What to put in a London survival pack?
July 29, 2007 9:25 AM   Subscribe

What would you put in a London survival pack? I'm putting together a shoe-box sized survival pack to give to a newcomer to London.

I've recently transplanted myself to London (the big London, not London, Ontario,) from Toronto. My girlfriend will be joining me here in a few weeks.

I'm loving the city and settling in! To be romantic, silly and practical, I'd like to put together a little London Survival Pack for her, something the size of a shoe-box.

So far, I've got:
  • A London A-Z Pocket Size
  • An Oyster Card with 50 pounds on it
  • A tube map
  • Comfy insoles, as a joke, for waking around
Most of my ideas involve getting around the city, since that's the part of settling in that I find most interesting.

What would you put in a London survival pack?

By the way, the previous London AskMe threads have been invaluable in helping me settle in around here. Thanks!
posted by generichuman to Travel & Transportation around London, England (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
A card with "LOOK LEFT" in big letters?
posted by JMOZ at 9:29 AM on July 29, 2007

I wonder if you could find a North American English - British English translator/dictionary, as well.

Perhaps tickets to some of the touristy attractions? You'll want to visit them before you become a jaded Londoner.

Certainly a small umbrella/raincoat.

A paperback, since everyone in London seems to read on the tube.

Cellphone? (Perhaps that's a bit much for the box.)
posted by JMOZ at 9:32 AM on July 29, 2007

A compass. I got lost so many times when I was there because the street signs are not prominent enough. I had a map, but it didn't help much. Took me a half hour to find my way out of Piccadilly Circus. A compass would have helped.
posted by goatdog at 9:39 AM on July 29, 2007

A Time Out guide! A photo of a "look right" sign taped to the inside of the front door so she doesn't get hit by a bus! A walking tour of London's secrets! A biography of the city!

Also, don't neglect a lovingly hand-drawn map of your neighborhood - it sucks to move somewhere new and trudge a mile to a crappy grocery store or something when there's a much better one right up the road and the locals just haven't mentioned it, assuming you already know. Include local cafes, restaurants and pubs with your reviews, post offices, ATMs, hair/nail places (I'd do this for guys and gals), groceries and any specialty shops (cheesemongers, shoe repair places, copy shops) you think would be relevant.

You could even give her a scavenger hunt to make her find things you haven't been able to locate using the tools you've given her - perhaps you've been in the market for a bicycle or something; give her the reins on deciding where to go and how to obtain it.

And just to go a little crazy with how different prices are over there, how about one of those £1 Ryanair tickets booked for six months from now to a romantic destination (like Granada, Krakow, Porto or Perugia) that you keep a secret until you're at the airport? If you booked it way in advance, you'd be set, and if your plans changed and you couldn't go, you wouldn't have lost too much money.
posted by mdonley at 9:44 AM on July 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

If there are tourist passes for museums or similar it might be worth getting one of those. Nothing worse than living in a city and never seeing its main attractions.
posted by furtive at 9:46 AM on July 29, 2007

What about a disposable camera for her record her first few weeks in London, so she can take photos of all the things she finds new and exciting?
Also maybe some take-away menus for places in her neighborhood?
posted by schmoo at 10:02 AM on July 29, 2007

A card with "LOOK LEFT" in big letters?

A big card with "STAND ON THE RIGHT, WALK ON THE LEFT" on it...

You could also book a trip on the London Eye - nice way of getting a feel for the city.

A game of Monopoly? Completely useless of actually getting a sense of the city, of course, but fun. Might not fit in the box, though.

I agree that, right now, a compact umbrella or fold-up waterproof is also the way to go...
posted by flashboy at 10:04 AM on July 29, 2007

I'd toss in a few tea bags
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:11 AM on July 29, 2007

I really covet the London Moleskine City Notebook - which might be a nice way for her to record the things she sees and the places she goes for future reference. And I highly recommend the Time Out Cheap Eats book - which is great.
posted by featherboa at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2007

One of these books about London?
posted by paduasoy at 10:32 AM on July 29, 2007

Also, Stanfords have many excellent maps and books on London, ranging from the obvious to the historical to some great quirkier (but still useful) variants. Sadly, they seem to have stopped doing my personal favourite, the Way Out -> Tube Map, but you can still buy it elsewhere.
posted by flashboy at 10:33 AM on July 29, 2007

A box of 'U's to spell colour with.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:35 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Heh, Canadians already spell colour with a U, neighbour...
posted by generichuman at 11:00 AM on July 29, 2007

Put in a little iPod shuffle containing great British music that she may not be familiar with. Or how about a DVD boxset of a classic UK TV series. I'd suggest you both sit and watch the entire Alan Partridge series in one sitting.
posted by gfrobe at 11:11 AM on July 29, 2007

Seconding the Time Out guide. I'd probably give a subscription to Time Out as well.

Oh, and an umbrella.
posted by k8t at 11:19 AM on July 29, 2007

Is there some local sweet or treat that you think she'd like, something not generally available in Toronto? For example, if I came to London and my care package contained a packet of chocolate-covered Hob Nobs or jaffa cakes, I'd be delighted.

If the suggestion above of providing a London-based DVD strikes your fancy, consider Spaced; it's not yet been released on DVD in region 1. Also, the first episode will make her thrilled that she already has a place to live.
posted by Elsa at 11:38 AM on July 29, 2007

How about a mixture of some nice Boots products? As a girl she might enjoy some bath fizz or mud masks or something. I found London to be very grimy and hell on my skin compared to Toronto.

And some Berocca for recovery from all those pub nights!
posted by marylynn at 11:41 AM on July 29, 2007

Best answer: A card with "LOOK LEFT" in big letters?

Umm, hello? If you look left while crossing a street in London, you will be smacked by a bus sneaking up on you from behind you.



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  ^                  < -- bus going that waybr>   |
  you crossing the street

The correct answer is LOOK RIGHT.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:29 PM on July 29, 2007

I saw this Look Left/Look Right on a wee road near Portobello Rd. If I were moving to London, I'd be amused by it.

I'd also do the wee umbrella and definitely the oyster card.

Also, I really love Cadbury's (which is like the Hershey of the UK) so you might include some British candy that she might not know. (Wait, do they carry a ton of Cadbury's in Toronto? I can't remember now.) And the English tea.
posted by santojulieta at 1:38 PM on July 29, 2007

Gentlemen's Relish. Never leave home without it.
posted by Jofus at 2:48 PM on July 29, 2007

Yes, we have Cadbury's in Toronto.

I would nth the small umbrella suggestion - something really compact, so she doesn't feel like it's a burden to just carry all the time in a bag or a pocket. The "look right" sign sounds funny. And if you really want to pull her leg, stick a small jar of marmite in.

(Just been in London, and originally from Toronto -- can you ask her to bring me some roti or Jamaican beef patties? I miss them so much.)
posted by jb at 2:51 PM on July 29, 2007

Yes, we have Cadbury's in Toronto.

Cadbury's in Canada is waxier (more like Hershey's) than Cadbury's in the UK/Ireland, so a good ol' bar of Dairy Milk might still be worth it.
posted by macdara at 3:18 PM on July 29, 2007

posted by knowles at 5:40 PM on July 29, 2007

If it's the summer, a cooling fan might be handy for those hot Tube journeys. Or a bottle of cold water.

A bus map might be handy too! Or how about some postcards of London so she can relate the reality to what she's meant to see? ;)

Oh, and a ticket for a picnic for two on Primrose Hill is always a nice treat.
posted by electriccynic at 6:01 PM on July 29, 2007

Rather than a dictionary of Canadian -> English, write down the words that threw you off most when you arrived, and what they mean.
posted by djgh at 8:09 PM on July 29, 2007

My god, featherboa... I had no idea Moleskin made those. I already carry "city-specific" Moleskins when I travel, but they're just regular ones with, like, "London" written on the spine with a silver pen.

Now who sells these ultra-cool ones online?!

(Every single thing I was going to suggest is already suggested above. The love and care you could put into a London-music MP3 playlist (on CD or on cheap iPod) would be one of the most memorable gifts ever, I think. If you do this, pls share your playlist.)
posted by rokusan at 8:14 PM on July 29, 2007

Do you have the Turkish Delight or Easter Egg Cadbury bars in Toronto? If not, put those in. A copy of Paula Danziger's Thames Doesn't Rhyme with James, a teen novel about a scavenger hunt through the city. Nthing Time Out guides, I buy the Pub, Restaurant, Cheap Eats and Shopping Guides before or during my London trips.
posted by brujita at 9:49 PM on July 29, 2007

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