Want to learn more about London? Look no further. Explore below to learn more about this exciting city.
There are various regional airports outside of London welcoming passengers coming in from other European cities. You’ll likely use these smaller airports if traveling to other countries before or after your Panrimo program. However, for landing the first time to Europe and at the start of your program, you’ll fly into London Heathrow Airport.
Heathrow is 12 miles west of central London, and your Panrimo coordinator will meet you outside of customs and take you to your housing.
In the UK, security measures are relatively thorough. The officer will scan your passport, so take it out of any case in which it may be. The officer will ask you the nature of your stay and duration in the UK. Show them your acceptance letter provided by Panrimo, your visa, and return flight confirmation for departure. Be kind and courteous. Though the process lasts only a couple minutes, waiting in line to get there can be an hour or more. You’ll retrieve luggage after you pass through UK Border Agency control.
UK Border Agency up-to-date information and guidelines can be viewed here: ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk
Planes, trains, and automobiles. Actually, in London it’s more tubes and buses. You’ll be an expert in no time, but Panrimo’s staff recommends a travel-size tube map and bus route pamphlet to ease frustration. You'll find this in your Tailor-Made Acceptance Packet.
Built in 1863, London was the first city in the world to construct underground metro cars. Now ubiquitously called the Tube, over 4 million people jump on and off daily in the labyrinth of underground mazes.
As crowded as it may be, and with delays during rush hour, the Tube is still the most convenient and fastest method of transport in London. Ticket prices vary, and city government practically forces you to buy an Oyster Card to use and recharge for transportation use. Note that in Tube stations you select what area of London (zone) you will exit. This determines your ticket price. Or, with your Oyster Card, you scan and go, the final price depending on where you exit, obtained by swiping again.
Some helpful Tube tips:
- The front of the train (Tube) shows its final destination
- Tube staff are knowledgeable and quite kind, so ask them questions
- One ticket is around £4. An Oyster Card is about £5 (refundable) and makes Tube rides around £2; you can recharge cards with British pounds or credit card in all stations; in the end, we recommend you get a card
- The Tube runs 05:30 to 00:30 daily, and from 07:00 onward on Sundays
- While riding station escalators, stand to the right and walk on the left
- In the summer, bring bottled water; it can get hot
A better way to see more of London is to ride the bus. Doubledeckers and regular sized buses abound, and though occasionally jarring in traffic, you can get a good lay of the land by looking out the window. This seriously contrasts being underground like a mouse in a maze. Plus, in the summer, the ride is better than stuffy non-air-conditioned metro cars.
You can use your Oyster Card to board buses. Fare is about £2, you can ride till your heart’s content, and the bus is great for late-night transport since it goes until 04:30.
Some helpful bus tips:
- There are two types of bus stops: requested and required. Requested stops are red sidewalk signs with a white circle. You push the obvious button on the bus, a short alarm goes off in front, and the driver pulls over at the next sign. Required stops are white signs with a red circle.
- We recommend pushing the signal button to exit no matter what at least 15 seconds prior to your stop
- When waiting for the bus, don’t flag it down or stand in the street; the driver will see you and stop
- Panrimo staff recommend Route 11 to see major sights in the city
Famously known as London Black Cabs, these boxes on wheels are another option to get quickly from Point A to Point B. Taxis are a good idea if you have five friends who can pile into one car, to a destination only a mile away.
Fares add up quickly. Ask the driver for a fixed price if you have a good idea how much that will be yourself. Or sit in bewilderment and potential fury as the meter goes up and up. Fares start at around £2 for one person and increase substantially every ten seconds. When it comes to tipping a cab driver, just round up to the next pound when asking for change. Tipping drivers isn’t a big thing in London.
Note: Text “HOME” to 60835 to get a taxi or minicab in the area you’re physically at in the city.
Pound Stirling is the national currency of the UK, and with all those coins in your pocket you’ll be lucky to have your leg by the end of the day. Luckily, the cash bills are very colorful and sport fairly attractive people on them, which lightens the load.
Compared to the US and Canadian dollar over the past decade, the British pound has been kicking the dollars’ butts. It simply holds more weight in currency exchange markets. An item that costs £2 pounds is nearly equivalent to more than $3 US dollars. And don’t expect pricing to reflect American conventions: something that would cost $2 in America may be £3 in London. Thus inflation, coupled with exchange rates, can cause expenses to accumulate.
Where to get pounds? Like all major cities Panrimo operates in, there are options to exchange money.
So, suggestions on obtaining pounds:
· Plan ahead and call your bank, letting them know you’ll be using your card overseas
· Take out as much money as you can at one time at the ATM to avoid transaction fees
· Avoid exchanging money at airports; they have very high rates
Lets face it, no one comes to the UK to sunbathe. With an open ocean to the west and the largest landmass (Eurasia) to the east, being caught between the two creates for interesting weather. The convergence of hot, wet air from the waters and dry continental air from land smash together for a stormy sky.
If studying abroad in London during the spring semester, pack jeans, long-sleeve shirts and short sleeves, a windbreaker and a winter coat, umbrella, tennis shoes and waterproof boots.
Religion and Politics
71% of Britons identify themselves as Christian, but only one in ten attend church weekly. London is also home to congregations of Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam, with 40% of Muslims in the UK living in London.
Whereas in the past the church and government conspired together, these two bodies are now quite separate. The British Monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is Chief of State of the UK. Though she could exercise more power, for the past couple decades, she’s laid low and is now more for show. Her Majesty does, however, meet weekly with the Prime Minister and provides advice on certain matters. She does have the power to declare war, if she wishes, whereas the Prime Minister cannot. She has yet to get that feisty, however.
The Prime Minister is head of the UK Cabinet. The Cabinet is a body of twenty-two ministers appointed by the Monarch and headed by the Prime Minister. Some say the Cabinet has lost considerable power and acts like a puppet to the Prime Minister.
Cabinet works like this: every Tuesday while Parliament is in session, the Cabinet meets at 10 Downing Street to discuss issues. The Prime Minister chairs the meeting and sets the agenda. Cabinet ministers give thoughts and opinion, introduce suggestions, and new policy is decided upon. Then, Parliament members vote on bills they wish to become law. There’s obviously a lot more to the process, but you won’t need to familiarize yourself with the intricacies.
As a student studying overseas in London, you’ll likely wake up to the chimes of Big Ben before 07:00. You might make some bangers and mash, fried eggs and orange juice or coffee for yourself. Then shower and jump on the Tube to 09:00 class on English fashion. For lunch meet with friends at Café Pacifico not far from other hotspots.
Return for Shakespeare lit class with local British students. At 17:00 stroll Borough Market with friends before dinner of brussel sprouts, steamed carrots, roasted potatoes and meat at 19:00. Study or go for a walk in your neighborhood. Spot the queen in her limousine, then head to bed around 23:00.
Local Brits follow a similar schedule, with parents dropping off children at nearby daycare or school. Most Londoners ride the tube, and some, if convenient, jump on a bus. Few have cars in the city. Many families and even single people live in outlying areas of the city for more living space at affordable rates, commuting downtown. Some commutes take an hour or more each way, so no griping about riding public transit. It’s part of the experience—and a good time to catch up on last night’s podcast of BBC’s latest British humor (try and understand the jokes, we dare you).
Culture and Food
London is a city of Old World sights and New World extravagance. You can expect the charm of afternoon tea and political and societal gossip to be followed with a roaring night of clubbing and saucy theatre shows. For such eclectic options in one place, Panrimo staff find London the most appealing; there is something for everyone.
England has a governmental arm called the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. These tax-paid officials infuse entertainment and national pride into the hearts of locals and tourists. This mentality is seen in Brits, their dry humor, politeness to guests, and genuine interest in entertaining and being entertained. For example, it is not rare for a group of friends to go out a couple nights a week, one person buying drinks for the group at one pub, followed by another in the group buying drinks for all at the next. Note that it is not customary to keep a running tab at a pub; pay as you go.
But British identity is changing. Over 250 languages are spoken in the city, and with increasing number of foreigners making it home, London’s customs and traditions are expanding. Lets see if you can describe the typical Brit once there, if there is such a person anymore.
Food. You gotta eat, no? Typical daily meals in the UK resemble the following: for breakfast, aim for cereal, oatmeal, eggs, coffee and orange juice, or a combination thereof. Lunch generally is a sandwich, a pack of crisps (chips), and a drink. For dinner—the largest meal of the day—aim for salad, roasted lamb or beef, potatoes, and vegetables, with beer or water.
Shopping for food in downtown London is difficult. Get familiar with your local neighborhood to find the butcher, the baker, even a candlestick maker to set the mood. Panrimo staff suggest avoiding large grocery stores (how American!), but if you must, the most popular grocery stores are Tesco, Somerfield, Sainsbury’s, or Waitrose.
Students typically start off a weekend night at a pub. Grab some local grub and saddle up to the bar. Hear what locals are talking about and join in on conversation. You may find a new friend suggesting a hotspot around the corner into which you would never have stumbled.
Most London pubs close at 24:00, and dance clubs close around 04:00 in the morning. Throughout the city you’ll find traditional pubs with funny names, like “The Ferret and Trouser Leg,“ and “The Clog and Billycock.” These originated hundreds of years ago when most of England was illiterate. To have guests remember a tavern, the barkeep had a sign with images. Everyone knew what a ferret and pants looked like, so such images were etched into a wooden sign to hang above the tavern’s door.
If you want trendy bars and clubs head to South Kensington or the West End. Beware of tourists and tourists’ prices. Panrimo staff recommend the Clapham area. It’s full of young professionals and university students.
Definitely catch a show—be it jazz, rock n’ roll, or a musical—in the West End theatre district. Londontheatredistrict.com andlondontheatrebookings.com offer 25%+ discounts on live performances and last-minute purchases. Included in the Panrimo program are tickets to Phantom of the Opera. It's classic.
Much like large cities in the US, there are areas of London to avoid. Don’t test fate in these neighborhoods: Brixton, Stepney, Peckham, Hackney, and Camberwell. And as a general rule of thumb, keep your wallet or purse attached to you (not a chair or armrest) at all times; there are pickpockets. You can also check out crime rates via an interactive London Police map here: maps.met.police.uk. It’s neat.
Note: Text “HOME” to 60835 to get a taxi or minicab in the area you’re physically at in the city.
The British are said to be reserved in speech and outward gestures. It is even said that they can talk you out of being angry at them without you even realizing it. But British people are a mixed group: English, Scottish, Welsh, or Irish. So it’s unfair to categorize them as one being, especially since 25% of London’s population is immigrants.
Brits are famous for politeness, self-discipline, and a wry, dry, witty, and quick sense of humor. Listen carefully and you may laugh at their puns, usually a few minutes (or hours) after the joke was said.
Brit’s communicate indirectly; everything is a suggestion. The English culture is highly contextual, like Japanese or Chinese. You must read between the lines and make some strong assumptions on what a Brit is trying to tell you. But luckily, they’re patient as well: if you don’t get their indirect suggestion or subtle joke, they’re willing to tip-toe around the point until you get it.
All of us at Panrimo are certain you’ll find life abroad in England—especially in London—an adventure full of history, charm, and eloquence. Whether in West End of at the end of the bar at the Hairy Lemon, you’ll start building a list of incredible spots to frequent. But don’t limit yourself, you’ll always find something different to tickle your fancy in London.