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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to London

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  • Jan-Peter van Tijk

    I wish I'd found InterNations sooner: It would have made my first few month as an expat in London much less overwhelming.

The relocation process for people wanting to move to London can become complicated, especially with the UK leaving the European Union. However, life in the English capital offers many advantages that could make relocating a fantastic decision.

There are many things you might need to know before moving to London, like how to get citizenship and how to find a job. You should make sure you are completely prepared before you relocate to London to make steps like finding and securing housing less stressful. The London property market is notoriously expensive and competition for accommodation can be fierce.

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Relocating to London

If you are thinking about relocating to London it could be the start of the biggest and best adventure of your life, but only if you plan your move carefully. In this section, we will tell you the things you should know before moving to London.

You can find out about relocating with pets to London and the rest of the UK in our Relocating to the UK section.

Why Move to London?

London can be the perfect place to start a new life, progress in your career, and experience a special culture, whether you come alone or with family. There are so many opportunities to try different things, plus excellent schools and hospitals, and a vibrant social scene. However, England’s capital city is not for everyone. These are some pros and cons of moving to London.

The Pros of London Life


London has always attracted people from around the world and the rest of the UK. As a result, it is one of the most ethnically diverse cities on Earth. The city has a history of attracting people looking to improve their lives, like the historian and writer William Woodruff, who at 16 years old in 1932, hitched a ride on a truck from a cotton mill town in the North of England to London, with just a knife, comb, and the book, “The Wonderland of Knowledge”.

He found work in the capital at an iron foundry and was later accepted at Oxford University, before having a successful career, and eventually moving to Florida in the United States. There he wrote two memoirs, best-seller “The Road to Nab End” and its follow-up “Beyond Nab End”.

A study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that people who relocate to the UK are more likely to be entrepreneurial. In fact, of the UK’s top 10 unicorn businesses (valued at 1 billion GBP or 1.2 billion USD or more), nine had at least one immigrant or someone born to a first-generation immigrant as a founder.

London’s deputy mayor for business is Rajesh Agrawal, who came from India to London in 2001, before co-founding a foreign exchange service, called RationalFX, which is now worth more than 1 billion GBP (1.2 billion USD).

Social Scene

The social scene in London is hard to beat if you can afford it. Look out for these activities for some after-work fun:

  • Happy hour: most bars and pubs sell drinks at reduced prices during certain days and times. London is notorious for being an expensive place to buy alcohol, and happy hour is a way to enjoy the social drinking culture of London without breaking the bank.
  • Have a laugh: you can have a fun night at a comedy club for free, or as little as 1 GBP.
  • See a show: theatre performances in London’s West End are famous for their artistry and quality. You can even catch movie and TV actors playing a role in a production. Ticket prices can be steep, but it is possible to get discounted prices from TKTS, London’s “official theatre ticket booth,” on the day of the show.
  • Go to a top restaurant: there are 69 Michelin-starred restaurants in London.
  • Test your knowledge: the English capital has a wide range of quiz nights, from competitions featuring only music-related questions, to just sport, film, or pop culture. And if you prefer to keep things simple, there are plenty of traditional-style quizzes with general trivia questions.

Museums and Art Galleries

London is awash with iconic art galleries and museums, like the Tate Britain and the National History Museum. It is hard to argue there is a better place to experience this side of culture.

London has a number of free museums and art galleries, such as:

  • British Museum
  • Imperial War Museum
  • National Maritime Museum
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • National History Museum
  • Saatchi Gallery
  • Tate Britain
  • Tate Modern
  • The National Gallery
  • Victoria & Albert Museum

Some London galleries and museums have late-night openings. The British Museum opens until 20:30 on Fridays, while Camden Arts Centre is open until 21:00 on Wednesdays. You can enjoy Christmas at Kew Gardens from 17:00 to 22:00. The London Dungeon has late openings one Friday each month, so why not enjoy a few scares and a cocktail?

The National History Museum is open until 22:00 on the last Friday of the month and the National Gallery is open until 21:00 each and every Friday, so there is a lot of late-night culture to take in.

Eclectic Boroughs

Around a third of the people living in London’s 32 boroughs were born abroad. Over 300 languages are spoken throughout the city, which is more than in any other city in the world. With such a mix of people and ways of life, there is surely an area perfect for everyone.

One fantastic example of London’s multicultural personality is Brick Lane, where you can find a large Bangladeshi community, amazing Indian food, eye-catching street art, and even vintage clothes.

Camden has lots of job opportunities, with the second most active businesses of all the 32 London boroughs. It has the 13th largest Asian population in London.

Randstad’s interactive comparison map, which helps you decide which London borough might suit you best, says Harrow is the second safest and the leading borough for recycling. It also has a diverse population, with 49.6% born abroad. Plus, Harrow has the 5th largest Asian population in London.

Kensington and Chelsea has a median house price of 1.2 million GBP (1.49 million USD) and a diverse community, with 51.9% born abroad. And there are good career opportunities, with 1.36 jobs per person.

Also, Lambeth has the highest black (black African, black Caribbean, and other black) population in the capital. It encompasses parts of the smart Southbank and reaches bustling Brixton—it even includes the London Eye and Clapham Common. You can also find Brixton Market and award-winning wine bars.

Around 60% of people in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham are White British, while the additional 40% includes white non-British (20%), black Caribbean, black African, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, and more.

Brent is a multicultural area, which has attracted newcomers from Brazil—there were 30,000 Brazilian immigrants in Brent at the last estimate by community groups, inspiring the borough’s nickname, “Little Brazil”.


Hammersmith and Fulham is home to the Queen’s Club tennis tournament and Chelsea and Fulham football clubs. Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage stadium is worth a visit to see the curious Cottage part of the stadium, even if you cannot see a match.

Merton is home to the world-famous tennis tournament, Wimbledon, which is held at the All-England Tennis Club. The median house price in Merton of 415,000 GBP (515,000 USD) is a fraction of the Kensington and Chelsea equivalent.

Brent is where you will find Wembley Stadium, “The Home of Football” and the England soccer team.

Financial Capital

London is arguably the financial capital of the world and if you have experience in a related field, you could find a rewarding and exciting role at a company in the city. The financial services industry in the UK makes up 5.5% of the country’s gross domestic product and many of the world’s biggest banks and brokerage firms have a spot in London.

With so much business being done in the city, having London experience in your CV could give your career a boost.

Some areas of the financial industry where you can find a job in London are:

  • accounting;
  • banking and finance;
  • financial planning;
  • insurance;
  • investments and pensions, and
  • tax planning.

Career and Business Opportunities

A report in late 2018 showed that in the previous 10 years, one in three new jobs created in the UK were in London. And based on this data, more than half of jobs in London are classed as skilled professional occupations.

A Comprehensive Public Transportation System

London has its iconic buses, Underground (Tube) rail network, Docklands Light Railway, river buses, trams, Overground trains, black cabs, and a public cycle hire scheme. Using just one of these modes of transport, or a mix if it suits you, will allow you to move through any of the city’s 32 boroughs.

The Cons of London Life

An Expensive City

The high cost of living in the UK reaches its peak in London where the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is approximately 1,730 GBP (2,140 USD). The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is 1,250 GBP (1,550 USD) but that figure passes 3,500 GBP in Westminster.

In East London (Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, and Waltham Forest) a one-bedroom apartment will cost you around 1,600 GBP (1,980 USD) a month. In contrast, in West London (Brent, Harrow, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Hounslow, and Richmond upon Thames) a one-bedroom apartment is about 1,900 GBP (2,350 USD).

If you are undecided about where to relocate to in the UK, bear in mind that properties can be more than 50% cheaper in other major cities than London. However, you can expect to earn more in London than other cities in the UK.

The average monthly salary before tax in London, according to the Office of National Statistics, is about 2,900 GBP (3,600 USD). In the City of London, London’s financial district, the average gross monthly salary is about 4,330 GBP (5,355 USD).


London is so crowded and congested that it can take around an hour to get most places. Commuters complain about busy Underground train carriages, although congestion is said to be improving thanks partly to the congestion charge brought in by former London mayor, Ken Livingstone. Reports show that traffic volumes in the charging zone (where the congestion charge is active) have reduced by a quarter since 2008.

Private for hire vehicles, like Ubers and minicabs, also take to the streets in high numbers, further adding to the congestion. Using cabs and Ubers as a main part of the journey has grown in popularity by nearly 30% since 2000.


London had its first Climate Action Week in July 2019 after the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced his plans to face the “climate emergency” in the UK.

Climate Action Week explored clean energy solutions, zero-emissions transport, and stronger laws to keep global temperature increases under control.

Recently, the Strand, a major street in London, broke EU air quality limits when nitrogen dioxide levels in the area exceeded the EU limit for more than the 18-hour maximum period.

London is one of the most polluted areas in the UK due in part to the high volume of traffic. It is estimated there are 5.8 million journeys by car in the city every day. Plus, figures show more than two million people in London live in areas whose air pollution levels exceed recommended limits, and more than 450 schools are based in areas with dangerously high air pollution levels.

Things to Know Before Moving to London 

  1. London was recently named the world’s Best Student City. This was based on a ranking of six criteria: the number of top universities, the portion of the city’s population who are students, quality of life, career opportunities after graduating, affordability, and student feedback.
  2. London has been ranked the most attractive city for work.
  3. London has more than 250 registered art institutions, such as the British Museum.
  4. July is usually the hottest month with an average temperature of 19°C (66°F). January is the coolest with an average temperature of 5°C (41°F).
  5. London has about 61mm of rain in November and 39mm of rain in February. There is an average of 48mm of rain in July.
  6. The main airports in London are Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, and City Airport. There is also an airport in Southend, which welcomes around 900,000 passengers a year.
  7. There are around 400 green spaces in the city, including eight royal parks: Hyde Park, St James’s Park, Regents Park, Green Park, Kensington Gardens, Greenwich, Richmond, and Bushy Park.

How to Move to London

Moving to London can be hard, especially in the first days, so getting help from friends and relatives already living there could make a huge difference.

Are you looking for a house or apartment? Consider where you will stay for the first weeks after you arrive in London and if you know someone with a spare bedroom. If you can arrange to stay with someone you know until you find an apartment or house, this will make everything easier and save you money.

It can be stressful and logistically tough to find a property in another country before you land there. And it is rarely an enjoyable experience looking for somewhere to live in an unfamiliar place when you have so many other things to do.

There are online services that allow you to book a room or property without visiting but it is a risk to commit to a place before you have at least had a look around and met the owner.

Temporary Housing

If you are still looking for permanent accommodation when you land in London and you just need somewhere to stay for less than a few months, there are lots of temporary housing options in London. For short-term housing at a range of price points, consider companies that are part of the sharing economy, such as Spareroom and Airbnb. There are a range of options, from budget to luxury, plus business, and everything in between.

Some places you can find temporary housing in London include:

  • Gumtree
  • Spareroom
  • Ideal Flatmate
  • Craigslist
  • Arrive Homes
  • HomeStay
  • Airbnb

Finding a Job

You can find almost every imaginable job in London but that does not mean it is easy to get the kind of position you want. To avoid disappointment, you should secure a role before arriving in the city.

If you have skills relevant to the financial sector, the odds of getting a job will be in your favor. London has a colossal financial sector which employs around 315,000 people. The city has the fourth-largest stock exchange in the world, established in 1801. One of banking, underwriting or trading could be where you make your next career move.

Tourism, retail, and technology are also big industries in London, while professional services and media also offer many job opportunities.

Visas and Work Permits

Terms and conditions for visas and work permits are the same for London as they are for every city in the UK.

You can get a Tier 2 (General) visa to work in London if:

  • you have an offer for a skilled job in the UK, or
  • you are not a citizen of a European Economic Area (EEA) nation or Switzerland.

Tier 2 visas last up to five years and 14 months.

You can find more information about how to get UK visas, and their related requirements and documents in our Visas & Work Permits in the UK guide.

Living in London

Read our guide to living in London to find out all the secrets and need-to-know facts about what it is like living in London, England’s capital city.

The Office for National Statistics estimates London’s population is almost 8.8 million, 400,000 more than the estimated population of New York.

Communities in London

A range of communities make up London’s enormous population. Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Japan, and Korea are just some of the origins of people you could meet in the capital city. Its cultural diversity is one of the things that make London a great place to live.

The Royal Family

Since 1837, when Queen Victoria took the throne, the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom has lived at Buckingham Palace in London. You can find the palace in the City of Westminster, one of London’s more upmarket boroughs. If you happen to be in the area at the right time, you could witness special royal events, such as Trooping the Colour near St James’s Park—a ceremony performed by regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies which marks the official birthday of the Queen.


The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the two houses of the UK parliament, the House of Lords and the House of Commons (the Commons). Also known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace sits by the River Thames in Westminster. It is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Members of Parliament discuss current issues in the UK and propose new laws. The Commons is in charge of decisions on financial laws, like new taxes.

To find out more about how to live in London, read our Living in London guide.

Working in London

Working in London can be a great way to boost your CV and make real progress in your career. However, you might have to adjust to a “work hard, play hard” culture. Commuting in London can be stressful as there are so many other workers trying to make their way to work as well. This means public transportation is generally busy and vacant seats are sparse.

In July 2019, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies reported that job vacancies in London had increased by 23% over the past year. The report said that the fastest-growing industry was technology, with a 44% increase in new jobs. IT workers became especially hot property, with 37% of job posts aiming to recruit this type of worker.

To find out more about getting a job in London, read our Working in London guide.

Connect with like-minded expatriates

Discover our welcoming community of expats! You’ll find many ways to network, socialize, and make new friends. Attend online and in-person events that bring global minds together.

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