Posted on Wednesday 20th July 2016 by Claire Kilroy
Moving to London for an internship or your first graduate job is exciting, but it's bound to be a shock to the system.
With around 8.7 million inhabitants, the capital is incredibly busy – and it's also incredibly expensive. Navigating London on an entry-level salary can be a tricky experience, especially after stumping up for rent and utilities.
However, it's possible to take full advantage of all the London has on offer, despite having a tight budget. Adjusting to working life is draining, so it's great to have plenty of fun things to look forwards to in your free time. Here are some top tips on surviving the move to London.
Take advantage of cheap entertainment tickets
If you're a theatre fan, make sure you sign up to schemes such as the National Theatre Entry Pass and the RSC Key – both are free to join and allow people aged 16-25 to buy £5 tickets to most of their shows.
And if you love comedy shows or music gigs, try signing up to ticket websites' and venues' priority booking mailing lists so that you're the first to hear about any deals. There are also stand-up gigs and live music acts that you can see for free at pubs across London – the quality might not be guaranteed, but head along with a group of friends and you're bound to have a good time.
London is bursting with incredible art galleries and museums. In fact, 5 of them have been listed as among the 20 best in the world, all of which have free entry to permanent exhibitions. The same is true for many of the smaller institutes.
The downside is that these tend to be very busy at the weekend, and taking the afternoon off work to wander their halls might not be your top priority as you adjust to the pain of having limited holiday. However, Museums at Night offers a great range of fun events at various museums throughout the year that you can enjoy outside of office hours.
Travelling around London can be incredibly confusing when you first move to the city – or even, to be fair, to old hands when they venture far out of the areas next to where they live and work. Try downloading the app Citymapper – it will calculate routes for you and show you real-time updates on when the next train or bus will arrive.
London has one of the most extensive and – for all that we love to complain about it – reliable public transport systems in the world, but it certainly isn't cheap. It's worth getting an Oyster Card and a 16-25 Railcard; you can link the two together and save a third of the cost on your journeys. You can't link a Railcard to a credit or debit card, so Oyster Cards will be more cost-efficient than contactless.
A few other quick tips: buses take longer but are cheaper than the Tube; London's self-hire Boris Bike scheme is fantastic but expensive if you cycle regularly; and the longer you're here the more you'll realise that some places you thought were miles apart are actually only 10 minutes walk from each other, so invest in some sturdy shoes.
Make the most of the commute
In 2014, it was calculated that the average commute in London is 74.2 minutes long. With so much of your day spent on the way to and from work, it's best to make the most of it. Read a book, listen to an engaging podcast or audiobook, or download something to watch on your phone. You'll feel the time is valuable, rather than wasted.
Get some fresh air
Except for a brief gasp of fresh air before diving into the underground on the way to and from work, it's easy to go days without getting outside much. And if you're amongst the 42% of workers in Europe whose offices have no natural light, then this could impact your happiness and productivity levels.
If the weather is, try and get outside. On the weekends, take advantage of the city's extensive parks, or maybe sign up to an outdoor treasure hunt. And if you have a decent lunch break, use it to go for a wander. You'll feel refreshed, and get in a bit of free exercise at the same time.
It's easy to fritter money away on food; buying lunch, or even a coffee, everyday will quickly snowball in terms of costs. Of course, buying treats can cheer you up no end during a long day at work, but if you are looking to save money for use elsewhere then take a long, hard look at your food budget. Try bringing in a packed lunch, and if you're really stretched for cash take advantage of end-of-day discounts at supermarkets.
When you do eat out, keep your eyes peeled for discounts! Several restaurant chains – including Pizza Express, Zizzi, and Strada – have regular offers you can sign up to by email. Others will also have cheap nights each week, or Happy Hour deals you can take advantage of.
Claire Kilroy is a content writer for the UK's leading graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns. Check out their website if you're on the hunt for internships and graduate jobs in London and beyond.