London Living

How can students live a cheap life in London?

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Although London is a very expensive city, being a student in London gives you a lot of perks that can make your time in this city really pleasant and even more affordable. Any full time student can take advantage of all the ideas listed below including mature students who are over 25. This applies for international students too. Most of these tips and ideas have changed the way I live in London for the better. It’s actually tempting to be a student as long as possible! 

 


Get London transports for cheaper in London

Before we mention anything, let’s talk about transportation and how you can actually get to places for cheaper while living in London. As soon as you enrol for your full time course in London, fill your student oyster form, have a personal photo ready and get it verified with your university or institution. Having your ID oyster will give you a third off of weekly, monthly & annual travel cards, which makes getting around so much more affordable. 

Travel by rail for a third less than everyone else

The transport discount isn’t only limited to London, you can also apply for a rail card if you are 16 to 25 years of age or if you are a full time student even if you are over 25. This process can be done online and you will have to pay £30 per year. This gives you great national train discounts so you can explore so much of the UK for reasonable prices. For example, my open return ticket to Manchester is £54 unlike the regular £84 ticket that adults have to pay. My Cambridge ticket with a same day return is £16.50 instead of the £30 adults pay. I really love this discount. I usually use this card for the train mostly, but having this card also gives you other offers on popular attractions such as: 

Shop until you drop with student discounts

When you enrol in your full time course, make sure you get a confirmation letter from your university because you will need it as prof to apply for the NUS card, which gives you lots of discounts on selected stores in person and online. You have to pay an annual fee of £28. This card is also handy as a proof if your student ID doesn’t have an end date. Another account you need in your life as a student is Uni Days and it’s similar, but completely free and only requires a university email to get started and approved. It’s really handy.

Pay less for food as a student in London 

A lot of the main stream restaurant chains like pizza express, Zizzi, GBK offer student discounts either through via uni days and the NUS card or via their own apps. You can also get 10% off your groceries at the co ops with the NUS card. 

Restaurant Discount Card for Students
Booking.com

Always ask about student discounts! 

I went to get my hair cut in Rush and randomly asked about student discounts and they had one!! This actually happened a few times. Sometimes places don't advertise or have a clear sign. Doesn't hurt to ask! 

Enjoy London museums and galleries as a student

Yes most London museum and art galleries are free in London, but even the free ones have changing temporary exhibitions and those always require a ticket. As a student you get it cheaper than adult tickets. So unleash your inner art critique because there is so much you can see and enjoy! 

Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum

London Reads:

Over to you: What other advice do you have for students to live cheaply in London?


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How to survive the heat in London?

How to survive the heat in London?

I don’t think people realise how hot London gets in the summer when we have a heatwave without rain. The first few days are glorious. Everyone is happy, all the summer outfits are out and ice creams are everywhere. Fast forward three weeks, people get grumpy, their skin is mostly red and burnt with very random tan lines and the moral gets a little low. All the misery happen because this city isn’t equipped to deal with a hot summer so it's a constant feeling of heat. Being Saudi, people are surprised that I even mention the heat because the Saudi summers reach to 55 C -131 F-, but in Saudi 98% of places are completely air conditioned and we don't feel the heat, but in London you feel it everywhere. I still enjoy the London sunshine though and I follow the tips included in this post to stay cool. 

How hot does London get in the summer? 

The average so far has been 26 C -78 F- and the hottest it got was 32 C -90 F-


Six Tips to Survive the Heat in London: 

1- Avoid the tube

Honestly getting the tube in the summer during rush hour (17:00-19:30) is disgusting. Just try to rearrange your routes to involve more walking and overground trains. If you have complete control over your schedule I would avoid any mode of transport at rush hour. It’s hot during freezing winter days let alone in the summer. The Central Line and Bank station are the absolute worst! There is no such thing as air conditioned underground *yet*. 

2- Stay Hydrated

Have your bottle water with you at all times. Get at least the one Litre bottle because you will drink it all without even realising. You can cool your water in the fridge then pour it in a thermostat to keep it cold! 

Another great thing that will keep you hydrated is fruits or vegetable with high water content like cucumbers and melons. They will keep you hydrated for longer as well. 

3- Plan Cooling Stops

Some big grocery stores or luxury stores are air conditioned, so if gets too hot, plan a mini cooling stop to the big Sainsbury’s near you and get cool again! I know this might sound silly but it works for me when I am walking long distance from one place to another! 

Some Londoners were even trying to compile a list of air conditioned spots on Reddit! Their list didn't go very far, but it might be entertaining to read.  

4- Cool yourself from the inside

This is the best time of the year to drink all the iced teas and to eat all the ice creams in this city. I love making my own iced teas since the cafe bought ones are usually very sweet. If you want to make your own, these recipes from Eating Well might help you. 

When it comes to ice cream there are so many yummy places to choose from. My usual ice creams stops are Chin Chin LabsSnowflake gelatoGelupo and Amorino. If I am not around those spots, I go to any local corner shop for ice cream. I am also developing a love for vegan ice creams! The Alpro vegan ice creams are so good! Especially the coconut *DROOL*

5- Shade is what you need

Seriously, being in the shade makes all the difference. So, when it gets too hot, go to the very shaded part of the park or better yet take a woods or forest country walk. I know most people want to hit the beach when it's hot (including me), but going to places like Epping Forest or Ashridge Estate is actually a good idea to stay cool. It might help to wear a sun hat or carry an umbrella to create your own little shade. 

6- Get a fan

I know summer is short and it’s not worth investing a lot in it, but you need to get a basic fan or the heat will keep you up all night. I only use my fan two months a year, but it’s so worth it!! Having a hand carried paper or electrical one might also be good at times. 

Although, there were moments where I completely melted in London and it’s only the beginning of July, I am very grateful for all the sunshine! I am able to wear all my summer clothes now and enjoy the many beautiful parks around. I hope you found these tips useful and please comment below if you have any more tips to stay cool this summer! :) 

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Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter (Christmas in London)

Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter

The amazing thing about living in London is all the possibilities and the changing plans every season. I feel truly blessed to live here. A good source of inspiration for great London activities is Timeout London,  Le Cool London and the Nudge.  Living in London for the past four years has given me an inside knowledge of what type of events are likely to happen and when. 

Read: How Can You Afford Living in London?

In this post, I am going to give you a few ideas of things to do in the autumn and winter, which is basically the Christmas period. Although Christmas festivity don't start till mid November. 

One. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: Ice Skating

This has been on my list since I moved to London. Every time I pass by an ice rink I get the urge to go, but I change my mind last minute, but this year I am going! There are a few options . The two most popular -over crowded- ones are the Winter wonderland one in Hyde Park and the one outside of the Natural History Museum. There is also the very cool ice rink at the Somerset House. A slightly less crowded one is the Canary Wharf Ice Rink since it is located in the business area of London. Canary Wharf is usually very quiet during the weekend when all the business men and women are in their homes, but who knows about this year.  Full list: Ice skating in London

Two. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: Christmas Markets

I know this is very christmasy, but I love markets. Markets are great when it's not raining and you want to just walk around and chat. Many of them popup close to Christmas time to entice people to buy even more gifts. 

There is the usual Winter wonderland market, but I just avoid Hyde Park at all costs. Too many people! A little one in central London is the Southbank market. There is also a high end market in the Design Museum for a weekend in Dec. I personally love the Renegade Craft Fair (second weekend in December in East London)There are many handmade and Etsy sellers there that have unique gifts. 

Three. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter:Kew Gardens

I know it's a bit too cold for parks, BUT the colours of autumn are too gorgeous to miss! Get those winter boots out and warm coat and go. On my list is Kew gardens for all the beautiful shades of autumn. Some more park ideas: Hidden gardens and green spaces in London

Read: How to find cool events and things to do in London

Four. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: International Films

Going to the cinema all together is a very winter activity for me. I am not going to waste a good sunny day indoors. I haven't been to the cinema to watch a normal American or British movies in months. I only watch them on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I go to cinemas now just for international movies that I can't get a hold of otherwise. During October (until the 15th) there is the British film festival with really cool films. End of October is the UK Iranian film festival as well and I try to go to at least two of them. It's worth looking up independent cinemas in London to see more intriguing options of films that you might have not seen before. I usually go to the Curzon Cinema for that and they have a few branches. There is also Greenwich Picturehouse, which can be a good option if you are based in South London. For more quirky options you can go to the Prince Charles Cinema

Five. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: Chase up the lights

Winter nights are very long, but thankfully in some parts of London, night is as bright as day! There are a few lit up spots around London. Most lights start popping from end of November in preparation for Christmas. The most obvious lights that you will eventually see without even trying are the light at Oxford Street, Regent Street and a few other street in Central London. Basically keep on walking in central London and you will see lights all over. If you want more street lights then the winter Canary Wharf lights might be fun to see as well. 

There are three gardens that will have lights as well: 

Photo from  Kew Gardens

Photo from Kew Gardens

Six. Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter: Country Walks

If you are done with all the city activities, you can head outside of London and go on one of the possible country walks. It will be worth it especially if you go in October or November where you get to see all the beautiful coloured autumn leaves. I think it's a magical time of the year. If you need ideas of country walks near London then check out the books below, or check some of the walks I have gone on previously! 

Over to you: Are there any events or activities happening in London in the autumn and winter that you are planning on doing? Share away in the comments below! 

Nine Things to do this Summer in London (Ideas for Summer activities in London)

This is my second London summer and I am loving it. It's surprising all the beautiful sunny days that we have had so far! Obviously, there was rain here and there, but it is still a beautiful season in London. It actually got really hot two weeks ago (30 degree) and I had to order a cooling fan! It arrived after the weather cooled down, but I am hoping it will get a little hot during July and August! 

Summer in London

Things to do in London this summer

Every summer, I make a list of things I want to do before the season ends. My list has lots of things and I thought it will be fun to share with you all! Hope you get to try some of these idea!  

Summer in London Activity 1: Park Picnics

I know this is the most obvious one, but it's so much fun! I would recommend that you go to a few this season and make most of your summer outdoors! By the way, forget Hyde Park. I seriously don't go there unless I am forced or there is something extra special happening there! I like: Regent Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park. Regent is the most central one of the three, but the other two are out of the way and can be great for a more peaceful park time away. The added benefit of Richmond is the deer you can spot there! There are also gardens that allow picnic like Kew Gardens.   

Find more London parks on: 

The best parks in London

24 quiet London parks and secret gardens to escape to

Ps. You can see some of the Greenwich Park in my Greenwich video below!

Summer in London - Park Picnic

Summer in London Activity 2: Art Festivals

The first one that comes to mind is Shubak Festival and it's an Arab art festival with lots of art related activities happening across two weeks. It only started three days ago, so you have time to checkout the rest of the activities they have on offer! I am planning to go to the art exhibitions they have arranged. 

Summer in London Activity 3: Music Gigs and Festivals

I have to admit. I got this idea slightly late! Most tickets are sold out at this point, but there are still few going! There is a great lineup happening in Somerset House. I am slightly sad I am not spending most of July in London because there is just SO MUCH to see and attend. There are also few music and art events to check in the Barbican Centre.   

More Music gigs and festivals from other websites: 

Music Festivals in London during 2017

Summer in London Activity 4: Rooftop Crawl

I haven't done much of this *yet* but I went to a few spots last. The only rooftop garden I have been to was the Canary Wharf: The Crossrail Place Roof Garden. It's small, but it's nice to chill after grabbing some food from one of the restaurants downstairs!

I have four more places to try this season on evenings with nice weather: 

I would also like to go to the fancy Sky Garden one of those days.

A full list of the best Roof spots can be found (here). 

Summer in London - Golden Tattoo

Summer in London Activity 5: Outdoor Cinema

This is very weather dependent. Although it is technically summer, but with the unpredictable British weather, this could be taken over by rain. It's still worth doing and luckily there are few venues that do that! 

The Luna Cinema has a list of movies that are shown in a number of London venues.

The Nomad Cinema does cinema pop ups at various venue around London too!  

Summer in London Activity 6: Stuffing face with Ice Cream! 

Like seriously this is my favourite thing to do the second I see sunshine! There are lots of great locations to get yummy ice cream from such Chin Chin Labs, Snowflake gelato, Gelupo or even your local supermarket. Doesn't matter where from just stuff your face with as much as ice cream as possible! 

Chin Chin Lab ice cream - Summer in London

Summer in London Activity 7: Lavender Fields

I don't know if you noticed all the instagramers last year posting beautiful photos in lavender fields. My instagram was seriously flooded with those photos and I just had to get one there too! I went to the Hitchin Lavender Fields (45mins from London by train). I still have my full bag of lavenders from last year, so I am not sure if I am doing it again this summer, but it was so much fun! They have a really nice cafe too that is worth chilling in! 

Summer in London Activity 8: Fruit Picking

This is basically the same idea as the lavender field above. I haven't done this yet, but I am planning on going next month! There are a few strawberry and berries farms that are very close to London such as

Stan Hill Farm

Hewitts Farm

Copas Farms

Here are more choices from other websites: 

Ps. I suggest checking google maps for the nearest locations to you! London is huge, but since I am closer to the South I have only focused on that area. There are plenty scattered around.  

Summer in London Activity 9: Day Trips!

Yes this is not technically in London, but very accessible from one of the Central London train stations. Few weeks ago, I went on a country forest walk to Ashridge. Being under the shade, walking and eating ice cream was one of the best things I have done! There are many possible walks all around London. There are beach walks too! Last summer, I went on a beach one to Hayling Island. This summer I want to go to Portsmouth and Brighton!  

For even more ideas here is a list of activities for July and August from the London Time Out website:

Over to you: What's on your summer activities list? 

How Can You Afford Living in London?

How Can You Afford Living in London?

This is the million dollar question that I get at least once a week or whenever I meet new people. Let me start by saying when I say I live in London, I am no where near Big Ben, London Eye, Harrods or anything in Central London really. I live an hour away and that's still considered London. This city is expensive no doubt, but here is how I can afford living in London

  • Being a Full Time Student in London is GOLD

I think being a student in London gives you so many possibilities and DISCOUNTS! I have a discounted Oyster card, which means I pay 125GBP a month for a travel card from zone 1 to 4 and that includes all forms of transportation in London (Bus, DLR, Tube, Trains and the Overground). I also get a student train card (Rail Card) to travel in the UK  for a significantly cheaper prices. Plus, I get 10% off in most stores with MyUniDays or you can get the NUS card

As a full time student, you don't pay council tax too, which makes rent cheaper as well. 

  • Give up Central London for Zone three or four

As I said in the introduction, I don't live in Central London. I live between zone three and four, which happens to be on the other side of the River Thames that you probably would not have visited. It basically takes me an HOUR to get ANYWHERE. That's a sacrifice you have to make if you want to stay in an affordable place that is slightly bigger than a shoe box. With my discounted Oyster card mentioned above, it makes sense to live further.

  • Meal Planning and Home Cooked Meals is a great method to SAVE MONEY!! 

This saves so much you have no idea! Those supermarket sandwiches and crisps you buy at lunch for 3-5 pounds add up and become crazy! Think of this: A whole loaf of bread is 80p and humous is 1 pound and a bag of spinach for another 1 pound you can even treat yourself with 6 small bags of crisps for 2 pounds max. There you just made 5 lunches for 5 days for the cost of one! You see what I mean. Another thing, plan your meals before you get groceries, so you don't waste. Each meal I cook has two portions, so I have it for two dinners. Try a few vegan meals a week and that saves loads if you are using one type of vegetable, a can of chopped tomatoes and rice that's like 3 pounds for a filling meal. You can get very creative here and there are like a bazillion pages on instagram and pintrest to help you with that!    

  • Meet Your Friends At Art Galleries or do other free activities

The wonderful thing about is London is the amount of free activities! (Read: How to find cool events and things to do in London). Big museums and art galleries are my default meeting point now. It gives you something to do and it is a fun. If the weather is good, you can also go to parks for picnics and catch ups. 

  • Only Go out to Cafes    

I am a social butterfly and I love hanging out with my London pals. As a Muslim, we can't meet at Pubs, so I used to meet my friends for restaurant meals (Read: My Ultimate Favourite Food Guide in London). That started costing me so much!! Now, I try to meet at cafes in the afternoon for tea or a just desserts. We sometimes only get tap water and stay there for two hours or more. Even buying a cup of tea or coffee is much more affordable than a main course.

Neal's Yard London
Vegan Dessert in Wild Food Cafe London

Over to you:

How Can You Afford Living in London? Are there any other things you are doing I haven't mentioned above? Please Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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