LONDON SURVIVAL GUIDE PART 2: UK MOBILE SIMs & INTERNATIONAL CALLS

The first thing you’ll want to do when you get to London is get a UK SIM card with an English phone number. Staying on your foreign number will cost you a lot of money. The nice thing about the UK market is that there is a lot of competition and you could choose from over 25 brands that offer mobile phone service.
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1) Your UK SIM card. 
You may not have heard of them, but GiffGaff (www.giffgaff.com) is the choice for smart Londoners. GiffGaff is a quirky English company that uses the O2 network and has been around for years. GiffGaff is very competitively price and offers interesting packages including:
a. Great rates for UK calls and texts
b. Very generous 4G Data bundles
c. 30 day contracts – so you can leave anytime
d. Very good international rates with calls starting at 2 p / min
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You only need a Credit Card to register (no bank account or permanent address needed) which is a plus. GiffGaff is an online company, so don’t look for their shops on the high street. Just order a SIM from their website – which will take 2 days to arrive and 5 minutes to setup. They also offer support in unlocking your existing phone.
Other phone companies offer interesting deals. although you do require a UK bank account to purchase a contract (but not for Pay as you Go options). 3 offers inclusive data in specific countries around the world such as France, the US, Hong Kong (check out their ”Feel at Home” countries).
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The best way to find out about different deals other than Giffgaff is to visit http://www.carphonewarehouse.com/
2) An international phone number from your home country.
This is something new that many of you may not have heard about. Its now possible to get a phone number from over 60 countries while you are living in England. Calls to that number by friends and family back home are forwarded to your UK mobile. No more need to keep your old SIM or carry around 2 phones. And friends back home can reach you on a local number.
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For example, lets say your friends and family live in Spain – you can now get a real Spanish phone number from Madrid, Barcelona, or other large cities. Calls to your new number are forwarded to you in the UK, meaning friends and family in Spain can now reach you by dialling a local number. They save loads of money – and you’ll get more calls.
We recommend a new company called WurlyTalk (www.wurlytalk.com). WurlyTalk offers numbers starting at £1.99 per month plus a small charge per minute during the call. Numbers are available in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. You could save alot of money using this service, as it can often be very expensive to ring people back home from your mobile (even with GiffGaff!). You’ll also be making it super simple for your mom, dad, and the rest of your family to reach you without fumbling around with Skype or other Apps.
3) Apps
You’ll likely be familiar with Apps that allow you to make calls and send sms messages. The most popular ones are WhatsApp, Skype, Line, Viber, and Facetime. These all offer free calls and texts but have restrictions. For example, friends back home need to be using the same app and be online – and the call quality can be very poor. As nothing beats a real, high quality phone call, we recommend using these in combination with GiffGaff and WurlyTalk.
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London survival guide Part 1: Public Transport

Everything you need to know about using public transport in London

What tickets are available?

To travel around London you can either:

1) Buy an Oyster Card online, from the machines in any Underground station (or ticket offices in the bigger sations, such as Piccadilly Station or Waterloo) or any corner shop with an Oyster sign. There you can also add credit to your Oyster card (‘’top up’’) or purchase a Travel Card*.

NB: You will need to pay a £5 to purchase the card, which will be returned to you when you return the card to a ticket machine/counter.

2) Pay for transport with your contactless debit/credit card

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NB: you cannot purchase a travelcard or benefit from a daily cap with this option.

3) Purchase a single tickets – this option is usually 50% pricier than the first two and thus we don’t recommend it!

*If you are going to use public transport at least twice per day every day, consider purchasing a travelcard (weekly or monthly) which will be added to your Oyster. Note that if you spend £8 per day on your Oyster (for zone 1-4), any journeys you make for the rest of the day (until 4:29 am) in the same zones won’t be charged.

Prices?

Peak times: 06:30 to 09:30 and 4 till 7 pm weekdays. The rest of the time is off-peak (including weekends).

Underground (Oyster or contactless):

  • Single journey in zone 1-2 = £2.30
  • Single journey in zone 1-3 = £2.80 off-peak, £3.30 peak
  • Single journey in zone 1-4 = £2.80 off-peak, £3.90 peak

Travelcard (Oyster or paper card)

  • zone 1-2 = £32.10 weekly, £123.30 monthly
  • zone 1-3 = £37.70 weekly, £144.80 monthly
  • zone 1-4 = £46.10 weekly, £177.10 monthly

Bus (Oyster or contactless): Single journey £1.50 (any zone)

Travelcard: weekly £21, £80.70 monthly

London Overground and TFL Rail:

Use the TFL single fare finder to find the cost for each journey, or visit TFL rail fares. The pay as you go fare depends on the route you take. TFL Rail travelcard prices are the same as London underground.

Discounts?

Under 25? You can combine your Oyster card with your 16-25 National railcard, meaning you will get 1/3rd off Pay as you Go fares during off-peak times, and the daily oyster cap is:

  • £4.25 for off-peak zone 1-2 (£6.40 for peak)
  • £4.95 for off-peak zone 1-3 (£7.50 for peak)

To register your 16-25 rail card to your Oyster visit one of the ticket counters in the main tube stations.

Delays? If your journey was delayed by more than 15 minutes on the Tube or DLR, and 30 minutes on Overground or London rail services, TFL will refund the cost of your journey. Visit this page for more info.

Planning my route

Transport Map

Download the tube and rail services map from TFL which shows you all underground, overground and TFL rail routes for Greater London (a lot more complete than a standard tube map).

Journey Planner:

TFL journey planner is useful to plan your journey, but doesn’t always give you the quickest route. Use City Mapper for a fool-proof journey planner.

Transport options:

Underground, Overground, TFL Rail, DLR, Buses, Tram, Santander Bikes (previously Barclays Bikes), Taxi, Mini Cab, Uber, Emirates Air Line, River services… so much to choose from!

And finally…

Test your knowledge of the tube network with the Look For Longer game – find all 100 stations!

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Summer in London: A Survival Guide

Summer is finally upon us and as many as 250,000 of you are coming to London to start a summer placement. Most of you are asking themselves existential questions such as:

Where will I live? Room for Tea can help with that: duhhh..

How can I get around?

Where I will I eat (without spending a fortune)?

How do I make the most of my time in London?

Stay tuned and check our blog over the next few days for lots of useful info about everything you need to know to survive in London (e.g. transport, opening a bank account, medical info, deals…)

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Not always milk and honey…

We want to involve both guests and hosts in our Room for Tea blog, since you are the one we are working with! One of our first guests, Erin, kindly agreed to share her Room for Tea experience. Erin came to London from the US to do an internship at the British Parliament, and ended up in a minor crisis when moving in to her apartment in London…

Tell us about what happened when you came to London?

Arriving in London I found the place I was supposed to stay at an absolute nightmare. I contacted Milena at Room for Tea to see if she could help in any way. She put me up with a host on the same day, and I moved in on a very short notice. From the beginning I was just supposed to stay with my host temporary before I found something else, but we ended up getting along very well so I stayed with her during my entire time in London.

Milena who took Erin’s call remembers:

Erin called me that day asking if we did ’emergency housing solutions’, she was panicked, arriving to a flat in central London which was in such a poor state. I remember her saying there was mold on the walls, and the lock on the door was broken so she got locked in the flat! I explained how Room for Tea works, and that we encourage that hosts and guests meet before they make a decision. We were really lucky that the Room for Tea team had met Zoe the day before, and she seemed really flexible and easy going about hosting a guest. I put Zoe and Erin in touch in order for them to discuss the details. I assumed that Erin would be able to stay a few days after meeting Zoe, but Zoe accepted to take Erin straight away!

How did you find out about Room for Tea?

I found out about Room for Tea through the internship program I was in London with. The Hinckley Institute of Politics recommended the organization to me after Heidi Nicholson, who was in charge of setting up the internship on the UK side, read an article about you in the Times.

Would you recommend Room for Tea to others?

Absolutely, I had such a great experience with Room for Tea! I think it’s a great solution, especially for interns coming to London for a shorter time. It feels safe to have someone checking out the room before your arrival, to make sure that it’s a clean and a serious place. Furthermore, there is the added peace of mind of living with someone you can get along with.

Least but not last, could you describe Room for Tea in 3 words?

Helpful, professional and comfortable!

Thank you Erin!

We can’t be anything but thrilled after a happy ending like this. We feel with our interns, and we ourselves have had lovely as well as less cool experiences moving to new cities following our dreams. Standing on the doorstep of a new home in a foreign country is not always milk and honey, even though it many times was pictured that way. Thanks to our hosts offering clean and comfortable rooms, situations like Erin’s is less likely to occur and have a negative impact on the things our interns really want to focus on: their internship! 

Happy to have you!

Hi everyone,

We are happy to announce that Room for Tea continues to grow and expand, and word of mouth has been a very important contribution! We have been overwhelmed by the amount of kind words and your will to help us spread the Room for Tea word, this certainely warms our hearts these slightly chilly London summer days.

By the way, have you seen us in Metro? We discuss the important question of interns trying to manage, in a time when organisations and companies having unpaid/low paid interns is getting more widespread and accepted than ever. If not, take a read through following link:

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/newsfocus/903479-unpaid-interns-given-a-helping-hand-from-room-for-tea-project

Your feedback and opinions are always very appreciated and welcome, so please leave us a comment or why not “just” say hi?

Have a lovely start of the week!

£10 Vouchers for Host Referrals!

Room For Tea are now offering a £10 Amazon voucher to anyone who successfully refers a friend, acquaintance or family member as a host. Not bad eh?

To earn your voucher, get in touch with us and we will give you a *magic* password that your host will need to quote when they sign up. Once we’ve heard the magic words and they are registered as a host, we’ll furnish you in double-quick time with a £10 voucher to spend on anything you choose.

Happy referring!

Room For Tea has lift off!

Stef arriving for her stay at Wendy and Paul’s house

We’ve started! The first Room For Tea stays are now complete, and we have a posse of happy hosts and grateful guests. It’s been a very interesting and enlightening beginning to the service with plenty of insight into the good things we’re already doing, as well as discovering new ideas to implement as we continue our quest to be the best home-sharing network in the world. Ever*.

We’re currently working nice and hard on developing new aspects to Room For Tea and how our mould-breaking sign-up and host-guest interactions will work. We’re also continuing to prototype the service so if you’re a budding host or a willing guest, register your interest today and we’ll get you matched.

*FACT

Wendy and Paul – hosts

Natalie making the bed in her room at Mike’s house

Natalie and Mike laughing at Engelbert Humperdinck on youtube!

What is Room for Tea

Room for Tea is a new kind of home-sharing network. We connect guests in need of short-term, affordable accommodation in London with hosts who have spare capacity in their clean, comfortable homes.

Who is this for? Well, everyone. But our motivation is to help aspiring interns and apprentices access affordable accommodation in london during their work experience, offering anyone, from anywhere, a fair chance at starting their dream career.

But that’s not all. We also believe that if a host can easily find reliable, friendly and courteous guests to welcome into their homes without long-term commitment, they might have: a new friend in the making, a very grateful guest who is willing to help out around the house, and more disposable income to spend on the finer things in life; be that treating the grand-children, fine dining or just keeping the heating on for an extra hour or two.

And even that’s not all! We will offer hosts and guests the chance to link with other hosts and guests at events, meetings and groups, so experiences can be shared, social and professional networks can be created.

How we’re doing it:

We’re a Social Enterprise. What does this mean?

We put a healthy chunk of our profits towards improving the lives and well-being of both our hosts and guests.

We believe that by matching people with complementary needs, both party’s gains will be more than purely financial.

We think most people can benefit, or benefit others by meeting and enjoying the company of like-minded people. That’s why when you decide to become a host or a guest with Room For Tea, we make sure you have the opportunity to share your experience, your time and your friendship with other hosts and guests, creating new social and professional networks beyond one’s immediate abode.