¼ of all young people in the UK move to London for their first job – and the city is an international talent magnet, too.
But moving to London can seem daunting. Where should you live? How much money do you need to survive? And how do you make friends in a new city? Worry no further. Below are our top tips to help make your move to London as seamless as possible – put together by someone who’s just made the move.
1. Have somewhere to stay at the start.
Renting a flat right off the bat is tricky in London. Usually, you need to put down a substantial deposit, sign a minimum-term contract and provide a guarantor – all of which is hard to do if you don’t have a permanent London job or connections yet.
Given the difficulties, we suggest organising a temporary place to stay nice and early. Book an AirBnB well in advance, check out cheap sublet options on Spare Room or crash with a friend for a while. You need a secure home base while you’re finding your feet.
2. Research before you rent.
When renting in London, remember to always thoroughly inspect a property before you agree to anything and read your contract carefully. Query anything that looks dodgy to you!
When choosing a location, try to balance three factors: convenience, affordability and lifestyle perks. You want to be able to get to work easily, because commuting is costly and time-consuming in London. You also want to be able to pay your rent! And you want to like where you live – whether for its green spaces, proximity to the centre, restaurant scene or something else entirely.
For a more thorough guide to renting in London, plus a guide to the different boroughs, check out our handbook post.
3. Write a budget.
This is maybe the most important item on this list. London is expensive, so it’s crucial to think about where your money is going. We recommend signing up with Monzo – they make it really easy to track your spending and save.
We suggest budgeting the following rough amounts for one month in London:
And don’t worry, if you’re on a tight budget, you can still enjoy the city. We recommend Time Out’s lists of free and cheap things to do!
4. Mastermind your commute
If you’re going to commute frequently – either within London or between cities – we seriously recommend getting a railcard. With the 16-25 or 26-30 railcard, which costs £30 per year, you save ⅓ on all your rail fares – including off-peak travel on the London Underground.
To further optimise your travel, we also suggest downloading Citymapper. It’s a free app that helps you navigate your way around London, providing real-time updates on line delays and ETAs.
5. Build a community
Moving cities doesn’t just involve finding a flat and navigating the trains – you also want to make friends! In a big, anonymous city like London, this can seem near impossible – but there are options.
Generally, we recommend adopting a general ‘say yes’ attitude. When a colleague or mutual friend invites you to something – no matter how appealing your pyjamas and that tub of Ben & Jerry’s look – say yes! It might be fun, and if you don’t enjoy yourself, you don’t have to go again.
We also recommend actively meeting people through something non-work-related that you love doing. For example, you could:
- Join a choir or orchestra
- Coach or play in a local sports team
- Volunteer for charity
- Find a group of like-minded people on Meetup
- Try out Bumble BFF or Panion
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – London is big enough that you never have to see anyone again, if you don’t want to.
6. Keep active.
The physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise are well-established – and in those lonely first months in a new city, an endorphin hit can be just the boost you need.
There are hundreds of ways to keep fit in London, from step classes to social cricket. To start with, we especially recommend going for an evening run or walk (which will help you get to know London as well as boosting your pedometer count!). Joining a fitness class (where you might make friends as well as gains) is also a great idea. You could get a Class Pass – or if you’re feeling budget-conscious, park bootcamps are free and so are all the options on this list.
7. Enjoy yourself!
London is unlike anywhere else in the world. There’s something for everyone here – and although it can be overwhelming, it’s always exciting. Of course, you’ve got to do the tourist centres once. But we also recommend the following activities for getting to know London:
- Visit a market. Almost every neighbourhood has one and they’re a great way to sample street food, find quirky crafts and get a feel for each suburb. Our favourites are the Portobello Road Market (for food, vintage fashion and general buzz), Old Spitalfields Market (for crafts and clothes), Borough Market (for market produce and famous street food) and Columbia Road Flower Market (for all your hipster succulent needs).
- Step out of the centre. Areas like Brixton and Shoreditch have plenty going on too – and are usually less touristy.
- Explore parks and gardens. London is rightly famous for its green spaces. Take a picnic to Hyde Park, deer-watch in Richmond Park or spend an afternoon at Kew Gardens.
- Visit a less well-known museum. Interested in historical dentistry? Old-fashioned KitKat branding? Ancient fans and fascinators? London’s got you covered. Check out this extensive list of the city’s quirkier museums.
8. Take a deep breath.
Moving cities is always a big adjustment – and moving to London in particular can be overwhelming. So go easy on yourself! It’s only natural to have some ‘off’ days while you’re finding your feet. Remember to get some time outside in nature, keep in touch with your loved ones, and most importantly, escape the city when you need to. London is within easy reach of the seaside and countryside – as well as towns like Bristol, Bath and Oxford.