A South African's first impressions of London

2015-08-21 09:02 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town -  The 2015 Rugby World Cup, taking place between 18 September and 31 October, is around the corner and many South Africans will be heading to the UK to support SA. 

The exchange rate between the UK and South Africa is currently very high, leaving South Africans quite concerned about spending those Pounds. Although there's no denying that London is truly expensive, being in the city does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. 

The architecture and old historic buildings seen in the streets are as beautiful as the paid-entry museums and walking along the River Thames at night won't cost you a penny, but will certainly give you the authentic London experience. 

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It's also cheap and easy to get around in the city, so travelling in the city and out to various surrounding towns won't be too expensive either. 

Here are 5 first impression of London from a South African perspective: 

1. We can go greener

There is no reason why the Boris bikes of London cannot be implemented in SA’s big cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Durban. The Boris bike system has bicycles stationed all over the city.

Cardholders are able to swipe their cards to release a bike from its rack, debiting a small amount from the card once it’s released. You then cycle to a next Boris bike docking station – closest to where you want to be – and park the bike there.

People get fitter, go greener and there are fewer cars in the already congested city centre. It’s a win-win and there’s no reason this system cannot be successfully implemented in SA too. 

A photo posted by Adam Yates-Dutton (@adamyd) on

2. There is always a sale on somewhere

When you’re in the UK, the last thing you should do is constantly think of the exchange rate. London is expensive to start with as South Africans we need to factor adding an estimated R20 to £1. Comparing and converting the SA Rand to pounds will only make you miserable.

Having said that, take comfort in the fact that London’s sales will allow even the most budget-tight of South African to shop around for good quality, ahead of South African season sales. 

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3. They’re just like us!

Walking in Twickenham on a rugby match day is like walking to Newlands stadium every other Saturday. People are out on the streets kitted out in their national colours, BBQ-ing sausages and drinking beer.

In South Africa, of course, we don’t BBQ and we don’t wear white and red, but we make an equal amount of noise and are equally passionate about supporting our national sports.


4. It’s a cultural ‘potjiekos’

Don’t make the mistake of thinking everyone in London is British or English. There are as many foreigners living and working in London as there as locals – and South Africans!

This mixing pot of cultures ensures a vibrant, young and eclectic vibe in London’s centre. 

5. Getting around is easy peasy

If you’ve got an Oyster card you can move around in London like an ant, literally. The train system and Underground can take you within a 100km radius around London’s centre within minutes, without you having to walk more than 1km. Also, the Boris bikes (mentioned above) are ultra-convenient if you want to get around on your own steam above ground. 

A photo posted by J.R. (@freespiritique) on

Have any of your own London Tripping advice? Post a comment below or email info@traveller24.com. You can also join us on our FacebookTwitter or Instagram accounts.

Traveller24 writer Louzel Lombard was hosted by VisitBritain ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup - taking place on 18 September to 31 October 2015, including flights, accommodation and meals.

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