With some of the most favourable currency exchange rates for foreigners in years, now is a great time for anyone wanting to visit the UK as a location independent professional in search of good value living.
Before you book those cheap flights and head on over there, here are 7 things you’ll probably want to know about the UK…
#1 If high speed internet isn’t available/included at your accommodation there are plenty of other options.
Unfortunately like many places, internet access in hotels is a rip-off – even if you’re using a service like Boingo, you’ll find hotels are often deemed as “Premium Rate” locations.
If your rental apartment doesn’t come with internet either, don’t despair. There are a number of options available to ensure you stay connected. These include:
- The Cloud – a country-wide wireless network giving you access to high-speed internet at multiple locations on a pay-as-you-go or subscription basis.
- 3G Modems – the main mobile/cell phone providers in the UK are T-Mobile, O2, Vodafone and 3. Most of them offer a USB 3G modem widget which will enable you to connect to the internet for a specific period of time – usually a day, a week or a month. Most of the deals will also let you connect to The Cloud (or similar network) while out & about.
#2 Furnished apartments are not always easy to find.
One of the biggest drawbacks about the UK as a work-from-anywhere destination is the comparative lack of affordable, furnished, short term rental accommodation. If you’re in London or want to be located centrally in a city, you’ll pay an absolute premium for it. If you’re outside of London you’ll also have to look hard to find it, unless you also want to pay a premium for the “serviced apartments” type of accommodation.
#3 For internal travel across the UK, trains & buses are still the cheapest option.
The public transport system is not bad (although pretty poor compared with other European countries) and despite the rise of low cost airlines, buses and trains are often still the cheapest way to travel.
One thing that has decreased in price over the past few years in the UK is train travel – for the best fares, you will need to book in advance online. Use The Trainline to do this – and remember, as the site will remind you, 2 singles can often be cheaper than a return. For cheap bus travel between major cities, try the Megabus.
If you’d also like to avoid being stung for a few pounds as soon as you fly in to one of the London airports, consider using the normal train services into Central London rather than the Airport Express services.
Or if you’re heading to another city straight from the airport, 24 hour car hire often works out more cost effective than getting a bus or train into Central London and then having to get another onward bus/train once you’re there.
#4 The weather is more erratic than you could ever plan for.
Whether you arrive in spring, summer or autumn, when it comes to what clothes to pack, you can never plan for the British weather. About the only thing you can guarantee is that it will be cold in winter – and you will need a thick coat!
If you like to travel light, you can still do this. My advice would be to pack a “skeleton” wardrobe for the season you’re visiting in and, if you need anything else, just buy it when you’re here. There are plenty of cheap clothes shops in most big cities – TK Maxx and especially Primark offer incredibly good value clothing.
#5 Be smart, shop like a local.
Most Brits shop for food at one of the large supermarket chains such as Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tescos, Morrisons and Asda (listed from most expensive to least).
But if you’re looking to stock up on or replace household items (such as toilet rolls, washing powder, cleaning items etc.) for your apartment when you first arrive or when you leave, head to Wilkinson’s which has all the same products but at much cheaper prices. If you don’t have a Wilkinson’s nearby, head for your local market and pick up some bargains from the stalls.
#6 Be prepared for the local dialects (and don’t expect to understand them).
If you’re planning to head outside of London (and even if you stay in the capital), be prepared for the strong local dialects you’re likely to encounter across Britain. And don’t expect Brits to speak your language – Brits are notorious for being rubbish at foreign languages (it’s never been a priority of the school system unfortunately).
Get used to trying to decipher phrases such as:
- “Ey up me duck”: Translation = “Hello”
- “He’s got a bob on hisself”: Translation = “He thinks a lot of himself”
- “Acs him worr he waants”: Translation = “Ask him what he wants”
#7 Asbos, teenage hooligans and rising crime rates are all relative.
You may have heard of horror stories about the level of crime in the UK – and so-called “Asbos” (anti-social behaviour orders”). It’s all relative – we’ve spent plenty of time in South Africa – a country with some of the highest violent crime rates in the world. Reading some of the newspapers there about teenage hooligans taking over Britain, you’d think crime levels in the UK was far worse than anything in South Africa.
We’re from Nottingham – a place where, if you believed the newspapers, has the highest gun crime rate in Europe and is a hotbed of murder. I can honestly say in 23 years+ of living there, I have never felt threatened nor even seen a hint of crime when walking around the city, day or night (I’ve never even been offered drugs).
When walking round anywhere in the UK, you need to take the same measures as anywhere else in the world – stay alert and take the usual precautions to keep yourself safe as you would in any major city. Guns are illegal here which doesn’t mean you won’t find them, but it does mean that a common criminal is probably far less likely to point a gun at you than in somewhere like the US or South Africa.
For those of you earning in US dollars, Euros and pretty much any other currency (except perhaps the Australian dollar), now is a great time to visit the UK – make the most of it while it lasts!