Moving to London
Moving to a major city like London can be a daunting prospect, so we’ve compiled a useful collection of tips to make your move as stress-free as possible.
Plan your move
While it’s not always possible to select when you will move, if you are able to do so it is a good idea to time your move to take advantage of the winter months. London is quieter after Christmas, which means there is less competition for accommodation and therefore a better chance of securing a favourable price. Removal companies are also quieter in winter, which might allow you to obtain a better deal for your move. Also, it is better to move mid-week when the roads and streets are quieter. Don’t try to do the move without the services of a removal company – they are professionals who know their job and fully understand the challenges involved in moving to a large city like London. A removal company might also be able to organise the temporary parking permit for the move which many London Councils demand.
Cost of Living
Like most cities, London is not a cheap place to live and it’s important to be prepared for a considerable hike in the cost of living if you’re moving from a rural area or small town. Expatistan.com provides a fairly comprehensive Cost of Living guide which is regularly updated. It also has a salary calculator to help you determine whether you really can afford to live in the Smoke.
Where to Live
Prices can vary wildly within the city of London, particularly when it comes to somewhere to live.
- The North of London - and in particular The North West – is comparatively expensive, but it boasts attractive areas of style and refinement. Popular North London locations include Camden, Crouch End, Islington and Kensal Rise.
- South London - with its lower accommodation costs and good transport network, South London is probably more suitable for families. Areas to consider are Clapham, Greenwich, Peckham and Richmond.
- East London - Much of East London is far removed from the image of battling Cockneys popularised by the BBC’s popular soap; in fact, East London has been transformed into a hub for hip, stylish types looking for a lively environment teeming with stylish coffee shops and bars. Despite its renewed popularity, East London house and rent prices remain reasonably affordable when compared to the rest of London. Popular locations include Bethnal Green/Whitechapel, Dalston, Hackney and Shoreditch.
- West London - The posh part of London boasts some truly elegant and beautiful architecture – but it’s also extremely expensive which means that those not earning considerably higher than the average wage might be well-advised to look elsewhere. The most desirable areas in West London include Earl’s Court, Kensington, Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush.
- Central London - The centre of London is a magnet for tourism, and many locals tend to avoid it as a result. That doesn’t mean there aren’t areas – such as Farringdon, Finsbury Park and Mayfair – that are worth considering.
- House Sharing - This is often the best option for young people hoping to live in London, although those who value their privacy might find living with other people difficult. However, if it’s not a problem, sharing accommodation will cut costs by allowing you to share the rent and (perhaps) bills. While sharing provides a handy means for youngsters to live in London, it’s not unusual for older career professionals in their 30s and 40s to do so. Suitable house sharing options can be found on Gumtree.
- Renting - Those earning a decent wage should be able to afford to rent a place of their own in London; this will, of course, depend on location as some areas of London are considerably more expensive than others.
- Buying - House prices are considerably higher than elsewhere in the UK, but they are also a sound investment for those who can afford to buy. The process for purchasing a house in the city is the same as anywhere else.
Moving to London with Kids
Parents will instinctively want to move to an area of London where there are good schools, so it’s important to do your homework before deciding on where to move to. Once you have decided, it’s a good idea to organise a sightseeing trip in the area with your kids to familiarise them with their new surroundings. We’ve all heard frightening tales of criminal gangs and gun crime in London, but it’s really no worse than any other city in the UK and easy to avoid. Brockley, Dulwich, Greenwich, Richmond and Walthamstow are family-oriented areas that boast a number of schools of proven quality.
Employment in London
The streets of London might not be paved with gold, but there are plenty of opportunities out there for those who are prepared to apply themselves and work hard. Your chances of finding employment in London will be vastly improved by networking: go to job fairs and other events, send out emails to prospective employers, and do some kind of work experience or internship if possible. Almost all major industries are represented in a city the size of London, but the key ones in London are Design and Media, Finance and Technology. Try to identify the area of London best suited to the type of work you are looking for when planning your move. For example, creative industries are prevalent in areas like Camden, Dalston, Shoreditch and Soho, whereas financial opportunities are more likely to be found in the Isle of Dogs, Tower Bridge or Wapping.
Travelling around London
London’s streets are packed with traffic, and getting from A to B can be an arduous experience. Although transport in London is extremely busy, it is also easy to get around. Few Londoners bother trying to drive around London: traffic is often bumper-to-bumper and parking is a near-impossible challenge. The preferred option for most locals is an Oyster Card, which is a pay-as-you-go card for travelling on tube, bus, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, Emirates Airline, River Bus Services and most National Rail services.
- Tube - Although it doesn’t provide the most comfortable ride and might initially seem as if it is designed to confuse the unwary traveller, the London tube is actually extremely easy to negotiate. Each line is colour coded and changing stations are clearly signposted.
- Bus - The London bus network is vast and comprehensive, and can be as quick as the tube is traffic isn’t too heavy. As with the tube, buses are an extremely popular form of transport – so be prepared for space to be at a premium!
- Cycling - Cycling has experienced an explosion in popularity, and it can prove to be a quick and cheap method of finding your way around London – provided you are prepared to brave the sometimes hazardous environment. There are numerous bike hire stations around London which charge a small fee for 24-hour access to a Boris bike and make no charge for the first 30 minutes of each journey. You could even consider buying a fold-up bicycle which you can take with you onto the tube.
- Taxi - Of course, you could always pass on the stress of driving to one of London’s colourful cabbies. You might have to listen to your driver putting the world to rights, but he will know the best routes to avoid the worst of any traffic hold-ups. Be warned, however: taxis are the most expensive way of negotiating the city, so be sure to ask for an estimate of the cost before leaving for your journey.
- Walk - If traffic is heavy on your route, walking can actually prove to be the quickest alternative. It will certainly be the cheapest, and you’ll reap the added benefit from the exercise. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes for the journey and take note of likely weather conditions so that you can dress accordingly.
Things to do in London
The options are endless, but sadly a surprisingly large number of Londoners fail to explore the city in which they live. Once you are settled in your new home, take the time to be a tourist every now and then. People travel from all over the world to visit London – you will have it all on your doorstep!