We bet you all have dreamt about living near the beautiful river Thames that runs through the magnificent city of London. Who wouldn’t want to, right? London, the smallest city of England yet the one with the most grandeur. Vacations might seem easy here, you can just hire a tour agency and make a quick visit to Buckingham Palace but what if you want to move alone to London? That’s a big step. I am sure, like the rest of us, when moving alone, even if it’s only to another city, you need a quick guide yet a detailed one to cover the basics of living life there. Where can I stay? Who should I contact? Where should I eat? How can I get a visa? etc.
The city of London accommodates thousands of people from all around the world each year, if you are striving to make this move then this guide might be the best resource for you.
1. Relocating to London?
Before taking another step forward, let’s consider the downfalls of living in London. A diverse city like London has a lot to offer but is it the right place for you? You wouldn’t want to move to London with all that effort just to move back in a month or worse, a few days. The castles and museums of London have their charm yet that is not only what the city offers.
1.1. Cons of living the London Life
The population of the city is in fact 9.4 million, which ultimately makes it a super crowded city.There are high levels of pollution and you are not going to find that time of ‘peace and quality’ anytime soon. Also, the famous Buckingham Palace attracts a lot of tourists to London each year, which means additional crowd and chaos on the streets. Even the weather can get on your nerves after a while. Great Britain is known to be surrounded by dark and damp clouds, all year round. But being pretty sure, knowing that each part of the world has its own ups and downs, this just might be bearable owing to its grandeur. But when the only ‘con’ that seems to be present is the inflation rate or the increasing expenses, it may simply be that you need to focus upon making smart choices rather than disregarding your dream of relocating once and for all.
1.2. Pros of living the London Life
Without further ado, let’s go over the basics of the city that adds to its beauty. The culture of London is represented by various sites throughout the city, it can be the art galleries or even the theatres, where most of them are free to visit. In case you are moving to London without a job, there are a lot of companies that are ready to snap you up, if you have the necessary qualifications, experience and/or a willing and enthusiastic attitude. Let’s not forget, most of the popular bands and musicians drop by for a concert or an intimate gathering now and then. You can even travel to a number of surrounding countries and cities, giving you that rush of adventure and excitement, always. If not that, then for a refreshing break, there are plenty of parks present at your disposal where you can just go and unwind after a long and tiring day! Last, but not the least, London is the place where Britain’s Royal Family resides. If you are a major fan, then this is your city.
2. Things to Know Before Moving to London
If the perks have you almost convinced and you are still deciding on moving to London in 2022, then there are a few things that might motivate you further, depending on your purpose and your location. Let’s have a look.
2.1. Moving to London as a Foreign National
A majority of the population in London comprises of foreign nationals that can be seen through little communities and gatherings that represent their culture. In one part of London, you can experience a mini Paris whereas in the other you can experience America. The diversity of experiences shows how London is inclusive of all. One more thing that makes it easy for you to move is the English language, which almost everyone speaks there, including you as well! English is spoken commonly among the people and if you are fluent, well you have got your advantage right there. Now you just need a visa to begin your adventure to London.
2.2. Moving to London to Study
Ever since Brexit, the tuition fees have been soaring up in the skies. In case you want to study here, you have a number of options up for consideration. As a student there are a number of questions that might run through your head such as which field is popular or which university you should opt for. King’s College, UCL, Imperial, LSE (London School of Economics) and Queen Mary University are just a few recognised universities that provide world renowned courses and degrees. Check out this list of the top 10 universities in London. Should there be a link here for the list of top 10 universities in London?
As a student, it’s all about the experiences. You get to make new friends, study at world renowned institutions, gain career opportunities and pursue different hobbies, all while enjoying the beauty that surrounds you.
2.3. Moving to London without a Job
London has it all, for everyone. Moving to London without a source of income may become worrisome for anyone who is not aware of the rich employment market that the city beholds. Many international organisations based in the city are continuously looking to hire new talent from the market. Every industry is formed into a community representing its nature, for example, financial institutions present in the Square Mile or tech-based organisations in Shoreditch.
This again stirs up confusion, whether to live near these communities or to just grab a property elsewhere? How much would the rent be? How will you travel? Moving to London alone can be scary but it can easily be addressed through updating yourself about the lifestyle of the city.
3. Costs of Living in London
London can be a very expensive city, in case you are from overseas. It is necessary to be careful when spending money while living the London life.
Deciding on where to live is the first thought that might come up when deciding to move to London in 2021. It’s easier to rent in London than to purchase a property.
Being an expensive city, the monthly rent of a 1 bedroom flat can cost you between £1000 and £130000 in the city alone whereas if you want more space for your family, the rent for a three bedroom flat may cost £2150. Purchasing a house may sound easier, but the price for one could be so high that you would have to cut down on so many necessities just to afford one that comes anywhere near your budget. A few years down the line, when you are finally all settled and doing well, maybe then you can opt for buying your dream house!
In case you are looking for more affordable options, here are a few tips,
- You can always share an apartment with a flat mate. You may lose out on privacy however, the costs for other utilities will be reduced to half, making it more affordable. There are many advertisements available for flatmates on accommodation websites like ‘Spareroom’, ‘EasyRoomate’ or Gumtree.
- Buying or renting a property outside zone 1 of the city is generally more affordable. The top five areas providing the most affordable options include Barnet, Catford, Leyton, Forest Hill and Waltham Forest.
- If you are moving to study, your stay might be short in the case of which you can also look for Hostels, Airbnb’s, House Sitting and Couchsurfing opportunities. Check out our guide on finding cheap accommodation in London and our guide to house sitting.
Buying a car right away might not be easy or practical but don’t worry as London’s Public Transportation System is very well maintained. However, as we mentioned earlier, the London Life is not that cheap and the fares for public transport are also quite high. It might also be confusing at the start since there are a lot of options you can choose to travel with. Each of them have their own fare depending on whether they are operated by Transport for London services or not, which includes,
- The Tube – £4.90
- Overground – £4.90
- DLR (Docklands Light Railway) – £4.90
- National Rail Trains – £4.90
- Bus – £1.50
- South London Trams – £1.50
- Cable Car – £4.50
By this time, you have a fair idea about the cost of transportation in London. In order to gain a more affordable price for each option, here are a few tips:
- Using an Oyster card (Contactless card) or a Debit/Credit card can help you reduce your fare to £2.40 for Tubes and DLR. It is also more convenient than carrying cash around.
- Taking the bus for shorter routes is also more cost effective since a tube may charge a higher fare if it touches multiple zones in one go.
- Walking and cycling are other transport options that can make your living more affordable. Both of them are also a great form of cardio, keeping you healthy and fit within the busy London life.
3.3. Food and Shopping
The best method to get to know a city is through its food and culture. Grocery is generally more affordable in London as compared to other cities, with there being a variety of items from all around the world.
In case you are still looking for an affordable option, here are our tips:
- Find affordable supermarkets within the vicinity. Most of them include Aldi, ASDA and Lidl, having a variety of options to choose from.
- You can sign up to Tastecard to get 2 for 1 or 50% off deals at restaurants in London and throughout the UK.
- Apply for UK supermarket loyalty schemes. All supermarket chains in the UK also offer cashback credit cards. Just check their site or ask a member of staff how to get one.
- Many large restaurant chains offer rewards and offers. Just check on their website and sign up for their newsletters in order to make use of deals and offers on time.
- For take outs, you can avail the service of Just Eat or Uber Eats for whatever suits your need.
Similarly, shopping for clothes and other items is also within an affordable range, that is, if you just learn to go to the places that have the most appealing yet affordable options. However, all of these prices depend on the quality, store and style of the item being purchased. You can do your own thing and select the item that calls out the most to you!
Who doesn’t want entertainment in life? There are just some times when you feel like living your life to the fullest. There are a ton of social activities that you can participate in when living in London.
- Dine out? There are plenty of options to choose from. Not to mention the wide range of different cuisines that London has to offer you! Fancy the idea of somebody else paying for your dinner? Then you should consider becoming a mystery diner.
- Movie? Only £12 for a ticket.
- Socialising? Join a social club; Citysocializer, Thinkingbob etc. and make new friends.
- Outings? Plan a trip to the museum, visit the castle, and meet up with friends. Most of these attractions are free to visit, so no need to worry about spending too much when on a trip!
Entertainment does not cost a lot, just bring company or your own self and live your life however you want. London is the main hub of England, which means lots of places and adventures are waiting for you. Check out our list with the top 20 free things to do in London.
4. Getting a Visa
Now that you are aware of the nitty gritty of London, it’s time to get a little information on how to obtain your visa. Without your visa, your move to London remains a dream that you are one step behind on. Depending on your purpose of relocation to London, the visa process has been briefed as below:
4.1. For Work
Since London is the central hub of England, it makes sense for you to move to London for work. Being employed to work in London requires a validated working visa for doing so, otherwise a tourist visa may also work if you are just visiting for a short seminar or a course etc.
Depending on the duration of your stay, purpose and field, you are eligible for different work visas. In order to find the suitable one for yourself, you may do so by visiting the Government of UK Website for Work Visa.
After having got your visa, another aspect to look at is the National Insurance Number to Work in the UK. In order to earn legally, it is essential to apply for a National Insurance Number. The process may take up to 8 weeks minimum, so apply for one before you move. It enables you to enjoy perks and benefits including pension, maternity allowance and even jobseeker allowance.
4.2. For Study
London’s recognised universities might have equally enticed you to join them for their diversity and quality. You may be only visiting for a short course, a degree or a diploma, yet the need for a study visa still persists otherwise, your university might not even accept you.
Depending on the type of study and duration, you may find your suitable visa at the Government of UK Website for Study Visa.
5. Moving to London – The Essentials
Now that you have figured out the first step of your journey; research and visa, let’s dive deeper into how you may go about London life after reaching your destination. That is equally as important as the start of your journey.
If you are relocating to London, you are bound to bring some personal possessions with you. In that case you can look up man and van London removals online that can help you easily transport your items to your apartment.
Now let’s move ahead towards the essentials,
5.1. Finding Accommodation in London
Till this step you probably would have selected a rental or have purchased a property within or outside London. As mentioned earlier, the rentals in London are very costly however, there are various affordable accommodation options present in London. There are many pocket-friendly and also very convenient options available for you to choose from, such as sharing an apartment, renting an apartment in a low-cost area, and so on.
5.2. Opening a Bank Account
Keeping cash at hand is risky, even at your place. It is better to open a bank account once you get settled to manage any transactions from home and from your employer. The process is similar to the one seen in other countries: find a suitable bank that provides services to expats such as yourself, submit all required documents and you are good to go.
Some of the trustworthy banks that you may find in London include HSBC and NatWest. Here are some more banks for expats.
- Barclays ‘New to the UK’ account.
- Halifax Current Account.
- First Direct 1st Account.
- Santander Bank Account.
- Lloyds Bank Account.
5.3. Finding a Job – Working in London
Finding a job to work out your utilities and other allowances is necessary. Depending on whether you want a part time or a full time job and your future goals, you can submit your application online over multiple UK job sites. Here we have picked the top UK job boards for finding a job in London.
The internet also adds a silver lining to the job hunt, there are various platforms that the online world offers through which you can make extra money. Start virtual tutoring or become a house sitter, you have various options available.
5.4. Getting a UK mobile number
If you are going to be roaming around London, you need to have a network. Getting a mobile number will help you be in touch with your school, your job, your friends and even your family. The option of ‘International Roaming’ on your mobile network could be an amazing one to avoid buying a new network sim altogether, although if you really want it, you can easily buy a prepaid smartphone upon your arrival to London. These phones along with a network can easily be found at international airports and stations. So be sure to look out for one! Also check out our post about how to get a free UK sim card.
5.5. Getting broadband
It’s essential that you get a broadband network once you arrive since you would want to be able to use the internet at home, for work, for study and/or to watch a movie.
Internet in London is comparatively cheaper than the US or Canada. Based on a 12-month contract you can easily purchase broadband from brands such as Sky, Talktalk, BT and Virgin Media. The packages vary from place to place where you live in London, with most of them starting from £20 onwards.
The guide has already provided you a detailed overview of the various options you can consider when you want to navigate the city. London is a 24/7 busy hub. Because of this, the transport options are never-ending and may become confusing at times when you have to make a choice regarding which one to opt for. Purchasing a car as soon as you arrive would not be a suitable option if you are renting an apartment or staying at a hostel.
Also bear in mind that driving in London is not cheap, for you might need to pay congestion charges during peak hours, which vary from place to place. Let’s not forget that you will also have to apply for a driving licence first before going ahead and purchasing a car. If you still purchase one, the cost of operating a single Volkswagen Golf would be more than your average monthly salary, so be mindful of that when making a choice regarding which car to pick!
Our suggestion would be to use the transportation network as it’s one of the best in the world. A great alternative is to walk or cycle, keeping you healthy and fit each day and of course saving you a lot of money.
London is not only about business, studies, employment, taxation, museums, it also offers entertainment like no other city in the world. You can make new friends from all around the world owing to its diverse population. Whether you are here to study or here to work, you are bound to go out with your friends or social network once a week. It might involve getting dressed up and going out on town or be that you’re having a more chilled night somewhere, needless to say there are various options available within London.
We get that you might be moving alone to London but you are definitely not staying alone. There are various meetup groups, free of charge, featuring a different activity or interest that you can join and make new friends in. Social clubs such as the likes of Thinkingbob and Citysocializer enable individuals like you who are alone to make friends that easily. You may also find expat groups within the city that you can bond with. There are a number of ways through which you can socialise and make new experiences.
6. Moving to London Checklist
By this time, the guide would have helped you to successfully plan on relocating to London, either alone or with a family. Just to be sure, here is an extensive checklist to ensure that you have planned out all the quirks of your move.
Now obviously, some things require your presence in the UK first handedly to be brought into action, but still it would be great to be a step ahead and learn about anything that you can in advance.
- Bring Business Documents
- Research on London’s Cost of Living (we have that covered!)
- Open a Bank Account
- Get a UK Mobile Number
- Apply for National Insurance Number
- Find a Job
- Find Accommodation
- Find a University/College to study at
- Apply for a Driver’s Licence (only if you want)
- Apply for an Oyster card
- Saying bye to Friends and Family
If you are at the end, you are successfully done with your planning. We wish you good luck on your move, where a life full of possibilities awaits.