Relocating to London: Advice & Tips

Relocating to London: Advice & Tips

When you’re relocating from your home country to London, it should be an exciting time filled with possibility. The opportunities for education, future employment and joining in the social scene are virtually endless which is why so many people immigrate temporarily and permanently from abroad.

But moving to a new country can also be scary. That’s why LHA London has created a guide on how to relocate to London including the essential paperwork you’ll need and how to settle into your new life in the big city.

So get your notepad ready to check these things off your moving to England checklist.

Sort out your Visa

If you’re relocating to England from another country then sorting out your visa should be the very first item on your moving abroad itinerary.

You must sort it before you travel abroad and leave plenty of time for it to be approved. Visa rules differ depending on your citizenship and your requirements, but you’ll most likely need a student visa to study in the UK.

You can apply for a student visa if you:

  • Have been offered a place on a course by a licensed sponsor
  • Can speak, read and write English
  • Are able to support yourself financially

The earliest you’ll be able to apply for a visa from outside the UK is 6 months before your course begins. For a degree level course, you’ll usually be allowed to stay in the UK for 5 years under your student visa.

You also need to be aware that:

  • It costs £363 to apply for a student visa
  • You’ll have to pay a healthcare surcharge

Set your budget

It’s not a grand secret that London is a notoriously expensive place to live, but it is worth it if the culture, educational needs and possible job opportunities align with your future plans. You simply need to be prepared, and weigh up your options to ensure you’re living in an area that’s affordable for you.

Keep an eye on the price of:

  • Accommodation
  • Public transport
  • Food – include eating out and supermarket food
  • Overseas phone bills
  • Social activities you’d be interested in
  • Travel when you return to visit your family
  • Healthcare options
  • University essentials like textbooks, stationery other resources
  • Homeware that you might require
  • Technology – phone chargers, laptop replacements or online subscriptions

Don’t forget to consider items that aren’t impacted by location but could still impact your overall budget.

If you’re able, it will also be in your best interest to build up an emergency fund.

File a Transfer of Residency form

File a Transfer of Residency form

Although it’s not a requirement, it might be sensible to apply for transfer of residence relief. This allows you to claim relief from customs charges on your personal belongings when moving them to the UK.

This can be done before you move, but you’ll need to make a succinct list of every item you wish to claim relief on, including roughly how many items you wish to take.

For example:

  • Laptops – 1
  • Clothing – 26
  • Cutlery – 20 (approximately)

This list will also help you create a packing checklist so you don’t leave anything behind when you move.

Apply for National Insurance

If you’re planning on getting a job whilst you live in the UK then you’ll need a National Insurance Number. Without this, your employer won’t be able to pay you.

You can apply for National Insurance online but you will need the following things:

  • A passport – this can be from any country
  • A biometric residence permit
  • A national identity card from the EU, Norway, Switzerland or Liechtenstein
  • Identifying photo that is not your passport

If you don’t have any of these documents, you can still apply but you’ll need to attend an in person appointment.

Pick up your Biometric Residence Permit

Your Biometric Residence Permit is a form of ID that proves you have the right to live, work and study in the UK.

It will include:

  • Your name, date and place of birth
  • Fingerprints and a photo of your face
  • Your immigration status
  • Whether you have access to public healthcare

Apply for a UK bank account

Once you have an address and live in the UK, you may need to open a UK bank account. This will allow you to be paid if you apply for a job, and pay for everything you need during your stay.

To apply, you’ll need a form of ID, which can be a UK driving licence, your passport or your Biometric Residence Permit.

Register with a GP

A GP is a General Practitioner and will usually be your first point of contact when you require medical assistance. If you need specialist treatment, you may need a referral from your GP.

Registering with a GP is a fairly simple process. All you need to do is research local GPs, find the closest GP with good reviews and fill in an application form. Some will require you to fill in a paper form rather than digital but their website will tell you which is preferable.

Get to know public transport

Get to know public transport

One of the best ways to acclimate yourself with London before you move is to familiarise yourself with the transport options available. This will help you get around as smoothly as possible, and make the city feel a lot smaller than it is.

London can feel huge, but when you know how to get around, it doesn’t seem so scary anymore:

  1. The London Tube
  2. Bus routes
  3. Uber
  4. Cycling
  5. Driving

For more detail about each of these modes of transport, take a look at our Student Guide: How to Live in London.

Find the area that’s right for you

Find the area that’s right for you

London is buzzing with various boroughs and social hubs that are distinctly unique in culture. If you’re moving to London to study then you’ve probably gained a feel for your university’s location, but there are so many other exciting areas to explore.

You might find that whilst the atmosphere surrounding your designated place of study is what drew you to London initially, you connect more with the social activities, food culture and unique vibe of a nearby borough even more.

This is one of the best things about living in London; you are surrounded by a varied array of life that is only a short bus ride away.

So, whether you’re searching for the location of your accommodation or simply wish to make the most of one of the most recognised cities in the world, check out the following London boroughs and destinations:

  1. Brixton

Brixton is famed for its down to earth, multicultural and fast paced ambience but most importantly, it is loved for its deep roots in street food, art and musical culture. The Brixton O2 Academy is one of the most internationally beloved concert venues, centred within a borough that celebrates community and indie artistry above all else.

If Brixton sounds like your kind of place, we’d recommend visiting:

  1. Soho

It’s difficult to believe that a relatively small area in the largest city in the UK can hold such huge cultural significance, but Soho manages just that. Known for its abundance of LGBTQIA+ friendly bars, restaurants and nightlife, this energetic corner of the West End is as diverse in architecture as it is in communities.

You’ll have access to boutique shops, theatre productions of every calibre and the bordering neighbourhoods of Carnaby, Chinatown and Oxford Street.

  1. Camden

If you’re into the rock, indie, punk or goth scenes then you may already be familiar with Camden Town – a landmark of alternative art, fashion and society. Most famed for its bustling indoor market and The Roundhouse concert venue, this cherished area is richly urban to its core and a staple for inclusive values.

  1. Greenwich

Greenwich is the location of the Royal Observatory which is home of the Prime Meridian; the point at which the centre of modern time is measured. Every place on Earth is measured from this point, so it can feel truly mesmerising standing within the walls of the observatory.

Outside of the wonder of time, Greenwich is a refreshing area of greenery amongst the built up city. It is situated along the Thames which you can view from the heights of the London Cable Car. There is never a more perfect spot to sit back and enjoy the view.

  1. Shoreditch

Shoreditch is your poster student hub, packed with curry houses, indie bars, vintage shops, artisan coffee shops, gastropubs and so much more. You’ll even find Ballie Ballerson, London’s biggest adult pool pit. If you’re a young artist or simply a student seeking an eclectic day/night out, Shoreditch is the place to be.

  1. Westminster

Westminster has some of the most iconic London landmarks that everyone who visits the city should tick off their list, so they should be some of the first you visit. When you think of London, you think of red buses, the London Eye, Big Ben and the famed lion statues in Trafalgar square – all of which are situated in Westminster.

But Westminster has other delights hidden within the stone architecture; the M&M World Store, an abundance of talented buskers, and even St James’s Park which makes a serene study spot in warm weather.

Find like-minded people

When you move to a new country, it can feel quite lonely to begin with. You’ve left your friends and family at home, so it can feel quite alien getting used to an entirely new area with very few people you know around you.

However, aside from the countless lifelong friends you’ll encounter in your lecture halls, there are plenty of ways to meet like-minded people who you can spend your spare time with.


  • Signing up for your student union
  • Joining social clubs that involve your hobby
  • Finding a part time job
  • Joining your local gym or fitness class
  • Volunteering at a charity that you believe in
  • Finding shared accommodation
  • Using resources like citysocializer

Locate the best food

Locate the best food

If you’re moving from abroad, you’ll probably want to try all the food you possibly can.

Nothing brings people and communities together like their cuisine. While British cuisine might not seem entirely enticing, the multicultural nature of London and tendency towards street food markets means there is a wide array of global cuisine on offer, wherever you visit.

One of the best pieces of advice we can give if you’re relocating to London is to go out there and experience as many restaurants, kebab vans and cafes as you possibly can. This guidance will be backed up by many London locals.

Bring warm clothing

This might seem like a ridiculous piece of advice, but if you’re moving to London, especially from a hot country, then you need to expect British weather – particularly when you’re walking the banks of the Thames.

November – February are usually the coldest months of the year in England, and these coincide with the start of the school year. This is the time when you are most likely to be attending freshers parties, making the most of night life, and exploring the city, so make sure you’re fully prepared for chilly temperatures.

Essential London Apps

There are so many features designed to make living in London easier for students and they’re completely free! So why not use them?

  1. Unidays – As we mentioned above, Unidays is an absolute essential for any student living on a budget!
  2. Uber – A must for accessing safe travel without needing to bring cash with you
  3. CityMapper – Amazing for locating where you are in the city and navigating your way around
  4. Whatsapp – Free calls and messages to anyone in your location or outside the country; perfect if you’re studying abroad
  5. vouchercloud – Gives you the best money-saving offers straight to your phone


London Accommodation

Your transfer to London can be made or broken by your choice of accommodation. We won’t lie and say that finding safe, secure accommodation in London is always easy, but that’s why LHA London was founded.

We believe that the cost of accommodation should never be a barrier to following your dreams. That’s why we provide affordable student accommodation across London that gives you the freedom to live your London life as you choose.

Our hostels cover all major points on the city’s map and cover your bills too, so you don’t need to worry about any additional costs while you focus on building the life you want.

For more information about how our charity can help you get set up in the big city, take a look at our available accommodation and don’t forget to check out our offer to discover what we can offer you.

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