Whether you’re a student, professional or family, London remains one of the most vibrant and attractive places to live on the planet. If anything, the only downside in moving to a city of this size and diversity can be knowing how and where to start. In this guide, we’ve compiled all the must-have information you need to know when planning a move to the capital.
Areas & Neighbourhoods
London is divided into 32 different boroughs – each with their own unique qualities and diverse attractions. Located just west of central London, the borough of Kensington & Chelsea is hard to beat for beautiful homes with superb local amenities, green spaces and fast access to the city. With a cosmopolitan café culture and quaint village feel, the discreet neighbourhood of Belgravia is a particular gem that’s ideal for family life in London, while Notting Hill brings together the elegance and style of London’s West End with a more bohemian feel.
Students, creatives and younger professionals may enjoy Shoreditch and the east end for its lively arts and culture scene and proximity to London’s financial district. To the north, St John’s Wood offers elegant townhouses and easy access to Regent’s Park, while the charming Hampstead has superb boutiques, traditional eateries and the glorious Hampstead Heath, one of the largest green spaces in London. To the south, the affluent residential districts of Richmond and Kingston upon Thames provide gorgeous riverside living for families and professionals seeking larger homes, access to green spaces and upscale shopping and dining.
Buying & Renting
Buying in London is a juggling act between price, area and transport connections. When looking for your new home, it’s essential to consider the commute to your place of work or study: London is a huge, sprawling metropolis – and a more affordable house further away from the centre may not be worthwhile it if means you have to travel 2 hours across the city each morning. If you’re coming with children, you’ll need to consider your new home’s proximity to local schools: see our note on Schools & Education below.
Prices and local amenities vary hugely across London boroughs, so it’s worth doing your homework on different areas or speaking to one of our buying agents about your unique purchasing requirements. Alongside the deposit and overall property price, you’ll also need to factor in additional fees for a Homebuyers Survey, Stamp Duty and conveyancing costs.
If you’re looking for a London property rental, keep in mind that most estate agencies and landlords will typically require between 1-2 months’ rent upfront as a security deposit, which will be returned to you at the end of your lease. With access to rental properties marketed both publicly and privately, our experienced property sourcing team can make your London rental search swift and smooth, and will even help secure your new home at the best possible price.
Travel & Transport
London’s major public transport systems are fully integrated, meaning one payment system – the famous London Oyster card – is accepted across all the different networks including the tube (or London Underground), bus, rail, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and London Overground services, as well as some ferry services along the river Thames.
Oyster cards are available to purchase for a £5 deposit from London Underground stations or online via the Transport for London website, where you’ll also find a handy journey planner to help you navigate the city when you first arrive. Children under 5 and adults over 60 travel for free, while 24/7 tubes were introduced in London relatively recently on certain central lines – ideal for those working late or wanting to make the most of city nightlife.
London is divided into 6 public transport zones, with zone 1 being the city centre and zone 6 being the outskirts of the city. The zoning system calculates a customer’s journey so they can be charged accordingly, and the city’s property prices reflect the different zones. Zones 1 and 2 are where London’s prime real estate is at, while properties in zone 3 and 4 generally offer more space and more of a suburban feel. Zones 5 and 6 represent the very edges of London and can be quite some distance away, so living here may not be advisable unless you want a slow (and sometimes painful!) slog into town each morning.
Cycling is a popular choice for many Londoners, and a range of dedicated two-way ‘Superhighway’ cycle tracks connect the outskirts of London with the city centre. If you don’t own a bike, ‘Boris Bikes’ or Santander Cycles offer affordable access to public bikes at docking stations dotted every 300 metres across central London; journeys of up to 30 minutes are free.
London is extremely well-connected by public transport, as well as being served by the city’s iconic black cabs and taxis apps like Uber, Ola and Bolt, so owning a car isn’t necessary unless you want the freedom to get off the beaten track or need it for family life. Free street parking becomes more available further out of town, or our dedicated buying team can help if you’re looking to secure a central London home with its own private parking space.
London has six major airports, offering a high level of convenience for international residents and business travellers. London City is most central and the preferred choice for business travel, while London Heathrow is the city’s biggest: from central London, journeys take just 15 minutes via the Heathrow Express. London Gatwick and London Luton can be reached by train in 30 minutes, while London Stanstead and London Southend are both less than an hour away.
Lifestyle & Leisure
London has an incredible 400 green and open spaces, including eight stunning royal parks. Joining a local running or cycling group can be a great way to keep fit, enjoy the outdoors and make new friends, while local gyms and yoga classes are a convenient way to meet new people in your neighbourhood. Keep an eye out for things like supper clubs and art classes at your local pub or café: many parts of London retain a strong sense of community and there are often new and exciting events to get involved with.
Most London districts now have a farmer’s market within easy reach, selling everything from fresh fish and fine cheeses to organic fruit, vegetables and baked goods: a wonderful opportunity to meet your neighbours and discover all the delicious local produce on offer. London is also famous for its world-class cultural institutions – from art, theatre and dance to opera and West End shows – with many galleries and museums running talks and events across a broad range of subjects, including for children. Subscribe to their online mailing lists or follow along on social media to stay up to date with their latest news and events.
Health & Wellbeing
One of the first things to do when arriving in London is registering with a GP (General Practitioner) who will be your main doctor: you can register online for your chosen local GP, or simply go to the nearest surgery or healthcare centre and fill in a form providing your personal information. If you’re coming from overseas, visit the National Health Service (NHS) website to learn more about healthcare entitlements and find your local NHS dentist here. Treatment by the NHS is free to people who are “ordinarily resident” in the UK, but if you’d rather pay for your own healthcare, a number of leading private GPs and world-class hospitals exist in London, while some workplaces offer private medical insurance as part of their compensation packages.
Schools & Education
If you’re moving to London with your family, then finding suitable school/s for your children will be high on the list of priorities. The UK has an excellent education system, with many of the country’s top schools located within the London area. One thing to be aware of is ‘catchment areas’, meaning that children living in the immediate vicinity of a school usually get priority over places. Although this may affect where you choose to live, keep in mind that it can be tricky to find homes near popular London schools. This only applies to state-run schools however, so you won’t be affected by catchment areas if you choose a private education for your child. All admissions for state schools are processed through the local council: you can register online and choose up to six schools. Although the form cannot be completed without a London address, it is possible to use a temporary address of a friend or family member. Visit the UK government website to discover the admission criteria for state-funded schools in London.
Legal & Admin
If you’re relocating to London from overseas, you may need a visa. There are a number of different types you can apply for, including a student visa, a work visa and a family visa. Visit the official government website to learn more about eligibility criteria and the application process. You may need to apply for a Biometric Residence Permit (or BRP) if you wish to come to the UK for longer than 6 months or intend to apply to settle in the UK – again, the UK government website has all the details.
If you haven’t already got one, it’s wise to open a UK bank account – or you risk racking up significant transaction fees if you continue using foreign credit or debit cards. Most banks suggest it may be easier to open up an account before you leave your home country for the UK, so that it’s already up and running on your arrival. Having a local bank account can also be necessary for receiving your salary and setting up bill payments for utilities such as water, gas and electricity. UK bank accounts can be opened in a physical branch, through the bank’s website, or in some cases even through the bank’s mobile app.
Unlike many other countries, the UK tax year runs from 06 April to 05 April. If you move to London from elsewhere in the UK, you will already be familiar with the taxes you’ll have to pay in London as they will be the same as those you paid elsewhere (e.g. income tax, council tax, etc.). However, if you’re coming from overseas, it’s important to understand the taxes you’ll need to pay both in London and the UK. Taxes are collected by HM Revenue & Customs, and although the HMRC website will give you an idea of the general tax you’ll need to pay, it may be worth consulting a local accountant regarding your specific circumstances.
Need assistance with your move?
There are always unexpected tasks when moving to a new home, especially in a new city or country. Things like driving licences, National Insurance numbers, parking permits and Council Tax are all essential but time-consuming tasks that our relocation team can assist with. Whether you’re planning on buying or renting in London, our attentive property search agents are experienced at sourcing the perfect homes for families and professionals alike –and our connection with all the major and some less-known specialist estate agents enable us to show you some exceptional properties that may never reach the open market. Contact us here if you’d like to find out more.