So you’ve decided to move to London! Whether you’re poised to book a one-way ticket or still musing over your options, we’ve got all the essential information you need to know about moving to London from Europe, from choosing an area to live to the cheapest way to transfer funds from abroad. Anything we haven't covered? Let us know in the comments!
Immigration and Visas
If you’re from one of the EU Member States, which includes 28 countries, or Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, you are able to freely move to the UK and won’t need a specific visa to legally live and work here. Depending on your profession, your qualifications may also be recognised when moving to another EU country.
However, if you are from another European country which is not a member of the EU or mentioned above, you will need a visa to move here. For more information, check out our article on UK Work Visas.
Collecting your documents
As tedious as it sounds, it’s vital that you collect together all the documents you might need for your move to the UK and have them in both physical and online form. This includes your passport, employment contract, bank statements, your tax return, your pay slips, and various references. For the full list of documents you need to rent a property in the UK, read our detailed article here.
Creating a budget
It’s no secret that London is a very expensive city, and it’s likely you’ll find it significantly more expensive to live and work here than in the city you’ve come from. With this in mind, it’s best to create a realistic budget before you move taking into account how much your accommodation, travel and daily expenses will cost you in comparison to how much you are earning.
For more information on calculating the costs, have a look at our cost of moving article, which explains the different costs involved in finding somewhere to live, such as agency fees and monthly taxes, as well as how much shipping and other moving costs might add up to.
Getting around London
Whether you arrive by plane, train or even boat, the first thing you’ll need to buy in London is an Oyster Card. Available from most transport hubs and every tube station, they cost just £5 and are essential for using the London transport system. You can top these up on the machines, at a ticket booth or online, before using them on the tubes, buses, Overground and even on the riverboat.
You can also add daily, weekly, monthly or yearly tickets to these, giving you unlimited travel within certain London Zones within this time, but unless you already know the zone location of your work and home, it’s best to stick with pay-as-you-go until you figure out how much you will need to use public transport, and which zones you will regularly be travelling in.
In addition to an Oyster Card, if you have a smartphone then you’ll find having an app such as Citymapper or Tubemap invaluable in helping you navigate the city! Alternatively, you can pick up a paper map from most stations.
Choosing an area to live in
London is a huge city, second only to Moscow in the largest cities in Europe, and significantly larger than other major metropolises such as Berlin, Madrid and Rome.
As a result, it’s easier to think of London as a connected series of small towns or villages within one large city, particularly when you're trying to decide on an area. Different areas of London have their own distinct personality, types of residents and amenities, so you’ll need to ask yourself some key questions before starting your search, such as: Are you looking for somewhere family-friendly with good schools, or filled with bars and nightlife? How long will your commute to work be from various areas? What’s your budget (including council tax, bills and living costs)?
For an in-depth look at various areas in London, have a look at our dedicated Area Guides, as well as our newbies guide to living in London for a basic overview of the city. Once you’ve chosen an area, we recommend exploring it as throughly as you can, both during the day and at night, to make sure it’s the right area for you.
Finding somewhere to live
Unless you’ve managed to organise accommodation before you go, it’s best to have somewhere temporary to stay for when you arrive, so that you’ve got a place to sleep and put your things while hunting for an apartment and organising various practicalities such as a bank account and a mobile phone.
Unless you’ve got friends in the city who are happy to accommodate you for a while, the best option is finding somewhere on AirBnb. Not only is this normally significantly cheaper than a hotel, you’re likely to have all the usual amenities you need such as a kitchen so you don’t have to severely impact your moving budget by eating out every night!
To find more permanent accommodation, we definitely suggest the Movebubble app! We can help make that move a lot easier.
Opening a bank account
Opening a bank account is one of the most important things to do as soon as you arrive in the UK, as without it you might find it impossible to pay for things and be paid. There are outlets of the major banks all over London, and you can arrange an appointment here in person or over the phone. Each bank varies slightly, but for all of them you will certainly need a passport and proof of address, as well as possibly proof of earnings and a reference from your previous bank.
If you haven’t got a proof of address yet, a number of major banks such as Lloyds (Lloyds New To The UK) and HSBC (HSBC Passport) offer various services for those who have newly arrived and don’t yet have an address. These accounts can be opened with just proof of identity, i.e a valid passport. Depending on the amount of money you are willing to invest, it may also be possible to open your bank account from abroad, although this isn’t available for most regular accounts.
Once you have a bank account, it can be expensive to transfer funds abroad due to bank fees and poor conversion rates. For reduced rates and quick transfers, try using a service such as Transferwise instead.
Getting a mobile phone number
To get a Pay Monthly contract sim card for your mobile phone, which is often the cheapest option if you're a frequent phone user, you will most likely have to prove your address yet again and have a valid UK bank account.
However, UK phone providers now offer a wide range of contracts varying from Pay As You Go sim card to an International sim card, most of which can be bought upfront without proof of address and can then be topped-up at shops or online. These also have no fixed contract, which is ideal if you will be in the UK for less than a year.
Arranging a National Insurance Number
To legally work and pay tax in the UK, you’ll need a National Insurance Number. You can apply for this over the phone by calling the Jobcentre Plus, before attending a prearranged meeting at your local Jobcentre Plus to confirm your residential and employment status. For more information, read our article on how to get a UK National Insurance Number.
If you want your NI number and UK bank account done the easy way, 1st Contact’s popular Kickstart packages can help. Both your NI number and UK bank account are vital to getting your UK life set up. 1st Contact helps ease the transition for you by removing unwanted stress.
In addition, if you are relocating with your family from Europe, 1st Contact Visas are experts in getting you and your family to the UK. They can assist you with EEA family permits which you will need if you have any close relatives or partners joining you.
Registering with the GP
Once you’ve settled in a little, it’s important that you take the time to register with your local GP service (General Practitioner) in case you should get ill, as well as making a note of where your nearest hospitals are. The NHS website will help you find your local GP, and to register you will need your basic details, proof of identity and proof of address. You should also bring your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), or apply for one before you leave if you haven’t already. These are free of charge.
Main image credit: Williamson