A Beginner’s Guide to London

As the financial capital of the world, London is a huge hub for business. This booming metropolis also features one of the most diverse populations on the globe, making it perfect for discovering multiple cultures in a single place. A vibrant art scene, varied foodie culture, and great standard of living means that this amazing city is one of the top destinations in the world for people looking to visit or stay long term. Are you planning to move to London in the near future? Then read on to discover some beginner’s basics that will make life just a little easier as a London newbie!


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1. Transportation is costly

London is divided into four main zones with Zone 1 being at the center, Zone 2 around that, and so on. When looking for a place to live you may be tempted to choose areas located in Zones 3 and 4 as you’ll usually find lower rents and bigger flats. However, you should take into consideration that public transportation costs in London are astronomically high. You can pay around US $50 for a 7-day tube and bus pass which is only good for Zones 1 and 2. If you live outside these zones you could end up spending almost twice as much for the same pass just to commute to the centre of London. What it comes down to in the end is deciding whether you want to pay more for rent or transportation. Be sure to calculate transportation costs into your rent choices so you can make the most economical decision!

2. Properties go fast

Hunting for a flat in London can be both exhilarating and stressful. Properties go on and off the market at a pace which will make your head spin. When you see a particular property you like, you are required to make an offer and put down a down payment that is the equivalent of one week’s worth of rent. Surprisingly, you are allowed to negotiate on rent prices and can often offer less if you’re so inclined. However, even if you make an offer and give a down payment, it doesn’t mean the deal is sealed. The landlord is free to reject your proposal and put the property on the market or rent it out to someone else. One the bright side you’ll get your down payment refunded, but it can make for some difficult few weeks of looking at tons of flats and worrying about getting the one you really want.


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3. Pet-friendly isn’t a priority

When I first visited London, I was delighted to see that people are allowed to take their dogs on the tube. This, coupled with the many dog-friendly parks and restaurants, made me assume that London is more pet-friendly than most other cities. This, unfortunately, isn’t exactly the case. While dogs are welcome in many places in the city, finding a flat with a landlord who is okay with pets can be something of a chore. It’s marginally easier to convince a landlord to let you keep a cat, but all the same this could narrow down your flat rental options. Don’t worry though; offering to pay a larger deposit or even adding on a little extra to your rent to cover possible damages can go a long way towards convincing a landlord that your furry buddy is A-OK.

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4. Organic is easy

One of the best parts of living in London is that you have access to a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and organic products which are produced locally in the U.K. Free-range eggs and meat are reasonably priced and you will usually end up spending less on fresher fruits and veggies at an outdoor weekend market than if you buy them at the grocery store. Of course there’s also bread, cheese, honey, and scores of other delicious organic tidbits! Before choosing a flat ask your agent if there’s a weekend market in the area. Nine times out of ten there’s something nearby where you can buy your fresh produce!


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5. Groceries are cheap

One of the big draws of London is the foodie culture and you’re probably eager to dive right in and experience all those quirky and cool restaurants you’ve read about online. The major drawback to eating out in London is that it can be quite expensive – even if it’s just run-of-the-mill diner food. An average meal in a restaurant (without a drink included) can cost around US $20, while simple pub fare can hit between US $10 – US $15. The good news is that if eating out is expensive, cooking at home is really cheap! As mentioned above you can buy plenty of items at outdoor markets, but grocery stores also feature reasonable prices. At Sainsbury’s you can purchase a week’s worth of groceries (including food, toiletries and laundry items) for around US $50 – which makes cooking at home totally worth it!

While moving to a new city can be an exciting experience, there’s a lot of stress that can accompany it if you don’t go in prepared. Knowing what to expect is the first big step and once you’ve successfully made that move you’ll be glad you took the time to prepare beforehand. Then you’ll be able to jump right in to the exciting multicultural London way of life and feel like a local in no time at all!

Are you currently living in London? What tips do you have to offer someone who is hoping to make a change and try their luck in this great British metropolis?