Friday, October 16, 2009

Top 10 useful websites - essential to all Londoners

Moving to London? Lost in myriad of narrow streets with peculiar names? Clueless about what to do this weekend? Well, as long as you have a reliable internet connection, you will never be caught with your pants down. And here's a run down on the 10 most essential websites that every Londoner should know.

1) Transport for London

Though London's Transport system is nowhere as complex as that of Tokyo's, it can still prove to be a challenge even to the seasoned traveller. That's not even taking the breakdowns that every so often plague the network.

Visit Transport for London (TFL) for the quickest route to your destination or for the latest transport news update before you step out of your house. Simply enter the relevant postcode or the nearest Tube station.

2) National Rail

Although the rail is no longer the main driver of the UK's economy, its extensive network that spans the region still brings you to places that otherwise would be an arduous drive away. With London as the main hub, you can easily head to York for a medieval weekend, Whitstable for some oysters, Dorking for its vineyard, Battle for the 1066 Battle of Hastings, and even Edinburgh is just a train ride away.

At National Rail, you'll be able to find trains' timings, the stations where the trains depart from. But to get widest choice of tickets and the cheapest available fare available (up to 80% off), I rely on MyTrainTicket.

3) Google Map

In my 7 Unpublished Tips When Planning a Trip, I mentioned that this is one site that many tend to overlook. As with many European cities, London has its fair share of narrow lanes with quirky names. Enter your destination's postcode in Google Map and you'll be on your way. Fancy a streetview? No problem, Google map offers this too for most of the UK and certainly for London.

4) Timeout London

Timeout is an established brand and is recognised as the site to go for any self respecting Londoner looking for the newest and happening events in town. Timeout London offers just that. The events are organized intuitively into various days of the week and are frequently updated.

Not only that, you'll find visitors' reviews on a particular event tagged to the same event page as well. In fact, Timeout London has become so influential that a spot on it will guaranty a huge response to any event or venue; Lady Gray from The Hidden Tea Room mentioned to me that she received an avalanche of emails after being featured on Timeout London.

5) Lastminute.com

For some reason, Londoners often leave it till the last minute to plan for their holidays. I would like to think it's because of London's proximity to Europe; Paris is a mere 2hr train ride away, Brussels closer than that and the rest of continental Europe is less than 3hr flight away. For this precise reason, Lastminute.com is Londoners' favourite website for great last minute travel deals.

Not only Lastminute.com provides holiday packages (car rental, flights, hotels - combination or alone), the thing I like best about it is the mystery hotel feature where 4 or 5 star hotels offer rooms freed up by last minute cancellations at vast discounts.

6) Argos

This is a store that Londoners love to hate. For the uninitiated, an Argos store sells anything non-perishable that you need in your house from sofas, electric kettles, laptops and even door stoppers. The only catch is that there's absolutely nothing stocked on the shelves in the stores dotted over London save for huge (and I mean huge) catalogues. Embrace the era of catalogue shopping.

The only thing that beats an Argos store is probably the Argos online store. Though this, you can access the exact dimension, weight of items and have it delivered right to your doorstep at a very small fee. Shop on!

7) BBC iPlayer

Contrary to the popular belief, BBC do put our TV licensing fee to good use and produce countless quality documentaries, comedies, variety shows and dramas. Miss it on your TV? Well, just hop on to BBC iPlayer for those back episodes.

Note that the full content for this site is available only to people in the UK and you don't even have to pay licensing fee for that. Just hook on to a reliable broadband network and you're on your way.

8) Gumtree

Gumtree is one of the site I recommend on my London Accommodation Guide. The site is especially useful to people looking for accommodation and stuff to trade without the middlemen (and thus save on  commission).

Rather than chucking away that old tennis racket, why not pimp it on Gumtree? Might as well get a few quid for that.

9) FreeCycle

Feel like giving it back to the community? Rather than selling off your junk on eBay, why not just give them away to someone who might need it? FreeCycle allows you to reach all FreeCyclers who are in your area by sending them a notification whenever you have something that you want to get rid of. More often than not, someone will just come pick the item off your front door and that saves you the trouble of discarding it.

Or if you're missing a table or a chair or looking for a replacement keyboard, try posting it on FreeCycle. Who knows? You might get lucky.

10) Toptable

Unless it's the spur of the moment thing, you have probably made a reservation for the dinner that you're going to. Why not gain some points at Toptable while doing just that? These points will get you a full dinner at one of the participating restaurants. I have got a couple of free meals through that. Hey, what better way to stretch your pound?

Have you got any other websites that should be on the list Do leave a comment below or give me a shout at londonchow@singaporeaninlondon.com

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3 comments:

Emm said...

How about http://www.comparetheatretickets.com/. They will look at many theatre tickets providers and find the cheapest deal on any given night!

C K said...

@Emm,
Wow, this looks great! Have you tried booking through the site before? I've always got my off TKTS and it has been good thus far though not all shows are available.

Emm said...

Yup! I got tickets for Wicked for £15 just two weeks ago. They were nose bleed tickets but we only thought of taking an overseas guest a week before and it was really last minute. Worth every penny for £15!