To all Americans moving to London this year, happy Fourth of July while you’re still on US soil! That goes to those of you Yankees who’ve already made your UK relocation as well. I’ve had to miss a few Independence Days since moving myself in 2008, but I’m actually home for this one—yeehaw! But man, is it HOT in Chicago right now…oof, I forget what a normal summer feels like given London’s seemingly eternal fall and spring.In any case, how funny that I should fly Stateside yesterday only for my dad to promptly hand me an article about the 2012 Olympics in the local paper. Never can escape that amazing city that always has the world buzzing about it. So if you’re moving in time for this momentous event, thought I’d share some related tidbits FYI.
If you’re moving this month or next while the Games are going on, here’s a little heads-up on what to expect. It’s estimated that 6.5 million visitors will infuse the already highly populated city, making many-a local resident wary of the impact on public transport. It helps that the recent Diamond Jubilee served as a sort of dry run for tackling congestion issues; it was rather a mess, with Westminster tube station ultimately closed down due to crowding. Moving will inevitably introduce you to the tube woes that already occur on a daily basis with signal failures and rush hour, so one can only imagine how even such a brilliant system as the London Underground will cope with the Olympics crowds. $10 billion (USD) has been invested into upgrading assorted stations and lines, however, so time will tell (before too long) how much that will help.
In view of that, if you’re moving without a car like most expats, you might want to consider shipping your bike or taking advantage of Barclays bike scheme, with public bikes parked all throughout the city that you can rent at Point A and drop off at Point B with ease (well, that’s the easy part, anyway; navigating the busy streets quite another, so try to find side routes that‘ll be less congested and tour you through locations you maybe wouldn‘t see otherwise).
Where lodging is concerned, working with London Relocation will secure you your own apartment straightaway, so hotel stays are kept at a minimum after moving to London or visiting prior to your relocation; as it is, hotels are anticipating 100% occupancy during the Olympics. Average rates are said to be $341 (USD) per night for hotels, but another option is taking on a short-term let rented out on a weekly basis and will include all the amenities of home if you‘re moving in advance of moving into your flat. No doubt landlords will be making spaces available to seize the opportunity.
Moving means getting to know it from a resident’s day-to-day perspective, but c’mon, you’ve got to play the tourist, too! After four years in the UK, I sure still do—that’s the fun of living there! As I’ve blogged about recently, city buildings and monuments have been spruced up for the occasion, and over 80 tube stations will be equipped with free WiFi. I observed just yesterday how Heathrow’s Terminal 5 has endeavored to streamline its flow of passengers to accommodate the larger crowds, and you’ll have 8,000 volunteers (London Ambassadors) scattered throughout the capital to field any questions—how’s that for a nice welcome after moving?!
The most dramatically altered landscape, however, has got to be east London, home of Olympic Park. A historically industrial and under-developed area, east London’s riverside has been landscaped and new residences and facilities erected to accommodate not only Olympics athletes and fans but future residents moving to London’s east side. A massive Westfield shopping mall now stands there, adding to all the new conveniences and refurbishments that will make this neighborhood a much more desirable place to live. Over a dozen transport links—including the new high-speed Javelin Shuttle traveling from St. Pancras—service the area, but if you don’t have event tickets and would like to wait to explore Olympic Park after everything’s over and hopefully less crowded (a perq when you’re moving to London and not just visiting), big screens in Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, and Victoria Park will broadcast the games so you can still view them in a festive atmosphere in the company of others.
A few last tips if you’re around for the Olympics after moving: In gauging your transport routes for the events or other related sites of interest, you can plan ahead at Transport for London’s tfl.gov.uk or getaheadofthegames.com. Visitors can use short-term Travelcards, but as a resident moving, you should purchase and top-up an Oyster Card—buy it in advance at the TFL site, visitbritainshop.com, or any tube station after moving to London. You can also stay apprised of events like the free broadcasts in the parks, the London 2012 Festival, and Olympic venues and maps at btlondonlive.com and London2012.com.
Whatever you do, feel the spirit of the Games and take advantage of all the special activity buzzing around the city if you’re moving to London this summer in time for it all!