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Moving to London

There are few global destinations that can offer the grandeur and excitement of London. Perched on the banks of the famed Thames, the city shines with possibility even in the greyest weather and buzzes with an electric energy only rivalled by the likes of New York. Expats moving to London will encounter a multicultural, densely packed melting pot of people working feverishly against an amalgamated backdrop of cutting-edge technology and two millennia of rich history.

London might feel physically removed from Europe but is ideally placed to do some cross-continental sightseeing. London itself is also home to world-class tourist attractions, magnificent architecture, incredible theatre, concerts and art, plus beautiful expansive inner-city parks for restive lunch breaks. Foodies will delight in the fact that the city boasts a wonderful array of restaurants where expats can sample cuisines from across the world.

London is the undisputed powerhouse of the UK's economy, and expats will find all sorts of great work opportunities in the city. Sectors that are particularly well-established in London include finance, business, law, IT, medicine and engineering, as well as more creative industries such as fashion, graphic design and media. 

Although no longer in the world's top 20 most expensive cities, there is no denying that London is pricey and expats moving to the city will need to ensure that their salary compensates for the high cost of living. While finding affordable accommodation in London can be difficult, expats will discover there are many ways in which one can save money as well. For instance, we recommend new arrivals take advantage of the many free and low-cost events and festivals that take place in the city each year. 

Many expats also struggle to adjust to the less than perfect weather patterns, with long English winters and relentless drizzles a trial for those hailing from warmer climes. Another common complaint relates to one of London’s greatest accomplishments and frustrations – its public transport system. Rush-hour commuting on the tube or bus can be unpleasant and often malodorous, but expats will be able to get to where they need to go without needing to use a car.

Those relocating to London with families will be pleased to know that there is a wide variety of schooling options available to them, and those who'd prefer their child continue studying the curriculum followed in their home country are likely to find a good international school that meets their child's needs in London.

London has an enormous, colourful expat population. There are large, well-established communities of every major nationality, as well as sizeable populations of Asian and Caribbean immigrants. The result is a dynamic, energised environment that never ceases to surprise and always values people’s skills over their origins.

Weather in London

Needless to say, it isn't the weather that attracts expats to London. The skies over the city are seemingly in a constant state of gloom, only pierced (very) occasional by sunny days – which residents of course proceed to make full use of when they do come by, by spending as much time outdoors as possible.

London is said to have a temperate climate, with pleasantly mild daily highs in summer (although there is the odd hysteria-inducing heat wave) and winter lows that approach freezing but shyly recoil at the last minute.

Rainfall is a constant, mostly in the form of a gentle (relentless) drizzle, throughout the year. Snow falls occasionally in winter but seldom more than a few millimetres.

Summer temperatures range from 57°F (14°C) to 75°F (24°C), while average winter temperatures range from 37°F (3°C) to 46°F (8°C). July is the hottest summer month, averaging 66°F (19°C), and January is the coldest winter month, averaging 39°F (4°C).

London is a great city to visit whatever the weather, but most tourists prefer to visit between April and October, when the temperature is usually warm and the days are long and sometimes sunny. Among expats, though, the weather and grey skies are the number one complaint about living in London, with the cost of living a close second.

 

Pros and Cons of Moving to London

London is an extremely popular expat destination. The city's rich history, multitude of things to see and do, abundance of work opportunities, sophisticated infrastructure and transport, as well as the diversity of its population all play a huge role in the UK capital's charm. But, like every city, there are downsides to life in London. We recommend that anyone considering a move to the city should weigh up the positives and negatives of expat life in London before making the decision. Here are some of our pros and cons of moving to London.


Working in London

+ PRO: Great job opportunities

Many prominent multinational companies choose London as the base for their headquarters. It is, therefore, a great place for expats looking for career progression in industries such as finance, technology or the media. Furthermore, entrepreneurs looking to establish a business will find that London is a great place to start, thanks to its well-established infrastructure and highly-skilled workforce.

- CON: The job market is incredibly competitive

London, as well as the UK in general, has a highly-educated workforce. In addition, the city draws the best talent from across the world thanks to high wages and its attractive lifestyle opportunities. This often means that finding a job in London isn’t always easy, especially in highly saturated industries. Expats from certain countries will be disadvantaged if they haven’t secured a job before moving to London as most companies ask to see proof of a person’s right to work before they even consider the candidate for a position.

Many European companies have recently elected, or are considering, to relocate their headquarters from London to other capitals such as Amsterdam amid the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, which means fewer jobs in London.


Lifestyle in London

+ PRO:  London has something for everyone

Whether expats are fascinated by medieval history, modern art, live music, sport or an eclectic food scene, London is at the forefront of it all. It’s hard to get bored in this dynamic city. Beyond the city’s huge range of museums, art galleries, live music venues and historic monuments, it also boasts a full events calendar to keep residents suitably entertained.

+ PRO: London is an excellent travel hub for Europe

London is home to six international airports. This, teamed with the growth of budget airlines, has enabled the city to become an excellent hub for travel to popular European destinations. Expats living in London will find that travelling to the continent for a long weekend is quite feasible as distances are short and flight prices are cheap.  

- CON: Too many tourists

Despite the fact that tourism plays a central role in London’s economy, the constant presence of tourists can be annoying for the locals. Many restaurants and attractions close to busy tourist areas are especially expensive as businesses try to make the most of this market.


Cost of Living in London

- CON: The cost of living in London is high

Even though no longer in the top 10 or even top 20, London remains one of the most expensive cities in the world. Rental prices are steep and buying property seems like an impossible feat for many. Some would say that to truly make the most of life in the city, residents need substantial disposable income.

+ PRO: There is scope to save

There are many ways in which expats living in London can save money. Living outside the central areas of the city is possible thanks to London’s extensive transport network. Deciding to live in the suburbs will ensure expats can make a considerable saving on accommodation. To remain competitive, many businesses and retailers in London have regular sales and promotions which provide excellent opportunities to get goods and services at a fraction of the standard price. In addition, entrance to most museums and art galleries is free as is enjoying a walk, run or cycle through one of London’s beautiful parks. 


Healthcare in London

+ PRO: Public healthcare is good and easily accessible

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is considered one of the country’s greatest assets. Expats living in London will have access to the NHS at little to no cost. While patients are required to pay for certain medications, the cost of these is often subsidised and therefore work out considerably cheaper.

- CON: Long NHS waiting lists

Waiting lists for certain treatments in the UK are long. It's possible to bypass these and explore options in the private sector. However, private healthcare in the UK is expensive and those with any ongoing health issues or chronic illnesses should invest in a comprehensive insurance policy.


Accommodation in London

+ PRO: A wide variety of properties

Whether expats are looking to live in a quaint Victorian terraced house full of character or a modern apartment with views across the city, London offers a huge range of housing options.

- CON: Rents are high and properties move fast

Rental prices in London are consistently high throughout the city. Those wanting to live in particularly popular areas will need to act fast in order to secure a rental contract here.


Transport in London

+ PRO: Excellent public transport networks

London’s public transport network is extensive. Buses and tubes can get the city’s residents almost anywhere faster than a car could. Most people living in London have no real need to own a car.  

- CON: Tube delays and rush hour

London’s tube network is the oldest in the world which partly accounts for regular delays and technical issues. Furthermore, with London being so densely populated, using public transport during peak hours can mean that commuting isn’t always the most pleasant experience.

- CON: Traffic and congestion charge

Traffic in London is a nightmare, so it’s easy to see why people avoid driving in London. In an attempt to discourage people from driving into the city centre, the authorities have implemented a daily congestion charge for those that choose to drive rather than use public transport.


Schools in London

+ PRO: Expat children have access to free public education

Expats that are legally resident in the UK have the right to send their child to a public school at no cost. Priority over places tends to be given to foreign students whose families intend to remain in the country for a longer period of time. This is an option worth exploring especially for expats with children who already speak English or those with children that are young enough to pick up the language.

- CON: The standard of schools in London is highly variable

Although public schools are free, the standard of education varies considerably. Some are excellent, but many inner-city schools are oversubscribed and failing as a result of inadequate facilities and staffing issues. As a general rule, the better public schools tend to be located in the more affluent parts of the city. Expat parents should spend time reading a school’s Ofsted report before making a decision.

Working in London

Expats moving to London for job opportunities will find that the UK capital has a diverse business environment. From bankers to fashion designers, computer specialists to graphic designers – expats from a variety of backgrounds will find that there are many opportunities for career advancement in the city.

Working in London is both a challenging and rewarding experience for ambitious expats looking to build their careers and gain valuable experience. Each year people from across the world are attracted to the metropolis to offer their skills and expertise in exchange for career progression opportunities and unique experiences.

London is one of the world’s leading financial centres for international business and commerce. The city is the economic powerhouse of the UK and generates almost a quarter of its GDP.

Businesses in London come in all shapes and sizes. From large multinationals to small and medium-sized companies and social enterprises, the business landscape of London is fertile ground for all types of companies.


Job market in London

London has an overwhelmingly service-based economy. Historically, the dominant industry has been finance, but the media industry has a strong presence here too. The BBC is a key employer and several other broadcasters have headquarters around the city, while many of the UK’s national newspapers are also based in London.

Of course, tourism has played a significant part in London’s economic success – and is one of the city's top employers – as the capital attracts international tourists in their droves each year. Though Covid-19 has of course put a damper on the tourism sector, it is sure to pick up when vaccines are rolled out.

Creative industries such as film, design and fashion are thriving in London. The city is home to the European headquarters of a number of the world’s leading advertising and digital agencies, while the technology sector has grown markedly, too.

Given the growth of the IT sector and the need to adapt to changing world circumstances, the digital realm of the job market has also exploded. The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have seen the shift of jobs into online roles. Everything from the recruitment and hiring process to team meetings and completing projects have become digital. Many companies are operating fully virtual workspaces or at least opportunities to work from home. When job hunting, it's worth looking for opportunities that offer remote work.

London is home to a number of internationally-renowned universities. Many experts in fields such as biotechnology and the life sciences come to the metropolis for its world-class research facilities. Medicine and engineering are also prominent sectors.


Finding a job in London

Expats who want to move to London are advised to secure a job offer before arriving in the UK. Those looking to take up unskilled jobs may struggle to earn a good salary that is in line with the high cost of living in the city.

Expats will find that the recruitment processes in the UK are usually fair, transparent and based on equal opportunities. That said, networking is key in London, as recommendations and referrals will get expats a foot in the door. Having a personal business network can also help alert job seekers to upcoming vacancies and offer candidates a head start in the application process.

Before arriving, it's best to do some research on job opportunities within one's industry. There are several avenues to peruse. Online job portals, including social-networking sites such as LinkedIn, as well as online listings on the websites of local newspapers, give a good idea about the job market. Expats working in a niche industry will find that there are many specialist recruitment agencies available online. 

Expats hoping to take up a job offer in London must find out if they need a visa or work permit to legally work in the capital.

Cost of Living in London

London is a notoriously expensive place to live – the city was ranked 19th out of 209 cities analysed in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2020.

The UK capital is a city full of opportunities, but expats need to have a full understanding of the cost of living in relation to the salary they’ll be earning to ensure they budget accordingly.

Transport, although efficient, can be rather costly. Lifestyle, entertainment and shopping, however, can be tailored to accommodate various different tastes and budgets as there are plenty of ways to save money in these areas.


Cost of accommodation in London

The majority of expats living in London tend to rent property rather than purchase. The cost of rentals can be eye-watering, especially in the more sought-after areas and suburbs. Space is limited in areas close to the city centre, though fortunately London’s public transport network is excellent which makes commuting easy and widens accommodation prospects considerably. Expats will find that larger properties with gardens are more readily available on the outskirts of the city, and the further away from the city centre one searches, the more affordable the housing becomes.

When looking for accommodation in London, prospective tenants should also budget for utilities, such as electricity, gas and water, along with council tax, as these tend to be excluded from the quoted rental price.


Cost of transport in London

London has an extensive transport network. Public transport includes the Tube (Underground), buses, trams and taxis. But getting around can also become expensive, especially for those who live in outlying suburbs. The best option for people commuting regularly is to buy a monthly or annual travelcard.

There's little need to own a car in London, but those who wish to drive should factor in the high costs of parking, especially in central areas. Added to that, people driving into central London will be subject to paying the congestion charge which was implemented to deter people from driving into the city unnecessarily and causing more traffic.


Cost of education in London

Expats legally resident in the UK are entitled to send their children to a state school at little or no cost. There are plenty of good state schools, but the standard does vary. Nonetheless, it is definitely an option worth exploring, especially for those who plan on settling down in the UK.

Those who wish for their children to continue following the curriculum of their home country will find that London is home to the largest selection of international schools in the UK. Expats should note, though, that fees at British private schools and international schools can be exorbitant, and these institutions tend to be oversubscribed. Wherever possible, expats should attempt to negotiate an allowance for school fees into their employment package.


Cost of entertainment and eating out in London

London plays host to excellent entertainment offerings, from world-class theatres and music venues to museums and art galleries, there is truly something to suit all tastes. Those who want to try out the most exclusive establishments in the city can expect to pay a small fortune for the privilege, but those on a tighter budget will also be catered for. Plenty of places offer special deals and last-minute offers where one can attend some of the best events at a fraction of the usual prices. When it comes to eating out, London has countless options, from fine dining at Michelin-starred restaurants to hearty street food.


Cost of living in London chart

These are average costs for London in January 2021. Prices may vary depending on product and service provider.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

GBP 3,200

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

GBP 2,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

GBP 1,700

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

GBP 1,250

Shopping

Milk (1 litre)

GBP 0.90

Dozen eggs

GBP 2.20

Loaf of white bread 

GBP 1

Rice (1kg)

GBP 1.45

Packet of cigarettes (Marlboro)

GBP 12

Transport

City centre bus/train fare

 GBP 2.80

Taxi rate per km

 GBP 1.70

Petrol/gasoline per litre

 GBP 1.25

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 GBP 6

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

 GBP 1.50

Cappuccino

 GBP 3

Bottle of beer

GBP 5

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

GBP 60

Utilities

Internet (uncapped ADSL per month)

GBP 31

Mobile call rate (mobile-to-mobile per minute)

GBP 0.13

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

GBP 180

Accommodation in London

The bustling metropolis of London is massive and boasts an enormous range of accommodation to suit almost any expat’s budget, lifestyle and background. There are areas and suburbs of London that are perfect for young professionals, expat families, foreign students and high-flying business executives, respectively.

The UK capital is a highly cosmopolitan city and expats will have the opportunity to mix with people from all over the globe. Thanks to the city's excellent public transport, getting around won’t be too much of a problem, although some areas are better serviced than others. Many expats will find that their employer will assist them in finding a suitable rental property and navigating all the associated red tape, often through a local relocation company.


Types of accommodation in London

People moving to London will find a variety of property types available to them. The type of home expats choose will depend on the location they want to live in, their family's requirements and, of course, their budget. Generally, the further one lives from the city centre, the more choice one will have in terms of the price range, and the larger the properties will be.

London is, undeniably, an expensive city, so many new arrivals decide to live in a shared house or flat to cut down on costs. Sharing with strangers may be a daunting prospect, but it can be a good way of meeting new people. It's worth checking out a few properties and also meeting prospective house mates. Flatshares are usually furnished properties and have shared kitchen and living areas. There are thousands of property listings on websites such as Gumtree and SpareRoom.

Property in London can broadly be divided into three main types: flats, terraced housing and detached housing.

Flats

Flats, or apartments, are either part of a large development or a conversion, which is typically an old building or house that has been separated into flats.

Terraced houses

Most London suburbs have a large number of streets with rows of terraced Victorian houses.

Detached houses

Detached properties can be old or new, but are usually located outside of central London. They typically offer bigger spaces, more bedrooms and a garden.

Furnished or unfurnished

Most rental properties in London are unfurnished, but even unfurnished properties are likely to have carpets, curtains and fully-fitted kitchens, along with an oven, fridge, dishwasher and washing machine. Furnished flats and houses include everything from beds to cutlery and crockery in the kitchen. Due to the sometimes short-term nature of expat assignments, many expats opt to live in fully-furnished accommodation. 


Finding accommodation in London

Finding suitable accommodation in London should be a straightforward process, but the rental market is competitive and fast moving. We recommend expats do some research before leaving their home country. In particular, it’s important to shortlist suitable areas and suburbs in London that suit one's needs and budget.

Most property searches begin on one of the online property portals such as Rightmove or Zoopla. Once this initial research is done, new arrivals will find it helpful to contact a local real-estate agent who is familiar with the particular area or suburb of London that they want to live in. Agents often have access to properties that are yet to make it onto public listings.


Renting accommodation in London

After deciding on the most suitable part of London to live in and the type of property they want to rent, most expats will research properties online and contact local estate agents who will set up viewings. Once a suitable property has been found, and an agreement has been made with the landlord, the estate agent will draw up the contract. Before the contract can be signed, the estate agent will need to check references and do some background checks. The deposit and the first month’s rent will be taken before the start of the tenancy.

Making an application

The landlord or estate agent will need to see some paperwork before a lease is signed. This may include collecting references from the expat's employer or a previous landlord, and seeing proof of ID (usually a passport). Those coming from abroad will need to produce a copy of their UK visa and documents allowing their stay in the UK.

Tenants may also be asked for proof of salary or funds, which may include pay slips, a contract of employment and recent bank statements. To avoid any delays, we recommend checking which documents will be needed in advance and to make necessary copies.

Leases

Once expats have found a property to their liking, they will be expected to sign an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. This agreement gives a tenant the legal right to live in a property for a set period of time, with an option to extend.

The initial term is typically one year, although a six-month tenant-only break clause could be negotiated. This allows the tenant to terminate the contract at any time after the first six months by giving the landlord either one or two months’ notice. All reputable estate agents will use a standard contract that gives protection to both the landlord and tenant. All the same, it’s important to read the agreement carefully and raise any queries with the estate agent before signing it.

Short lets

A short let is a good option for those who may only be in London for a few weeks or months, as an alternative to staying in a hotel or serviced apartment. They also allow new arrivals to get to know an area, before committing to a long-term lease. A short let usually offers some flexibility in rental duration and the property is usually furnished to a high standard. Rental prices are higher for short lets, but all bills are included in the rent.

Deposits

Expats should be prepared to put down a deposit equal to six weeks' rent. A landlord or letting agent should put the deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) rather than paying it into their own bank account. If a tenant is in a dispute with their landlord, the deposit will be protected in the TDP scheme until the issue is resolved.

The landlord may deduct expenses from the deposit to cover costs such as repairing any damage to the property, paying for a professional clean, removing anything left behind by the tenant or replacing lost keys. Landlords must return the deposit within 10 days of both parties agreeing how much the tenant will get back.

Utilities

Expats should note that utilities such as electricity, gas and water, along with council tax, are usually not included in the quoted rental price and will be an extra expense. For more guidance on paying council tax, expats should visit the official council websites for their particular London borough. Most services are available online, including making payments and setting up a direct debit.

Before moving in, do confirm with the real-estate agent or landlord that all utilities are set up, switched on and ready to be used come move-in day.

The previous tenant or owner should have given the final meter readings to the utility companies. However, it's encouraged for new tenants to take the gas and electricity readings when moving in. This will ensure that they are not charged for electricity used by previous occupants. 

Different utility companies offer a variety of rates and tariffs. It’s easy to change suppliers in the UK, and it’s usually possible to save money by shopping around and switching tariffs or suppliers. Price comparison websites make it easy to compare suppliers. 

Bins and recycling

Typically, bins are collected every week, and there are separate containers for cardboard, glass and plastic. Each London borough has a different system for rubbish collection and recycling. The official council websites for each borough will give details on bin-collection days and what each bin is used for. 

Areas and suburbs in London

The best places to live in London

London is a vast, densely populated metropolis which has an accommodation option to suit every expat’s budget, lifestyle and situation. While London is no longer considered among the world's most expensive cities for expats, the cost of accommodation remains high in the UK's capital. 

In addition to budgetary constraints, expats should think carefully about commuting time, proximity to supermarkets and what sort of property they would like to live in when choosing an area or suburb of London to live in.

One way of understanding the layout of the city is to use the underground Tube map: Zones 1 and 2 correspond to the city centre and accommodation here will be expensive and difficult to find. Zones 3 and 4 contain suburbs with semi-detached houses and tenement units. Zones 5 and 6 offer the cheapest accommodation but transport times into the city can easily exceed an hour during busy times. As a rule of thumb, each tube stop will add three minutes to the commute.

Expats moving to London with a family will need to look at areas further away from the central business district if they want a more spacious property with a garden at an affordable rent. Prices typically become considerably cheaper (and properties much larger) the further one moves from the centre. 


West London

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Chelsea, Knightsbridge and South Kensington

Chelsea, Knightsbridge and South Kensington are some of the most expensive and exclusive areas in London (and the world). These areas are particularly popular with French expats because of their proximity to the French Consulate, the French Institute and two French international schools. There are also lots of wealthy Spanish, Italian, American and Middle Eastern expats living in Chelsea.

Chelsea and Knightsbridge are close to some of London’s top nightclubs, restaurants and bars. High Street Kensington is lined with designer shops, and Kensington Gardens is just on the doorstep if residents find they are in need of some fresh air. 

The area is served well by the Tube and bus networks and it is also possible to walk to central places in London.

International schools in this area include La Petite Ecole BilingueLycée Français Charles de Gaulle and the South Kensington campus of Southbank International School.

Notting Hill and Holland Park

Notting Hill, famous for its massive summer carnival, is a very colourful part of West London. This bohemian area is full of young American and Australian expats.

The properties tend to be small, so don’t expect wide lawns or gardens – but it’s not a great loss as large green spaces such as Kensington Gardens and Holland Park are just around the corner. There are lots of quaint eateries and coffee shops as well as a wealth of second-hand stores selling everything from vintage fashions to antique furniture. Notting Hill is also the home of the famous Portobello Road Market.

The suburb of Holland Park (not to be confused with the area's public park of the same name) is just to the west of Notting Hill and has large Victorian houses which are popular with wealthy expats.

Fulham and Putney

With its picturesque Victorian houses and proximity to the King's Road and Chelsea, Fulham is a desirable suburb popular with middle-class families as well as young professionals. Putney is just south of Fulham, over the river, and is popular with Australians, New Zealanders and South African expats. Accommodation in this area is slightly cheaper than in Chelsea, and there are some great pubs.

French expats in the area often opt to send their children to L'Ecole des Petits or L'Ecole de Battersea. The International School of London, just north of Putney, is another option worth considering.

Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush

Particularly popular with Irish, French and Australian expats, these areas are slightly further out but still very central. They have good links to Tube stations and access to some excellent schools. Though rent here is lower than in most other places in West London, expats will find that accommodation is still of good quality.


North London

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Hampstead 

Hampstead is an affluent and leafy area of London. Expats will find this area great for families because of the large open spaces and its proximity to some of London’s best schools, including the Hampstead campus of Southbank International School

Property in Hampstead Heath is highly desirable and the rental prices reflect this. The area boasts a fantastic selection of top-quality restaurants, independent- and boutique fashion stores, and bespoke pubs. 

Hampstead is served well by public transport links and is just a short commute from central London.

Camden

Camden is a highly sought-after area for people looking to rent or buy property in London.

The streets of Camden are lined with old terraced houses brimming with character, as well as the newer council properties, many of which are now privately owned.

Camden is a bohemian part of London and has long been popular with students and arty types, as well as young expats. The area is overflowing with entertainment options, bars, restaurants and clubs. Camden is famous for its vibrant music scene and it's common to see long queues outside music venues, even on a weeknight. When it comes to shopping, there are lots of bargains to be had at Camden Market and the area is full of vintage fashion boutiques. 

The area is served well by buses and the Tube, and there are also good cycle paths that run alongside the canal.

The American School in London is situated a short distance west of Camden.

Wembley

Further away from the centre of London one will find areas such as Wembley, where rentals are more reasonable. It is an ethnically diverse suburb of London popular with Asian expats, particularly those from India.

Living in Wembley expats will be close to supermarkets, shops and restaurants. Wembley is on a number of public transport routes, including several Tube lines, as well as some overground services.


East London

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Shoreditch and Hoxton

Over the last decade or so Shoreditch and Hoxton have become some of the trendiest parts of London. They are popular with young professional expats due to the area’s cosmopolitan feel and the entertainment facilities on offer. Many of London’s media and advertising companies have their offices based here.

While lots of new coffee shops, restaurants and bars have popped up in the area, local authorities have been careful to maintain much of the historic charm of East London. 

In Marylebone, east of Hoxton, expats can find the International Community School.

Leyton and Stratford

Expats will find more reasonable property prices in Leyton and Stratford, although they should expect to pay slightly more to travel into central London. These areas have seen a lot of investment and a major revamp as a result of the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

There are lots of supermarkets, restaurants and bars in Leyton and Stratford, and one of the largest shopping malls in Europe, Westfield Stratford City, is close by. The area is also well served by London’s bus-, Tube- and overground train networks.

The Westminster campus of Southbank International School is just outside of Stratford.


South London

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Wimbledon

When it comes to housing, expats can find some form of accommodation to suit their needs and budget somewhere in Wimbledon. This area has everything from custom-built mansions and penthouses in Wimbledon Village, to council tower blocks in South Wimbledon. Small apartments and house shares in the area are affordable.   

Wimbledon is a fairly multi-cultural area, but it is particularly popular with expats from South Africa, India, Poland and Australia.

Clapham

Clapham is a vibrant area of South London. The residents of Clapham are quite eclectic and the suburb is well suited for young couples or single young people looking for a house share. There are also plenty of grand old houses, particularly in North Clapham, near the park. Jamaican, Irish and Nigerian expats favour this area.

There are entertainment centres around Clapham High Street and Clapham Junction, where most of the clubs, bars and restaurants can be found. During the summer, residents make use of the plentiful green spaces in the area.

Clapham Junction is just minutes away from Waterloo, and with it being Britain’s busiest railway station, there are dozens of trains an hour to central London. Living close to this station also gives expats the opportunity to easily visit almost anywhere in the south of England.

Healthcare in London

The United Kingdom is home to the National Health Service (NHS), widely praised as one of the world's best public healthcare systems. The NHS is complemented by a wide range of excellent public hospitals, so expats moving to London need not worry about finding adequate care.

Not all expats will be immediately eligible to use the NHS, however, and some may have to pay a visa surcharge to do so. To find out more about this and how it affects their individual situation, expats should visit the UK government website.

While the quality of care in public and private hospitals is on par, the NHS is notorious for its long waiting times, and comprehensive dental treatment isn't covered. To bypass this, some expats prefer to use private healthcare. This can be expensive, though, so expats are advised to invest in a comprehensive health insurance policy to ensure that costs are covered.

Below is a list of some of London's top public and private hospitals.


Public hospitals in London

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
www.chelwest.nhs.uk
Address: 369 Fulham Road, Chelsea, London

Guy's Hospital 
www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk
Address: Great Maze Pond, London

King's College Hospital
www.kch.nhs.uk
Address: Denmark Hill, Brixton, London

Royal Brompton Hospital
www.rbht.nhs.uk
Address: Sydney Street, Chelsea, London

St Bartholemew's Hospital
www.bartshealth.nhs.uk/st-bartholomews
Address: West Smithfield, London


Private hospitals in London

Bupa Cromwell
www.bupacromwellhospital.com
Address: 164-178 Cromwell Road, London

King Edward VII's Hospital
www.kingedwardvii.co.uk
Address: 5-10 Beaumont Street

Highgate Private Hospital
www.highgatehospital.co.uk
Address: 17-19 View Road, Highgate, London

London Bridge Hospital
www.londonbridgehospital.com
Address: 27 Tooley Street, London

The Princess Grace Hospital
www.theprincessgracehospital.co.uk
Address: 42-52 Nottingham Place, Marylebone, London

Education and Schools in London

London’s schools vary tremendously in terms of the standard of education and the quality of the facilities they offer. As a general rule of thumb, the better schools tend to be in the more affluent areas of the city – as tend to be the case in most big metros.

State schools (public) and independent schools (private) are the two main types of institutions in London.


Public schools in London

State schools are run by the government, follow the national curriculum and give priority to pupils resident in the catchment area. This means that expats should consider where they want to have their child schooled when choosing an area or suburb in London to set up home in.

The best place to start when looking for a local school is online. Parents can use a school finder online and input a postcode to find all the schools near their prospective home. Families can also look for a school in each London borough by visiting the respective local council website. Councils can also provide guidance on childcare and family support.

Expat children aged between 5 and 16 years old who are dependants of a person who is legally allowed to live in the country are entitled to the same education rights as British children. Namely, they can attend state primary and secondary schools in the UK free of charge.


Private schools in London

Independent schools are privately run, charge high fees and usually offer a superior standard of education along with first-rate facilities for students to pursue a variety of extra-curricular activities.

Most private schools in London follow the National English Curriculum, but some have introduced the International Baccalaureate programme as an option for education after the age of 16. Some private schools teach through a religious lens, such as Christianity, or use an alternative education philosophy, such as Montessori.


International schools in London

A third option popular with expats in London are international schools. These institutions offer the opportunity for students to continue with the curriculum of their home country, while the familiar modes and language used for instruction can also be comforting for expat children.

Expats should be warned, though, that fees for these schools run extremely high – particularly so for reputable international schools. There may also be additional costs for things such as uniforms, school lunches and extra-curricular activities. 


Tutoring in London

Education is highly valued in the UK, with around a quarter of secondary school pupils receiving extra tuition. The country's private tutoring industry is said to be worth billions of pounds. There is a wide range of tutors to choose from, some of which specialise in particular subjects or age groups. Some of the top tutoring agencies in London include Mentor Education, Enjoy Education and Explore Learning.

Tutors can be especially useful to new arrivals, giving expat children extra support in areas such as catching up with the local curriculum, or developing English-language skills, or just a bit of confidence.


Special-needs education in London

The British government has a comprehensive Special Educational Needs (SEN) programme. All mainstream schools in the UK have a Special Educational Needs Consultant, or SENCO. If parents think their child may need assistance, they can get in touch with the SENCO who will assess the child and arrange extra support according to the child's needs. This may include implementing a special learning programme, making provisions within the school for the child's disability, or arranging extra help from a teacher or assistant.

If the child needs more support than the school is able to provide, local authorities should be contacted regarding the development of a personalised Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

Private schools in London

Private schools in London typically offer a high quality of education and often have perks such as more modern facilities, smaller classes and more extracurricular options. Though fees will need to be paid in order to attend a London private school, tuition is generally lower than that of the city's international schools.

Generally, these schools do follow the national curriculum of the UK, although more and more are offering students the opportunity to study for the International Baccalaureate (IB).

The majority of private schools are selective, especially at the senior school level. Places at the best schools are highly sought after and students are expected to sit an interview and pass an exam to get a place. Expat children are welcomed at private schools in London, and many of the schools in central London have children of dozens of different nationalities.


Private schools in London 

City of London School

Gender: Boys only
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 10 to 18
Website: www.clsb.org.uk

City of London School for Girls

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 7 to 18
Website: www.clsg.org.uk

Dulwich School, South London

Gender: Boys only
Curriculum: GCSEs and A Levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.dulwich.org.uk

Emanuel School, Battersea

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: GCSEs and A Levels
Ages: 11 to 18
Website: www.emanuel.org.uk

Durston House School, Ealing

Gender: Boys only
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 4 to 13
Website: www.durstonhouse.org

Godolphin and Latymer School, Hammersmith

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE, International Baccalaureate
Ages: 11 to 18
Website: www.godolphinandlatymer.com

Harrow School

Gender: Boys only
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE, A-levels
Ages: 13 to 18
Website: www.harrowschool.org.uk

James Allen’s Girls’ School, Dulwich

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, A-levels
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.jags.org.uk

Keble Prep, North London

Gender: Boys only
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 4 to 13
Website: www.kebleprep.co.uk

King’s College School, Wimbledon

Gender: Boys only up to Year 11 (7 to 16) and co-educational Sixth Form (16 to 18)
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate, A-levels
Ages: 7 to 18
Website: www.kcs.org.uk

Notting Hill and Ealing High School, Ealing

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate, A-levels
Ages: 11 to 18
Website: www.nhehs.gdst.net

Orchard House School, Chiswick

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 3 to 11
Website: www.orchardhs.org.uk

Queen's Gate School, South Kensington

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.queensgate.org.uk

South Hampstead High School, Hampstead

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, A-levels
Ages: 7 to 18
Website: www.shhs.gdst.net

St Paul’s School, Hammersmith

Gender: Boys only
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE, A-levels
Ages: 13 to 18
Website: www.stpaulsschool.org.uk

Westminster School, Central London

Gender: Boys only up to Year 11 (7 to 16) and co-educational Sixth Form (16 to 18)
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 7 to 18
Website: www.westminster.org.uk

International Schools in London

Thanks to the city's cosmopolitan nature, London has a broad range of good-quality international schools. The city also has bilingual schools that teach in languages such as French and German, as well as English.

Although many expat families choose to make use of the free state education, or send their children to one of the excellent private schools in London, international schools are often the ideal choice for globally mobile families. International schools allow expat children to continue with a familiar education system and the maintenance of mother-tongue literacy skills. Many international schools provide language programmes aimed at maintaining home language proficiency or helping non-English-speaking children to adapt.

Expats will find that most international schools in London welcome children of all nationalities. Staff at the best international schools are highly qualified and well-equipped to serve the unique needs of the expat community.

Below is a list of some of the most prominent international schools in London.


International schools in London

ACS International School

ACS has three campuses which are all based just outside London. Each school has excellent facilities for sports and extra-curricular activities. There is an emphasis on interactive learning through the use of modern technology. ACS schools have special programmes that address issues associated with a highly mobile expat population. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and American
Ages: 2 to 18

American School in London

This is a popular international school boasting top-class facilities for sports and art. ASL strives to develop the intellect and character of each student by providing ‘an outstanding American education with a global perspective’. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 4 to 18

Deutsche Schule London

Deutsche Schule London strives to ease the social integration of German students to the UK while allowing them to maintain a connection to their language and culture. There are ample opportunities for students to get involved in extra-curricular activities such as arts, music, theatre and sport. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German Abitur and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 19

La Petite Ecole Bilingue

This small, bilingual independent school has two campuses – one in Kentish Town and the other outside London in Oxford. La Petite Ecole Bilingue prides itself on its small class sizes and personalised teaching programmes which allow the students to progress according to their own individual rate of learning, not just based on their age. Classes take place in French and English. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French and National Curriculum for England
Ages: 2 to 11

L'Ecole des Petits

This small school of just 130 pupils caters for English-speaking and French-speaking children and provides learning in both languages. The school welcomes pupils from all over the world. Set in a beautifully restored Victorian in Fulham, this unique school offers an exceptional standard of education. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French and National Curriculum for England
Ages: 3 to 6

L'Ecole de Battersea

The sister school of L'Ecole des Petits, this school opened in 2005 to offer the French curriculum with English elements to its approximately 230 pupils. The school offers an outstanding, well-rounded education. There is a wide variety of extra-curricular activities offered including fencing, basketball, sewing, drama and more. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 11

Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle

Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle has been established for over 100 years and has achieved a number of accolades, including being named as one of the top 50 schools in Britain. There is a strong emphasis on academics, the performing arts and extra-curricular activities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18

ICS London International School

Situated in the heart of London, ICS London (International Community School) boasts a diverse range of students from over 70 different countries. As a member of the global network of Globeducate schools, ICS is well-positioned to offer a truly international education. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate 
Ages: 3 to 18

International School of London

The International School of London strongly promotes mother-tongue literacy with home-language lessons two to three times a week. More than 20 languages are included in this programme. There is additional specialised support for students whose first language is not English. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Southbank International School

This is a very popular school among international expats that has three campuses in Hampstead, Kensington and Westminster. Southbank follows the IB Curriculum with a learning style based on groupwork, communication and independent field research. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 19

Lifestyle in London

Expats moving to London will discover the UK capital has a vibey, thriving social scene. Whether new arrivals want to see and be seen in one of the city's top nightclubs, savour a lager in a cosy pub, take in a stage production in the West End, shop up a storm in Oxford Street or bag a bargain in one of the city's bohemian markets, the London lifestyle has plenty to offer.


Shopping in London

London is undoubtedly one of the world's top shopping capitals. Whether shoppers are after the latest designer gear, high-street bargains or a unique vintage piece, London has a shopping solution to suit everyone's needs and budget. Oxford Street and Regent Street have every big high-street brand a person could wish for. When looking for the top designer names, head to Bond Street or High Street Kensington. For vintage bargains, try Camden Market or Portobello Road Market on a Saturday. 

Foodies should make a pilgrimage to Borough Market, close to London Bridge, to experience an incredible range of organic treats and homemade produce.


Nightlife and entertainment in London

Nightlife in London is diverse and eclectic with something to suit every taste, from heaving dance floors to intimate music lounges and jazz bars. Expats will find that much of London’s evening entertainment is based in the West End, where there are an endless amount of pubs, clubs and restaurants. This is also the home of London’s theatre district where people can catch all the major West End productions, while Covent Garden is home to the Royal Opera House. Classical music lovers should head to the Royal Albert Hall. Other theatres include the world-renowned National Theatre, the Globe Theatre and the Old Vic.

Soho is one of the trendiest places to grab a drink after work and is home to London’s top gay bars and clubs. Notting Hill is also synonymous with a good night out. Fans of live music can head to Camden, Clapham or Brixton, while the bars and gastropubs of Shoreditch and Hoxton have become popular hangouts for London’s bohemian crowd.


Sports and outdoor activities in London

The Brits may love their brew, but expats will find that fitness in London is nonetheless a priority for city-dwellers. There's an abundance of runners and cyclists, and due to the ever-growing population and often-congested city streets, commuting and exercising go hand in hand here. 

In addition to running and cycling, London offers a wealth of other fitness options and expats won't struggle to find some form of exercise that keeps the endorphins firing.

Gyms and fitness centres in London range from reasonably priced to exceedingly expensive. Many of the biggest health club chains, such as Virgin Active, PureGym and Fitness First, offer complimentary classes and free trial periods prior to joining. Some also provide discounts for students or companies.

Another popular alternative to the traditional gym workout is to join an extra-curricular sports team or league that plays recreationally on weekends. There is a wide range of options in this category, with teams created according to neighbourhood, age, sex or home country.

Clubs and societies in London

Many people will advise expats that if a new arrival wants to make friends they should simply head to the local pub. Although a pub can be the focal point of a neighbourhood, London is a collection of areas that also offer something for everyone in terms of social clubs, groups or societies where like-minded peers gather to share common interests. 

Clubs come in all shapes and sizes, some with brick-and-mortar locations, and others organised through social networks with changing venues and a consistent calendar of events to choose from. Most encourage hosting guests, enjoying refreshments, forming new personal and professional relationships and interests, and/or delighting in new or old habits. Whatever one is looking for, expats are sure to find it in London.


Expat clubs in London

London is an extremely diverse city that draws people from all over the world, and new arrivals will be glad to know that there are plenty of expat clubs and societies to help them feel more at home. From groups of expats from all over the world, to groups aimed at particular nationalities, to groups exclusively for professional networking or for expat women, London has it all. These groups are just an internet search away and are a great place to get support and information about the trials and tribulations of expat life in London.


Social activity clubs in London

The advent of the internet and use of social media has allowed social activity clubs to flourish. Organisers plan gatherings that include activities ranging from sporting events and social parties to occasions focused around arts, literature, networking opportunities and travel.

Unlike traditional clubs they need not be limited to one kind of event, location, or special interest, but can include a broad range of options published in monthly calendars. Members can have input into the events in which the club is going to take part, based upon the changing interests of the members and determine the events that they will attend.

Membership itself may come at a nominal cost, sometimes a one-time activation fee. Membership, as well as the events, may be limited or open to the general public.


Sports clubs in London

Athletes, sports fans or both will find opportunities to actively participate in or spectate a sport of choice. Expats can watch and enjoy a veritable A-to-Z of sports in a host of London venues; pitches, courts, sports fields, leisure facilities and recreation areas.

“Sports clubs” include those dedicated to specific organised teams or leagues as well as fitness and leisure centres that include state-of-the-art gyms, studios and classes, and recreational centres with tennis courts, running trails and more. A choice of annual or monthly memberships is usually available, generally with a registration fee upfront.


Members-only clubs in London

Those looking for an exclusive membership experience or environment may look to a private, members-only institution. Some have a traditional clubhouse, bar, or restaurant where members gather, while others may offer overnight accommodation or the use of various facilities worldwide.

These may have waiting lists and/or long application processes that might be dependent on being nominated and voted in by existing members. Monthly or annual membership fees, as well as membership entitlements, may vary considerably. Membership can sometimes be passed on to friends or family and may include reciprocal global locations to enjoy on travel or when returning home. Additionally, there are clubs that offer affordable packages along with relaxed membership policies. 

Kids and Family in London

With a seemingly endless list of fun things to do and see, London is a fantastic city for expat families with kids to explore. Those relocating to London with children in tow can take comfort in the fact that there is plenty to enjoy, regardless of the weather, and kids are unlikely to ever get bored in the UK capital.

Here's a round-up of some of our favourite family outings in London.


Child-friendly activities in London

On summer days, we recommend expat parents take the kids for a ride on the hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses. Other options for (cost-free) fun in the sun include exploring wonderful parks such as St James's Park, Regents Park and Hyde Park.

In the event of cold or rainy weather, check out Madame Tussauds, with its wax sculptures of famous people, and Hamleys Toy Shop for the single best collection of toys in the world.

Other great activities for expat kids in London are the London Eye, especially at night and, for older kids, the London Dungeon with its gory recreations of London’s medieval past. Museums for kids are fun-filled: the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the charming Victoria and Albert Museum are just some of the museums available to Londoners.

The West End offers a range of theatre experiences aimed at children. Classic shows include The Lion King and Aladdin.

Another good option is the well-managed and fascinating London Zoo – and is about the closest kids will get to dangerous animals in Britain.

A little further afield is the Chessington World of Adventures, a theme park complete with zoo, roller coasters and water slides.

A top winter activity is ice skating which can be done at various locations around the city throughout the festive season. London's Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is also great for children, with lots of rides and activities.

See and Do in London

Sure, relocation logistics can be daunting, but trying to decide exactly what to see and do in London once settled in the city may be the hardest decision for expats, as the choices are seemingly endless. Newcomers are recommended to play tourist on arrival, as this is often the best way to explore a new home city. For instance, those who've recently arrived should make a point of taking the iconic red double-decker buses for a few journeys to get a good feel for the layout of the English capital.

This bustling metropolis is large enough and filled with such a diverse range of attractions and sightseeing opportunities that even locals can be tourists in their own city. For expats especially though, London is a place that can constantly be discovered and rediscovered, full of surprises and new adventures.

There are, of course, lots of well-known sights in London, but the best way to explore the city without getting overwhelmed is to choose a neighbourhood to poke about in for a day.

Here are some of the must-see attractions in London for new arrivals to marvel at.


Recommended attractions in London

St. Paul's Cathedral

Sir Christopher Wren’s 1675 masterpiece is a truly iconic London building that miraculously survived the Blitz in World War II. Head inside for some rare peace and quiet from the frenetic pace of the London streets.

Tower of London

Built in the 11th century, this legendary site has played host to many famous beheadings. The Tower of London is also home to the crown jewels and the famous Yeoman Warders. There’s no doubt it’s a fascinating place and an essential piece of British history.

Tate Modern

One of four Tate museums, the Tate Modern boasts an astounding collection of 20th- and 21st-century artworks. An excellent café and restaurant with wonderful views add to the allure.

National Gallery

Britain’s National Gallery lines the northern side of Trafalgar Square and is home to works from all the major European schools from the 13th to the 20th century. Audio tours and 'printed trails' of related works enhance an experience already made exceptional by all the variety.

British Museum

One of the world’s great museums with 80,000 pieces from all over the world on display, the British Museum houses collections of antiquities that include the Elgin Marbles, Portland Vase and the original Rosetta Stone.

London Eye

Book a pod on the London Eye to catch the best views in town and gain a rare sense of geographical perspective with spectacular 360-degree vistas aboard the gently revolving – and massive – observation wheel famously called the London Eye.

Shakespeare’s Globe

The Globe, an excellent reconstruction of the original theatre, celebrates Shakespeare’s life and times and puts on performances of his plays.

Buckingham Palace

See the changing of the guards outside one of Britain's most famous buildings. Cheesy to some, but a pilgrimage to many, and definitely recommended to newcomers.

Camden Market

Camden Market is a hugely colourful and diverse shopping experience with more than 1,000 stalls for shoppers to browse to their hearts' content. The hustle and bustle of this exciting market is not to be missed.

What's On in London

Expats can look forward to a wonderful array of annual events in London alongside the vast selection of activities and things to do in the city. Expats can be sure that they'll find something to pique their interest, whether they enjoy art, sports or are simply looking for an excuse to party.

Here is a list of the main festivals on the city's calendar.


Annual events in London

Chinese New Year (January/February)

London's Chinatown, located in Soho, comes alive with colour each year to mark the advent of the Chinese New Year. Expats can expect processions, parades and lots of great food.

The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race (March/April)

This boat race between Oxford University Boat Club and Cambridge University Boat Club takes place on the River Thames each year. The race is a popular fixture on the British sporting calendar and about a quarter of a million people come out to watch from the banks of the famous river.

London Marathon (April)

The Virgin Money London Marathon run is a 26-mile (42km) route starting in Blackheath and winding its way past noteworthy London landmarks such as Greenwich and Tower Bridge. At least 30,000 professional and amateur athletes take part in the competition each year, and the atmosphere is both festive and inspirational for spectators.

The Chelsea Flower Show (May)

This is the gardening event of the year and is held at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea each May. It is a five-day event which showcases the world’s best horticulture and is attended by about 150,000 people every year. The show gardens on display are a truly unique and spectacular kaleidoscope of colour. 

Trooping the Colour/Queen's Birthday Parade (June)

A colourful parade full of pomp and pageantry, the Trooping of the Colour takes place amid the pleasant summer weather of June each year. Highlights include the march of the Massed Bands and the parade of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment with their magnificent black chargers.

Pride in London (June/July)

The annual gay pride parade is held in June or July each year. It is one of the UK’s largest outdoor events and is attended by around a million people annually. Large numbers of people also take part in the parade, which is known for its colourful and festive atmosphere.

Notting Hill Carnival (August)

Since 1966 this has been one of London’s biggest and most colourful parties. This free-to-attend festival is held each year in celebration of London's vast Carribean community.

Totally Thames (September)

This festival celebrates London’s life source, the Thames. Recently revamped, festivities last a month and are marked with diverse and exciting events all along the river, including pop-up performances, art installations, river clean-ups and workshops.

Christmas in London (November/December)

There's a plethora of fun and festive events leading up to Christmas in London, beginning with the switching on of the lights in November. Throughout December, attendees can enjoy Christmas markets, ice skating and more.

Frequently Asked Questions about London

Expats moving to London are sure to have plenty of queries and concerns about their soon-to-be home. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about moving to London.

Do I need a car in London?

Not really. Public transport, though crowded during rush hour, is comprehensive and can get a person to wherever they need to go. Owning a car is expensive. Petrol prices are among the highest in Europe, parking is a nightmare, and driving into central London incurs a daily congestion charge.

How expensive is London compared to other cities?

London has always been an expensive city to live in and the cost of living is among the highest in the world. The biggest expenses for expats tend to be accommodation and transport. Lifestyle expenses can always be shifted to accommodate an individual's budget. Luckily, London's entertainment scene is so vast that there are plenty of free or low-cost events to keep people busy. 

London sounds pretty congested – are there parks and greenbelts?

London’s parks are one of its strongest features. One will find the vast expanse of Hyde Park right in the city centre, with Regent’s and St James’s Parks close by.

Are there any international schools in London?

Yes – in fact, London easily has the highest concentration of international schools in the UK. Expat parents will find these schools offering a wide variety of curricula in various languages. It's best to apply early, though, as spaces at international schools, especially the most popular ones, can be limited.

Getting Around in London

London, a super developed worldly metro with immense infrastructure and extensive transport systems, is one of few large cities in which having a car is wholly unnecessary for most residents.

While cars can be useful for those living on the outskirts of London or those with young children, most locals rely exclusively on public transport and taxis for getting around the sprawling capital.

It's also relatively easy to get from point A to point B on foot, and sometimes it's even easier to walk between places than hopping on and off the Tube.

With a profusion of public transport options, learning to navigate the streets and circles of the city might be tricky at first, but once settled, expats should find it fairly easy to travel around London.


Public transport in London

London, as new arrivals will quickly discover, is divided into nine zones. Zone 1 and Zone 2 are considered central London, with zones 3 to 9 forming rings around this core.

In general, taking public transport in London – no matter which option – will be cheaper, and often faster, than using a taxi or driving. There are downsides though, as London locals know. While trains and buses are for the most part clean and comfortable, they can become unbearably crowded during rush hour. 

London’s public transport network includes the Tube (also known as the Underground), overground trains, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), trams and buses. One could also hop onto a public riverboat on the Thames.

The Oyster card system

London has an integrated ticketing system. While it is still possible to get paper tickets, it is recommended that expats living and working in London buy an Oyster card. This plastic smartcard allows commuters to load daily, weekly, monthly or annually, or on a pay-as-you-go basis. It's also usually the cheapest way to pay for single journeys and is valid on almost all forms of public transport throughout London. Oyster cards can be bought or topped up at any tube station, most newsagents and online.

All tube stations have automatic ticket barriers and those travelling with an Oyster card simply tap the card against the yellow pad at the beginning and end of the journey.

Another advantage of the Oyster card is that one's credit and travel card are protected. If a commuter reports an Oyster card lost or stolen, Transport for London is able to block it to prevent anyone else from using it. However, it's important that the card is registered online so that in the event of it being lost or stolen the cardholder is able to claim a refund on the remaining credit. 

Tube

London is home to the world’s oldest underground rail network. The London Underground system is made up of 11 lines, which make travelling anywhere in the metropolis quick and easy. The Tube generally runs from around 5am to midnight. There is now a 24-hour Tube service operating on Fridays and Saturdays on several lines. 

Although the Tube is the quickest way to travel in London, it gets very crowded during morning and evening rush hours (7am  to 9am and 5.30pm to 7pm respectively). The Tube also gets incredibly hot and stuffy during the summer, so it's worth carrying a bottle of water.

Bus

Buses can be a quick and efficient mode of transport for travelling short distances or outside central London. It can also be a nice alternative for those who want to see more of the city.

London has an extensive bus network with more than 700 routes, and each bus stop has a sign listing the routes. Bus routes are identified by a number and sometimes letters, and buses display the route number at the front, side and rear. They also have their location and direction of travel on them.

To complement regular daytime service, there are over 100 night bus routes across the city which run 24/7. Night buses are especially useful for those returning home after a night out when the Tube and regular bus services have stopped. 

Docklands Light Railway

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is a dedicated light rail network that operates in East London and connects with the Tube network at several stops. The DLR operates on a driverless system and runs above ground on much of its route.

Train

The British railway system is known as National Rail. London’s suburban rail services are operated by several private companies, with trains running mostly in the south of the city and away from the city centre.

There is no single central station in London. Instead, there are several mainline stations dotted on the edges of the central areas.  

National Rail services are especially useful to expats who are commuting into London from outlying areas.

Overground

Overground services can be a useful shortcut for crossing the city, or can be used to travel further out than Tube services go. London Overground is different to National Rail and is operated by Transport for London, but Oyster cards are accepted throughout the network. 

Tram 

Due to the fact that South London is poorly served by the Tube and National Rail services, the tram system was introduced in 2000. The network centres on Croydon and surrounds, and links up with a number of train and Tube services.

Trams are fairly frequent and arrive every seven to 10 minutes. 

Boat

London has followed in the footsteps of cities such as Sydney and Hong Kong and has introduced a number of river bus services along the Thames. London River Services is part of Transport for London and manages regular commuter boats and a network of piers along the river. 

While boats can be slow and a little more expensive than the Tube, they're a pleasant transport alternative within the city, with unrivalled views of the London skyline.  


Taxis in London

Taxis are a convenient way to travel around central London but they're best used for short journeys, otherwise fares can become costly. They only become an economical means of transport when shared by a number of people going to the same destination.

London has two types of taxis: the famous black cabs and minicabs. Black cabs are the only type that can legally be hailed by people off the street. Available cabs have a lit-up yellow "taxi" sign on their roof. Licensed minicabs can only be pre-booked and will not pick up passengers from the street, although unlicensed minicabs might. Unlicensed minicabs can be unsafe, however, and there have been a number of incidences where passengers have been assaulted in these vehicles.

Black cabs can also be found at designated ranks throughout the city. Drivers of black cabs have to pass a rigorous exam called ‘The Knowledge’ and should be able to navigate London without a map.

Ride-hailing applications are also an option and can be cheaper than black cabs. Uber has had continued legal battles with Transport for London and has been suspended from operating in the city on multiple occasions, and it's recommended to rather make use of one of the other apps available, such as Bolt, Kapten or Xooox. 


Cycling in London 

In recent years there has been a concerted effort to make London more cycle friendly, and Transport for London operates a city-wide bicycle hire scheme. The first half hour is free, after which there's an hourly charge. Once users have registered their bank card online, they can hire a bike from one of the many automated docking stations dotted around the city. Contactless bank cards can also be used, making the process even easier.

Cyclists need to be confident before taking to London’s streets as London motorists are often hostile towards them, especially at busy junctions. The sophisticated cycle lane networks found in many other European cities don't exist in London as cycle lanes are limited. The safest option during rush hour is to stick to minor residential roads.

Taking a bike onto public transport isn't easy because of overcrowding during rush hour. Non-folding bikes can only be taken onto limited sections of the Tube and the National Rail network outside of peak hours. For this reason, folding bicycles have become more popular in London.


Walking in London

Whenever it is possible, walk. It is the best way to see the city and central London is exceedingly easy to tackle on foot, as long as new arrivals have either a physical map or a navigation application on their phone. Just remember, when crossing the street, that cars drive on the left.


Driving in London

Most Londoners avoid driving, especially in the centre of town, and it is a good idea for expats to follow their example. However, people living south of the river or outside of Zone 2, and expats with children, do often choose to own a car.

Expats might find the best option is to rent a car in London, which is a good compromise between relying exclusively on public transportation and owning a car.

Drivers should be aware that driving into central London on weekdays during daylight hours incurs a congestion charge. Drivers who don't pay this charge are fined. 

Parking in central London can also be a problem. It's difficult to find a parking space and fees are expensive. Parking restrictions are stringently enforced and fines are hefty.