What to pack when you move to London

Featuredsuitcase luggage packing moving overseas abroad

Packing all your worldly possessions in a suitcase isn’t possible, but packing your worthy possessions certainly is!

For some it might seem a Herculean task, for others no big deal. To me it was a chance to shed some layers and leave unnecessary “baggage” behind – much in-line with Scandinavian or Japanese minimalism โš–๏ธ

This is a guide from one expat to another – if you’re flying solo into the unknown in your twenties or thirties, and moving abroad without the support of an employer covering the costs and logistics, then read on! ๐Ÿงณ

Trick post – this photo was taken in Malta, hence the shorts! And sunburn…

Clothing

Back in the 70s it was actually a Londoner who came up with the perfect solution: the “capsule wardrobe“. Essentially, the essentials – a collection of timeless staples which can then be paired with seasonal pieces. For example:

๐Ÿ‘• Tops: button down shirt, sleeveless top, T-shirt
๐Ÿงฃ Knits: jumper, cardigan
๐Ÿ‘– Bottoms: pencil or A-line skirt, pants (*ahem* trousers), jeans
๐Ÿงฅ Outerwear: jacket, blazer, coat
๐Ÿฉฒ Underwear: about 2 week’s worth of socks, undies and tights
๐Ÿ‘ข Shoes: flats, joggers (*trainers*), low heeled boots, high heels if you must (thicker the heel the better)
๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Active wear
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Sleepwear: 2 sets.

Quality over quantity is key. Leave the Target bargains and synthetics back home and bring your best pieces made from cotton, linen, wool, denim, leather, and silk (you get the idea).

Versatility is also important. With limited real estate in your luggage, and pokey room space in London flat shares, each piece will need to earn it’s place. Opt for staples such as a midi dress which can be dressed up or down for different occasions, or even worn at work. You’ll need something to wear to all those interviews once you’re here!

Remember to practice some self love. If you own anything you haven’t worn in months because it’s uncomfortable or makes you feel uncomfortable about your body, ditch it. Donate it to charity if it makes you feel better about justifying the expense or wastefulness.

London is one of the fashion capitals of the world, so save your pennies and precious checked luggage allowance for the real necessities (keep reading).

Accessories

Same rules apply as per the above – only the best quality, useful and most versatile items should make the cut so be ruthless!

๐Ÿงฃ Scarf – wool or silk
๐Ÿงค Gloves – wool or leather
๐Ÿ‘’ Hat: beanie or beret and a sunhat for holidays – besides, you never know
โŒš Watch or Fitbit
๐Ÿ’Ž Jewellery – a mix of the classics and truly unique pieces i.e. those rare boutique or vintage finds you won’t find on a messy Topshop stand.

Toiletries

A regret most expats have that I’ve noticed when chatting with friends or lurking in online forums is overdoing it on toiletries ๐Ÿ›€

Unless you have special skin or hair care needs due to an intolerance etc that aren’t aesthetic in nature, then I strongly suggest that you:

  1. Pack travel size toiletries to keep you going
  2. Stock up on the rest once you arrive! You’ll be surprised how cheap some basics are ๐Ÿงด๐Ÿ’„

Tech devices

With a new product or feature birthed out of the tech industry almost daily, I sense this section has potential to date fast – but I’ll do my best to keep it current.

๐Ÿ“ฑ Mobile phone* – make sure the SIM card is unlocked!
๐Ÿ’ป Laptop computer* – crucial, especially in those first few weeks getting your life sorted
๐Ÿ”‹ Portable battery charger – lifesaver
๐Ÿ”Œ Chargers – mobile, laptop, Kindle, Fitbit etc
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง Adapters – AUS-UK plus a handy AUS-EU one for travelling
โšก Australian power board – why carry a bunch of adaptors when you can use one for a whole board?
๐Ÿ“ USB stick – yes people still use them, just like you will in your first month. Especially useful for printing at an internet cafe or public library
๐Ÿ“„ Digital documents – have all your important documents backed up and easily accessible on a cloud account and synced to your devices

*There is a case for buying a mobile and laptop over here – it’s highly unlikely your home warranty is valid overseas. True story – I bought my new mobile phone on the day I arrived, jetlag and all!

Paperwork

These really ought to be a no brainer but it does help to have everything in one place:

๐Ÿ“„ Passport with visa vignette inside
๐Ÿ“„ Other forms of ID e.g. drivers licence
๐Ÿ“„ Visa approval letter
๐Ÿ“„ Signed proof of funds document – maximum 3 months old
๐Ÿ“„ University degree / qualification certificate.

Food

As tempting as it might be, you’re very likely to find Australian confectionary in London! Simply look it up or search expat group forums and you’ll have TimTams in hand in no time. When in doubt, go to Clapham ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ

Visitors from Down Under are also great at topping up your stash! Why not ask them to pack an extra suitcase of BBQ Shapes then sell them on Facebook like everyone else does? ๐Ÿ‘›

There’s only one major craving you won’t be able to satisfy in this corner of the globe – Weis Bars. You could always have a go at making your own? ๐Ÿจ

There’s also a fantastic selection of Aussie brunch spots – be sure to check out my top picks ๐Ÿฅ‘

Bits and bobs

In the unlikely event you have space left in your suitcase, you might consider packing:

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Pillow case – some hostels or AirBnbs might not supply them
๐Ÿ› Micro fibre towel – as per above
๐Ÿ”’ Travel locks – these come in handy not just for checked luggage but for storing your stuff with extra peace of mind in shared accommodation
๐Ÿ‘™ Swimwear – you never know, it was the middle of a heatwave when I landed and believe it or not they have swimming pools (Lidos) around.

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Best Aussie brunches in London

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Australian brunch (breakfast meets lunch) is world-renowned. Admittedly, an initial fear I had about The Big Move was where I’d find my next banana bread and flat white โ˜•.

After some research, you quickly discover that A) not all the best spots are exclusive to Clapham and B) the British – well, maybe London specifically – have completely elevated the humble Aussie brunch to something that exudes luxurious decadence (think: Breakfast at Tiffany’s).

On that note, that’s not to say that you won’t find an equally snobbish brunch in certain well-to-do areas back home, but it is quite far removed from your typical poached eggs and avo on toast. The below quote sums this up quite nicely:

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

You get the idea. Anyway, here’s my tried and tested list of the crรจme de la Chantilly crรจme of Australian brunches in London.

โ˜•๐Ÿฅ‘๐Ÿณ

Granger & Co.

All day, neighbourhood dining
๐Ÿ“ Clerkenwell, King’s Cross, Notting Hill, Chelsea
โญ Ricotta hotcakes, banana and honeycomb butter.

Farm Girl

Holistic and honest Australian owned cafes in London serving healthy food and damn good coffee 
๐Ÿ“ Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Notting Hill, Soho
โญ Island Eggs: toasted sweet potato, labneh, avo mash and two poached eggs covered in hazelnut dukkah.

Antipodea

All day Australian brasserie Brought to you by the team behind Brew Cafe
๐Ÿ“ Kew, Putney, Richmond
โญ Peanut butter tofu salad with avocado, cucumber, tomato, coconut cream, green nahm jim, chilli and fried shallots – add poached egg.

Brew

Morning – Noon – Night
๐Ÿ“ Clapham Junction, Wimbledon, Wandsworth, Chiswick
โญ Sweetcorn fritters with avocado, tomato jam and lime aioli – add bacon.

Ozone Coffee Roasters

Roastery, Coffee Bar and Eatery
๐Ÿ“ Old Street, Cambridge Heath (October 2019)
โญ Gourmet lamingtons.

Lantana

A little bit of Australia in London. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner
๐Ÿ“ Shoreditch, Fitzrovia, London Bridge
โญ Buddha bowl with turmeric seed avocado, coconut chilli sweet potato, sprouting sunflower seeds, cauliflower quinoa rice, cashews, spinach & edamame, pickles and vegan cashew mayo.

Brickwood

Indy Aussie inspired cafรฉs in SW London offering quality coffee, brunch
๐Ÿ“ Balham, Clapham Common, Streatham, Tooting
โญ Toasted brioche.

On my radar…

โ˜• Caravan Roastery
โ˜• Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
โ˜• Flat White
โ˜• Milkbar
โ˜• Kaffeine
โ˜• Little Green
โ˜• Wander

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Beat the infamous Heathrow Injection

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As scary as the ‘Heathrow Injection’ ๐Ÿ’‰๐Ÿ˜ฑ sounds, thankfully it doesn’t involve anything sharp – quite the opposite. ‘Extra padding’ is something most London newcomers experience after they’ve settled in.

Picture the scene: a summer-like period fades into long dark days, ramping up the desire for nights in with a growing pile of takeout boxes on the kitchen bench ๐Ÿฅก

If, like me, you’ve traded climates ๐Ÿ–๏ธ๐Ÿ›ฌ๐ŸŒฌ๏ธ you might also adopt the after work pub culture and comfort food on the menu (mmm, fish ‘n’ chips) as you adjust to your first UK winter.

It’s not all doom and gloom! London is a thriving city and there’s always things to see, try and do – you just need to find what works for you ๐Ÿคฉ

Walk to work

Actual photo of Londoners walking to work

You’ve heard this one a thousand times, and it sounds almost too easy – but have you actually done it? You might discover a new coffee haunt or local boutique on the way, or someplace to come back and check out at the weekend.

If you’re crossing half the city on your regular commute then aim to get off a few stops early and walk the remaining journey ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ

โš ๏ธ Spoiler alert: despite the drizzly reputation, it doesn’t rain all that often in London.

Shop the high street

Get lost in Camden’s famous markets

Last Christmas, the ‘death of the High Street’ was all any media publisher broadcasted. Basically, online shopping is overtaking in-store shopping as our preferred purchase method ๐Ÿ›๏ธ While a great alternative for time-strapped people, it’s not so great for clocking up steps.

Pick a Tube station at random and guaranteed there’s an interesting local market in the vicinity. Ditch the cookiecutter handbag and hunt for something unique ๐Ÿ‘

Get behind two wheels

Santander Cycles are just ยฃ2 a ride!

London may be a bustling metropolis, but its streets are becoming increasingly bike friendly. There’s even cycling ‘super highways’ popping up all over town! ๐Ÿšดโ€โ™€๏ธ

Many workplaces have also adopted ‘cycle to work’ schemes – check if your company is already on board ๐Ÿ‘Œ

If you’re more of a leisure cyclist, take advantage of the UK’s longer daylight hours in summer (until 10pm!) and take a two-wheeled tour around your borough ๐ŸŒณ

Unless you live under a rock, you’d also have noticed Santander Cycles docking stations. Find out more ๐Ÿšฒ

Prep your meals

Impress your colleagues with your cooking skills

With chains and meal deals (coupled with an active social life) competing to be your food choice, it’s no wonder we opt for convenience over effort. Sushi ๐Ÿฃ might seem healthy but did you know the rice is full of caster sugar? Not to mention it’s likely white rice, too.

Knowing exactly what you’re eating when you prepare it yourself puts you back in control – not only of its contents, but portion size as well โš–๏ธ

Some of my favourite (and simplest) packed lunches for work are rice paper rolls, falafel wrap, chicken and avocado toastie, and soft tacos ๐Ÿ˜‹

Join a fitness group

From CrossFit to circus, flamenco to kayaking, tai chi and more, there’s an abundance of fitness activities happening in every corner of London ๐Ÿ’ƒ However, prices for anything specialised can make you question whether its worth the pounds (mind the pun).

If you’re after something that combines culture, socialising and fitness like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, then 3-4-1 sounds like a sweet deal! And if you’re after something more casual, the pricey gym membership might not be the best option ๐Ÿ’ธ

Outside of solo runs and cycling, there’s a huge selection of free (or cheap) fitness MeetUp and Facebook groups. *Shameless plug* our Hiking Group is pretty cool! ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ

Up your Insta game

If chasing invisible monsters on Pokemon GO isn’t getting you out of the house like it used to, it might be about time to dust off that Instagram account? ๐Ÿคณ

If you Google ‘most instagrammable cities in the world’, chances are London will make the Top 10. Outside of its classic icons – think roundels, red double deckers and telephone boxes – there’s monuments, palaces, churches, extravagant eateries, historic pubs, quirky street and food art and more! ๐ŸŽก

Some starting points for inspiration are: scenic walks along South Bank, eclectic markets in Camden and Shoreditch, stunning views at Greenwich, and colourful architecture in Chelsea and Notting Hill ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

Curb your liquid calorie intake

Wine might be the way to go when it comes to sugar in alcohol

London hosts incredible traditional pubs and riverside al fresco spots for blink-and-you-missed-it summer, but there’s a reason a pint or two leaves you feeling full ๐Ÿป I’m not suggesting anything drastic, just to watch your intake. The NHS has a helpful guide on their website๐Ÿท

And then there’s a host of chains offering sweet-tastic drinks – think: bubble tea and smoothies that are more ice-cream than fruit – and sugar-loaded ‘coffee’ frappuccinos with all the latest flavours ๐Ÿฅค

If you need that flavour hit, try mixing your own sparkling fruit juice with soda water and 100% fruit extract, adding mint leaves to a jug of water or swapping coffee for herbal tea ๐Ÿต

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A pizza snob’s guide to London pizzerias

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If you know me at all, even by acquaintance, you’ll quickly learn that pizza is one of my life’s greatest passions ๐Ÿคค

Having been to the very heart of pizza craft ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Naples, Southern Italy ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น and sampled the best in the world, I’ve made it a personal mission never to accept anything less.

While sadly I haven’t mastered the craft myself, what I can do is hunt down the good stuff and impart my knowledge of the best haunts ๐Ÿ”

This is a living post that will be refreshed from time to time as I uncover more gems! For now, these are my top picks to satisfy your Neapolitan wood fired pizza cravings in London.

Disclaimer: Only traditional pizza is covered here. If you’re a fan of pineapple, fast food or New York style ‘pizza’ then you’re in the wrong place!

๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ•

The best

๐Ÿฅ‡ L’Antica Pizzeria

“Real Neapolitan taste. Cooked with passion.”

๐Ÿš‡ Hampstead, High Barnet
๐Ÿ• Caputo flour, low-salt dough, slow-fermented over 36 hours, cooked at 400ยฐC
โญ Go for: date night or with a small group of friends
๐Ÿ‘ Traditional Neapolitan wood fired pizza, accepts table reservations, great desserts
๐Ÿ‘Ž Average service, cramped seating, loud.

๐Ÿฅˆ Homeslice

“20” pizza whole or by the slice.”

๐Ÿš‡ Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, Bond Street, Mansion House, Old Street, White City, Earl’s Court
๐Ÿ• High protein German 405 flour, aged 24 hours minimum, cooked at 500ยฐC for 60-90 seconds
โญ Go for: a slice on the go or a casual walk-in
๐Ÿ‘ Balance of tradition with innovation, flavours split 50/50, one pizza feeds two people
๐Ÿ‘Ž Chaotic service, cramped seating, loud.

๐Ÿฅ‰ Zia Lucia

“Genuine pizza.”

๐Ÿš‡ Highbury & Islington, Hammersmith, Wembley Park
๐Ÿ• Four types of dough: vegetable charcoal, wholemeal, gluten-free, traditional, slow-fermented over 48 hours
โญ Go for: a proper sit down meal with family and friends
๐Ÿ‘ Traditional Neapolitan pizza with a twist – the charcoal base is an experience!
๐Ÿ‘Ž Bookings available for a minimum of eight people.

๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ•

The rest

… but definitely not less!

Made of Dough

“Pizza. And some.”

๐Ÿš‡ Oxford Circus, Brixton, Fulham Broadway, ๐Ÿš†Peckham Rye
๐Ÿ• Lean dough: flour, water, sea salt, fresh yeast, 60% hydration, cooked fast
โญ Go for: Neapolitan wood fired pizza with mates
๐Ÿ‘ Consistently good, traditional wood fired pizza, great toppings
๐Ÿ‘Ž Casual in food halls and markets – may be hard to find a group table.

Pizzeria di Camden

“The sun on your plate.”

๐Ÿš‡ Camden Town
๐Ÿ• โ€˜00โ€™ grade flour, stone baked
โญ Go for: date night or with a small group of friends
๐Ÿ‘ Great location, great flavours, decent Aperol spritz
๐Ÿ‘Ž Small venue.

Franco Manca

“Sourdough pizza. As it should be.”

๐Ÿš‡ Restaurants in all corners of London as well as around the UK
๐Ÿ• Italian grains, live culture of flour, water and wild yeast, fermented 20 hours
โญ Go for: a decent cheap meal
๐Ÿ‘ Pizzas start from ยฃ5, many locations, walk-in friendly, No. 7 rotating specialty pizza
๐Ÿ‘Ž Average quality, stingy on toppings.

La Pizza Napoletana – Mercato Metropolitano

๐Ÿš‡ Southwark
โญ Go for: a quality pizza option at a varied food hall
๐Ÿ‘ Lots of choice, consistently decent
๐Ÿ‘Ž Long wait time and crowded space during busy periods.

Santa Maria Pizzeria Napoletana

๐Ÿš‡ Fulham Broadway, Goodge Street, South Ealing
โญ Go for: a hearty sit down meal with family, friends or peers
๐Ÿ‘ Consistently good, traditional wood fired pizza, great toppings
๐Ÿ‘Ž Some flavours are questionable – mushy peas base, for instance!

Rossopomodoro

“Like a day in Napoli”

๐Ÿš‡ Tottenham Court Road, Covent Garden, Old Street, Fulham Broadway, Camden Road, Finchley Road, ๐Ÿš† Wandsworth Town
โญ Go for: a social occasion with a medium to large size group
๐Ÿ‘ Neapolitan pizza, many locations to choose from
๐Ÿ‘Ž It has a bit of a chain vibe and the monthly special I tried wasn’t great. Still, I’d give them another go!

Purezza

“Plant pioneers”

๐Ÿš‡ Camden Town
โญ Go for: a social occasion with a small size group
๐Ÿ‘ The UK’s first ever vegan pizzeria using cruelty free ingredients, serving a variety of traditional inspired flavour combinations
๐Ÿ‘Ž They’re quite generous on the cheese, and if you’re not used to the vegan variety this might not be a good thing.

On my radar…

  • Pizza Pilgrims
  • Sud Italia
  • Voodoo Rays
  • Sacre Couer

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Thrifty London life hacks

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London’s ranking may have dropped down out of the ‘World’s Top Ten Most Expensive Cities’ list, but this costly metropolis gives new meaning to the phrase ‘dropping a few pounds’ ๐Ÿค‘

Compared to other major cities back home like Sydney or Melbourne, London’s lower wages and steeper costs of living (think: rent, transport and bills you’ve never heard of) will surely shock your system in the first months as you gradually start thinking in pounds instead of dollars.

No, the sting of that ยฃ3 latte never really goes away โ˜• And that’s without a croissant.

To give you an idea, compared to Sydney, in London: there’s 20% VAT added to consumer goods and services (up from Aussie’s modest 10% GST), a meal out is 25% more expensive, and monthly utilities are rarely under ยฃ100 per person.

Setting a budget is a great idea, but let’s be honest that’s a whole new blog post to cover. These London like hacks are a great place to start ๐Ÿ‘‡

Key: ๐Ÿ†“ Free, ๐Ÿ‘› Cheap, ๐Ÿ’ฐ Reasonable, ๐Ÿ’ธ Make the most of unavoidable expenses!

Food and eating out ๐Ÿฅก

In a city with a reputation for exceptionally pricey dining, a cheap meal actually isn’t all that difficult to come by.

๐Ÿ‘› ยฃ3 meal deals at most Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – enough to get you through lunch break and afternoon tea
๐Ÿ‘› ยฃ3-5 M&S and Waitrose salads and sushi – there’s a decent and healthy variety!
๐Ÿ‘› ยฃ1 confectionery and 2-4-1 cold drinks at Poundland
๐Ÿ‘› Stretch your pence with loyalty cards, locals’ discounts, reusable coffee cups
๐Ÿ‘› Too Good To Go app – save a meal before it goes to waste at a fraction of the cost
๐Ÿ’ฐ Do your grocery shopping at Lidl, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons
๐Ÿ’ฐ Food markets – lots of options bound to suit everyone’s tastes and budget
๐Ÿ’ฐ Lunch menus tend to offer cheaper deals than at dinner time
๐Ÿ’ฐ Discounted sandwiches and sushi in the few hours before store closing time.

Transport and getting around ๐ŸšŒ

London’s transport system is world class service, but you do pay for what you get. Even with fares frozen over the past few years, the Tube network is particularly expensive. Thankfully there’s plenty of options for getting from A to B.

๐Ÿ‘› ยฃ1.50 Hopper fare for buses, and connecting bus journeys are free if you tap on within an hour of tapping onto the first bus
๐Ÿ‘› ยฃ1.50 on Overground journeys as you avoid travelling into Zone 1
๐Ÿ‘› ยฃ2 Santander Cycles hire per 30min journey
๐Ÿ’ฐ Cycle to Work schemes – an employee benefit that saves you 25% or more on a bike and accessories with payments taken tax efficiently from your salary by your employer
๐Ÿ’ฐ Subscribe to emails such as Trainline to get a heads up on cheap fares for spontaneous weekend travel.

Rent and living expenses ๐Ÿ 

Rent is the other necessary evil of living in London. While this topic could easily be another entire blog post (or series) in itself, here’s a few main points to consider:

๐Ÿ†“ Score a free haircut from salons like TONI&GUY as hair models are often sought after by apprentices
๐Ÿ‘› Take advantage of so many competitive mobile plan deals – challengers such as giffgaff piggyback off more established networks, so you get the same coverage for less!
๐Ÿ’ฐ Avoid paying for a useless TV licence and split a streaming service across your devices like Netflix
๐Ÿ’ธ East and South London (for the moment, at least) tend to attract cheaper rent as opposed to their affluent Central, West and North London counterparts
๐Ÿ’ธ Opt to live in an area that’s a 15min+ walk from a Tube station. For instance, Crouch End is a gorgeous spot wedged between some of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods.

Socialising and sightseeing ๐Ÿฅ‚

A boozy Friday night could quickly leave you out of pocket for the rest of the weekend – or month – if you’re not careful!

๐Ÿ†“ Many of the world’s most renowned parks, museums and galleries are free!
๐Ÿ†“ MeetUp and Facebook groups – learn a new language for free!
๐Ÿ†“ Sky Garden rooftop at the Walkie Talkie is free entry, you just need to book in advance
๐Ÿ†“ Pub theatre performances
๐Ÿ‘› Host a picnic in the park in summer or a dinner party at home (if you have the space!)
๐Ÿ‘› I’ve heard Wetherspoons pubs are great value for drinks
๐Ÿ’ฐ Rush tickets are a great way to secure cheap seats at some of the best theatre performances in the world. There’s an app for that!
๐Ÿ’ฐ Affordable bottomless brunches are few and far between, but you can certainly drink back your money’s worth – and some.

Shopping and activities ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

๐Ÿ†“ Browse upcoming talks and networking events on Eventbrite, MeetUp and Facebook
๐Ÿ†“ Check out a free (or cheap ยฃ5) gig at one of the city’s many comedy clubs, including central London
๐Ÿ‘› Bag a bargain at London’s array of markets and charity stores
๐Ÿ‘› Shop around for cinema tickets – booking online often works out cheaper
๐Ÿ‘› Enjoy a performance at The Globe Theatre with a ยฃ5 standing ticket
๐Ÿ’ฐ Browse offers on Groupon for meals, experiences, classes and services. My trip to Stonehenge was half price in the middle of summer!
๐Ÿ’ฐ Many major retailers offer great membership loyalty benefits. Never pay full price again!
๐Ÿ’ฐ Students and youth card holders also enjoy discounts at food chains and major retailers.

Health and fitness ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ

๐Ÿ†“ Register for free fitness trials – try something new!
๐Ÿ†“ Join a local fitness MeetUp or exercise group
๐Ÿ†“ Walk whenever possible – plus it’s the best way to explore
๐Ÿ‘› Buy in bulk and prep meals for the week yourself – freeze half and rotate the options to mix it up
๐Ÿ‘› Swim at the Lido or Hampstead Heath ponds in summer
๐Ÿ’ฐ Buy a bicycle – there’s an upfront cost but it’s free onwards (except maintenance)
๐Ÿ’ฐ Shop around for the best gym membership.

Holiday travel โœˆ๏ธ

๐Ÿ†“ Learn the basics of a new language using an app like Duolingo or go to a free language exchange session
๐Ÿ‘› Heard of ยฃ9 flights to France? Travel mid-week well in advance to score those fares
๐Ÿ’ฐ Always hunt for the best airfare online – try Skyscanner or Google Flights
๐Ÿ’ฐ Book your flight home to spend Christmas holidays with family on Christmas Day itself, or New Years Day to save
๐Ÿ’ฐ Take advantage of student and youth airfares and travel packages.

Your hacks

I’ve undoubtedly missed a few crucial London life hacks, so I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

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Easy day trips from London

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London may be the bustling Capital with an infinite amount of things to see, try and do – but there’s a whole island yet to explore! ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

With medieval castles, crumbling ruins, quaint villages to the English countryside spread around England, there’s bound to be something to suit every kind of traveller just a skip, hop and a jump away.

Here’s my top picks totally worth the train fare to get you started ๐Ÿ‘‡

Windsor

You might recognise Windsor as the illustrious royal wedding venue of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and preferred place of residence of Queen Elizabeth II.

Windsor castle ๐Ÿฐ has been home to The Royal Family for over 1,000 years and is the largest occupied castle in the world!

The town also shares its name with the British monarchy, and is a tourism magnet due to its proximity to London, historic sites and sprawling Great Park with 500 free roaming deer at the castle’s doorstep ๐ŸฆŒ

๐Ÿš† 30min from Waterloo station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: visit Windsor castle and explore the Queen’s apartments and St George’s Chapel
๐Ÿคฏ The name ‘Windsor’ comes from Old English โ€˜windles-oreโ€™ which translates to โ€˜winch by the riversideโ€™.

Cambridge

Aptly named after the lovely River Cam, a day trip to Cambridge is a welcome treat as you take in the picturesque backdrop the city has played to films like The Theory of Everything and The Crown ๐ŸŽฌ

Cambridge is also home one of the UK’s world leading universities whose alumni boasts famous actors like Sacha Baron Cohen, Rachel Weisz and Ian McKellen, and brainiacs like Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing ๐ŸŽ“

Swap walking shoes for a bicycle as you try to cram a busy agenda in! Some highlights to look forward to are the King’s College Chapel, and of course the university grounds, as well as a mix of things to find and try at Market Square and a view of the town from St Mary’s Church.

๐Ÿš† 1hr from Kings Cross station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: go punting on the river! It’s the UK’s answer to the romantic canals of Venice
๐Ÿคฏ Legend has it this is where an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head, becoming the catalyst for one of the most famous laws of physics, Newton’s Theory of Gravity, in 1687.

Oxford

Dubbed ‘The City of Dreaming Spires’, Oxford is famous for being home to the other of the UK’s world leading universities, as well as its Olde Worlde charm and for having been a favourite haunt for royals and scholars since the 9th century ๐Ÿ‘‘

University or School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? You’ll recognise Christ Church Cathedral’s alter ego as Hogwarts in scenes from Harry Potter โšก which draws in throngs of fans year round. Oxford has also attracted other literary geniuses as the likes of Oscar Wilde, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien who studied at the Bodleian Library.

Spend the day exploring the university campus, baroque architecture at Blenheim Palace, 1,000 years of history at Oxford Castle & Prison, the iconic Radcliffe Camera and Bridge of Sighs, and get lost wandering the Oxford Covered Market.

๐Ÿš† 90min from Paddington station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: the university campus gives you easy access to the Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera and the Botanical Gardens
๐Ÿคฏ Hitler planned to use Oxford as his capital after conquering England – one of the reasons why it wasn’t bombed.

Surrey Hills

Noticeably different to Surry Hills in Sydney, Surrey Hills (with an ‘e’) sells itself as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. If you’re after a mix of the natural delights of the English countryside, quaint cottages, crumbling ruins and imposing estates, then it look no further ๐Ÿƒ

Strap on your hiking boots (or wellies if you’re so inclined) and check out trails at Box Hill, Dorking, Haslemere, Leith Hill – whose Tower is the highest point in South East England – and and more ๐Ÿฅพ

Surrey Hills is also where it all started for our Hiking Group in summer last year!

๐Ÿš† 90min from Waterloo station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: a wine tour at Denbies Wine Estate, England’s largest vineyard
๐Ÿคฏ 40% of the area is covered in woodland and 14% of which is ancient woodland. Keep your eyes peeled for fairies!

White Cliffs of Dover

A little awkwardly dubbed ‘The Gateway to England’ (given the Brexit situation), the White Cliffs of Dover is the first glimpse of the UK (or the last) you’ll see when catching a ferry across the English Channel, and gets its name from the chalk surface which dates back to the Ice Age โ„๏ธ

Hike the coastal path for stunning views (and a glimpse of France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท on a clear day), brush up on your history and explore the Churchill Wartime Tunnels and the Fan Bay Deep Shelter, and check out Dover Castle on a nearby hill if you get time.

Don’t bother taking a white rock home as a souvenir – the chalky surface will rub off and make a mess of your bag!

๐Ÿš† 2hrs from St Pancras International
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: 2 mile walk to the South Foreland Lighthouse
๐Ÿคฏ Julius Caesar arrived in 55 BC looking for a suitable landing place for a Roman invasion, but after seeing the armed natives protecting the cliffs he returned with reinforcements a year later.

Canterbury

While Canterbury – the setting of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – is an easy canter on horseback from London, I’d recommend taking the train ๐Ÿด

Wander and wonder at Canterbury Cathedral – a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s most famous places of worship – then visit The Marlowe Theatre and get caught up in the controversy of whether Canterbury-born Christopher Marlowe actually wrote some of Shakespeare’s works ๐ŸŽญ

Originally a Roman settlement, pay a visit to the Canterbury Roman Museum to soak up some history, then soak up some sun by the River Stour, or on foot or cycling down Great Stour Way.

๐Ÿš† 1hr from Kings Cross station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: shop at the 500-year-old Buttermarket (built on top of ruins and underground tunnels)
๐Ÿคฏ The ‘Canterbury trot’ is named after the way pilgrims rode their horses to the city before night curfew.

Bath

The city of Bath gets its creative name from its, well, baths (pun intended). Not only is it home to ancient Roman thermae (baths), it’s also the UK’s unique natural hot spring. Not to mention, there’s also a rooftop natural thermal spa (creatively named Thermae Bath Spa). This must be the cleanest city in the world, right? ๐Ÿ›

Aside from its aquatic appeal, the whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts incredible architectural gems like Pulteney Bridge, Bath Abbey and The Circus.

With many a famous Bathonian to its name such as the likes of Jane Austen, it’s also a city where you might be lucky enough to spot a famous face. John Cleese and Johnny Depp have lived in Bath, and you might recognise its streets in films like The Duchess and Les Miserables๐ŸŽฌ

๐Ÿš† 90min from Paddington station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: drink hot spa water from the fountain at The Pump Room Restaurant – it contains 43 minerals and has a distinct taste
๐Ÿคฏ Pack your metal detector – a hoard of 17,500 Roman coins was found in the foundations of Gainsborough Bath Spa!

Stonehenge

Perched on an unassuming hill near Salisbury is Stonehenge, one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments. The site consists of a circle of standing stones and remains shrouded in mystery, even after 5,000 years ๐Ÿ“œ

There’s plenty of theories and folklore surrounding Stonehenge’s origins and meaning. Scholars mostly agree that it was used as a calendar of sorts due to its significance during the summer and winter solstice, as well as a burial ground – an estimated 200 people are buried at the site โšฐ๏ธ

In all honesty there’s not a whole lot to do after checking out the stones, but there’s a quiet moment of humility in gazing up at this incredible human feat.

๐Ÿš† 90min from Waterloo to Salisbury and then a bus, but booking a day tour from London is generally accepted as being great value for money
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: pick up an audio guide from the Visitor Centre as signage is limited. Also aim to visit in summer, else you risk being wind blasted!
๐Ÿคฏ A 12th century legend claims that giants placed Stonehenge on a mountain in Ireland, before Merlin the wizard magically moved it to England.

Bristol

Bristol is a thriving city and a popular residence for university students and expats – especially due to its close proximity to and similarity to London, just in more manageable proportions.

Famous Bristolians include actors like Jeremy Irons and Maisie Williams, literary heavyweight J K Rowling, as well as the elusive street artist Banksy and even the infamous Blackbeard the Pirate! ๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ

Start the day early or consider an overnight stay in Bristol as there’s an infinite amount of activities to keep you busy. From food and fashion, strolls along the Harbourside and through the Old City, to a hike up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge as well as hunting down Banksy’s work all over town, there’s a lot of ground to cover!

๐Ÿš† 2hrs from Paddington
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: check out Banksy’s Girl with the Pierced Eardrum at the Harbourside
๐Ÿคฏ Robert Louis Stevensonโ€™s famous book Treasure Island features many locations around Bristol.

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First impressions of London

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If expat life feels like home then you’re doing it wrong.

London seems similar at first – they drive on the same side of the road and speak the same language – until you realise there’s 30+ dialects, they’re football mad (โšฝ not ๐Ÿ‰) and fish’n’chips are eaten away from the beach.

Here’s my list of things that immediately stood out to me in my first months in the UK, but this might just be the tip of the iceberg!

The good

๐Ÿ“ฑ Citymapper is the only way to navigate – it combines Google and TfL data
๐Ÿ’“ Mobile data plans are much more generous (but with mixed reliability)
โš•๏ธ NHS upfront for expats is expensive but the care you receive is unrivalled
๐Ÿš Sitting at the front on the top level of a double decker is the best way to take it all in
๐ŸŽญ A visit to The Globe Theatre makes studying Shakespeare for years worth it
๐Ÿงฃ Wall-mounted heaters, such genius!
๐Ÿท Mulled wine, where have you been all my life?
๐Ÿ• Squash is a thing – even Franco Manca’s signature pizza base
๐ŸŒˆ It doesn’t rain all that much, it just drizzles
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Clapham is overrun by Australians and New Zealanders
๐ŸฆŠ๐Ÿฟ๏ธ Foxes and squirrels scurry around like Pokemon!

The bad

๐Ÿ“ž Telephone boxes are run down and smell like pee
๐Ÿค” Brits use ‘You all right?’ as a legitimate greeting
๐Ÿ“บ You pay for a TV licence you never use
๐Ÿฅฆ Most supermarkets close early on Sundays
๐ŸŒฌ๏ธ Air-conditioning is virtually non-existent, even on public transport
๐Ÿซ Chocolate tastes strange, but Galaxy bars make up for it
๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ There are no power points in bathrooms
๐Ÿ  SpareRoom.co.uk is a necessary evil – watch out for scammers
๐ŸŒ Fresh produce isn’t that fresh at all
๐Ÿ’ฉ The Thames has got nothing on Sydney Harbour and is always brown
๐Ÿ™ Making friends is hard work and you may feel lonely at times.

The ugly

Big Ben will be covered in scaffolding until 2021!

๐Ÿฆ You won’t find a Weis Bar anywhere but you can try an online recipe?
๐Ÿ‘ข People actually wear UGG boots outside
๐Ÿšฐ Hard water is liquid hell, and don’t even get me started on limescale
๐Ÿš† Trains outside of London are privately operated and hella expensive
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Eating out is double the cost and half the quality of what we get back home
๐Ÿƒ Everyone’s in a rush – be prepared to be bumped, knocked and shoved daily
๐Ÿ›‹๏ธ Some apartments don’t have a living room
๐Ÿšฝ Sharing one bathroom and toilet between five rooms is normal
๐Ÿšจ You become desensitised to news of violence or moped thieves in your area
๐Ÿคง Sometimes there’s black stuff in your tissue after sneezing.

The amusing

Get used to uncomfortable eye and body contact on the Tube

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ Try dropping some true blue Aussie vernacular mid-conversation, it’s an experience
โ›ฑ๏ธ ‘Beaches’ in the UK
๐ŸŒณ People sun bake in parks in summer
๐Ÿงฅ Australia Day in winter is more brunch than BBQ
๐Ÿš‡ Tube, Underground, Overground, Rail, DLR … can’t we just call it a train?
๐Ÿป Brits who are equally rowdy after a couple of pints
๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ Standing on the right on the escalator but having no clue where to on the pavement
๐Ÿ˜• Brits who pick up on your accent but are too polite to ask where you’re from
๐Ÿคฃ Cockfosters is a legitimate name of a Tube station on the Piccadilly line
โ„๏ธ 10min of snow is enough to interrupt the whole transport system
๐ŸŒ You learn what ‘Antipodean’ means for the first time
๐Ÿฅง Christmas mince pies do not contain mince meat – don’t be fooled.

I’ve got a niggling feeling I might have missed a few things … If you’ve experienced culture shock since moving to London or the UK, do tell!

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