We live in an age where there’s an app for everything, and London life is no exception. Despite the constant struggle with phone storage, these are a few essential apps. I suppose it must be the thrifty Northerner in me but here are some useful – and good value – apps which make life in the capital easier.
Culture & Events
If you can look past the click-bait titles, Secret London is a great website to check when you’re short of something to do. It functions pretty similarly to Time Out, but since there are a million and one things happening on any given night, it’s worth checking both. Recent highlights include a virtual reality experience as part of the BFI London Film Festival, a dance class inspired by Just Dance, and a pop-up restaurant inspired by après-ski (see The Lodge).
One of the best new apps I’ve seen is Too Good To Go,. This offers users the chance to buy food from top restaurants for as little as £2 and a maximum of £3.80. The only catch (if you could even call it a catch) is that the food would otherwise be thrown away. So you’re doing your bit for the environment while eating top-notch food.
My email inbox is choc-a-bloc with offers and discounts from London restaurants, so much so that I set up a separate email address for the money-saving coupon queen within me (think Caroline in Two Broke Girls circa season one). From free burgers at Ed’s Easy Diner to buy-one-get-one-free at Byron (I like burgers, OK?), it’s worth signing up for a bit of spam if you consider yourself a foodie.
I’ve also been made aware of an app called Urbanologie, which notifies its members (yes, it’s members only – more on this later) of pop-ups, new restaurants and all the ‘hot’ places to be/be seen. If I was a 20-something yuppie with a well-paid job in a high-rise building and a bit of money to spend, I’d love it. But I’m not, so it simply serves as a reminder of all the cool things happening in London that I can’t afford. It reminds me of that episode of Friends where they go for a fancy dinner and Rachel orders tap water and side salad. Having recently become a part-time waitress, my views on this are pretty conflicted. The amount I earn in tips is minimal. Service charge is 10 per cent of the bill and because the restaurant works a trunk system (where the manager has the rather amusing title of ‘trunk master’ and therefore gets to dole out the cash as he pleases) we only get a share of half of the total amount. So when someone orders tap water, it puts a cap on my earnings. And when they come in with a Tastecard (which affords 50 per cent off food but drinks are full price) and order tap water, its even worse. Nevertheless, as a student, I can fully empathise with why people do this, not least in London, In the capital, the cost of living is as high as the Gherkin and it sometimes feel like you’d be charged for the air you breathe if that were possible. So, having said that, I’d fully recommend that London students embrace the paradox and get a Tastecard. It gives you 2-for-1 at most participating restaurants. And the best bit? You can obtain them for £1.
Alcohol presents one of the biggest disparities in price between London and the North, aside from rent. The standard price for a pint down here equals the hefty price tag of a boutique beer in Spinningfields, so any saving helps. I mentioned an app called Drinki in my last blog about nightlife but I thought I’d mention it again as there have been some updates since then. You no longer have to check in on Facebook (thankfully) and you have access to offers and discounts as well as the occasional free drink.
When I started uni, I set myself a challenge of committing the whole tube map to memory within the first term. As Christmas approached, I extended my self-set deadline to summer. And when summer finally rolled around, I could only manage to name about 50 out of 270 tube stations (it’s the taking part that counts, right?). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’d be lost (literally) without CityMapper. Google Maps is fine, but if you want reliable information about tube times, walking distance and general A-to-B know-how, you need this app. It even gives you an estimated Uber time. And they have it in Manchester – the dream!
Shopping is my weakness, so Unidays has long been a favourite for making my student loan stretch further. Gone are the days of flashing your student bus pass and hoping the sales assistant takes pity on you; Unidays gives you codes for 10 to 20 per cent off, and occasionally even more. They ran an offer back in September for a discount in Morrisons including alcohol – the student dream.
Chips ’n’ Gravy is Isabel Webb’s blog for Northern Soul. It charts her attempts to navigate student life in London and wear her Northern roots proudly on her sleeve.