Date of stay: 2005 - 2011
Where you stayed: Various parts of London
London is an amazing city and one I’d highly recommend visiting at some point in your life. I headed to London early 2005 on a 6 month holiday and ended up liking the London lifestyle, vibe and ease of travelling Europe so much that I stayed 6 years. The OE Travel Blogs team have all spent a few years living and working in London and we loved our time there. If you have any questions, thoughts or anything else to add from your own experiences please feel free to add a comment.
If you’re headed for London it’s most likely you’ll arrive at Heathrow airport which has five terminals and is one of the busiest airports in the world, if not the busiest. The expat community in London (Kiwi’s, Aussie’s & South African’s) is huge but you have so many other cultures living in the city and this is what makes it the largest city in Europe.
So the question is…… where to start.
This review would be helpful to travellers looking to set up base in the UK but there's also some helpful information for those visiting London and be sure to check out our London advice blog.
During my time in London I lived in a number of places and my favourite part of London was South of the river, Putney & Barnes. Dossing is a big part of London life, what is dossing I hear you ask? A dosser is someone who sleeps in share houses on the floor or couch for an extended period of time, most dossers will contribute between £5-10 per week and help with cleaning etc. This is great if your fresh of the boat and want to save some £££ till you find your feet.
Travelling around by tube is great but taking time to see the city above ground where possible is a must. Use buses if you can or take a walking tour.
Once you arrive, be sure to buy an Oyster card, this will enable you to travel on the London Tube, Bus and Train networks. It's a pay as you go card that you swipe when catching public transport. New Oyster cards cost £5 pounds and this is a refundable deposit. Another important item is the London tube map, you can obtain one from all Tube stations. Each underground line has its own name and colour and each station is marked in order on its line. Stations that are marked with a black circle indicate that you can change lines at that station. IE: if you were travelling from Heathrow Airport Terminal 4, and wanted to get to your Hostel located in West Hampstead. You would take the Piccadilly Line (dark blue) until you got to Green Park, and then change onto the Jubilee Line (grey) to West Hampstead station. Visit TFL London for more information and the journey planner is quite handy too
Finding somewhere to live: I’d suggest looking for a place near a tube line (within walking distance) ideally close to where you work to reduce commuting time. Travelling during peak periods can get quite hectic. Bear this in mind when you’re looking for somewhere to live. My first job in London was in North Acton and I had to travel 1 hour and 20 minutes each way from my flat in Tooting, I ended up looking for a new flat to cut down the travel time. Check out the Gumtree website, you’ll find a number of flats/houses available to rent but do not pay money or fall victim to scams, always be aware and if you find a post that sounds too good to be true/or asking for a deposit or a Western Union transfer then do not proceed and report the advert.
Recommended parts of London to live:
North: Camden, Hampstead or Primrose Hill
South: Fulham, Putney, Wimbledon, Clapham, Barnes or Richmond
East: Brick Lane or Docklands
West: Shepherds Bush, Chiswick or Notting Hill
Finding a job and National Insurance: If you're moving to London from overseas then you'll need to apply for a National Insurance number (NI), it's a requirement as part of working in the UK. For more information and applying visit the following website - UK National Insurance.If your looking for work in London check out Total Jobs and the Gumtree as mentioned above.
Setting up a bank account: I would recommend HSBC bank, but to be honest you have so many to choose from so shop around and check what each one offers. Other banks include Lloyds, Halifax, Barclays, Smile and Royal Bank of Scotland to name a few. You can set up a bank account before arriving and this can be very helpful, some banks offer a passport account option and others may need proof of address information before allowing you to open an account. You can either set this up yourself or use a company like First Contact who also offer Visa information and other helpful moving to London advice.
Mobile phone networks:
The OE TRAVEL BLOG team would recommend the O2 mobile phone network. O2 offer great rates and you'll receive free international calls just for topping up, perfect for keeping in touch with family and friends back home! The pre pay plan is called your country, if you top up at least £10 monthly you get an additional credit of 50 free international minutes, a £15 monthly top up will get you 100 free international minutes and uses who top up £30 monthly secure 200 free international minutes. Your free minutes can be used to call international land lines and mobiles overseas. **Note, you'll need to call O2 customer services to have your country plan added** There are other mobile networks but O2 would be our recommendation. The above offer is subject to chance,visit the O2 website for more information.
Once settled I’d recommend registering with the doctor/medical centre in your area, applying is fairly easy and you’ll need two forms of ID and your passport. It’s worthwhile doing this before you actually need to see a doctor as you will need to have a registration appointment with a nurse before a doctor will see you in most cases. Visit the following website for more information, NHS UK.
Things to do: London has a wide variety of attractions and free activities on offer and we’ve put together a list of recommended spots.
Tower of London
Madame Tussaud’s London
Wembley Stadium Tour
Wimbledon Tennis Tour
Ferry on the Thames down to Greenwich
Free entry attraction list:
St Pauls Cathedral
National Portrait Gallery
Houses of Parliament
Buckingham Palace – changing of the guard
Richmond Park – take a bike ride through the park and check out the Queens Deer
Other areas of London worth mentioning.
Camden Town – head there on the weekend and check out the markets, great bars and clubs.
Brick Lane – One of the best places to grab a curry in London
Hampstead – The best crepes in the world from Le creperie, you’ll be lining up for at least 20-30 minutes to get one but well worth it. Located next to the King William pub.
Fulham – For a great night out head to Fulham in South London, Elk Bar and Belushi’s are always popular and it’s also home to Chelsea football team.
Shepherds Bush & Acton – The Walkabout in Shepherds bush and Red Back Tavern in Acton are very popular with Kiwi’s and Aussies. Westfield shopping centre is also located in Shepherds bush and is the largest in Europe.
Other things worth experiencing:
The boat race (Rowing) between Oxford and Cambridge universities is held every year in April. You can watch the race along the banks of the river from Putney to Barnes (South London). I’d recommend heading to the White Hart pub in Barnes or the Dukes head in Putney to watch the race. Click on the following link to see more information and the course mapped out – London Boat Race
Ascot Races is another popular event and takes place mid June each year. It’s much like the Melbourne cup races and tickets sell early. Click on the following link for more information – Ascot Races
Wimbledon is held in London every year in late June and is regarded as one of the most prestigious Tennis tournaments in the world. Fans will camp out days before the event for tickets. Strawberries and Cream and Pimms & Lemonade are also very popular at this event. The Wimbledon tennis club & museum is open daily 10am to 5pm if you wanted to visit throughout the year.
The Notting Hill Carnival takes place in London, every year on the last bank holiday in August and is definitely a must while living in London. The Caribbean carnival has been attracting millions of visitors since 1966 bringing West London to life. The atmosphere, carnival costumes, floats, music and Caribbean food make this carnival very popular. See our Notting Hill blog for more information.
Gloucester Cheese Rolling takes place every year in May, as the name suggests you pretty much chase a large Double Gloucester block of cheese, it can get quite messy. Click on the following link to read our Cheese Rolling blog.
One of the things I miss about living in London was the ease of travelling Europe, being able to head away for the weekend to experience another country without having to take time off work. The Eurostar train from London Kings Cross station to Paris takes lease then 2 & ½ hours and cheap airlines like Ryan Air and Easy Jet offer crazy prices all year round from Gatwick and Stansted airports. I’d recommend Gatwick airport as it’s a lot easier to get to via the Tube/Train lines. Check out our low cost airlines recommended via the General Advice page.
London will always be my second home and I can’t wait to return again for a holiday…………
If you have any questions or would like to add anything please feel free to add a comment.
Points to highlight: It goes without saying but make sure you have travel insurance before heading overseas, see our General Advice tab for more tips and check out our general London advice blog.
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Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Overall rating destination: 5 out of 5