Blog • 06 November, 2018

Surviving in London as a newcomer

       For many, London is the greatest city on earth, and with its rich culture and booming economy, there is no surprise why over 10 million people have decided to make it their home. Although London can be a great place to live, it is also a very daunting place for a newcomer coming from overseas. How to find a place to live, how do you open a bank account, how does the tax system work, are all some of the many questions a newcomer will need to know when coming to live in London. We try our best to answer some of those questions to help you survive London as a newcomer.

The right to live and to work in the UK

First things first. When coming to the United Kingdom to live and to work, if you are not an EU citizen you are going to need a visa before you move. A tourist visa will not give you eligibility to work in the UK. If you are a student, you can get a student visa which will allow you to do a certain amount of work. Once you have sorted out your visa, you will then need a national insurance number before you can start working.

Getting a visa
Getting a national insurance number

Finding work

London versus other cities in the world has an abundance of employment opportunities both in skilled and unskilled professions. For service work, like in a pub, restaurant or café, you will find listed opportunities online, but actually going into locations with your CV and verbally asking about vacancies can be even more effective. You will also find these opening listed, as well as other roles such as labouring work, on Gumtree (London’s answer to Craigslist). For skilled workers, you will find recruitment agencies are effective, and also job board websites such as Monster, Total Jobs and Indeed.

Finding somewhere to live

Renting, or buying in London, make no secret about it, is expensive. London is divided into 32 boroughs and the City of London and the more central the location generally the higher the price. The proximity to a station will also be a big factor in pricing too.
If you are looking to rent somewhere on your own, or with friends, partner or family, the two main websites to find properties are Rightmove and Zoopla. You can also go into Estate Agents, but generally, all estate agents will list properties on either or both these sites. If you are looking for a room in a home share, common places to find listings are on,, Gumtree, MoveFlat and Reddit.

You will find more often than not that properties come furnished and that pricing will be listed weekly, despite rent being collected monthly. Before moving into a property, you will be asked to provide proof of your ability to pay your rent, usually by means of a job reference, proof of income or another person acting as a “guarantor” if you cannot pay your rent, as well as references from previous rentals, and identity checks. You will also be expected to place a deposit, usually between 4-8 weeks of rent, so do make sure that your deposit is protected by the government-backed tenancy deposit scheme.

Making sure your medically covered

Once you move over to London you should register with your local GP in case you need a doctor’s appointment. If you have an emergency, you can also visit an A&E department in a local hospital. Both of these options are free of charge.

Find your local GP

Opening a bank account

The main high street banks in the UK are; Barclays, Natwest, Santander, Lloyds, HSBC and Nationwide. You can usually open a bank account in a branch or online, but for non-UK citizens, there is a lot of paperwork required, so it is advised to make an appointment in a branch and deal with a human to get you through the process. Be warned, it is not an instant process in many instances, so it may involve a few follow up conversations over the phone or multiple visits to the branch.

In terms of choosing a bank account there are usually a few deals incentivising you to open a current account, so do some research about which bank to go with before you make your appointment.

Sending money overseas

For many people, moving to London to work is an opportunity for greater earning opportunities than you would have back in your home town or city. This goes for both UK and non-UK citizens. For those non-UK citizens, there is often a reason to regularly send money back overseas to family or other parties. Doing this can be a long process, with often a lot of failed attempts, delays and costs.

Paysend is trying to eliminate these hassles facing those looking to transfer money overseas with their card to card money transfer solution. All you need is your recipient's 16-digit card number and you can send money 24/7 in seconds as well as capping fees to £1, €1.5 and $2.

Sign up for Paysend

Understanding taxes

UK Taxes are generally higher than in other countries, but these taxes do go towards public services that provide free health care, education and social benefits. Income tax is a progressive tax system, where the higher you earn the higher the rate of tax you pay. The first £11,000 earnt is tax-free (providing you earn less than £100,000) and then you pay 20% for income between £11,000 and £32,000, 40% between £32,001 and £150,000 and 45% for income beyond £150,000. You will also be liable to pay national insurance tax on your income. Other taxes you will have to pay our council tax, associated with the local borough you live in, vehicle tax if you own a vehicle and a TV licence fee

UK income tax rates
Council tax
Vehicle tax
TV licence

Travelling around the City

London is a well-connected city with an extensive underground rail network, over ground rail network, buses, boats and trams. Despite being well connected, strikes and bad weather, often cause delays and cancellations and during rush hour public transport gets very busy.

It is advised that if you are frequently travelling daily in London to get a ‘season ticket’ connected to an Oyster card, a contactless card allowing you to quickly move through ticket barriers. If you are not travelling daily, then you can still use an Oyster card, which you add money to and use as a pay as you go method, or alternatively, if you have a contactless debit or credit card you can use this in the same way for the same charge. You can also buy a physical ticket, however, this is usually the more expensive option. Also, bear in mind, London buses no longer accept cash.

For non-public transport, you have the more daring option of cycling, which over the years has become more popular, with more cycle friendly roads, and even publicly available (for a cost) hop on, hop off bikes provided by Transport for London.

Apply for an oyster card