Living in London is an amazing experience for a student. You could probably never leave the city for years and never run out of things to do. But what if you want to go to the Jane Austen festival in Bath, or visit Doctor Who filming sites in Cardiff? Or travel to the rest of Europe? Here are some top tips, tried and tested, that I wish I’d known as a student before traveling inside and outside of the United Kingdom.
1.) Plan Ahead!
It’s always a good idea to make a travel itinerary for your journey. What train line will you be using to travel? How many days are you planning to stay at your destination? Will this be a single day trip or an overnight? Do you have a hotel or are you staying with a friend? There’s lots of things to consider and write down to have handy before you set off. Have these notes in your phone so you can whip them out at a moment’s notice, which you just might have to do.
2.) Bring a Guide Book or Download an App
Guide books and apps are great for sourcing out the best local food spots and must see attractions. You may even find something you didn’t know about before! Highlight a few spots you really want to see and make levels of interest in different colors. Do you absolutely have to see the Torchwood Hub, or would you rather eat at a trendy Instagram restaurant? Does exploring remote castles in Scotland sound more up your alley or do you want to shop around town? It’s also handy to write down these locations in your phone.
3.) Tripadvisor and Yelp
It may sound like a pain, but Tripadvisor and Yelp can be livesavers if you want to look at wait time for restaurants or attractions. It can also tell you if the place you want to see is worth your time and money. Have a look to see if the reviews are positive and what the most popular tourist days of the week are before you set off. It could mean the world of difference between getting there to see that there’s a 3 hour wait or planning the attraction for another day.
4.)Travel with a Friend or meet up with one
Safety comes in numbers, as my mom is fond of saying. Your first experience of travelling internationally by yourself can be extremely freeing as you realize that you can handle the responsibility, but going with a friend is twice the fun. Comparing my trip to Cardiff where I went with a friend versus my trip to Exeter going alone, I definitely felt safer and more comfortable travelling with someone I knew. If you really want to go alone, meet up with a friend or family at your destination! Not only can they show you all the hotspots and take pictures, but you also won’t feel so out of place.
5.) Keep Your Valuables Safe
Keeping your valuables within an arm’s reach at all times is essential. I always have a running checklist whenever I travel: passport, photo ID, train ticket, phone, phone charger. It’s good to keep these in the same place in your purse or bag so you know where they are. Wearing a purse cross body is a great option, as are the popular fanny packs. Make sure you check that you have everything before you leave places such as the hotel and the train!
6.) Train Tips
So you’re traveling across Europe- are you taking the train or the bus? Search up a few options; GWR is not the only trainline, it’s one of many that runs from central London. You can also choose from Southwestern, which is a lot cheaper. Use the app called Trainline to compare prices and times to travel. Train tickets will be very expensive if you book them the day of your travel, ranging up to £91 ($116). Be sure to book train tickets a few weeks in advance to get prices as low as £40 ($50) or even £24 ($40).
7.) Train Station Tips
Whether you choose Paddington, Victoria, Kings Cross or Euston Station, be sure to allow extra time to get to the station beforehand. They usually have tons of options inside the station for food, but I highly recommend Speedy’s Cafe, a Sherlock location, outside Euston Station. Be sure to keep an eye on the departure board like you would at the airport, it changes in a hurry and you’ll only have a few minutes to make your way to the platform for departure. The guides and workers are your best friends. Don’t hesitate to ask them any questions you have, especially if you miss your train.
8.) London Bus Services
If you choose to go the cheaper route for travel and take a bus, be prepared for the trip to take a very long time. And I mean a really long time. My trip home from Exeter to London lasted a good 6 hours on Megabus. While Megabus has more options for travel time, National Express is your best bet for a more reliable and comfortable service. You can view bus time tables on your phone with the bus network apps. Be sure to book tickets well in advance and save them on your phone to look at when you leave. Keep checking the time and place of departure at your location.
9.) Tips for Your Destination
If you’re travelling in the UK, Google Maps has saved me countless times. It’s simple and easy to figure out where you need to go. Make sure you bring a wireless charger for your phone, as well as an EU/UK adapter cable for charging on the train or bus. Most will have charger ports so try to snag a seat nearby one. Be sure to bring extra cash for emergencies, and try not to buy a ton of merchandise to weigh down your bags. Bon voyage!