So you’ve made up your mind: you’re moving to London, one of the world’s most exciting and interesting cities. Whether your move is imminent or just a faint project at the back of your mind, here are some must-knows that will help make your transition to the British capital smoother. Local oddities, packing advice, connectivity, humdrum paperwork – we’ve got you covered…
1. Staying connected
Staying connected when moving to a new city is essential and can help you feeling less lost. Upon your arrival to London buy a local pay as you go SIM card or a data plan if you are staying for a longer time period and have specific requirements (calling abroad, being able to send large files etc.) If (free) Wi-Fi will do, remember that airports and most institutions offer complimentary Wi-Fi in exchange for your data. TimeOut put together a list of restaurants and bars where you will be able to connect free of charge.
2. Apps will save your life
Use Citymapper to map your journey across town with route, time and price indications. Pre-book a taxi using Hailo or order a ride anywhere in the city at anytime, with Uber. The best bit? No cash needed, all payments are made through your pre-registered credit card. Craving for Korean food? Get your favorite bibimbap delivered to your doorstep with Deliveroo. Don’t forget to download Met Office for weather forecasts and Dojo or Great Little Place City Guide to be up-to-date about all the hip things happening in your city.
3. The Oyster Card rules
Chances are, you’ve heard of the all mighty Oyster Card – this rechargeable pay as you go travel card will open the doors of the London tube, Docklands Light Railway and bus system to you. Buy it online or at any tube station. Public transport in London spans across six zones and is now rolling out a 24-hour service: Night Tube (Central and Victoria lines) and bus lines connect Central London to the outskirts of the city. Sporty types will appreciate Santander Cycles, self-service bikes available for short journeys from as little as £2. Black cabs, taxis and Uber cars will also help you make your way around the city.
4. But paper still matters
You are on the verge of renting the flat of your dreams but just can’t seem to find your ID to prove that you are you? Make sure you take all your important with you, translated into English and certified, when necessary. Have ID photos ready as well as digital and paper copies of your documents so you can have them with you at all times. A quick checklist: a photo ID, bank statements, evidence of employment (if you are working), a reference from your previous employer and printed resumes (if you are actively job hunting), a proof of address once you have found an accommodation (an electricity bill under your name, for example), and evidence of your place at uni (if you are a student).
5. Londoners play by their own rules
What do foxes, jaywalking and postal codes have in common? When you move to London you’ll have to familiarise yourself with all of them. Foxes, you ask? The British capital is full of red foxes. It is not uncommon to cross one in parks and backyards. Jaywalking? While it is illegal in most European countries, you can jaywalk guilt-free in London (just look before you do it!). And contrarily to most countries, British postcodes are quite elaborate. They are composed of a compass-points district code and a sub-district serial number – SE1 8SE, for example – and can be a true indicator of one’s social standing – some postal codes just ooze ‘posh’.
6. The NHS is holy (and so is your GP)
There are a couple of tedious, yet very important things that you have to sort out upon your arrival: Registering with your local general practitioner, or GP, is one of them. And how do you go about it? Once you have an address and a proof of residence, look up a practice in your postal area using the National Health System (NHS) index and then get registered. There – it wasn’t that bad, was it?
7. Always come prepared
Although London receives less precipitation a year than Milan or Barcelona (hard to believe but true!), it is spread out over more rainy days, which is why it feels like it is constantly raining. Make sure to pack waterproof clothing, a “brolly” (umbrella), as well as warm jackets for chilly days.
8. Know where you stand with work
If you are moving to London as a student, chances are your school or university has sent you a welcome pack with documentation on the steps to take to register yourself or can help you with the registration process. Working in the UK however, requires some special documentation: Upon your arrival to London, apply for a National Insurance number with your local government services to get things started.