As I mentioned yesterday, though you may yet be transferring for a job or studies (and are thus still researching how to proceed with moving abroad), one aspect of your relocation you need to anticipate is accommodating visitors.  In Part I of this topic, I addressed the plethora of people that have cycled through our flat during our time here so far and provided a brief list of to-do items to help them feel settled.

Those were just general tips, however, so today I want to give some London-specific helpful hints:

– When you give the grand tour of that enormous flat you’ve moved into (I like to refer to our bathroom at the end of the hall as our “North Wing”), be sure to acquaint your guests with all its European idiosyncrasies:

  • Explain the outlet switches and they must be on to use an appliance.
  • Show them where to find the hidden appliances in your kitchen, including the front-loading washer-dryer and how to run it—in case they want to launder clothing so they can pack lightly for the trip.

– To further help them pack lightly, welcome them to share your toiletries, and if there’s anything you don’t have that they require, take/send them to the nearest Boots, which is like Walgreens in the States.

– Have an adaptor plug on hand in case they bring a device that is UK-voltage compatible (240V).  This will be sufficient for cell phones and cameras.  It will NOT be cool for hair dryers and curling irons…in fact, it will be HOT, quite hot, as their appliance gets fried because the voltage is only half what is pumping through your UK outlet.  Thus, unless they’ve purchased a special travel hairdryer that is internationally compatible, tell them not to even bother.  They’ll have to borrow yours.  You can use a transformer, but these are expensive and support different levels of wattage, so if you have one, read the fine print to ensure it can support the appliance (please see my previous post to learn more:  “Warning: High Voltage“).

– Inform their packing:  Advise them to pack a lot a of LAYERS.  Weather here is predictably unpredictable.  Although it doesn’t suffer extreme swings, there is enough difference in temperature between sunshine and shade, and brief showers can sneak up on you.  Generally, it trends on the cool side, so it’s just nice to have an extra cardigan and jacket on hand.  COMFORTABLE WALKING SHOES are also a must—this is a walking city with a lot of pavement to pound and stairs to climb.

– Instruct them on London public transportation.  It would be helpful for you to have a Tube map on hand so you can help them plot out their daily travels in advance—this helps lessen their anxiety over getting around.  We keep two extra Oyster cards on hand for our guests’ use and show them how to “top up” at the Oyster kiosks.  Otherwise, they can purchase visitor tickets (a Visitor Oyster or Travel Card) themselves online at the Transport for London website.  This will be so much cheaper for them than purchasing single-fare or day tickets, not to mention a lot easier/faster.

– Though they probably have one of their own, it’s useful to have a London guide book or two on hand.  Our bookshelf has become a virtual travel bookshop of our own!  Recommended guides are the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: London and 24 Hours: London.

– Lastly, have some good suggestions for them!  Send them links to my “London Bundles” or London walking tour suggestions to strategize how they’ll tackle the big sites efficiently on their own if you’re not available to guide.  Think in advance what have become some of your favorite haunts, and make plans for a nice dinner or two out together!

So when you’re searching for that flat to rent, consider how it might also size up as a personal B&B :).  Playing the host is never a simple task, but it can certainly be an enjoyable one the better prepared that you are.  It is not only wonderful to visit with beloved faces from home and now associate them with your London environment, but it’s also immensely satisfying to know that they’re having a great experience thanks to you.  So make them comfortable, make it memorable, and just all-around feel awesome that you LIVE where others go on vacation!