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You’ve arrived in London…. What now?

You’ve arrived in London…. What now?

Firstly, congratulations on making a great decision to move to London. If/when you return to Australia or New Zealand you will have grown as a person, as a lawyer and you will have enhanced your ability to adapt, handle change and no doubt form new relationships to last a lifetime.

Some of you may be lucky enough to have secured a role with a firm who is taking care of your relocation and offering you all the support you need and would expect from a major international firm. However, given the current state of the market, many of you, have booked your tickets and are arriving with the view to securing a role on the ground.

Whether you have secured a role or looking for a role, the administration when you first arrive in London is extensive and we wanted to provide you with a useful and practical guide to sorting your life out in a seamless and logical fashion.

Bank Account

As you will find out when arriving in London, you can’t open a traditional bank account without securing a rental property and it is very difficult to secure a rental property without a job! So, while one possibility is to wait until you have moved into a rental property and have received bills for proof of address you can easily open an account with a ‘Digital Bank’. We would strongly recommend Wise for the following reasons:

  • Out of all the Digital Banks it seems to offer almost no barriers and is the fastest and easiest to set up an account;
  • It offers some of the cheapest currency transfers available in the market;
  • Money is transferred instantly in the UK, and you can set up Direct Debits with your utility and other providers which is very important in the UK; and
  • While you can live off your international bank account, fees will start to rack up and this can be avoided through a Wise account.

If you want to set up a more traditional bank account once you have a permanent address then go for it, but we think you will find Wise has most things you need and you will probably choose to stay with Wise in the short to medium term.

Mobile Phone

The short-term solution is to get a pre-paid sim until you are able to apply for a mobile phone plan (this will generally be contingent on proof of address).

We would recommend giffgaff as a great option for a pre-paid sim.

When you do get a mobile plan we would recommend you get an e-sim. Major mobile companies to explore include EE, Lebara, O2, Sky, Three, Virgin and VOXI.

The benefits of an e-sim are multiple:

  • You can toggle between Sim cards if you need to access your Australian or New Zealand number.
  • You can set up a 2nd Whatsapp account via WhatsApp business. That way you can have your Australian/New Zealand number on your phone in your original WhatsApp and a 2nd WhatsApp for your UK phone number.

If you are able, it is best to cancel your Australian plan and just pay the minimal amount to keep your Australian number live for when you return.

Rental Properties

Firstly, don’t rush to secure a rental property. London is a large city and it is advisable to stay at an Airbnb, hotel, hostel or even subletting through platforms like SpareRoom for the first 1-2 weeks to get your bearings and get a feel for areas you might like, have friends in or heard great things about. Some common areas that Australians and Kiwi’s tend to live include:

  • Highbury & Islington
  • Hammersmith & Fulham
  • Clapham
  • Shoreditch
  • Camden Town

There are plenty of areas within each of these burrows and all are great.

Things to consider when choosing a property:

  • Price, what is realistic for you to afford. A good starting point is to use this rent affordability calculator.
  • If you don’t have a job yet you will need to secure a guarantor. It is best to line this up in advance and this will have to be someone in the UK in permanent employment.
  • A good starting place for locating properties is the Rightmove.
  • Ideally, you want to be near public transport. The further out of London you live the more expensive the commute to work.
  • One of the benefits of living in London is the proximity to Europe so always a good idea to consider the commute time to the various London airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, London Stansted, London City and London Luton.
  • Once you hone in on an area it is good to focus on one or two agents that you have built up a good rapport with and get them to do the hard work for you. If they know you are exclusively using them, they will be extra motivated to get a deal done.
  • Ensure you have all your documentation ready to go – visa, employment contract (if applicable), money for deposit and guarantor.

Once you have a rental property, what next?

  1. Register for NHS – the first step is to register with a local GP. You can find a list of GP surgeries near your London home, together with links to comments on each surgery by other patients on this website.
  2. Register for Council tax – most Councils will have a “Move-in form” on their website whereby you enter all your relevant details and the move-in date for your new residence. You can set this up before you move into a premises and the Council Tax bill can be used as a proof of residence for a number of administrative procedures and registrations.
  3. TV Licence – a TV licence is compulsory in the UK if you intend to watch live television and this applies to any device you use, whether it be TV, laptop, mobile phone, tablet etc. You can apply for TV license through this website and the current flat fee for all households is currently £159 per year.
  4. Register for water supplier – Depending on where you live you can find out who your water supplier is through this link
  5. Grocery options in your local neighbourhood tend to include:
    1. Waitrose
    2. Whole Foods Market
    3. Marks & Spencer
    4. Abel & Cole
    5. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and The Cooperative Food
  6. For online shopping, we would recommend Ocado
  7. Transport – Firstly you will not need a car in your first 6-12 months in London. Public transport is great, but also electronic bikes are everywhere and super economical. Look to set up the following apps when you arrive so you can travel hassle-free whenever you want (no helmets required)
    1. Forest
    2. Santander Cycles
    3. Lime
    4. Tier
  8. If you do need a car ZipCar is well-priced and provides you with all the relevant car options, you could require for short-term hire.
Sam Gray

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