lifestyle travel

Moving to London UK – Things to do before moving abroad

January 19, 2018

Thinking of moving to London? Not really sure where to start? Well, we’ve listed out all the things we thought of and experience during our move.

What to do BEFORE you leave:

  1. Apply for Visa
  2. Organise Accommodation
  3. Change your existing bills or bank statements to a UK Address
  4. Organise Recruitment interviews
  5. Organise company registration (If contracting)
  6. Organise Packing List
  7. Sell things that you don’t need anymore (we sold our car, most of our furniture and clothes)
  8. Book Plane ticket
  9. Say bye!

What to do ONCE you land:

  1. Pick up Biometric Residency Permit (BRP)
  2. Set-up bank account
  3. Set up PAYG Mobile
  4. Apply for National Insurance

What to do WHEN you are settled:

  1. Check out the different boroughs of London
  2. Create a travel plan for the years ahead! – book early



There are different types of Visa’s that allow you to live and work in the UK. The one most applicable to our situation was a Tier 5 – Youth Mobility Visa.

You can apply for a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa if you:

It is a relatively straight forward process which you can apply up to 6 months in advance. It involves attending an appointment at a Biometric centre (to provide original passport documents, photo taken and finger prints scanned. Be aware of the wait time even as it is quite busy and rarely sticks to schedule. The pickup of the visa and passport was simple – you can pay extra to have it courier back or just arrive back when they email to say its ready. (roughly 2-3 weeks from the appointment).

Although the site says it costs $400 AUD to apply, there are additional charges for the National Insurance surcharge depending on your length of stay. Ours ended up being roughly $1000 AUD in total.



There are a few options for accomodation for when you move to London.

Staying short-term with friends

If you have any family and friends already in the UK this would be the ideal option for when you arrive. Not only can you save some money as you get settled in, but it would be very helpful to temporarily use their address for bank account setups.


Try to keep to a budget and book for at least a few weeks as it will take you longer to find more permanent accomodation. Ideally, find a host that will allow you to use their address temporarily as this will prove to be a lifesaver for bank accounts, references, and securing rentals.


Bank Accounts

For any bank account openings in the UK you must make an appointment with the branch before hand and provide the below documents:

  1. Passport
  2. Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
  3. Proof of address



Large branch network in the UK and was relatively straight forward to setup. One gripe with HSBC is that it has excessive security authentication measures in place. However the Mobile App makes it easier with Touch ID to Login and Generate Security codes.



One of the UK’s largest and oldest banks. I joined them for their rewards loyalty bonus which which I receive 6x Cinema tickets each year. Both the online banking and Mobile App is straight forward


American Express

If you are an existing American Express card holder in Australia, you can apply for a transfer to a UK American Express using the online forms.



This High Street Challenger bank provides a different experience to traditional banks. From the outset the branches are large and colourful. A highlight feature is that you do not need to make an appointment to open an account, and your physical card gets printed on the spot as you wait.

The reason most people apply or this card though is its fee-free European transactions.


International Money Transfers

Citibank Plus (ATM Withdrawal)

If you have an existing Citibank Plus card, this was the most effective way in ensuring you always get the best rate. Make sure to call up to increase your daily withdrawal limit to $3000 as it will save quite a few trips to the ATM.



Although I have done a lot of research in the best company that provides the most competitive rates – I haven’t actually used it before. The one I would recommend is OFX. Fee Free, and the most competitive rates.


Travel Insurance

As Australians leaving to the UK, we found it very difficult to find travel insurance packages that would cover us for the duration of our stay and to also cover for any trips we do in-between.


Global link

This was the only company that I have found to offer insurance for Aussies and Kiwis in our situation. As we have not been in the UK for more than 6 months we are automatically ineligible for all other insurances. Follow the link find more about their Annual policies available. Globelink Travel Insurance


Public Transport

London’s transport system has introduced not only oyster cards for travel, but you are now also able to use your contactless (paywave



The iconic London underground has its positives and negatives, but overall it is a fantastic solution for the city and we find ourselves amazed at how well it works (when it’s not delayed). Trains come every 1-2 mins depending on which line you are on. If you are getting on during peak hours and you are close to the centre city – prepare to skip trains because they will be filled with human sardines.


The other iconic red double decker buses is another great way to travel if you despise stairs and escalators. However, prepare to be car-sick if you are going a long distances. Depending on the time you travel, the traffic on the road is horrific and the buses stop-start so frequently that you just want to find land after getting on one of these.


With less frequent services the overground operates mostly outside the city centre and would be comparable to Sydney’s Trains network. Try to avoid if possible. Trains are not so frequent and travel a lot slower than the Underground.


Mobile Phone

Three Mobile

Three mobile is highly competitive and provides ample data and minutes for their monthly plans. Two key features which are included in their packages are:

International Roaming: Free roaming in 71 destinations including USA, Australia, France, Spain, Brazil and Singapore.

Go-binge: Netflix, TVPlayer, Deezer, SoundCloud and Apple Music to let you stream shows and music infinitely, anytime, without using up your mobile data.


Flights/Weekend Travel

Skyscanner: Best site to compare flights prices among different carriers

Ryanair and EasyJet have sales on sometimes.

Eurostar: Would definitely recommend this if you are travelling with a radius of 6 hours travel time. London to Paris only 2 – 2.5 hours – you’d be silly to fly.


Depending on your luggage allowance you may choose to bring more stuff or leave stuff behind. With about 30kg with economy there’s not a lot that you could bring so do plan ahead! I recommend minimising on clothing and bring stuff that has more value to you.



You are allowed to drive on your Australian Drivers licence provided its not a provisional licence. Do not bother with getting a “International Drivers Licence” before you leave as that is just a waste of money if you’re just planning to drive in the UK. I’ve never had problems driving and renting cars in the US, UK, Europe without one.


National Insurance Number (Tax file number)

The National Insurance Number is effectively your tax file number. You are only able to apply for one once you have arrived and make a phone call to HRMC for an application form in the post.

Process is straight forward but do allow time as everything is done through post.

National Insurance number application line
Telephone: 0800 141 2075
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm


Biometric Residency Permit (BRP)

As part of the Visa application process it should have mentioned where, and when you can pick up your BRP once you arrive. Typically it is about a week after you arrive and will be picked up at a post office. Do ensure you have this card before you apply for Bank accounts, or leave the country (even for a trip) as it may cause issues arriving back as this will be your entry Visa in and out of the country.


Seeing a Doctor (GP)

To see a doctor in the UK you have to register to your local practice. Process is easy and most practices have an online booking appointment system.




There are a lot of recruiters in London and I found signing up to their services a bit tiresome. A lot of jobs posted but rarely any interviews resulted as they do have a large client base. I recommend finding the specific job advertised and contact the recruiter to apply.

Job boards






Contracting or Permanent (Fixed term)

The London contracting scene is quite lucrative and it is the preferred option for most who come over temporarily as it provides a reduced tax bill due to running a Limited company to provide your services. This means you’re paying tax at the company rate 19%.

Permanent staff and fixed term contracts employed under PAYG on the other hand are susceptible to the usual personal tax rates that are variable depending on your band. A typical wage in our industry would equate to around 30-40% in taxes paid. In addition there is also a National Insurance tax applicable.


Eating out and Dining In

Eating out in London is expensive. The prices for food actually differ for most restaurants when deciding to eat in or takeaway. Another factor when eating in is their “service charge” of 12.5% which essentially is a top automatically added to the bill.

We find that we mostly takeaway from restaurants and eat elsewhere, in a public park or a Wholefoods nearby!



Moving to London, there are a whole list of supermarkets to familarise yourself with. Most supermarkets stock the same variety of goods, however at surprisingly different price points. Arranged from most expensive to cheapest average (for the products we purchase).

Wholefoods – Organic, bulk foods, boutique brands

Waitrose – Can get Vegemite on the shelf for £2

M&S – Upper market groceries with the price tag, chestnuts are excellent here

Tesco – Run of the mill – Stock quite a few vegan food items like Dairy-free Ben and Jerry’s

Morrissons – Sells our favourite oat milk (Oatly Barista)

Sainsbury – Most frequented as our local has the widest variety at affordable prices

Aldi – Great for nuts, and quinoa and everything a bit cheaper.

Iceland – Mostly frozen food and very basic variety, cheapest of the lot



Department Stores

John Lewis – Most similar to Myer and has what you expect from a department store.

Selfridges – Great for the food court and Lola’s vegan cupcakes!

Harrods – Overwhelming and more for the attractions. Never actually purchased anything here.


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