- 1 Housing
- 2 Food
- 3 Medical Care
- 4 Legal Aid
- 5 Armed Forces/Deployment Avoidance Counseling
- 6 Play
- 7 Information
- 8 Underground Papers
- 9 Miscellaneous
- 10 Getting around
- 11 Free Clothing and Furniture
- 12 Assorted Freebies
- 13 Survive
If info from newspapers (and the internet) can be trusted, Belgravia and Mayfair districts of Westminster have many empty buildings worth millions of pounds and they are favourite target for squatters.
Practical squatting evenings
These are held from 7pm till 8pm 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 56 Infoshop (56a Crampton Street) and 3rd Tuesday each month at Pogo Cafe (76a Clarence Road). Very few people attend them however.
Advisory Service for Squatters
If you need LEGAL advice it's the place to go (Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street). Better call - indeed, they may not have the time to talk to you, as they are constantly answering to phone calls). It's open Monday-Friday 2pm-6pm.
The Squatters' Handbook
It's mostly on legal matters, not really worth spending your money on, if you're squatting with other people (as you should - otherwise you're not legally protected anyway when you're out), they should know all this stuff anyway. It costs 1.50 pounds and you can get it from ASS or 56 Infoshop.
ASS and 56 Infoshop have these, with most notices being out of date, some several years old.
Funny, but in London (which is believed to have plenty of squats) all public ones seem to be evicted, so in order to find any squats you'll either have to rely on word-of-mouth or be on the lookout for "legal notices" pinned on the doors.
You can go to the Highway centre (Fountayne Rd, tube: Seven Sisters). You can find it where Fountayne Rd turns to the right (check on Google Maps), in the industrial area. It's advisable not to go there until 11 pm, as it's the time when everybody goes to sleep (it's inhabited by many Polish long-term heavy drinkers). At 6 am everybody has to go.
- American Church (79a Tottenham Court Road (entrance from Whitfield Street, tube: Goodge Street, bendy bus: 73, 29) 10am Monday-Saturday (except Wednesday). Shitty food.
- A van parked next to the bus stop at 2pm next to King's Cross railway station, York Way (bendy bus: 73 (go forward, then turn left for York Way); bus: 17, 91, 390). Not tasty, but healthy food.
- Many cars and/or vans at Lincolns Inn Fields (tube: Holborn). Friday-Sunday next to the university, Monday-Thursday the opposite corner of the park. Monday-Friday 7:30pm, Saturday-Sunday 6:30pm. Quality of food varies.
- Manna centre (6 Melior Street, tube: London Bridge) at 11:30am. Shitty food.
- Temple Pl (tube: Temple) Sundays 6:30pm. Decent food.
Skipping (dumpster diving)
- New Covent Garden Market (tube: Vauxhall) is great. Turn right from the bridge, go forward, then turn right again, walk until you see "New Covent Garden Flower Market", walk in there, turn right and you should find it. Look for boxes of veggies on the street. 9am seems to work fine, coming earlier is probably better.
- Just walk in the City of London in early evening. There's plenty of Pret-A-Manger, Eat, Starbucks and other retailers which often have big trash bags in front of them. They're all in very public places, so if you're ashamed of doing this, well, you have a problem. On weekends pretty much everything in the City is closed, try Westminster instead.
No joke: a milkman seems to exist in London, as sometimes in early morning you can stumble upon bottles of fresh milk in front of buildings (or even in a railway station). So, when you see them, pick some up and note down the place to be able to return the next morning!
Emergency medical care is covered under National Health Services even for non EU and UK residents. Remember call 999 not 911 for emergencies.
ACLU, free legal aid/counseling, pro bono attorneys, etc.
Armed Forces/Deployment Avoidance Counseling
Legal aid, resources, etc.
The few libraries which don't require proof of address are listed here.
General weather, traffic, news resources, etc.
London is one of the most multicultural cities in the entire world, with people in it coming from every corner of the earth. Because of this it is not uncommon to find certain areas being populated largely by certain ethnic groups.
For example London has the biggest China town in the UK as well as a large Jewish community and a large Asian community. Most of these communities live in isolated ethnic groups so if you are familiar with the group you shouldn't find it hard fitting in.
London is considered the most congested city in the world. Driving is not recommended, especially through central London and public transport is often crowded, even late at night.
many shops stay open late and quite a lot of restaurants or fast food places will stay open all night, these places do normally have a larger security team though. If you're not used to seeing a security guard at the front of every McDonald's and burger king then you are in for a culture shock.
Britain is the worlds most spied on nation in the world, with more cameras per person than anywhere else on earth. London is no exception. The authorities in London are terrified of terrorism and take any possible threats incredibly seriously, they also use the sense of national fear to employ strict security rules. Metal detectors, CCTV cameras and see-through bins (so we can see bombs) are a common sight.
Police have the authority to hold terror suspects for up to 40 days without questioning or charge. They are also able to search any suspects without written permission, on the streets if needed. So under no circumstances should you act shifty, draw attention to yourself and you should definitely not piss of a cop. However we do not have the death penalty or armed police here, so if you do something bad you should probably just kill yourself rather than rot in prison.
London literally has its own underground paper, run by the underground transport authority and is available free in every tube station. Sadly it is a massive pile of shit and is completely useless to anyone as reading material. It is however popular with homeless people as insulation.
Almost every uni in London (of which there are a lot) has its own student newspapers. These are often found in the lobbies or libraries of the universities and range from quite good to terrible. Depending on what the university or college is the content of these papers varies. For example kings college has a monthly high quality magazine about video game culture (which is obviously crap) and London met. has a regular newspaper about the arts.
The papers are always free and often not very political, but as they are aimed at students they are a great place to find out local news, especially related to student life. Naturally this means the normal bohemian poser shit is included but they are also a good way to find about upcoming events that may be useful to you.
- If you want to crash somewhere during the day, the Westfield shopping centre (tube: Wood Lane) has some good chairs.
- Charing Cross railway station (tube: Charing Cross) has free Central London maps (rather low-quality, though). It also has a large selection of newspapars and magazines in front of it (also in Polish and Russian), if you're desperate for something to read.
- There is a monthly publication for the London's homeless called The Pavement, also available online, it has listings for many free services.
- Victoria railway station seems to be open all night. There is even a blue information terminal in front of it for the homeless, it doesn't provide you with any useful info, though.
London is very expensive to travel using the established public transit system, taxis or fuel for a car are even worse, you need to think of alternatives if you want to get around.
It's preferable that you have a valid ("validate" it only for half a second to prevent it from working) or invalid Oyster card, an old paper ticket or at least an Oyster-card-looking piece of paper, because not having anything makes it obvious that you're fare-dodging. Invalid Oyster card is obviously best, since you can claim that you don't know why it's not working, which is not the case with old paper tickets, valid Oyster cards or pieces of paper. On the other hand, with a valid Oyster card you can always resort to paying if you wish to.
See Trains for tips getting through barriers.
You don't need a ticket to get on the DLR trains, but there are uniformed ticket inspectors operating on them.
The bus is slow, routes are generally short and no complete bus map seems to be available, but it's preferable to tube as you don't need a ticket to get off it. When you hop on, the driver is obviously less likely to bother you if:
- if it's the bendy bus which has several entrance doors,
- if you can't buy tickets on board (look if all lines in the bus stop are marked in yellow),
- you "validate" something or show a ticket (bus stops sell daily and single-journey tickets) to the driver when getting on board (there's a good chance he will not inspect it),
- there are many people getting on the bus,
- if you're not getting on a heritage Routemaster bus - these have a conductor on board!
Oyster card tricks
- Have a recording of the sound oyster cards make when they get scanned as good, and play it when you get on the bus, works 9/10 times as the driver wont see anything on the machine show up but often he wont be looking at it and just waiting to hear the beep, or so bemused that he won't say anything.
- Put your thumb in the way so it rejects but your usually 3 people forward in a line of people so you cant get back.
- Put it against the scanner then quickly take it away again, same happens as above.
Trains can be handy in London, as there are a lot of stops in the city. There are always several uniformed guys standing next to the gates at most main stations, but if you go in/out with a crowd of people, it shouldn't be a problem. Two exceptions are Waterloo East and part of King's Cross which are ungated.
Try bunking between two ungated stations at rush hour, the carriages will be too packed for the ticket inspectors to get on.
If your feeling thorough wait at the end of the platform where back of the train will pull up. As it goes past look in to see if there's any inspectors (easy to spot with stupid hats, lurching around in pairs). Now your sure the trains clear walk up to the front grab yourself a newspaper till the next stop, and then check that platform as the train pulls in. If there's any inspectors you'll see them, if there's not... rinse and repeat.
There are many ways of doing it but the trick is to remember which stations have gates, and which don't. You'll find a lot of them on the fringes of Zones 2 out to Zone 5 that will have no gates. You should also remember that a lot of tube stations aren't manned after 10pm anyway, and you can simply slip under the gates or jump them without hassle. My best example of traveling using the London transport system for free would be to say, start your journey on the DLR (using Shadwell as an example) and then riding it to Bank. Once the train pulls into Bank, you are past the barriers and inside the tube station, and inside the tube network.
Now what? Exiting the tube. There are a few ways to do this. Places like Waterloo or Highbury and Islington have only "tap sensors" meaning that if you want to tap your card, you can. (Be aware, Waterloo only has this on the "Waterloo and City" line side of the station). Stations are still fantastic for 'bunking' trains as most do not have electronic gates or guards checking the tickets.
Another example from getting from across the city would be to get on the DLR, Go to Stratford, take a National Rail service from Stratford all the way to Willesden Junction, change to the overland to Clapham Junction (Which you can walk out of) and bingo! You've just gone from North East zone 3 to South West!
UK Train Travel
- Newport - carpark exit, gates often down.
- Cardiff - ungated Cathys train station nearby (by the student union building)
- Surbition - travel after 8am to 6pm when gates are down.
- Woking - Fence at the side you can jump though
- Guildford - Side door with the code "3524" and they let people just walk through - Blag it, say you were using the car park and now just leaving the station
- Havant - Ungated on ONE side
- Fratton - Ungated on ONE side
- Portsmouth - ungated Fratton station 15min walk away
- Chester - tell a guard you've come from Shotton and there were no ticket operator on the train.
- Liverpool - see above but say Brunswick
- Cambridge - see above but say Waterbeach.
Since it is often wet and dim even during the day, consider using your safety LED flashers at all times. You will need fenders and a good rain jacket especially in winter.
To put it short: London is bad for this. It's not only because of it's size, but also because the streets are usually crowded, particularly in the city centre. The streets may be wide, but the sidewalks are not.
Free Clothing and Furniture
A skip is like the British version of a dumpster, a huge open metal box, no wheels and no lid (normally). They're most often found round the back of shops and shopping complexes as well as outside pretty much any building site.
At a building site you can usually find scrap material, like wood or brick, as well as shabby stuff that they're throwing out, tables chairs or maybe even quite good furniture is not a rare find in these skips. Depending on the construction company the builders don't normally mind you taking this stuff, and unlike dumpsters you can't roll them away and so they won't be locked.
At the very least these a great place to find wood suitable to burn, sometimes suitable to reuse.
Primarks are incredibly popular with the poorer people of Britain huge primarks can be found in almost every major city, they deal with incredibly cheap and surprisingly good, at times "stylish" even, clothing. They are well known for their obscenely low prices.
Locations of all their stores can be found on their website, they range from normal clothing change store size to multi-floor clothing complexes, selling thousands and thousands of cheap clothes.
However do not believe the bullshit that primark feeds you, they are no different to any other national clothing chain, besides their low prices. The materials are not made from organic, fair trade or even high quality fabric, most if not all clothes are made through sweat shop labour and they pay their employees terribly, as well as being anti unionist.
Primark is not an ethical company (but does that exist?) and so should only be used as a last option for picking up some bargain clothing that may be essential in your travels.
The Connection at St Martin's centre (12 Adelaide St, tube: Charing Cross) provides web access. Computer room on first floor (preferred) from 9.30am to 12.30pm (except on Wednesdays and weekends). Headphones are available. Workspace room on first floor: 9.30-12.30pm (except on weekends), you're supposed to be looking for work here, therefore it's censored. Basement floor: 9am-12.30pm (not on weekends, only two computers). Ground floor: 9am-1pm. Basically you move between these when you're asked to to leave when there's a queue. On weekends you're obviously fucked, just ask to write down your name again and again. You will have to register at the centre the first time you go there.
Showers and razors are available in St Martin (basement floor), Manna and Highway (no razors) centres.
St Martin centre has washing machines on the basement floor, there's a queue, so it's preferable that you come early.
Holland Park (tube: Holland Park, High Street Kensington) is great for camping as it has plenty of trees and bushes which, if you choose the place carefully, can make you invisible even during daytime, and it's close to the city centre. It's "closed" during the night, well not quite, as you can simply walk in through Holland Car Park (Abbotsbury Rd). There is also a place (rather public, though, other people may show up there in the middle of night) where you can shelter yourself from rain, few meters from the car park. There is no security, but police will ride in their car through the park in early morning to open all gates.
Provide any city-specific details, including new topics.
Playing an instrument is a popular way for homeless and poor people to make a little extra money. In London though it is illegal to busk without a buskers license. These can be obtained through post offices and online.
Because of the licensing laws many public areas do not allow buskers (or beggars) and it is frowned upon in the underground (but still happens regularly). Performing without a license could get you a fine or even arrested and you will definitely be asked to leave the premises. Because of these ridiculous oppressive laws it is recommended not to play in the presence of any police officers or security guards, although the average londoner won't give a shit if you play or not.
Because busking is so popular many people ignore it and won't give money, it also makes it a competitive business with arguments often occurring over certain spots.
The best advice is to be cheery and upbeat and to avoid any uniformed officials that may get you in trouble if you don't have a license. Buskers are treat much the same as homeless people so try to look at least mildly presentable also.