Have you Just Moved to London? - Broke in London

Just Moved to London?

By Manolis Zografakis

Just touched down in the capital to find yourself short of breath, not only because the big red bus next to you is spewing smoke like it's about to go out of fashion but also because you can't get over the price of a loaf of bread! Don't worry, BrokeinLondon was there once too, and this section should help you out with some advice and any questions you might have. You should also keep in mind that London is the one of the most expensive city in the world so don't forget to have a look at our concrete guide to living in London on a budget!

Eligibility to travel to the UK

Before travelling to the UK you should check if you will need to get a visa and if so what type. You may need a visa to come to the UK to visit, study or work. Therefore, check if you need a UK visa, the Queen can be pretty harsh about this sort of thing so best not to start in her bad books! (be sure to also check our new guide to moving to London in 2022).

The 10 first things you will need to sort out upon arrival 

#1 Get cash – Exchange your money for British Pounds

When you arrive and want to exchange any foreign currency for lovely British quids, don’t be tempted to do it all in one go at the airport, they’ll charge you a small fortune for the service! If you can find your way to a Post Office or Marks & Spencers store you’ll get a much better rate with no commission, quids in! However, if you are the investigator type of person and want to search it a bit more, just visit Comparecurrency.com and find out the latest currency exchange rates in town!

Just moved to London - Pounds

#2 Daily Transportation – Get your Oyster Card

When it comes to Getting Around in London Oyster is the first and last word you’ll need to know, they may have no relation to fine dining but they will certainly save your pennies.  You can buy an Oyster Card from all tube station around London, top it up at any tube or train station or even in your local Oyster stop shop, and then use it on buses, tubes, trains and boats to make your way about.  If you are a student you can apply online for a Student Oyster Card and save 30% on adult rate travel cards and bus and tram passes.  You will just need a digital, colour photo to upload, your student enrolment ID, your course start and end dates and a credit or debit card to pay the £10 fee. People with disabilities may be eligible for a Freedom Pass which provides users with free travel throughout London. If you really want to get to know London and save bundles of cash then buy a bike as soon as you can and tips and advice through our Cycle in London Guide! Finally check out these 10 Free Transport apps to help you plan your journeys as well as our London Transport Tips to help you save money. Before leaving the house, be sure to check the weather forecast so you know if it will be hot, cold, dry or rainy.

Don’t get lost, get a map!

Get a free PDF guide to London, with some basic listings of cheap eats, cool areas, budget tips and things you can do for free. You can also download free tube, cycling and bus maps via Tfl.gov.uk.
Just moved to London - Oyster

#3 Get a bed – Find short or long-term cheap accommodation

London and Londoners can be pretty intimidating, whizzing by like they’ve drunk 12 espresso coffees before 8am that day (which they might have), so finding some friendly faces to host you for your first week or so is pretty important. If you don’t know anyone who already lives in London then go to our Accommodation Section to find the best accommodation providers. You will definitely want to check out our super Room Search Tips on prices, bills, agencies, flatmates and more as well as our post about Renting in London and the one about Where to Live in London. Finally, if you are a student have a look at our student accommodation section to find Student Accommodation Providers.

If you need help finding the Best Student Accommodation in London, you can rely on Amber. They provide free and 24/7 student housing assistance globally.

London Room rents rise

Storage – Store your extra stuff

If you need to keep your baggage and bits safely stored while you house hunt, you can do so with many different storage companies. These companies provide storage spaces all over London and the smallest storage spaces start from around £7 per week. Find out more through our guide to Cheap Self Storage in London.

#4 English Language

Ok, if you are on a limited budget and you also don’t speak the language, you might face severe social but also ‘survival’ problems…What can you do about it? We would suggest you enrol in a Free English Lesson to brush up your English. However, you will probably never reach the point to be fluent in English just by studying, so just start socialising and try to talk in English as much as possible!

#5 Get the internet for free! – Free Wi-Fi spots

If you are lucky enough to have your own laptop take it down to any of your local WI-FI hotspots. Most pubs and cafes in London have WI-FI , just ask at your local – you may have to buy a coffee / beer in order to use WI-FI , but that will work out much cheaper than paying per minute at expensive internet cafes. Timeout London and Londonist have created Free Wi-Fi maps but there are also some nice mobile apps for you to check. In any case the best thing to do is to have a look at our post about how to find Free Wi-Fi in London.
Just moved to London - Free wi-fi

#6 Get Mobile – Get  a free sim card

It’s a good idea to get onto a UK network as soon as you can as making calls from your home network will be expensive, you may be able to keep your phone and simply pop a UK SIM into in to it.  If you are going to be in the UK for a year or less, pay as you go will probably be the cheaper option so have a look at our article about how to get a free UK SIM. You can also check a summary of some of the Deals on Offer for contracted and pay as you go SIMS (including links to offer your free SIM including free delivery).

#7 Get a bank account – Open a British bank account

Opening a UK bank account is one of the most important things you’ll need to do after arriving.  Without one it will be almost impossible to do, well, pretty much anything.  This process can take up to two weeks though so be sure to have enough cash to get you through your first couple of weeks. If you haven’t yet made the move to London then shop around online for banks before you leave home.  Once you’re in London you should be eligible for a ‘basic bank account’ from most banks, which will give you a cash card for cash machine withdrawals and facilities to transfer money.  However, if you need more useful services such as a debit card, internet banking and a cheque book, and want to make life a bit easier for yourself then you’re going to have to get involved with a current account, don’t be afraid to just pop into your local bank to see what they can offer you, or take a look online or give them a call using the ‘contact us’ links on their websites.  Once again, if you’re a student, shout about it, there are lots of special student accounts that come with great perks. Find more through our Get a Bank Account in the UK Guide

Extra Tip: If you finally manage to open a UK bank account and want to transfer money to your brand new account you should consider using Transferwise which is the best way to transfer money overseas as you avoid paying the hidden bank fees.

#8 Get signed up for your local Doctor – Get health insurance

Students: Ask your university about how and where to sign up with your GP and what health care services you will be provided with, your university is the fountain of all knowledge, ask them anything and everything, heaven know you’re paying enough for the privilege!

Non – Students: Find your Local Surgery:  get down there and ask them what they want from you in order to sign up! Phew, nearly time to relax! For more information on your Local GP’s Services. Regarding dental treatment, you can have it for free if you are under 18 but for the rest of you just check our post about Free dental treatment in London.

Just moved to London - GP doctor

#9 Get a job! – Find a part-time or full-time job

Before you get into the rat race of working 70 hour weeks there will be a few Documents to be Sorted Out. Citizens Advice Bureau provides free confidential and independent advice about employment and other problems. If you have any questions / problems, you know where to go! First thing you need to do is to apply for a national insurance number (NINOs) as without this you can’t apply for a job. It will take some time until you finally receive your NIN card so plan ahead and try to sort this out asap. For further information about finding a job in the UK go immediately to our Job Hunting Section and search through the job categories to find your job field and the best job boards for your needs. However, if you need a job and you need it NOW have a look at 5 Easy to Get Jobs and also check our handy guide with 5 key steps to get a job in London.

#10 Get a life!

After dealing with all the above mention missions you can finally start planning your everyday life! So, our last tip for those who don’t have friends in town is Meetup Groups in London. Meetup is a nice website-network of local groups where you can find interesting groups to join in order to find like-minded dudes and dudettes.

p.s In order to have a nice safe everyday life in London you’ll need some Safety tips so check our Feeling Safe in London Tip.

If you are planning to move to London, have a look at our moving to London guide.