Withdrawing cash from ATM’s. Don’t use your credit card for this. Your credit-card issuer will treat it as a loan, in effect, immediately begin charging you interest at a high rate. Use your debit card. Your debit card company may also charge you a fee, but it will be a one-time, much-smaller fee, and many debit cards will not charge you a fee at all if you use a cash machine at a bank that has a relationship with your card issuer. Check the symbols on the back of the debit card to see if they match up with symbols at the bank cash machine. And it’s best not to use cash machines on the street – they may be rigged. Go inside a bank and use the cash machine inside. There is a Barclay’s Bank branch right across Gray’s Inn Road from the Inn.
Transportation from Airports
- If you are not time-pressed or have heavy bags, take the Tube to and from Heathrow. That’s cheapest but heavy bags are a pain on the Tube. An alternative is the Paddington Express which for a reasonable charge takes you from H’row to Paddington train station, from which you can get a taxi to the Acorn office to pick up your key.
- The usual way to get into London from Gatwick is to take the train (the train station is in the airport * just follow the signs) to Victoria Station. From there you’d take a taxi to the Acorn office. Taxis are expensive, so two or three of you should share one.
- There are also car services. From Heathrow or Gatwick you can book a car service much cheaper than a taxi. Call or email to book. Car service from Gatwick to Russell Square is about £70. The car will hold 3 plus luggage. £70 divided by 3 is about £24, a bit more expensive than train/taxi but much more convenient. Here are two reliable car services: Airport Express, firstname.lastname@example.org, or dial 011 44 870 44 30 500. Another is Gatwick Car Service, 011 44 208 866 8300. These services should work from Gatwick or Heathrow. You can find others on line, and, if you plan in advance, you can get assistance with this from Acorn.
Storing bags: You can store bags at Heathrow if you’re going to be traveling after the Maymester course is over and don’t have a place to keep them while you’re away. We used the “Excess Luggage” service at Heathrow, and it cost about £7 per bag per day.
Shopping: The Oxford Circus area of town is great. Not far from Gray’s Inn.
Cell phones: About 2/3 of the class got cell phones while they were in London. We all went to Carphone Warehouse and got a cheap cell phone, and incoming calls are usually free, and calls to America are quite cheap. Mine were only 5 pence/minute to call to the U.S. Skype is another option for calling the states. About 2 cents/min. Not as convenient as a cell (you need an internet connection and some form of headset thing for the computer) but it’s very cheap. Everyone in my flat brought their laptop; Acorn provides free internet service.
Play/Theater: tickets Go to the Leicester Square Tube stop and go to the center of the actual Leicester Square. I would suggest that you do not buy from the small shops that advertise tickets on the walk to Leicester Square as “Half-priced Tickets” — there’s nothing wrong with these stores, but the ticket office in the building at the bottom of the square is usually going to have better seats and more plays. One side of the ticket office has tickets to matinees, the other side has tickets for evening shows — make sure to stand in the right line. Don’t be scared if the line is long b/c it goes pretty fast, and this is the best place to get “half-priced” tickets.
Museums: British Museum; Museum of London; National Maritime Museum; The Sherlock Holmes Museum; Cartoon Museum; National Portrait Gallery; Tate Gallery; the National Gallery. All are nearby. Use the Tube, or walk. When walking, bear in mind that the traffic runs in the opposite direction from what we’re used to.