One Year in London – A Guide for Newbies

05 July 2016

You wouldn’t get too many arguments if you were to proclaim London as one of the greatest cities in the world! But what is it like to actually live there?

Every year people like me, from all corners of the globe, make the decision to relocate to good old London Town and find out.

Originally from a very small town in Tasmania, Australia, I spent the majority of my adult life refusing to settle down and moving to bigger and bigger cities in my own country. After 5 years in Melbourne, I was ready for the next challenge and London seemed like the logical next step. I had visited the city a couple of times before, once as a tourist and once hanging with locals but there is a bit more involved in moving to London than just knowing when to stand on the right.

Having just celebrated my one year anniversary here, I thought it may be worth writing a survival guide for others.

From finding a place to live, to keeping positive during the near-never-ending job search, below are six tips to help London newbies!

1. A place to stay – Whether this is a backpackers or a friend of a friend of a friends couch, it is pretty important to have somewhere to go to when you first arrive. If choosing the hostel option, make sure you book in advance and maybe choose somewhere you think you could stay for a week or two. Party hostels are great, but try spending two weeks straight in one!

When looking for something more permanent, remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Don’t waste your time trekking half way across town to an inspection that will just be a waste of time. Properties move fast in London so you need to attack your housing search with time and focus. Easyroommate, Spareroom and Gumtree are all worth a look and as an additional tip, try searching in suburbs surrounding your ideal location (they are probably cheaper with less competition).

2. Bars – Okay, it might not be the best way to tackle jet lag, but it seems like a good idea at the time. London is home to some amazing bars and pubs, and when you arrive at the start of summer it seems rude not to try at least a few of them. Plus, you can’t go straight into the serious stuff and it’s actually a great way to find out what a potential suburb is like to live in.

3. Getting around – Londoners don’t know how good they’ve got it! When your train is 4 minutes away, that is considered a bad day on the tube. Add buses, overground and national rail and you can get just about anywhere you need to quickly and easily on public transport. To make sense of it all, there are a number of apps out there to help plan your journey. Check out citymapper as a good starting point. You can get good weekly and weekend travel card deals, use an Oyster card, or if it all seems too confusing to start with, ensure you have a contactless bank card and use this to get around.

4. Setting yourself up (serious stuff) – It should go without saying but don’t forget things like a National Insurance Number or Bank Account. In some cases it can take up to 8 weeks to get a NIN, and it’s trickier to open a new bank account than you might think, so best to do the applications when you first arrive. A quick google will help you apply for a NIN, depending on your passport/VISA you will need to set up an appointment and can’t arrange this until you are in the country.For a bank account you will need to set up an appointment too, however the main issue is that you need proof of your address. When you have just arrived in the country, you are crashing on your friends couch and you don’t have any bills in your name it becomes a bit hard. Not only that, to get proof of address from elsewhere, you need proof of address, or a bank account! It becomes a bit of a vicious cycle. The best bet is to get your national insurance number first (sent to your current address), then set up an appointment at your local bank and you should be able to knock it over in an afternoon.

5. Let yourself have some fun – Imagine it’s your sixth day in a row of searching for rooms, applying for jobs and staying inside to ensure you don’t spend any money. You’re probably not doing your best work in this state. Don’t be too hard on yourself, explore London a little bit, go out for a meal or some drinks, see some music or art, hell.. if the suns out best soak it up! You will feel ten times better by taking a break from the serious stuff, and who knows, you might meet your future boss or landlord while doing so. There are so many great free things to do in London, so you don’t have to feel guilty about sightseeing. As well as the galleries and museums, have a look on websites such as YPlan for pop-ups and other free things to do.

6. Don’t stop being a tourist – perhaps the most important tip of them all! You will see plenty of mopey Londoners during your time here, don’t become one of them. If your commute is anything like mine you will pass some amazing London landmarks every day. There is nothing wrong with stopping to upload a picture to Instagram or sending a cheeky ‘how’s your commute?’ Snapchat to make your friends at home a little jealous. It will also help you remember just why you chose to move in the first place!

Don't stop being a tourist

Don’t stop being a tourist


Richmond Deer Park – walk with the deer, enjoy tea & scones and take in the views

Borough Market – eat your way through the bustling market, then pop into a local watering hole for a well-deserved beer and views of the city

The Scoop – check out one of their free summer events and get a happy snap with the Tower bridge while you’re there

Southbank – where else can you take a selfie with Big Ben and the London Eye

Primrose Hill – pack a picnic, meet some local four legged friends and enjoy amazing views of the London skyline

Written by Harry Upton. What tips do you have for new Londoners?