Why London Sucks (For Us)

Outside museum natural history London

If you have any experience with long term travel this post is likely to make you go “duh!” It is full of obvious points that support an obvious conclusion. None the less, we spent a month in London as an experiment and I wanted to record the results.

This is going to be pretty negative so be ready for that.

London does not really work for long term travelers for a few very good reasons.

The museum on natural history
The museum on natural history

Expensive Accommodation

Accommodation and rent in London is famously expensive. For the cost of a new high rise apartment with a big TV, a swimming pool and a cleaner elsewhere in the world, in London you get a shoe-box to live in with just enough room to hang up your jacket. You will need your jacket too because…

London streets

Bad Weather

London weather occupies a particularly undesirable range.

With average maximum temperatures ranging from 9 to 23 degrees (Celsius) t-shirt weather is a rare occurrence. Average minimums of 5 to 15 mean that it is also not cold enough to snow properly. Too cold for shorts and t-shirts, not cold enough for skiing.

Oh, but rainfall is amazingly consistent throughout the year. Different times of year get more or less rain but no month can, statistically speaking, expect less than 15 days where it rains at least a little. So if you like rain, London has that in buckets.

The Rosetta Stone

Bad Food

This is possibly tied to it just being generally an expensive place.

Similar to Australia, there seems to be an assumption that good food means expensive food and that finding good food should be reserved for those who have done their research. If you are prepared to seek it out and plop down a big chunk of your hard earned cash you can indeed get world class food but that is the case pretty much everywhere on this planet. There is virtually nowhere where the application of time and money can not get a good meal.

While Londonites say “there is good food, you just need to know where to go” I would argue that requiring local knowledge is the definition of a bad food location. In good food locations you don't need local knowledge to get a great meal because you stumble on it without even trying.

Walking along the Thames London

An Employee-centric Culture

In the places where nomads tend to congregate (Chiang Mai, Bali etc) you will meet a lot of foreigners with some sort of entrepreneurial edge to them. Even if they are not outright running their own business they are freelancing or spending their spare time working on some side project.

This extreme preference for not being a conventional employee seems to be vastly less common in London where banks, insurance companies and similar large institutions rule the roost. This is personal preference of course but I missed getting talking to strangers and hearing about their new iphone app, the headaches they are having getting their widget manufactured in China or how their website just got slammed by Google because of some shady SEO trick they now regret.

packed ready to go london

The biggest problem of all is that there really isn't anything to offset these negatives for us. Salaries can be high but we aren't looking for a job. There is plenty of night life but as a married couple with a young child we aren't really interested in that. The museums are wonderful but there is only so long you can spend in museums, especially with a baby in tow. There is just nothing in London that makes us think “this makes it worth it.”

So if you are a young single person looking for a big city experience, London could work for you. If you are in banking, insurance, corporate IT or similar, London could work for you too. But if you are more interested in a high quality of life at reasonable prices, steer clear.

Finally, Tina and Graham, we will see you again soon. Either we will be passing through or you can come visit us somewhere sunny 🙂

6 thoughts on “Why London Sucks (For Us)

  1. 100% agree. It was nice to housesit there for a bit but I think, even if I had tons of money, I wouldn’t live there, just too many amazing places in the world with significantly better quality of life for a much lower price.

  2. There is tons of great Indian food in London that is cheap. Granted I haven’t been there in a long time but that has been true for a long time, so I believe it must still be so. Since Indian is my favorite food that works out fine for me.

    London is certainly one of those places where if you are rich it can be great. Not being rich makes it more challenging. It is a great place to visit, I think; but staying long term if you are not doing very well financially, or are thrilled being a stereotypical college student (or continuing the college life – live cheap other than drinking…), is more problematic. I think it can be a good place to visit long term even if not rich but there are more challenges that must be dealt with and the fit depends on you. If you love museum, art, theatre, music… it can be a pretty great place.

  3. I spent only one night in London, but I was lucky because an old friend was living there so she chose the restaurant, and it was excellent. I must say, however, I was stunned by the prices.

  4. Love your bit about the food – haven’t had anything good yet (apart from what my friends cooked) and was left feeling like it was somehow my fault. No! In Costa Rica the smile rice and beans/fruit is 10x better than anything I’ve had here. When I was in The upper Midwest/Chicago any real burger place was better than the best “gourmet” London burger joint – and for 1/4 the price. And it doesn’t hold a candle to Brussels/ Paris

  5. As a travel blogger who lives in this place, I totally agree with you. While local food is fine, visitors would not know where to look. Like all tourist cities, food is for those who are not there tomorrow, costs a lot and tastes terrible for the most part.

    There are 2 large hostels and they can be listed as the worst on the planet.

    Transportation is not geared for visitors. You cannot buy a paper ticket like everywhere else, you buy a card that covers you for the most expensive and unreliable public transport I have ever run across – anywhere. Plus it is really uncomfortable. The immigrants to here are okay, the local English are a pain in the butt and often will lie to you so that you go away.

    Others have seen what I see and have written the place off as a waste of space. There are much better and more visitor friendly cities in other countries that are actually enjoyable.

    If you want to visit England, miss London altogether and head for Oxford, where you can catch a bus (X5) to Cambridge. A week or so on that: you will cross middle England, not pay as much and meet some fairly nice people. There are budget hotels (Premier Inns – book ahead for cheaper prices) all along the route. Travel slow and enjoy the scenery (when it’s not pouring with rain).

    England does not have a climate – just weather 😉

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