5 Important Tips To Survive London

I’ve lived in London for over two months now and I’ve learned so much!  I made sure to research as much about the city as possible before arriving, so that I wouldn’t be completely lost.  London has no mercy and if you jump in head first, you might not have a good time as you hope to.

If you are on a Tier 5: Youth Mobility Visa like me, then these tips may help you and I only wish I knew of them earlier.  Unfortunately, you’ve got to sometimes learn things the hard way!  I read as many blogs as I could about moving to London, but most of the blogs were either out of date or did not have enough information.  My experiences are simply my experiences, so I speak for myself alone and no one else.

I am not a British citizen, nor do I have any relationship with one.  I’m not an EU citizen either, and I have no family here… so the only person who can help me is myself.  Other bloggers might have dual citizenship, or they might already be experienced at travelling, or they might have lived in London before, or they have family and friends who they can stay with… I’ve got none of that!  I’m definitely jealous that some people have grandparents who are British and can therefore apply for citizenship or have family and friends they can stay with for free, but if you’ve got no one other than yourself, you may find these tips useful.

In no particular order:

1. The system in London is ridiculous and is a never ending circle!  To get a job, you need a bank account.  But to get a bank account you need proof of address.  But to find a flat you need a job!  And to get a job you need a bank account….  Trying to set yourself up with these three things will be a pretty hard challenge, but don’t give up, because it’s possible… you just have to keep trying.  You also need a National Insurance Number, but you can’t have it delivered just anywhere, because you don’t have a house for it to be sent to and it takes 4-6 weeks for it to arrive!  Who knows where you’ll be in 4-6 weeks, right!?  Thankfully, I received my national insurance number in 3.5 weeks, because I acted quickly and efficiently.  I also managed to book accommodation for the first month, so that was handy.

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How I managed was that I paid for a months accommodation and set myself a deadline to find a job and house within that one month.  I managed to find a house in 15 days, and used some of my savings to pay the deposit/bond + 1 months rent in advance.  My accommodation refunded me for the days I didn’t stay too, so that was really kind of them as it does not usually happen.  The tenor/real-estate agent for my new house asked me to send them a letter of my employment… JUST LIE!  Say, “Yes, I will do that!”  Don’t say, “Oh, I don’t have a job.”  And even if they ask you what sort of job you have, JUST LIE!  You’re not going to make it if you don’t fake it.  A tenor/real-estate agent might not find you reliable if you don’t have a job or a professional job, so sometimes you just have to lie so that they trust you.  And then once you have a house, start trusting yourself to find a job!

Apply for jobs online such as Reed.com, Indeed.com, GumTree, London travel pages on FB, hand out resume’s… Exert your very best efforts in this matter, exercise all of your considerable ingenuity, leave no depth of cunning unplumbed in your search to find a job!  At the end of the day, you only have yourself and if you can’t support yourself, then who else is going to!  I applied for jobs to popular retail outlets and managed to get myself a job with Zara (after a group interview).  Once I had a job at Zara, I used my employment letter as proof of address and my leasing contract as proof of address, to finally open up a proper bank account!  I then told work to change my bank account details and voila, everything was finally set up.  To find out more when setting up a bank account, I will write a blog post about that later, as it’s very lengthy and will be very comprehensive in order to help you with everything that people don’t tend to tell you.

I also cancelled my phone contract with Optus in Australia and bought me a new sim card from O2 providers.  It was prepaid, so I have to keep topping up whenever I run out, but at least I had internet on my phone and could make text and calls.  However, it’s not the best option, but was the only option until I get a bank account.  Now that I finally do have a bank account, I was able to set up a plan with them so that I get 6GB and unlimited texts and calls for £15/month.

2. It’s always handy to have an Oyster card, but if you’re constantly travelling within zones 1 and 2 on a daily basis, DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE AS ME!  I was foolishly topping up my Oyster card every 2 days with £10, but it’s cheaper just to buy a weekly ticket!  Or you can buy a monthly ticket and choose which zones you want it to apply for (such as zones 1-4 or zones 1-2, or zones 5-6, etc.), and then travel as many times as you like before your monthly ticket expires within the zones you selected.  This will honestly save you a lot of money.  Also, if you get on a bus with your Oyster card, you don’t need to tap off.  You only tap once when you get on and that’s it.  And another thing, you will be charged if you tap to go inside the barriers of the train station and then back out, regardless of whether you went on a train or not, even if the time between when you entered and left the barriers was only 10 seconds, you will be charged!  I accidentally did this 4 times, and lost £6.  In Australia, you don’t get charged for doing this, so I thought it would be the same.  Unfortunately not.

3. We all love food, and sometimes most of our pay actually goes towards spending unnecessary amounts of money on food.  If you have not found a job yet or you don not have a well paid job, then I heavily suggest you cut back on spending your money on food.  DO NOT BUY TAKE-AWAY!  It might only be £5 for a meal, which doesn’t sound like much, but you can buy enough ingredients to buy you a meal with £5 that will last you two or three days!  Treat yourself every now and then, so that you don’t do something stupid and spend a lot all at once on food, as this will help balance your spending and cravings for that amazing piece of chocolate that you don’t really need haha.  Until you have a job, try not to go out!  A night out in town will see you spend around £50-100!  The drinks add up.  If you do plan to go out, just buy some drug that’s £25 – this will last much longer than alcohol and is a lot cheaper.  Just take it before you head out, in case you get caught wearing it.  I’m vegetarian, which isn’t as cheap as being able to buy pre-made packaged meals that have meat for only £2 or less!  Especially when you need to buy a lot of different ingredients to make one meal, whereas meat-eaters can just buy mince, sauce and spaghetti.  Vegetarians will have to buy a whole lot more in order to receive the necessary amounts of calories, vitamins and minerals, and TASTE!  No point eating if your food isn’t tasty, right!?  And the lame thing about the produce in the supermarkets is their freshness!  Most of the food will expire in 2-3 days, so you’re constantly having to eat all your food quickly and then going out to spend money on groceries again… it’s ridiculous.  Ensure you try to preserve your food as much as possible, so that you can continue to eat it after its ‘best before’ label.  If it says ‘use-by’ instead of ‘best before’, then I personally wouldn’t eat it anymore, even if you preserved its freshness as much as possible… I just don’t want to risk getting sick, even if the risk is low.  Sure the NHS can cover you, but that’s not the point.  The point is that I don’t like risking my health, even if the milk is expired by 2 hrs.

4. This might sound silly, but try to go to the toilet before you leave the house.  London does not have many public toilets like Australia does.  The amount of times I’ve had to run home or find the nearest McDonalds, just so I can go to the toilet is ridiculous.  And even if you do manage to find a public toilet, chances are you need to pay for its use!  Nothing is worse than exploring London with your friends, only to feel ‘funny’ and then all you want to do is sit down, because if you keep walking around it’ll only make the feeling of needing to go to the toilet worse.  So best way to avoid this problem is to go to the toilet before leaving the house.

5. Sign the back of your bank card, because if you ever need to sign when making purchases, your signature will be checked.  If your signature does not match very well, you may need to provide other evidence that the card is yours, such as ID that has your name and face on it.  If you don’t have your signature on the back of your card, then ensure you have some other form of ID, just in case.  It happened to me once at WHSmith in Elephant and Castle.  I told the lady that I have other ID to prove that the card is mine, as the name matches with all my other cards, but she was being a racist bitch and wouldn’t allow me to make my purchase.  So I had to find an ATM and withdraw cash, and then she checked my cash to see if it was real – when she didn’t check the cash for the person who paid before me!  Some people are like that – because you’re foreign or ‘not white’, they will try to find a reason to claim that the card is not yours, making your life more difficult than it needs to be.

As I said before, at the end of the day, the only person that can help you is yourself!  Even if you make friends or find a friend from back home, that doesn’t mean they will help you… most likely they won’t!  Don’t be offended by this, because they are looking after their own necks too, but if they tell you to do something you feel like it’s not right due to money situations or whatever, then simply say ‘No, I can’t at the moment’.  They might find you boring and be upset, but they will completely understand as they’ve likely been through that situation as well.  You need to focus on you, this is your travel experience, no one else’s, so don’t get caught up in their travels!  Do what you want to do, isn’t that the whole reason why you decided to travel to the other side of the world alone!

 

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I hope these tips are helpful for you, I’ve got so much to say on so many things, but I don’t want to make my blogposts too long, so I’ve got to split everything up into topics!  If there’s anything you want to know, as I will try to cover as many of the things that I went through.

Preparing For London – Experience

Every year I like to make New Year resolutions, to help begin a new year, new me.  In 2016 my resolution was to work out, so I signed up to a gym and 7 months later, I had made no progress whatsoever, because I stopped going after the second time in the first month of my membership.  In 2017 my resolution was to workout again, but to also travel!  Don’t worry.  I didn’t make the same mistake signing up to a gym!  Instead I simply worked out for the first month, until it got too fucking hot!  I would try to go for a run twice a week and every night do a routine workout in my bedroom at night.  However, in order to fulfil my travel resolution and not forget or become too lazy about it, on 1 January 2017, I did a few taps with my fingers on my laptop and all of a sudden I sit back and stare at the screen… not knowing what I just did… but I did it… and I couldn’t turn back from there!

 

I had just spent most of my tax return from 2016 booking accommodation in London for a whole month at an AirBnB in central London.  Because I had to choose a date of when I wanted to book my accommodation, I also had set a deadline to sort my fucking life out!  The date of my arrival would be 1st April 2017 (April Fool’s Day), so I only had 3 months to save, get a working visa, book my flights, end my tenancy, pay off my phone plan, quit my job, and then cheerio over to London!  FORKING LUNDIN INNIT!  That was my horrible British accent I’m likely to get bashed for.  Anyways…

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Now that my accommodation for a month was booked, I decided to apply for my visa.  After about two weeks of confusion, I managed to figure out how to apply for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa.  What I didn’t know was that I had to whip out $534 (approx.) out of my asshole to pay the National Health Scheme (NHS) and then another $503 (approx.) for the visa application/interview/BRP/whatever it was for.  After I paid for my visa, I booked a date for my appointment to send off my supporting documentation and played the waiting game for it to get approved or declined.  Regardless of whether my visa would get approved or not, I was still going to go to London, but for a month holiday instead and hope that I can apply for a visa again in the future.  Alas, waiting for only two weeks I found out my visa was approved and I was legally able to work and live in London for two years!  When it comes to applying for a visa, just save your money and do it yourself!  Sure it’s difficult at first, but if you can’t do something like this on your own, maybe you’re not ready to go travelling on your own.  Have a little bit of independency rather than paying someone else to apply for you.  So now it was time to book my flights, woohoo!

Booking my flights was easy at first, but then it turned into a nightmare.  It was February 20th, and I still had not booked any one-way flights or saved any cash!  With over a month left, I was literally shitting bricks!  I had constantly been researching flights from Brisbane to London since January, keeping track of the price of flights.  I was using WebJet as my main tool of research for flight prices.  I don’t know about you, but when flying internationally, I like to use either Qantas or Emirates or Etihad (domestically I’ll just use Jet Star, Tiger Air or Virgin).  The reason I prefer either Qantas or Emirates or Etihad is because they are the best company I’ve flown with and their reputation is good.  I don’t know much about other airlines, so I avoided them.  After looking at prices, Emirates turned out to be the cheapest, costing around $1500 (approx.) in economy.  So I went to the Emirates website, wanting to book through them, but the same flight turned out to be more expensive!  I found that weird and being a little stingy (as you would at this point with nothing saved), in the end I decided to book through WebJet.  After payment and confirmation, I go to Emirates’ website to manage my booking, select my seats and choose my meal (vegetarian).  But for some reason I couldn’t login!  To log in I needed to insert my surname and reference booking number.  Everything was spelled correctly and when I spoke to an Emirates representative, even they couldn’t tell me what was wrong!  So I went back to my flight ticket and noticed that my last name was spelled incorrectly by one letter.  I typed my incorrect last name and reference booking number in the login, and sure enough it worked!  But since this was my first time travelling alone internationally, I got scared and worried that I wouldn’t be allowed on the plane due to my incorrect spelling of my name.  I was worried that the money I paid for my accommodation, visa and flight would go down the drain due to a missing letter in my last name!

So I contacted Emirates if I could just fix my last name, who told me that since I booked through an agency (WebJet), I would need to contact them instead.  I contacted WebJet and spoke to a representative over the phone about my issue.  The WebJet representative told me that it was fine to make a name change and depending on which airline I chose may depend on whether there is a name correction fee and the type of process to correct my name.   Unfortunately I was told I needed to book a whole new flight ticket, just to place one missing letter in my name, plus pay a name correction fee of $61 (approx.).  However, I would receive a full refund of my original flight ticket in 4-6 weeks.  When I was told to pay the same amount as my original flight ticket, I noticed that the price they asked for was different… it was higher!  So I asked why my flight ticket costs more and WebJet told me that flights become more expensive closer to the date of its departure.  I thought this was suspicious, so I told the representative to hold over the phone as I quickly search up the same price as my original flight ticket using their website.  Sure enough the price had NOT increased, it was exactly the same, so I pointed this out to WebJet and asked why they were charging me more than the advertised price on their website.  They said all I needed to pay was the same costs as my flight, but unfortunately that was not the case, as they wanted more!  I was being ripped off by WebJet, they were charging me extra for absolutely no apparent reason.

When I asked why I had to pay extra, they couldn’t answer my question and kept trying to avoid answering my question.  So I told the representative to put their supervisor over the phone.  After waiting on the phone for about 5 minutes, I’m told that the supervisor is not working today, but I knew that was a lie, because the supervisor was the one that had emailed me that day an hour ago about having to pay for the flight again.  His name is Paul, so I definitely knew they were lying to me.  They didn’t want to tell me why they were charging me extra than what was needed to pay.  Of course this is all exclusive of the name correction fee (approx. $61).  Feeling upset that no one could help me, I ended up paying $1650 (approx.) for another ticket, but needed to receive a refund of my original flight ticket within at least 4 weeks – not between 4 – 6 weeks, because by then I would have left the country and my bank accounts would be closed… so who the hell were they going to transfer my money to.  Instead they said it would take 6 – 8 weeks for a refund.  Pissed off would be scratching the surface, I was literally murderous that I’ve had to go through this stupid ordeal over one missing letter in my surname.  Everything else is correct – my forename, passport number, etc., the only difference is one letter in my surname.  I call WebJet again and demand a refund of my original flight ticket within 4 weeks, not between 6-8.  The reason that I explained why, is due to the fact that I will be needing to close down all my accounts as I’m not coming back to the country.  The representative could speak perfect English, but for some reason, she couldn’t understand what I was saying.  No matter how many times that I tried to explain to WebJet that transferring money into a closed bank account is not possible and that I would need a refund within 4 weeks, they still did not get it.  In the end they said they would try their best and so I ended the call… for now.  Later that night I called again and told WebJet that I will call them every single day, three or more times a day asking for my refund, until I get it.  I wrote a review on their Facebook page, I sent three emails and made 4 phone calls.  That was just the first day.  The second day I called again in the morning and told a different representative about my situation.  Since all my calls had been recorded and monitored, the representative knew about my problem and repeated the same shit the others said, but I was not interested.  I just wanted to annoy them until I got what I want, because shit happens if you let it happen… and I was not taking this shit!  Not at all!  It does not take 6-8 weeks to make a refund!  If we can send a man to the moon, how the fuck does it take 4-6 or 6-8 weeks to make a refund!  It should be able to be done in a week at least.  These fuckers had no idea who they were messing with.

I said to the representative on the phone that if I had to, I will fly down to their head office where he is sitting right now and come knocking until I get my refund.  Their head office is located in Melbourne and recently on the news one man had ploughed through the shopping district killing people with his car and running them over.  I made a reminder that I was also just ‘one man’.  I also went to Commonwealth Bank and made a dispute over my flight (they were so helpful!).  Commonwealth is the best!  They said they would have their lawyers contact Emirates directly asking why it takes so long to process a refund and try to have my money returned within 3 days.  Eventually I got my refund of my original flight within 3 days, instead of 6-8 weeks.  This is what happens when you stand your ground to million dollar companies and don’t take their shit!  So then I started demanding a refund on the name correction fee they charged me, as well as the additional costs I had to pay for my second flight ticket that appeared out of thin air.  I gave up though, because I couldn’t be assed hassling them anymore, but I will never be booking through WebJet or an agency ever again!  My advice is – book directly through the airlines website, even if it does cost a little bit extra, don’t be a stingy cunt, because at least if you book directly through the airline, you are also eligible for a possible surprise upgrade.  It happened to my Mum, not because she used her frequent flyer points, so you just never know!

After a lot of drama, I relaxed for a bit and then I got straight back into finalising my trip.  I still needed to quit my job, pay off my phone, save money, end my tenancy and find a replacement, get my bond back, buy a suitcase and did I mention SAVE!!!  I only had 34 days left before my departure with $0 saved… haha, I was (and still am) so fucked right now.

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First things first (I’m da realist), I quit my job and got my annual leave week by week, so I wouldn’t be insanely taxed by the shitty government.  I ended up being able to save myself from being taxed $1100 from the total of my annual leave.  I sold my Canon 5D Mark III, plus two great lenses, tripod, colour checker passport and other gear, for $3500.  I sold my GoPro for $400.  I sold my hoverboard for $200.  I sold my bedroom grass floor for $150.  I sold a few other things as well.  Slowly my savings started to accumulate.  I found a replacement housemate, moved out, and received my bond back of $600.  I begged my three sisters to pay $100 each for a brand new suitcase that was $300.  I also wanted to decorate it with stickers, so I begged a client from work if I could have a discount on stickers that he was selling.  He generously gave me 50 stickers for free!  I cancelled my plan with Optus and paid the handset fee, which was $360 (approx.).  I also spent another $700 on clothes for the cold weather.  I’m from Queensland, Australia, where the highest recorded temperature was ‘Hades’, whilst the highest recorded temperature in London was 34 degrees celsius (apparently), but their average temperature in Summer is 19 degrees.  So I definitely knew I would need new and better clothing for the cold.  I spent another $200 on my last weekend in Brisbane partying it up, and now I’m chilling at my Mum’s during a cyclone, waiting for my flight later tonight.  If my flight is delayed, can someone tell me how to sue a cyclone, I would appreciate it!  I did not pay for travel insurance either, because that was going to cost me around $500 – $600.  I would rather risk it for the biscuit and just hope that nothing bad happens to me whilst I’m in London.  The only real loss to me would be my phone and laptop, which will always be on me or safely hidden, but everything else I can manage without.  I didn’t have travel insurance at home (or any sort of insurance), and if I didn’t need insurance then, then I definitely don’t need it now.  I have 6 months before I’m eligible for insurance in the UK, so at least if I ever want it, I don’t have to wait that long either.  But do whatever makes you feel more comfortable when travelling.


I’ve got clothes on the line that need to be packed, I still need to do some last minute shopping, I haven’t even started on packing my suitcase, I still have a few more things to sell, and my flight departs in 20 hrs as I type this right now.  In case you are wondering, I’m leaving Brisbane, Australia to go to London for 2 years, with no job lined up or fixed accommodation lined up either.  I booked accommodation for 1 month, so I literally have a month to sort my life out in London.  I’ve managed to somehow save AUD$7000 (approx.), which will only be GBP£3400.  I’ve got no relatives here either, so I’ve literally jumped off the Titanic and landed my ass in some freezing cold temperatures to die HAHAHA.

No matter how much I try to prepare myself, in the end I know I will always be unprepared.  You will never feel prepared as unknown certainties arise, but you can expect the unexpected and that’s what I’m preparing for – the unexpected.  I know I don’t have much money, but at my age my Mum had already moved to a different country by herself, juggling three kids as well!  If she can do that, then I can do this!  At the end of the day, I’m not going to die, travelling doesn’t mean death (in most cases), so YOLONAISE.  It will be a learning experience, my learning experience.  If I lose my balance, I’ll just find a new way to stand and I’ll become more wise from the failures I’ve experienced.  If you want to give me money, feel free… contemplating selling my body or a kidney!  I’m still looking for a house and a job in London (otherwise stated), so if you want me or know of anyone or anything that can help me, come get a slice of this pizza.  WISH ME LUCK!

Cheerio <3.