A survival guide to setting up in London


It is coming almost 3 months since I landed in London and I already feel like I have a wealth of knowledge, I confess I even have given advice to people visiting!

However I do find a common theme for and struggle for people like myself who have moved to a new country. Therefore I felt it was my duty to give a my tips and recommendations on how to make a smooth transition into the London life.

Below my list is complied of all the necessary requirements you need to be fully functional in the UK.

  • Bank Account – When you get here, get into a place as quickly as you can and then get your bank in your country to post your bank statement to your new address. Banks here in the in UK want proof of address, they will not accept anything that is photocopied or emailed. Tenancy agreements work, even your new job could possibly give you a formal letter stating that you are working for them. Otherwise this will be a painful process, believe me it took me 2 months (I do confess I didn’t want to rely on getting my bank to send my statement over)
  • NI Number (National Insurance Number) – apply for this straight away when you land, go to the government website find the phone number and call to apply. They will send you an application in the post, which you fill out and send back. Then they will call you once the information is processed and book you a meeting with them 3 weeks after the phone call. If you don’t have a NI number when you start working you can use a P46 form which will give you a temporary tax code. I would like to point out that the temporary tax code charges are higher than what you would have with your own. Don’t worry your job will reimburse you once you have your official NI number


  • Oyster Card – Unless you want to pay for a horrendous amount of travel costs, this card will be your best friend. You can purchase it as the ticket machines for £5 and then you are away laughing. You can also get away with debit or credit cards that have the pay wave options, but I am old fashioned and I like to have a separate card for travel.
  • Sim Card – you can get a prepay card on arrival, though it is quite costly. Once you have a bank account get onto a contract, they have better deals and some will have good discounts on mobile phones as well.
  • Travel AppsTube Map, Bus Checker and City Mapper. Also if you run out of data like I do, I use the London A-Z map book that can be purchased from Newsagents or Tesco’s.
  • Supermarkets – Wherever you land up living, you need to know what supermarkets are. Unlike in New Zealand where we have 3 big chains, there are quite a few to select from here in the UK. A few examples are: Sainsbury’s, Tescos, Waitrose, Asda, Whole Foods and Lidl just to name a few. So if you hear of any of these place near where you live, woop woop! food time!
  • Club Cards – Whatever store you go into and find yourself coming back again and again, invest in their club/store cards! The deals sometimes only apply to members, so keep an eye out for them and sign up.


  • Discover the Market Places and High Street Shops – if you are like me and land in the UK after travelling for a long period of time, then you are definitely not going to have any work clothes to do interviews in. For me I have looked in charity shops, market stalls and some high st stores. Research, ask around and you will quickly discover there is so many options that you will jump for joy. My greatest discovery was New Look their clothes are affordable and for me there are some really nice work tops that I quickly snapped up.
  • Attend Networking Events – Use sites like Eventbrite to find events on that are free or that you know you would meet like minded individuals. I recently went to my first one and it was amazing! meet so many wonderful and talented people that I can’t wait to do it all over again.

Well there you have it, my survival guide to setting up in London!

I hope this helps,

To living abroad!



Images credit: Superdwayne, Maria Molinero and Shane Walsh

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