Do London taxis take payment in towels?
May 18, 2011 4:11 PM Subscribe
I am an obsessive worrier. I've just booked short-notice tickets to spend a week with friends in London. I know where my towel is, but that's about it. Help me do this without losing my shit over the many other small things I need to figure out.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE to Travel & Transportation around London, England (41 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I'm the sort of person who plans obsessively. I like to know exactly what will happen at any given point, so that I can make sure I'm prepared for it. I'm used to booking vacations six months or a year in advance, and with someone else doing the heavy lifting for planning. And yet somehow, I've decided to live dangerously and go to London for a week at the beginning of June. I bought my plane tickets today, and I've already started panicking. Mefi, help me figure out the logistics of traveling to another country! Highlights of my panic include:
Visa: Am I correct in thinking that, as an American, for a one-week stay, I don't need to acquire a visa or anything, and can more or less just arrive in the country, get my passport stamped, and go?
Customs & Immigration: Are there any forms or questionnaires I need to have prepared or filled out to submit to UK Immigration when I arrive? Will I have to make a customs declaration? If so, what needs to be declared?
Heathrow: Where should I tell/expect my friend to meet me when I arrive at Heathrow? Is there a clear "here come the disembarking passengers" area where we will be able to find each other without too much trouble, especially if I haven't got a working phone at the time?
Cell phone service: I have a Verizon (CDMA) non-dual-band cell phone. I know this won't work in London. What I don't know is what I can to do arrange things so that when I step off the plane in Heathrow, I have a way to call the friend who'll be picking me up. I know that once I'm wandering London, I could probably walk into a Tesco and buy a pay-as-you-go phone, but leaving it until I'm already where I'm going and get a chance to shop seems alarmingly lackadaisical. What if I need to contact someone about my travel arrangements? Surely it's better to have a phone arranged in my pocket beforehand.
I also know that there is some program wherein I could call Verizon and rent a GSM phone, but the Verizon rep who told me that quickly followed it up with, "But really I'd recommend you just buy a PAYG phone locally", so I suspect that might not be an awesome option.
Any phone I rent/buy to work in London must be able to do calls and texts, but I'd award bonus points for a phone with even rudimentary web access for email and googling.
*Bonus cell-service question: I'm traveling to Haifa, Israel later this summer. If I buy a PAYG phone in London, would that phone be reusable if I bought/rented a local SIM for it in Israel? How does that work?
Money: I have a US debit card. Would I be best off a) withdrawing a lot of cash stateside and changing it to pounds at my local bank or at the airport, b) changing a few dollars before I leave and using ATMs in London to take out cash whenever I need it, or c) getting traveler's checks or something (do people even use those anymore?)
Are there any other logistics I should be aware of? Small pitfalls that someone who doesn't travel alone internationally, like, ever, should know about? Facts about London that would be useful?