bring snacks and a bottle of alcohol. Hotels sell both at marked up prices, as you’d expect
  • Pack resistance bands for easy weight training. They’re cheap, effective and are light to carry
  • Bring 2-3 sets of activewear to tide you over in-between laundry service
  • Join groups to see how others are managing quarantine. You can also keyword search threads: Australians in quarantine facilities, Hotel Quarantine Australia, and Mandatory 14 day Hotel Quarantine chat Group.
  • Check out my story highlight “Quarantine” on Instagram for a blow-by-blow of what happened at The Westin Brisbane!

Survival guide

Photo of a hotel bedroom

So now you’re “home sweet home” for the next 14 days. Before you throw your arms up in despair, try this:

  • Arrange for a friend to deliver a care package. Reception accepts “reasonable” deliveries and will check it for contraband and excessive alcohol first. Aside from snacks, I requested air freshener, chewing gum and paracetamol
  • Set a routine. Each day I set aside time for productive tasks like life admin and exercise, as well as “me time” and calls
  • Make video calls fun by playing games online and host a trivia night or weekend brunch virtually
  • Exercise regularly, especially if you find yourself confined to the bed or sofa all day. There’s plenty of no equipment/limited space exercises you can try via an app or on YouTube
  • Walk around when answering calls to help stay active
  • Treat yourself to food delivery from time to time. It’s tough trying not to be wasteful but, let’s be honest, quarantine meals don’t win Michelin stars
  • Draw a bubble bath, sing in the shower, or paint your nails. Take this time to yourself while you have it. ๐Ÿ›€

What happens next

Discharge is like a cliff edge after such a challenging experience. Some choose to walk away and never look back, and that’s fine. Others continue the narrative. If you’re the latter, you can:

  • Challenge paying the invoice. No doubt the costs of even getting this far have been crippling, and having to fork out for this biosecurity measure imposed on us by the government is such a slap in the face. If you can demonstrate financial hardship, you might as well try
  • Share your story online and to reporters. Keeping the pressure on politicians and continuing to raise awareness locally and globally will help fellow Australians still struggling to come home
  • Consider joining a class action.

Winter wonderland in London

Photo of London South Bank covered in winter snow

It’s the magical time of year again when temperatures drop and we swap jackets for coats, cord for sequins, pumpkin spice for mulled beverages and deck the halls. ๐ŸŽ„

It may be chilly outside but with a good thermal and endless choice of activities to do in a city that never sleeps, there’s no excuse to hibernate. ๐Ÿ›‹๏ธ

From fairy lights to festivities, here’s what Londoners love about wintertime. โ„๏ธ

Dazzling lights

Picture any European city from mid-November and you’ll get everything from quaint glittering villages to all-out light show bonanzas; you can guess where London sits on the spectrum. โœจ

Dazzle your family and friends with impressive light installations at Regent Street stretching between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square. ๐Ÿคณ

For something a little different, visit Christmas at Kew, Carnaby Street, Leadenhall Market and spectacular out shopfronts in Mayfair, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods. ๐ŸŽ

Be sure to check your local council’s website to find out what’s happening in your area! ๐ŸŽ„ 

Festive food

Photo of a woman holding a hot beverage

I hope you saved some space after Halloween because the food fest doesn’t end when the jack-o’-lantern snuffs out. ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿซ๐Ÿญ

Planning a Christmas feast or need to bring a plate? A traditional Christmas goose might be hard to come by, so you can opt for a stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce or roast ham with apple sauce. Pair this with delicious roasted potatoes, parsnips, carrots, sprouts and a Yorkshire pudding with gravy. ๐Ÿ˜‹

For starters, pigs in blankets and mince pies are classic, and for dessert a Christmas pudding or layered trifle. ๐ŸŽ…

Wash it all down with a mulled beverage like wine, cider or whiskey. The secret ingredients are citrus peel, cloves, cinnamon and a pinch of sugar!

Ice skating

Work off those calorific Christmas treats with a lap or two (hundred) around the ice rink. โ›ธ๏ธ

Skate by fairy light at iconic venues such as the Natural History Museum, Somerset House, Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace. โœจ

Don’t forget, you can also enjoy ice skating year round at venues like Alexandra PalaceLee Valley Ice Centre and Streatham Ice Centre! โ„๏ธ

Magical markets

Photo of a woman at a Christmas market

Christmas markets are perfect for socialising and shopping outdoors. Here you’ll find all your trinket, bauble and bratwurst needs in one place. ๐ŸŒญ

In Central London, visit markets in Leicester Square, along the South Bank, by the river at London Bridge, Borough Market and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. ๐ŸŽก

In North London, pick up gifts from Camden Market, at Stokey Winter Market or Alexandra Palace. ๐ŸŽ

In South London, you can enjoy markets at Greenwich Market, Pexmas, Winterville in Clapham Common, and the Scandinavian Christmas Market for something a little different! ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

Wet weather plans

Photo of a woman admiring art in a museum

London isn’t exactly known for its amazing weather, so when the grey clouds roll in you’ll find plenty to see and do under cover. โ˜”

Check out a new theatrical production at the iconic West End or Shakespeare’s Globe, shop at Oxford Street or dance the night away at one of London’s many music venues. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽค

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to museums and galleries, many of which are free to visit. Some favourites are the British Museum, Science Museum, Tate Modern, V&A and the London Transport Museum – all of which have fabulous gift shops. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

Wintry walks

Every now and then it snows in London and adds a mystical mood to London’s picturesque parks. ๐Ÿ„

If you’re looking to make the most of a dusting of snow, look no further than Regent’s Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. โ›„

Breathe in that crisp fresh air with a stroll along South Bank or on the Thames Path – my favourite stretch starts at Hammersmith Bridge and finishes in Richmond. ๐Ÿฅพ


What are you most looking forward to in wintertime in London? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in London

Photo of a squirrel in London in autumn

Fall for London in autumn

London in warm autumnal hues coupled with fun activities and events will make you think twice before swapping hiking boots for slippers. ๐Ÿ‚

Australia survival guide

Photo of an Australian koala

As an Australia expat living in the UK, I often get asked by friends and colleagues “how did you survive?!” to which I respond: if my dog Jack can handle it, I’m sure you can!

We may be home to some of the world’s most venomous snakes and spiders, but you’re much more likely to be stung by a “bloody mozzie” or by a random breath test. ๐Ÿš“

That being said, there is a thing or two to know before you go. ๐Ÿ‘‡

Beachgoer basics

Photo of swimmers between the red and yellow flags

Australia is known for its sandy beaches, sunshine and surf for good reason! โ˜€๏ธ

To make the most of your time at our world famous beaches, keep these tips in mind and you won’t find yourself thrown into the deep end.

  • Swim between the flags at beaches patrolled by Surf Life Savers. The flag system protects us from rips (powerful currents)
  • Shark attacks are rare, so to keep it that way by swimming at patrolled beaches alongside other swimmers and avoid sunrise and sunset when sharks are most active
  • Box jellyfish and the blue ringed octopus are the ones to watch out for in the water
  • The ozone layer is thin over Australia, so remember to slip, slop, slap to avoid getting sunburnt in a “sunburnt country”
  • Temperatures can soar, especially in summer, so always keep hydrated and seek shade where possible.

Wrestling reptiles

Photo of an Australian saltwater

Crikey! If you’ve ever enjoyed the famous Crocodile Hunter series, you’ll recall the take home message that when you respect nature it respects you back. ๐ŸฆŽ

  • Crocodiles inhabit the northernmost part of Australia. Attacks are rare, but when in croc country follow steps to be crocwise and only swim where there are designated safe swimming signs
  • Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them and only strike when they feel threatened. Stick to the path when bushwalking, and keep your distance if you spot one at home and call a professional
  • Of Australiaโ€™s 10,000 spider species, only two types should be of concern: the Sydney funnel-web and redback spider. If you encounter one, call a professional to have it safely removed: pest control, the Australian Reptile Park or the Poisons Information Centre (13 11 26).

Cute critters

Teeth and scales aside, Australia is home to some of the most unique and adorable critters on the planet; koalas, kangaroos and smiley quokkas come to mind. Cute, yes, but looks can kill:

  • Kangaroos are colour coded! Grey kangaroos are smaller and mild-tempered compared to their red cousins, so keep this in mind when approaching one for a photo ๐Ÿฆ˜
  • Tasmanian devils appear cute and cuddly but are skittish and feisty, so heed their guttural growls and keep your fingers out of reach
  • Dingoes may look like a family pet but respect this rust-coloured wild canine like you would a wolf
  • You’re unlikely to spot a duck-billed platypus in the wild, but if you do admire it from afar as their toxic stingers can be painful.

What Australians actually fear

Photo of a kookaburra and a magpie in an Australian backyard

While crocodiles and sharks won’t really bother you, magpies in swooping season certainly do. And nothing is worse than the sting of a bluebottle at the beach, or the sight of a huntsman spider scurrying up the wall. ๐Ÿ˜จ

If you’ve ever wondered what Aussies actually fear, it’s the dreaded email alert from MyGov in your inbox signalling tax return time…

So now that you know the basics, enjoy your time Down Under!


Ever heard of the infamous drop bear? Share some of the “scariest” things you’ve heard about Australia in the comments! ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in Sydney

Photo of Bondi Beach ocean pool

Sightseeing in Sydney

Hotspots around Sydney that offer a truly memorable experience for locals and visitors. โ›ด๏ธ

London Greek food guide

Photo of koulouri Greek pastry

Greek cuisine harks back to its roots founded on the “Mediterranean Triad” from ancient times: wheat, olives and grapes i.e. wine. ๐Ÿ‡

Greek food features aromas like oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill and laurel leaves (aka bay leaves) that flavour a range of vegetarian, fish and meat dishes like moussaka and lamb kleftiko.

And let’s not forget feta cheese, featuring in the iconic Greek salad and phyllo (or, filo) pastries, and lemon and yoghurt flavours.

If you love Greece as much as I do, you can keep the spirit of your last visit alive with my tried and tested favourite Greek hospitality venues around London.

Coffee and brunch

Photo of girl carrying freddo cappuccino Greek coffees

From freddo capuccino to crispy spanakopita, get your brunch and caffeine fix at these stylish cafes. If you’re after something sweet, order a bougatsa or a galaktoboureko to go with your Greek coffee! โ˜•๐Ÿฅ

  • Briki in Exmouth Market. We ordered spanakopita, tiropita and bougatsa.
  • Ergon Deli + Cafe in Mayfair and Westfield Stratford. We ordered koulouri with poached eggs, Greek yoghurt and spicy oil, and galaktoboureko.
  • The Life Goddess in Bloomsbury and Carnaby Street. We ordered spanakopita, kataifi and baklava.

Street food

Photo of Greek lefkada lamb souvlaki with Greek salad

If you’ve visited Greece you’ve undoubtedly snacked on delicious pork gyros, but Greek street food is more than just your favourite pitta wrap with chips! ๐Ÿ˜‹

  • Holy Pitta in Angel. We ordered bifteki with feta filling and karditsa (sausage) and ravani.
  • Kalamaki Street in Covent Garden. We ordered the Spartan Box with pork souvlaki, Greek salad, feta sauce, spanakopita and bougatsa.
  • Yamas in Camden. We ordered kolokithokeftedes (courgette balls) and pork gyros portion.

Taverna

Photo of grilled octopus at a Greek restaurant

Depending on where you’ve visited in Greece, chances are you’ve enjoyed the warm hospitality of a fish or meat taverna. These are our favourite spots in London to enjoy a hearty feast with fresh Greek salad and ouzo or tsipouro. ๐Ÿ‹

  • Andy’s Taverna in Camden. We ordered the mixed grill, halloumi and pastourma.
  • Hungry Donkey in Aldgate. We ordered feta chips, htipiti (cheese dip), avgolemono (chicken lemon soup), soutzoukakia (lamb) and kormos.
  • Tony’s Pita in South Hampstead. We ordered tyrokafteri (spicy feta dip), kokoretsi (intestines) and mixed skewers.

Restaurants

Photo of a Greek restaurant starter pastry with feta and tomato

Greek restaurants don’t differ a whole lot from tavernas in terms of menu items, but keep these spots in mind for a special occasion and for a modern twist on traditional flavours. ๐Ÿฅ‚

  • Lemonia in Primrose Hill. We ordered saganaki (fried feta), soutzoukakia (meat balls) and pagidakia (lamb cutlets).
  • Opso in Marylebone. We ordered feta kataifi, metsovone croquette, giouvarlakia dumplings and roasted potatoes.
  • Retsina in Belsize Park. We ordered taramasalata, falafel, lounza (pork), loukanika (sausage), mixed grill and kataifi.

Do your tastebuds agree with this list? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


Still hungry? Be sure to check out my guides to the best Neapolitan pizza and Australian brunch spots in London!


More in London

Photo of Oxford's skyline

Day trips from London

There’s nothing quite like strolling along a tree-lined canal or cobblestoned village lanes. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

Photo of Tower Bridge and London's skyline

First impressions of London

If expat life feels like home then you’re doing it wrong ๐Ÿ˜… This is my ever growing list of culture shocks I’ve experienced since moving to London.

What I’ve learned about London

Photo of a red telephone box in London

In my mind, the transition from Sydneysider to Londoner should’ve been a piece of (tea)cake. ๐Ÿซ–๐Ÿฐ

Both cities are roughly the same size in terms of commuter belt, but Sydney’s population is half that of London, and appear quite similar at surface level.

But dig a little deeper and you might uncover a culture clash or two! We may share a monarch and language, but life as an Australian expat in London will teach you that football means a very different thing in this corner of the world! โšฝ

Weather

Photo of a rainbow above King's Cross Station in London

London is known for its moody grey skies and drizzly weather. This is true to an extent but after living here for a couple of years, I find “moody” is the keyword.

From stifling heat waves to blink-and-you-missed-it flurries of snow, it’s no wonder Londoners resort to drastic measures like swimming in ponds and sunbathing in parks.

Autumn and spring are by far my favourite months in the UK as both seasons boast stunning natural beauty, and they tend to have more stable weather. ๐ŸŒธ๐Ÿ‚

Before signing a lease, make sure your new room or flat has double glazed windows and heating!

Work

Aerial photo of Monument

London a land of opportunity. No matter how niche, there’s a role for everyone in varying degrees of seniority in almost every industry.

Competition is fierce and this can sadly drive down wages, particularly in industries like marketing and events. Finance and tech roles are paid well but be prepared to compete. โš”๏ธ

Recruiters are important for getting your CV seen. In London, recruiters form close working relationships with companies and can advocate for you once you’re in their system.

Recruiters are so commonplace that they specialise in different industries (e.g. marketing for not-for-profits), so be prepared to do your homework in approaching the right ones.

Renting and expenses

Photo of houses facing a Hampstead Heath pond

Renting in London is equally, if not more, competitive than job searching. Spareroom is your best bet for finding a room in a flat share, and Rightmove or Zoopla for leasing your own place.

Key considerations

  • Plan your budget around rent, bills and expenses as a whole to avoid any nasty surprises. For instance, council tax and transport fares vary depending on the area
  • Ensure there is central heating (wall mounted heaters) and that potential flatmates are in agreement on usage as electricity costs do tend to go up in winter
  • There are no power sockets in bathrooms, so a mirror in your room is useful for drying your hair
  • Check the TV licence situation. If you don’t plan to use it, make sure you’re able to opt out
  • Areas without a Tube station are generally cheaper. If you can bus, walk or cycle to work then consider living in an area like Crouch End or in South London
  • Hard water, limescale build up and mould are sadly part of the fact of life in London. Keep on top of your cleaning schedule and consider splitting the costs of a cleaner for a deep clean
  • Some flats don’t have living rooms! If you plan to entertain at home or enjoy a sociable living environment, factor this in. ๐Ÿ›‹๏ธ

Transport

Photo of the Tube roundel at Piccadilly Circus

London transport is world-famous. It gave us colourful Tube lines, red double-decker buses and “Mind The Gap”. ๐Ÿš‡

The city is a maze and there’s absolutely no shame being a Londoner for years and relying on navigation apps! The most popular ones are Citymapper, Google Maps and TfL Go.

Transport in London is also notoriously expensive. The Tube (London Underground) fares tend to be the highest, while buses, Overground and cycle hire are much more affordable. And scenic! The front seats on the top deck of the bus offer the best views.

Everyone’s in a rush, so knowing where to walk and stand is important. Walk on the left, and stand on the right of escalators. It’s a bit nonsensical, but you’ll get used to it!

The network is old and particularly susceptible to weather; autumn leaves and snow can cause delays. Having multiple routes available for where you need go is advisable.

Food and eating out

Photo of a Borough Market food stall

Traditional British cuisine can range from warm and hearty, like Sunday roasts and homemade pies, to downright dull i.e. a different sandwich for every day of the week. ๐Ÿฅช

But London’s food scene draws inspiration from all corners of the globe and offers huge variety to impress every foodie and gastronome. Check out my guides on where to find the best Australian brunch and pizzerias in London! ๐Ÿคค

Some iconic menus to sample in London are Dishoom, Padella, Kanada-Ya, Duck & Waffle, and Nando’s (no kidding). ๐Ÿ—

Food markets and food halls are also a great experience all round. My favourites are Seven Dials Market, Brixton Market, Broadway Market, Borough Market, Mercato Metropolitano and Mercato Mayfair.

Eating out (and ordering in) can be an expensive habit. Here’s how you can save without missing out.

Health

Photo of a thank you NHS banner in a tree

While comfort and convenience in terms of food choices may be appealing, it can lead to a phenomenon called the Heathrow injection, so remember to strike a healthy balance. ๐Ÿƒ

The NHS (National Heath Service) covers almost all your healthcare needs and is free (once you’ve covered the IHS payment as part of your visa application).

NHS wait times can be long, so if your employer offers membership to private health insurance I recommend opting in. Keep in mind the NHS doesn’t cover all dental, eye and contraception care.

To register with a local GP, you’ll need proof of permanent address (utility or council tax bill or tenancy agreement) but there are walk-in clinics to tide you over until you settle in. ๐Ÿ 

Socialising

Photo of two girls at an art gallery in London

With so much going on in London, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Once you’ve ticked the main attractions off your list, check TimeOut for what’s coming up. ๐ŸŽญ

While London is full of millions of people, most people experience loneliness. With people coming and going all the time, it can be difficult to make friends. This is especially true as an adult.

Thankfully there are so many options for socialising and meeting new people. Bonding over a common interest like sports and hobbies or joining expat communities are often the best foundation for lasting friendships.

In terms of finding someone special, having so many fish in the sea can be tricky. On the one hand, people don’t feel pressured to settle; on the other hand, they might keep swiping. Being open and upfront about your expectations is the best way to avoid the tedium that is online dating. โค๏ธ


Whether you’re here for a gap year or for the long haul, London will bring you a wealth of life experience. What advice would you give to someone thinking of making the move? ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in London

Fall for London in autumn

Photo of a squirrel in London in autumn

Picture the city’s beautiful parks painted in hues of gold, red, purple, russet and orange. It’s no wonder autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons to experience London. ๐Ÿ‚

Pair this stunning backdrop with some of the most fun events, festivals and holidays of the year and you’ll want to think twice before swapping hiking boots for slippers.

From comfort food to leafy trails, here’s why you’ll fall in love with autumn in London.

Forest floors and foliage

Photo of autumn fall leaves in London

For a sprawling metropolis, London boasts an abundance of green spaces. Come autumn, lush greens transform into warmer hues and brings that satisfying crunch of leaves underfoot. ๐Ÿฅพ

Take in the crisp fresh air in beautiful city parks like Hampstead Heath, Kew Gardens and Kyoto Garden in Holland Park.

There are also hiking trails on the outskirts of the city. Some of my favourites are Epping Forest‘s natural beauty, the lakes of Lee Valley, Richmond Park‘s grasslands and free roaming deer, and Surrey Hills‘s countryside (wine tour, anyone?).

Warm knits

Photo of three knitted jumpers

The beauty of autumnal weather is its consistency; no more of summer’s mood swings between heat waves and downpours! Autumnal crispness is here to stay.

Time to swap flats for ankle boots, mini for midi skirts and … well let’s be honest, you never put that light jacket away, did you? ๐ŸŒฌ๏ธ

Quality knits are worth the investment. You’ll need a comfy fitted jumper or cardigan to easily slip on and off, an itch-free scarf and a statement coat to complete your look (and practical needs).

Scottish cashmere is perfect (if you can afford it). Otherwise, Uniqlo, Gap and Marks & Spencer have a range of affordable staples and basics.

Comfort food

Photo of a pumpkin spice latte

Comfy knits and a roaring fireplace may keep you warm on the outside, but this season’s cuisine will warm you up from within. Best of all, you can find them all around London or can easily recreate the recipes at home! ๐Ÿฅฃ

The UK is known for their roasts, so be sure to order one out at your local pub. For entertaining at home, try hearty recipes like soups, stews, curries and braised or roast meats with root vegetables.

Baked goodies are the perfect accompaniment. Some classics are crumble, pudding, pie, sponge cake, slice, cobbler and warm custard all flavoured with seasonal fruits and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Down it all with a seasonal pumpkin spice latte. Be sure to stock up at your next grocery shop: ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. โ˜•

Festivals and events

Spriggan, Parkland Walk, Crouch End

As temperatures drop, Michael Bublรฉ and Mariah Carey start to rouse from hibernation. But before London gets festive, no matter how much retailers try to force it, there’s a few holidays to mark on the calendar first!

Autumn plays host to some of the best cultural holidays and festivals: revel in spectacular fireworks displays at Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes Night), celebrate the heart of the city at Totally Thames Festival, explore architectural wonders at Open House London and celebrate London Design Week.

And let’s not forget Halloween! Some of the spookiest sites include Whitechapel (i.e. Jack the Ripper), Highgate Cemetery, the Parkland Walk spriggan, and haunted pubs like The Flask, The Spaniards Inn and The Grenadier. ๐Ÿ‘ป

Pumpkin patch

Photo of a girl holding a pumkin

Pick your own Jack O’Lantern pumpkin at a picturesque pumpkin patch! ๐ŸŽƒ

What once was a simple family outing is now an Instagrammer’s hotspot, so expect crowds. You have plenty of choice scattered around just outside London. Some of the best known pumpkin patches are:

For something a little closer to home, you can book a Pumpkin Carving session at The Cauldron, or simply pick one up from your local Waitrose and M&S Foodhall.

Snuggle up

Photo of a corgi dog wearing glasses

With so much to see and do, you might feel a little exhausted after a busy week. And that’s the beauty of autumn. “A quiet one” is the perfect excuse to stay in, and no one will shame you for it because it’s highly likely they’re thinking the same thing! ๐Ÿงฆ


What’s your the most awesome autumn activity you look forward to each year? Share your tips in the comments! ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in London

Make the most of staying at home

Photo of a London home exterior

From nationwide lockdowns and mandatory quarantine to self-isolation, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected us all in one way or another. ๐Ÿ™ƒ

You may feel overwhelmed at times and that’s totally normal. To combat lethargy and feelings of isolation, try to establish a routine and find ways to use this time productively.

From self-development to redecorating, these activities will inspire you to make the most of extended periods at home!

Get organised

If your travel photos are a mess or your tax return is almost due, why not redirect your “lost” commute time to getting your life admin under control? OVERDUE notices, begone! โœ‹

With all this extra time at home, you might also consider reorganising the furniture, too. It’s surprising how small tweaks can really transform a space. A nice air-filtering plant is a nice addition!

If the tired sight of dirty dishes and laundry gets on your nerves, now you can easily tidy up here and there without exhausting yourself. It’s also a great excuse for getting up throughout the day – this is especially important if you live a sedentary lifestyle.

Speaking of lifestyle, whether you have a special diet plan or a fitness or mindfulness goal, don’t forget to prioritise your health. Set aside some time to plan your meals for the week and identify optimal times to exercise and unwind. ๐Ÿง˜

When was the last time you refreshed your CV? You never know, might come in handy at short notice!

Create and innovate

While getting your life under control is important, it can get a little tedious. To avoid procrastinating, break up the admin checklist with some creative flair. ๐ŸŽจ

From colouring to coding, there’s a creative activity to suit everyone’s interests and skill level. There’s loads of great online resources like free tutorials and apps to get you started.

Who knows, you could even take your creations it a step further and open an Etsy store or Patreon. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

If words are more your strength, why not start that blog or dust off that manuscript you’ve been meaning to finish for years?

Entertainment escapism

From mobile phones to gaming consoles, there’s a gadget for everyone these days. ๐Ÿฆ–

When you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, it’s the perfect opportunity to indulge in an epic open world adventure or series marathon.

When you’re feeling a little more sociable, you can co-op with your housemates or host a virtual cook-off with your mates.

While it may be tempting to go down the video streaming rabbit hole, remember to strike a balance and switch off regularly. This is especially important to get a decent night’s sleep. ๐Ÿ”Œ

Keeping a novel on the nightstand or a crossword puzzle book on the coffee table is a great starting point.

Get physical

If the gym or your local sports club aren’t an option, you’ll be surprised how much fitness you can achieve in your humble living room. ๐Ÿ‹๏ธ

A yoga mat, resistance bands and dumbbells are perfect for a more confined space such as a bedroom floor. If you’re looking to expand your home gym, add a medicine ball, hula hoop or skipping rope (high ceilings are recommended).

For something a little different, there’s a range of fitness software and games with motion controls to try. I’m a fan of Ring Fit Adventure for Nintendo Switch, but there’s also more affordable options for for boxing, dancing, yoga and other cardiovascular exercises.

No equipment? No problem! There’s a plethora of no equipment online workouts for all fitness levels. ๐Ÿ’ป

If cabin fever strikes, get out for some fresh air by going for a walk or run around your local park. You can also check if there are any cycle hire options in your neighbourhood for a more adventurous journey.

Learn something new

Last but not least, try learning something new. What better time to stream podcasts while prepping lunch or curl up and watch a documentary in-between meetings?

There’s also plenty of free seminars and tutorials online from every industry to explore – perfect for playing in the background while completing monotonous tasks. ๐Ÿ“

With a little more dedication, you can take it a step further and enrol in e-learning modules for free or quite cheaply. Easily up skill, network, or learn a new language or instrument from home!

With the lack of commute time in your day, you might even fancy attempting a mid-week slow cooker meal or tricky dessert recipe you’ve been putting off for ages.


How have you been keeping cabin fever at bay when spending extended periods of time at home? Share your tips in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Photo of a girl in hotel quarantine

Hotel quarantine survival guide

Whether it’s considered effective or a costly overkill is hotly debated. And for now it doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere anytime soon. ๐Ÿจ

Photo of an Australian koala

Australia survival guide

From crocodiles and sharks to a nasty sunburn, here’s how to survive a visit Down Under. ๐Ÿจ

Life-changing reads

This is not a shopping list of ‘books I really like’ – it’s an acknowledgement of the incredible written works that have knocked crashed into my life plan and shifted its trajectory off course โ˜„๏ธ

Top co-op and multiplayer Nintendo Switch games

Mario Kart figurines

The first rule of Switch Club is: You do not talk about Switch Club forget to bring your Joy-Cons. ๐Ÿ”‹

After becoming obsessed with Nintendo Switch, I decided everyone else should be too. Hence, Switch Club was born!

I’d been a solo gamer – a lone wolf, if you will – for years until a colleague introduced me to the beautiful chaos that is Overcooked 2. ๐Ÿ’ฅ

So, next time you’re entertaining guests or in need of a team bonding activity, whip out that HDMI cable and team up (or face off) with these exciting multiplayer games!

Overcooked! 2

Players: up to four chefs. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿณ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿณ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿณ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿณ

What’s it about? Players knead to work together to prep, cook and serve up orders in a chaotic kitchen before time runs out. Otherwise impatient customers will storm out. To spice things up, dynamic kitchen environments routinely change!

Play with: colleagues you’ve successfully beat an escape room with. Clear strategy, flexibility and task delegation from an assigned Head Chef is vital for a harmonious kitchen.

Finished? Try: Moving Out by the same developers. But who are you kidding? You haven’t finished.

Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe

Players: up to four characters. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ”ง๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ”ง๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿ„

What’s it about? Double the fun with two games in one. Enjoy a fun mash up of classic 2D Super Mario games and traverse each level as a team. But whether you choose to play harmoniously or chaotically is up to you!

Play with: your family at home. Just try not to leave Mum behind.

Finished? Try: Rayman Legends.

TowerFall

Players: up to six archers. ๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน

What’s it about? Archery meets party game. Matches are intense and end-of-match Versus Awards are hilarious: “Happy Accident”, “Koala”, “Least Composed” and more. The core mechanics seem straightforward at first but things can quickly get out of hand when random gameplay elements are thrown in.

Play with: colleagues or clients. A quick, manic match is the perfect ice breaker!

Finished? Try: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

Players: up to four racers. ๐ŸŽ๏ธ๐ŸŽ๏ธ๐ŸŽ๏ธ๐ŸŽ๏ธ

What’s it about? Race and battle your peers in a mix of vibrant and challenging environments. The remake also allows players to customise your ride with n. sane kart items and skins.

Play with: anyone and everyone. You don’t have to be “good at racing” to enjoy the games. Simply hold down the accelerator button and remember to follow your own quadrant on the screen…

Finished? Try: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

Players: up to six martial artists. ๐Ÿฅ‹๐Ÿฅ‹๐Ÿฅ‹๐Ÿฅ‹๐Ÿฅ‹๐Ÿฅ‹

What’s it about? Based on the popular Dragon Ball franchise, this game is a return to 2D side-by-side fighting. High end anime graphics, crisp character modelling and explosive attacks are an enjoyable assault on the senses. There’s also brand new content supervised by Akira Toriyama.

Play with: fellow gamers as button mashing won’t get you very far.

Finished? Try: JUMP FORCE – Deluxe Edition.


What’s your favourite multiplayer or co-op video game? Share your suggestions in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Get lost in these gaming worlds

Photo of girl playing Spyro the Dragon trilogy on Nintendo Switch Lite

Social media, Netflix watch parties, subreddits and beyond have changed the way we consume entertainment – but none are quite so immersive as gaming.

Whether you choose to play online or offline, or single player or multiplayer, here are some of the most stunning and expansive virtual worlds to explore. ๐Ÿงš

Note: I’ve played most firsthand on Nintendo Switch or PlayStation, and the others come highly recommended from trusted sources. ๐Ÿ‘

Octopath Traveler

Genre: Role-Playing, Adventure.

Gameplay length: up to 80 hours. โณ

Description: eight travellers. Eight adventures. You alone can choose your path. Explore each travellerโ€™s story and use their abilities in and out of battle.

Perfect for: playing on the go and at your own pace. Each satisfying chapter lasts around one hour, and its turn-based battles means you can pause as needed.

Why you’ll love it: while it’s not an open world, it’s a non-linear narrative. Once you choose a character’s story to follow, you can go almost any direction from there! Complete one or all eight journeys, it’s really what you make of it. Forget level grinding, its robust battle system will keep you engaged as you make each turn count. The striking “HD-2D” visuals and emotive musical scores really bring this nostalgic world to life.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Genre: Role-Playing, Adventure.

Gameplay length: around 40 hours.

Description: with a copy of the Wizardโ€™s Companion in hand and trusty friend Drippy by your side, travel across this rich fantasy world to tame familiars, battle enemies and overcome challenges that stand between Oliver and his motherโ€™s salvation.

Perfect for: a feel good tale with quirky characters, fun puzzles to solve and a gorgeous world to explore. If you’re a fan on Pokรฉmon and classic JRPGs then you’re in for a treat!

Why you’ll love it: the game features animation storyboarded and created by the legendary Studio Ghibli and music composed by the renowned Joe Hisaishi. โœจ

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Genre: Adventure, Action, Role-Playing.

Gameplay length: at least 60 hours.

Description: step into an open world of adventure and forget everything you know about The Legend of Zelda games. It’s a boundary-breaking game where you can travel across vast fields, through forests, and to mountain peaks as you discover what has become of the kingdom of Hyrule.

Perfect for: total escapism, so be prepared to immerse yourself fully to get the most out of this sensory masterpiece.

Why you’ll love it: As a real time action adventure, everything feels so “in the moment”. The attention to detail is unparalleled. From weapon wear and tear, hunting and gathering and customisable outfits, you’ll leave no stone unturned in your quest to explore every corner of this fantasy realm. ๐Ÿ„

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Genre: Adventure, Action, Role-Playing.

Gameplay length: around 70 hours.

Description: Wild Hunt is a story-driven, open world adventure set in a dark fantasy universe. You are Geralt of Rivia, mercenary monster slayer. Before you stands a war-torn, monster-infested continent you can explore at will. โš”๏ธ

Perfect for: action adventure thrill-seekers who aren’t afraid of things that go bump in the night.

Why you’ll love it: a refreshing retake of the fantasy genre following the tale of an enigmatic protagonist with a unique set of skills. If you enjoyed Skyrim, Halo and the like then you’ll savour this epic story and plethora of side quests that will keep you busy. Once you’re done, you can relive the magic on Netflix.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Genre: Adventure, Role-Playing.

Gameplay length: at least 70 hours.

Description: embark upon an exciting adventure as The Luminary with a band of loyal companions as you work together to survive an onslaught of ne’er-do-wells and overthrow the dark forces.

Perfect for: your classic Good vs. Evil fantasy epic with turn-based combat. ๐Ÿ›ก๏ธ

Why you’ll love it: expect all the much-loved fantasy tropes by the genre-defining Dragon Quest franchise: a hero, team of ragtag characters, side quests and an epic journey to save the world. The map is equally massive as it is gorgeous thanks to a visual style that blends stylistic cel-shading with photorealistic detail.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Genre: Platformer, Adventure.

Gameplay duration: around 30 hours.

Description: explore expansive realms, encounter the fiery personalities and relive the adventures of the original three Spyro the Dragon games. ๐Ÿ”ฅ

Perfect for: charming childhood nostalgia and classic platforming.

Why you’ll love it: both a loyal homage to the original games and a refreshing remaster with reimagined environments and details, the trilogy offers over stunning 100 levels to explore in vibrant HD graphics.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

Genre: Adventure, Action, Role-Playing.

Gameplay length: around 40 hours.

Description: Kirito and his friends are pulled into a VRMMORPG called Sword Art: Origin, a game housed on the same servers that hosted the death-game Sword Art Online from the anime.

Perfect for: JRPG enthusiasts and Sword Art Online anime fans. ๐Ÿ’ฅ

Why you’ll love it: expect all the JRPG tropes (the good and the bad) coupled with ethical considerations around artificial intelligence and virtual reality. The show’s popularity aside, the game’s thrilling story, distinct areas and sophisticated battle system make for an enjoyable experience in its own right.


What are some of your favourite virtual worlds to explore? Share your game recommendations in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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What to pack when you move to London

Photo of a girl packing clothes

With limited baggage allowance, packing up all your worldly possessions into a suitcase might seem impossible but it doesn’t have to be. Each item just has to earn its place, and this guide will show you how! ๐Ÿงณ

Clothes and accessories

Photo of a woman's outfit

Did you know the term “capsule wardrobe” was coined by a Londoner? Essentially, it’s the essentials: a collection of timeless staples which can then be paired with seasonal pieces.

For example: coat, jeans, white shirt, black blazer, pencil skirt, little black dress, sundress, jumper, scarf, hat, flats, heels and boots.

Aside from the staples, bring about a week’s worth of underwear, socks and sleepwear. The rest you can cheaply stock up on once you’re here. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

I also found it handy to bring a set of activewear and trainers as you’ll be doing a lot of running around in the early days.

Key considerations

  • Quality over quantity is key. Leave the bargains and synthetics back home and bring only your best pieces.
  • Prioritise versatility. Your typical rented room in London is cosy, so ideally each piece can be worn for different occasions, including at work.
  • Practice some self-love. If you haven’t worn something in months because it’s uncomfortable or makes you feel self-conscious, donate it to charity.
  • London is one of the fashion capitals of the world, so you have loads of options to look forward to!

Toiletries

Photo of toiletries

Toiletries take up a surprising amount of space and the weight quickly adds up. Unless you have a skin allergy or particular hair care needs, don’t bother bringing your cosmetics collection.

Pack around a week’s worth of shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste (travel size is perfect) and stock up when you arrive. You’ll be surprised how cheap toiletries are in the UK, however makeup prices vary greatly.

You might even score a few freebies from the airline or hotel! ๐Ÿงด๐Ÿช’

Key considerations

  • If you use over-the-counter products, ask your doctor to cover your prescription for the next few months so you can stock up before you leave. Getting a local GP in the UK can take time (a permanent address is essential), so it’s best to prepare in advance.
  • Not all products have the same retail name in different countries! Might be worth double checking online for specific products.

Tech devices

Photo of various tech

Tech is important to get right early on. Having data on your phone for navigating and a reliable laptop for forms and applications are crucial for hitting the ground running. ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿ’ป

What to bring: mobile phone (unlocked SIM!), laptop computer, portal power bank, charger per device, adapter (AU to UK is essential, and AU to EU is useful for trips) and a USB stick (you never know).

Key considerations:

  • If you’re planning to upgrade in the near future, consider waiting until you arrive so you’ll be covered by warranty in the local region. I bought my mobile phone on my first day in the UK!
  • Consider bringing a power board to avoid over-relying on adapters.

Important documents

Photo of an Australian passport and flight ticket

Get your life admin organised before you go anywhere near Departures. ๐Ÿ›ซ

You’ll need originals and photocopies of all your important documents and, ideally, digital versions backed up in cloud storage and synced to your devices just in case.

What to bring: passport (visa vignette included), various forms of ID, visa approval letter from the Home Office, proof of funds document (valid up until 3 months), and any professional accreditation documents (university degree etc.) required for your field of work.

Key contacts:

  • If you get into trouble and require passport or consular support, contact the Australian High Commission: United Kingdom on +44 (0) 20 7379 4334.
  • Register your journey on Smart Traveller and follow their recommendations for the United Kingdom.
  • Dial 999 to reach emergency services in the United Kingdom.

Food and confectionery

Before you stuff your face or fill every compartment with TimTams, relax. Australian confectionary, even lamingtons, are relatively easy to come by in London.

Pay Clapham a visit and you’ll get a decent (albeit pricey) flat white and ANZAC biscuit in no time. ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ

Key considerations

  • Ask your friends and family to bring a goody bag when they come to visit.
  • Admittedly, there are a few things you won’t find like Weis Bars. Have a go at making your own! ๐Ÿจ
  • Australian brunch is hugely popular in London. Check out my top picks to get your avo on toast fix. ๐Ÿฅ‘

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. Let me know in the comments below if you think I’ve missed anything! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Australian brunch in London

Photo of brunch menu sign and pot plants

Australian brunch is world-famous, and that’s no exception in the Capital. But what is Australian brunch, anyway? โ˜•๐Ÿฅ‘

Bright mashups of foods that are healthy, natural and luxurious all at once … Cafes serve plates of organic porridge with raw honey and grass-fed cream, free-range poached eggs with local bacon and roasted broccoli, and all manner of avocado toast, garnished with everything from pickled onions and hoja santa to sesame seeds and shiso leaves.

The New York Times

Australian brunch is more than just what’s on the menu. It’s the industrial-chic decor, the coffee aroma and friendly welcome from bearded baristas.

Intrigued? Read on for my tried and true blue Australian brunch hotspots in London.

Kiss the Koala

About: a great place to brunch in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. You will find great coffee and the most beautiful plates that taste as good as they look.

We ordered: waffles with Prosecco poached strawberries and the English breakfast.

Find them in: Crouch End, north London.

Granger & Co.

About: reflects the “Australian” spirit: sunny, easy-going and generous. From first opening in Sydneyโ€™s Darlinghurst in 1993, Granger & Co. has gone global with restaurants in Sydney, Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu and London.

We ordered: ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter, sweet corn fritters with roast tomato, spinach, and bacon.

Find them in: in central London (Chelsea, Clerkenwell, King’s Cross) and a little further out in Notting Hill.

Farm Girl

About: Farm Girl is a group of stylish, health-focused cafes and restaurants serving holistic, fresh food and good coffee, Australian style.

We ordered: their staple rose lattes! ๐ŸŒน

Find them in: central London (Fitzrovia, Knightsbridge, Soho) and spread around (Notting Hill, Hoxton).

Antipodea

About: all-day Australian brasserie that converts from a laid back Melbourne affair to a hustle and bustling night time dining spot.

We ordered: green pea arancini, Aussie burger and lamingtons!

Find them in: Richmond and Kew down south.

Brew

About: serving Australian food day, noon and night. They also stock iconic confectionery and make fresh ANZAC biscuits and lamingtons.

We ordered: sweet corn fritters, avocado with cottage cheese, lemon, salt and Vegemite on pide, and toasted banana bread with hung honeyed yogurt and pistachios.

Find them in: south London at Clapham, Wandsworth and Wimbledon.

Lantana

About: all day dining including Australian brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner of world fusion small plates & mains. They also serve vegan wines, craft ales, alternative cocktails and house blend coffee.

We ordered: pulled Chicken shawarma grain bowl and smashed avocado.

Find them in: central London at Fitzrovia, London Bridge and Shoreditch.

Highly rated

While I’m yet to brunch my way around London, these places come highly recommended by trusted sources:


Discovered a fab new Australian brunch place recently? Sharing is caring! Tell us all about it in the comments. ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Avoid the Heathrow injection

Photo of London pub entrance and fish and chips sign

As scary as it sounds, it doesn’t involve anything sharp. ๐Ÿ’‰

“Heathrow injection” was coined by Australian and New Zealand expats to describe rapid weight gain when settling in London. This is largely attributed to a busy schedule and over reliance on convenience food. I’m looking at you, ยฃ3 meal deal.

Pints in the pub, full English breakfast, fish and chips with mushy peas and Sunday roasts are all enticing British icons, but you don’t need to try them all in one week!

Striking a balance is key. Small, simple changes can lead to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle (and weight).

Walk or cycle

Photo of a girl walking in the park

You’ve no doubt heard about London’s iconic Tube network and red double decker buses, but did you know TfL manages the Capital’s cycle hire scheme? You can hire a Santander Cycle from as little as ยฃ2. ๐Ÿšฒ

As quick as the Tube might go, did you know some station changes are quicker to walk? For example, it can take up to 15min to change from the Northern line at Leicester Square to the Piccadilly line at Covent Garden while walking it is just 3min!

Check out some of these walking routes next time you’re exploring Central London.

If walking or cycling isn’t feasible for all of your journey, consider getting off a stop or two early. You might discover a new store or cafe along the way! ๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿšด

Shop the High Street

Photo of Notting Hill Bookshop entrance

With online shopping overtaking in-store purchases, fears over the “death of the High Street” are growing.

Often it feels like an early Christmas when a parcel arrives with your name on it, but there’s something magical about turning the fabric of a new scarf over in your hands in-store that online shopping can’t recreate.

So next time you feel like browsing online, step out instead and explore your area and support local businesses. It’s the perfect excuse to get some fresh air and hit your daily step target. ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ

Meal prep

Photo of homemade salad in a glass jar

With pizza and burger chains, cheap meal deals and an active social life beckoning, it’s no wonder we opt for convenience over cooking and grocery shopping. ๐Ÿฅฆ

This unhealthy habit can rack up pounds (both ยฃ and extra padding) fast. Aside from high cost of living in London, fast food, pub meals and microwave meals are large in portion size and generally full of hidden nasties like sugary sauces and saturated fats.

Cooking is a great way to save time and money. You could get your weekly groceries and meal prep done on a Sunday afternoon, for example. It also puts you back in control of portion sizes and what healthy contents go into a meal. โš–๏ธ

Salads, wraps, rice paper rolls, pasta and sandwiches all travel well and are quick and easy to make. I use Cancer Council’s Healthy Lunch Box for inspiration!

Join a fitness group

From CrossFit to circus, salsa to SUP and more, there’s fun fitness activities happening in every corner of London. ๐Ÿ’ช

Gym prices are notoriously high, and class passes can be even more expensive. Check your company benefits scheme if you’re eligible for discounts. You might be lucky enough to have an onsite gym!

Meetup and Facebook groups are a great way of finding local groups for running, tennis, football, yoga and more! They’re often cheap if not free, and a great way of meeting people.

Up your Insta game

Photo of Camden Market

London is easily one of the most “Instagrammable” cities in the world. ๐Ÿคณ

From heritage monuments like Tower Bridge and Big Ben to stylish cafes and street art, a photo hotspot is likely just around the corner.

Popular instaworthy locations include Neal’s Yard, Brixton Market, Leadenhall Market, Sky Garden, Brick Lane, Hampstead Village, Portobello Road Market, Kew Gardens and more.

Visit London’s feed is a great source of inspiration!

Curb liquid calories

Photo of a London pub beer garden

London boasts cosy traditional pubs, but there’s a reason a pint or two leaves you feeling full. ๐Ÿป

Many alcoholic beverages are calorific and loaded with sugar. Try substituting your next colourful cocktail for gin and slimline tonic, a glass of Prosecco, red wine or a dry white.

Non-alcoholic drinks can be just as bad like bubble tea, frappucinos and soft drinks. The English got it right with a cuppa tea.


Have you experienced Heathrow injection? Share your advice for managing an active, healthy lifestyle in London in the comments! ๐Ÿ‘‡


Latest in London

A pizza snob’s guide to London

Photo of two Neapolitan woodfired pizzas

Hi, my name’s Amanda. And I’m a self-confessed Pizza Snob. ๐ŸคŒ

I can trace my love affair back to October 2016 when I visited the birthplace of the Neapolitan pizza: Naples, Italy. Once you’ve sampled the best in the world, you’ll never look back.

I hit the ground running when I arrived in London in my search for the l’autentica. Here’s my definitive list of places you knead-to-try. ๐Ÿ•

Note: this covers traditional wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. If you’re looking for Domino’s, you can show yourself out.

Best pizza in London

L’Antica Pizzeria

About: “Real Neapolitan taste. Cooked with passion.” โค๏ธ

Made with: Caputo flour, low-salt dough, slow-fermented over 36 hours, cooked at 400ยฐC.

Perfect for: a cosy, hearty meal with family and friends.

Located in: Hampstead and High Barnet in North London.

Homeslice

About: “20” pizza whole or by the slice.” ๐Ÿ˜‹

Made with: high protein German 405 flour, aged 24 hours minimum, cooked at 500ยฐC for 60-90 seconds.

Perfect for: a date night sit-down meal or a quick bite on the go.

Located in: Shoreditch, City of London, White City, Marylebone, Neal’s Yard.

Zia Lucia

About: “Genuine pizza.” ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น

Made with: four types of dough! Vegetable charcoal, wholemeal, gluten-free, traditional, slow-fermented over 48 hours.

Perfect for: ordering in or an after work dinner with friends or colleagues.

Located in: Islington, Hammersmith, Aldgate East, Boxpark Wembley.

Great pizza in London

London is enormous, and so are its pizza options! While not all can be #1 (in my heart), these places serve seriously delicious pizza and are well worth a visit. ๐Ÿ’ฏ

Decent pizza in London

Eh, sometimes you just want to grab a bite but aren’t feeling particularly fussy. Here are some good and cheaper pizzerias. ๐Ÿ‘Œ


Do your tastebuds agree with this list? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


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Thrifty London life tips

Photo of a Pret coffee cup at a picnic in London

London is one of the most vibrant, thriving and exciting cities to live in the world. It is also one of the most expensive. ๐Ÿ’ท

Coming from Sydney, I was confident the high cost of living wouldn’t be painfully obvious. I was mostly wrong.

Steep rent, public transport and bills (some, you’ve definitely never heard of) coupled with generally lower wages takes some getting used to. After your first few pay cycles, you’ll start to work out what you can afford and what’s best to enjoy in moderation.

While you work out your budget, here are some tips for scrimping and scraping without missing out. ๐Ÿ‘Œ

Food and groceries

Photo of a London food market stall

Bottomless brunch and covering the next round of drinks can stack up quickly. Fast food is cheap, but you can easily achieve a healthy and sociable lifestyle:

  • ยฃ3 meal deals are a convenient mid-week lunch or breakfast to go. They typically include a sandwich, bottled drink and packet of crisps
  • Packaged salads and sandwiches at supermarkets are great for healthy convenience, but costs much less if you meal prep at home ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿณ
  • Cafe loyalty cards offer freebies or discounts over time. Following your favourite places on social media is also a great way to spot a giveaway
  • Supermarket prices can vary a lot. Opt for cheaper groceries at Lidl, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons
  • Yellow stickers typically signifies a reduced price item which is perfect for a sandwich or sushi roll to be consumed that day.

Transport

Photo of a Santander Cycles docking station

TfL isn’t a world leading transport authority for no reason, but its coloured Tube service and iconic Black Cabs come at a cost. There’s plenty of ways to get from A to B in the Captial:

  • London Bus and London Overground services are the most affordable options (aside from walking!)
  • Off Peak fares apply outside of rush hour periods, and avoiding Zone 1 when using the Tube is also cheaper
  • The Santander Cycles cycle hire scheme are also affordable and accessible with thousands of docking stations located in zones 1-3 ๐Ÿšฒ
  • Cycle to Work scheme offers significant discounts on purchasing a bicycle, so it’s worth checking if your employer has one.

Rent and bills

Photo of the view from a London flat

Well, let’s get this one over with like a bandaid: renting in London is ridiculous. Paying up to half your salary for a “cosy” room sharing with random people with varying hygiene standards and noise tolerance levels gets old fast. ๐Ÿ™ƒ

While you don’t always get what you pay for, these tips can help ease the pain:

  • Rent is typically cheaper in East London and South London
  • Avoiding Zones 1 and 2, and often depending on the area 3, is a good rule of thumb but bear in mind public transport costs increase the further out you live
  • Living within a 10min walking distance of a Tube station will drive the rent up. Consider moving to an area with good transport connections to Central London or your office via bus, Overground or Docklands Light Railway
  • Not all council taxes are created equal so it’s worth taking into consideration
  • Opt out of paying for a TV licence and avoid doubling up streaming subscriptions. You can split the cost between your flatmates ๐Ÿ“บ
  • Central heating can easily double your bill in the cooler months. Substitute it for warm indoor clothes and a good quality duvet from autumn!

Socialising and sightseeing

Photo of Sky Garden

Enjoying all London has to offer is hugely appealing; while it’s important to treat yourself to a West End show from time to time, there’s plenty of affordable options to keep you entertained:

  • London hosts some of the best museums and galleries in the world, and almost all of them are free to enter
  • Panoramic views of the city are free from Sky Garden and the Viewing Level at Tate Modern
  • Standing tickets are just ยฃ5 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
  • Pubs and bars often host cheap trivia nights, comedy sessions and theatrical performances
  • London’s many stunning parks are perfect for picnics and outdoor fitness ๐Ÿƒ
  • Food markets or food halls are a great location for social gatherings as there’s a variety of options to suit everyone’s tastes and budget
  • Lunch time menus are typically cheaper than dining out in the evening
  • Rush tickets are a great way to bag cheap tickets for live and theatrical performances
  • MeetUp and other online groups offer socialising and free or cheap classes.

Fashion and beauty

Photo of a clothes rack

London is considered a fashion capital of the world. If you’ve ever wandered down Oxford Street and Regent Street, you’ll see why! Fast fashion is the name of the game, but your wardrobe doesn’t need to be at odds with your wallet:

  • Bag a bargain for a good cause at a charity shop
  • Shop sustainably at London’s vintage and retro markets
  • Use an app like Vinted or Depop to find your next secondhand treasure ๐Ÿ‘—
  • Student discounts are available at many major retails (and food vendors) so make sure to flash your ID card
  • Get your hair cut for free or coloured for a significant discount with salons like TONI&GUY who need hair models for their apprentices
  • Check Groupon or similar services for beauty package deals to get your nails, waxing and more for less.

Health and fitness

Photo of pedestrians crossing Millennium Bridge

While bottomless brunch beckons, it’s important to balance binging with regular physical activity. Affordable options include:

  • Streaming online workout videos
  • Free trials at gyms and fitness centres are a great excuse to try something new. Barre, anyone?
  • Joining a local fitness group. There’s loads of hiking, yoga and other social groups running cheap or free sessions
  • Cooking at home and freeze portions to have something healthy on hand when hunger strikes
  • Reading my guide for avoiding the Heathrow Injection! ๐Ÿ’‰

Holidays and travel

Photo of

European holidays and local trips in the UK are a hugely appealing reason for being located in London. With multiple airports and international rail, it’s also hugely accessible. Here’s how to bag a bargin:

  • Score cheaper airfares by travelling mid-week
  • Shop around for fares, tickets, rooms and rentals online
  • Flights and accommodation are generally cheaper in shoulder seasons (off-peak)
  • Student discounts apply for most airlines and travel packages
  • Learn the basics of a new language via app or a free language exchange.

How to do keep your finances under control in London? Share your hot tips and hacks in the comments below! ๐Ÿ‘‡


More in London

Life-changing reads

If you’re a fan of print, you’ll understand the panic mode that hits when you realise you have to abandon your home library when it comes to The Big Move (see below or read more on Instagram).

With an average of 20-something kilos per bag, you quickly realise suitcase space is hot property real estate. That’s when you face the painful process of picking your favourite book child(ren) and sadly part with the rest ๐Ÿ“š

A few ways to get around it are to:

  • Convert to an e-reader and bring your digital library anywhere you go
  • Hit up secondhand bookstores once you arrive. I picked up Rubicon by Tom Holland in great condition for just ยฃ2 at a London charity shop!
  • Ask your family to stuff a bag full of books and goodies from back home during their obligatory visit
  • Scope out pricey shipping options if you can’t live without your 12 volume fantasy saga. Expat Facebook groups are great for recommendations.

Below are some of the titles that I couldn’t bear to part with, and ironically some actually inspired me to move in the first place – like inspirational comets, crashing into my life plan and shifting its trajectory off course โ˜„๏ธ

โ€œA room without books is like a body without a soul.โ€

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Orator

Warning: Reading the following books might change life as you know it! Proceed with caution.

Writing and teen angst

Bitten๐Ÿบ

Kelley Armstrong, Women of the Otherworld, Horror, Fantasy, 2001

Elena Michaels is the worldโ€™s only female werewolf. And sheโ€™s tired of it. So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where sheโ€™s trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him.More info

Before Twilight‘s sparkly vampires infected our lunchtime gossip sessions, I was nose deep this is dark, gritty urban fantasy about werewolf mafia.

The story gets up close and personal, making you shudder with images of gore, and flush red from the abrupt, raunchy sex littered throughout. Armstrong’s writing perfectly blends the supernatural and the adult world, minus the cringey tropes of teen fantasy novels.

After turning the last page, I opened up my Word and immediately started writing my own supernatural saga (because I was such an ‘expert’ by that point). I’d print off every new chapter and bring it to school for my best friends to take home and read. Surprisingly, they enjoyed it and pestered me daily for the next installment. Chuffed that my writing was such a hit in the schoolyard, I decided that being a writer was my calling.

History buff

Mistress of Rome โš”๏ธ

Kate Quinn, Empress of Rome, Historical Fiction, 2010

First-century Rome. Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, purchased as a toy for a spiteful heiress. Now she has infuriated her mistress by capturing the attention of Romeโ€™s newest and most savage gladiator. Reinventing herself as a singer for Romeโ€™s aristocrats, Thea unwittingly attracts another admirer: the charismatic Emperor.More info

The story hits the ground running. Quinn brings imperial Rome to the present through her protagonist’s modern voice and hits you with sensory bursts – colour in rich silks, thunderous applause in the Colosseum, the shiver of the Emperor’s breath down your neck, and the smell of gladiator sweat as they fight it out for their lives.

I picked up Mistress of Rome early on in my uni degree. At the time I was indecisive about first year Psychology and looking for ways to avoid stats. Knowing that I’d have to tackle my numerical demons at some point, I jumped into my imagination’s time machine. The world of emperors, gladiators and lavish banquets was so richly immersive I longed to be a part of it.

And so began my second (and third) academic start, bringing me closer to my Serious Writer dreams and ever so much further away from stats. Seeing the Colosseum in person never fails to snatch the breath from my lungs ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

Culture and cuisine

The Gypsy Tearoom ๐Ÿ

Nicky Pellegrino, Fiction, 2007

Raffaella Moretti is by far the most beautiful girl in the southern Italian village of Triento and she is about to marry the only boy she has ever loved. The last thing she expects is to find herself a widow one short year later, down on her hands and knees, scrubbing clean the layers of dirt from a strange house.More info

I don’t subscribe to the motto ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ – something has to entice you to pluck it from the shelf, right? This little teal book caught my eye and the strange title instilled me with the sudden need to know what a ‘gypsy tearoom’ was.

A chapter or two in, and I’ve been a tragic Italophile ever since. Food, language, art, history, culture, romance … what’s not to love?!

Pellegrino depicts Italy in sepia – picturesque towns and traditions passed down over generations, and a calmness that makes you want to curl up on a sunbed and sip spritz on a summer afternoon by the beach. Hmm, maybe I could live there…

Girl power!

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon ๐ŸŒ™ Volume 1

Naoko Takeuchi, Shลjo Japanese Manga, 1992

Usagi Tsukino is a normal girl until she meets Luna, a talking cat, who tells her that she is Sailor Moon who must fight evil and enforce justice, in the name of the Moon and the mysterious Moon Princess. She meets other girls destined to be Sailor Senshi (Sailor Scouts), and together they fight the forces of evil!More info

Sailor Moon combines most things I enjoy – superpowers, strong females, romance, action, mythology, Japanese culture, the list goes on. The series really kicked off my love for visual storytelling, resulting in many trees sacrificed to my endless ink doodling. Good thing now we have tablets!

Confession: This phase actually started with the American 90s anime adaptation Sailor Moon. This ‘phase’ hasn’t exactly ended yet, and it may have inspired a trip to Japan and led to an obscene amount of merch purchases ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

My interest in the original manga only started amidst the hype surrounding the franchise’s 20th anniversary and the release of the Sailor Moon Crystal anime series. Nostalgia of the fun, quirky show of my childhood came flooding back and I gave the back-to-front illustrated novels a go. After devouring every instalment, plus a few volumes in Spanish and Italian, I went ahead and rewatched the entire series.

Warning: Prepare to have this track stuck in your head all day.

Myths, gods and heroes

The Iliad ๐Ÿบ

Homer, Epic Poem, 800 or 700 B.C.

The darkest episode in the Trojan War. At its centre is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his refusal to fight after being humiliated by his leader Agamemnon. But when the Trojan Hector kills Achilles’ close friend Patroclus, he storms back into battle to take revenge knowing this will ensure his own early death. Interwoven with this tragic sequence of events are the conflicts between the Gods on Olympus as they argue over the fate of mortals.More info

Homer. Where to even begin? A timeless epic of Greek and Trojan heroes: honourable Hector, god-like Achilles, beautiful Paris, proud kings, egotistical gods, a hidden trap wooden horse, a decade of war and forbidden love, and ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’.

The Iliad is eternal and enduring. It embodies the Greek heroic tragedy, and would pave the way for countless retellings and interpretations across the ages. The story represents storytelling in its richest form and adapts seamlessly across all mediums: oral, written, audio, visual. In my opinion, its only downfall is the repetitive comparisons of every warrior to a lion. How about a wolf, mountain bear or an eagle to mix things up a bit?

The Iliad is my muse, as my well-thumbed copy can attest.

โ€œEvery story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.โ€

Octavia E. Butler

Honourable mentions ๐Ÿฅˆ

Okay, so this post sort of became a shopping list.

  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer, Leigh Bardugo, YA Fiction
  • The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller, Historical Fiction
  • Imperium, Robert Harris, Historical Fiction
  • Antony and Cleopatra, Colleen McCullough, Historical Fiction
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux, Gothic Horror
  • DraculaBram Stoker, Gothic Horror
  • The Aeneid, Virgil, Epic Poetry
  • The Odyssey, Homer, Epic Poetry
  • Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, Memoir
  • Lunch in Paris, Elizabeth Bard, Memoir
  • Geisha of Gion, Mineko Iwasaki, Memoir
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, Dystopia
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantasy
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantasy
  • The Book of Tomorrow, Cecelia Ahern, YA Fiction
  • The Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton, Children’s Fiction
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning ThiefRick Riordan, YA Fiction
  • Stardust, Neil Gaiman, Fantasy
  • Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen, Fiction
  • Harry Potter: and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling, Fantasy
  • Eragon, Christopher Paolini, Fantasy
  • Magic Knight Rayearth, CLAMP, Shลjo Japanese Manga
  • Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura, Arina Tanemura, Shลjo Japanese Manga
  • W.I.T.C.H, Elisabetta Gnone, Alessandro Barbucci, Barbara Canepa, Italian Comic.

โ€œIf there is a book that you want to read, but it hasnโ€™t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.โ€

Toni Morrison

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