Now that the days of my stay here in Wales are coming to an end, I feel inspired to write a how to guide on all that is Wales. Buckle up, its a Wale of a tale.
Firstly, transportation. The taxis are pretty cheap, you can get most anywhere for less than £10, sometimes less than £5. Make sure to bring friends with you, it will lower the cost even more. If you need to take a taxi, whether you’re in Cardiff or in Carmarthen, call ahead of time. If there are taxis waiting, their waiting for their caller. Its not like America where you can flag down a cab on the spot. Aside from taxis, the busses are cheap and if you know where you’re going, it will only cost a couple of pounds. Either get a bus card or buy one on the bus. They give you a ticket right then and there. Getting to and from cities and town you’ll have to rely on the trains or busses. Megabus is a great line for cheap busses but warning, their hours of service are awful. I took a bus from Swansea to London at 4:30 AM. The trains are cheap as well. If you plan on doing a fair amount of traveling by train its smart to invest in a rail card. They’re about £30 but it will save you a third in rail fees. It pays for itself in no time. This is a must have for students and penny pinching business men. Flying in the UK can be cheap. You need to do your research to find cheap flights however. You can get from Manchester, England to Dublin, Ireland for $17. Easy Jet and Ryanair are the cheapest ways to get around. But be warned, they are cheap for a reason. They lack amenities other airlines provide for free. Do your research before buying.
Housing, living in the UK is expensive; even for me a student! I cried when I saw my bank account after submitting my housing payment. So look into couch surfing, cheap hostels, sharing an apartment or house with friends. As with anything, there are ways to cut corners, you just need to find them. However, be warned because your housing in Wales will most likely be the most expensive part of your stay.
Food! I love food! I love eating and I love cooking. One of the things I love about living in the UK is that I can cook much more for myself than I ever did as a student in America. So a couple money saving tips; don’t go shopping on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. its all more expensive because everyone flocks to get groceries on the weekend. Go on a weekday evening if you can. Second, go at night. Tescos is open 24 hours a day. So go later in the day. The store is trying to sell off things that have gone so you can buy a loaf of bread for pennies. That’s right I said pennies. You can bring it home and freeze it for later use. The expiration dates in Wales are different for two reasons. One, the expiration date expires early so there are no lawsuits over food gone bad. They cover their bases unlike America, land of the lawsuit. Secondly, the expiration date simply says when the food is no longer at its peak. its the best it will ever be the day of or the day before the expiration date. You can eat food for weeks after the date has gone. I’ve eaten break for two weeks after the date went. Just smell it, look at what you want to eat and use your best judgement. Buy value brand. If you buy value brand you will save so much more than just buying a nice brand. The food is the same. Look for the deals. Sometimes you can get 2 for 1. Also, check the weight. A pack of cheese may only be a £1 but if its 1KG and theres a 3KG pack of cheese for £1.5, well the better deal is the £1.5. I love to cook, so you can do what you like on this one, but I buy a lot of my own meat and veggies and I cook it myself. It lasts for several dinner and its healthier. I bought a whole chicken today for £3 and it’ll last me long past the weekend. Put some veggies and rice with it, you can have a home made meal for less than a pound. A little effort goes a long way when it comes to food shopping. Don’t be lazy and you’ll have no problem cutting back on the costs.
Party! Buy a flask! store it in your sports jacket or in your purse. Then, if you want buy a drink or two, but drinking in the UK can be really expensive. So look for bars with cheap drinks or discounts. Or you can be a cheeky girl like me, I use a flask and I buy nips (small bottles of alcohol) and I order a coke or lemonade and make my own drinks. It’ll save you about £3 per drink. If you’re a girl and you want to drink for free, I hate to say it, but suck that waist in, push those boobs up and strut your stuff. You’ll have a drink in your hands in no time. For you students, I go to the union. Sure, its not London or Cardiff, but its cheap, its on campus and its fun.
Lastly, the people! I find people in Wales to be extremely friendly and kind. I met some of my best friends the night I arrived in Wales. Again, I tell you the night I arrived in Wales. I forced myself to go outside and mingle and I met some amazing people. They welcomed me in right away. They were so excited that I was American and we’re still my close friends today. If you want to meet people in Wales, just go up and talk to them. They wont bite (unless you ask). They’ll either welcome you in with open arms or if they don’t, then shrug it off and try again; who needs them anyways?
Wales is a hidden gem. It doesn’t get too many tourists or foreigners as everyone wants to be in London. But I assure you, this country is just as homey and nice. There are rolling hills everywhere you look, green surrounds you, and the nightlife in the cities is unforgettable. Its the place that I’ve come to call home and I learned to love. Give Wales a chance and I promise you, you will love it, too.
til next time.