Tag Archives: Transportation

26 Things You’ll Want to Know Before Moving to England

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So you’ve decided to move to England and feel completely overwhelmed by the endeavor. Where does one even begin? Well, aside from packing up your flat, I will help you make this transition as smoothly as possible with these top tips.

This topic actually came about over coffee with my friend Tara. We were talking about ideas for another British book I’m writing and she mentioned moving to England. She knew it would be an enormous undertaking moving from the US to the UK but would love a book to guide her. Consider this your mini guide, my dear friend.

Before You Leave and After You Arrive

I know there is a ton of stuff to get done before you even think about leaving your country for England. Here are some necessities to tackle before you leave and after you arrive.

  1. Immunizations – there are routine immunizations required before moving to England, usually 4 to 6 weeks prior to your arrival. Your jabs depend on which country you come from so check with the CDC for details.
  2. Passport – make sure you have an update one and that it doesn’t expire for at least 90 days after you return to your home country. Remember to keep your passport current while you’re living in the UK.
  3. Work Visa – this is required for most countries right off the bat. Even US citizens, who can stay up to 6 months without one, would be required to get a work visa if you plan to move to England and secure employment.
  4. Banking –Once you arrived, make sure to bring your passport and work visa with you to your bank of choice. Standard bank fees and monetary exchange rates will apply. Check with the British Banking Association for details.
  5. Mail – most national postal services do not provide an international change of address online. Visit your nearest post office for proper procedure.
  6. Phone – using your own mobile service, even if they provide international service, will stick you with a massive bill. Best to get an inexpensive phone or a new SIM card for your smartphone at a UK service provider.

Traveling To and Around England

If you’ve read my post on the London Tube, you learned some helpful tips, tricks, and protocols when traveling by Underground. Below is some other savvy travel tips, as well.

  1. Your Flight – book your flight as far in advance as possible and at off-peak times if you can.
  2. Travel Insurance – A necessary evil in case your trip goes pear-shaped. If all goes well, consider yourself a jammy beggar.
  3. From the Airport – you’ll need to hire a car unless you have friends to pick you up. Rent a car instead of a cab to save loads of dosh.
  4. Oyster Card – this is a must for transport around London and when you want to scamper about the English countryside as well. Make sure to have cash on hand so you can buy a ticket anywhere an Oyster Card is invalid.
  5. Walking, Standing, and Driving – walk on the left, stand on the right when taking the escalator, and do drive on the left if you want to live.

Currency, Taxes, and Credit Cards

  1. Credit Cards – Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. It’s helpful for booking flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars. Check with your merchant to find out the fees and exchange rates that apply. Once you can get a debit card for your British bank account, this will help eliminate the need to carry cash.
  2. Cash – British pounds is the currency of the UK and it’s best to use until you secure your own British bank account. This minimizes banking and ATM fees.
  3. ATMs – use bank ATMs and avoid “independent” ones. Flat transaction fees and percentage charges apply when you use “out-of-network” ATMs so withdraw larger amounts. ATMs are still cheaper than exchanging your cash at a bank.
  4. National Insurance Number – the British equivalent of a social security number so you can work and they can take taxes out. Go to the UK government website for details.

Learning British English

On our BritWordaDay social media channels, you’ll see daily posts of British words. It’s our goal to help you learn these wicked words for when you converse with Brits. Dialects change as you move about England but I’ve got a perfect solution for you.

  1. Learn the Lingo –Great Britain has many dialects and you’ll need to swot up on those as you travel around the country. Trust me. It’s like learning a whole new language. Check out my book for a proper guide to British words and beyond.
  2. Proper Pronunciation – places like Derbyshire (darbuhshuh) and Leicester (lesstuh) are common examples. Listen and adapt to British pronunciations to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.

Basic British Culture and Customs

There are several I could mention here, including the quintessential sarcastic humor employed by Brits regularly. Trust me, if they take the mickey out of you then you’re in. Oh, and they use the word “sorry” quite a bit.

  1. Don’t Take It Literally – Brits rarely say what they mean so learn to read between the lines. Check this out to see several humorous examples.
  2. Compliments – they typically make many Brits nervous and they will often deflect with self-deprecating remarks, even if secretly pleased.
  3. Weather – can be dodgy so it’s best to carry a brolly. Be prepared to discuss the weather…A LOT.

Know Your Onions about Food and Drink

Don’t believe all the disparaging remarks you hear about British food. They have many  tasty dishes both savory and sweet. When in England, ask the locals where they prefer to get their fish and chips or Indian curry.

  1. Tea – the preferred drink of the UK, a solution to most problems (or so you will be told), and, yes, it is a meal. Read my blog post on British tea to better understand this revered British custom.
  2. Drinking – is a national past time in the UK and a cornerstone of British culture. Even if you don’t drink, go hang out a British pub if you want to know the Brits.
  3. Food – the Brits offer many tasty treats like Yorkshire pudding and Sticky Toffee Pudding but the Brits do love their offal (organ meat) and you’ll find it in things like Steak and Kidney Pie or Lancashire Hot Pot.
  4. Dining Etiquette – place your napkin on your lap instead of tucking it into your shirt. Say “please” and “thank you”. This is “British Politeness 101” Put your knife and fork together in the middle of your plate to indicate you’re finished. My book has a whole chapter dedicated this sort of thing.

British Electricity and Measurements

  1. Plugs and Voltage – the Brits use a specific 3-prong plug and the outlets are typically 220-240 volts. You can by conversion adapters but if you don’t want to run the risk of frying your blow dryer, buy a new one when you get there.
  2. A Mixture of Measurements – Distances on roads are calculated in yards and miles. Objects are measured in centimeters and meters. Height is stated in feet and inches. Food is weighed in grams and kilos. People are weighed in stones and pounds.

Hopefully, you’re feeling more prepared for your move to England. In my upcoming book this autumn, I’ll be sharing more detail about this very subject. If you want an easy-to-read top guide to British words and the various dialects of the UK for your move to England, then download my book from Amazon or iTunes.


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Savvy Tips for Using London Cabs Like a Boss

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If you’re not used to riding in cabs, it can be a bit intimidating at first. For those outside the UK, who do not travel by taxi, adding British currency and culture to the mix requires some swotting up. Read on, dear neophytes, and soon you’ll be using London cabs like a boss!

Brief History of the London Cab

London cabs were once horse-drawn carriages called “hackney carriages” which dates back to 1662. With the introduction of automobiles, the design of the London cab has changed several times over the years. It was in 1945 that the iconic black cab became the London taxi we all know and love today. Though this traditional style has endured for over 70 years, London cabs come in all sorts of colors and are often plastered with adverts.

Use London Cabs Like a Boss

Hailing a Cab

If you’ve been to the Big Apple, you’ve may have heard locals yell to flag down a cab. It’s a bit different in London as townies are not as “shouty” as New Yorkers.

  • DO – hold out your arm to a cab and they will stop.
  • DON’T – shout “TAXI” to a London cab driver. Technically, it is against the law and they will not stop for you.
  • Mind Where You Stand – it’s always a good idea to avoid hailing a cab near a bus stop, pedestrian crossings or any obstruction.
  • Availability – if the word “TAXI” on top of the cab is lit up then it’s available for hire. When already in service the light is off.
  • Reaching Your Destination – before getting into the cab, go to the front window and tell the driver your destination or ask if you’re unsure. If it’s a hotel, restaurant or landmark, just say the name and they know the way including the quickest route.
  • Sit in the Back – when you’ve finished speaking to the driver, hop in the back. There’s enough room for a total of five people (3 on the backseat and 2 on opposite fold-down seats).

Black Cab Culture

Remember, things are done differently in London than in other cities. Mind the culture, lovelies, for when in Rome…I mean England…

  • Know the Lingo – Whether a bloke or a bird, cab drivers are often referred to as “cabbies” and cabs are still referred to as “hackneys” from time to time.
  • Getting Gabby – If you’re a chatterbox, then cab travel is for you. Cabbies are fond of chatting with their passengers and it is certainly welcomed. They are a wealth of London knowledge and are happy to offer suggestions and advice.

Hiring a Cab

It’s your first time in London. You’re all dressed up and you’d like to hire a cab to join your mates at the swanky pub across town. You can ring up a local cab company or use an app.

  • Distance Requirements – drivers are required to accept any hiring up to 12 miles or up to a one-hour duration if the destination is in Greater London. They are also required to accept any hiring up to 20 miles for fares starting at Heathrow Airport.
  • Taxi AppsKabbee is an online service for minicabs which are cheaper than hiring black cabs. It’s also an app that works on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows phones. For more cab apps, go to Transport for London – Taxi Apps.

Payment and Cab Fares

Cab fares vary due to time and distance. Your cabbie will tell you the fare once you’ve reached your destination. Fares are tracked by a meter and may be higher if there are delays or heavy traffic. Check out Transport for London Taxi Fare guide for details. Here’s some important fare and payment info:

  • Cash or Credit? – You can actually use cash, a credit or debit card, and there’s no extra charge for using your card.
  • Minimum Fare – you will pay a minimum of £2.60 at all times.
  • Extra Charges – extra charges must be added to the meter at the start of a journey.
    • There is an extra charge for up to £2 if the taxi is booked by phone or online.
    • There is an extra charge of £2.80 for journeys that start from Heathrow Airport.
    • There is an extra charge of £4 for journeys made on December 24 – 27 and December 31 – January 2.
  • Tariff Charges – There are 3 standard tariff periods set by Transport for London which increases fares at certain times and days of the week. Check out TfL Tariffs for more information.

Tipping a Cab Driver

  • For a Typical Fare – the customary tip amount is 10-15% of the total fare or round up to the nearest £1 and tell the driver to “keep the change”
  • Further Distance or Assistance – if you have a longer journey or the driver has assisted you with your luggage, it’s standard to tip a bit more and up to £5.

The Knowledge

London cab drivers have to pass a test called “The Knowledge” before they can drive a cab. The average time to study and pass the exam is 3 years because drivers have to memorize every London street within six miles from Charing Cross. This knowledge amounts to 320 routes, 25,000 streets, and 20,000 landmarks!

Did You Know These London Cab Facts?

Here are some interesting facts from Bloomsbury International:

  1. Most cabs in London are owned by the drivers and are run as independent businesses.
  2. London’s taxi industry is often ranked number 1 in the world.
  3. There are currently around 21,000 black cabs in London.
  4. Many black cabs have a turning circle of only 25 ft (8m). This means they can turn around in small spaces and go around very tight corners.
  5. The name “taxi” comes from the “taximeter” – the tool used to calculate fares.
  6. A cab must be tall enough to accommodate someone wearing a bowler hat!

Have you ever taken a London cab? Tell us about your experience by logging in and posting your comments or Tweet us at @BritWordaDay.


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London Tube – Etiquette, Safety, and a Little History

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Image by © Alistair & Jan Campbell in UK

A Little Underground History

The original London underground railway system dates back to around the mid-1800s. Although Britain was not the first to conceive this brainchild, an innovative French engineer by the name of Marc Isambard Brunel made a pioneering contribution.

Debtor’s Prison to the Thames Tunnel

In 1821, Marc Brunel accumulated a large amount of debt after several unprofitable business ventures. He was tried and sentenced to the King’s Bench, a debtor’s prison in Southwark, London. During incarceration, The Duke of Wellington learned of Brunel’s communication to Alexander I of Russia about moving to St. Petersburg and working for the Tsar. Desperate to retain such an eminent engineer, the Duke pressed the British government for intervention. After 88 days of imprisonment, Brunel was granted £5,000 to clear his debts on condition that he abandons any plans to go to Russia.

The Thames Tunnel Project, which had been abandoned after several failed attempts, was finally completed in 1843, due to Brunel’s ground-breaking tunneling shield technology. This was the first successful tunnel forged underneath a navigable river.

London Underground Milestones

There are several significant miles stones of nearly two centuries of underground innovation. Below are some highlights of the progress and obstacles this transport system has faced over the years.

  • 1843 – Constructed by Sir Marc Brunel and his son Isambard, the Thames Tunnel opens
  • 1863 – January 10th, the Metropolitan Railway opens the world’s first underground railway, between Paddington (formally Bishop’s Road) and Farringdon Street
  • 1900 – The Prince of Wales (Edward VII) opens the Central London Railway from Shepherd’s Bush to Bank (the ‘Twopenny Tube’). This is now part of the Central line.
  • 1908 – The name ‘Underground’ makes its first appearance in stations and the first electric ticket-issuing machine is introduced. This year also sees the first appearance of the famous roundel symbol.
  • 1952 – The first aluminum train enters service on the District line
  • 1969 – The Queen opens the Victoria line
  • 2003 – The Oyster card is introduced and busking is legalized
  • 2005 – 52 people are killed in bomb attacks on three Tube trains and a bus on July 7th.
  • 2007 – The Tube carries one billion passengers in a year for the first time
  • 2011 – Green Park becomes step-free to provide easier access to the Victoria, Piccadilly, and Jubilee lines in time for the Olympics.

Underground Safety and Etiquette

If you’re not used to big city transport, the London Underground could be quite intimidating. Each large city has its mass-transit culture and here’s some London Tube safety and etiquette to bear in mind.

A Few London Tube Rules

  • Smoking and Alcohol – Smoking was banned due to the King’s Cross Fire in 1987 and alcohol by Lord Mayor, Boris Johnson for the prevention of crime in 2008.
  • Special Police – To prevent terrorism, British Transport Police has a special armed officer detail who regularly patrol the Underground stations and trains.
  • Photography – Personal use photography is permitted with the purchase of a Student/Non-professional permit. Professional photography requires additional licensing and cost. Flash photography is forbidden as it may distract drivers and disrupt fire-detection equipment.

London Tube Etiquette

  • Walk Left, Keep Right – You’re in London, so walk on the left and get on the left escalator. On the Tube escalator or train carriage, stand to the right so people can move or exit down the left side.
  • Payment – Have your ticket or Oyster card ready to enter the turnstiles. Load your prepaid card with plenty of cash beforehand. Don’t wait for the barriers to close before you swipe your card or you’ll slow things down.
  • Prevent Clumping – Move down the platform to the end or front of the train to prevent human clumps. This will also provide better seating as most commuters head for the center carriages.
  • Make Room & Don’t Stop – Make room in the Tube carriages for boarding commuters and move well away from the doors after you exit before stopping to check your phone or your hand bag.
  • Exiting and Boarding – Let people off first before you board the train. It’s best to disembark as quickly as possible. When exiting be kind and no pushing, please.

Manners Truly Matter

  • Silence Golden– London commuters relish their silence and expect everyone to adhere to this. This goes for music, video games, and the like. If you must speak with someone in your party, use your indoor voice and turn it down a few notches.
  • No Eye Contact – As is with NYC, don’t stare at people. It’s rude and may get you into trouble. This goes for celebrities as well. Don’t gawk and for heaven’s sake, leave them alone.
  • We All Need Our Space – Try and sit two seats or more away from fellow passengers when you can.
  • Be Kind & Have Courage – If a person is elderly or pregnant, it’s always a good rule to give up your seat to passengers of greater need. When in doubt, don’t ask the question, just offer. Also, help with prams and wheelchairs. It’s just the thing to do.
  • A Rule of Height – For the vertically-challenged folk, use the center poles to brace yourselves for the journey so that those who can actually reach the top side rails have something to hold onto as well.
  • It’s Not an Eatery – When polled, most Londoners said this was one of the most annoying things. If you’re that peckish, grab a snack and scoff it quickly before you board. London thanks you.
  • Not a Skip or a Bin – The Tube is not a rubbish bin or skip so pick up your newspaper, magazine or other trash and put it where it belongs. Thanks very much.

An Entertaining Video from Transport For London

Your London Tube Ride

Have you ridden the London Underground? What’s your experience? Check out this video for some high tech Tube innovation.

PriestmanGoode & Transport for London Video


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New London Routemaster

Why a New Double-Decker?

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by Tom Page from London, UK
Out With the Old

With production ending in 1968, after 2,760 double-decker buses were built, routemasters were finally withdrawn from normal passenger service, except for one heritage route (#15), in 2005. Despite its many refurbishments and overhauls, the routemaster endured the decades through popular public support. Though bus routes were limited, it was still felt that a thorough renovation of this London treasure was warranted.

After the 60 years the routemaster has been in production, it was time to update this iconic London transport to a more modern, fully accessible (for those with special needs), and environmentally friendly model.

Routemaster Revisited and Renewed

The withdrawal from service, at the end of 2005 by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, was due in favor of a fully accessible one-person-operated modern fleet, none of which featured a rear open platform. Removal of the renowned double-decker bus became a topic of debate in the 2008 London mayoral election. Boris Johnson was later elected mayor with one of his campaign pledges being to introduce a new routemaster aka the Borisbus. The first new model entered service on February 27, 2012.

Lean, Green, Accessible Machine

Green? Steady on! I thought they were red! Yes, my dear Anglophiles, red they are indeed. “Green” refers to the new hybrid diesel-electric engine which only uses the diesel when the electric motor needs charging. In test conditions, the new bus produced about half the carbon dioxide and a quarter of the particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.

The bus has a step-free walkway on the lower deck from the front to the back, allowing easy access for people with mobility impairments and passengers with strollers. There is a large wheelchair bay directly opposite the center ramped door.

What’s lean about the new routemaster? The new design makes use of lightweight materials, with glass highlighting key features and consequently producing a light and airy feel inside the bus. The internal lighting is provided by LED clusters and there is a climate-controlled ventilation system. The new buses are also fitted with a communication system which displays text and provides audio announcements via loudspeakers, and a T-loop (telecoil) for users of hearing aids. The information displayed and announced typically includes the route number, destination, name of the next stop, and that the bus is coming to stop.

Operation, Routes and Fares

Routemaster Operation

The bus has three sets of doors, each with Oyster card readers, making it easier to get on and off. Inside, there are two staircases, one near the front and one at the back, for easy access to and from the upper deck.

During peak hours and for busier Central London routes, a conductor will aid the driver in operation of the routemaster. The conductor’s purpose is not to collect fares but rather to ensure the safety of passengers hopping on and off the rear platform as well as provide travel advice. When conductors are not present, the rear doors will be operated by the driver.

Routes

Real-time service information for all London buses, including the new routemaster, is provided by the Twitter Bus Alerts feed.

  • 8 – Oxford Circus to Bow Church
  • 9 – Hammersmith to Aldwych
  • 10 – Hammersmith bus station to King’s Cross St. Pancras
  • 11 – Liverpool Street station to Fulham Broadway
  • 15 – Heritage Route from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square
  • 24 – Hampstead Heath to Pimlico
  • 38 – Victoria to Hackney
  • 55 – Oxford Circus to Leyton
  • 137 – Oxford Circus to Streatham Hill
  • 148 – Camberwell Green to White City bus station
  • 390 – Notting Hill Gate to Archway
  • 453 – Marylebone station to Deptford Bridge

Bus Fare Options

Oyster card holders or passengers using contactless payment cards can use any of the doors to board. Passengers with a printed Travelcard or other printed pass or ticket must use the front door and show these to the driver.

Your Routemaster Experience

Though bus travel has declined despite the release of the new routemaster, it still remains a tourist attraction by these eager patrons. This mode of transport, unlike the tube, allows all the iconic scenery of London to be viewed to the travelers’ heart’s content.

Have any of you taken a ride on the new routemaster? If so, when and what was your experience like? Login and leave your comments below.


 

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