Thursday, 20 August 2009

First time travelling to the UK - What should I take with me?

When coming to the UK for a short or a long duration, the first question comes in mind is: what should I take with me to the UK? I asked this question from my friends and few of my friends asked the same question from me. The following tips could be helpful in this regard:

1. Documents
Make sure you have taken all your original certificates along with you. These may include offer, invitation and/or accommodation letters, etc. Always keep them in your hand luggage; never checked them with your main baggage. You will need them at immigration checks at both home and away countries.

2. Phone handset

Carrying a phone set with you can prove quite useful. We normally leave it at home by thinking that it will not work there. But it is always advisable to take it with you as most Indian (probably Asian) phones works perfectly fine in the UK with UK simcards. Bringing it with you will reduce your initial expenses along with the hassle to find phone shops in the beginning. Read next section for its instant utilisation.

3. Phone calls
Whenever we are away from home, first things come in mind is to call our nearers and dearers. If you do (or do not) have international roaming in your phone, calling from from your phone or a public booth can be bit expensive. Although there is no option in such situation unless you have any friend already living in the UK and allow you to use his/her phone. one option can be to buy a calling card and call through a landline phone or a public booth.

The first thing one should do is to buy a pay as you go simcard (cost <£20; generally comes with same amount of top up in most cases) from any phone shop as soon as you get opportunity to roam around. Few (mobile world, libara, etc.) of them provide quite cheap (~5 INR per minute) calls for India or other Asian countries. In that way, you can make short calls any time you want besides having your phone number that can be given to your friends or family back home. After some time, one can always go for a phone contract that generally provides free fency hand sets with plenty of free minutes and sms's.

Once settled in the UK and have access to internet, the best option is to use VOIP (voice over internet protocol) for making calls to any landline or mobile in back home. There are several such service providers (e.g. smart voip, 12voip, free call, nymgo, etc.); the use of such services will cost you less than one INR per minute. Note that you should keep an eye on new VOIPs also as competition among various service providers can benefit you in the form of reduced calling rates.

4. Money
Note that even if your scholarship/salary advance bank cheque is ready, it may easily take up to a month to cash it. Most of this time goes in opening a bank account. It is always good to have at least couple of hundred pounds with you for the expenses of first month. It is quite common to pay house rent and deposit money in advance which is one of the most expensive affair. It is better to clear it first with the landlord in advance. Generally, food expenses will fall within £200/month for a single person if cooks himself; however, it is just a rough idea which can vary from person to person. Also, it can be a good idea to exchange money in your home country through an agent rather than doing it on airport . This option can provide you a better exchange rates but do not forget to take exchange receipt in case you need to show it during immigration! Although it can be easily exchanged at the airport also in case you did not get enough time to do so in advance.

5. Clothes
While in home country, we generally think that UK weather remains cold throughout the year. But you will get chance to enjoy summers also between March and August (though it may not apply to some part of the UK!). As far as clothes are concerned, it is always good to pack some thermal and jackets. You may also pack some summer clothes which you will get chance to wear during summers. Although, your home jackets may not be effective in winters so you have to buy a pair of jackets from the UK itself. It is not a bad purchasing though as you will find the quality of jackets pretty good. The good place to buy these can be sports direct and Mark and Spenser's, etc. It is always advisable to bring an umbrella as predicting the UK weather is not easy!

6. Food items
We miss home cooked food after leaving home. Therefore, it is not a bad idea to pack some well-packed ready-to-eat food. It can be quite helpful in early days of your settling. However, you can find almost every kind of food material (raw or ready-to-eat) in the supermarkets (e.g. Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda) here.

7. Utensils
You can find every kind of utensil here except pressure cooker. In fact, there is no such utensil exist in the UK. It is strongly advisable to bring one if you cook yourself. Note that you should also be careful while using it in your kitchen as your neighbors get frighten from its whistle!

8. Final words
You can try to arrange the above but life will go on even if you do not have any of the above or you miss something. So no need to worry. One of my dearest friend Kaushal said to me when I was in such preparation ' just enjoy the last couple of days before you travel to the UK with your family and friends - bring yourself and your confidence - rest will be automatically fine'.

Hope you will find the above useful.

Good luck,
(PS: Never boil eggs in the microwave or be ready for the blast!)

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