Moving to London was something I always wanted to do, ever since I was a little girl. The reasons why still remain unclear today, even after I accomplished that dream, but one thing is true: the full year I spent planning 10 months in London was the absolute worst year of my life for the Monica Geller that I am. Planning, researching, calling, emailing, researching some more, figuring out the accent… ugh! But one thing became clear after I moved there: it might have been hell planning for this, but God was it worth it. I discovered hundreds of amazing places. Took countless photos. Ate so many great things!
So if you are one lucky person and looking into moving to London, read on for the few tips I learned while going through the process myself.
1. Plan your budget with London prices.
One of the first things you will realize in your planning is that moving to London isn’t cheap by any means, no matter where you come from. Costs are on a whole other level! Even groceries are more expensive than in the rest of the country. Here’s a short list of things you will need to plan for at some point:
- Rent, obviously
- Council tax
- TV Licence + kit (TV, wireless, phone, etc)
- Bills (electricity, gas, etc)
- Tube/rail travelcards
- Groceries (think Tesco or Sainbury)
- I’m not sure why I bought this but I did
2. What was that last item on the budget list?
You read that right. You definitely need to plan for things you hadn’t planned for. Why, you ask? Simply because London is BAD. London is full of temptations. London will get to your wallet – cupcake shops, evenings at the pub, discounted theater tickets, cute clothing stores, etc. This part of your budget is going to fill up much faster than you think!
3. Flatmates: not ideal, but essential
That’s not a very original tip, but it’s still very true: having flatmates will significantly lower your housing costs, and if you find the right ones, not have much negative impact on your overall life. In fact, it might even be the opposite – you might find the perfect friends there and spend lovely nights in (and indulge on that famous staycation trend). London can be hard for introverts, and having flatmates could solve the potential loneliness problem very easily.
4. Where to start the flat hunt?
This is actually pretty easy – you either go through an agency, or you don’t. I’ve had great experiences in the past with Foxtons, and it has the best selection of flats in the city. But you will need to pay for their services, obviously.
If you’d rather look on your own, there are also several options. The easiest one, Gumtree, is by far the most popular and probably the most efficient. You can find anything on there, from a flat, to flatmates, to furniture and more. For free!
5. You won’t run into the Queen on your morning jog
Let’s be honest here: unless you are somehow related to Prince Harry (then please, for the love of God, introduce me), there’s no way you can afford a one-bedroom flat in Kensington. Not even a garage in Chelsea. You are more likely to look into renting a room in zones 3 and up. My favorite areas? Anything West – North or South. Not that I don’t recommend the East – I just don’t know much about it. But areas like Hammersmith, Fulham, Clapham, Brent, Chiswick, Kingston, Putney – all great areas to explore.
6. Ever heard of the crime map?
Not as creepy as it sounds (although a little bit), it’s actually a very useful tool to help locate the most dangerous areas of the city, and where the worst crimes have happened. It was created by the Metropolitan Police and can be found here. Albeit very handy, it has to be taken with a grain of salt – make sure you analyse the types of crimes and not just the amount. Otherwise, Westminster would be empty pretty quick! I used to live in a student hall in Camden and despite it being dark red on the map, I have not once feared for my life there.
7. Where can I get stuff to make a home?
My favorite place to go to was Argos - you order, they deliver in store later. They have competitive prices, quality products and a wide selection that should help you furnish your home tastefully, and not go over budget (visit Primark for extra budget items). For a little umph, you might want to pay a visit to Habitat and Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road, both venerable institutions. Ikea is also a great option, and easily accessible.
This should help you plan your move to London a little better. Despite all the preparation it requires, moving abroad is a powerful experience, and I strongly recommend it to anyone. Especially in London – I hold the best souvenirs from my time there and (not-so) secretly wish I could move back there again one day. Who knows…
Have you ever thought of moving to London, or do you currently live there? What would be your best tips for newbies?