Traveling without paying is more difficult in London compared to the average European city.IT'S ALSO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE! LIKE CRAZY EXPENSIVE. But if you know your way around, you can still travel constantly without paying.For start, all metro stations have barriers, departure barriers and arrival barriers, so you need to 'jump' twice. Moreover, pretty much all stations are staffed with workers standing by the gates. BUT! typically the people who are standing by the gates (in very recognizable red and blue uniforms) are not security or police! They are just customer service. 90 per cent of the times, they will pretend not to have noticed you jumping the barriers, and even if they do notice you, they can't stop you! They have no more powers than the average person, they don't have any rights when it comes to stopping you or holding you. So, if they approach you, just pretend you don't see them and they don't exist---wearing earphones can help, you can't even hear them! Don't try to get into an argument with them, the nearest cop they could call is never so far away. Just ignore them. When it comes to buses, there is only one type of bus that you can easily jump in the city, called the new routemaster. It's quite distinguishable as it has three doors instead of two. Luckily, it connects most of central London, so if you're a tourist, you can travel just fine using this system. On the wikipedia page called "new routemaster", you can find all bus lines operating on this service. On all other services the bus driver won't let you in without a valid ticket and, in most cases, he will switch off the engine of the bus if you don't get off once you're told. You don't want to be in that situation! At night, they will be more flexible and usually let you travel without a ticket if you ask them politely.
It's worth knowing that London is HUGE (third biggest city in Europe). Traveling inside London takes much longer than reaching it from outside, especially during rush hour.
See Transport for London.
Distances inside London are huge, so it's quite probable you'll be using public transport inside the city (if you manage to navigate inside London by hitchhiking, please tell us about it!)
- If you're not just going in and out, get an Oyster card - it's much cheaper and you can use it for any public transport (even river buses!). The information TFL provides is very extensive; Here is where you can find the fare between any two places.
- Traveling cheap: Public transport prices can be high and depends on the zones between which you're traveling, day of the week and time in the day. You can try to get as close to your zone as possible (distance is not important - only zone numbers matter). E.g if you're going to Bethnal Green in zone 2, it would be better to reach zones 1 or 3 than 4 or 5. Use this map or search the station to see which zone it's in.
A bus (or tram) will always be cheaper than other transport (they have a fixed price of £1.5, and your second ride within an hour is free).
- Planning journeys: Use the Citymapper app - it usually works better than Google Maps and also shows prices.
- Negative balance: If you don't have enough money on your Oyster for the next ride, you can still take the Tube/train - as long as you have some amount of money, you'll be able to pass, but will end up with a negative balance. If you're leaving London, this probably doesn't matter, so you don't have to bother charging for your last ride. Keep in mind that the train system is separate from the Tube/Overground/DLR, so if you're taking the Tube and then the train, you need to have a positive balance upon leaving the Tube.
- Megabus have cheap services to several cities around the UK - in some cases it might be cheaper to use these than to get to/from the hitchhiking spot outside the city (unless you're willing to walk for several hours).
- Airline: Norwegian
There are several options when it comes to finding a place to sleep. If the worst prevails and you're without a place, you're still not too bad off. Central London is relatively safe and you probably wont be bothered sleeping outside.
Its quite possible to sleep out in London in considerable privacy despite its gigantic population of 10 million. Go North East to Trent Park (Picadilly Line North, second to last stop before Cockfosters - i.e. Oakwood Station). Find the directions for the university (Middlesex) campus and walk (or take the free bus) up the hill. Beside it and beyond the lake are quite a few miles of woodland and and it is incredibly beautiful. Someone lived here for 7 months during his final year of university. Be careful with park wardens, they eventually discovered him during the last few weeks of his studies. Build camouflage from ferns if staying for long. People are unlikely to be your greatest threat...dogs are. Dogs! A lot of people walk them here but you can find amazing places if you search hard enough. And if you search really really hard, you'll find a tree with the dates of the past dweller's residence...;)
Also, outside this station (Trent Park), there is a Greek Bakery. Behind it lie huge sacks of bread every night. Please go. Its crazy that this could possibly be wasted every night.
London used to have an abundance of squats, but it has recently become more difficult. While it is still legal to squat commercial property (warehouses, offices, shops), it is illegal to squat residential buildings (if you admit you are doing this to the cops, you might be sentenced to jail time.)
There are still a good couple of squats all around London. Most squats are places where people live and go about their normal business, so don't expect too much from them. Perhaps it would be good to find some friendly squatters by word of mouth or on couchsurfing or similar.
Don't worry about the negative connotations associated with squats. They generally aren't crackhouses or scabies-infested punk hangouts. People of all types squat in London and their homes are usually very nice. They are especially helpful if you're planning to stick around for a while, but can also be great if you're just passing through.
- For all information on squatting in the UK: the Advisory Service for Squatters is helpful for people that are planning to find a place to live and cannot really help you find a place to crash. It's located at the Freedom Bookstore in Whitechapel and is another great place to meet squatters as well as get online for free. The address is Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, Whitechapel, London, England, E1 7QX. (Tel. 020-32160099)
- There are still some remnants of squatting communities in North London, North East London, and South London. If you want to meet some people, go to the practical squatting nights taking place every week (alternating).
- For more info on social centers in London, check out Autonomous London.
Generally though, it has become harder to track squats down or just pop up, as there are fewer, and more and more evictions, which means less space. This should in no way discourage you, however!
There is a strong community of squatters especially in the north east of London where a new group has been set for resistance and solidarity.
- The North East London Squatters Network are having meetings every month as well as a mailing list etc... For more info, get in touch with the Hackney Social Centre .. (unfortunately this has now been evicted).
- rampART is a squatted social center in Whitechapel, east London. This place isn't a residential squat, but they do have a "crash room" for visitors. They make it clear that it is not a tourist hostel so you needn't bother them unless you are interested in getting involved with their project for some time while you're there. To stay, you need to contact them well ahead of time. If nothing else, it's a great place to meet squatters and find a place to stay. They also have free internet! (As of last month rampART was evicted by the police and is no more.) Interestingly, the new place at Bowl Court Road that was squatted a few months ago has already been evicted (August 2008).
- The Advisory Service for Squatters is helpful for people that are planning to find a place to live and cannot really help you find a place to crash. It's located at the Freedom Bookstore in Whitechapel and is another great place to meet squatters as well as get online for free. The address is Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, Whitechapel, London, England, E1 7QX. (Tel. 020-32160099)
- There is another squat social centre on 195 Mare Street
- There is something called London Nomad Community Space on 1 Rochester Square, Camden.
For more current information check the websites links in squatting.
The twitter account for the Anti Raids Network will tell you when are police are waiting for black riders outside stations, or are about to raid a squat. They also have a website. They may also give you information about immigration checks & raids in London.
Cheap and free food abounds in London.
Hari Krishna offer free food from several locations in London at lunchtime: outside SOAS by Russel Square at 1pm, for example. Expect to queue for 30 minutes, arrive early to guarantee a fill - the food does run out. Otherwise...
In the UK, the term for eating food that would otherwise be thrown away, is called skipping. Lots of people do it, all from people that come from poor countries and see all the food that goes to waist, to people that are political in there way of living. Many people, especially in the squat scene live totally out of food from the bins...
See Trashwiki for good place to skip.
If you're going to self cater, stick to Sainsbury's and Tesco rather than the convenient Off-Licenses for better prices. If you are a bit out of Central London, you might as well look for Lidl, Morrisons, Netto or Asda. Anyhow with a decent and wise grocery, you can get your grocery for nearly a week for about 10-15 pounds at any of the mentioned supermarket with decent, fresh and healthy food (to cook). Be aware though that these supermarkets are not in any sense "ethical". They are wiping out local shops, taking monopoly on feeding us, destroying the environment and throwing away food every day that could feed hundreds of people. It's better to eat out of their bins.
If you get tired of peanut butter sandwiches or want to fill up for the weekend, try one of the many £5 all-you-can-eat Thai Buffets which are always always totally vegan! (some good all-you-can-eat start at £3,50). Go early, they get more expensive in the evening. While downtown, you can also get a '6-inch sandwich of the day' at Subway for 2 pounds.
The markets in Camden Town have cheap food around 5pm, especially in the Lock Market where, if you walk for a few minutes past all the initial food courts, you can easily find dishes of noodles for £2.
In Westminster, there's a public library which you can use for free Internet access. You might need to register yourself, though, and that process (and waiting for the next available computer) can take quite some time.
Go to the Apple store (on Regent St. near Oxford Circus), ask any local around Piccadilly or Regent or Oxford street and they should be able to tell you the exact location.