Moving to London is a big undertaking. Whether you’re a professional looking for co-living in London, or you’re a soon-to-be student looking for London student accommodation, there’s a whole host of things you need to know. From UK visas for international students, to staying safe, and house-sharing to transport, you’ll no doubt have questions. If you feel a little lost after deciding to move to London, this guide will help.
Here we’ll explore everything you need to know about how to relocate and start living in London. Use the links below to explore a specific question or browse the article in full.
An Introduction to London
Cosmopolitan, busy, and steeped in history, there’s nowhere quite like the UK capital. From ultra-modern business districts filled with skyscrapers through to old Victorian streets, London is a melting pot of communities, ethnicities and flavours. It’s considered one of the safest cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and expands across several different zones and postcodes.
Playing home to the Royal Family, Prime Minister and plenty of museums and historical sites, there’s no shortage of things to do when you’re not working. Expect a variety of cuisines, art and music, theatre and plenty more. It’s also a great spot to study and plays home to over one hundred thousand international students. But if moving to London is on your agenda, there’s plenty to consider, most notably whether you need a visa, where to live and how to navigate the city and access banks and healthcare.
UK Visas for International Students and Workers
When moving to London for work or study, it’s likely you’ll need a UK visa. The Gov.UK website is your best starting point for when you’re ready to apply, but first we’ll explore the most common visas for international students and workers.
Student UK Visas
For those looking to study in London, you’ll likely need to apply for a student visa – either a short-term study visa or a general student visa for longer courses. For those between the ages of 4 and 17 with a place at an independent school, child student visas are available.
Short-Term Study Visa
Valid for up to 11 months, a short-term study visa allows you to complete a short course of study or a research project in the UK. These short study visas won’t allow you to work or carry out business while you are in London. They also don’t allow you to bring family members or dependants with you. There’s also no option to extend a short-term study visa. These visas cost up to £98.
General Student Visa (Tier 4)
Most international students moving to London apply for a General Student Visa (Tier 4). This UK student visa will last as long as your course requires with the option to extend your stay upon completion. To be granted this visa, you’ll need to speak English and may require SELT certification to prove your language standard. Unlike the short-term visa, you are allowed to bring dependants with you with the Tier 4 visa.
These visas cost £348 with the same fee added on for each dependant that’s part of your application. You will also need to pay a healthcare surcharge. This is typically £300 per person.
Read more: UK Student Visas for International Students
UK Working Visas
If you are planning on moving to London (or anywhere else in the UK) and want to work or invest, you’ll likely need a work visa. There are a whole host of different types, which you can find more information about on the UK government’s working visa information hub.
The UK work visa you’ll need will depend on your specific personal circumstances. This is usually decided on the following:
- your skills and qualifications
- whether you have a job offer or sponsorship
- how long you want to work in the UK
- the kind of work you’ll be doing
- whether you want to set up your own business
- whether you are moving with dependants or family members
If you’re from a country that’s part of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) it’s likely you won’t need a visa to work in London or the UK. However, this is likely to change after January 2021 when the UK officially leaves the EU.
Whatever your circumstances, even if you don’t think you’ll need one, we advise you to use the UK government’s visa check tool. Answer some questions about your own particulars and this will identify what visa you need and give you further on information on how the process works.
And don’t forget, it’s not all about studying and working either. There are plenty of other UK visas, including those for visiting family, for tourists, and for those seeking protection such as asylum seekers and refugees.
London Zones & Postcodes – Where To Live
As one of the biggest and most famous cities in the world, working out where to live before you move to London can be difficult. Before we discuss whether you should house-share, opt for student accommodation or rent/buy a property, you’ll likely want to know a little about each area.
There are a number of ways in which London is split into different areas – by postcode, by zone or by area name. Here we’ll explore the first two in a little more detail, giving you insights into what each zone means and includes, as well as some information around the different postcodes and what to expect.
London Zones 1-9
Similar to other big capital cities such as Paris, London is split into different zones. These relate specifically to the underground rail system. Starting with zone 1, the very centre of London, they run in concentric circles. Surrounding Zone 1 is Zone 2. Surrounding Zone 2 is Zone 3. So on, so forth.
This is the very centre of London and is the place you’ll most likely think of when you think of the capital. It’s predominantly north of the River Thames and includes famous tourist attractions such as the Barbican Centre, The National Museum, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge and plenty more.
It’s expensive to live in zone 1. Buying a property is out of the question for all but the biggest of budgets and renting can be difficult too. Students may it find a little easier as there are some accommodations accessible, but you should expect to pay a premium for living in the very heart of the capital.
If you are a student and want to be close to the centre of London and it’s many attractions, consider Stay Club Camden. Just outside of Zone 1, in one of London’s most trendy and well-visited areas, it’s a quick tube ride or a short walk into the very heart of the city. Our Kentish Town accommodation is also within Zone 2, offering easy access to the capital’s many sights and hotspots.
As mentioned, London’s Zone 2 wraps around the very heart of London. It includes famous areas such as Camden, Brixton, Shepherd’s Bush, Whitechapel and plenty more. As Zone 2 includes many famous attractions and tourist spots, you’ll pay no more to travel from this zone into zone 1 than you would to travel around zone 1. This makes zone 2 an ideal place to consider house-sharing, student accommodation, or even renting a small flat. As with all of London, it’s still expensive to rent and your most affordable options are co-living in London, student accommodation, or finding a house-share.
Zones 3 – 6:
Zones 3 – 6 are within the boundaries of London city but make up the outer edges. You’ll be charged a little more to travel from these into Zone 1 and 2. They include areas such as Wimbledon, Highgate, Wembley, Richmond and plenty more. Travelling from zone 3 into the city centre can be as quick as 9 minutes (Easfield to Vauxhall) while journeys from Zone 6 sit around the 30-minute mark.
For those moving to London, especially those looking to rent or buy, it’s advised to consider areas within these zones first as you’ll see a noticeable price difference between these and the heart of the city.
Zones 7 – 9:
Zones 7 to 9 include areas which are outside of the Greater London region. These include areas such as Watford, Dartford, Brentwood and Epsom. They’re typically quieter towns which will grant you more value for money. You’ll need to take into account the fact you’ll be paying substantially more for your journeys into the centre though. If you’re likely to be in and out zone 1 or 2 frequently, it may be better to pay a little more to live in a closer zone where you won’t pay as much for travel.
Renting in London
When renting in London, it’s important to know that prices are typically shown per week, not per month. For your monthly rent, you should times that value by 4.3 to account for the fact months typically sit somewhere between the 4 and 5 week mark.
It’s also important to know that you credit and rental history will play a part in being accepted for a private rental. For international students or workers, you may need to build this up by house-sharing before accessing a private rental. The other alternative is to pay up between 6-12 months up front. A little unfair, but unfortunately the way it works.
When renting, ensure you are placed on the tenancy deposit protection scheme. This is a government requirement and means your deposit is held by a third party. If there are any issues when it comes to getting your deposit back at the end of your rental, you can rest safe in the knowledge that it’s held securely. This ensures your landlord doesn’t have the option to keep your deposit without reason. Of course, you’ll need to take care of your flat and make sure you abide by the terms and conditions of your contract.
Co-Living in London
The shared accommodation approach is often a much easier way to access housing in London. These typically don’t require the same level of scrutiny as private housing. London co-living has a host of benefits. Not only are you offered the chance to make like-minded friends, but the accommodation often comes with hotel-like benefits. Expect shared working spaces, your own private room, or shared if you’d prefer, in a range of options to suit your needs. Co-living in London offers you the chance to live closer to Zone-1 than private housing usually allows. That’s because they’re generally cheaper than any private residence within the same area despite offering higher standards of living.
Student Accommodation in London
For those coming to study in London, student accommodation is often the way forward. If you’re not keen to live in university-provided accommodation and want a more luxury experience, private student accommodation in London is often affordable, central, and able to provide a range of benefits that private housing can’t match.
For example, The Stay Club student accommodation in Camden and Kentish Town – hip and exciting areas with easy access to all London transport systems and universities. Each accommodation has a range of room types from shared apartments to luxury private studios. What’s more, you can expect 24-hour security, superfast wifi, on-site gyms, workspaces, cafes, and plenty more.