London Tips December 8, 2013
Some Tips for Tech Travelers in London
I travel to London 3 or 4 times a year. Why? Well, James Governor is London-based and there's always value in a pint with James. I also present a lot at Skills Matter for stuff like Scala eXchange, Clojure eXchange, the Functional Programming eXchange, etc.
These are my travel tips.
Get a UK SIM Card
If you've got a GSM or "World" phone, you can buy a SIM card and have very inexpensive mobile phone and data service in London.
If you're an AT&T or T-Mobile customer, you've got a GSM phone. Call your carrier and ask them to "unlock" your phone. If your bill is current, most providers will unlock your phone if you tell them you are traveling to Europe.
If you've got an iPhone 4S or newer and have Sprint or Verizon service, you've got a world phone that has a SIM slot. Call your carrier and ask them to unlock your phone (most Verizon phones are shipped unlocked.)
Or you can buy a Nexus 5 which is unlocked.
When you land at Heathrow, there are a ton of vending machines that sell SIM cards. You can also purchase a SIM at almost any corner store.
If you go to a T-Mobile store, they will give you a SIM for free if you load ￡20 onto the card. Other vendors have the similar deals.
Each of these companies has excellent coverage in London and pre-paid plans that include a fair amount of data (e.g., 1GB for ￡10 on T-Mobile) and cheap calls including calls back to the US for 5 pence a minute.
Get an Oyster Card
The Oyster Card. Put ￡20 on it and take the tube or a bus anywhere around London.
And other than bicycling, the tube is the best way around London. It's fast and the trains run all the time.
Take the Heathrow Express
The Heathrow Express is the best way to get to and from the airport. They run every 15 minutes and it takes 15 minutes to get from the airport to Paddington station.
Buy a round trip ticket before you leave.
There's no faster or less expensive way from the airport into London.
There's a network of rental bikes all around London. It's astoundingly amazing. The Cycle Hire program allows you to grab a bike almost anywhere. There are bike racks every 4 blocks or so all around London.
Pay ￡10 for a week of rentals. Then use the bike for less than 30 minutes and the rental period is free.
Bikes are faster through London than cabs, the tube, or busses. And it's a great way to stretch your legs after a day of meetings.
I use the Cycle Hire Widget to locate the bike racks.
So, those are my key tips for London trips. Hope they help.