Settling In FAQs

On this Page: What’s it like living in London and the UK? | What’s the UK quality of life like?What’s the UK cost of living?How do I get around on public transport? | What happens if I need a doctor or dentist? |  Back to FAQ Index

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What’s it like living in London and the UK?

Fantastic! Both the history and culture of the UK mixed together with the multi-national status that it enjoys, creates an interesting and dynamic country to live and work in. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Football, rugby, cricket and tennis are the most popular sports, but of course you can find places to watch and take part in almost anything.

For the very adventurous, a trip into Wales or Scotland for rock climbing, rafting and even kayaking is just a few hours away. The UK is a relatively small country but with good transport services making it easy to get away from the city. Places such as Cornwall and Devon in the south west are stunningly beautiful and great to visit for a holiday or to try your hand at surfing.

But there’s no need to think you need to leave London to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, it has been estimated that 47% of London is covered by green spaces. There are over 3,000 parks and green spaces to enjoy making it one of the greenest capitals in the world.

London is an incredibly vibrant city – it’s always busy, fast paced and a pretty exciting place to work. People from all over the world live and work in London, and over the years this has created a unique culture with many shops, restaurants and markets. This diversity found in London has certainly helped turn the city into the business powerhouse that it is today.

As you would expect, London has a world-class cultural scene. It has a huge variety of bars, clubs, restaurants and theatres meaning you’ll never be bored. It is also a very old city, with a rich history. There are many historical buildings, castles, palaces and some of the best museums and art galleries in world. Most museums and galleries are free; you usually only have to pay for certain exhibitions within the museum.

What’s the UK quality of life like?

You will find a high number of people around, especially in London and other major cities. This may be in direct contrast to your home. It is especially noticeable on trains, buses and in the main shopping areas. It is quite a cultural shock. London is a busy, fast paced city. Commuting around 2 hours a day is also very normal (one hour to work and one hour back), which many people find difficult at first.

The UK has good health, social and public services, all of which are free for UK residents. London is always changing and growing with culture at the heart. Diversity and economic growth make London a great place to live and work. Accommodation varies, for those who prefer a quieter life the suburbs are probably better with more open spaces and larger properties. Other’s might opt for central London apartments, whatever your preference the UK is sure to suit almost everyone.

Being a 24 hour city, London allows you to be very flexible, many supermarkets are open 24 hours as are some clubs and bars. City life in the UK is an enjoyable experience, for those that particularly like to travel Europe is just a few hours away and you’ll be surprised how easy and affordably you can get there.

Many people would rather spend time outside of cities. The UK as many smaller towns and business parks surrounded by greenery and usually the pace of life is more relaxed and slower. The UK has many contrasting, modern and historical cities and towns to suit almost everybody.

What’s the UK cost of living?

London is an expensive place to stay, but earnings are usually a lot higher. Especially when first arriving the strength of the pound can make London seem more expensive. You should try to have enough money for your first month in the UK. Even after you find a job you are likely to have to wait at least a month before getting paid.

There is a good mixture of affordable places to stay, shop and eat – even in central London you can find cheap places to eat, £6-£7 for lunch and £10-£15 for dinner is usually more then enough. At the other end of the scale London has some of finest restaurants, bars and clubs in the world – with prices to match. Luxury shopping and lavish apartments are here too, for those who can afford them.

Renting in London is not cheap. It’s probably a good idea to flatshare for a while until you get set up. You’ll need approx £550-£800 per month for a room in a shared house. If you want to rent a 1 bed place by yourself you’ll need to budget for between £1000-£1600 per month. See our accommodation section for more info on average rental costs in London and the UK

Travelling in London on public transport is more expensive then in other cities. For example a daily London Underground travelcard can be around £10 – £12 (or more if you’re living further out of the centre). It’s cheaper using a contactless or pre-paid card, and also if you buy a  weekly or monthly pass, and just a bus pass cheaper still. Driving in London in particular can be pretty expensive. In central London you have to pay £11.50 for each day you drive in the “Congestion Zone”. Where you choose to live will greatly affect your costs. Living further from the centre is where you’ll find cheaper rents – but you will need more money for travel.

The Midlands and northern parts of the UK are generally cheaper then the southern cities, but earnings are highest in London and the South East.  

You can find more information on the cost of living in the UK on websites such as Numbeo and Expatisan.

How do I get around on public transport?

The UK has a wide variety of public transport: Underground trains, over ground main line trains, light rail, tram systems, buses, taxies, ferries and planes. Prices vary across the UK with the London transport system being the most expensive; other major cities are little cheaper. Booking intercity trains early using make things a lot cheaper then booking a ticket 1-2 days before you intend to travel. The UK also has many low cost airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet and Jet2 which make travel between UK cities and to Europe more affordable.

For people living and working in London, 2-3 hours commuting time each day is normal. London is a large city and many people choose to live outside London and travel in everyday.

If you live in London, you won’t need a car to get around. The London Underground, or “the Tube”, connects every part of inner London and extends to most parts of outer London. Where the Tube doesn’t go, London is well served by overground trains and buses. Travelling on weekends is easy too, with frequent train and bus services. Many London Underground and Overground lines now operate a service that runs through the night. Night buses also operate throughout the week, with more services on Friday and Saturday nights.

To get around London it is often cheaper can buy a travel card or an Oyster Card that will allow you travel on bus, rail and tube. You can download their app to make top ups and view timetables.

London has an extensive network of Black Cabs. The benefit of using one is that drivers have to pass a test called “the knowledge” to prove they are familiar with the streets of London. You therefore avoid paying extra if your driver gets lost. Uber also operates in London making it wast to get around.

Another increasingly popular way to get around London is by bike. Transport For London introduced this bicycle hire scheme in 2010. You can hire a bike for as little as £2 from docking stations all around London

Most people coming to the UK will arrive in one of the London airports. All have good transport links to the city centre. Buses run regularly and are considerably cheaper then trains.

There are 5 main international airports for the London area:

Some More Useful Links:

What happens if I need a doctor or dentist?

Once you start working in the UK, you will need to apply for an NI card (National Insurance). Your NI number will be used to pay your tax and National Insurance contribitions and will entitle you to free health services.

The time it takes to apply for the NI card varies depending on where you live and people are often issued a temporary NI number until your card is ready.

Apply for NI Card

Once you have found a place to live you can register to a local GP (Doctor) and dentist. You can find local practices online using NHS Choices or check them out yourself in person.