So you’ve decided to take the plunge and join the tribe of Aussies living in London. Now what? Where do you begin? Well here’s a good start!
Book your flight to London at least 4 months in advance. If you’re booking one way, don’t pay more than AUD$800, if booking return, stick to no more than AUD$1500. Use Skyscanner or Kayak or I Want That Flight.
Try to arrange this at least 3 months before you leave just in case there are any hold ups. Most people come here on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa (working holiday visa).
For those applying from:
-Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra click here
-Adelaide or Hobart click here
Once you’ve completed all that, book in your biometrics interview. After everything has been processed you will be issued a temporary visa (a 30 day sticker in your passport). Once you arrive in the UK you will pick up your Visa/Identity Card (BRP) at a local post office within 10 days of arriving.
Get this sorted from Australia and cover yourself at least for the first 2-3 months until your healthcare registration in the UK kicks in. Once it has you can then purchase travel insurance for super cheap from the UK (we paid £70 for an annual couple worldwide insurance). Just make sure to add snow sports cover if there’s any chance you are heading to the slopes as adding it later usually costs quite a bit more. Also some UK travel insurance companies will only cover you if you have lived there for 6 months so just check this before you decide to do some travel around Europe.
Just remember you are moving to a city that has everything if not more than the city you are leaving, so don’t bring everything. Avoid heavy items such as books, photo frames, trinkets. Instead get a kindle and load it up with books, save your photos on your laptop. Try to condense as much as you can. Don’t bring too many jackets as its unlikely the ones from Australia are warm enough for the UK Winter anyway. Stick to the bare essentials. The most important things to pack are your documents: passports, qualifications, travel insurance certificate etc.
Obviously you can pack things in a suitcase or large backpack, but I would recommend a backpack purely cause its a lot less bulky to store and if you’re planning to travel Europe, a backpack is a much easier way to get through the cobblestone footpaths and staircases which are everywhere!
Have a look at Aussie Disposals or Anaconda for great deals on backpacks. I purchased a Blackwolf 75L for $185 from Anaconda.
A word of advice – AVOID REAL ESTATE AGENTS! We were charged £400 per person just for the admin fee. If you have to go through one, make sure you ask about their fees before you agree to anything (approximately 150 pounds is reasonable). To avoid such fees and the hassle of having proof of employment, I would suggest using sites such as Spareroom or Zoopla or the Facebook groups:
Aussies in London (click Posts to page)
Kiwis in London (click on the featured Weekly Flat Posts)
You will have to pay a bond which is usually 4-6 weeks rent so make sure you have this money available.
Just a few things to note:
– Well-known Aussie areas include Shepherd’s Bush, Brixton and Clapham (so up to you whether you want to migrate to these areas or avoid them)
– Generally if you live South of the river rent is cheaper.
– The closer your live to Zone 1 the pricier it is, so most expats live in Zone 2-3
– Try to get accommodation close to a Tube
– Avoid ground level flats if possible due to the issue of rats in London
– Bills are usually split between the number of people in the house
– As a tenant, YOU have to pay the council tax – the ‘cheaper’ the area you live in the cheaper the council tax. We lived in West Hampstead and had to pay £800 per quarter which is ridiculously expensive!
– If you are signing a lease, make sure contract has a 6 month break clause, just in case you don’t like the place or need to move, you can after 6 months
– Don’t pay more than £750 incl bills (single) or £1300 incl bills (couple) per month – you can get accommodation for much cheaper than what I’ve listed, but they should be the absolute MAX you should be paying
If you are moving into a brand new house (i.e. no other tenants already there), there are a few things you must organize:
– Contact Thames Water and British Gas and let them know the names of all the new tenants
– Pay the year TV license £150 (if you get caught without paying, it’s like a £1000 fine). This is a strange concept because you actually have to pay to use Free to Air TV!
– Internet – we use Sky and were able to manage to wrangle an amazing deal. Line rental is normally £17.40 per month (£208.80 per year), but because they offer £100 Mastercard Gift card for new contracts and we got £80 cashback by signing up thorugh Quidco, we essentially are only paying £28.80 for the entire year! If you’ve never heard of cashback, check out my blog on it here and you could be saving hundreds each year (I’ve gotten about 400 pounds back simply from booking hotels and flights through them)
– Register with the local council online – just so they know who to address the council tax bill to, they usually also send you a form with a few details you have to fill out and send back
There have been A LOT of changes to banking policy in 2017 which has meant that is much more difficult to open up a bank account. It used to be that you could just pop into a bank with your passport and open up an account, but this is no longer the case for most banks.
So how do you open up an account you ask? Well here are your answers. The answer is a bit long-winded so I’ve written an entire blog dedicated just to this topic!
The great thing about ATM’s in the UK is that the majority of them offer free cash withdrawals to everyone, not just those who are customers of that specific bank.
MONEY (before your UK account is setup)
You can use the 28 degrees card but don’t use it as a debit card and don’t withdraw money as they now incur hefty fees.
Also keep in mind that London is an expensive city to live in and at the moment 1 Pound = $AUD0.60. I’d recommend you have at least $AUD5,000 saved to bring over to start off with because with the bond for your new accommodation alone, you’ll end up with less than half of that.
Check out our blog on Tips on getting the best Currency Exchange Rate for more details.
The National Health Service (NHS) is the name of the public healthcare service. To access this service, you must register with a GP within your zone. Generally they make you fill out a form and hand it into them and within a few weeks they send you a card with your NHS number on this. Each time you move houses you must register with a new GP. Also all prescriptions are roughly £9 no matter what drug it is.
To find your nearest GP click here
Recently the UK government have introduced a Immigration Health Surcharge for anyone planning to stay for more than 6 months. For those coming on a Tier 5 Visa, it is £150 per year (£300 for 2 years). You will pay this the same time you’re applying for your visa. Click here for more details.
Purchase an Oyster Card -this is a public transport card which you can load up in two ways:
- Top Up – this means you are simply adding monetary credit to the card and that amount will be deducted each time you scan your card
- Travel Card – this option allows you to add 7 days or monthly unlimited travel in specific zones (between Zone 1 and Zone 9). If you travel quite a bit, this is the most cost effective option.
For your first week there I’d suggest you get a 7 day travel card and depending on where you need to commute, purchase the zones that you will be in, most likely Zone 1 (central London) to Zone 2. Once you know where you’re working I’d suggest you purchase a monthly card which will save you quite a bit of money. If you don’t live in Zone 1, I’d recommend purchasing a Travel Card from the zone you live in to the zone you are working in because adding zone 1 costs roughly an extra £70-80 so unless you plan on taking 40+ trips in/out of the city within a month, you’re better off just topping your card with £20 or so for those times that you do decide to head into zone 1.
Here’s the list of fares
If you are heading over here with your partner or a friend you know you will travel with, you may consider applying for a Two Together Travel Card which offers you significant discounts on National Rail services (i.e. train rides in the UK but to cities outside of London). We’ve managed to score huge discounts saving up to 40% especially if we’ve booked a couple of weeks in advance. The only catch is you both have to be travelling together to take up the discount.
There’s also a 16-25 Railcard which you can apply for if you are within the age range which also offers you the same discount as the Two Together card, except you can get the discount even if you’re travelling alone.
Download CityMapper, London Tube Map and Bus Checker – these will be your transport bibles.
Also Download and register with UBER – they are much cheaper than using black cabs and can often get you back home if you’re stuck in the middle of no where
Avoid Lebara or Lyca Mobile – both are quite big companies but not budget friendly.
I’d recommend Giffgaff which offer super cheap ‘Goodbags’. I pay £12 a month which includes 500 mins worth of calls and 2GB data. You do have to order the sim card online but it gets delivered pretty quickly.
NATIONAL INSURANCE NUMBER
Literally the moment you get a sim card, organize this. The NI number is similar to your Tax File Number and some employers will only let you work once you have this. You can only arrange this once you are in the UK.
1. Call them up on 0345 600 0643 Mon-Fri 8am-6pm
2. They will send you an application form which you will have to send back
3.Wait 6 weeks+
Here’s the link for more info
Most individuals don’t usually complete a tax return in the UK, however there are certain circumstances that you do – check the official UK Government Tax website to see if you meet any of the criteria.
If you are a contractor I would highly recommend consulting a UK Accountant about whether setting up a Limited Company is a good option for you. Having a limited company can often allow you to pay significant less tax and claim expenses such as transport, but this obviously depends on the kind of work you do. Generally with a Limited Company:
- you are the ‘director’
- money comes into your Business Bank Account
- you are responsible for transferring your money (salary and dividends) from your Business Account to your Personal Account
Your accountant should be able to give you all the specifics regarding how to manage your account.
For current tax rates visit Current Rates and Allowances
There’s so much happening in London all the time, so where’s the best place to find out what’s going on?
Time Out magazine is a free magazine distributed at most tube stations every Wednesday; they also have a free app which summarises the main events/restaurants/things to do.
Meetup is also a fantastic app/website which we use quite often. It’s used worldwide and is a great way to meet people who enjoy doing the same thing as you do. We have joined quite a few hiking meetups which have allowed us to go hiking on the weekends and meet some great people.
The Londonist also provides weekly updates of things to do in London.
If you just are a professional looking to just do contract work, just sign up with a recruitment agency rather than go looking yourself. It really saves you the hassle and often if you sign up with 2-3 agencies, they will be to find you a job relatively quickly. Usually you just have to email them your CV and proof of qualifications, passport and visa and you’re off. Often these agencies offer a referral bonus £150-£400 if you refer someone to them or vice versa, so if you have a friend already in London with an agency, go with their agency and you guys can split the bonus.
Lidl, Morrissons and Aldi are the cheapest
Sainsbury, Asda and Tesco are somewhere in between
M&S and Waitrose are the most expensive
For Asian groceries – avoid the pricey stores in China Town. Instead head to local stores like the ones on Mare Street in Hackney or in Cricklewood (Wing Yip)
Unless you absolutely have to, don’t drive in London, it’s chaotic and it’s often faster and cheaper to take public transport or just walk. If you plan on driving in other parts of Europe, make sure you organize an International Driving License before you fly over as some countries may only accept this form of a license. This should cost AUD$35. If you are renting a car in Europe, manual is almost 50% cheaper compared to auto.
Find out more info at Smart Traveller. Scroll down to ‘International Driving Permits’ and pick your state
It’s not cheap. But most new Londoners will head straight to Primark which is a cheap but trendier version of Kmart. The Oxford Street store is huge and actually has 16,000 staff members! There are also Westfield at Stratford and Shepherds Bush which are probably a bit easier to navigate than Oxford Street.
If you need to buy some furniture for your room head to either Ikea or Argos. Argos is like an all in one shop where you can buy literally everything but food (think of like a Harvey Norman), only catch is nothing is on display – you simply order everything through the computers at the front of the store, pay for it at the checkout and they will bring it out from the storeroom for you.
Things to arrange BEFORE you arrive:
– VISA/Immigration Health Surcharge
– International Driver’s License
– Recruitment agency (if you’re keen on working ASAP)
– Travel Insurance
Things to arrange ASAP when you arrive:
– National Insurance Number
– GP and NHS Number
– Sim Card
Also have a ready of my other blogs:
Travelling Europe on the Cheap; a Tightass’ Guide for some top tips for travelling on a Budget.
Hope that helps
Feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll try to find the answer for you 🙂
I try to keep this blog us updated as I can, but occasionally may miss a thing or two… last updated 29.03.17