Moving to London: Everything you need to know and do
Hundreds of thousands of people move to London every single year, making it one of the most popular cities in the world for ex-pats. As a lot of us know, moving halfway around the world comes with its challenges, and nowhere seems to do things the same way. There’s finding a house, securing a job, opening a local bank account, not to mention getting the visa to live there in the first place.
If you’re struggling to get your head around everything, we’re here to help. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about the moving process, along with some essential tips for moving to London.
Things to know before you move to London
1. UK Visa Requirements
Your visa is the first thing stopping you from entering the country, so it’s important that you get this sorted out before anything else. The whole process can take up to six months, so remember to apply in advance to make sure you can make that flight you’ve got your heart set on.
Applying for a UK visa firstly depends on your home country. At the moment, if you’re from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you don’t need a visa or a permit to work in the UK. This may change as the rules and regulations of Brexit become a little clearer.
If you’re not from any of these countries and would like to stay in the UK to work or join your family, you need to apply for a visa that will allow you to legally work and live in the UK. If you’re not sure if you need a visa or not to come to the UK, use this government tool to find out.
What types of visas are there in the UK?
There are many different types of visas that you can apply for, each with their own unique application process and particular requirements.
A work permit and employment visa are two essential requirements if you want to work in the UK. Which type of work visa you need to apply for depends on the type of job you’ll be doing. To apply for certain types of visa, you must already have a job lined up. Your new employer will file for the work permit on your behalf, and you will only be able to work in this specific role.
Main types of work visa in the UK
- Tier 2 (General). For those with skilled jobs that are sponsored by an organization.
- Tier 2 (Health and care). For those with a job offer from the NHS.
- Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) For those working for a UK employer based overseas who have been made an offer to work in the UK.
- Tier 2 (Minister of religion). For those who work for a sponsored faith community.
- Tier 2 (sportsperson). For elite athletes or coaches.
- Tier 5 (Temporary worker). For sponsored temporary workers on an official exchange.
- Tier 5 (youth mobility scheme). For people aged 18-30 from certain countries around the world.
- UK Ancestry Visa. For those with ancestral roots to the UK.
Main types of business visa in the UK
- Tier 1 (Exceptional talent). For those who are experts in a particular field. This can include the sciences, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology, and the arts.
- Tier 1 (Investor). For those willing to invest at least £2million in the UK.
- Start-up Visa. For those who want to start a business and have enough money to support themselves.
How to apply for a UK Visa
You need to apply for a visa before you arrive in the UK at one of the certified application centers. Along with a permit visa application form, you’ll need to bring the following documents with you to your appointment:
- Valid passport.
- Proof of financial means.
- Proof of English language fluency.
- Proof of payment of the healthcare surcharge.
- TB test if you want to stay longer than six months.
2. How much does it cost to move to London?
The cost of moving to England’s capital city will vary greatly from person to person, but here are a few key costs to factor into your move:
- Visa fees
- NHS healthcare surcharge
- Legal fees
- Shipping costs
- Pet relocation costs
- One-way flight ticket
3. What is the average rent in London?
There’s a reason why London is known as one of the most expensive cities in the world, and that’s mainly down to the fact that renting any property is higher than the average. According to Homelet, the average rental for new tenancies in London costs around £1,600/month. Like any major European city, rental prices vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, which means you’ll more than likely be able to find accommodation to suit your budget if you’re willing to adapt and compromise.
While it may be common practice to budget a maximum of 30% of your salary on your rent, most Londoners end up spending around half of their monthly salary. Here’s the average rental price you can expect in different areas in London, as researched by Movebubble:
- One bedroom flat in Knightsbridge – £2,848/calendar month
- One bedroom flat in Twickenham – £1,233/calendar month
- One bedroom flat in Brixton – £1,373/calendar month
- One bedroom flat in Kentish Town – £1,483/calendar month
- One bedroom flat in Notting Hill – £2,097/calendar month
- One bedroom flat in Kings Cross – £1,835/calendar month.
4. Where’s the best place to live in London?
For some inspiration, we’ve already put together a guide to London’s best neighborhoods. Here’s a quick overview of what we discuss.
Best London neighborhoods for families: Notting Hill, Hampstead, and Richmond
Best places to live in London for ex-pats: Camden, Battersea, and Chelsea
Best places to live in London for young professionals: Fitzrovia, Maida Vale, and Earls Court
Trendiest places to live in London: Shoreditch, Kentish Town, and Brixton
Affordable places to live in London: Croydon, Dalston, and Paddington
4. How to find accommodation in London?
Finding your forever apartment in London is a process that shouldn’t be rushed. Securing an apartment is difficult to do when you’re not in the country, and we’d always recommend visiting the apartment before you settle on one. It’s worth spending the first few months in London in a serviced apartment. That way, you can take the time to find your perfect flat once you’re settled into city life.
Luckily, there are plenty of avenues for finding a flat in London once you’ve made it to the city. We’d recommend exploring them all, so you can find somewhere to call your home as soon as possible:
Estate Agents are perfect for those looking for a personalised service. The property market in London moves at an incredibly fast pace, which is why it’s a good idea to befriend a few estate agents and have them contact you when a matching property appears on the market. You’ll generally need to pay around £100 in agency fees if they find a property for you.
Online marketplaces for convenient searching. Serviced apartments are a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a place with everything set up already. Homelike offers apartments in London with everything you could need including Wi-Fi, pots, pans and utilities. If you’d rather furnish an apartment yourself, try searching on a site like Rightmove.
Flatshares for lone movers. If you’re moving over to London by yourself, a flatshare is a great way to save money on your rent and make some new friends. You can always share your Homelike apartment with someone else if the landlord approves.
Remember! London’s property market is incredibly competitive, so if you like a flat, make sure you lock in your stay as soon as possible. There is always a chance it’ll be off the market in just a few hour’s time.
5. What is the cost of living in London?
The cost of living in London doesn’t come cheap – after all, it is one of the largest global capitals. Your rent and travel costs are most likely to be your most significant monthly expenses, along with your food shopping and the inevitable socializing a few times a week. Apart from the obvious, here are a few things you’ll need to factor into your monthly budget.
- Council Tax – Everyone has to pay council tax on their property unless they’re exempt. This can range from anywhere from £500 to £1,500 a year in London.
- Television tax – To have a TV in the UK, you need to pay a television license. At the time of writing, this costs £157 a year.
- Renter’s Insurance – renters insurance will cover your possessions’ value and depend on the value of your things inside the property. You can expect to pay around £15 to £20 a month for this.
- Utilities – For gas, electricity, water, and the internet, you’ll need to allow between £150 and £200 a month.
- Transportation – Public transport tends to be fairly priced in London, especially if you get your hands on an Oyster card. If you’re traveling every day for work, it’s best to invest in a yearly travel card. Depending on how far you’re traveling, an all-in travel card will cost between £1,000 and £2,640 a year.
- Groceries – London is home to all of England’s big-name stores, including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, and Tesco, along with lots of local markets. Such a huge range of shops allow you to either eat on a budget or live a life of luxury.
- Socializing – Eating out, popping to your local pub for a pint, and hitting up the latest cocktail bar is likely to take a good chunk out of your monthly budget. It is an unfortunate truth that restaurant and bar prices are quite inflated in the capital.
6. How to relocate your pet to the UK
No one wants to leave their four-legged friends behind. Luckily the PETS Scheme makes it simple enough to bring your pets to the UK. It can be an incredibly long-winded, not to mention an expensive process to bring your pets to the UK, but it’ll be worth it to have them by your side.
There’s no denying that finding a pet-friendly apartment to live in once you’ve arrived in London is going to be difficult. According to a recent survey by the Dog’s Trust, 78% of pet owners have difficulty finding pet-friendly accommodation and the same can be said of London accommodation.
A pet relocation agency can come in real handy; they’ll help you with everything from filling in the right paperwork to having your pet delivered right to your door.
You’ll need to be prepared to pay a mandatory pet cleaning fee on your tenancy agreement which can cost anywhere from £100 to £200.
For more information on moving your pet to the UK, read our UK pet relocation guide.
7. How to find pet-friendly accommodation in the UK?
One thing that’s almost guaranteed if you’re bringing your pets with you to London, is that you’ll need to be prepared to look outside of Zone 1 for your apartment. Most of the apartment blocks here won’t allow pets to stay, no matter what the circumstance. Concentrate your search on a flat in Zone 2 or Zone 3 and you’ll stand a much better chance of finding somewhere to call home. Make your search easier using our “Pets allowed” filter.
Things to know and do after you move to London
8. How to open a bank account in the UK
If you’re going to be in London for the long haul, you’ll need to set up a bank account. There are lots of secure high-street banks to register with, without having to worry about the safety of your money.
Unfortunately, the process of opening up a bank account in London can be time-consuming and involves a lot of paperwork. Firstly, you’ll need proof of address to set up your bank account, along with your passport details. Proof of address can be obtained with a utility bill, which you may not receive for a few months after you’ve found your apartment. If you’re struggling, setting up an account with an online bank like Monzo will be an easy solution to this until you can get proof of address.
9. How does health insurance work in the UK
Depending on your visa, you may be eligible for free medical treatment through the UK’s NHS, otherwise known as the National Health Service. The NHS provides free appointments and treatments for all residents of the UK, and those who hold visas such as Tier 5 Youth Mobility Tier 2 General and Tier 1 General.
As part of your visa application, you will have already paid an Immigration Health Surcharge which allows you to use the NHS services.
To register with the NHS you need to visit your local doctor’s practice and register as a patient with a GP (General Practitioner). To do this, you’ll need to fill out a simple form with your personal details and any necessary medical history.
The NHS covers most treatments, but you will need to pay a fee in some circumstances. For example, for dental work and prescriptions.
If you’d prefer, you still have the option of paying for private health insurance. This can be an extremely expensive route to go down, but you will experience shorter waiting queues and luxury service.
10. What to know about public transport in London
London has an excellent public transport system that will take you from A to B without a worry.
By far the most popular mode of transport, and the quickest way to get around town, is via the tube. This underground network of trains is split into different lines and colors. It might take a few weeks for you to get your head around the way the tube works i.e northbound, southbound, eastbound and westbound, but you’ll be whizzing around like a local in no time at all.
Besides the tube, buses are the cheapest mode of transport, but they do tend to get bogged down by the infamous city traffic. Overground trains are great in some parts of the city such as the north and east neighborhoods, but not in others. And, if you’re feeling like you need an extra bit of exercise, there are lots of public bike initiatives around the city to take advantage of.
11. What about food costs in London?
Food shopping in London can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Large grocery chains are abundant allowing you to shop according to your budget.
Budget stores: ASDA, Lidl, Aldi, and Iceland
Mid-range: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Morrisons
High-end: Waitrose, Marks and Spencers, and Ocado.
Not all neighborhoods around London will have large stores for groceries. Instead, you’ll find that these chain stores offer smaller, local versions of their main stores, that sell a limited selection of products. Because of this, many Londoners opt for online grocery shopping to be delivered straight to their door.
Away from the chains, there are lots of local markets in London. Tourist-centric markets such as Borough Market offer fantastic products, but for an inflated price. If you’re after a bargain, hunt out local markets in your area.
12. How to set up utilities in London
Once you’ve found the perfect place to live in London, you need to make sure that everything is connected. This includes organizing your electric, gas, water, and internet bills.
For electric and gas, there are numerous companies to choose from. To choose the right one for you you’ll need to compare products and services across the board. For water, you’ll be served by Thames Water and generally billed twice a year.
The Internet can take a long time to get fitted in the UK, so make sure this is one of the things you sort out straight away. If you can’t get the internet for a few weeks, organize a good phone contract with hotspot abilities to get you through.
What else should be on your moving to London checklist
Apply for a national insurance number: You need to do this for your employer to process your payroll. There is a bit of a Catch 22 with this as you’ll need a UK address to make the appointment to set up your national insurance number. At the appointment, they’ll ask you a few questions about your visa and why you need a national insurance number during the interview. It can take around 4 weeks for the whole process to come through once you’ve had your appointment.
Understanding your payslip. Your employee will provide you with a payslip each month that breaks down how much you’ve earned, the income tax you’re paying, your national insurance contributions, and any other necessary deductions. It’s natural to be a bit confused by your first payslip, but your HR department will be able to explain everything to you.
Set up a sim card. If your phone isn’t locked, then sorting out a sim card is super simple. All you need to do is head to your nearest phone shop and ask for a prepaid sim. You can even order a sim card online to be delivered to your door when you arrive. Popular providers include O2, Giffgaff, and TalkTalk.
Acquaint yourself with UK emergency numbers: For a general emergency, you’ll need to ring 999. When you need medical help, but the situation isn’t life-threatening try calling 111.