traveling to oxford
June 12, 2010 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Tips on traveling to Oxford, England, especially regarding phone and internet?

I'm spending a few days in Oxford, staying in one of the colleges, and I'm wondering if I'll have easy access to phone and internet. Do US (Verizon) cell phones work in England? And if not, is there somewhere where can I buy a temporary cell phone that will let me make local calls? Are there internet cafes around, or is there some way to hook a Macbook Pro up to wireless internet?

What's the weather like, and how would you dress?

Recommendations on places to eat and things to see within walking distance of Jesus College for a single evening also appreciated. Thanks.
posted by ms.codex to Travel & Transportation around Oxford, England (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, your Verizon phone won't work. You could buy a cheap unlocked GSM phone and get a pay-as-you-go SIM card.

When are you going re: weather ?
posted by k8t at 1:51 PM on June 12, 2010

You can pick up a cheap PAYG phone from Carphone Warehouse (there are several in Oxford) for about £10-15 for a basic model.

I'm assuming you're staying in the College Halls? They have broadband ethernet in the rooms.

I'm also assuming from the timing of the question that you're coming in the summer for a conference or something - pack for variable weather (it can rain any time of year in England) but err on the side of light and comfortable. Definitely bring a raincoat of some kind, but also pack warm weather clothes and casual clothes for the evenings.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:25 PM on June 12, 2010

Dittoing what has been said about phone and internet, with the addendum that I believe many of the networks have a PAYG with free/reduced in-network calling/SMS (Of course, then out-of-network rates are exorbitant.) You should also know that you can add minutes to a PAYG phone from any major ATM, ie not the ones in pubs.

Jesus is right in the middle of the city center, so you're blessed with an abundance of choice for things to do.

If food is the thing: Go up north to Jericho. For a good mile on Walton st, starting at Little Clarendon, there's tons of great restaurants. Raymond Blanc has a restaurant up there, and if curry's your thing I take the somewhat controversial position that Bombay is the best curryhouse in Oxford.

If beer is the thing: The Turf is probably the best of the big three touristy pubs (The Eagle and Child and the Bear being the other two) Generally good beer selection, and outside is pretty nice, if the weather behaves. So-so food. If you're going outside of term-time, it shouldn't be packed with filthy undergraduates. The White Horse on Broad Street is quite cozy, and has a decent beer selection. Avoid the King's Arms. It is overpriced and entirely lacking in atmosphere. There are also two pretty decent cocktail bars up towards Jericho: Raoul's and Angel's. Pricey, but worth it. For an extra bonus prize: If you will be meeting and making friends with Fellows of any of the colleges, persuade them to take you into their Senior Common Room.

Things to see: Everything. You saying evening makes me think you will not be able to see the unbelievable amazingness that is the Pitt Rivers museum, which is normally the number one priority. But wander around the city center, especially the twisty alleyways around New College and Bodleian. It's probably worth taking a stroll up St Giles, and seeing if someone can get you into Magdalen or New Colleges. If you've only got one evening, the usual stroll through Port Meadow is probably not the best use of that time, sadly.

If in the course of an evening someone suggests going to a kebab van: Go to Mehdi's on the high, in front of St Mary's church. Tell him hi for me. I do not recommend the vans on broad street, but YMMV.
posted by PMdixon at 3:20 PM on June 12, 2010

Taking a stroll up St Giles and seeing if you can get into Mag or New are two different and completely separate things, of course.
posted by PMdixon at 3:21 PM on June 12, 2010

Oxford is a reasonably bustling city of about 200,000. Don't imagine you're going to some quaint village.

Weather depends on when you are there. Check the web.

Dress like you normally dress. Jeans and running shoes ("trainers" there) are common, but not quite as common as in the U.S. Colors are darker. Black leggings and short skirts appear on many woman, of all age groups. Truth is, no one really cares what you wear.

If you want to buy something, check out Blackstones (one of the world's best bookshops) and, for everything else, the Covered Market.
posted by justcorbly at 4:20 PM on June 12, 2010

You mean "Blackwells", and are presumably confusing it with "Waterstones".
posted by Mwongozi at 4:23 PM on June 12, 2010

Don't ask a barman for a cider (because they sneer at you) and visit the Ashmolean.

Also, yeah, dark clothes are best. Bright orange dresses or whathaveyou also get you sneered at by the locals.

Probably not a place I'd spend my tourist dollars again, truthfully.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:10 PM on June 12, 2010

What everyone else said. You cannot move for restaurants in this town but heading along Little Clarendon Street will probably be your most rewarding path.

I suggest wearing what you normally wear. Assume the weather will be hot, but take with you layers you can easily remove as we're having a cool summer right now. Also, England has high humidity so it always feels warmer or colder than it actually is. Beyond that it really doesn't matter what you wear as long as you don't wear an "Oxford University" t-shirt, which will mark you out as a tourist from a hundred paces.
posted by tel3path at 2:26 AM on June 13, 2010

If you will be sending a lot of SMSs to outside UK they will not come out of your allowance. For that you can use FishText app ( on your mobile which uses your phones data access to send sms and can be much cheaper and is even worthwhile using on your roaming phone.
posted by london302 at 3:56 AM on June 13, 2010

I find reception on the O2 network almost non-existent in Oxford when I'm there, particularly inside buildings, and particularly particularly inside old buildings. This might be true of all networks, though.
posted by cromagnon at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2010

The university/colleges can be kind of crappy about providing wireless access - I know I didn't have wireless access when I stayed at St. John's College (the rooms only had ethernet hookups), so it might be good to bring along your own cable. The college porter should be able to give you information for the room you will be put in. There is also uni-wide wireless networks called OWL and eduroam that require a login, but I believe academic visitors can have this set up for them, I don't know the specifics.

Green's Cafe on St Giles beside the Eagle and Child has reliable, free wireless access, and I think all of the G&D's ice cream parlours/cafes do as well.

As for eating, if the weather is cooperative I think the nicest place to eat in Oxford is the Perch - really nice food, big huge garden, and the walk to get up there from the centre of town takes you up Port Meadow along the Thames - when the weather is nice, seeing the sunset on the walk up is gorgeous.
posted by aiglet at 6:29 AM on June 14, 2010

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