The complete guide to moving to London

Updated: May 28, 2018

Whilst our Moving to the UK guide is packed with plenty of information to make your move to Great Britain go smoothly. London, though, can feel like an entirely different entity to other parts of the UK. If your heart – or employer – is in London, then this guide features more specific things to consider.

Setting up home

London has some of the best public transport in the world, so the likelihood is that wherever you decide to live, you’ll have easy access to the underground/over-ground or bus network. London itself is made up of 32 boroughs and neighbourhoods – though you might find some plucky landlords advertising a home in ‘Greater London’ only for you to find it in neighbouring counties like Kent or Essex. Laying our cards on the table, London is expensive. No matter where you live, your home and your commute to work, are going to be your biggest expenses.

According to UK newspaper The Sunday Times, the most desirable places to live in London are Bermondsey, close to Tower Bridge and within the cultural hub of Southwalk, and a couple of underground stops to the fashionable Southbank. The area is mainly converted warehouses and industrial chic, so it might appeal more to those without young children to consider. Going further west, Fulham is another spot high on the list for independent shops, good coffee and an active community spirit.

If you’re looking for something a little greener, Notting Hill (watch the film to get a flavour for the Victorian terraces, pretty doors, and overflowing market stalls) is a very affluent area within the Kensington & Chelsea borough and the beautiful Hyde Park on your doorstep. Richmond is quite a large borough in the south-west of London with plenty of green pace.

To rent or buy

Home-buying in the UK can be something of a chore – a bit like anywhere else in the world there is lots of red tape and hoops to jump through before you own your own home. Websites such as will be good armchair viewing, to give you an idea of what houses go for in areas you’re thinking of. Alternatively, you can put in your desires – number of bedrooms for example, and your budget, and you’ll be given a list of potential homes. Buying a home can be expensive not just for the bricks and mortar, but in legal fees and valuations. This has led to a number of online estate agents, like the popular which don’t work with commission and do away with many of the hidden legal fees. It’s also likely you’ll need a mortgage, many banks and building societies offer a range of mortgages depending on things like age, first-time buying, new builds etc. The best advice we can give is to shop around. Perhaps even book an appointment with a mortgage advisor.

With the capital being such a tourist and expat hotspot, not to mention those migrating from other parts of the UK, rent can be expensive, but is often the way many people start out. One of the many benefits of renting is that you’re not as tied to a home – or borough – should you find a corner of London which is a little more ‘you’. Rental contracts can vary and you’ll have a choice of private landlords or letting agents. Letting agents will usually include a fee to process your application – they will usually check you can afford to let the property with your bank/employer/other agencies. The above-mentioned rightmove also has a rental section. Local agencies will often have window displays with properties for rent, but you’ll find most of those will be advertised on rightmove, too. All kinds of renting options are available, whether you’re looking for a fully furnished pad, or just the basic white goods like a cooker and a fridge. Many will be advertised as ‘certain white goods’ so be sure to confirm exactly what that means – you don’t want to sign for the lease assuming all your cooking and laundry needs are covered, only to find you’re missing a washing machine when you move in.

TIP: Before putting down a rental deposit, or an offer on a house, explore the area. Does it fit with the kind of lifestyle you lead – good schools, great restaurants, close to local transport or the office?



There is only one water supplier for the London area, which is Thames Water. You’ll be looking at around £400 per year for your water, but this of course will depend on the size of your household and how much h2o you use. Your home will already be connected, though you will need to sign-up and create your own account, which can be easily done on their website

Gas and Electricity

The whole of the UK has a deregulated energy market, meaning that you’ve got plenty of choice due to competition. As a new customer, companies will offer great deals to get your business, so it really does pay to shop around.

We’d recommend you use a comparison site such as uSwitch, or which will also indicate if there are special offers or reduced rates. The actual set-up is pretty painless as the providers do most of the work. If you’re moving to rented accommodation, you will need to provide meter readings to the new supplier if your letting agent/landlord hasn’t already done this. It’s basically to ensure you’re not paying someone else’s bill, but often means you’ll be on a higher tariff for the first month while they work out what your usage is likely to be. You’ll then be given the option to sign-up for a contract with that supplier, but you can – and should – shop around.


The cost of a TV licence in the UK is currently £150.50 per year. It is easy to register and pay at the TV Licensing website You must do this – if you’re caught watching a TV without a licence you can be fined and/or prosecuted. The law has also recently changed, taking into account the popularity of ‘on-demand’ services, so your licence covers all live or recorded television on any device and any programme watched via the BBC’s iPlayer service.

You’ll still receive the UK’s main free-to-air channels, namely BB1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5. The BBC channels often move away from the main schedule, with local programming replacing the national schedule. You’ll find there also local news and weather bulletins in addition to UK-wide news and weather.

In terms of digital and satellite offerings, the main providers are:






This is another area where there are a number of companies looking for your business, so you should use a comparison site to find the best deals. Most media companies provide TV, phone and broadband, so you’re often best looking for package deals across devices.

As with television, the main providers are:





Council tax

While not quite a utility, and more of a legal requirement, council tax is still going to be a monthly outgoing. This basically pays for the up-keep of your local roads, rubbish collection and public services in your area. The amount of council tax you will pay depends on where you live in London, and how much your property is worth. You’ll receive a bill for the year ahead, usually in April which is the start of the financial year. You can pay the whole thing upfront, or by monthly direct debit for 10 months (you don’t pay council tax in February or March). Letting/estate agents will be able to tell you what band you fall in to for council tax, as this might form an important part of your monthly budget. There are also discounts available for single dwellers and students living in the house.

Getting around

Public Transport

Public transport is regular and reliable in London, with buses and rail covering central and the outer-laying areas. Many services run in to the night of a weekend, so you can be out dancing the night away and still be able to get home cheaply and reliably. Transport for London (TfL) has a very comprehensive website where you can map your journey, work out the cost.


London buses are the iconic red ones seen in TV and film. They are a very cheap way to get around, and with dedicated bus lanes, and public transport-only streets, are not always as slow as you may think. That being said, because they are so cheap, they can be over-crowded and you might need to leave a little earlier if you’re on your morning commute. Visit the bus section of the website to find routes close to your new home/office and work out how long it’s going to take.

Underground & light rail

London tube stations are dotted around London, so you’re usually within walking distance of one – or more. There are multiple lines covering the centre of London, many overlapping and with trains every 2 minutes on the most popular lines. Again, the TfL website will even tell you how long the walk is between stations, so you can get a good idea of your potential commute, or to get to Harrods for some indulgent shopping. During the week, central zone trains start as early as 5.30am and continue to midnight, or near enough. London is divided into zones, which will alter your fare depending on where you’re travelling to/from. Thankfully, though, with the new pay-as-you-go method of using your debit card on entry/exit with the public transport network, the system cleverly works out the lowest fare for the day.


Taxis are plentiful in London, the black cab can be hailed on any street and can be picked up. There will be a minimum fare, displayed as soon as you get in. This basic price will be higher of a weekend, holiday and after midnight. London cabbies are notoriously well-trained, taking between two and four years to learn what’s called “the knowledge”. This is the comprehensive list of routes, streets and landmarks that make up London and mean that taxi drivers don’t use sat-navs but rely on their excellent memory.

There is also a number of private hire companies you can call on. The main difference is, you can’t legally flag down a private hire on the street, it has to be booked in advance. Uber is the new kid on the block, and has been surrounded by controversy. It is competitive and the number of drivers make it easy and efficient to get a cab.

TIP: Don’t worry about investing in an Oyster card for public transport, you can use your debit/credit card across the bus and underground system. Just remember to tap your card in – and out – to get the best daily rate.

Getting a driving licence

You can drive in England with your current Australian driving licence for 12 months after arriving.

After at least 185 days as a resident, you can exchange your licence for a British one. You need to complete Form D1 from the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Authority (DVLA) - - and return it by post with a £43 fee and any identity documents it will request. You should then receive your new licence within 3 weeks.

As Australia has a reciprocal agreement with the UK, you won’t need to re-take your test, provided you switch your licence over in the allowed time period. However, given the vast network of public transport, it’s likely you won’t need – or want to use a car – in central London. Traffic can be a nightmare, and like in any new city, learning the road layouts, one-way systems and bus-only lanes can add unnecessary stress to your day. It’s worth knowing also that London has what’s called a ‘congestion charge’ on some of the most central roads. The aim of the system is to reduce congestion, encourage car-sharing and use of public transport in these areas. No matter how long – or briefly – you are in the congestion zone, you’ll be charged £11.50 per day. It is in operation Monday-Friday, 7am to 6pm. The zone itself is quite large, and you can use the interactive tool on their website to see if your place of work or potential new home is within this area: You can apply for a residents discount if so, and there are other discounts and exemptions – for example motorbikes or vehicles with an owner who is registered disabled.

If you are thinking of buying a car, it is also worth checking the ‘T – Charge’. This is a new enforcement by the London officials to try and reduce the environmental damage caused by vehicle emissions. At the moment, the general rule is that older, heavier vehicles don’t always meet new European guidelines. Again, you can check this on the TfL website.

TIP: Remember to exchange your driving licence within 185 days of moving to London, or you’ll need to re-sit your test again.

School Options

Schooling is free for all children and compulsory for children 5-16. Kids need to be in school by the time their 5 years old and will stay in primary school until 11 years old. The curriculum is broad and covers arts, humanities and sciences. In most public primary schools, children will have the one teacher for all of their subjects who will be with them all year. Between 11-16, children will be in secondary school. This is where you’ll need to make a couple of decisions. The local education authority looks after schools in your catchment area – which is basically decided on where you live. Secondary comprehensives are the most common and will offer a range of subjects across what’s known as the national curriculum. The government website: will give details of what is studied at every level. At 14, students will decide to narrow down their studies, to help prepare them for the upcoming GCSE exams at 16. Passing English and Maths are now compulsory, so if your children don’t get the required grade, they will need to resit – but this can be done in conjunction with further training or further education.

Over the last couple of years, grammar schools have come back in to fashion. These tend to offer a more academic route – and often require an entrance exam. In addition, academies and free-schools offer education paths that do not strictly have to follow the national curriculum.

Then there are private schools. These can be either ‘day-schools’ where students will come home at the end of the day, or ‘boarding’ schools where your little ones will live on site for the duration of the term. This type of education is very pricey – in addition to uniform, supplies, meals and board, these institutions offer a broad extra-curricular sporting activities. The independent schools council has a list of schools that are registered within each London area.


As a Commonwealth member, Australian nationals can vote in a UK general and local election, provided you can meet certain criteria. You need to on the electoral role, which can be done by registering to vote

You must also have been a resident of the UK for 5 years and registered to a UK address.


Thanks to a government initiative, you can bring your furry friends from Australia without worry of months in quarantine. You’ll need to make sure they have a health certificate, signed by a registered vet – you can download the certificate by clicking this link: Don’t have it signed too early – your pet must arrive in an EU country within 10 days of the certificate being signed.

You will also need originals of all their documentation as photocopies will not be accepted. They will need to be fully vaccinated, with an up-to-date rabies certificate, and microchipped. If you’re bringing your kitty, you’ll also need to have another certificate, this time from the Australian Department of Agriculture, to confirm that your cat hasn’t been exposed to the Hendra virus in the last 60 days.

You can also only bring your four-legged friends in to the UK on specially approved routes. Speak with King & Wilson who will be able to assist with the paperwork, but also bring Fido in legally and safely.

Once you’re all settled in and ready to go on ‘walkies’ you’ll need to make sure your dog has a collar on with an ID tag stating the name and address of the owner. This is a legal requirement and failing to do so could see you landing a £5,000 fine (AUD$ 9,170).

TIP: Make sure your microchip and ID tags are kept up-to-date with your correct address and phone number, so should your pet wander off by themselves, you can be reunited much quicker.

Everyday Life

Recreational activities

Are you kidding? This is London, where you can do everything – provided you don’t mind the rain. London is such a diverse and multi-cultural city that there is bound to be a corner of the capital offering something to fill your weekends and evenings. With routes in traditional trading, markets of every kind are still popular. Whether you’re looking at whiling away the hours over artisan breads, home-made cheese – and some good flat whites – at big famous foodie haunts like Borough Road; or if you’re hoping to dig out some vintage gems head to Portobello Road. Theatreland in the West End has big-name productions and small, independent offerings, while there are a many galleries from traditional art to contemporary pop-ups. There are parks, gardens, sporting arenas and increasingly-more community-based social offerings. Thanks to the rail links, it’s easy to get to the south coast and explore hipster havens like Brighton, the quaint towns of Kent, or even jump on the Eurostar for an impromptu weekend in Paris!


If you haven’t already got a job lined up, you might find you’re up against some tough competition. As with many capital cities, workers flock to London in the hope of bagging a great job and living their dream. That’s not to say it can’t be done – just be prepared for lots of hard work and the fact that you might have to do a few jobs you’ve over-qualified for or doesn’t pay as much as you’d like. The other plus is that you’re in London where global industry leaders in tech, finance, media, hospitality, design and many other fields have headquarters or large hubs. There is such an entrepreneurial spirit in the UK capital, with start-ups and independent businesses requiring all levels of employment. Make sure your CV is razor-sharp, and if you’re lucky enough to have experience in a few different fields, consider making a few different CVs that may appeal to different industries. Register for job alerts with Monster ( the Guardian ( and use the internet to search for agencies specific to your industry.