Checklist - The not-so essentials, things you might miss:
Good chewing gum
Checklist - The things to be wary of to bringing:
Electrical goods. The US runs at a different voltage to the UK and certain electrical appliances will not work over here without a transformer. Others will work with a simple adaptor.
A4 paper and UK hole punches. The US uses letter sized paper and 3 hole punches.
2| Arriving in Philadelphia/Orientation Philadelphia is laid out in a grid system, making it very easy to navigate. Numbered streets run north-south starting in the east next to one of the city’s two rivers, the Delaware, which separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey. These streets, 1st (Front) St, 2nd St, 3rd St all the way up to 69th St, are broken only by the aptly named Broad St (aka 14th St), which roughly separates Old City from Center City and the city’s second river, the Schuylkill (pronounced SKOO-KILL), at 24th St, which you are likely to cross on the way to school. The University lies between 34th and 40th streets. Running east-west Market St forms the central intersection with Broad St. South of Market St are to be found Chestnut, Walnut, Locust, Spruce, Pine, Lombard and South. Arch, Race, Vine, Callowhill and Spring Garden Streets are to the north.
finding building numbers
Very easy and logical. Street numbers on the east-west streets (Market, Chestnut etc.). Start with the numbers of the nearest north-south cross street. Example, 2400 Chestnut is on Chestnut, right next to 24th St. 2162 Pine is on Pine just after (i.e., west of) 21st St.
Finding numbers on the north-south streets is similarly easy. Think of Market Street as 0. Buildings to the north of Market run 1,2,3 North - e.g., 242 N 18th St. Buildings to the south run 1,2,3 South - e.g., 622 S 2nd Street. (Don’t confuse the S to mean South Street!)
3| Philadelphia Transportation
to and from philadelphia airport Taxi | $30 (+tip), 20 minutes
You’ll find plenty waiting at the airport. In town, either order in advance or hail one on the street.
Shuttle | $10-15 per person (+ tip), 20 minutes
Here, the deal is: share with strangers. Shuttle companies run a fleet of minivans at the airport; which wait until they are full of people headed to the Philadelphia metro area and then hit the road. It’s good value if you have heavy bags and don’t want to mess with train connections since they take you to your exact destination. But don’t take a shuttle if time is a factor. Waiting is part of the game, and you never know who will get dropped first.
Order at the airport (Shuttleking on 1-888-628-8228, Lady Liberty on 215-333-1441). They pick you up from your door and occasionally make other stops. From the airport, you can order Lady Liberty when you land. Ask at information for the phone, and you can make a toll-free call to their dispatcher.
Train | $8, 20 minutes
Trains run from within the airport to University City (32nd and Spruce), Amtrak 30th St Station (30th and Market) and Suburban Station (Center City, 18th Market). The journey is about 20 minutes, and you can buy tickets on the train. Caution: leave extra time if you plan on arriving or departing from Suburban Station. It’s a confusing underground terminal and is pretty tough to navigate. Check out the timetable at www.septa.org/service.html. You want the R1.
Bus | Unfortunately, there are no buses to the airport.
to new york Train | Amtrak - $100+ return, 1hr 30mins
From 30th Street Station, every hour to New York’s Penn Station (you can buy a Student Advantage Card for $20, to get a 15% discount).
If you travel frequently on Amtrak, you may want to join the Amtrak reward points scheme. You can join online by going to www.amtrak.com and clicking on frequent travelers. Note that you can rack up points quickly if you fly Continental as you can convert air-miles into reward points.
Train | New Jersey Transit - $35 return, 2hrs 30mins
The cheaper option, for students with more time than money. Trains go hourly. Take the SEPTA R7 train from 30th Street Station or Suburban Station to Trenton. Change trains for the New Jersey Transit service to New York. (N.B. Buy your ticket at 30th Street Station at the NJT ticket machines, as the connection time is tight at Trenton). Check out the timetable at www.septa.org/service.html
Bus Megabus and Bolt Bus – $10-18 each way. These are new buses that leave from 30th Street Station. Fares are determined by when you buy them online. There are occasions when you can go for $1 each way! www.boltbus.com and www.boltbus.comBus | Greyhound - $40 return. 2-4hrs (depending on traffic)
Buses leave hourly from the Greyhound Terminal at 10th and Filbert Street. Videos on the bus. Times vary, depending on traffic. You are dropped at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which is located at 42nd St. and Eight Ave. in Manhattan. Reserve seats at greyhound.com.
Bus | “The Chinatown Bus” - $20 return. 1hr 30 mins- 4hrs (depending on traffic)
This is a truly wondrous thing. Cheaper, quicker but a little less reliable than Greyhound, “The Chinatown Bus” is in reality a group of separate companies that each run at least 14 daily services to NYC. Go to www.staticleap.com/chinatownbus to choose between Apex, Today and New Century Buses. Unsurprisingly, they leave from Chinatown (11th and Arch) in Philadelphia and Chinatown, in New York (88 or 59 East Broadway, Manhattan). Some people allege that they oversell buses and “bump” people onto later services like airlines. Don’t risk this. Show up early.
to other destinations Boston and Washington, DC | Amtrak, Greyhound, Boltbus, Megabus and the great Chinatown bus all service these cities. The process for researching and buying tickets is the same as for New York.
Other U.S. Cities | Most journeys will require getting on a plane. As ever, STA Travel is your best bet for routinely low fares. Call them toll free for a quotation on any route (1-800-781-4040), or visit a branch, either in Houston Hall, or at 3606 Chestnut Street.
returning to the uk The best airfares are to be found online. Sites like Expedia and Travelocity will always give you a decent base rate, but careful surfing will always result in saving money. The market changes so quickly that there are few hard and fast rules on searching for cheap fares, but there is an online guru for this. His name is Edward Hasbrouk. Read his tips at www.gonorthwest.com/Visitor/planning/best_airfares.htm
An important key to gaming the system is flexibility. For example, look for flights returning to Newark airport, since fares can be substantially lower and still save room for a cheap train ride home. Iceland Air has a very cheap route from New York to London (via Reykjavik, naturally), so a combined Big Apple daytrip/London vacation represents great value. Plus you get to say you’ve been to Iceland. If you are returning for Christmas, you will save a ton of cash if you are willing to fly on Christmas Day.
Plus, if you still have a debit or credit card drawn on a British bank, you can use farebase.co.uk, which is a fare consolidator site run in the UK.
In short, there are as many ways to save on airfares as there are hours in the day. How low a price you manage to find depends on how many of those hours you sit in front of a PC.
getting around town Your transport needs will mostly be handled by SEPTA – the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transport Authority – who run all the public transportation in and around the city. Be patient with it. After all, its inspiring slogan is: “We’re Getting There”.
Subway | The Philly subway system has two metro lines that cross the city (north-south/east-west) and an excellent trolley-car system that only serves West Philly. It’s good for getting between Penn and Center City, but if you stray too far from the major arterial routes, expect a walk to your destination.
A ride to anywhere on the system within the city is $2.25 in cash (coins or bills), EXACT CHANGE ONLY. Accept this. The staff can’t access the cash box, even if they wanted to. You can also buy tokens to ride the system. These cost $1.50 each and represent pretty good value. Buy twenty at the start of a semester and keep some in your bag, wallet, or purse. You can use the same tokens for the subway or the bus, which is handy. Buy tokens either downstairs at Houston Hall (34th and Spruce), CVS 34th and Walnut or upstairs at the Penn Bookstore (34th and Walnut). There are also token machines at some stations. A full list is available online at www.septa.org/fares/sales_locations/token_machine.html You can also buy daily, weekly, and monthly passes, which not only provide savings but also offer discounts at various venues. Penn also has a specially negotiated semester pass.
SEPTA is always in a funding crisis, so these prices and information are thus subject to change.
Bus | A decent service: pick up schedules in Houston Hall, or on the buses themselves. From Center City to school, try the no. 21 or 42 on Walnut Street, or no. 40 up Lombard Street. Again, rides cost $1.80 for a token or $2.25 on the bus - EXACT CHANGE ONLY.
Go to www.skookul.com to see real time updates of bus location for any of the SEPTA routes.
Campus Bus | Penn provides a free shuttle bus from campus between 5pm and 3am. From 5pm to 1am, there is a bus that goes every 20mins from a number of locations around campus (main ones include Moravian Cafes at 34th and Walnut, the Penn Bookstore (36th and Walnut), the WaWa convenience store at 37th and Spruce, Houston Hall (34th and Spruce), and David Rittenhouse Labs (DRL) (33rd between Walnut and Spruce).
Buses EAST to Center City at 5pm, 5:20pm, 5:40pm etc. from Moravian Cafe
Buses WEST to West Philly at 5:10pm, 5:30pm, 5:50pm etc from DRL
This might change, so pick up a schedule from the GSC or check it out at Moravian Cafe
There is also the free phone-up shuttle service, which will pick you up from any location within its boundaries and drop you at another. Call 215 898 RIDE.
Walking Escorts | Penn provides security with walking escorts on and around campus after dark. Call 215 898 WALK to order a friendly guard to escort you for free.
Cars | Owning a car in the city is tricky as insurance and parking are expensive, and finding parking is very frustrating. Don’t get a car until you’ve arrived and feel you REALLY need one. It often makes sense to save the money and just use a taxi or rent a car when you need it.
Enterprise Car Share Drive Prius hybrids, Minis, BMWs, pickups, and more, steps from home or office! Simply reserve online, hop in using your personal key, and go. Enjoy hundreds of locations and available cars at a moment’s notice. Join FREE. Rates from $3.90/hour or $39/daycover gas, insurance. This is the best option for rentals since there are many pick-up and drop-off locations as well as a partnership with Penn.
Also Zipcar (special Penn plan).
Car Rental | Renting a car is easy and inexpensive in Philly. There are numerous agencies with pick-up points in the city, but Enterprise (1-800-RENT A CAR) is the cheapest, and very convenient (located at 36th and Chestnut). As long as you’re over 21, have a credit card and a UK drivers’ license, you will be fine. Rates are as cheap as $10 a day for the weekend. Check out other good deals online. Beware that some companies don’t rent to those under 25 yrs old.
If you book online, Hertz, Avis, Budget, etc. all have good deals too. Budget is located on Market (at 19th), which is ideal for the weekend. It is also worth signing up for a free credit card with some banks, which give you free car insurance with it. That way when you rent the car on your credit card, you’re saved the cost of the insurance.
Biking | This is the cheapest, healthiest, and usually quickest way to get around the city.
There’s a good sale of second-hand bikes on campus – watch out for the sign at 37th and Locust Walk early in the semester. The best second-hand bike store is in South Philly - Via Bicycles at 9th and Bainbridge. Their hours are quirky, so call before planning a visit (215-627-3370). There are also lots of bike shops around campus (23rd/South, 40th/Locust, 17th/Chestnut) where you can buy repairs and gear. If out in West Philly there is Firehouse Bikes at 64th and Baltimore. St Mary’s Church (40th and Locust) has a bike repair cooperative, in which you can ‘earn a bike’ for free by building it yourself from recycled parts.
Philly is terrible for potholes and punctures however, so be prepared to change those tires frequently. A helmet is also a must, as the car traffic here is not very biker-friendly.
New scheme called “Penn Cycle”, student run offering bikes by the hour, day or month.
Travel times - You can walk from the heart of campus to the heart of Center City in 40 minutes. On a bicycle, you can cover a huge area and essentially get to anything you wish in 20-25 minutes. Bus travel is dependent on traffic and whether it is some Philly driver’s turn to crash that day.
4| Accommodation Most graduate students live off campus. Finding accommodation is generally pretty easy, however, it requires careful choice of location and residence, since not all of Philly’s neighborhoods are the most salubrious. You may also want to look into becoming a Residential Advisor (RA) – you get free accommodation in undergraduate dorms in exchange for looking after them – a few recent Thourons have done this for a year or more, so get in touch for more info.
where to live off campus The main choice is Center City versus West Philly. Center City has all the advantages of a big city: lots of shops, restaurants, convenience and nightlife. However, it’s more expensive (you are looking at anything from $800-$1800 + per month). West Philly is green and quiet, and has a neighborhood feel, with undergrads, professors and local families mixing. However, it can be dangerous, is far from nightlife, and is limited in shops.
Whichever of the two you decide on, it’s important you chose a street carefully. Things change block by block in Philly, so while one street is safe and pleasant, the next can be dangerous or not so nice. The best option is to go by the rough guidelines set out below, but contact a current Thouron, or check out the area yourself, before settling on anything.
Rittenhouse/Central Area: Chestnut-South, 26th-15th Streets. More expensive, but convenient. Mostly high rise managed apartment blocks or apartments in brownstone houses. 20-25 minute walk to school, 0-5 minutes to the center of town. The most popular apartment blocks, and also the more expensive, are in this area. These include 2400 Chestnut (www.2400Chestnut.com), Locust Point at 2429 Locust or Locust on the Park next door. 1500 Locust, The Grande on 15th and Chestnut, Wannamaker on 20th and Walnut and Historic Landmark buildings such as 2121 Market. Their websites have info on availability and cost. Before settling on anything, do email current Thourons, who will know many of the potential residences.
Gay neighborhood: 13th-10th South-Walnut. Less expensive, but not as safe or nice. Apartments in brownstone houses.
Italian Market: 9th-13th, South of South (Bainbridge, Fitzwater, Catherine) Greener, nice neighborhood feel, a bit further from campus, less expensive. Houses or apartments in houses.
Old City: North of Market, between Front and Fifth Streets. Old industrial area, now gentrified with many art galleries and loft conversions. More expensive than Italian Market but less than Rittenhouse.
Graduate Hospital: South of South Street just over the bridge from University city, 15th to 25th street. Best to stay North of Washington Avenue. Can find prices in the $450-$650 per person per month range if willing to live in a shared house.
West Philly Anything within the grid between Chestnut and Pine, and 37th and 42nd should be ok. Beyond that can be dodgy. Check with current Thourons for up-to the minute crime info.
things to consider
Laundry facilities: lots of apartments have laundry facilities in the building. In Center City there are lots of laundromats around too.
Utilities: check to see if utilities are included. If not, they could add up to $100 per month, depending on season (heating/aircon) and number of people.
Transport: there is a free Penn Shuttle Bus service every evening from 5pm to 3am. It goes as far as 20th Street (between Chestnut and South) in Center City, so if you want to avoid walking alone after dark, chose a location within or near to that boundary. 2400 Chestnut offers a free shuttle in the morning and afternoon.
Furniture: most places are unfurnished in Philly, which means investing in furniture. A trip to IKEA, on Columbus Boulevard (1st St) or a comprehensive moving sale of someone in the area is the best solution. Things are inexpensive so it’s not really worth bringing stuff from the UK unless you’re here for a long time. There’s a pretty active resale market, so you can buy plenty of stuff secondhand and rest assured you’ll be able to sell it again when you’re done.
Doormen/Post Delivery: we all hope for flowers to be delivered to our front doors. There’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to receive such packages, because you weren’t there when UPS called. Having a doorman is useful for this reason (and for security). Check out both security and post delivery options of any place.
Landlords: If you’ve got a problem with the electrics, gas, hot water etc, you want it sorted out swiftly. Check out carefully what your potential residence’s policy is on such problems. (NB: Check out survey results on the off-campus living website about landlords and residences in the city.)
Leases: many leases run for a year. Some are more flexible. If you know you don’t want to be there over the summer, don’t worry; it’s easy to find sub-letters. You’ll be required to pay a deposit, so make sure you’ve got the extra month’s rent upfront. Also consider negotiating a 22-month contract if you are here for two or more years.
Cars: parking and insurance in Center City are a nightmare. Both are expensive, and parking highly inconvenient. West Philly is better, but not ideal. Check out the transport section, but think twice, or at least wait till you get here before deciding on whether or not to get a car. Some apartments do offer parking, usually around $200/month. 2400 Chestnut is unique in offering $80/month parking.
how to find a place You’ve got various options, depending on how early you’re coming to Penn.
…arriving at the start of term in September, find something before you come. Look at the Center for Off Campus Living website(www.offcampusliving.com). Also log onto www.citypaper.com and www.philadelphiaweekly.com for info on apartments for rent.
…coming over the summer, either find something as above, to start the lease when you arrive, or find a sublet on the above resources, and look when you arrive in Philly. Over the summer there is a lot available to start renting in September. NB: Talk to current Thourons, who may have sublets available, or know of others who do.
…winging it and just want to turn up and get a feel for the place before deciding where to live, you’ve also got a few options. There are a few youth hostels in Philly ( a youth hostel in Fairmount park— very inconvenient for public transport, despite the beautiful setting)_ but best of all, current Thourons. Nearly everyone has a sofa, or spare bed, so your staying for a few nights till you’ve found your own place isn’t a problem. In the past, Thourons have all said that they didn’t want to take up this offer, fearing it would be an inconvenience. All of us have been in the situation and are therefore happy to help newcomers out. The benefit of talking to current students can’t be overemphasized, and there are potential upsides for both parties. If an incumbent recommends a new tenant, free rent, cash back, etc. might be shared.
Note that GAPSA has a website that rates Philly landlords according to student’s feedback; good for avoiding suspect letting agents: www.rentci.com.
5| Your First Days at Penn When you arrive make sure your visa stamp is marked “F1 D/S” or “J1 D/S”, if not you need to see Penn Global International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) within 10 days.
The very first thing to do is visit ISSS. You must complete the I-20 student document within 30 days of your program’s start date here (It is located in International House, at 3701 Chestnut Street on the ground floor).
You will need to see Julie Shuttleworth, at 3401 Walnut Street 3rd floor B wing, to arrange for payment of your stipend. Please bring your passport, visa, DS2019 or I20. You can print your I-94 card at the airport or in Julie’s office.
Get a Penn Card. Go to the Penn Bookstore, 2nd Floor 36th and Walnut, with whatever official documents you can muster. You can load this card with cash, also in the Franklin Building, to use as a cash card in University cafeterias, at the bookstore and to buy drinks from vending machines. You can also link this card with your bank account to act as a debit card. Make a note of your 8-digit ID number somewhere safe in case it gets lost.
Get an email address, (see your department). The stem of your email will be your User ID for navigating the Penn systems. Look after it carefully!
Figure out where you can use your new email address. Go to the Grad Student Center (3615 Locust Walk, see clubs and societies below) for easy access to the Internet. Alternatively, the basement of Van Pelt Library (Locust Walk and 34th, the big library with the button out front) has email access. You’ll need your Penn Card to enter.
Drop by and say hello to Harriet Joseph at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) the ARCH building, 36th and Locust.
Consider arranging a Pennsylvania ID Card - worth getting early before the rush of term, though only once you have accommodation and all the necessary ID papers. Check out www.dot.state.pa.us. This card will act as a locally accepted form of ID and is preferred to foreign drivers’ licences and saves you having to carry around your UK passport. The nearest PENNDOT center is at 11th and Arch Sts. Be prepared for a wait and make sure you take the right form of payment. Cash is not accepted. If you do drive, your EU license is valid for only one year before you need to get a local license. Getting a Driver’s License Card is done from the same location and serves as ID. Don’t forget the form from your doctor saying you are fit to drive. Arrange the theory test and then book your driving test proper. Note you will need to visit the social security office first.
See the next page - “6| Finances” - for information about money, bank accounts, etc.
things to remember
Take your Penn Card everywhere. You’ll need it for most things.
If you think you’ll be tempted to consume or buy alcohol at any point, take ID (your passport) with you. Even if you haven’t been asked for ID in the UK in 15 yrs, you’ll still be asked for it here!
In order to get paid by the end of the month, you will need to bring Julie Shuttleworth your paperwork (passport, visa, I20 or DS 2019) by July 17 for July 1st payment; August 17th; or September 17th. Julie will explain how you get your stipend payment and will help with your tuition bill.
Get a bank account. Two banks are worth considering in Philadelphia based on proximity and convenience. You pay for withdrawals from other bank companies in the US. PNC and Commerce Bank both have central branches in Philadelphia and plenty of cash machines.
PNC can be found at Rittenhouse Square. When you pick up your Penn Card, you can also open a PNC account. Make sure you bring your passport and one other form of ID. You may also need an address. PNC cash points are to be found in all WaWa convenience stores, the Penn Bookstore, and also in Steinberg Dietrich Hall on campus in the basement. The bank’s opening hours are less convenient than Commerce Bank.
TD Bank on 38th and Walnut, opposite the Wharton School ( and on 34th St. near Starbucks), is open 7 days a week and has good service. There are also branches in Center City. They have excellent penny machines for all of that collected loose change too. Note that in the US you also have to pay for cheques! Some banks offer free cheques.
Once you have a bank account, sending money between your UK account and your US one is getting easier. If you do it directly through the banks, it is hassle and you will likely get both a bad rate and incur hefty fees. 2 new websites have dramatically reduced the cost of sending money internationally: CurrencyFair and TransferWise. You will likely have to submit some information to them, but generally it is easier than going through your bank. There are also Forex companies that will offer cheaper transfers than directly through your bank (see for example https://www.thomasexchange.co.uk/)
Get a credit card. This may be difficult, however, as you will likely not be issued with a Social Security Number (SSN) and unfortunately, any British credit history you may (or may not) have built up counts for nothing in the US. This, combined with your non-resident status makes getting a credit card difficult. One option is the American Express Blue Card for students at home4.americanexpress.com/blue/student/blue_student_home.asp. PNC has also introduced a student credit card, another option is Capital One’s ‘Journey Card’. Or wait a few months until you start to build up a credit rating. SFCU also has a credit builder program www.upennsfcu.org/creditbuilderprogram.php.
It is best to seek tax advice concerning your individual needs. Depending on your tax status you will collect your stipend with or without tax subtracted. If it is subtracted, you can reclaim it when filing your US tax return, which is due by April 15th of the following year. International Student and Scholar services provides tax software which will help in completing your tax documents. Tax information is also available at www.irs.gov.
Note that you can claim extra money back for any books (only if they’re mandated by the university) - but be sure to keep all your receipts in case you have to prove what you’re claiming for.
If you have any other problems with the tax return forms, drop into the Penn Global International Student and Scholar Services - they have plenty of extra info on filling out tax return forms.
7| Academics Welcome to the American education system! You’ve seen it in the movies and you’ve seen it on TV, but still there can be surprises for a foreigner. Your program of study will vary a lot from department to department, but here are a few guidelines. The US system is taught on a credit-by-credit basis. By completing a number of credits you obtain your degree. This means that, unlike the British system, you may have to sign up for individual classes. To find out what classes are on offer for a particular semester check out the course register at www.upenn.edu/registrar/register. You can usually take classes from any department outside of your school as part of your credits, and it is worth taking some time to look through a number of different options - often the same subject is taught in several different classes in different subjects, which allows you to shop for the best professors and best timetable. You can also usually do some undergraduate classes; in particular, there are several undergraduate language classes that you can audit (i.e., take without getting a grade) that range in ability from complete beginner to advanced.
Once you’ve selected your courses you should register your choices online. You can do this from PennPortal (www.upenn.edu/penn_portal/view.php) by clicking on the ‘register for courses’ (on the left) and following the links for current students (you’ll need your PennKey computer account before you can do this link). Note: As a foreign student, you must be registered for at least 4 course units in order to comply with your visa status, though this may vary by department e.g. 3 in Engineering. A credit unit typically consists of one course taken over a semester although some courses can be less and some more. Be careful to make sure you have enough credits.
The format of each class is up to the individual professor, but in general there will be graded homework that counts towards your final grade and one or more midterms (taken throughout the semester) and a final exam. The difficulty and workload associated with each course can vary widely so be careful. Course participation is also included as part of your grade in some programs.
Do not count on any particular course running during a given semester - courses only run if there is enough demand, and they can be taken offline at a moments notice. Choosing appropriate courses is (obviously) very important and can be very time-consuming, so it is a good idea to have a look at possibilities before you come to Penn.
places to study A few study favorites:
The Graduate Student Center - free tea and coffee
Van Pelt Library
Fisher Fine Arts Library (very pretty)
The Botanical Gardens - warm weather only, a very pretty and ‘undiscovered’ part of Penn campus
The Penn University bookstore - in the coffee shop on the 2nd floor
academic support The academic support network, certainly compared to the UK, is first-rate. Group projects encourage collaboration with classmates, and they are a popular first port-of-call. Many classes, again faculty dependent, have teaching assistants with fixed hours, of whom one can ask questions and seek help. Professors also have office hours for further assistance. Above and beyond this, the University offers additional academic support if required.
career services Best sought out through your individual faculty. Extremely well-organized in this writer’s experiences. Also try Penn’s central career services.
8| Dining eating on campusOfficial Penn Food | Undergrads have “meal plans” where they can eat in certain food halls as part of the plan. If you want some sort of dining plan, check out the online info. It might be an attractive option if you live on campus and plan on doing no cooking!
For more info, check out www.business-services.upenn.edu/dining
You’ll find food halls at the following places:
Houston Hall (34th & Spruce)
On the lower level, there are a number of food options: soup, burgers, pasta, salad, sandwiches, oriental, sushi, plus drinks, snacks etc. are all in the Houston Food Market. There is also a popular creperie on the main floor.
Au Bon Pain (38th & Locust)
Situated in Huntsman Hall (ground floor on Locust Walk) and second floor (MBA hang out) and in Steinberg-Dietrich; good for breakfast, coffee or overpriced sandwiches, and tea-time pastries. Pastries are half-price after 4:00pm.
The Food Trucks | Many new arrivals are a bit perturbed by the lack of eating options around campus. The food trucks, scattered all around the school, seemed dodgy. They’re not! Amazingly tasty, wonderfully cheap, quick and easy, it’s never very far to a good lunch or cheap supper. Often very long lines at lunch, but worth it! You will, no doubt, discover your own favorites, but here is a quick rundown on what’s around.
34th and Walnut
Vegetarian: Magic Carpet is awesome for veggies and meat-eaters alike. It has great hummus, falafel, warming stews, good salads and tasty cookies!
Philly Cheesesteak. This truck sells egg on muffin, cheese on toast, and other less healthy options.
Spruce Street (from 34th-37th)
Mexican: there are 2 trucks-one’s definitely better (note the longer line) but both are great for tacos and burritos.
The Greek Lady: great hoagies
Magic Carpet 2
36th Walnut (Outside Pottruck Gym)
At lunch time there is a wide range of trucks here. The Chinese is also here later at night, and is one of the few trucks you can get dinner from.
Indian (not great)
Chinese/Vietnam-a good range of Asian stir fries
Fruit Salad (very bad-avoid this one!)
Yue-Kee truck-the best Chinese on campus
Where to eat when you have your food -If it’s wet, the GSC is a good option, or the seating in Huntsman Hall. If it’s sunny, there is outside seating at 37th and Locust, and benches all along Locust Walk.
Restaurants Around Campus | If you want a proper meal at lunch time, it’s only a short walk west beyond campus, where there are lots of good options. Particularly popular are the all-you-can-eat lunch time buffets: New Delhi and other Indians offer this. Try them all to discover your favorite. Normally about $10 a meal, with student discount. There are a few good Thai places, a Chili's, a Marathon Grill, and ice cream at the Ben & Jerry’s.
Or head to Spruce and 38th where there is an excellent Chinese (Beijing), a greasy diner, a salad and sandwich bar (Gia Pronto), and the ubiquitous Wawa (36th & Chesnut and 38th & Spruce) for snacks and coffee. Alternatively, Sansom, from 34th to 36th has some good, if slightly pricier options
Coffee Shops | Everyone has favorites-here’s a list so you can take your pick:
Penn Bookstore (36th/Walnut, 2nd floor)
Au Bon Pain (see above for 3 locations)
Graduate Student Center (it’s free!)
Logan Hall (34th/Spruce) - lots of undergrads!
Cost | Typically at a food truck for $5 you have a great meal with drink included. It’s a bit more if you eat in the fixed location spots. For $10, you can eat in most of the cheaper restaurants for lunch. (For less than $15 you can have a great lunch at Pod.)
Whether ethnic cuisine, fine dining or a good cheesesteak, Philadelphia has multiple restaurants to meet your needs. Pick up a Zagat Guide to find out more. There are four basic main areas you should think about when choosing where to eat:
Chinatown: cheap, mixed quality, so pick carefully, but some really good Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants.
Old City: really vibrant area, with a whole range of eating options. Very lively in the evenings
University City: there are a few nice restaurants around campus, and lots of cheap places west of campus.
Center City: some really good, more expensive places in the center of town around Rittenhouse Square. Really worth trying some of the places, which are well rated on a national scale.
It is impossible not to mention Pat’s & Gino’s when writing about Philadelphia’s eating institutions. The two cheesesteak houses slug it out for best cheesesteak trophy. You are bound to have your indigestible favorite and inevitably disagree with your friends.
For pizza, favorites include Lombardi’s, Mama Palma’s and Pietro’s.
At the other extreme, Stephen Starr restaurants offer some of the best fine dining in Philadelphia – but at a price. Buddakan (Asian fusion), Morimoto (Japanese, Nobu style), Alma de Cuba (Latin, and the best mojitos in town – check out the live Cuban music on Wednesday nights) and Tangerine (French Moroccan) are some of his best. Le Bec Fin, Vetri, and Striped Bass are three of the city’s other best restaurants.
9| Shopping a. food shopping Supermarkets
FreshGrocer (40th/Walnut) Expensive, but the monopoly grocery store near campus. Good quality, and great pre-prepared fresh foods.
Superfresh (10th/South) Cheap and good for basics. Not great for fresh produce, or quality goods.
Wholefoods (9th/South or 20th/Callowhill) Expensive for staples but excellent fruit and veg, and really great organic, unusual, deli and preprepared, fresh foods.
Great for fresh fish, meat etc. (also one at 20th and Callowhill – north of market)
South Square Market (23rd/South) Cheap for staples, not great for fresh produce
Rittenhouse Market (18th /Spruce) Expensive - well located to pick up forgotten items, but not great for weekly shops.
Shop and Bag (43rd and Walnut)
Trader Joe's (21st Market) Philly’s most recent (and BEST) addition: it’s got great stuff, at great prices. Fruit and veg aren’t that good though. Trader Joe's is an own brand, but excellent quality.
Pathmark’s (3021 Grays Ferry Ave), good prices and wide selection, close to Graduate Hospital Area. The closest thing to Tesco available
There are also loads of corner shops - you’ll soon find your nearest for forgotten items and snacks.
Reading Terminal Market: 12th/Filbert. Well worth a visit whether for food shopping, lunch or brunch. Delicious fresh produce and gourmet market. More expensive than the Italian market. There is a huge range of delicious market stalls. Especially good is the Amish pancake place. Open Mon-Sat.
Italian Market: 9th/Bainbridge-Washington Ave: great, cheap fresh produce, Italian goods, meat and fish. Open daily, except Mondays, 9am to 1pm. Quality isn’t always the best, so you need to find a stall and get to know them for the best quality goods. Also in the area are fantastic Italian stores and also butchers for meat-cheap and good quality. Try Angelo’s for any cut off almost any animal you want to eat, and a few more besides.
Fresh fruit and veg is also available from some little corner stores. Try 19th Chestnut/Market or Sue’s Produce on 18th between Chestnut and Sansom.
Japanese Shop: 21st/Chestnut
Asian Supermarket: 13th/Washington Ave: a massive store with all stores of Asian produces
Chinatown: 12th-8th, Arch-Race: lots of local stores with ethnic produce. Good fresh, if not living, seafood.
b. alcohol It’s a nightmare trying to buy booze in Philly. The strict licensing laws make it expensive and unavailable. You can only buy wine and spirits in designated “State liquor stores”. They are located at 19th/Chestnut, 24th /South, 12th/Chestnut, 43/Chestnut as well as University City Beverage on 43rd and Walnut. They usually close around 9pm, or 5pm on Sundays. The 19th St store has an excellent wine selection.
Beer is more widely available, and there is a broad range of excellent local brews. Yuengling is available most places, but keep an eye out for some excellent India Pale Ales and Flying Fish. Monk’s has an incredible selection of Belgian beers, but only for consumption on premises. A broader variety of stores sell beer – even some reasonably small corner stores. One other option is 215 599 BEER – beer delivery within 30minutes for an extra $5, see www.beerrightnow.com .
If you’re buying in bulk, there’s a wholesaler at 26th/South that also has tubs and ice etc. It’s also a good idea to drive to New Jersey or Delaware to take advantage of lower taxes (but watch out as it’s actually illegal to do booze runs). Best bet is to stock up at duty free.
There is one department store in the city: Macy’s (12th/Chestnut).
Sports Stores: City Sport, 16th/ Walnut
Clothes Stores: Fashion shops found along Walnut between 15th and 24th.
Cheaper discount clothes found along Chestnut, Walnut, and Market, east of Broad Street. The Gallery Mall has lots of clothes stores (8th/Market)
d. hardware | kitchen items, etc. The Penn Bookstore has some essential “Dorm Supplies” but is overpriced. There is also a good little hardware store on 18th btw Sansom and Walnut, though it too is not cheap.
When setting up your apartment, consider going to one of the large warehouse type stores. Besides IKEA, consider Walmart at 1601 South Columbus Boulevard, where you can also stock up on bulk kitchen supplies. Target has lots of white goods and kitchen apparel. Sam’s Club, the discount Walmart club, is $30 membership for the year and another excellent option for stocking up on home needs.
IKEA: love it or loathe it, for good value furniture with a little style, there still isn’t a better option. The nearest has just opened at 2206 South Columbus Boulevard. Rent a car, or find a mobile friend – delivery is $50. There are also buses – SEPTA 7, 25 or 79.
If you can’t stand the idea of IKEA, consider Crate & Barrel online for stylish furniture, though it is not quite as affordable as IKEA.
Sleepy’s is also essential to know about. They have a great range of beds and mattresses. Delivery can be arranged within 24 hours – your best bet is to call and order the day before you arrive so as to have something to sleep on your first night. If you are unhappy with a given mattress, you can return it.
King of Prussia: I-76 West to Mall Blvd. One of the biggest malls in the world, it’s 30 mins from Philly. The 124 and 125 buses go there from JFK Bvd. Pretty much everything you will ever need is here, and lots more besides. www.shopking.com
The Gallery: 8th/Market
Franklin Mills: Take I-95N to Woodhaven Rd. A discount mall with over 200 shops. A great place to go and buy your sheets amongst other things. There is also a Sam’s Club there. It is about 20 mins from Philly. The car parks have a terrible reputation for muggings, so be careful after dark!
g. pharmacy | chemists Look out for CVS and Rite Aid, the two “Boots” of Philadelphia. There are lots of them around, including CVS at 34th/Walnut, 39th/Walnut, and 19th/Chestnut, and a Rite Aid at 23rd/Walnut and 41st and Market. You can get all toiletries, prescriptions and things like phone cards, batteries and candy here. They are usually open 24 hours a day – perfect for late night Ben & Jerry’s cravings.
The Penn Bookstore (36th/Walnut) has all required school textbooks. Go to the upstairs course book section, and find books arranged by course. They also have a general book section which is outrageously expensive.
Penn Book Center (34th/Sansom) has books for humanities courses.
Barnes and Noble: 18th/ Walnut
There are a number of smaller independent bookstores around, including 17th/Sansom, 40th/Walnut (for used books).
Online: www.amazon.com, www.half.com, abebooks.com (often the cheapest available option)
And don’t forget to try www.amazon.co.uk for much cheaper academic textbooks.
Often cheaper to rent from Amazon. Free shipping both ways.
i. stationery You’ve got a number of options for stocking up on files, paper, pens etc for classes.
Staples (15th/Chestnut) is good value, and also delivers for free on orders over $50.
The Penn Bookstore has a selection of items upstairs but is overpriced. Convenient if you’re desperate. CVS and Rite Aid both sell stationery. They have less of a selection than Staples but are very cheap for essentials. Walmart and Kmart also stock essentials at much cheaper prices.
10| Services telephone Verizon monopoly on landlines. Call 800 660 2215 to get connected or connect through www.verizon.com. Make sure to do it 21 days before coming to Philadelphia if you have your apartment ready.
Call Verizon at 1-877-483-5898 or order via the website (www.verizon.com). This can take a while. You can also order through your cable provider, Comcast.
cable Another monopoly though you can try DirectTV. Will do anything to sell you digital cable – negotiate some free movie channels. After 6 months, cancel and go with standard cable. Call 1-888- COMCAST. You can also get broadband access through them.
electric Organized in many high rises for you. Call PECO Energy 1-800-494- 4000.
gas Philadelphia Gas Works. 215-235-2050.
stamps Post offices on 2037 Chestnut (8am-5:30pm weekdays), 2970 Market (6am-midnight), 2955 Market (7am-5:45pm weekdays), 1500 JF Kennedy Bvd, 31st & Chestnut, 40th and Locust (8am-5:30pm weekdays). You can also order online at www.usps.gov UPS stores are at 3741 Walnut and 1735 Market ship packages but do not sell stamps.
British Imperial Dry Cleaners - 251 S 16th St, 215 546 3667. 10% discount on Wednesdays. Also located at 20th and Locust
Carriage Trade Cleaners - 1108-1116 Bustleton Pike, Feasterville, PA. Not local but pick up from Philly on Tuesdays and Fridays. Expensive but extremely good for delicate and high end clothing.
Opera Barber Shop - 138S 20th St, 215 567 3401. Pretty cheap - $14 and quick
Siaani Salon - 1517 Walnut, 215 567 5600. 20% student discount with ID
Silvio 126S 20th St, 215 561 3810 $18 inc wash. Closed Mon, Sat, Sun after 2:00pm
womens hair, nails and salons The best place to go on campus for hair and beauty needs is the Saturn Club (3426 Sansom). Experience with their hairdressers has been mixed, but they are convenient, and good for waxing.
VOG -18th and Sansom 215-564-2550
Total Serenity - 2108 Walnut, 215 557 0678 – full spa service, excellent Brazilian bikini wax $35-40
International Salon -1714 Sansom, 215 563 1141 – no frills waxing. Walk-ins only
Around Rittenhouse Square are a number of good hairdressers and salons, at the upper end. Also check out Blue Mercury, 17th & Walnut, with high end toiletries brands and salon services.
For Nail Salons (manicure: $10) head to 20th/Chestnut.
11| Sports Penn has fantastic sporting facilities, be it playing tennis with a friend, joining a team, or working out alone. A good place to start is Pottruck Gym on Walnut and 37th. Pick up an info book there about many of the activities on offer. All the info on recreation at Penn is on www.upenn.edu/recreation.
gyms The university gyms are Pottruck (very modern, well equipped, and full of undergrads, with pool, rock climbing, golf, exercise classes) and Hutchinson (33rd and Spruce) as well as the Fox Fitness Centre in the Weiss Pavilion at Franklin Field. Hutchinson is older but cheaper (also has basketball courts, squash courts and tennis courts). It costs about $350 for annual membership at Pottruck for a grad, and $175 for a semester.
There are loads of other gyms in Center City; most likely there’s one within a few blocks of your house. These include: Sweat (24th and Walnut), many around Rittenhouse Square and one on 16th between Walnut and Chestnut. Most public gyms will offer you a day’s tryout and student rates.
team sport Penn Recreation website (www.upenn.edu/recreation) has lists and contact details for all the sports clubs (including club soccer, rugby, hockey etc). Wharton has its own teams for many sports, as do some departments, so ask around to see if your chosen sport is played somewhere.
tennis The courts at Hutchinson gym are free to University members. You can pay $15 for a card from the Levy Center which allows you to reserve courts. There are also public courts at 26th and Pine, which are floodlit.