The Essential Moving To London Checklist

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Moving to London has often been considered a rite of passage for many different nationalities. Whether you’re moving to London from the US, Australia, India or anywhere else in the world, there are a number of things to do before you can get down to the business of enjoying your new life in London. To help you with your transition, here’s an essential moving to London checklist to help you take care of all the practical admin issues you’ll need to sort out.

1. Download Citymapper

London is a complicated city to get around, luckily the days of fumbling around with a huge map in front of Buckingham Palace are over! Citymapper, which is now available in several cities around the world, gives you directions on how to get from Point A to B using the latest public transport information and timetables.

It is a lot more reliable than Google Maps when using public transport and the first app I downloaded when moving to London from Australia. 

2. Get an Oyster card

Most likely when you get off your plane or train in London, you’ll head to the nearest Tube station to make your journey to the centre of town. When you do, make sure you buy an Oyster card from one of the ticket machines rather than a single ticket.

This is significantly cheaper than buying paper tickets and while you do need to pay £5 for the card, this can be refunded when you leave London.

Most London public transport also allows you to use contactless credit or debit cards, however, they don’t always work with non-UK cards. Therefore having an Oyster Card should be one of the first things you check off your moving to London checklist!

buying an oyster card is a must on any moving to london checklist
Use your Oyster Card on London’s buses

3. Buy a SIM card

There are a plethora of mobile phone companies in London, however, a lot of the best deals will require you to have a UK bank account and address to buy them. When first moving to London, make sure your phone is unlocked and then I recommend walking into a branch of any of the main mobile phone companies like Vodafone, Three or EE and buying a prepaid SIM card.

Another option is to buy an online SIM card while still at home to take with you. I recommend the Three Prepaid SIM with 12GB data or the Orange Prepaid SIM with 20GB Data

Once you have a UK bank account, shop around and take advantage of some of the great online deals like giffgaff or get a 12 month SIM only contract through one of the main providers. I recommend Three if you are planning on travelling a lot as they offer plans that include roaming abroad!

4. Find a place to live

If you don’t have a friend to crash with when you are first moving to London, then you should book yourself into a hostel or an Airbnb for a few nights. If you’re unsure what area to stay in London then check out our guide to the different regions of the city!

As soon as you land, I recommend trying to secure a short-term rental for 1-2 months via Spareroom.

This will give you a temporary home while you look for something more permanent and help logistically with getting an NI number and a bank account. It’ll also give you flexibility when looking for a job as you can easily move if you find a job in a different location. It’s also a great way to figure out which of London’s many eclectic neighbourhoods you might want to call home!

Try to get some kind of unofficial lease from the landlord as this will help when applying for an NI number. If they don’t have one, download a standard one from the internet and ask the landlord to sign it.

Once you have a job, try to a secure a permanent place using Spareroom in an area that is convenient. Avoid the plethora of agent listings and find a place in an existing flatshare or buddy up with a few people and rent out a new place. Spareroom regularly runs ‘Speed Flatmating’ events across London which are a great way to meet potential flatmates particularly if you’re moving to London alone!

Most rented places in London are furnished however you’ll likely need to buy a few odds and ends such as bed sheets, pillows and other bedroom items. A great way to do this is through Amazon Prime which delivers most items within 24 hours. You can get a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime by clicking this link. 

5. Get an NI number

If you’re moving to London without a trust fund, you’re going to need to find a job. To do so, you’ll need to apply for a National Insurance number which is what the UK government uses to link you to the tax and social security systems.

As soon as you land in London, and have a place you’re staying at for more than a couple of weeks, I suggest calling the NI hotline and applying for an NI number. Proof of address is required to get an NI number, however, in my experience, they are less strict about this than banks are and I used a copy of my one month sublease as proof of address.

Depending on your visa status, you’ll need to either make a face to face appointment or they’ll send you some forms that you’ll need to fill out and send back. In my experience, this process takes about 3-4 weeks however I might just have been lucky as they claim it can take up to 6-8 weeks after you apply to get an NI number.

An NI number isn’t required to start working, however, if you don’t have one you’ll get taxed at the highest bracket until you give it your employer.

Living in East London is a popular choice!

6. Set up a bank account

Setting up a bank account when you are first moving to London can be tricky as all banks in London require proof of identity and proof of address to open an account. Whilst proof of identity is easy (if you have a passport!), proof of address can be trickier.

If you’re moving to London alone, I suggest applying for an NI number as quickly as possible, then wait 2-3 weeks for them to send you your number and use that as a proof of address.

If you already have friends in London and are moving in with them, see if they can add you to their council tax account or another utility bill before you move so you can use that bill as a proof of address.

You can also call your local bank and change your address to your future UK one and get them to mail you a statement before you leave. A formal lease from a landlord will be sufficient, however, often they won’t accept unofficial sublets or short-term rental agreements.

Most of the major banks such as Barclays, Lloyds and Halifax offer similar current accounts so I would just pick one that is convenient for you.

7. Register with the NHS

Once you have a permanent address, you’ll need to register with a GP before you can make an appointment. This is different to a lot of other countries where you can visit any GP you like.

Use the NHS’s website to find a GP in your area that is accepting new patients, drop by with proof of address and fill out their forms. Once you’re in the database, you’ll be able to make appointments within a day or two.  If you ever move houses, you’ll need to change your GP to one that services that area.

Don’t let all these things wear you down. There’s a bit of bureaucracy in the UK that you’ll need to deal with but, thankfully, you only need to do it all once! Once you’ve ticked off these seven items from your moving to London checklist you can hopefully get down to enjoying one of the greatest cities in the world!

Were these tips useful? Have I missed anything from this moving to London checklist? Add a comment below!

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When not obsessively searching for flight deals, Michael likes being ultra-competitive at table tennis, gazing at street art, and contemplating life while sipping a dram of fine single malt whisky.


  1. Hi Michael,

    Very well written article, thanks a lot for the tips. Ill be moving to London by the end of feb, looking forward for more info on this platform.

    Grateful if you can share recommendations on single malt whiskey bars/events. I am personally a fan.

    Thanks again

    • Thanks George. Check out Milroy’s in Soho – a huge number of whiskies available and they also have tasting events!

  2. Get non-emergency medical advice by phoning the NHS support number 111. You will be put through to a medical professional who can give advice and even arrange for you to see an out of hours GP. For emergencies dial 999.


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