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First business trip to London

boo

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I'll be going on my first international business trip to London, and I was wondering if anyone had any general advice for a newbie to international travel? I've never left the US as an adult, and I'm hoping that some of more-travelled people can give some pointers. If it matters, I don't work for an international company that has a presence in London, so I'll be pretty much on my own.

For example, as far as changing currency, am I better off doing it here or in London (or does it matter?).

I assume I'll need some kind of adapter to be able to use my laptop/cell-phone charger in London?
 

Concordia

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You will need an adapter. By now, I think the Brits will only require one kind. When we lived in London 40 years ago, I'm told that the vacuum cleaner needed a different plug for each floor of the house. It was a very narrow house with four floors.

Currency is subject to two costs-- the quoted exchange rate and the transaction fee(s). To get the best value, make as few transactions as possible and only then at one of the banks. Maybe the Amex office would be better. ATMs and credit cards may also be cost-effective, and are likely to be better than the booths on the main thoroughfares that appeal only to desperate tourists.

If you haven't gathered already, London tends to be a black-shoe sort of town, at least if you're not in the arts or something equally disreputable. Dark suits, black shoes; a stroll down Jermyn Street in St. James will make clear the outer limits of what is permissible in shirts and ties.

London taxis are the best in the world, but somewhat expensive. If you fly into Gatwick, take the train to central London. Heathrow has a Piccadilly Line route in to Paddington that isn't too bad. Although a cab at sunrise when you're really wrecked is a nice luxury.
 

VKK3450

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Originally Posted by boo
I'll be going on my first international business trip to London, and I was wondering if anyone had any general advice for a newbie to international travel? I've never left the US as an adult, and I'm hoping that some of more-travelled people can give some pointers. If it matters, I don't work for an international company that has a presence in London, so I'll be pretty much on my own.

For example, as far as changing currency, am I better off doing it here or in London (or does it matter?).

I assume I'll need some kind of adapter to be able to use my laptop/cell-phone charger in London?


For changing money I find that the easiest and cheapest option is just to use your ATM card. I was travelling frequently and had a discussion informing Bank of America that I would be making multiple wirthdraws in various countries and they did something on my account to receive fairly favourable forex and no service charges.

Comparing after the fact it turned out to be much cheaper than the local rates that were being offered

K
 

Bradford

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Remember that traffic comes from the opposite direction in London. So when you think you've looked both ways before crossing the street - look again. Americans tend to look left, right, left and then step - the problem is in England, the traffic comes from the right


Currency exchange - maybe get a little bit of British currency before you leave in order to get from the airport to your hotel. Then either use your ATM card or exchange at any bank in town - the rates in town will be better than at the airport.

Depending on how long you're going to be in London, you can buy a 7-day tube/bus pass that will allow you to get around town very easily. The underground is extremely clean and well marked and buses run very frequently. It's much cheaper than taxis and with the amount of traffic in the city, sometimes even faster. The other nice thing is - with the pass, you can just hop on a bus and sightsee at night.

Have fun - London is a great city!
 

drizzt3117

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I would always use an ATM card to exchange currency. For the most part, i've found it to have the best rates. You'll do best in my experience by finding an ATM from a major bank (HSBC, Citibank, or the like) as you'll get the best exchange rates as such. Most of the currency exchanges I did while traveling in Europe were done through ATMs although sometimes I would exchange USD for EUR locally if the rates were sufficiently low. I doubt that will be the case in the UK though, for the most part I think ATMs were always the best place to get GBP. One thing though, is that you may want to find out what your daily withdrawal limit is for an ATM, if it's $300 as some banks have as a default level, that's only about 150 GBP so you may want to have them raise it if you feel you need more currency. I would use credit cards whenever possible, as the exchange rate you'll get from Visa/MC is usually better than even what you get from an ATM, but of course, don't use credit cards at any place that you wouldn't feel comfortable having your credit card info.
 

Hanseat

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The better exchange rate is offset by the fact that at least Mastercard charges 1.75% of the amount as a fee for using the card abroad...
Just see if your bank has affliliations with banks in the UK so you can withdraw money without fee.
 

globetrotter

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TM for money changing, and I would recomend that you buy a plug set in the airport when you land - get a set, with UK and EU plugs, so that you will have them in the future.

have fun
 

drizzt3117

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Originally Posted by Hanseat
The better exchange rate is offset by the fact that at least Mastercard charges 1.75% of the amount as a fee for using the card abroad...
Just see if your bank has affliliations with banks in the UK so you can withdraw money without fee.


This may be bank specific, as I never had this issue using my MBNA mastercard.
 

Hanseat

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Mine is a german card from Deutsche Bank- CCs aren't that ubiquitous around here so there's less competion than in the US, I guess. I'd definitely look into that though.
 

drizzt3117

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Originally Posted by Hanseat
Mine is a german card from Deutsche Bank- CCs aren't that ubiquitous around here so there's less competion than in the US, I guess. I'd definitely look into that though.

You'd get charged an overseas fee if you ordered something mail order from the US?
 

Hanseat

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Yupp, 1.75% whether US, HK or even Netherlands. Another reason why they aren't that popular around here..
Especially sucks when you think about what kind of operation MC is- you don't have any additional costs for an overseas transaction, damn it...
 

drizzt3117

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That sucks. I don't think I've had that problem with any of my credit cards. Is it the same for Paypal when you use a credit card to pay for it?
 

Hanseat

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No idea, as I always tranfer the money to the Paypal bank account directly.
Last summer I spent 6 weeks travelling around the US with a friend of mine and you can guess what 1.75% of all charges make... Doesn't hurt but it's an unpleasant surprise.
 

CaptChaos

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Almost all credit card companies charge a foreign exchange fee. It doesn't show up as a separate fee on your statement but is included in the exchange rate. For example, VISA international charges about 1% and then your bank or credit card vendor will tack on another 0.5 to 1.75% on top of that. This is a lucrative money maker for the credit card companies and most consumers are not aware of these fees. Check the small print on your credit card agreement or call up your credit card company.
 

von Rothbart

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Here's a great NY Times article on foreign currency service charge on ATM & credit card transactions:

http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/06/2...el/25prac.html

For credit cards, Master Card & Visa charge 1% on top of what issuing banks are charging. American Express 2%. The best deal is from CapitalOne, no charge, it even swallows the 1% levied by MC & Visa.
 

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