Living in London
London is a vibrant, diverse, exciting city with a rich culture and history. SWC is located in the heart of Fitzrovia, close to Oxford Street and Leicester Square, and a short walk away from Regents Park.
London has a huge range of attractions, such as the London Eye and the Shard, as well as numerous museums and galleries, many of which are free to enter. There's a thriving nightlife, a popular theatre district, an incredible range of restaurants, and great shopping opportunities.
If you’re moving to London you’ll need to take into account a range of factors when deciding where to live: transport links and commute time, commute cost, rent/house prices, local schools and childcare facilities and the local area amenities.
If you are completely new to London it might help to ask colleagues about their local area so that you can find out more. The Borough profiles available online provide statistical data on the London Boroughs, which may also help you decide where to live: https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/london-borough-profiles.
London has a fantastic transport network, with underground and overground train services, a wide-reaching network of buses, and a river bus service. SWC is convenient located close to Goodge Street, Warren Street, Euston and Kings Cross St Pancras, making it easy to find a commute that works for you. Most of us use public transport or cycle in; driving in the centre of the city can be slow, and parking hard to find!
Zone 1 can be prohibitively expensive to live in, but the good transport links means there are plenty of options when commuting in from the less central boroughs. There are online maps and tools that can help you identify where to live based on your commute.
Most areas of London will have a few local estate agents or letting agents that you can approach directly to find a property to either rent or buy, and there are plenty of websites that help you find property such as http://www.rightmove.co.uk/ or http://www.zoopla.co.uk/. You can use a business directory like https://www.yell.com/ to find an estate/letting agent.
This online map shows the average rent prices across London: https://www.london.gov.uk/programmes-strategies/housing-and-land/improving-private-rented-sector/london-rents-map. Remember that rent does not usually include utilities and council tax, which need to be paid in addition.
If you are over 18 and own or rent a home, you’ll need to pay council tax. If you are the only adult in the home, you’ll be entitled to a 25% discount. Full-time students are exempt from council tax.
More information on council tax is online here: https://www.gov.uk/council-tax/working-out-your-council-tax.
Make sure that you make a note/take a picture of the current gas and electricity meter reads when you move in to your new home; you’ll need to give these to your gas and/or electricity provider. Your landlord or estate/letting agent should be able to let you know who your current supplier is.
There are a number of energy providers in the UK, so you might want to use a comparison website to find the best priced energy provider for your area and switch your supplier. Information on finding a supplier and a good energy tariff is online here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-a-better-energy-deal/understanding-energy-tariffs/.
There is usually just a single water provider in your area, and you will need to contact them when you move in to get your bill payments set up. Again, your landlord or estate/letting agent can confirm your supplier for you.
Information on paying your water bill is online here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/water/water-supply/paying-your-water-bill/.
Landline telephone services, broadband and television packages usually come together, and there are a range of suppliers offering different deals.
You can use a price comparison website to find the best deal for your telephone, broadband and TV: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/price-comparison.
If you watch live television, or use the BBC iPlayer catch up service, you must have a television licence. Information on TV licences is available online: http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/.
Mobile phones are easily purchased in a range of UK high-street stores. There are pay-as-you-go options, SIM only, or monthly contract phones.
If you already have a phone that you are happy with, you might find it easiest to go for a SIM only option.
It’s a good idea to get contents insurance to insure your belongings, and this can be a condition of your rental agreement. If you own your home, you may need to get home or buildings insurance as well. The Money Advice Service provides advice on choosing the right type of insurance: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/categories/home-insurance.
You'll need to have a UK bank account to receive your salary or stipend payments.
You will usually need to attend the bank in person to open an account, and have photographic proof of identity. You may also be asked to provide supplementary proof of identity, but usually your photo ID and introduction letter confirming your employee or student status is sufficient.
The UK has the National Health Service (NHS). With the exception of some charges, such as prescriptions, optical services and dental services, the NHS in England remains free at the point of use for all UK residents.
EU/EEA nationals should use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when accessing treatment in the UK.
Overseas staff and students on a points-based system visa will have already paid the Immigration Health Surcharge, and so will have access to full NHS services. You should bring your biometric residence permit with you when accessing healthcare.
You should register with a local GP as soon as possible after relocating to London. Information on registering for a GP is available on the NHS website (http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/doctors/Pages/NHSGPs.aspx) and there is also a search tool for local GPs (http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/GP/LocationSearch/4).
Most areas are well serviced with a local chemist, which may be independent or a chain (such as Lloyds, Boots, or Superdrug). Chemists sell basic first-aid and medical supplies such as bandages or painkillers, and often sell beauty items or foodstuffs relating to health and wellbeing. Some chemists also include licensed pharmacies where you can collect prescription medications; you can search for your local pharmacy here: http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Pharmacy/LocationSearch/10.
You can join an NHS dentist, or opt for private dental care. NHS dentists taking on new patients may be difficult to find, or may have a waiting list. If you use the dentist search function online to see your local dentist surgery’s rating and check to see if they are taking on new NHS or private patients: http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Dentist/LocationSearch/3.
Children and schooling
The UK government provides some assistance in covering childcare costs; more information about your entitlements is online here: https://www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs. An idea of childcare costs can be found online: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/childcare-costs.
UCL has a day nursery that is available to all UCL staff and students. More information about the UCL nursery is online here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/estates/news/a-z-services/nursery-services.
You can also use the gov.uk tool to find nursery places: https://www.gov.uk/find-nursery-school-place.
There are a range of alternative childcare options available; the Money Advice Service provides guidance on different types of childcare, and how to find appropriate childcare: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/childcare-options.
Admission to state schools in the UK is primarily based on catchment areas, so the school options open to you will depend on where you live. You should therefore research local schools when choosing where to live to make sure you are living in the right catchment area for the school you would like your child to attend.
There is a gov.uk tool to help you find local schools (https://www.gov.uk/find-school-in-england) and compare them based on Ofsted (Independent Office for Standards in Education) ratings, school level, school type and distance.
Guidance on what you need to do to bring your pet to the UK is online here: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/overview.
Please be aware that most rental agreements prohibit the keeping of pets as standard, and so you will need to seek permission to have a pet from your prospective landlord or letting agent. Some landlords may require you to pay a higher deposit or commit to replacing certain items when moving out if you have pets in the home.
You can find a local vet using the RCVS search facility: http://www.rcvs.org.uk/home/.
Veterinary bills can be high if your pet becomes unwell, so you may want to consider getting pet insurance. Advice on finding the best insurance is online: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/do-you-need-pet-insurance.
London has a huge range of attractions, such as the London Eye, Kew Gardens, ZSL London Zoo and the Shard. This is in addition to galleries, museums, palaces and historic attractions – there’s much to do and see, and something to suit all interests and budgets.
London is home to a wide range of galleries, including the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, and the Saatchi Gallery.
You can find reviews and listings for exhibitions and galleries online here: http://www.timeout.com/london/art.
London has an enormous number of museums, most of which are free to enter. Popular favourites include the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the Wellcome Collection.
Information on London museums, including some of the stranger and less well-known offerings in the capital, are online here: http://www.timeout.com/london/museums.
London has a rich cultural heritage, demonstrated by palaces and historical buildings such as Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and Kensington Palace, among others.
London isn’t all tubes and traffic! Relax and enjoy some of London’s Royal parks and garden squares – there are many more than you think.
There are also a number of themed walking tours, ideal to help you learn your way around the city.
London has a vibrant nightlife, and there are pubs, bars and clubs around every corner. Time Out is a great place for finding the best of London’s nightlife, be it the newest pop-up bar, comedy, music or cabaret.
London has an amazing restaurant scene, and all preferences and dietary restrictions are easily accommodated. As well as Michelin starred restaurants, there are amazing cheap eats and street food markets across the capital and plenty of decent enough chain restaurants that are extremely affordable with a tastecard.
Located close to the SWC is Goodge Street and Charlotte Street, with great food offerings, and the Bloomsbury Farmer’s Market on a Thursday is brilliant (and busy, so go early!)
Oxford Street is probably the most famous shopping destination in London, merging into the designer Bond Street area; you’ll find standard high street stores and a number of department stores like Selfridges, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer’s. Close by are Carnaby Street and Covent Garden, offering a more eclectic and independent range of boutiques and brands. All are easily accessible from the SWC.
London is also famous for its range of specialist markets; popular choices are Borough Market in London Bridge, Camden Lock Market, Old Spitalfields Market and the Southbank Centre Markets, but there are many, many more. Time Out has a useful online guide to London’s markets: http://www.timeout.com/london/shopping/london-markets.
London is well-known for its theatre offerings, which extend far beyond the West End. You can pick up cheap last-minute tickets at the ticket booths around Leicester Square, or look online for good deals on websites like http://www.lastminute.com/theatre/. There are numerous websites that cover the full range of current productions, and you can sign up for newsletters detailing upcoming productions.