By Anton Constantinou
So, you’re decided to move to London: home of Big Ben, red telephone boxes and all things multicultural. Great news! Say hello to bright lights, lively streets, stunning parks and beautiful architecture. It might be a busy city, but that’s what makes it so exciting.
Whether you’re relocating to London permanently or on a temporary assignment, the same rule applies: do your research beforehand. With the right planning and preparation, you can make your transition as smooth as possible.
Here are some top things to consider when relocating to London:
The same eligibility requirements apply to London as the rest of the UK. EEA (European Economic Area) citizens are free to live, work and study here without restriction, and, after five years, become permanent residents.
Those from Commonwealth countries do not need a visa to enter the UK. However, if you’re planning on working here, you may need to obtain one of the following:
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa: Applicable to those from outside the EU who want to setup a company.
Tier 2 (General) visa: Suitable for those outside the EU who’ve been offered a job in the UK.
Tier 4 (General) visa: Otherwise known as a student visa. Prospective students can apply for this visa if they meet a number of eligibility requirements.
For full details on entry to the UK, click here.
London is a centuries old city made up of lots of towns, districts and neighbourhoods, and divided into zones, with the River Thames at its core. Its character varies wherever you go and so too do the people.
The city follows a complex and sometimes confusing postcode system, which can make it difficult differentiating between places. Zone 1, which covers the City of London and the West End, is one of the most expensive parts of London. Many of the homes here cost millions and are occupied by prominent individuals. Zone 2 is London’s most popular region, but, even then, this is scattered across the city and makes little geographical sense.
A simple rule of thumb is: the closer you are to a train or tube station, the more expensive your home is likely to be and, depending on your budget, you may be restricted to certain towns or boroughs.
The question you have to ask yourself is: what am I looking for in my local area? If it’s leafy streets and boutique shops, then Hampstead, Kensington or Richmond are ideal choices. Then again, if you’re working centrally and want to be close to all the action, Shoreditch, Battersea or, say Greenwich may be better options. With any relocation, it’s important that you consider removals and storage. whatstorage.co.uk have a number of self-storage facilities available in London, and can help facilitate your move to the capital with ease.
If you haven’t yet found somewhere permanent to live, or are waiting to complete on a property, then you’re going to require some temporary accommodation. Many people choose to rent in the first instance, but this can prove costly. Average rents in London are higher than anywhere else in UK, due to a mixture of competition and inflation.
Flats in certain parts of London are often small, and limited in terms of facilities, so you may wish to stay in a serviced apartment instead. A typical serviced apartment comes fully furnished, and is roughly twice the size of a hotel room, with separate areas to eat, work and relax. Each property features a kitchen, living area, bedroom, bathroom and a number of amenities, such as private balcony access to or an on-site gym.
Many serviced apartments in London are available at excellent rates, regardless of location. There are serviced apartments for couples, workers, solo-travellers, even families. While the price of renting a flat in London may shoot up unexpectedly, the cost of staying in a serviced apartment reduces long-term, making it a much more viable alternative.
For a full list of serviced apartments in London, click here.
London offers lots of different education opportunities: some private, some state-funded. Public schools – or independent schools as they’re also known – are fee-charging and student selective. The quality of teaching in these schools is high, as are the admission requirements. State schools, on the other hand, are publicly funded and available to all.
International schools are particularly attractive for business travellers, as they’re tailored specifically to the needs of expat children, and combine nursery, primary and secondary school teaching all under one roof. Some even offer mother tongue programmes in a variety of different languages. Much like public schools, entry to international schools is strict, and carries high tuition fees.
You can find more information on schools in London on the gov.uk website.
There is no shortage of great places to shop in London, whether it’s food you’re after or a new outfit. From Regent Street to Portobello Market, the city is jam-packed with everything from department stores to market stalls.
Oxford Street is an obvious starting point for many, given its central location and good transport links. Dubbed “Europe’s favourite shopping area”, it features over 300 stores including Selfridges, John Lewis and Nike Town.
Just a couple of stops away from Oxford Street on the tube is the multi-storey shopping complex, Westfield London, popular with tourists and locals alike. But it’s not just clothes and cosmetic you’ll find here. There are also restaurants, bars and a cinema.
East London has its own version in the form of Westfield Stratford City. Other popular shopping areas include Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and Knightsbridge – home of Harrods.
As a new resident to the city, you may find yourself in need of certain niche food items that are not easily acquired on the high street. That’s where London’s international supermarkets come in. These cosmopolitan stores are rich in non-British products like knäckebröd or Jamón ibérico. Here are nine of the best to visit.
Getting about in London is easy thanks to the city’s comprehensive network of buses, trains and ferries. The London Underground provides fast connections north, south, east and west, and operates on a system of colour-coded tube lines, while London buses are numbered.
As well as the tube, there are a number of Overground trains available which cover not just London but places as far out as Eastbourne and Weymouth. As many are run by different companies and follow specific schedules, it’s advisable that you download the Network Rail app to make sense of them all.
A Tube app is also available and will help you get to grips with the London Underground. Should you wish to forgo buses and trains altogether, there’s always Clipper boats. These commuter ferries carry roughly 8,500 passengers a day and are a good alternative for those working in places like Embankment or Blackfriars.
Why navigate your way around London with an A-Z when you can use your smartphone? There are lots of apps you can download created specifically for this purpose including Visit London, Riverside London and Citymapper.