Have you considered living in London? It’s a mad, exciting city and moving there was the best thing I ever did.
London feels like you are in the middle of the world. You can go out every single night to lively restaurants and bars, even on Monday nights. I’ve taken night buses early in the mornings and felt perfectly safe, because London never sleeps. There is always some event happening – try Time Out London and Last Minute for some ideas.
Getting a Visa will be the hardest part of the move. Visa rules are changing all the time. A good place to start is here.
Where you’re from will play a large part in what type of visa you can get – also your age and income. I am lucky as I could get a UK passport because of my dad. Friends went for the Tier 2 or 3 visas, some managed an Ancestry visa, while others were sponsored by their work.
A lot of banks have international connections. I went to my New Zealand bank and found that they were connected to HSBC Bank in the UK. This made it easier to open an account in London. You’ll need a UK bank account number before you can be paid in pounds, but if you’re already in the UK the banks usually want proof that you are working! My bank required a certain amount of money to be transferred to London as proof that I could support myself. If your bank doesn’t have a UK connection, the other big banks are Barclays, NatWest and Lloyds.
An Oyster Card is for the tube, trains and buses. They are easy to buy when you arrive, either at stations or corner stores. You can now use your UK bank contactless card as an Oyster card, but avoid using cards from other countries as you’re bank charges will be painful.
London is already a 24-hour city, and thanks to the huge investment to modernise the Underground, we are now rolling out a 24-hour Tube to match – TFL
With time, you’ll learn to charge through stations and somehow avoid bumping into people. You’ll learn where to stand on the platform to have more room in the carriage and exit the station quickly. People complain about London transport, but I miss it – the ability to go to the other side of the city for a drink then go home on a night bus at 3am and still feel safe. And this year the tube will start running all night on Fridays and Saturdays.
There are a lot of phone providers and it’s simple to get a UK Sim Card – just check your phone is unlocked. There’s Virgin, O2, Vodafone, Three and more. Compare prices and check how much it is for overseas use on your many trips to Europe!
When I first arrived, I stayed at an old workmates friends house – a very distant connection, but good for my bank balance. People from your hometown are usually happy to help – make use of your contacts and let people know your plans, you might be surprised. After a tour around Europe I stayed in hostels and even started a 3 month contract while living in a smelly hostel in Camden. I usually search for short-term accommodation on HostelWorld, Booking.com and TripAdviser. I’ve also heard great things about Airbnb and CouchSurfing.
A National Insurance (NI) number is what you need to pay tax in the UK. You need to be in the country to apply and it’s one of the first things to do when you arrive, altho you can start work without one. Ring Jobcentre Plus on (+44) 0845 600 0643 to apply.
You’ll need money for a hefty bond. Most rooms come furnished – which is handy when you first arrive. Take some time to decide on what area of London to live. If you get a permanent job, how easy is it to get there? If you know other people in London, how easy is it to see them? I straddled zone 2 and 3 as public transport was cheaper living in zone 2, but rent was cheaper in zone 3. See this map to find out where the zones are.
Finding a doctor and registering can be done once you’ve settled in. Call in to your local GP and they will ask you to fill in a form and provide proof of address. GPs are free in the UK!
It’s well worth the effort to move to London. You’ll be surprised at the number of foreigners already living in London and how friendly they are. I still miss it. ♥
Learn about the top historical sights in London.
If you have other moving advice or questions, I would love to read them in the comments.