Category Archives: Guest Post

Travelling around London – what you need to know

The vibrant and bustling atmosphere of London is well documented and is a large part of what gives the capital its charm. For those not used to visiting this busy metropolis, the experience of trying to navigate your way around can be somewhat daunting. To ensure you can enjoy the culture of the city stress-free, this quick travel guide is here to help you get around with minimal hassle.

Getting around

Once you have decided to visit London, it’s best to plan how you will get around. Whilst those further away might consider taking a flight to Heathrow, Luton or London City airport, those not too far outside the city might fare just as well using public transport or even a minicab. Since to even the most seasoned of Londoners the city can seem like a labyrinthine nightmare, often the quickest solution to getting from A to B without feeling flustered is to hail a cab.

Since it’s now easier than ever to get a quote and book in advance with just a click, taking a cab is perhaps the simplest method of transport for those looking to get to or around London. Any driver worth their salt will know the capital like the back of their hand and as they will be working to your itinerary, you will be saved the woes of trying to make public transport timetables work for you!

What to do once you arrive

Home to historical architecture, dazzling contemporary art, delicious restaurants and vibrant theatre, there really is plenty to see in London. One of the best ways to soak up London’s buzz is by taking a walk through the city. An overhead route is not always quicker but it will allow you to absorb some of the vitality of this busy and energetic town.

However, whether you just fancy a long walk along Southbank or you plan to shop until you drop, the beauty of the city’s strong infrastructure is that you can get across the capital in minutes. Once you’ve topped up your Oyster card, you can use an array of public transport and get between different locations with ease.

If you don’t have time to explore because you’re on a tight schedule, cabs are much better for keeping you on time. London can seem like a vast landscape, but it’s much easier to enjoy the sights with a ride on a bus or in a cab.

5 Things Every Renter Should Know

ImageStabilised, if not dropping, rents mean it is a fantastic time to rent in Britain. The ‘quintessential renters’ i.e. young professionals and young families, are choosing to get on the property ladder instead of rent meaning there is huge availability of properties to lease. Renting has been a common lifestyle choice throughout Europe for generations but it is a relatively new phenomenon on UK shores meaning there is still confusion within the ranks of ‘generation rent’ about how to get the best renting experience and stay protected.

If you’re getting ready to rent your first property it is important to arm yourself with as much information as possible so there are no nasty surprises waiting for you at the end of your lease.

It’s All In The Research

UK rental rates aren’t one size fits all. Research the average rates in your desired location so you can find the area which gives you the best deal for your money, a local lettings agent should be able advise you on what you should expect to pay for your preferred property type in your desired location so you can plan your monthly budget accordingly. The fluctuations in rental rates don’t just differ city by city, there can be a surprising difference in price a mile down the road or even around the corner! Look through the area thoroughly so you’re not paying more per month than you need to.

Larger more valuable properties typically have a lower than average yield making them increasingly popular for tenants. In many affluent areas tenants can find themselves paying around 3% of the purchase price in rent, lower than average mortgage rates, making renting a perfect choice for individuals in the market for homes exceeding the £500,000 mark.

Know Your Deposit Rights

Deposits are a big investment; usually they amount to 6 – 8 weeks rent upfront.  Your landlord or lettings agent has a legal responsibility to secure your money through a tenancy deposit scheme which means your money can’t be touched without your say so. For money to come out of your deposit both parties (the tenant and the lettings agent) have to agree the amount or the money stays safe and untouched so know your rights and check through your contract before you sign on the dotted line. There are official government approved deposit protection schemes designed to ensure you get your money back if you meet the requirements of your lease.

Protect Yourself With An Inventory

If there is no concrete record of the condition and contents of the property upon your moving in you could find yourself paying for property damage or loss that occurred before your tenancy. A detailed, professional inventory can protect you, go through the property with a third party and take note of any damage, compile a thorough inventory of every item and back up your list with dated photographs so have proof of the standards upon your arrival. The evidence you compile should be agreed with your landlord prior to your moving in and ensure you both sign documentation. Some items/property damage may seem trivial, a stain on a carpet here and a tiny crack in the glass there, but if things are heated at the end of a tenancy agreement anything overlooked can come back to haunt you so it is important to agree and have evidence to protect both sides from arguments and possible legal action.

Choose A Licensed Agent

When choosing an estate agent the first thing to do is make sure they’re licensed by a body like the NAEA, this ensures that your agent has completed a qualification in estate agency and therefor works to strict rules . With a licensed agent you know you will be treated with fairness and integrity and will be working with an expert who understands the housing market and will help you find the best property for you.

Know Exactly What You’re Paying For

Have a clear understanding of what is included in your rent and the terms and conditions of your lease before you sign on the dotted line. For peace of mind it is a god idea to have a third party that you trust check the document as well so you are completely aware of all relevant information.

Before you sign a contact on a property you need to know the facts, make sure you are fully comfortable with your new home and establish a good relationship with your landlord/letting agent to ensure happy times ahead.

If you’re looking to rent in the London area then do what Emma Smith did and choose Martyn Gerrard Estate Agents, one of the leading estate agents in the London area for over 40 years, to help you find your perfect property.


6 Must See Destinations in London for Tourists

Guest Post by Jenna Lee Smith

Summer is almost upon Londontown. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and the tourists are coming! Every year, hordes of people travel to London to experience the true, English lifestyle. With a variety of attractions and historical destinations, it’s no surprise that many consider London as a home away from home.

If you’re planning on visiting London, you may find it difficult to choose a few tourist hot spots to visit; and with so many attraction choices, who could blame you?. The following landmarks and attractions are just a few ideas that will no doubt make your stay in London a memorable one.

London Zoo

If you’re an outdoorsy kind of person, the London Zoo could be just what you’re looking for. Opened in 1828 in the heart of London, this zoological Mecca was the first scientific zoo in the world. Since then, the zoo has been conducting industry-leading research that better helps us understand the animal world. The zoo features a variety of mammals, reptiles and aviary species that will surely captivate your interests.

Shakespeare’s Globe

Founded in 1599, Shakespeare’s Globe is one of the oldest, historical landmarks in London. The Globe has gone undergone several changes in the past few centuries, but in 1997, it went under its last renovation. The venue now attracts thousands of visitors every year and offers a historical experience and a laudable production programme.

Buckingham Palace

If you to share a royal obsession, then a tour around Buckingham palace should be at the top of your itinerary. Although closed off to locals and tourists throughout the seasons, it normally opens during Summer for people that crave a snoop. The tour offers a stroll around its grounds and majestic interiors. It’s truly a sight for sore eyes!

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Although a big hub of tourist activity, St. Paul’s Cathedral is considered London’s spiritual center by locals. Founded in 604 AD, and remodeled thereafter, it’s one of the oldest religious structures in Europe. It’s most recognizable by its large domes and sky-touching spires and was in fact, the largest building in London from 1710 to 1962. Today, St. Paul’s Cathedral serves as both a place of worship (those attending religious services get in free) and one of the most popular tourist attractions in London.

The Tower of London

Dubbed one of the most haunted places in all of Europe, the Tower of London has been reaching high levels of tourism in the past few years. Not only is the Tower of London a tourist hot spot, but it’s also considered a World Heritage Site, making it one, if not the most historically significant landmark in the UK. If you get a kick out of exploring, the Tower has a day’s worth of turrets and cells waiting to be explored!

The Royal Opera House

London is often seen as the seat of luxury and high-class by most Westerners. So, for tourists that want to have a luxurious experience in London, attending a performance at the Royal Opera House could be what you’ve been looking for.

Constructed in 1712, this cultural hub has been the home of the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet and the Royal Orchestra for the past few decades and have since then, drawn in locals and visitors through its doors. If you plan on attending a show at the Royal Opera House, its always best to wear formal attire.

For the full London experience, why not shop for your stylish attire before you hit the city? Vineyard Vines, a fashionable clothing store sells Men’s Neckties and suits and gala gowns for women; because at the Royal Opera House, you’ll want to dress to impress.

If you plan on visiting London this Summer, make sure you also have free time within your busy itinerary to visit local hot spots that are not necessarily known by tourists. That way you’ll be able to experience London as both a local and a tourist. So, pack your bags, buy your plane tickets, and see you across the pond!

Study In London

Guest Post
Every year more and more people choose London to come and study and often they love the city so much that they choose to make it their permanent home. London is a cultural melting pot and with something for every interest its the best place to come and learn English. Kaplan has three English language schools in London; Covent Garden, Leicester Square and a summer school in Russell Square.

For me the best season for things to do in London is the summer, that’s when the city really comes alive with festivals, foodie events, art openings, and the chance to embrace the open space. This illustration captures the spirit of London, from Tower Bridge to the London Eye we really are spoiled for choice.

london postersKaplan International Colleges

A Guide To Christmas Markets: London Style


If you are looking for somewhere different to do your Christmas shopping or just for a day out, then why not have a wander round some of the interesting Christmas markets in London. These can act as mini Christmas breaks to get you in the festive spirit nice and early. London’s diversity is reflected in the varied Christmas markets available in the UK capital.

The Southbank Centre will be hosting a German style Christmas market from 16th November to Christmas Eve. The wooden chalets offer German charm and there will be a wide selection of gifts on sale, as well as traditional German refreshments such as Gluhwein to warm the cockles. Other German culinary treats on offer include gingerbread hearts, Bratwurst sausages and roasted almonds. The market stretches from the Southbank centre and the London Eye right down to Waterloo bridge.

There is also a Real Food Christmas Market in the Southbank Centre Square on December 14th-16th, where you can treat yourself to any number of tasty morsels to augment your Christmas menus.

Hyde Park offers a beautiful setting for a winter’s stroll. From November 23rd to January 6th, there will also be an opportunity to visit a Winter Wonderland here. Alongside the Christmas Market, there is entertainment for all the family: an ice rink, magical Ice Kingdom, circus, Cirque Berzerk and Giant Observation Wheel mean that you could spend your entire holiday here without running out of fun things to do. The popular Angels Market is joined this year by a second market selling all the Christmas decorations that your heart could desire. If your Christmas tree is looking a little bare, then make a beeline for this area to smother it with all manner of tinsel and baubles.

For a traditional British start to the festive season, why not take a trip to Greenwich market, where they will switch on the lights on November 28th. School children will join in a lantern procession and everyone can join in singing Christmas carols before visiting the wide selection of stalls in the covered market. There will be Christmas themed stalls alongside the many local arts and crafts sellers. Visit Santa’s grotto and maybe let him know what you would love to find in your stocking, only if you’ve been a good boy or girl though.

Cabbages and Frocks’ Christmas market

If you are looking for a more alternative shopping experience, then Cabbages and Frocks’ Christmas market could be for you. The market was originally created by organisers of the popular London Fashion Designer Sales. Fashion is therefore well represented, alongside other designer ware for your home. The market takes place in the grounds of St Marylebone Parish Church and will offer festive food alongside the top quality Christmas designer gifts on sale.

Need Wheels? London Yields: A Breakdown of Transport In London

Look at a map of public transport routes in London and you’ll see a dense web of lines, with a few pockets of ground which can easily be filled on foot or on bike. When it comes to getting around, London is one of the best-served cities on earth.


Once the Victorians had achieved the impressive feat of completing the world’s first network of national rail lines, they boldly began work on a subterranean version which was to span the length and breadth of the capital, and beyond, into the commuter towns of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex. The first route – now then Hammersmith & City line – was built in 1863, the network now comprises 250 miles of track, serving 270 stations.

The London Underground spreads out from the centre, with the greatest degree of connectivity concentrated on the centre, so for anyone staying in zones 1-3, they can pretty much get around all the tourist hotspots by tube alone. A one-time payment of five pounds is required for an Oyster card, which needs regular top-ups, usually working out to less than two pounds per journey, depending on which zones you travel to.

Boris Bikes

 It’s one of the many PR masterstrokes pulled off by London’s incumbent mayor that the notion of his titular modes of civic transport was, in fact, conceived on the watch of his predecessor, Ken Livingstone. Nevertheless, the scheme, sponsored by Barclays, has been deemed a huge success, with 570 stations renting out more than 8,000 bikes. Users registering with TFL pay just three pounds for a key, which unlocks a bike from the docking station for varying levels of access. Casual users, including tourists, can simply swipe their credit card at the nearest station. During the 2012 Olympics, one record-breaking 24 hour period saw more than 47,000 rentals. They’re not for everyone, but it’s worth noting that people on Boris Bikes are three times less likely to be involved in an accident than other cyclists (often considered the bane of motorists and pedestrians alike); this fact is indicative of the level of regard in which the scheme is held.

Car Hire

Ironically enough, the high uptake of public transport in London helps car drivers fare better in the traffic jam stakes when compared to other major cities like Paris or New York. Provided you avoid rush hour, driving around London can be a perfectly smooth, pleasant experience, though affordable parking can be hard to come by. Try here for free parking and visit Enterprise for car hire in the capital.


The red bus has been in operation for more than a century and remains a London icon, recognized throughout the world. Between the buses and the Tube, there isn’t a major tourist attraction you can’t get to on public transport. Fares are cheap and can be deducted from Oyster cards, although many airport buses require a premium fare owing to their outlying locations in Heathrow, Luton, Stansted and Gatwick. Check the TFL bus site for more details including a cool map route tool.


Tramlink runs a three-route system in Croydon, South London, with a possible extension to Crystal Palace announced last year. There is also a proposed Cross River Tram to run from King’s Cross to Brixton, although this project remains on ice until public funding is freed from the current austerity measures. Clearly, taking the tram is not going to be a viable method of travelling around the city, but for tourists in South London looking for something a little different, it’s ideal.

Cable Car

Undoubtedly part of London’s showing-off session during the Olympics, the new Emirates Air Line if a cable car link running across the Thames from the Royal Docks to the Greenwich Peninsula. Built at a cost of £60 million, the cable car opened on 28 June 2012.

Black Cab

Just as iconic as the red double-decker, the motorised Hackney Carriage has been serving Londoners since 1901, with some form of horse-drawn equivalent dating back to the 17th Century. They’re not cheap if you’re travelling long distances, but no trip to London would be complete without a ride in one, and a bit of banter – whether you asked for it or not – from the driver.

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Cinemas: Why They Remain Our Most Popular Hobby

If there’s one family activity that never gets boring, it’s a trip to the cinema. The movies have been a family favourite since the late 19th century, when the earliest silent pictures played to fascinated crowds in Hyde Park. While it has come a long way since then, cinema still holds an affectionate place in all British hearts and here’s a brief look at why.

The numbers

While there have been highs and lows in cinema attendance over the years, there’s always another blockbuster just around the corner to inspire the public’s interest. Many thought the recession would see families stay at home, however in the last decade a very different phenomenon occurred. With the huge popularity of 3D glasses, British crowds have flocked to try out the new cinematic experience that brings films to life in a whole new way.

In 2008 and 2009, 3D films like Avatar and Up, inspired a whole new generation of cinemagoers to return to the big screen. This was supported by the range of hugely popular kids films like Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince and Ice Age II, resulting in the highest cinema attendance in close to three decades.

Today there are approximately 770 Cinemas in the UK, with a total of 3,569 screens, including the popular ODEON Cinemas.

 The cinema today

 The last decade has seen a huge revival in film production, with an emphasis on flicks produced here on home soil. The James Bond franchise has had a massive revival under the first ‘blond Bond’ Daniel Craig who brought a much sleeker, sexier feel to the series than his predecessors. Other big productions have included The King’s Speech and The Iron Lady.

The cinema: a great night out for everyone

Without a doubt, one of the reasons the cinema continues to remain an enduring favourite, is its ability to appeal to people of all ages. There aren’t many activities that work as both a first date idea and a family outing with your parents. Yet British cinema continues to appeal to both.

The cinema is also considerably more affordable than taking an entire family out to dinner. The other big reason that the cinema continues to appeal to everyone are the exciting new experiences it has offers.

Alongside 3D technology, innovative new screens like the ODEON IMAX London cinema are continuing to create cutting edge viewing experiences for a huge range of audiences – cementing cinemas position as our favourite form of entertainment.

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It’s All Fun and Games in London – Fun things to do

Today’s Guest post comes from Jade O’Donoghue, a web and social media editor of Hotcourses. Though initially dreading the disruption of the Olympics in London, she’s now very excited about everything going on in the next few weeks!


As a Londoner who travels around the city on a daily basis, it has not escaped my notice that there’s a fairly big event happening in the capital right now. The Olympics have arrived and many of us will be flocking to the big smoke to watch a variety of sports from football to fencing over the next few weeks.

I’ve heard there’s plenty to keep sport enthusiasts busy in the Olympic Park, but what is there to do when you’re not watching Team GB battle it out against the competition? For locals and tourists alike, I’ve found some exciting things to keep us occupied in London over the next month or so while the Games are on…

Be creative

For the arty types among us who like trying new things, there’s a fascinator experience day happening on the last day of the Olympics, Sunday the 12th of August, where London milliner, Katty Janneh is on hand to help you craft the perfect headwear. Or, if you’re heading up to London with a group, there are flower arranging parties to be booked on Saturdays throughout August. They sound like such a fun way to get together with friends and all materials including refreshments are provided.

See London

There’s no denying London has some stunning sights to see, and the city looks beyond spectacular when it’s all lit up at night. Since the sporting events don’t run round the clock, I found an original way to make memories of the capital in the form of a night time photography tour, taking in the London Eye and Big Ben under the cover of darkness. For those that would rather tour London with their taste buds though, there are wine tasting tours running in the West End across August. We’re promised the chance to sample delicious wines, meet new people and continue the night at the party afterwards where we’ll all be toasting Team GB of course!

Up your fitness levels

It’s hard not to be inspired by the athletes’ impressive sporting abilities and we’d all be lying if we said we didn’t feel the pressure to get fit! There’s loads going on at the moment to encourage people to get into sport but and some more unusual than others. I found a climbing course starting on the 6th of August for adventurous types but if you’re feel really daring there are also pole dancing lessons beginning on the same day!

Relax and unwind

There’s nothing more relaxing than listening to some chilled out guitar tunes and after all the cheering we’re going to need some down time! I discovered there are acoustic music production sessions running on most days that the Games are on, so now I’m desperate to mix my own sounds to unwind to. What’s great is that they’re open to all ages, so the whole family can join in. Then there’s meditation to really calm your body and mind after all the excitement. Chi Kung meditation has been around in China for thousands of years and this course on Saturday the 11th of August promises to de-stress our lives with 7 steps. I’m off to find my Zen!

All the fun things mentioned here can be found on Hotcourses where there are also reviews and articles to help you choose what to do.



Review – Ghost The Musical – London

Today’s guest post is by Ewa Lewucha 
 The West End is an amazing place for an adventurous Friday night. If you’re bored with the cinema, London’s West End has many fabulous theatre shows to watch at the moment.

Piccadilly Theatre formerly known to be home to plays directed by Sir Peter Hall, today delights us with a stage adaptation of Jerry Zucker’s movie Ghost.

Sam and Molly are two young lovers, who have just moved in together. One evening while they are coming back from dinner Sam gets attacked and murdered. Sam finds himself stuck between two worlds and the only person who can hear him is Oda Mae Brown, a spiritual medium. Through her he is able to communicate with Molly as he discovers the truth about his own death.

Ghost The Musical, with music and lyrics written by Bruce Joel Rubin, Dave Steward, Glen Ballard and directed by Matthew Warchus, is a story about love and supernatural powers. Literally.

The UK production features Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman, whose performance is supported  by Paul Kieve, the greatest ghost wrangler ever. The stage is filled with special effects, projections and illusions that make the audience gasp. Even though it will be always compared with the film it’s an adaptation done well and the actors performance is superb. Ghost’s mix of magic and love brought tears to my eyes.

Ghost The Musical is a show that does what its supposed to do – entertain. The show definitely deserved the standing ovation it received from the audience when the curtains went down.

International House: The Best Curry

A special guest post by Gurpareet Bains

Gurpareet Bains, chef to A-listers and royalty, author of Indian Superfood and most recently winner of the 2011 Chef of the Year ‘Curry Gong’ at the English Curry Awards, takes a breather from his book tour to share a select handful of his personal favorite Indian restaurants dotted around the world.


New York, USA

Average $60 per head

Only in the last few years have dapper Indian restaurants started popping up in New York. And although it is most definitely the pioneering days of curry in the US, New York just had to deliver in style…

Devi is America’s only Michelin star Indian restaurant, and accordingly worth a visit. Chefs Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur are sure to whip your taste buds into a frenzy with traditional Indian home cooking fused with the bold flavours of the new world.

I’m salivating just musing over fond memories of the grilled scallops with roasted pepper chutney and bitter orange marmalade, and the signature Tandoori lamb chops with pear chutney. Or for something a little more traditional, how about Phool Makhanee Kee Sabzee (lotus seeds and cashews in a creamy sauce) or the all-time-favourite, and must have Indian street food, Bombay Bhel-Puri?

With an ambience akin to an old worldly Rajasthani boathouse palace, this is the place to entertain and astonish. Be sure to invite your Indian business clients to a dinner at Devi. Deal done and dusted!


Cinnamon Kitchen

London, England

Average $60 per head

With London widely recognised as the curry capital of the world, restaurants on this side of the pond have a mighty high bar to aspire their standards upon – and the Cinnamon Kitchen doesn’t fail to astound. Right in the heart of London’s financial district, the Cinnamon Kitchen is located in a courtyard abuzz with activity. Start with a Cinnamon Spiced Martini in the Anise Bar, sipping it just to the left of the main dining room.

When you’re ready, the main dining room is a converted warehouse with 20 foot ceilings that reverberates a debonair ‘007’ style.  With an exceptional wine-list, a flawless brigade of staff and most importantly, award-winning chefs Vivek Singh and Abdul Yaseen on-hand, you’re really in for a spectacular night.

The menu is short; instead, it focuses on a select few dishes that they get right every single time. Although the meals are presented in an aptly contemporary fashion, with subtle hints of fusion, the food is truly Indian at heart. To start, I’d recommend the Fat Chillies with Spiced Paneer or Hyderabadi Lamb Mince.  As an entree, try Scottish Angus Fillet with Masala Chips or Seared Sea Bass with Kokum Curry and Rice (kokum is slightly sour, although less so than tamarind). The dessert menu is as equally as spectacular – so remember to leave room.


Claridges Hotel, New Delhi, India

Average $30 per head

Dhaba specializes in Punjabi Highway Fare. In the Indian state of the Punjab, locals consider highway eateries – better known as Dhabas – to serve up the best food…and they are absolutely right. It’s rather a kind of street food for people on wheels, who miss home cooking.

Dhaba’s menu is comprised of many traditional family recipes handed down generations. Try something suitably rustic, and typically Punjabi, such as Baingan Ka Bharta (spicy barbecued eggplant), Dahl Makhini (lentils slow cooked overnight, until rich and silky), and accompany this with flaky Tandoori Rotis and some of the more familiar suspects such as meat kebabs and  balti curry dishes – and you will be eating just as heartily as any Punjabi farmer. If you’re not sure what to order, or if you want to try a bit of everything, go for the Thali, which is the chef’s taster menu, and is very much the avant-garde thing to do.

But at Dhaba, it’s not only about the food. The ambience is also of the classic rural highway eatery, complete with a truck fresco, rustic interiors and waiters dressed in traditional Punjabi dress. There is even a thatched ceiling and walls replicating the irregular mud painted texture of a village hut. An old wireless belts out golden oldies from the silver era of Indian cinema, putting the final touches on a perfect evening.


Ravi’s Restaurant

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Average $10 per head

Ravi’s on Satwa Road (near Satwa Roundabout) is an institution, and arguably Dubai’s number one curry house. Set amidst the hustle and bustle of old Dubai, and bounded by spiraling minarets and the haunting sound of muezzins’ calls, this is the place to eat curry.

It’s very much a rough-and-ready diner style restaurant with Formica tables; fortunately, the tacky decor only enhances the experience of Dubai before it became an international tourist destination.

Ravi’s is frequented by the legions of Indian and Pakistani expats living in Dubai – which is always a good sign of authentic food. If you can imagine classic dishes, such as Butter Chicken, Tarka Dahl, Biryani and Naans, all served up in monumental portions, and for just a few dollars – this is Ravi’s!

For more information about Gurpareet Bains and his no.1 bestselling debut cookery book, Indian Superfood (Absolute Press/Bloomsbury Publishing), visit

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