Visiting London prior to accepting offer - advice needed

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Visiting London prior to accepting offer - advice needed

Postby kittybank » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:11 pm

Dear fellow members, we decided we will make a trip to London to visit ICL and the city before we decide if we are accepting the place. Would greatly appreciate it if parents with kids who have studied/studying there to advise on the following:
- where to stay - airbnb/hostel - we understand the transport is expensive and was advised by some to stay near Kensington. (too many airbnb hosts - too overwhelming - unsure how to choose)
- if we decide to stay in hotel, is it easy to find coin-operated laundry services?
- how do your kids withdraw money - open bank account in uk? which bank is preferred?
- is March a good time to visit - as in the place will be overpacked with tourists?
- fly Emirates (with one stop-over but cheaper) or SQ (never taken such a long haul flight)


Thank you :)

kittybank
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Re: Visiting London prior to accepting offer - advice needed

Postby slmkhoo » Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:42 am

kittybank wrote:Dear fellow members, we decided we will make a trip to London to visit ICL and the city before we decide if we are accepting the place. Would greatly appreciate it if parents with kids who have studied/studying there to advise on the following:
- where to stay - airbnb/hostel - we understand the transport is expensive and was advised by some to stay near Kensington. (too many airbnb hosts - too overwhelming - unsure how to choose)
- if we decide to stay in hotel, is it easy to find coin-operated laundry services?
- how do your kids withdraw money - open bank account in uk? which bank is preferred?
- is March a good time to visit - as in the place will be overpacked with tourists?
- fly Emirates (with one stop-over but cheaper) or SQ (never taken such a long haul flight)

Thank you :)

Stay - decide on a price, and look at places where you can get a direct train ride to wherever you are going to be most. I haven't been for a while, but that's what I always do. Coin-operated laundries may not be so easy to find in central London - look for less high-class streets with smaller shops! It's relatively less humid there, so handwashing small items and drying them in the room may work.

Banking etc - The university will usually have such info in a welcome packet for students. There may even be special deals etc, so I would wait till the academic year starts and see. Students will definitely need to open a bank account and get an ATM card. Can't advise on the banks, but having a branch near the university will be convenient.

March should be OK as it's before the tourist high season. Just avoid any public holidays (not sure when Easter is this year).

The problem with Emirates or any flight that stops in the Middle East is that you have to get up in the middle of the night! Non-stop flights are good in that you can sleep uninterrupted for a longer stretch, but cost more. I am going later this year, and we booked Thai (to save money) - the stop is early on (in Bangkok), and then a long uninterrupted stretch.

slmkhoo
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Re: Visiting London prior to accepting offer - advice needed

Postby Imp75 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:01 am

My only advice about opening bank account is also to consider whether the bank has a branch in Spore as well so transfers of money is easier? My sis opened a Citibank account there and when she came back, she can easily access that account too via internet banking and transferring money to that Ldn account whenever she's going back.

Imp75
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Re: Visiting London prior to accepting offer - advice needed

Postby doodbug » Thu Jan 05, 2017 9:48 am

kittybank wrote:Dear fellow members, we decided we will make a trip to London to visit ICL and the city before we decide if we are accepting the place. Would greatly appreciate it if parents with kids who have studied/studying there to advise on the following:
- where to stay - airbnb/hostel - we understand the transport is expensive and was advised by some to stay near Kensington. (too many airbnb hosts - too overwhelming - unsure how to choose)
- if we decide to stay in hotel, is it easy to find coin-operated laundry services?
- how do your kids withdraw money - open bank account in uk? which bank is preferred?
- is March a good time to visit - as in the place will be overpacked with tourists?
- fly Emirates (with one stop-over but cheaper) or SQ (never taken such a long haul flight)


Thank you :)



All B&Bs/hotels etc will know where the nearest laundry service is. You can email them to ask. Many of them have tie-ups.
I always stay at the Premier Inn or Holiday Inn Express or Travelodge chains. Perhaps because I travel during winter a lot and I am paranoid that there are heating issues with AirBnB apartments.
Your child will need the acceptance letter before being able to open a regular UK bank account. Any of the large high street banks, i.e. HSBC, Lloyds, Natwest, are fine so long as they issue ATM cards. There are cashback services at the major shopping centres and supermarkets so one does not visit an ATM machine as often but you need the card to pay for stuff and get cashback.
Flights - that is entirely up to you :)
Have fun - London is my favourite city.

doodbug
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Re: Visiting London prior to accepting offer - advice needed

Postby jetsetter » Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:12 am

kittybank wrote:Dear fellow members, we decided we will make a trip to London to visit ICL and the city before we decide if we are accepting the place. Would greatly appreciate it if parents with kids who have studied/studying there to advise on the following:
- where to stay - airbnb/hostel - we understand the transport is expensive and was advised by some to stay near Kensington. (too many airbnb hosts - too overwhelming - unsure how to choose)
- if we decide to stay in hotel, is it easy to find coin-operated laundry services?
- how do your kids withdraw money - open bank account in uk? which bank is preferred?
- is March a good time to visit - as in the place will be overpacked with tourists?
- fly Emirates (with one stop-over but cheaper) or SQ (never taken such a long haul flight)


Thank you :)


1. How many of you are accompanying your child to recce? If it's the entire family, you probably need to book the entire apartment :) Try searching under 'Kensington' on airbnb website or consider a serviced apartment? Anywhere near a Tube station is good.

2. Such accommodation come with the washer and dryer, so you need not fret over laundry services. Of course there are many laundromats in London. The question is how far is the laundromat from your hotel and will going to the self-service laundromat disrupt your itinerary (you must lug the clothes over, leave them there for 1 hour or so, return to remove them and transfer to the dryer and return to collect everything so that the next customer can use it)? I'd rather hand-wash and dry them over the room heater or heated towel rack, if any. In any case, you won't perspire that much in March.

3. After you've accepted the ICL place, you can bring all your documents i.e. uni letter of acceptance, confirmed mailing/billing address (usually your hall of residence or rented flat), student visa, passport and so on to the bank to open an account. In the old days, before internet banking came along, we took with us a bank draft as the amount was not small. Bank manager will facilitate the opening of a student bank account for overseas students. Quite standard and fast.

It's better to open a UK bank account in my opinion as you don't want to be slapped with an admin fee (NB: forex conversion too) each time you withdraw cash from a Citibank or HSBC ATM. If you're not studying in London, Citibank or HSBC ATMs may not be readily found in your university town or city. I'm not sure which bank currently has the most number of ATMs in the UK. It used to be NatWest and Lloyds I think. If you want convenience and don't want to walk a few blocks to withdraw 20 pounds to buy your lunch, groceries or books (edited to add: yes, ATM cards come with Switch so you don't need to carry too much cash), do check which is the preferred bank ICL students normally open their accounts with and BETTER STILL, which bank has an ATM on campus. ICL being in central London should have all banks' ATMs on campus, or at least within 10 min's walk. However, in some 'far-flung' universities, they may have say, Barclays ATMs on campus only.

Of course you can still withdraw cash from a Barclays ATM using your NatWest debit card, but i recall there was a small interbank withdrawal charge during my time, no different from what our banks were/are doing in Singapore really.

Many international students have supplementary credit cards. Please apply one or two for child.

Frankly, you should contact ICL alumni in Singapore to ask them for advice. Usually, there'll be a Handbook for international students, advising them how to open bank accounts, telco accounts, private phone line in hall room, internet, annual budget, rail concession card, etc. Your alumni association (I think British Alumni Singapore as well??) will arrange pre-departure talks as well as familiarisation tours of the town/city upon his arrival.

3. March is a good time as the weather is great. There's an Easter break in April, so there will be more tourists by then. Did you write in to ICL to request for an orientation or campus tour? I think UK universities do organise orientations for families you know.

4. Is Emirates cheaper? I think KLM is the cheapest, haha, but you transit at Schipol Amsterdam. Most people fly by BA or SQ.

jetsetter
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Re: Visiting London prior to accepting offer - advice needed

Postby Jennifer » Thu Jan 05, 2017 1:33 pm

http://www.imperial.ac.uk/estates-facilities/buildings/facilities/atms/

ATMS on the campus


http://www.imperial.ac.uk/parents/student-life/accommodation/

Accommodation in halls of residence guaranteed for first year students

http://www.imperial.ac.uk/visit/campus-tours/

Guided campus tours schedule

http://www.imperial.ac.uk/visit/summer-accommodation/stay-with-us/our-rooms/beit-hall/

Accommodation choices for visitors during summer months. Click the halls of residence for its list of onsite facilities.

Jennifer
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Re: Visiting London prior to accepting offer - advice needed

Postby Schootopia » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:03 pm

For your child to open a bank account in the UK, you probably need an enrolment document from the Uni. They may need a reference letter from your Singapore bank. The bank branches near your child's Uni will be familiar with customers like you.

I will recommend HSBC. HSBC is major in the UK and international. It can do global link with a HSBC account in Singapore, I.e. You can view both accounts and move monies via internet banking. HSBC Singapore may be able to help you set up a bank account in the UK prior to your arrival.

Laundry is a minor issue. You will find solutions in your airbnb, hotel or hostel.

London is a very nice, vibrant and major city. Don't fear. Just go.

Schootopia
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Re: Visiting London prior to accepting offer - advice needed

Postby kittybank » Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:45 pm

Thank you CMF, slmkhoo, Imp75, doodbug, jetsetter, jennifer, schooltopia for your advice. I wasn't feeling well hence the delay in posting this.

Your advice are so detailed and helpful. Appreciate it!

:thankyou:

kittybank
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