Travel-related errand running in London.
July 25, 2011 2:36 AM   Subscribe

LondonShoppingFilter: I need to pick up a few travel-related bits and bobs during a one-day stopover in London on Saturday, the 20th of August, and I'd love to have it all done within, say, two or three hours. I'd love recommendations for shops which are relatively close together and well-stocked to save time.

I'll be based around St. Pancras, as that's where I'm arriving on Eurostar (around 10:00 am) and then leaving from to meet friends in the afternoon (around 4:00 pm/5:00 pm).

On the shopping list:

• a UK pay-as-you-go SIM card (not picky about the carrier) - presumably any mobile phone shop would have these? (though I'm not sure I need this - if I bought an Orange PAYG SIM at Christmas and haven't put any money on it since then, would it still work if I added credit?)

• a packable, waterproof jacket, as close to this as possible (that exact model would be awesome, but I'm not picky) - I've seen that there's a Blacks, which appears to be an outdoor/sports shop of sorts, near Tottenham Court Road - would that be a good place to try? Maybe an outdoor shop a bit closer to the station?

• a few OS 1:25000 "Explorer" maps of Cornwall - any good map shop or travel bookshop would work, I presume; I'm specifically looking for Maps #102 (Land's End/Penzance), #103 (The Lizard), #104 (Redruth/St Agnes), and #105 (Falmouth and Mevagissey).

• a suitcase that folds up into a little pouch and that would survive being checked in on at least one flight and which squashes down to very little space, a lot like this - this one's a bit tricky - do luggage shops exist anymore?

Any advice is appreciated, even if it's just about one of these things. (I'll also pick up a map of London when I arrive at St Pancras, and am happy to travel a bit on public transport for a really great shop.)

Thanks in advance!

"Why not order this all online?", you ask. I wish I could - but I'm in Poland, and between shipping costs and the hassle of having to carry it back to England in a few weeks, I'd rather just get it all there! :)
posted by mdonley to Shopping (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are your friends living in England? You could have the stuff shipped to them.
posted by missmagenta at 2:49 AM on July 25, 2011

--Mobile phone shops are all over and easy to find. I use O2 pay-as-you-go. Try your Orange card first though.

--Black's might have it.

--If you dont find them elsewhere, Stanford's map store in Covent Garden will satisfy all your Explorer map needs. Many outdoor shops carry a few maps though so you may be able to do a 2 in 1.
Note that Stanford's has a Craghopper store in it too which is the brand of the jacket you linked to.

--There's a guy near Goodge st station on Tottenham Court Rd (on the West side of the street) that sells tons of luggage out on the street - I mean a thousand pieces and varieties.
posted by vacapinta at 2:50 AM on July 25, 2011

St Pancras station has a range of shops. I would say that the chances of you being able to get the SIM, the jacket and the suitcase there are pretty good.

The maps are trickier - you are most likely to find them at a bookshop in Cornwall. In London you would need to visit a specialist travel shop like Stanfords in Covent Garden. If you have decided to go there then you can also pick up your other items in the vicinity. I would ask somebody at Stanfords for advice re the nearest place to get the luggage and jacket.
posted by rongorongo at 2:55 AM on July 25, 2011

I *think* the PAYG SIMS currently being sold by the UK carriers require you to use them on a periodic basis otherwise they expire. The period depends on the carrier though: you'll have to check the contract you received with your PAYG SIM to see. (I still have an old Orange SIM which never expires, kept around for emergencies, but the carriers killed those off sadly.)

Might be worth grabbing a PAYG Oyster card whilst you're at it, if you're ever going to return to London at some point: the pricing for underground tickets if you don't use an Oyster card is very steep, but you won't get the cost of the Oyster card back in just a couple of trips.

Could you get some of this stuff delivered post-restante? The maps especially would be much cheaper from someone like Dash4it. It looks like you might have to phone up the nearest Post Office & ask them directly if they'll keep the post for you.
posted by pharm at 2:56 AM on July 25, 2011

Stanfords 12-14 Long Acre WC2E 9LP as vacapinta said for maps.
Ten minutes walk away is Southampton St WC2 with Trespass, Cotswold, North Face, Ellis Brigham and Cotswold Outdoor. All outdoorsy/travel shops within yards of each other and a Carphone Warehouse as well. North Face's postcode is WC2E 7HE
posted by Dr.Pill at 2:58 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Large bookshops with a decent travel section will also have a wide selections of UK OS maps, not just travel specialists. Blacks might also stock them too.
posted by pharm at 2:58 AM on July 25, 2011

Stanfords, it would appear, does have your maps in stock.
posted by rongorongo at 3:00 AM on July 25, 2011

watch out for Tube line closures on Saturdays (and Sundays) due to the Olympics engineering works. Here's a slightly buggy (linguistically) but free iPhone app which is very accurate.

There is a phone shop in St Pancras station but in my experience it takes ages to get service.
posted by Wilder at 3:07 AM on July 25, 2011

If you need the maps because you're going to Cornwall, I'd wait until you get there unless there's a particular reason why you need them in advance. A specialist map shop in London will have them, sure, but once you get to Cornwall you will be able to get precisely those maps in any bookshop/newsagent/stationer's. OS are the standard maps for walkers.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:14 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You probably could get all of that in the station, bar the Cornwall map, but it'll be much nicer going around Covent Garden.

By the way, if you have time to kill, The beautiful British Library's right next door to St Pancras…
posted by Magnakai at 4:19 AM on July 25, 2011

I second Dr.Pill - this is pretty easy to get done within a few minutes walk of Stanfords.
(To get to Stanfords, take the Northern Line from Kings Cross St Pancras to Leicester Square)
posted by sleepy boy at 4:22 AM on July 25, 2011

I was also going to recommend the cluster of outdoors shops in Covent Garden and then Stanfords. Some of the outdoors shops also stock OS maps, if you're really lucky* you might not need to go to Stanfords.

In case it's not clear from what people are staying, shops tend to stock the OS maps for the local area and then a smattering of maps for other areas of the country - mostly the holiday hotspots. So it's a bit hit and miss if they carry the map you need and have it in stock (which is to say, getting a Cornwall map outside of Cornwall during the holiday season could be tricky).

*Lucky in the credit card sense - you're likely to leave there with more than just a few maps. That shop is amazing.
posted by Helga-woo at 4:28 AM on July 25, 2011

As an aside, if you *do* end up going to Black's for the jacket, you can get a 10% discount by saying you're a member of a rambler's club or similar. I once got the discount for telling them I was in Couchsurfing!
posted by Cuppatea at 4:58 AM on July 25, 2011

Wow! Fabulous answers one and all! I am printing this out and bringing it with me and shall be the King of Errand Running.

Getting the maps in Cornwall is, of course, a much better idea. Thank you.

Keep it coming, people! :)
posted by mdonley at 5:17 AM on July 25, 2011

For future reference, I found the absolute Platonic ideal of the suitcase in Poland before I left! It's this.
posted by mdonley at 1:21 PM on August 7, 2011

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