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With departure dates rapidly approaching, Indian students are booking tickets and preparing to leave for international universities.
To ease their concerns and answer their questions, we asked students who are already abroad to share their experiences. Here a former student of Warwick University, Aruni Mukherjee shares his advice on how you can plan your daily travel in advance and save some money in the bargain.
When you board that flight to London [Images] or Birmingham, your thoughts are naturally focussed on your family who you won't be seeing for a year, or on the cumbersome immigration procedures that you have to go through. What are the chances of you thinking about how to get to your destination once you land? Not much I can assure you, having been in the same situation myself.
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While doing all the pre-departure research, this is an easy topic to overlook. However, having an understanding of how to get around the country can save you time, bundles of irritation not to mention money, after you arrive in the UK.
I was one of those who completely ignored this point before I flew into Heathrow for the first time seven years ago. The result was that I was absolutely clueless about how to get to Brentwood (where my school was) from Terminal 4. I ended up paying �50[approx Rs 4,000] to get a taxi. In today's money you can end up paying around �70 [approx Rs 5,600] for the journey!And if you're travelling anywhere outside Greater London, your taxi bill can spiral into hundreds of pounds if you're not careful.
Fortunately, the Underground is an absolute God-send for getting from A to B in London and its outskirts. The network is staggeringly vast and you are never too far away from a Tube station if you're around London (including Heathrow). The Piccadilly Line runs from Heathrow terminals into central London, and around �6 [approx Rs 480] is all it will cost for a day travel card which entitles you to unlimited rides on buses, trains and the underground in London for a day.
If you don't mind spending around �20 [approx Rs 1,600] but wish to cut your journey time to central London to about 20 minutes, take the Heathrow Express which runs every 10 minutes from the airport to London Paddington, where onward bus and underground links are available.
I would suggest going to www.tfl.gov.uk and printing off a Tube map before you get on the flight. Familiarise yourself with it on the plane: it's not rocket science and once you are comfortable with it, you will have no anxieties about travelling on the underground even if it means changing stations a few times.
If your destination is within London, try visiting www.multimap.com and typing in the address. It will show you the nearest Tube station to that destination along with a map of the area. This will help plan your journey most efficiently rather than having to ask at the ticket counter where sometimes it can be difficult for a newbie to understand instructions, given the unfamiliarity with the lines and stations.
If you are hoping to travel to a major city outside London, your best option could be National Express buses that run from Heathrow Terminals to all the major cities in the country. Tickets can be booked online via www.nationalexpress.com and are reasonably priced (�35 [approx Rs 2,800] for a single to Coventry, for instance).
The alternative is taking a train. Trains run from major London stations such as Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, Waterloo, Paddington, etc to all destinations in the UK and detailed timetables can be accessed online at www.rail.co.uk. Make sure you know which station to catch your train from, otherwise you could be in for a problem as Tube staff will probably not be able to direct you to the correct station.
Your choice entirely depends on how much luggage you have and where your final destination is. If you've got one suitcase and want to go somewhere that is 100 yards from a train station, the bus is probably not a good idea given that bus stations tend to be in the city centre from where you will almost invariably have to take a taxi.
On the other hand if you're the quintessential Indian student with umpteen number of bags, the bus is a hassle-free option. Remember, train tickets can also be booked online and early booking can shave off a substantial chunk off the price tag.
An understanding of how the transport system works can yield both monetary and logistical benefits. For instance, if you are based in London it hardly makes sense to pay �6 [approx Rs 480] every day for a travel card when you're just going to be using the same departure and arrival stations each time. You can always pay slightly less for a single ticket, however, during peak times the prices are hardly any lower.
Londoners use a swipe card called Oyster which is a cheap way to travel for people in this situation. Single journeys can cost as less as �1 [approx Rs 80], and it only costs a �10 [approx Rs 800] deposit to get an Oyster card. It can be topped up with credit online at https://oyster.tfl.gov.uk/oyster/entry.do. They can also be used on buses, an added advantage.
For those living outside London and away from their campuses, buses are the most common means of transport. But don't think of paying for your journey every day because you're much better off buying a student travel card that all the bus companies sell. Simply go onto their website or local office to get the relevant information. You will probably need to provide a photograph and proof of your student status, but it is a real money saver.
For an indication, a return ticket from Coventry to Warwick University used to cost around �2 [approx Rs 160] in 2003. For a three-month term this meant around �180 [approx Rs 14,400] on bus fares. However, a bus pass cost about �70 [approx Rs 5,600] and it means that you can even travel on weekends on the same pass. That's a saving of a not-so-inconsiderable �110 [approx Rs 8,800], a fortune for a poor student like me.
With regard to trains, the first thing you should do is invest �20 [approx Rs 1,600] and purchase a Young Persons' Railcard. It is valid for a year and gives you a 30 per cent discount on all rail journeys in the UK provided you are a full-time student. Train tickets can be exorbitantly expensive (�34 [approx Rs 2,700] for a ticket between Cambridge and London, for instance) and the discount will recuperate your initial investment within one or two journeys.
As I mentioned earlier, booking early definitely saves money. But also make sure you buy the right ticket. Initially I was forever confused about the difference between a Saver Return and a Cheap Day Return. The former is an open return ticket that allows you to come back on any date within a month, while the latter is an off-peak ticket on which you must return within the day. Some tickets are not valid during some parts of the day, so make sure you check the terms before travelling, otherwise you can incur a penalty.
You can, of course, use the National Express buses to travel between cities if you live close to the bus station and it turns out to be the cheaper and/or more convenient option. If you're in London and want to travel to Manchester or Glasgow/ Edinburgh, it may be worthwhile checking the fares on budget airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair. Train and bus journeys can be cumbersome and expensive, so this could be the preferable option.
The important thing to remember is that planning saves you journey time as well as money. Most, if not all, of this planning can be done from the comfort of your room via the internet, such are the benefits of modern life. So make sure you enjoy your travels, but don't pay through your nose for it.
Have you studied abroad? Do you have advice for students heading abroad? Helpful tips on how to tackle the visa interview or applications process? Did you encounter unexpected roadblocks when you applied to a foreign university but managed to overcome them? Are there paperwork issues that students should know about but don't? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org with your advice and we'll publish your tips right here on rediff.com.
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