I spent a week in London and didn’t touch cash once. Not because I’m grossed out by the amount of germs there are on cash (there’s a lot, try not to think about it), or because I was wearing gloves. I might be from sunny Brisbane but I’m brave enough to handle the cold of a London summer without the assistance of gloves. No, I spent a week in London and didn’t touch cash once because I didn’t need to – they are well in truly living in the future, otherwise known as a cashless society.Instead, all I used was my trusty Travel Money Oz Currency Pass. Better yet, I could use it as my Oyster card when braving the humidity on the tube, and when living out my London dreams on a red, double-decker bus. Toot Toot. Nothing helps the jet lag more than avoiding queues to buy an Oyster card and instead just waltzing through the turnstile with a tap of my Currency Pass like I own the place.
Whilst in London, the AUD to GBP exchange rate hit a pretty gnarly low. Lucky for us, we had locked in a much better exchange rate a month earlier when we loaded the card. In my eyes that meant I could spend more – sound logic, right?
I got tap happy whilst in London much to my boyfriend’s and bank account’s horror, but who can blame me? All shops and restaurants accept card, market stalls accept card with some even refusing cash, attractions allow you to book online or pay at the counter with your card, hell even the museum had a card reader so I could donate using my Currency Pass instead of scrounging around for a few spare pounds. Long story short, the only people without card readers in London are the homeless, which is probably fair enough.
Now there is a lot in London to spend your money on – a LOT. I had to limit myself, so I focused my efforts on life’s finer pleasure – food. I took it upon myself to dabble in a few different meals so you have an idea of where to go depending on your budget. Before that though, let’s just clear up some lingo. In London they use pounds and pence. 10 pounds can also be called 10 quid. 10 pence would be called 10p. Sounds easy, but I stumbled over it a few times – lucky I could just tap my card and not worry about searching for the correct amount.
Food in London
When in London it’s hard to pass up on the classics.
Fish and chipsServed at most pubs, best washed down with a pint or two. Generally priced between 9 and 15 pounds depending on where you go. The servings are huge but, news flash, the British have NO IDEA what chicken salt is, so prepare your tastebuds for normal salt on your chippies. Also it’s normal in London to put mayo on your chips. It was a maNO from me, but each to their own.
As the name suggests, these are served on Sunday for dinner. In the UK, dinner is lunch though – confusing, right? Rock up at a pub, literally any pub, between 12pm and 6pm and feast on roast pork, beef or lamb, plenty of roast veggies and a Yorkshire pud – all covered in gravy. Most pubs also cater to vegetarians as well. Expect to pay between 12 and 20 quid for your roast.
Not sure what this is? Picture a boiled egg, covered in sausage meat before being coated in crumbs and chucked in the deep fryer. You can also bake them but calories don’t count on holidays. A lot of pubs serve these for anywhere between 3 and 7 pounds, otherwise you can grab a two pack from Tesco’s for 1.50 pounds. A perfect sausage meat snack on the run.
Less classic meals
London is incredibly multicultural, so you will be able to find a meal to satisfy any craving. If you’re an Aussie after chocolate though, its very important for me to note that whilst their Cadbury is cheap, it DOES NOT taste the same. Sigh.
Indian CuisineIn need of a naan or curry to spice up your life? Head to Brick Lane for shop upon shop offering Indian delights. Expect to pay between 7 and 15 pounds for a meal while there. Brick Lane is also home to some epic retro and second-hand shopping, so I recommend fueling up with a madras before hitting the shops for some retro apparel.
I LOVE cereal, and have lived a life shrouded by Australia’s strict cereal standards… a.k.a their gross lack of sugar filled cereal puffs. With this in mind, I simply had to live out my cereal dreams at the Cereal Killer café found at both Brick Lane and Camden Markets. Bowls filled with all of your sugary hopes and dreams start at 5 pounds and go up from there. A steep price to pay for a bowl of cereal, but oh so worth it.
If you’re keen for a wander, head to any of London’s markets. Favourites include the Borough, Camden and Greenwich markets. The food here is delicious and ranges from 2 pounds to 20, depending on what you are purchasing. As I said earlier, all of the stalls I visited had card facilities, with many avoiding cash transactions altogether. If you do get stuck though, there are plenty of ATM’s scattered around for you to use.
Speaking of ATM’s, if you do need to grab some cash, you will find an ATM on every corner. We recommend getting money out in bigger amounts to avoid paying more ATM fees than necessary.
The Finer Things in LifeOn our last night in London we decided to throw caution to the wind and eat at one of London’s more expensive restaurants, Dinner by Heston. Both my boyfriend and I are big fans of Heston, so it was a bucket list experience for us. The experience consisted of five courses of taste bud tantalizing meals that seriously rocked our worlds.
At the end of the meal we paid with, you guessed it, our Currency Pass and were offered to pay in our home currency. This is called Dynamic Currency Conversion and is bad for two reasons:
- It showed us the conversion of GBP to AUD and oh boy that was not a nice number. I was much happier living in the pound fairyland that showed dinner’s amount being roughly half the cost of what it was in AUD.
- Dynamic Currency Conversion often leads to you paying more due to extra conversion fees. Our card was loaded with pounds, so we steered clear of DCC.
After a week in London I left with a satisfied stomach, a few extra kg’s, a well used Currency Pass and much cleaner hands (no money, no germs). Like with most big cities, the further out you go into the English countryside the cheaper it will become and the more likely you are to need cash.
If you’re after a Currency Pass, some cash, more London travel tips or a mixture of all three be sure to head into your closest Travel Money Oz. As for me, I’m off to run a few k’s as I’m still riding the sugar high from all of that cereal.