Just Touched Down in London Town......With No Money or Phone!

Janey Amend-Bombara National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland


February 4, 2020
Currently Studying at: National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
Homeschool: Sarah Lawrence College

I’ve been here in Ireland for nearly a month! The time has flown by, and it’s honestly quite crazy how fast I’ve adjusted to life here. I’ve had my ups and downs, sure, like the mold in my house and the utterly baffling campus layout, but I have great friends, interesting classes, and new extracurriculars that I can dive into like Dance Society and Environmental Club!

 Last weekend I decided to take a journey across the (smaller) pond to Oxford, England to visit my friends from Sarah Lawrence. Per usual, it was a last-minute trip, and I booked British Airways flights on Monday, planning to leave on Thursday. I would stay with Jemma from my previous video, and surprise some of my friends as well! It was certain to be a fantastic weekend, and I was having my first bouts of homesickness, so I was excited to see old friends. 

 Well, the trip was amazing! However, the getting there hit me with a number of lessons about planning, trip management, and overall common sense while traveling. In this post, I’m going to go through each mistake, one by one, and hopefully help any other first-time solo travelers avoid these pitfalls!

1. Leave Extra Time

I stayed over the night before my flight with a friend in Dublin, so I didn’t have to get up crazy early for a 9:10 flight. Smart thinking, right? Well, we spent all night catching up and hitting the pubs, and I woke up at 7:30 am with my suitcase astray on the floor, no idea how to get to the airport and a phone on 15%. I grabbed everything in sight, stuffed it in my carryon, and hailed a taxi, managing to get to the airport by 8. I was incredibly lucky and made it through security in 20 minutes, and was one of the last people to board my flight. 

The lure of cheap pints may be strong, but resist the siren call the night before a flight. I don’t drink much, but if you do, and end up sleeping through alarms, you won’t be a happy camper. Go to bed early, and plug in your phone! Security and border control goes faster over here than back in the US, but it’s still a good idea to budget at least an hour to get through. If you don’t clear security within 40 minutes of takeoff, they’ll leave without you!

2. Call Your Bank

The actual flying time is so short to London that by the time the drinks cart made it to me, we were beginning our descent! I quickly ordered a can of coffee (never drink water from the plane!), and a cup of porridge. I handed over my debit card, excited to finally eat, and the ominous denied sound rang out- my card was declined on a 3.5 euro charge surrounded by posh British Airways passengers. I’m not sure the stewardess had ever experienced that! It suddenly dawned on me- I never called my bank to tell them I was traveling. The panic began to set in- I was in a NEW foreign country with no money or way to get to my destination over an hour away. 

Luckily, I have a credit card which mercifully worked! I was able to purchase food, and eventually my bus ticket, with my credit card, but you don’t want to end up in a rough situation if you don't have a backup- or if your backup doesn't work either. Be sure to call your bank a few days before, and let them know you’re traveling and when you’re leaving/coming back. 

3. Check your Phone Plan

I made it off the plane, cleared customs, and finally checked my phone- and it said 'No Service'. Not. Again! My friend had told me which bus to take, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to the bus stop! (And I wasn’t sure how I would even pay at this point!) Luckily, there was plenty of signage pointing towards the pickup area in the airport, and I was brave and asked a few people for directions. And thankfully, by the time I made it to the Oxford stop, my phone plan had connected back again.

Be sure your plan carries over into different countries! I use 3, which works in the UK- it just took a bit of time to connect to the network. You can look up which countries your phone plan will carry over into, and where you can use data versus where you have to pay extra. 

I’m definitely a pretty spontaneous traveler, but there’s such a thing as too spontaneous. Luckily, all my issues were easily resolved but had I not had a phone, or a working credit card, I could have been in a sticky situation. Be sure to plan ahead! All of the issues I ran into could have been resolved with a 10-minute phone call. I’m headed to Paris, France next week, and I’ll be sure to call my bank this time!