S ummer' s here and the holiday season is just around the corner. Travel plans are being made all over the world and people are considering places where they should be. Hey! Why not London !. It' s summer. It wouldn' t be freezing cold there for the next two months. Half of the Bollywood movies have been shot there. They are fortunately still friends with Scotland and two other nations. Wouldn' t it be convenient if you got to use one single visa for three other nations (Jugaad Indians, Jugaad). You can ostentatiously name-drop when you come back to India (' ' Oh this mac lipgloss which I easily could have ordered online in India I brought it from London actually' ' ). And....wait for it-you would finally be able to dance to ' London thumak da' properly. Well, presuming that you have been convinced by the above reasons and are actually going to go there, let me fill you in on some travel advice that probably no travel book will give you.
Do not be intimidated with the currency change and the high prices. The city is expensive no doubt, but you don't have to turn into a skinflint just because the water is for 200 rupees (Save the gasp. It is only 2 pounds). You'll get used to the prices and will start thinking in pounds in no time.
The first day in a foreign land is usually the most daunting. Especially for first time travelers or for the people travelling alone. They are clueless and have no idea what to do or where to start. Do not freak out. London is probably one of the most friendliest cities in the world. The pace might seem unnerving initially but soon you will find yourself matching the pace and wondering 'what was I even worrying about?'. Just don't let the first day bring you down.
Public display of affection-No matter how cool or modern we Indians claim to be, almost all of us still aren't comfortable with either performing or watching others do it in public spaces. So if you catch a couple being 'affectionate' at a party or at the tube or on the street, do NOT get all super excited. Indians usually tend to 'nonchalantly' stare at such displays. It's a city where, as long as you are not breaking any rules, everyone minds their own business. You must do the same.
This will be mentioned in the travel books I am sure. Get an oyster card. Even though my initial advice was not to turn into a skinflint but I also don't want my fellow travelers to come on the streets and starve themselves because of the cab fare. This blue card will get you on the red bus and the tube. Buy it as soon as possible. Also, travelling on the bus is probably the best way to immerse yourself in the culture and is more fun than a boring cab drive.
One thing that the English people just absolutely cannot tolerate is nuisance at a quiet location. Rude, unsophisticated, impatient and loud people are the one's they frown upon. And that's a lot of frowning people, trust me. Also the most important guide to Indians- Do not break any queues to get ahead in line like we all tend to do here. You'll probably be assassinated for it.
You learn from your mistakes and sometimes the dumbest ones are the most unforgettable. So on my trip I wasn't told that the electrical sockets in England would be different from our Indian sockets. Remember to buy a charger adapter from India otherwise good luck spending 15 pounds (you can get into a good pub for this much money) buying a new one from London. And trust me, it feels awful to realize that you just spent your precious money on the first day over something that you could and should have brought from home itself.
Some of you might get to increase their pounds. And I am not talking in terms of money before you get all hyper. You might gain weight while you live there, especially if you are more intent on eating and trying out different cuisines. The fish and chips, the beer, the wine, the burgers, the bakery stuff (to die for) and a lot more which you'll indulge in and might gain a few pounds. Avoid feeling guilty if there is a time when you can sinlessly binge on food it's when you travel.
You might want to visit all the famous places and get it over with so you can concentrate on the shopping (Oxford street, here I come!), but make sure you visit the local markets too. These markets are the places where you will actually get the feel of the city, its vivid culture, the people, and who knows you might discover something esoteric that you love. Make sure you google the markets first as some of them are only exhibited on the weekends.
If you are a student travelling alone, don't stay at a hotel. You'll be bored to death, unless you are a recluse of course. Hostel accommodations in the city are quite convenient to stay and to make new friends.
It is a beautiful and a magical city which is for everyone. Even people with no ambition or no specific interests will find it appealing. Rich in culture, architecture, history, art, music, food, drinks, pubs, theater, street shows and almost any damn thing one can conceivably imagine, the city will keep you entertained no matter what.