We asked Liesa, a C1 student from Germany, what she thought were the most important things to do before you arrive in London. Liesa, over to you!
One of the most practical things you might need in London is the Oyster Card for public transport. The Oyster Card is a practical little piece of plastic which you can get from many shops. The Oyster Card is pretty important because without it you cannot travel with bus, train and tube. At most of the train and tube stations you have to tap yourself in to get onto the platform. If you don’t have a ticket or you haven’t tapped yourself in you may have to pay a penalty of £80! So here is how the Oyster Card works:
In the tube and train stations, there are some machines where you can put some money on the card. You then tap in to the station with the card. Are we clear??? If you still have no clue how it all works, then look around the area where these machines are and there are usually some information desks. Don’t be afraid to ask them if you’re not a 100% sure what to do.
So, you got your Oyster and some money on it and you want to go explore London, but you have absolutely no idea how to get to – let’s say – Covent Garden. Well, most of us use Google Maps and that works, but Maps isn’t always very reliable and maybe you don’t want to take the first route you get to see. However, City Mapper is an application (I even think it is especially designed for London) which shows you every possible route and the prices respectively. All the schedules and timetables of London public transport are shown. For instance, I am always looking for the cheapest route because I try to save some money. So, if I’m not in a hurry I always choose the cheapest route which is probably the one that takes you the longest to get to your destination. You can also use City Mapper in other cities, but when I tried to use it in Berlin, it showed me the possible routes, but no prices.
So you found Covent Garden and didn’t even spend that much money on travelling! You’re pockets are full of cash that you exchanged in your home country and you want to take a shopping trip. That’s nothing to worry about but perhaps it’s a bit annoying to carry all that cash around, so why not use a bank card, like all other Londoners. By the way, in this town people don’t often use cash any more, definitely not as much as in Germany anyway. To open a bank account you normally need some time and lots of proof of identity, such as proof of address and other important stuff, which is sometimes hard to get in the first place. But if this all sounds very complicated, I’d recommend you open your bank account at Monzo Bank. It’s foreigner friendly and they don’t have so many restrictions. So, basically it’s super easy to open a bank account at Monzo, and it only takes half an hour. Monzo Bank has none of its own cash machines or branch offices so you cannot deposit any money, but you can take money out.
National Insurance Number
You’ve done your shopping and everything. Nice one! But now it might be a good option to look for a job or else the money won’t last long, especially in London. To start a job here you need a National Insurance Number, or else you have to pay lots of taxes – believe me I’ve been there. To get an NIN (National Insurance Number) you need to get an appointment to see somebody in person, and I think the most efficient way to get your appointment is online before you visit/move to London because the waiting period normally takes around a month or more. For the appointment itself: please don’t forget your passport! I did and I was sent home immediately to get a new appointment, so I had to wait ANOTHER even though I was already working. Bad luck I guess.
I hope that is helpful to you, and you have a great time in London!