Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My First visit to London, United Kingdom

This is a special guide for all first time visitors to UK (especially London and more useful for students).

London is undoubtedly a great place to be at, the weather is just awesome almost all the time and the temperature is mostly around 15 – 20 degrees (Celsius). If you are coming from a warm area, like India, Pakistan or any other such places where you are not habitual of being at such low temperatures, I would personally suggest to bring at least two winter wears which can be jackets, sweaters, and additionally some muffler or ear straps to cover your ears properly. It rains here almost all the months, and you can never predict when it may rain. Another interesting thing is, people here are mostly dependent on internet for everything, even if they have to wash clothes, they first check the weather predictions online and if it seems like not rainy or sun shining only then they wash their clothes so that they can dry their clothes in proper sunshine. However, internet is not still that accurate, as no one can predict the exact situation of the weather.

I have been here for a few weeks till now, something that I would like to share are the following things, here the public transport is very familiar and easy to understand if understood properly, whether or not someone is coming to pick you up at the airport, it’s always very easy to travel from the airport to whichever place you wish to throughout the UK.

The National Express coaches are always there, if you wish to travel using buses, and if you wish to travel using one of the fastest ways in UK, which is Tube (Metro Train), also known as underground trains, the Heathrow express takes from terminal 1 to 5 to whichever part of London you want to. You might have to change trains and the tube maps are available online as well as at all the tube stations for free, pick 2 -3 maps, so that even if you lose one, you have other in spare. You can even easily plan your journey on http://www.tfl.gov.uk the TFL stands for Transport For London. It is the government site for planning journeys, knowing the latest traffic situations, downloading bus as well as tube maps, checking the fare price and so on… you must really have a look at this site as this gives a very good idea of transport in London even if you are not going to travel by it the very first time you reach London.

The journeys can be planned online on TFL website, and it will show you the easiest and fastest route using the combination of Tube, National Rail, Bus and walk (if the distances are just less that you can walk rather than taking a public transport). Please take care of one thing, if you are going to travel by public transport, please do get yourself a OYSTER CARD, this is like a easy top up card, with the help of which you can just touch this card while boarding the buses / trains and all, and you don’t have to spend money in cash, and it’s a lot cheaper to use Oyster rather than cash, Oyster comes at a refundable deposit of 3 pounds, and additionally you can top up for as low as 1 pound, but do top up a minimum of 7 pounds with the help of which you can travel unlimited throughout London, this is known as daily price cap, which means, if you have travelled at least worth the daily price cap amount, rest of all the journeys are going to be free for you, but that doesn’t mean, you don’t have to touch your OYSTER card on the yellow card reader while boarding the buses or trains. You have to still touch it on the yellow card reader, but that becomes completely free for you, no money is deducted from your OYSTER Card.

If you want to know more about daily price caps and other such information, please visit http://www.tfl.gov.uk that is the best site for every single query in regards to transport for London.

In London, you are charged for per ride, and not for the distance you have travelled, meaning, whether you sit at one bus station and you drop at next or drop at last station, the price remains same, which is 1.20 pounds using Oyster or 2 pounds using CASH (these figures are for Red Buses).

Apart from this, another thing that you might notice here is the bus system, it’s pretty smooth and easy as you always know within how much time the next bus is going to arrive and at what bus station you can get the bus towards your destination. And the same applies to tube. Here tubes are identified by the lines, like Northern Line, Bakerloo Line, Metropolitan Line, Jubilee Line, etc... And the bus stations are identified by bus number, bus station name and the bus station symbol. This symbol is a unique thing which tells you from which side of a particular road you have to take the bus. A bus might go towards north as well as towards south and the bus number might also be the same, in such a scenario you must look at the round Symbol having one or two alphabets written at the top like X, C, H, E, CX, etc. An example of the same is, say you have to travel from The Wealdstone Centre to Wembley Stadium Station, for this you have to take bus, with route number 182 from Stop F which goes towards Brent Cross Shopping Centre, now here in this explanation of taking bus you don’t have to worry about nothing, as you might think about which way is towards Brent Cross Shopping Centre, all you need to do is Reach the bus stand, and look for the top symbol, where it shows “F” in a round circle with mostly RED background. So you have to take bus from this stop, and the bus that you have to take is bus number 182. So just climb in bus number 182 as and when it arrives, and wait for the announcement inside the bus, as and when Wembley Stadium Station is about to come, there will be an announcement inside the bus and the name of the next station will appear on the inside screen, that will let you know that you have reached your destination and you need to leave the bus here.

Don’t forget to touch the oyster card on the yellow reader as you board the bus, or if you don’t have a oyster card or your oyster card doesn’t have enough balance, you can buy ticket from the driver itself sitting on the inside counter at the driver’s seat. Here there are no conductors who would come at your seat and ask you where you have to go and accordingly sell you a ticket, so you have to yourself be careful to take the ticket or touch your oyster card at the yellow card reader.

I will come up with more things to share in due course of time. I am sorry, my experiences are not enough or not put systematically as I am yet to categorize them and make them more easily readable and understandable.