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London Weather

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London has a reputation for terrible weather, but is it really that bad? Unfortunately, yes.

While the number of rainy days are less than other cities like Rome, Vancouver or Singapore, it still rains about a third of the year, and the rain lasts for long periods at a time, often just an annoying drizzle. This, combined with grey skies, make the weather seem horrible throughout much of the year.

In winter, temperatures drop below zero, but rarely lower than -8C°, with snow falling just a few times between December and February. But there is a constant dampness that makes it bitingly cold, and it honestly feels colder than a Toronto winter of -16C°. Heating is crucial a this time of the year, so if you’re looking for a place, make sure the radiators work.

It’s not quite cold enough for consistent snow, so it rains instead. This means that previously fallen snow turns to slush, or worse, a thin layer of ice, creating havoc on the streets for both pedestrians and cars. London is seriously ill-equipped to deal with this type of weather. Buses and Trains shut down (even the underground which is baffling) and Airports cancel flights. There are days when people just don’t go to work because they can’t get in or out of the city area.

There is a layer of greyness that sits over London throughout most of the year, adding to the drudgery. It just makes people angry and miserable and depressed.

If you’re lucky however, you may catch London on one of its few summery days, and watch the magic as it transforms the city. People are smiling, the parks are filled, shirts are off. People really do appreciate and make use of good weather when it comes. London is a much happier and friendlier place to be when the sun is out.

If only those days were more often.

Mobile Networks in the UK

You are spoiled for choice with mobile networks in the UK, with Vodafone, Orange, O2, T-mobile, Virgin and 3 being the main players. It’s great to have choice and it creates healthy competition.

Pre-paid SIM cards are usually free, and top-up credit never expires (but you may need to make a short call/sms every 3 months to keep it active if you leave). This was introduced around 2007 and is brilliant, none of this 30day nonsense.

For prepaid, you will roughly pay 11p per sent text, and 40p/min calling, receiving calls and texts is free. For around £10 a month you can get 300 texts, 100min, and 150mb data download.

GSM coverage is great all over the UK, 3G not so much, with many ‘dead-zones’ even in London, it also depends on the carrier.

I have been through Virgin, 3, and now Vodafone over the years, and for me Vodafone is the best so far. I have a very old phone, and have only ever lost signal (GSM) in remote areas of the UK. On prepaid you have the option of monthly value packs, top up bonuses, cheap overseas calls etc.

Orange is popular for it’s 2-4-1 cinema ticket deals, while O2 and Vodafone let you buy gig tickets ahead of general public release.

I got fed up with Virgin’s annoying prepaid deals, having to top up on a certain day to get bonuses and waiting a week for it to come through, it was just a hassle.

I will never use 3 mobile again. They have great month-by-month plans including free Facebook, Skype and MSN use, but their company policy is ridiculous. They will not let you use a non-3(g) phone – they actively blocked my phone after using it fine for 6months) and yet their 3G coverage is terrible. I was forced to buy one of their crappy 3-phones, which then constantly dropped signal. Their staff are also constantly on the up-sell, you can’t even buy credit without them trying to get you onto a plan.

So go to Vodafone, O2 or T-mobile, get a FREE SIM card and start there.

Driving in the UK

In the UK, cars drive on the LEFT side of the road, overtake on the right, and despite the metric system, speed is measured in MILES. Speed limits can be 20, 30 or 40mph in built up areas, 70mph on motorways, and 50 or 60mph on all other roads.

For foreign drivers, basically if you have a full, valid Driver’s Licence from your home country, you will be able to drive small vehicles within Great Britain for up to 12 months from the date you entered. More information at Direct Gov.