We’ve also compiled a very useful list of top tips with helpful links and information that will help prepare for your arrival in one of the world’s greatest cities.
1. Visa Requirements
Depending on the reasons for your trip, you may need a visa – the process can be tricky and lengthy so make sure you leave plenty of time to get that sorted. The best thing is to check the official information online. Here’s a link to the UK government website. Once you’ve arrived your country’s embassy is the first port of call for any concerns such as reporting a lost passport or emergency support.
We’ve added some specific links to the websites for the following national embassies/ consulates:
2. Baggage & Shipping
Many people will know the stress of selecting clothes for a vacation. For a longer trip or a move to a new country, planning your wardrobe is going to take a lot more thought. Additionally, you have to think about all the other possessions you want to have with you in your new home.
Whether your stay is for a few months or longer, you’ll almost certainly exceed the standard weight allowance of the airlines flying to London so make sure you find out from them about taking additional baggage or look for a baggage handling agency or shipping company such as DFS Worldwide or Fedex.
If you’re relocating due to a new job or a secondment you will probably need to make arrangements for a UK bank account. Bank regulations across the globe change regularly and so the best place to start is with your existing bank, which should be able to give you all the information you need. Some will have established associations with UK Banks which will make life a lot easier. Check out this link for a useful guide to trying to open a UK bank account.
4. Medical care/Insurance
We are sure you will already have thought about your healthcare and insurance arrangements – especially if you are planning to drive or engage in sports whilst in the UK. Just in case, however, make sure you check these out with the appropriate sources!
The UK has a National Health Service (NHS) and provides information and options for those visiting or moving to England. And you can easily find other information you may need online.
5. Keeping in touch
Smartphones allow for a variety of communication choices such as WhatsApp and Skype. If your move is long term or permanent it will also make sense to look into the UK service providers and contract choices – if you don’t want to get tied into an agreement, pay as you go options are available, but can tend to be costly if your usage is high. It is quite complex and a bit of a minefield, so is definitely worth investing some time in!
6. Serviced Residence
Finding suitable accommodation can be hard and even stressful particularly when planning an extended stay in a new city, especially if you have never been before. It can often make sense to find something suitable for an initial period whilst you check out the longer term options and find your way around the city. Staying in a hotel for that introductory period can prove expensive so serviced apartment and residential accommodation, like that offered here at Vincent House, can be a really excellent option.
Moving to a new city comes with a lot of new experiences and lots of things to sort out so serviced accommodation can help reduce your load and make your moving experience much easier and more enjoyable.
Vincent House, located in the heart of Notting Hill and in London’s Zone 1, provides affordable and flexible serviced accommodation and is an ideal place to stay whilst you look a more permanent alternative. It’s an especially great choice as its rates include high speed WiFi, prepared meals and a range of other great benefits. Of course, some people find the lifestyle suits them so well, particularly in such a great location, that they extend their stay.
7. Longer Term Options
Once you’ve settled into your new life in London, you can explore places you might want to live in the longer term. There are great websites for accommodation ranging from houses and apartments for sale or to rent to other options such as house or flat shares. There are also websites with loads of tips for people moving to London so you can find out everything there is to know about finding somewhere to live.
London is split into different travel Zones with Zone 1 the most central (and also most expensive). Property prices in Zone 1 are high; however, by looking for accommodation further out, even just in Zone 2, you can save a lot of money. If you are happy to go into Zones 3 or 4 there is a great choice of more affordable areas still within 30 minutes of the city centre.
Transport & Travel
8. TfL (Transport for London)
TfL and oversees all London’s transport options including taxis and the TfL website has all the information you are likely to need including how to pay the lowest fares. Travelling around the capital can be costly so use the website to plan ahead and research the payment options.
Oyster cards can save you money on travel by tube and bus, as well as some rail services. They can be bought online or from stations – there is a deposit charge for the card (currently £5) which is refundable if you return it when you no longer need it. Oyster cards let you travel at a discounted rate and can be topped up via an online Oyster account which you will need to set up. If you have an eligible contactless debit card, you can use that instead and you will be charged at the same rate. Find all the information you need in the ‘Fares & Payments’ section on the TfL website.
For transfers from London airports to and from the city, consider pre-booking private transfers with Book Taxi London.
9. Tubes, buses & rail
London’s extensive tube network can seem very confusing. Thankfully, there is lots of information online and you can plan your journey before you set out.
Carrying a tube map is a good idea and, although ticket offices are gradually being removed from all except the main rail stations in London, most have staff to show you how to buy tickets from automated machines and help with enquiries.
London’s buses are an affordable cheap and convenient option, running pretty much 24/7, so make the most of them. A single ride costs £1.50, but be warned – they no longer accept cash so you need pre-bought one day bus-tickets, Oyster cards or eligible contactless payment cards.
Driving in London can be stressful and if living in a central location you may not feel the need for a car. If you want to explore further afield, however, driving can be a great option so a familiarisation course, such as with Britannia Driving School is recommended.
Licence requirements: Generally a valid driver’s licence in your country of origin allows you to drive for 12 months from the date of your arrival in the UK. Check this quick and easy questionnaire to see if you are eligible: https://www.gov.uk/driving-nongb-licence
Highway Code: Whether or not you intend driving it is advisable to know the signs and rules of the road. Reading the Highway Code is a great place to start.
London’s congestion zone: London has a central area congestion charge of £11.50 per day (at the time of writing) which aims to reduce traffic between 07:00 and 18:00 on a Monday to Friday. If driving in the Congestion Zone regularly Auto Pay can save up to £1 per day and there are other exemptions and discounts.
Hiring a car/Car clubs: You will find many of the international car hire companies operating in the UK (Enterprise, Avis, Hertz). Car clubs, a relatively new introduction in London, are a cost effective alternative to owning a car – a good starting point for information about these is https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/car-clubs
Get fit and find your way around – what better way than riding a bike? London has been investing in improvements for cyclists and it is a great way of exploring the city. Once you have got to grips with the ways of the roads and are confident you understand the road signs, then simply cycle for fun and fitness!
Cycling lessons: Before taking your first trip out on the busy roads of London find yourself an instructor, a class, or even ask a friend to help you learn how to ride in one of London’s parks. Then, once you feel confident and ready to roll, you can get out on the roads of London and explore.
Locate the best cycle routes: Finding your way around a new city can be daunting; but on a bike London may seem more manageable and you will start to find your way around in no time, especially now that so many cycle routes have been added in recent years. Websites such as https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/ can be a great help as they have loads of great information on where you can cycle in and around London and have downloadable maps, tips and suggested pit stops.
Hire a bike: There are loads of great cycle hire companies in London which are great if you want to go further afield but aren’t ready to invest in a bike of your own. If, however, you are just wanting to cycle to meet a friend, see the sights or have fun for a couple of hours, then hiring one of the so called ‘Boris bikes’ (named after the previous London Mayor, Boris Johnson who introduced the scheme, but now known as Santander Bikes) is the perfect solution because they are cheap to hire, really convenient and are located all over London.
Buy a bike: If you think you would rather have a bike of your own because you are ready to explore and want the freedom of your own bike, then there are lots of bike shops across London just waiting for you to go in and browse. If your budget is pretty tight, looking for a second hand bike could be the way to go. Sites like Gumtree often have lots of second hand bike adverts and are worth a look as most are highly affordable. If you have a higher budget, then checking out some of London’s best bike shops is a must. Always make sure that you try the bike out before buying it because new bikes can be a big investment and finding one that fits will ensure that you are comfortable and safe when out and about. Other useful sites to know about in the event your bike gets lost or stolen (sadly a fact of life wherever you are in the world) are stolenride.co.uk or findthatbike.co.uk.
Things to do
Moving to London will be an exciting new chapter, but it can also be a little scary if you don’t know anyone. The best way to make yourself feel at home and make the most of your time in the UK is to get exploring! There are loads of things to do in London, but if you are looking for particular events, or activities, then check out these suggestions:
London is a great city for walking and you can get to most of the centrally located spots quite easily on foot, especially if your starting point is somewhere as central as Vincent House.
London boasts a lot of great open spaces, such as the Royal Parks including Hyde Park, as well as Kensington Gardens and Green Park plus many others. It also has pedestrianised shopping areas like Covent Garden and, of course, some exceptional tourist spots such as Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London as well as Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and many other well-known attractions – and all of them are accessible on foot. However, it is a very busy city with lots of traffic so it is essential to be aware of vehicles when out and about. To ensure you are well prepared, read up on the Highway code for pedestrians and always make sure to look both ways when crossing the road to keep yourself safe.
13. Free activities
London is packed full of free things to do. It has several world renowned museums including the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V&A (Victoria & Albert), as well as highly respected art galleries including the National Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Many clubs and bars also host live music and themed events. Look out for free events advertised online and in the local area so you don’t miss out!
One of London’s main attractions is the amazing selection of shops – from well-known department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason to high end designer and individual retailers to mainstream brands such as M&S, Next and Top Shop which are recognised globally. Whether you are shopping for food, health & wellbeing or clothing, you will find lots of choice.
Anyone who visits London should not miss seeing a West End show. With so many different options on offer from heart-warming adaptations of childhood favourites such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Lion King to more grown up affairs such as The Book of Mormon and Les Miserables – there is sure to be a show that you will love. A great tip for tickets available on the day is the theatre ticket booth in Leicester Square. Just make sure that you go because you really must experience the magic of a musical!
16. Making new friends
If you are looking to make friends, go online to find out more about all the groups, clubs, events there are, especially for singles – sites such as MeetUp.com organise regular events to meet, mingle and network. If you want to make new contacts and you also love food, a great way to do both is through socialbelly which is a site and an app where you can discover amazing meals and meet like-minded people. Other great ways to meet new people in London include joining a sports team, such as netball or football, or even joining one of the socials on offer on Thinkingbob – a great site with loads of interesting and fun events across London.
17. Eating out
London is quite rightly considered to be one of the best places in the world for eating out. As it is so multicultural there are some amazing restaurants and a vast array of cuisines from just about every part of the globe.
It is difficult to know what constitutes a typical dish in the UK these days. There are, however, still some British favourites such as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and, whilst there is no real ‘London dish’, fish & chips and Pie & Mash were at one time the quintessential things to eat. You must try both – Manze’s is one of the best known places for pie & mash and you’ll find fish & chips outlets all over the capital. If you have never had an Indian curry before, make sure to seek out one of London’s best Indian restaurants for a delicious dish that you won’t forget in a hurry. And, like many international cities, London has a popular Chinatown where you’ll find a vast selection of restaurants with a wide variety of prices and serving a tasty array of different dishes.
18. Eating in
If you are living somewhere with cooking facilities, London also has an amazing selection of places to buy food. Choose from supermarkets, such as Waitrose, M&S and Sainsburys, and select food halls in Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges, to food stalls in several markets around London (Borough and Portobello Road being two of the better known) and small independent shops specialising in all sorts of tempting foods. Have a look online for the recipes to your favourite dishes (Jamie Oliver’s 15-Minute Meals are great if you are pushed for time). And, whilst there’s no excuse for not getting creative in the kitchen, there’s also some great take-aways and plenty of delivery options if you want to eat at home but don’t have the time to cook.
You will almost certainly find the weather very different. British people talk about the weather, a lot. In fact, it is such a common topic of conversation that recent research found that over 90% of people in the UK talk about the weather at least once every 6 hours with over a third talking about it every 60 minutes. Weather comes up a lot and can be a great topic for starting a conversation or greeting a new person. Of course, the Great British weather is very variable and, although there are only meant to be four seasons, it can be unpredictable with hot temperatures one day then dropping by 10 degrees the next. It also differs widely – from the chillier north (where snow in the winter is almost guaranteed) to the milder climate of London. The variations and seasonality may explain why weather is such a hot topic – excuse the pun – but it is a way of life in the UK, so you will have to learn to embrace it and get used to the Brits complaining it is too hot in summer and too cold in the winter! The best response is to just nod and agree!
London is known as a multi-cultural city. Many of the world’s nationalities are represented and wherever you are from you are likely to find shops, restaurants, cultural activities that will help you feel right at home. From the many European countries to the Far East and the Americas as well as those found in Africa and Australasia, there has been an incredible array of influences in this richly diverse capital. There isn’t room here to provide customised information for all nationalities but elsewhere in our blog you will find posts that feature specific details for individuals from the US, China and Spain.
And finally… now you’ve read our twenty top tips and checked out the links, you have lots of great information to help your move to London go smoothly. There’s certainly a lot to think about, but the internet has made it so much simpler – indeed, you may be wondering how people managed major life-changes such as moving to a new country before the arrival of the World Wide Web!
You now know how much there is to look forward to and you can focus on having a fun and enjoyable time from the moment you arrive in this great capital city!