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Thursday 10 July 2014

How to Survive Your First Week in London

Your first week in a new city (and country) can be exciting and overwhelming. Each city is different, and in London each neighborhood can be different. With a few ideas about where to start, the first week of your relocation will run smoothly.

Before you even arrive in London, make sure you know how to get to where you are staying from the airport, and whether you plan to take the tube like I did or hire a taxi in advance. If you want to keep using your smartphone, I would also recommend making sure it is unlocked so you can use a local SIM card.

The first day can be a bit of a whirlwind. Flexibility is the name of the game for the next week. Plan on taking a couple hours to get to your new accommodation and freshen up from the long plane ride. If you have just stepped off of a red-eye flight, you may be tempted to take a nap - this is when you go for a walk instead! Put on your most comfortable shoes, grab a wi-fi enabled device, and hit the streets.

  • Familiarize yourself with the location of the nearest tube station or bus stop, and grab a tube map to keep on you at all times.
  • Walk until you find a Pret a Manger. They have healthy, cheap food and free wi-fi on The Cloud. I spent at least 30 minutes a day in Pret the first week I was in London, especially since I was still waiting on AT&T to unlock my phone.
  • If you haven’t already, download our recommended apps for new London arrivals.
  • After you have updated your friends and family of your arrival on the free wi-fi, keep exploring! The best way to get rid of jet lag is to push through the first day and not go to bed until at least 9pm.

The next few days bring with them more energy (if you were able to avoid jet lag by sleeping at the right time!) and opportunities. Grab breakfast (I went to Pret for food and more wi-fi) and head back to the tube station to register for an Oyster card.

  • Go on a free tour! I enjoyed the Sandemans Free Tour of Royal London, but there are also tours put on by Free Tours by Foot and Alternative London. This is a great chance to meet your first friendly face - I ended up with new Facebook friends and went to Platform 9 ¾ with them after our tour was over!
  • Check out our list of the best pay-as-you-go mobile phone plans and head out to grab your new phone or SIM card.
  • Track down your new workplace so you won’t get lost on your first day.
  • Start really settling in to your accommodations. The sooner you get unpacked and organized, the sooner you will feel at home.

Once you’re unpacked and settled, its time to stock up on any supplies you might not have been able to fit into your suitcase, and make sure everything is sorted out with your Visa program.

  • When it comes to shopping, stick to larger chain stores. You’ll get better prices at Primark and Sainsbury’s than the corner convenience store.
  • Find the offices of your Visa provider if you went through a program such as BUNAC to check in with them and possibly sign up for an orientation.
  • Use the rest of the day to head to a museum! Check out our list of 20 Best London Museums.

The rest of the week is the time to get acquainted with your area of London, as well as the city as a whole. Once your program, class, job, or internship starts you won’t have as much time to enjoy exploring as you do right now! One of the best ways to get your bearings is to walk until you discover something new, get lost, and then realize where you are once again.

  • Find your favorite pub - start your search with our Top 10 Traditional London Pubs.
  • If travel blogs are your thing, why not set up your own for your friends and family back home to read?
  • Have a picnic and read a book in one of London’s many parks.
  • Go people-watching.
  • Prepare for your classes or internship.

Celebrate living in London for a whole week by heading to West End for a play, going on a Pub Crawl, or resting up before or after an exciting day trip. Even after a week of exploring and settling in, you have barely made a dent in discovering all that London has to offer - so keep an eye on our Relocation Guide and enjoy being a new London resident!