London, with over 30 million visitors per year as well as over 8 million residents, remains one of the most visited cities in the world. Not only is this number growing rapidly with visitors wanting to see what London has to offer but London is becoming more difficult to navigate through for people using wheelchairs. A daily challenge that many shouldn’t face as well as feeling as if they’re less important or a second class citizen.
The London Underground has 270 stations, making it an efficient way to get around London, but these 270 stations are only accessible for those who don’t need ramps, step-free access as well as numerous lifts to navigate through the station. Only 71 stations throughout London and surrounding areas support those in wheelchairs but unfortunately not independently in some instances. For those who want to navigate independently then this number drops to 50 stations which are fully accessible - this being around 18% of stations allowing independent travel and only 27% allowing passengers to travel with some independence but with additional help such as by the use of ramps and assistance at stations.
The Guardian reported that Transport for London’s spokesman, Ruben Govinden, stated that “Some of the network is more than 150 years old – accessibility wasn’t even considered worth thinking about then”. Indeed, this statement is factually correct in the sense that the London Underground network was the first public rapid transport system which was opened in 1863. However, over 150 years there has been a wide range of changes and updates to the London Underground, the most notable being more lines being expanded as well as the addition to free WiFi at certain stations. With the progress being made digitally as well as expanding the network to reach more areas, there should be a priority of making the London Underground more accessible. Even though there’s plans to make the London Underground network more accessible in the next 20 to 30 years, this is simply not good enough for those wanting to navigate independently, which they should have the right to do, without being stuck and faced to take an alternative route.
Not only is the London Underground’s network itself a problem for those with wheelchairs, there’s the added scrutiny of those unwilling to give these people the space they deserve throughout their journey. On each journey passengers will see a symbol that states that a specific area is giving priority for those in wheelchairs - which many people tend to ignore, especially those with prams and young children. Many a time I have seen arguments between a wheelchair user and a mother pushing a pram over who should be in that specific space - a degrading occurrence that happens far too often over a fact of priority and respect. Another problem with the London Underground would be the regular occurrence of maintenance work on lifts, some lifts taking months to fix and the shortage of assistance for those needing to change their route to the next station. This can mean extra charges by using public transport such as a bus or in extreme cases needing a taxi to get to a station with accessible facilities.
London’s buses aren’t any better in terms of accessibility. Even though buses throughout London and surrounding areas have stated that passengers using wheelchairs have priorities throughout their journey but this is simply easier said than done. London’s buses are fitted with ramps but it’s been seen recently that discrimination against wheelchair users has seen members of the public taking matters in their own hands to allow passengers off the bus to carry on with their journey. The most notable occurrence happening out of London with Ian Barrington, The Metro reported that a “Bus driver refuses to help disabled man and tells him to ‘speak English’”. Not only did the driver refuse to help Ian getting off the bus but made remarks stating that “‘I don’t understand foreign languages, I understand English!’” and then went on to state that she couldn’t get the ramp out since she had a “backache”. Whether this is true or not, bus drivers should be fully equipped and in full health to help both able bodied passengers as well as those in wheelchairs needing assistance.
In 2012 TFL implemented a new set of rules to which stated that wheelchair passengers have priority to the space in the middle of the bus - which can be used as a standing area or a place for those with prams or luggage. Once again, this is easier said than done, as there have been many times when I have been travelling throughout London and either the bus driver refuses to make people in that space with prams move or the two people with prams arguing about who should fold down their pram. This not only making a bigger state of the matter but also treating individuals in wheelchairs like they are second class citizens since people are more concerned about their prams rather than a person. There have even been arguments between wheelchair users and passengers with prams regarding the reason they should have to move - it’s stated nearly everywhere that users in wheelchairs deserve priority and a simple fact - it’s not something that people can dispute or argue against.
I’ve experienced a lack of responsibility from bus drivers and TFL when I was trying to get my grandmother onto a bus, since she’s in a wheelchair. It was very cold so I made the point of leaving just a few minutes before the bus came to prevent her staying out in the cold too much, when the bus came I firstly made the point of tapping my Oyster Card as well as my grandmother’s. I then stated that she’d need to lower the ramp onto the pavement so I could easily manoeuvre the wheelchair onto the bus safely. The bus driver seemed to comply and stated that she would move the bus to get closer to the pavement but in the end stated that she couldn’t lower the ramp down - with no apology nor explanation as to why she couldn’t lower the ramp down. Two members of the public even came over and offered to help - why should members of the public help? A bus driver should be trained in all areas of operating a bus, from lowering the ramp and operating in such a way that allows all individuals to use the bus. The experience was not only humiliating for my grandmother but also made her wait in the freezing cold for the next bus, with her asking me whether it was her fault we couldn’t get onto the bus. The return journey was unfortunately met with the same bus driver but this time the ramp seemed to magically work and there were no problems getting onto the bus. However, when pressing the button specifically designed to alert the driver that a wheelchair would be getting off the bus - therefore the bus will need to be lowered and a ramp used - the bus driver completely ignored the bell and drove onto the next bus stop. Not only did my grandmother feel invisible but it meant we had to make the journey of an extra 15 minutes to get back to the original stop.
Moving forward a lot needs to change. Firstly, TFL need to address the situation of the London Underground network, it may have been built over 150 years ago but regardless there has been 150 years of time to change the fact that it was built while disregarding it being accessible. There needs to be a discussion regarding the impact that certain planned works will have on passengers, specifically those using wheelchairs - it’s a bigger impact that it originally seems as well as the fact that people may have to alter their routes. From there, there needs to be extensive training for bus drivers to make sure they have the knowledge and practice to allow wheelchair users onto the bus - additionally fighting in their corner when they have the right to space on the bus over pram users. The public attitude needs to change also, we need to come together and help those who may need additional help if there’s no staff around or those unwilling to help. For example, if you see something that you know is wrong - someone unwilling to move out of the area for wheelchair users - take the point of explaining that they need to move out of the area for the fellow passenger.
£21. The average cost of a meal for one in London or more frankly the amount of money that I have in my Current Account. In London it’s very hard to find affordable accommodation, especially when you decide to book accommodation surrounding one of the busiest international airports in London with over 80 million passengers passing through. Therefore there is quite a high demand for accommodation regardless of the season. Whether passengers are travelling through Heathrow Airport or they’re carrying on their journey elsewhere, the rooms are not cheap around this location usually. However, a strike of luck came my way when I found a hotel room at a flat rate of £21 for the chosen dates I had picked. I was simply amazed that I would be able to stay in a hotel room with the added amenities that came with the room itself.
Travelodge was the cheapest option for me when looking for a place to stay before an early flight the morning after. The room itself was priced at £21 for one night - an incredible price which accounted for two people staying - which came out at £10.50 each. I purchased WiFi for 24 hours which was priced at £3 which should've been included but regardless I wasn't fussed about paying as it allowed me to watch Netflix and download my boarding passes for my flight the following day. On top of that I purchased two meals (which came with a starter or dessert and a main meal) which was priced at £12 each which came to £24 for two people. The total of my one night stay came to £48 (£24 each for WiFi, food and a place to stay for the night) which is still a lot cheaper compared to other hotels in the area. Either way, if I had decided to live without WiFi or if I had brought my own food in or have found a restaurant elsewhere, it still would’ve cost me the grand sum of £21 - or £10.50 each if I really wanted to be specific.
Upon arriving at the hotel, which was around 3pm, the woman on reception was friendly and even gave us a choice of where we wanted our room to be. Make sure you bring ID if you're dropping someone off at the airport which can be done through bringing your passport or driving license. We were moved to the 5th floor and to get to any floors you would need to use your key card - which added an extra layer of security throughout the hotel. The room was moderately sized which came with a large desk area and a chair as well as a kettle with mugs and tea sachets. From the desk there was a beautiful view and it was nice to be able to sit at the desk while writing notes and checking emails. There was a range of USB ports next to the bed as well as a small ledge to put my phone on while it charged overnight - which was useful as it allowed me to check the time throughout the night to make sure I didn't miss my alarm. The bed was very comfy which was surprising but meant I was able to get a good night's sleep before an early morning flight. The bed gave more than enough space for two people even though I was told it's only a double bed. There was a small wardrobe area with hangers to put my clothing for the next day on as well as space to store my suitcases so they were out of my way. The TV has a range of channels which range from the news to movie channels - more than enough to keep you entertained if you decide not to purchase the WiFi. The AC in the room kept the room cool throughout our stay and I was able to change the settings if the room became too hot or too cold. The only downside I found to the room itself was that the windows couldn't be opened but in retrospect the AC was more than enough to keep the room cool. The bathroom was on the smaller side but there was more than enough space to move around comfortably. The shower had high water pressure and I was able to take use of the free shampoo to wash my hair as there was a hairdryer provided. There was more than enough towels provided - I would advise laying a towel down next to the shower as the shower curtain did leak a little bit when I left the shower. There was a large mirror and sink provided as well as space to leave my toiletries which was handy. The only problem with the bathroom was that the toilet was located right next to the door, which meant you would be sitting with a door handle right next to you and making it awkward to move around. Regardless, the room served its purpose and for the price you can't go wrong!
Even though the hotel is located in Heathrow and not in Central London, it’s still an incredible price, which you would’ve got the gist that it’s £21 by now, especially for those travelling on a budget. Overall, this specific Travelodge has received a 3.5 rating from over 600 reviews on TripAdvisor with a 3.5 star rating also on Google with over 1,200 reviews. The hotel states that it’s a 3 star hotel, therefore it won’t be the luxury experience that some people may expect. Companies such as Travelodge and Premier Inn are known for their inexpensive prices which are represented in the quality of the rooms and service.
One fact that I know is whether you’re in first class or not - you’ll still get to the same destination at exactly the same time as other passengers on the train. However, other passengers like the idea of added luxury throughout their train journey whether it be the free refreshments, free WiFi or even just the extra legroom. When I needed to book train tickets upon hearing the news of a family emergency, I found that there was only a slight difference between Standard and First Class Tickets - in my case, with a 16-25 railcard, a First Class Ticket would only cost me around £5 extra. This working out £2.50 per way to have the added luxury that Greater Anglia prides itself on as well as access to the First Class Lounge at London Liverpool Street.
First Class Lounge
Upon arriving at London Liverpool Street I quickly bought some newspapers and magazines for the journey as well as treating myself to breakfast. Looking for the First Class Lounge took a lot longer than usual as it’s very hidden next to Platform 10 near where Lost Luggage can be found. Accessing the First Class Lounge was easy since I wasn’t asked to show my ticket nor have to wait long to get in - I simply pressed a button that opened the automatic doors and I was in. The First Class Lounge is small but wonderful, it was a nice peaceful place to sit before boarding my train. To my surprise there were tea and coffee making facilities as well as free bottles of water available. Considering that I had only paid £5 extra, with these free tea and coffee making facilities I had saved myself at least £5, not to mention the free bottles of water. There were a range of different seats, if you wanted to and charge your phone or whether you wanted to use your laptop within the lounge - you were sure to be comfortable. There’s even a small screen outlining the future departures, which allowed me to keep track of my train without feeling rushed or anxious that I would miss my train. If you’re travelling from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport then help yourself to the free magazine on offer.
First Class: London Liverpool Street to Norwich
When boarding at London Liverpool Street the first carriage is luckily First Class - which allowed me to get onto the train and relax, rather than walking miles upon miles to get down to the front of the train. For this specific journey there were only two carriages for First Class but it was more than enough as there were only 6 people in my carriage as well as even fewer in the next carriage.
Each seat in First Class allows passengers to have a table, whether it be a single seat or a double, there is more than enough space for a laptop or a notebook. That was at least one promise that Greater Anglia kept to including the extra legroom which was perfect for tall people such as myself. For one journey I was able to stretch out rather than trying not to hit the chair in front of me with my knees. Within the seating area there was the option to allow sunlight in with the curtains, unfortunately for me these thin curtains still allowed the light shine right into my face. Luckily for me though there were other seats available as within First Class as there’s no reservations on seats which allows passengers to move around as they please. Another added benefit of First Class is the plug sockets next to every seat which worked perfectly throughout my journey. However, I’ve travelled with a Standard Ticket and have had the luck of finding a plug socket next to my seat, even though these opportunities are few and far between, it’s a guarantee in First Class.
WiFi? The WiFi throughout First Class wasn’t working on my outbound journey and my inbound journey from Norwich, which was very frustrating. Even though it’s a benefit that Greater Anglia list on their website, they have also noted that the WiFi is currently not working. For me, this was a huge disappointment since one of the reasons I wanted to pay the extra upgrade for First Class was to be able to use WiFi to complete some work on the go as well as go through the hundreds and hundreds of emails I had. Exchanging emails with the Customer Service Team was quick and easy, although they were unsure as to why the WiFi wasn’t working even after trying every method in the book and giving numerous bits of information. Although, on my return journey I was given an answer, rather than a solution, which reads “This Train is being affected by a known issue, there is a hardware fault and as such WiFi will not be available unit its is Physically fixed". Furthermore, this led to me eating up most of my mobile data for the majority of the journey which meant I had to ration it between emails and checking my website.
Yuck. That’s all I can really say about the toilets. There’s no separate toilets for those in First Class which isn’t that much of a problem if the toilets weren’t dirty and disgusting. Not only is there the problem of staying on the toilet throughout a rocking train but one in which isn’t in the best of conditions. It wouldn’t have taken much to make the toilets a little cleaner throughout the journey, considering that it’s just a little under 2 hours. Either way, when you need to go to the toilet and there’s a toilet there, there’s little you could do.
Once again there wasn’t the availability of refreshments throughout this train journey. This is understandable as Greater Anglia had stated that throughout journeys on the weekend there will be no refreshments provided but on my return journey the same rule seemed to apply even though I returned on a Monday. It seemed at this rate, I had been shown a very different picture than the one that was painted when booking the tickets. Even though I had already eaten beforehand as well as taken full advantage of the free drinks that the First Class Lounge had to offer, it was still a shame that there was no trolley service that would’ve provided even the smallest of snacks - simply since I love freebies.
Is It Worth It?
Greater Anglia have currently stated on their website that “When there is engineering work between London and Norwich, services may be formed of electric multiple unit stock and will not offer table seats, refreshments or WiFi. Availability of First Class Advance tickets may be restricted on engineering work days”. In essence, the perks of First Class have been limited in such a way that it’s simply luck whether you’ll travel with them or be stuck without them. If all the perks were included - free WiFi, refreshments and even the guarantee of a table seat then I would recommend travelling First Class. However, if you have the mindset that everyone will get to the same place at the same time regardless of their seat preference, then travelling with a Standard Ticket would be the best option. If you have to pay a lot more than I did for an upgrade to a First Class Ticket, then I’d advise against it.
Ever since the O2 opened in 2007 it’s been an entertainment hub for those wishing to see artists and special events as well as those wanting to visit the cinema, play a game of bowling or visit the never ending row of restaurants. Now there’s a new edition which makes the O2 seemingly complete - the ICON Outlet which is home to over 85 stores including popular names such as Jack Wills, Levi’s, Nike, Adidas and Ted Baker, to name a few.
Getting to the O2 is simple as there’s a range of public transport links including the Jubilee Line which allows passengers to use the London Underground as well as a bus station just a few minutes walk from the O2. The buses that stop at North Greenwich are the 108, 129, 132, 161, 188, 422, 472 and 486 which go towards both Central London, South East London as well as locations just outside of London such as Bexleyheath. There’s even a Cable Car connection that goes from North Greenwich to The Royal Docks which is notably known for the ExCel Exhibition Centre where events are held constantly throughout the year.
The ICON Outlet at the O2 has gained popularity very quickly for the impressive discounts which can be up to 70% in some cases. This seems too good to be true, but it really isn’t! When I first visited the ICON Outlet I was overwhelmed with the displays stating these amazing discounts and upon further inspection they were right - a Levi’s jacket was £95 but had been discounted to £25 but then rung up at £15 at the register - my bank account was safe for another day as I began planning my new wardrobe. Even in shops such as Yankee Candle I was in discount heaven - candles that had an RRP of £30 were as cheap as £11 and there wasn’t a shortage of accessories and gift sets. Shops such as The Body Shop runs on a basis such as ‘the more you buy, the more you save’ which is great for those wanting to stock up on their favourite products without breaking the bank. If you have a sweet tooth then Lindt Chocolate doesn’t disappoint with visitors being able to pick and mix their favourite chocolates which is weighed per gram. The ICON Outlet is a great idea for those wanting to get presents for any occasion, admittedly I had plans to buy friends and family gift sets from Yankee Candle, The Body Shop and even some clothes from Adidas and Nike.
Not only is the ICON Outlet a hub for shopping but also offers discounts to visitors such as a free shopping drop for those going into the actual O2 Arena. To be honest I was surprised that this shopping drop was free but then again the O2 Arena operates on a basis that limits large bags coming into the O2 Arena for security reasons. Additionally if you do spend over £150 then you’ll be happy to know that you’ll get your shopping delivered directly to your home. Luckily this saves carrying around masses of bags that begin to make you wonder how and when you bought so much and whether you actually need these items - of course you do! However, if you don’t want to break the bank then there’s the option of 4 hours free parking when you spend over £35 which seems more likely for those travelling here. My personal favourite offer from the ICON Outlet is the option to buy a gift card, which doubles up as a present or a bank card for the day to prevent you overspending - once your money runs out then it’s time to call it a day. Other services here at the ICON Outlet include wheelchairs and scooters available to hire for the duration of your stay and Changing Places toilets onsite. These Changing Places are quite large and were made specifically for those who may have additional accessibility requirements.
If you’re an early bird or someone that prefers shopping later in the day then the O2 Outlet has you covered - with an opening time of 10am and a closing time of 10pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (times vary depending on the day). If you want to make a day of it then I’d recommend visiting around midday, then going for lunch with the numerous restaurants throughout the O2 itself. Then there’s the option to see the latest release at the cinema in the Vue cinema or you can treat yourself to a game at bowling at Hollywood Bowl. There’s even an indoor trampolining park called Oxygen Freejumping which is fun for both children and adults. Even though the shops at the O2 are mainly directed for adults, there’s the option to treat your child in the Build-A-Bear Workshop within the ICON Outlet. Not only is there a wide variety of bears and accessories to buy but there’s the option to hold birthday parties here which starts at £11.
The ICON Outlet has even more offers, which I wish I would’ve known before visiting as there have been numerous deals I have missed out on. Currently there’s an offer with Yankee Candle that allows visitors to claim a free melt warmer when a purchase of £20 or more is made. If candles aren’t your thing then Clarks are currently offering guests the offer of buy one, get the next one half price. The same deal is currently happening at Asics as well as two short sleeve tops being £24 or three for £32 on selected items. However, you should check when these offers expire as they change frequently and you do not want to miss out on these savings.
The London Living Wage, which currently stands at £10.55 per hour, which was designed to reflect the expensive costs that come with living and working in London. This wage was introduced to make sure that people living and working in London are compensated enough to cover all costs they may incur, as there’s a higher cost of living in London compared to other parts of the UK. As someone who lives and works in London, the London Living Wage has introduced a step forward for those living and working in London who face the rising costs of living in the capital. With transport prices increasing as well as housing becoming harder and more expensive to gain, there’s more chance that the London Living Wage will help people make ends meet rather than living in poverty.
The London Living Wage is currently the highest form of paid wage in the UK as the minimum wage for workers aged 25 and over stands at a mere £8.21. For workers unfortunate to be younger than the desired age mark then workers under 25 will earn £7.70 if they’re aged between 21 and 24. It gets even worse for workers who are aged 18 to 20 as they will get £6.15 and those under 18 will earn £4.35. These figures stated come from the National Minimum Wage section from the GOV.UK website. More information can be found by clicking here.
However, the problem with the London Living Wage is that companies aren’t legally forced to pay the London Living Wage to workers whereas they’re legally compelled to pay the National Minimum Wage. The Living Wage Foundation state that there’s currently 5,672 employers throughout the UK paying the Living Wage to workers, these companies including Ikea, Nestle and the People’s Health Trust. The Living Wage is available to workers across the UK, but is £9.00 as costs of living are deemed less expensive than London. Most companies are reluctant to pay the London Living Wage as this would mean that they’d be paying more for labour that they could simply get away with my paying the National Minimum Wage. The reason some companies offer The London Living wage is to firstly attract future employees by their high hourly rate and the second reason being is that a long term investment would result in happier staff which then in turn leads to positive experiences for customers. In layman’s term, it’s a win-win situation for both companies and employees.
With The London Living Wage so high, a beneficial wage that’s meant to help those working and living in London, it does have its downsides unfortunately. If someone working in London works 40 hours per week in line with the London Living Wage, they’re expected to earn £1,688 monthly which is pre-tax income. However, with tax and National Insurance contributions this leaves the employee with around £1,400 without the option of paying into a pension. If an employee received only The National Minimum Wage but worked the same amount of hours with the addition that they’re aged over 25 they would earn £1,313.60 which is pre-tax income. With tax and National Insurance contributions this leaves the employee with around £1200 without the option of paying into a pension. A mere £2.34 seems to make a lot of difference in this situation as it can result in the employee taking home an additional £200 per month after deductions. Once again in layman’s terms, the more you earn the more you will be subject to tax and financial deductions.
Luckily, for those who are aged 25 and under, The London Living Wage can lead to a substantial rise in payment and from there living conditions. If someone, who was aged 18 to 20 earned £10.55 compared to a mere £6.15 (in line with the National Minimum Wage) this would mean an improvable wage with an extra £4.40 per hour. If we used the same example with an employee working 40 hours a week, this would lead to an extra £704 per month if paid The London Living Wage. Overall, I think we can all agree that The London Living Wage is a step in the right direction for those who are living and working in London who find the prices and costs of living here unfavourable.
Too Good To Go is an app that’s dedicated to reducing food waste around the UK since food waste is currently responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the thought that 1.9 million tonnes of food waste is wasted each year while there’s 8.4 million people in the UK struggling to eat according to Fare Share. Most supermarkets are under scrutiny at the moment for throwing away food that doesn’t look visually appealing - a small bruise here and there leads to food that’s perfectly edible going to waste. Supermarkets across the UK have taken the initiative to create boxes with food that’s deemed undesirable - Morrisons have created a “wonky veg box” which has been received with incredible feedback and support.
The idea originated in Denmark in 2016 but with a huge wave of popularity it soon reached 9 other European countries - all with wide success and popularity. As soon as Too Good To Go came to the UK it was immediately seen as a win-win situation where companies wouldn’t lose money for food that would otherwise go to waste and customers would be able to buy food at a hugely discounted price. The discounts aren’t one to miss with users of Too Good To Go being able to save as much as £10 per purchase made through the app. For example, Arro Coffee in Paddington is offering a “Magic Bag” of products which include authentic Italian food for £3.99 instead of £12. Too Good To Go has allowed over a million people in the UK to do their bit against food waste with over 2000 partner stores across the country according to their figures.
Too Good To Go simply offers users a “Magic Bag” - the reason being that what you get inside it will be a surprise. However, you will get a small idea as to what cuisine you will be getting as well as what food will be included. For example, PAUL in Brompton Road state that their Magic Bag will allow customers to “Take home a taste of Paris from Paul. Rescue goodies like gourmet baguettes, filled croissants, mouth watering patisserie and sweet tarts - it’s all Too Good To Go". If you have any allergies or need to know information regarding what goes into these Magic Bags then there is the option to ask the store as to what your Magic Bag would contain. The only reason that Too Good To Go cannot disclose what ingredients go into the food is that it’s simply a surprise. Not only does Too Good To Go reduce food waste but it also reduces the energy and resources that would’ve gone to waste if the food simply went to waste.
The app is simple to navigate with customers being able to clearly see what’s being offered in a specific location around them or in other areas of the UK. All throughout the day partners of the Too Good To Go app put up food that would otherwise go to waste in the hopes that people will buy it and rescue it. There’s only a limited quantity of items per place, which means customers should be quick if they want something at an incredible discount. Additionally, there’s a specific pick up time as to when customers can collect their Magic Bags which depends on when the store may be closing or when their surplus food runs out. Customers can grab breakfast from hotels such as Novotel and Ibis Styles as well as being able to grab sweet treats at Lola’s Cupcakes and Urban Baristas.
As someone who's worked in a supermarket, I’ve seen first hand the amount of food thrown to waste simply because it’s not aesthetically pleasing enough or simply because it’s out of date. Even though supermarkets are one of the biggest guilty parties regarding food waste as The Independent stated that “More than 1bn of food wasted before reaching supermarkets” which is edible food which could have otherwise been sold in supermarkets. The reasons for food waste vary from food turning bad before even reaching the supermarkets but the main reason being that it doesn’t meet specific standards. Regardless, Too Good To Go has made such an impact that it’s no doubt that other companies and hopefully bigger chains will follow suit soon.
Channel 4 hosts a series of work experience opportunities and apprenticeships throughout the year and I was lucky enough to be chosen for one that took place on the 29th August 2019. Even though I had applied months before, there is a high volume of applicants, to which I found out 190 people had applied and there were only 20 spaces. However, the work experience I had applied for only lasted for a day but little did I know that a day was more than enough to gain insightful knowledge and experience from those working at Channel 4. Channel 4 really did lay out the red carpet for all 20 applicants who were lucky enough to attend - it was like receiving a golden ticket from Willy Wonka. Accommodation was booked for those who travelled from afar as well as transport being sorted out and travelcards/tickets given. Food was even included with a £5 voucher being given to spend during lunch at Channel 4 - it was absolutely beautiful.
The itinerary for the day went as follows:
Introduction to Channel 4
After a few icebreakers where everyone got to know their companions for the day a little better Yasmin, the 4Talent Coordinator, delved deeper into the history of Channel 4. In 1982 Channel 4 was finally on air - with the first programme being Countdown which still runs to this day with just over 7000 episodes. To my surprise Channel 4 was created as Margaret Thatcher wanted to branch away from public television and create an entirely new TV channel. As Channel 4 is publicly owned it means most of its revenue comes from advertising which can be seen through either adverts between programmes and documentaries or through their online platform All 4. Channel 4 is renowned for its diversity and educational focused content but at times has caused major controversy which was seen through the documentary Leaving Neverland. Channel 4 has a range of different branches to which include More 4, E4, All 4 and Film 4 to name a few - each with their own specific audience and desired demographics.
With the hundreds upon hundreds of different TV platforms, channels and now even streaming platforms it’s more than important for companies to continue being relevant. With so much choice companies want to make sure that the consumer doesn’t only watch their specific network but makes sure they return. Channel 4 goes above and beyond to research into consumer insights such as by delving deeper into data science, strategy, audience research as well as advertising research. Even though data science is done by another department at Channel 4 it still remains relevant as advertisers can then use these figures to see what they can aim at consumers to be the most beneficial and successful. Brands wouldn’t dream of advertising with companies if they weren’t more than sure they’d get their money’s worth and create more attention and excitement around a specific product or service.
For this workshop Yasmin invited 2 current employees at Channel 4 to explain how sales at Channel 4 works. It’s a very lengthy process and a lot goes on behind closed doors - us consumers only see the advertisement but there’s a lot of work that happens between Channel 4 and different media agencies which work on behalf of the brand who wants to advertise. For example, advertisers may desperately want to find an advertising space between programmes such as The Great British Bake Off and Gogglebox since it’s viewership has risen by millions each time a new series is released. On the other hand, in the hotter months such as July and August advertisers need to find other ways to advertise to consumers as most people are either on holiday or out of the home - in other words they’re not watching TV.
There a range of different partnerships at Channel 4 which can be seen through partnerships account managers, content solutions as well as commercial partnerships. Partnerships account managers is the specific department that deals with sponsorships, for example the Nationwide advert that deals with hate comments from previous adverts or Maltesers for the featuring of a disabled woman in one of their adverts. Channel 4 brought these issues to light, to which many other companies wouldn’t dream or dare do, for which a shock factor was brought to the audience and attention created around the issue. Branded entertainment is essentially branded adverts about a specific brand which represents a specific topic or issue. However, OFCOM regulations are strict which leads Channel 4 to have more of an editorial approach to make successful content without stepping over the line of what’s acceptable. There needs to be a conversation with customers through a holistic approach that is editorial and certainly not an advert. An example of this would be the approach from Age UK and the programme Old People’s Home For 4 Year Old’s - with over 1.2 million old people alone the programme matches perfectly with the charity which tugged at people’s heartstrings and led to it being the biggest fundraising day for Age UK.
Digital Sales Workshop
The biggest growth area for not only Channel 4 but thousands of different companies across the UK would be the rise of digital media. Digital media has become one of the best platforms to advertise on mainly because it’s efficient and will reach a specific audience - advertisers can reach consumers through their mobiles, on their Smart TV, their tablet and even through on demand content. All 4 has 29 platforms which has an enormous reach with the highest young upmarket reach which is for people aged between 16 and 34. There are over 37 million views through the availability of Friday Night Dinner - this giving advertisers a huge reach and the potential to really profit from this large viewership as spending their money would be most efficient here.
Even if you’re not located in London there are tons of opportunities that Channel 4 can offer people around the UK such as upcoming events which can be found on https://careers.channel4.com/4talent. There will be a Production Training Scheme held for 12 months at Channel 4 for which applications open in April 2020. Apprenticeships at Channel 4, a chance that allows people to learn and earn, which can be between 14 and 24 months also opens in January or February of 2020.
Overall, Channel 4 offers an unmissable day for those wanting to learn more about Channel 4 and the specific departments there rather than just an overview of the company. These departments such as sales and consumer insights are often overlooked by many, with people gunning for experience with the hands-on approach to making programmes and content for Channel 4. For someone like me, who hasn’t gone to university nor given the opportunity to discover my passion for all forms of media, Channel 4 allowed me to put my foot in the door and gain helpful insight that will benefit me in the future.
Like any other major city, London has it's own informal set of rules and values. It can be quite surprising how many things Londoners do that are different from people across the globe and many of them can be quite confusing. As I've lived in London for 20 years, I've learnt the hard way what the Do's and Don'ts are while in London - it would be wise to read up on what to expect and what to do as well as simple things that you should avoid while in London.
London can be a very overwhelming place - there’s so much to do and see, how could you possibly know what to do and where to visit? Luckily there are tons of YouTube channels which are dedicated to showing the highlights of London and some YouTubers even go as far as to show hacks to get free food or items while in London. Even though I’ve lived in London all my life I still find out something new every week that I had no clue about.
Toba Courage runs the YouTube channel London Hacks, a channel that is devoted to showing that London doesn’t have to be expensive by showing how you can save money and still have a memorable time in London. The videos even go as far to living on £1 per day and becoming homeless for five days - sadly showing the harsh reality for many homeless people living in London. Regardless there are a range of other videos mainly based around how to save money in London, from making money to showing what you can do in London with nothing in your wallet or purse. One of my favourite videos is How To Deal With Slow Walkers - it’s a painful struggle everyday using public transport in London.
What’s Good London
Jens and Pete are two YouTubers who have a channel dedicated to showing the different areas of London that you won’t find among mainstream guides of London. What’s Good London really has it all: from finding the best food spots in London and seeing the best bits of London you wouldn’t even think of visiting. The videos uploaded are full of content but don’t come with the hefty watch time - it’s getting straight to the point but doing it in a memorable way so you’ll be sure to add that location to your list when visiting London. One of my favourite videos is Instagram Places in London & Secret Viewpoints, giving you the perfect Instagram feed as well as not chewing away your budget.
Walking Around London
London is known for their rising and diverse food scene and everyday there’s somewhere new and uprising to visit. Walking Around London is a dedicated food channel showing every cuisine you could imagine, but be careful when you’re watching their videos - your mouth will be drooling. A wide variety of these videos cover the different street food in London, in most cases street food will be a millions time better than restaurants in London and will come without the hefty price tag too. This channel also sheds light on places that are undiscovered and haven’t had much attention - they certainly will after light has been shed on the incredible food they have to offer and the enormous portions. One of my favourite videos is Italian Street Food in London (Brick Lane Market) since my favourite part about street food is that you can’t get it any fresher than it being made right in front of you!
Love and London
Love and London is a channel that not only covers itineraries around London but goes as far as including videos for hotel tips and tips regarding using London transport. This channel really does have everything! Even things I overlooked have been covered such as covering tipping in London, for me it’s natural to tip waiters and waitresses but for people visiting London they may be confused as to how our tipping service works. If your travelling to London then Love and London will explain absolutely everything you need to know in a clear and precise way that prevents confusion and will allow you to travel around London stress free. One of my favourite videos is Visitor’s Guide to Money in London simply because it can be very confusing when paying with small change and notes as well as knowing where to change your money for a good rate. The best part about all these videos are they sweet and simple.
That London Life
Even though this section of my blog is dedicated to showing tips and tricks for travelling to London, I thought it would be important to mention a channel that is dedicated to showing aspects of moving to London. Videos on That London Life include getting a job in London, the price of accommodation as well as a honest review about living in London. All of these videos really highlight the reality of living in London, especially the hefty price tag that comes along with accommodation, but shows that London is a burst of excitement and there is so much to do here. One of my favourite videos is What You Get For Free in London On Your Birthday since many people don’t know the perks and gifts avaliable when celebrating your birthday while in London (on the condition you have a loyalty card or an email subscription to that specific company). Even though I live in London I had no idea that Elizabeth Arden offered birthday perks as well as Frankie & Benny’s. It’s surprising that over £80 in treats and items were given away in just one day to Eleana.
These are just five of my favourite channels that make videos about London but there are hundreds of other channels that have dedicated channels or videos regarding travelling to London. Some of these include:
Most people travelling to London may prefer to use the bus rather than other modes of transport as if may be too expensive or they don’t travel to specific areas of London that a bus does. In my opinion travelling by bus can be deemed easier than travelling with the London Underground since it clearly states the stops as well as being significantly cheaper. However, tourists travelling to London that plan to use the bus may be confused as to how the bus networks works as well as payment methods used for it. There are also certain rules when riding the bus throughout London as well as courtesy commonly used.
In 2014 TFL (Transport for London) stated that bus drivers would no longer accept cash as forms of payment and customers must use an Oyster Card, a pre-paid ticket or a contactless payment card. Customers are not allowed to purchase tickets on the bus and are not allowed to top up their Oyster while on the bus if the run out of credit. If you want to purchase an Oyster card it can be done in numerous ways: it can be delivered to your home address, it can be bought from a newsagents or it can be bought through the vending machines at any London Underground station. If you get onto a bus and only have 70p credit, where the price of a journey is £1.50, you will be allowed onto the bus but you won’t be able to make anymore journey until you top up your Oyster as you would be in the negative. More information regarding Oyster Cards on my blog can be found by clicking here.
Hopper Fare/Unlimited Journeys
When travelling through London there is a ‘hopper fare’ available for customers using an Oyster card or contactless payment card. This fare allows passengers to get on as many buses as they wish within the hour for the small price of £1.50. If you first tapped your Oyster card on a bus at 10:00am then you can jump on any bus between this time until 11:00am - this allows passengers to change routes while paying one fare. If you don’t want to purchase an Oyster card then you can buy a paper ticket which allows you unlimited travel around London on buses for £5. However, if you do have an Oyster card then you are allowed to make as many journeys as you please for £4.50 per day and £21.20 per week. The first three bus journeys will cost you £1.50 each totalling £4.50 but after that bus journeys will cost absolutely nothing. This is an cost efficient way to travel around London not only if you’re on a budget but also can be used rather than a hop-on-hop-off bus.
Knowing Your Direction
Bus stops may have the same name but will be going in very different directions. For example, Fenchurch Street Station has two bus stops, both with different letters: T and V. Fenchurch Street Station (T) goes towards London Bridge whereas Fenchurch Station (V) goes towards Aldgate. If you’re ever confused then look at the top of the bus stop where it will clearly state the letter of the bus stop as well as the direction it will be going in. There are signs near the bus stop which shows different bus directions as well as the different stops it will be stopping at throughout it’s journey. If you’re ever confused then it would be best to board the bus and ask the driver politely if it goes to your chosen destination - if it does then great, tap your oyster and find a seat, if it doesn’t then ask the bus driver what buses do go there and wait for that one. At the front of the bus it will have a number and direction, for example 40 Dulwich Library. The number indicates the specific bus route it’s taking and the location is where the bus will terminate and complete its journey. These letters and numbers are very clearly visible from a distance and allows passengers to see whether the bus is going in one direction or another as there will be two 40 buses - one going to Dulwich Library but the other going to Aldgate. This is a simple method to see if you’re going in the right direction if you have already researched the route but are still confused as to which bus you should get on. There is an app called Bus Times which pinpoints your location and allows users to see bus times as well as the direction they’re going in. Users can also see the amount of stops and the specific names of them, which is handy if they want to go to a specific destination.
Rules and Courtesy
There are a few rules while travelling throughout London on buses - the first being that you are not allowed to get onto a bus without paying the full fare by either showing a valid ticket or tapping your Oyster card or contactless payment card. If a bus inspector gets on, they may be in uniform or plain clothing, they will require you to present your ticket or card to which they will check whether you’ve paid. If they find out you haven’t paid they will either kick you off the bus or they will give you a fine or a penalty fare. If the bus is moving then don’t make any attempt to talk to the driver - this could distract him from driving and in turn cause a crash or harm to members of the public. Wait until the next bus stop to ask the driver something or ask fellow passengers on the bus as they may be able to advise you on your query and save you going up to the driver. You are not allowed to drink alcohol while you’re on the bus as it improves the safety and security of the public while on buses. If you take a pram onto a bus and a wheelchair gets on, you are required to move or fold your pram up to make way for the wheelchair user as they have priority over that space. If you go to the upper deck of the bus and there is no seating available, you cannot stand on the upper deck as it’s a health and safety issue - you will have to stand on the lower deck of the bus. There are a few things that you should do while on buses, but it isn’t necessary, it’s a form of courtesy. If you see a someone that’s pregnant then give up your seat for them if you can since it’s just respect, the same goes for people who are disabled, elderly or unable to stand. Don’t put your bag onto a chair - does your bag have a ticket or did it pay the full fare? If the answer is no then move your bag and allow someone else to sit down.
Hailing a Bus/Asking The Driver To Stop
London buses don’t stop at every bus stop as this would be a complete waste of time as some bus stops are completely empty when the bus drives by it. If you want to hail a bus then you simply need to stick your arm out until the bus indicates that it’s stopping or slowing down. The reason behind this being that there are a range of different buses which stop at specific bus stops, if you hailed down one bus then if there was a bus behind they would know to carry on since no one wants to be picked up nor dropped off. The same rule applies when you want to get off at a specific stop you will need to press the red button which can be found on the metal poles around the bus. Once you press the button there will be a dinging sound and the bus will come to a stop once it’s reached the bus stop. From there passengers can leave the bus without having to tap out and carry on their journey.
Luckily there are a range of night buses that travel around London during the late hours of the night. Not all buses have a night route, only specific ones, but most go from Central London to a range of different areas. You can spot a night bus in London as it will have the letter N before the number of its route. For example, you may see a bus that states N18 Trafalgar Square - this signifies that this is a night bus terminating at Trafalgar Square. However, the normal route during the day for the 18 route may differ from the service provided at night so it would be advisable to do your research before going out. These services also differ from the ones during the day as they are less frequent with buses coming between every 10-15 minutes.
Even though London is a hub of entertainment and a city that many people travel all across the world to visit, it comes along with the reputation of being one of the most expensive cities in the world. As I live in London, I know first hand how expensive certain aspects can be but there is ways to avoid this and this blog post is dedicated to outlining how much money it would cost per day to visit London. The factors included will be: accommodation, transport (including transport to and from the airport), food and drink as well as tours and attractions.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of different forms of accommodations in the city of London. There are a range of different hostels, apartments, hotels, B&B's and homes that can be rented out for your stay. In London a rule of thumb would be that the closer you are to Central London the higher the cost of your stay will be, if you stay around areas near London Bridge, Waterloo and even Westminster you will begin to see the star rating of these hotels go up as well as the prices. One of the most famous hotels in London is the Shangri-La At The Shard, with prices starting at just over £400. However, there are a lot of cheaper options in London with brands such as Premier Inn and Travelodge offering a basic hotel room with basic amenities with a low price tag. If you just want a room with a bed to sleep in, a shower and bathroom area to use then this would be your best bet. After a whole day of walking around, shopping and then seeing the attractions London has to offer this would be your best bet as you'll be too tired at the end of the day to make a fuss about the amenities of the hotel. If you're staying in London for an extended period of time then an Airbnb would be perfect - a room or an entire flat/house to yourself would be the way to make yourself at home and save money on going out for meals. The same applies to B&B's in London, you're given a room and breakfast - all you need to get you ready for the day ahead of you!
If you're unsure on what form of accommodation you would like to stay in during your visit to London, I made a blog post regarding the advantages and disadvantageous of each accommodation type. More information can be found by clicking here!
Total: £50 (Average)
Transport is one area that I've gone into extensive detail about: whether it's buying an Oyster card or travelling to and from the airport into Central London as well as the different forms of transport around London. The cost of transport depends on whether you're determined to save money by walking throughout London during the day or whether you're the person that would prefer to get private taxis everywhere. Mostly tourists use a combination of buses and Tubes on the London Underground to get around London as they're the modes of transport that cover nearly every place in London, especially the tourist attractions and landmarks. I would roughly estimate that a tourist visiting London would spend around £15 if you stick to using public transport but can go up to £50-100 if you're using private modes of transport such as taxis. Another use for public transport would be getting to and from the airport, which can cost as little as £3.10 for a single journey, which I made a whole blog post dedicated to as it was highly requested.
Links to other blogs regarding transport around London and the use of an Oyster card can be found here:
Total: £15 (+£5 if you need to purchase an Oyster card)
Food & Drink
London has over 80,000 restaurants within London, all with their different cuisines and price ranges. If you want an expensive and rather fancy meal then this may set you back around £80+ per person for a three course meal and a drink. In my opinion as much as these restaurants pride themselves on their star rating as well as their high quality service, there are much cheaper places to eat in London that would be able to fit everyone's budgets. I would suggest at least trying a full English breakfast while you're there as well as the fish and chips - they're the best! There are a range of different options to buying food and drink while in London, some people prefer to buy food from supermarkets whereas others prefer going out for all three meals during the day. I've listed both of these options to give you guidance in terms of price:
Total: £40-£50 (Average)
Tours & Attractions:
There are a range of major landmarks and attractions around London that everyone wants to visit such as The London Eye and The Shard. These attractions can become very expensive depending on the time of year you're visiting as well as if you have prebooked your tickets or not. I cannot put an accurate price on how much a tourist would spend per day on tours and attractions since some walking tours are pay as you feel as well as some attractions having no admission fee. For example, the Tate is completely free to visit as well as tours such as Strawberry Tours means you can see the sights of London with added information for a price that you can decide that fits your budget. Regardless, not all sights are free and most require a fee to enter such as The London Eye, The Tower of London and London Zoo. These can create quite a massive dent in your budget but on a previous blog post I went in detail regarding The London Pass and whether it was worth it. You pay a specific price for the amount of time you want the pass for and it allows you free admission into certain attractions. More information can be found here!
If you chose to buy souvenirs for friends and family I would not recommend doing this on Bond Street or Oxford Circus since these shops have very high prices as they know tourists will pay them. If you want to get a souvenir then I would recommend either buying some from the attraction you've seen or buying them from smaller souvenir shops around Westminster and surrounding areas. If you also want to do some shopping while you're in London then Oxford Circus and Westfield would be the best chance of finding something you'd like. Within these places there are a range of different places to eat as well as shops, the most popular being Primark at Bond Street and the three floor Lush Store located just next to Oxford Circus. If you want to travel further down onto New Bond Street and Mayfair then be warned that the price tags will make you read it twice - it's very expensive.
Total: £50-200 (Average)
This price is also dependant on whether you've prebooked attractions and tours as well as if you decide you want to go shopping while on your trip to London.
You could certainly spend a lot less than this when planning to visit London, if you decide to go for a cheaper hotel and to walk to certain attractions rather than using public transport. On the other hand you could spend a lot more if you have the budget and want to have a luxurious stay while in London with a luxury hotel and visit high class restaurants.
Getting from these airports into Central London is much simpler than it sounds and it's a lot cheaper than you think. There are various ways to get from Gatwick and Heathrow Airport into Central London which comes with different price tags along with it but there are transport modes to suit everyone's needs. This blog post will focus on these modes of transport: using the
London Underground, trains, taxi and coaches.
Gatwick Airport is located in West Sussex which is just 30 miles from Central London. Gatwick airport offers both domestic and international flights - short haul and long haul flights too. Gatwick Airport offers affordable options for travellers staying in hotels such as the Premier Inn which is located just opposite the airport. In the past year I've flown from Gatwick Airport around 6 times as it's the easiest airport for me to get to and by far the cheapest.
More Information Can Be Found Here:
Heathrow Airport is located just 14 miles from Central London and is the busiest airport in the United Kingdom. Heathrow Airport offers both domestic and international flights - short haul and long haul flights too. As it's used so frequently there are a range of transportation options available and a range of hotels located near to the airport as well as ones that require a simple bus ride to get there.
More Information Can Be Found Here:
A view from The Shard, something everyone living in London should get to see at least once and something that every tourist should put on their list while visiting London. It doesn't just offer the best views of London but also poses as the highest viewing platform in the capital as well as offering a 5-star hotel and spa: The Shangri-La. The Shard offers lots of restaurants and bars to suite everyone tastes. Unfortunately on this occasion I only had the pleasure of seeing the views from The Shard rather than dining there and spending the night in a luxurious room with phenomenal views of London.
The view offered by this impressive building, to which I only realised was named The Shard as the shape of the building is meant to resemble a shard of glass, is well worth the price. There are a range of prices depending on the ticket you would like to purchase: standard, premium and VIP ticket - each include their own perks and benefits. There's also options to buy group tickets as well as the champagne experience which includes a glass of Moët & Chandon champagne (I would recommend buying this experience if you're celebrating a special occasion such as a birthday or wedding anniversary). The standard ticket prices start at £24, the premium ticket starts at £31 and the VIP ticket starts at £39. These prices represent an adult ticket that's bought 14+ days before visiting The Shard. Prices increase if you buy between 1-13 days before visiting as well as if you buy on the day. I would suggest buying tickets 14+ days before to avoid queues and the disappointment if all the time slots on that day are sold out. On this occasion I bought a standard ticket which included entry to The Shard's viewing platform as well as having the option to gain knowledge regarding The Shard from gallery experts working there. More information regarding the types of tickets available can be found here and tickets can also be bought here: https://www.the-shard.com/viewing-gallery/.
The Shard is one of the most accessible attractions in London and the best thing about it is that you definitely can't miss it! It's located just outside of London Bridge station, which is accessible on the Jubilee and Northern lines as well as from trains that travel through and out of London. There are a number of buses that travel to London Bridge since it's one of the biggest train stations in London, making it an important and convenient place for Londoners and tourists. It's also located very close to Tower Bridge and the Shakespeare Globe which are all within walking distance. Whether you walk, cycle, take the train or even get a taxi, The Shard has signs all around London Bridge station directing you to the entrance. There are even workers outside asking visitors if they would like to buy tickets, which is another obvious sign that you have found the entrance to the building.
Since my viewing at The Shard was at 10am, I had no problems with collecting my tickets from the ticket office and there were barely any queues for security. If you want to save time then you have the option of printing your tickets at home which allows you to go straight through security and have more time to see the views presented by The Shard. If you bring children to The Shard then even waiting to go through security will not prove to be a bore for them since there's artwork all over the walls, I got so enticed by this artwork that I didn't realise the security team were waiting for me to go through next. The security is similar to the airport, all you need to do is place your bags and shoes through an x-ray machine while you walk through a metal detector. Nothing too strenuous.
Once you've gone through security the next step would be waiting for the elevator. This queue moves quite fast but once again the size of the queue depends on the time of day and time of year you visit. There are two elevators that you will need to take, each one holding only around 7-8 people making it not too claustrophobic and giving everyone their own personal space. The first elevator will take you up to Level 33, once on that floor if you look down you will see artwork on the floor and walls which are giant maps of London and descriptions about them. It's also important to note that if you would like a picture taken by a photographer which includes a green screen (which in the picture looks like you're in front of a London view), it's just before the first elevator, which pictures can be purchased at the end of your viewing on the way out. The second elevator is less than a minutes walk away from the exit of the first elevator, this elevator takes you to Level 68. Both of these elevators are quite smooth in their transition between floors and it didn't even feel like I was in a elevator except for the moment my ears popped. Once arriving at Level 68 there's options to walk up or take another small elevator to Level 69, the main triple height viewing platform. If you're a lover of heights then you can even go further to Level 72 which has an open-air viewing platform, this gives the sense of feeling outside since you can feel the fresh air surround you.
The views from these floors are simply breathtaking, it made such a busy and populated capital look simply tiny, it was interesting looking at these views to think that there are over 8 million people scattered all over London at this moment. I cannot describe how these views compare to any images you may have seen of London, the experience would be simply magnificent at night since London would be lit up which really adds a factor of amazement to it. However, the view at night may prevent you from seeing buildings in detail and it may take a while to get a picture worth posting to Instagram. These viewing platforms also include telescopes that include 200 attractions all over London as well as having the option to view these at night or throughout the day (as they're prerecorded). There are also touch screen tablets which highlight specific landmarks close to The Shard such as The London Eye and Tower Bridge, this is another option to visit The Shard if you have children, they'll have as much fun as you will.
On the way out of The Shard you'll have the option to buy any photographs previously taken, which cost £15, I'm not too sure if this price has increased or decreased since I never got my picture taken but I've heard this price from many friends and family. You'll also have to pass through the gift shop, this is a downside if you have children since they will want everything, thankfully there are some items which are priced reasonably but others are way too expensive. If you're visiting The Shard then it would be better to buy a guidebook or a limited edition souvenir to remind you of your visit. You're also welcome to take pictures from your phone or camera on these viewing platforms, an option I prefer since it's cheaper as well as having the chance to take as many pictures as I want to get the perfect one.
Scams happen everywhere, that's a fact, but in places such as London there's a higher risk of falling for these scams since they happen constantly and all over London. The general rule of thumb is that if something seems to good to be true, it is. These scams will either leave you out of pocket or in some scenarios will leave you without your valuables. Even though there are hundreds of scams happening, I've found the eight most popular scams that I see all of the time around London, which hundreds of people fall victim to.
Windscreen Washing Scam
While waiting for the traffic lights to change you'll see a group of people approach your car and before you know it they've thrown soapy water all over your windscreen. The group of people then proceed to wash the mess they've made off and then have the cheek to demand and beg for money for their work. Drivers will often give money to these groups as they feel intimidated by the sheer size of the group as well as not wanting to be stuck in this sticky situation. I've even heard of incidents a few years ago where these groups will surround the windscreen to distract the driver and will proceed to wash it while other members of the group will open the boot of your car. However, I'm not sure how likely this would be to happen and I'm unsure that the driver would fail to notice. If this happens it's important to report this since this act is illegal as well as making sure you drive away without giving any money to these scammers.
This happens all over London. Even though this isn't a scam I'd thought to include it since it happens constantly in all areas of London but it mainly happens outside of train stations and tube stations. People on mopeds and bikes will see the opportunity of a commuter or tourist casually on their phone or holding their handbag in a position that would be easy to snatch. The reason that train and tube stations are targeted so much is that when people get off from a train or tube the first thing that they'll do is check their phone or fumble in their bag. As their attention is diverted to their phone or bag they are blissfully unaware of their surroundings which makes them the perfect victims for this crime. This theft happens so quickly that the victims are in shock by the time it's happened and have no idea of who the thieves were simply because it happened too quickly and it was unexpected.
Cup and Ball Scam
One of the oldest scams known to me is the cup and ball scam since I can even remember watching it as a child and being fascinated by the whole performance. Mainly this scam happens on Westminster Bridge where con artists invite tourists to play a simple game, this game involves three cups and a ball, all the person playing has to do is follow the ball. Simple right? Not at all. The tourist is enticed by the offer of having the chance to double their money if they win, which leads to many players putting down money such as £20 and £50 as they're confident that they'll win. Unfortunately the tourists won't win a penny of their money back but some people that are in on the scam will play and miraculously win. This gives other players the idea that there is a chance of winning but this will never happen to the tourists playing. While other tourists play the game or either watch someone try their luck there will be people that are in on the scam that will pickpocket them since their focus is on the game.
Fake Theatre Tickets
London is famously known for being the heart of theatre, with many people coming to London with the hopes of seeing a West End Show. These tickets are known to be pretty expensive but luckily there are some kind people selling cheap tickets for shows such as The Lion King and Wicked. Too good to be true? You know it. These tickets are fake and unfortunately by the time your time comes to go to the theatre you'll be told your tickets are fake and the seller of the tickets will be long gone. If you do want to buy tickets to see these shows then I suggest buying them online, from a licensed box office or from the theatres own box office. Even though these tickets aren't cheap at least you'll end up seeing a show rather than being out of pocket and out of a chance to see a West End Show while in London.
Overpriced Rickshaw Journeys
While visiting London and areas around Central London a common sight will be Rickshaw drivers taking tourists around the city as well as asking tourists if they would like a ride. As much as this sounds like a fun and exciting way to see London, which it is, it can end up a very expensive trip. There was once a story of one driver trying to charge over £200 for a three minute journey by simply targeting tourists as he knew they would fall for it. However, there are some Rickshaw drivers that are legitimate and will charge you a fare price for your journey. These drivers must have some form of identification and before getting in the Rickshaw make sure that you state your destination and from there you should be able to get a price for your journey.
Free Perfume Scam
Along the busy streets of London there are individuals selling overpriced perfume that is actually worth mere pennies. The scam artists will build up a crowd and give tourists the mentality that this is a good deal by telling them that it'll be the last chance to buy these perfumes. Sadly these perfumes are cheap knock-offs in another box which to the naked eye seem like the product itself (as it shows an expensive product), which tourists buy and think that they've got a good deal. It's only until tourists open the box and see that the product inside doesn't match the one in the box to which they'll then realise that they've been scammed. While building up a crowd the scam artist will hand out testers, which is from the actual product on the box, whereas by the time you buy the product it'll be a cheap version of another perfume. Since everyone have already seen the perfume and even smelt it, they'd have no doubt in their mind that it's fake. By the time they realise it's fake they'll have nowhere to go since the scam artists will be gone and since they bought it off someone on the street there's nothing they can do to get their money back.
London has many beggars on the streets of London, especially around Oxford Street and Marble Arch, but these beggars are more likely to intimidate you into giving them money. Don't get me wrong there are some beggars who are on the streets due to very real and unfortunate circumstances who really do need the spare change in your pocket or some food. However, the beggars I'm talking about may begin to tell you a story about their life and how they ended up in this situation. While you're listening to this story which tugs at your heartstrings there may be someone in on this scam pickpocketing taking your valuables. Another scam that happens is when a beggar strikes up a conversation with someone to which they make them feel sorry for them and then ask for a large sum of money with the promise of it being returned. For example, a beggar may say that they need money for a train to get to the police station or to a relatives house, to which they promise to give the money back by exchanging details. Unluckily nothing will come out of this and once again a good deed will be done for the wrong person.
The card skimming scam happens all over the world but it's most common in a country's capital, in this instance it happens to be London. Some ATM's are adjusted so that a card skimmer is placed over the card slot to 'skim' your card details in seconds. Luckily a card skimmer is noticeable since if you touch the outside of the card slot then it should be firmly in place rather than people being able to move or adjust it. If you do want to withdraw money while in London then the best thing to do would to be to go into a bank and use their ATM since there's less chance of card skimming happening in an actual bank.
What is the London Pass?
The London Pass is a pass aimed at tourists visiting London which grants access to over 80 attractions all over London - some of these attractions are very popular such as the Tower of London as well as A View From The Shard. Some of the attractions which are included aren't found on mainstream websites or guides of what to do in London but still offer a fun and interesting experience such as The London Bridge Experience or a London Bicycle Tour. It also includes a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus to go around London which allows tourists to enjoy the sights of London from just one place for a day. The London Pass also allows Fast Track Entry for 6 attractions at the moment, such as St Paul's Cathedral and London Zoo, which are some of the most popular sights in London. This unfortunately means that these queues are very long and sometimes people queue up for hours to go inside. The London Pass doesn't only offer entrance to attractions but also has a handy guidebook with specific information regarding each attraction: transport details, the exact address as well as the opening times. This is perfect for organising what you would want to do each day and in turn would allow you to get the most out of your pass. The London Pass also has a handy app which is useful for storing your tickets as well as having information regarding the pass all in one place.
These prices represent the prices of the London Pass in January 2019 - these prices may change over the course of the year and time. These prices are also representative of a London Pass bought without the additional option of preloaded credit topped onto an Oyster.
Prices can be found here: https://www.londonpass.com/london-pass-prices.php
An Example Itinerary Including Prices & Savings - 3 Day Pass Excluding Travel
The London Pass is priced at £114 for 3 Days excluding travel but this three day itinerary comes to a total of £233 which is a saving of £119. I made this itinerary as realistically as I could because even with a fast track entry there is no way that a tourist could go to 10 attractions in one day. This being because you need to take into consideration the time it takes to travel to the attraction as well as including time for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as whether they have all day to go sightseeing. With this in mind I made an itinerary where the landmarks and attractions were close to each other, in turn saving time and money. For example, Tower Bridge and The London Bridge Experience are within walking distance of each other and have good transport links between the two.
Is the London Pass Worth It?
Taking everything into consideration the London Pass is worth it only if you have a clear plan of what you want to do in London as well as having knowledge of roughly how long to travel and visit each sight you want to go to. If you plan a whole itinerary with fast tracks then you will certainly get your money's worth as you won't be waiting in queues, unfortunately only 6 sights currently offer this feature. If you travel to London in the summer and want to go into museums and places of interest that don't have a Fast Track Entry feature then you may even spend hours queuing, which would be hard especially if you have younger children and if it's the summer. If you have a specific budget for travelling to London then buying this pass, especially if you invest into buying a travel pass, will allow you to lower your expenses. The only thing left to pay for would be the 'I <3 London' t-shirts, other souvenirs and money to cover food. If you're travelling without kids then I would suggest getting the London Pass as it may mean you can go out earlier and stay out longer if possible - this meaning you'd be able to get more done. If you are travelling to London with children then this pass may not be entirely worth the cost since children may not enjoy attractions such as The London Bridge Experience and may find museums boring. In addition the London Pass assumes that you will go out everyday, this in reality is exhausting and you may find yourself crossing some sights from your list as you are tired from walking, especially in the summer.
Tips and tricks for what to do in London as well as travelling around it.