A Newcomer’s Guide to London
By Manolis Zografakis
When I first moved to London in 2010 I didn’t know anyone who could show me the city or give me inside tips about everyday problems. It took me more than a year to get used to living in a massive city like London and to find out useful hacks. It is easier if you know all the important tips to save time, money and effort right from the start. So, below I have gathered my best tips for all London newcomers.
# 1 Tip for learning the language
Try to speak in English as much as you can. The British accent can be a bit tricky to understand and you may face some difficulties in daily communication, but you just need to get used to it. If English is not your mother tongue then you can try out tandem language learning. Tandem Language Learning is a method of language learning based on a mutual language exchange between partners. It is a great way to meet new people and learn the language in the proper way. If you prefer the traditional classroom lesson there are a lot of free English courses around London which you could attend. However, if you like to learn the lingo from your comfy couch then you can use Lingualia or Memrise or download the free mobile app Duolingo to learn English on the go. Or you can use a nifty multi-language portable smart voice translator, until you got the language down to a T.
# 2 Tip for saving money on bills
If you don’t watch TV don’t pay for a TV licence. The moment you settle down in a new house you will start receiving letters to pay for a TV licence but there is a legal way to avoid paying for one. Regarding telephone calls, try not to call 0870 numbers as you will end up finishing your call credit without even noticing it. There is a site called saynoto0870.com which helps you find an alternative number that will be free or way cheaper. There are lots of other tips for saving money on bills. Find some more here.
# 3 Tip for daily transportation
Daily transportation can be super expensive so you need to find ways to save money on your daily trips. The first thing you should do is to get an Oyster card and never leave the house without it because single tickets cost a fortune. However, I would suggest you go to your bank and ask for a contactless card which you will use the same way as the Oyster card but will save you a lot of time and effort as you will not need to top it up. Moreover, try to use the London buses and Overground as much as you can – the tube is way more expensive. Download the journey planner City Mapper that provides a detailed breakdown of transport options, routes and prices on how to get from A to B.
If you’re the type of person who likes to travel around with a taxi, you should keep in mind that here taxis are super expensive. Never stop a cab randomly on the street because they cost a lot. The best way is to download a taxi booking app like Uber and use the promo code ‘BROKEINLONDON‘ to get a £15 free first ride on us! Finally, if you travel throughout the UK by train there is a great way to save a lot of money on train tickets by using raileasy’s train split service. It breaks your journey into smaller sections which can be way cheaper than buying one through ticket. Find out more tips for moving around London cheaply.
#4 Tip for transferring money from abroad
After opening a UK bank account you will probably want to transfer money to your brand new account. Two of my favourite money transfer companies are Transferwise and HiFX. Both are excellent service money exchange platforms, as they help you save money by helping you avoid paying hidden bank fees. You just need to choose the one that suits you best. Find out how Transferwise works here and HiFX here and find everything you need to know about transferring money overseas here.
#5 Tip for everyday shopping
If you want to save money on your everyday shopping, you should head to different supermarkets of your area and compare prices. Find out which items you should buy from each supermarket. For example, you should buy the necessities like your soaps, your cleaning supplies or your shampoo and maybe even a pack of lighters from your local 99p Store or Poundland. These type of supermarkets have very low prices in specific items comparing to other big chains like Tesco and Sainsburys. Finally, don’t be afraid to buy from the ‘reduced to clear‘ section. The items are not expired or something, it’s just that they will expire soon so the price will be extremely lower than normal (sometimes up to 70-80% off).
Check out our tips for buying your groceries online (where you can find some great coupons and offers) or at your local market. Finally, if you don’t mind cooking, find out how you can cook great food for just £16 per week.
#6 Tip for your Social Life
Try to be open to every culture and don’t just socialise with people from your home country. I am not saying that you should avoid meeting people from your home country, but just be open to everything and everyone. London is very multicultural and it’s a great opportunity to meet interesting people from around the world and to explore different cultures. Become part of the society and the culture, meet the Brits and try to understand their culture. Visit your local pub and do as the locals do. Start a conversation with the bar man or a stranger (just be sure that he is friendly enough to take this step). Moreover, you can think about your hobbies and interests and join a meetup group where you will meet like-minded people. There are hundreds of Meetups happening in London every week about everything from language exchange, careers, ethnic identity, entrepreneurship, hiking, parenting, tech, photography and urban gardening.
#7 Tip for shopping at the market
If you visit Camden Town or your local food market you can try to bargain for a better price and if you end up liking it then make it a habit and you will manage to save a lot! For example, if you visit Camden Town and you find a clothing stall with clothes that you like, you can ask if you can get 3 items for the price of 2 or just negotiate the price. Final tip: If the seller doesn’t seem to be willing to drop the price just say thanks and walk away. They will probably ask you to come back to renegotiate the price. Find 5 more shopping tips for shop smart, at vintage and craft fairs.
#8 Tip for your everyday entertainment
London has it all and you don’t need to spend a fortune to make the most out of the city. There is a dozen of superb things to do for free in London, from museums and galleries to free cinemas and free gigs. You just need to know where to go and what to do! Check out our guide to the best 20 free things to do in town and 20 more free and quirky things to do and keep an eye on our site for the best upcoming free events in town.
You may also want to check out our essential guide to living in London on a budget.