Living Like a Local: London, England

Whether you’re planning a visit or relocating to the beautiful city of London, these life hacks will optimize your time in the capital city.

I first moved to London in June 2015 and stayed for a year. I then jumped to Seville, Barcelona, Cape Town, and now, I am back to living in this exciting city once again! During that time, I’ve moved houses a total of five times, and changed my career.

And while I continue to say that London has a certain way of chewing you up and spitting you out, I owe some of the best life changes to this magnificent city.

Yes, I have been completely broke at times living here, as we all know that London is a pretty expensive place to live. But I’ve found ways to make it work, and now I’ll share some my hacks with you. So whether you’re simply planning a visit or relocating, hopefully some of these tips will help you out in some shape or form.

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Sightseeing

Like every major city in the world, you’ll see the iconic Hop On Hop Off bus in London… and what a money making scam it is. Sure, I’ve never actually been on it (or any of them, to be fair), but I’ve managed to find a much cheaper and more thrilling way to check some of the iconic sights off my list—the river boat service.

I personally have done the City Cruises on two occasions and I absolutely love it. And this is not just because I love boats, being on the water, and minimal walking/forms of public transport, but also because they have a quirky and entertaining guide on-board. That, plus a fully-stocked bar for drinks and snacks, an open-air top for sunbathing (if the sun is actually out), and great 360 views. This cruise has pick up and drop off points at Westminster Pier, London Eye Pier, Tower Pier, and Greenwich Pier, making it easy to catch and easy to sightsee!

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Transport

The infamous tube stations are frequent yes, but also very small and extremely crowded, not to mention the slew of tube strikes that are constantly taking place. Regardless, it’s an easy and efficient way to travel around London. Buses are quality too, and the trains/DLR are just as amazing. Buy yourself an Oyster card and top up in order to travel on any form of London transport or you can use your bank card if it has contactless (the fare is the same). If you’ll be traveling nearly every day, I suggest you buy a monthly or season ticket in order to save money.

Don’t buy a car unless you’re totally secure with money, it’s really not worth it. Do make use of the public bicycles that the city has to offer.

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Accommodation

London flats or even a room within a shared flat is ridiculously expensive. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about that besides doing careful research to find what’s best for you. The app Spare Room is the most popular here and you will be able to talk with folk who are renting out their flats/rooms. The further you move from central London however, the cheaper the price. I have known folk to live in surrounding cities and traveling into London every day for work, as the flat prices are much cheaper just outside of the capital.

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Friends

If you’re a solo traveler or have moved somewhere without knowing a single soul, you’ll agree that making friends as an adult is pretty darn difficult…and doing it in London is no different. I suggest befriending coworkers, but also using apps such as MeetUp and even Tinder to meet locals. Additionally, before you move into a new flat try to scope out your new housemates, as this could make or break your experience in terms of quality of life and making friends.

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London Etiquette

If you’re anything like me, you’ll love the British slang, and here are a few to get you going:

Cheeky: Being forward or impolite but in an appealing or amusing way

e.g. “Stop being a cheeky cow, Amy”

Geezer: A man

e.g. “He’s such a good geezer.”

Fit: Good looking

e.g. “That boy is fit!”

Taking the piss: Joking, ridiculing someone

e.g. Person 1: “Our holiday to Ibiza got cancelled!” 

Person 2: “Are you taking the piss?”

Pants/Trousers: Pants = underwear, trousers = the outer garment covering your body from the waist to your ankles.

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Gutted: Disappointed/upset

e.g. “My sister said she couldn’t make it to my birthday party next week, I am totally gutted.”

Lad (Jack the Lad): A cocky man

e.g. “A lot of people think that I’m a typical lad”

Mate: Friend

e.g. “Mate, you alright?”

Cheers: Thanks

e.g. Person 1: “Here’s your pint, mate.”

Person 2: “Cheers”

You OK?: How are you?

e.g. Person 1: “Hey, you OK?”

Person 2: “Yeah, good thanks.”

Wanker: General insult, equivalent to idiot

e.g. “Tom is such a wanker.”

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Useful London Apps

Herewith, a list of my favourite London apps that have proved to be seriously helpful:

Google Maps – The most obvious app to have (it saved my butt dozens of times)

iTunes / Google Play

GoEuro – Different modes of transport (train, bus, airplane) in London and throughout Europe

iTunes / Google Play

Trainline – Buying train tickets

iTunes / Google Play

National Express – Buying bus tickets

iTunes / Google Play

Ryanair – Cheap flights throughout London and Europe

iTunes / Google Play

Tube Map – The tube lines

iTunes / Google Play

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Southeastern – Buy train tickets and to check train times

iTunes / Google Play

Gett – A taxi company run by black cabs

iTunes / Google Play

FlixBus – Cheap bus services within UK and Europe

iTunes / Google Play

Indeed – Job search

iTunes / Google Play

Reed.co.uk – Job search

iTunes / Google Play

Amazon Prime Now – A lifesaver to get almost anything delivered within a two hour window period

iTunes / Google Play

Tesco – Get your groceries delivered

iTunes / Google Play

Just Eat – A food takeaway app

iTunes / Google Play

StubHub – Buy and sell tickets (bands, sporting events etc.)

iTunes / Google Play

Treatwell – Discounted beauty deals in your area

iTunes / Google Play

Rightmove – Accommodation

iTunes / Google Play

Deliveroo – A food takeaway app

iTunes / Google Play

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Additional Cost-Cutting Tips

Cigarettes and alcohol are expensive, especially at the pub/club. Some cigarette brands go for cheaper and it’s not a bad idea to have a few glasses of wine at home before going out.

You can get a lot of free stuff on your birthday, so be sure to research it beforehand. For example, Greggs offers a free sweet treat on your big day, and some restaurants offer a free bottle of Prosecco.

Check voucher code websites for things you buy. It sounds tacky and a bit ghetto, but sometimes you can find some cool food/activity deals. And of course, Groupon is awesome for finding deals.

With that, I bid you safe travels and tons of fun in London! And as the saying goes:

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,”

– Samuel Johnson

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