Moving to London as a South African: Part 2. The interlude to this piece (being part 1, if you haven’t already guessed) is more of a look through my lens. However, a few reached out for some more solid tips on how I made the move.
Getting to London:
Essentially the first thing you’re going to do is hop on a plane. I always weigh up my options in this case. I’m often found juggling between Emirates and British Airways. Emirates offers more baggage, but you guarantee a gruelling few hours in Dubai airport. At least there’s a Shake Shack. British Airways are a little more stingy with le baggage, but you only have to hop on one plane. However, say your prayers pre-flight that you aren’t graced with one of the old BA planes. The “TV” (cough, cough) is about the size of an iPod nano and were probably made around the same era. About 50 years ago, right?
It’s likely you’ll be arriving in Heathrow if you fly from South Africa. If you can brave it and are strong enough to wangle your baggage, my advice is to just hop on the Piccadilly line into central London and make your way to your final destination from there. Uber and taxis really aren’t necessary and you can save yourself a solid amount of money which you can spend elsewhere. The tube works on contactless, so if your bank card has the symbol, you’re good to go. No need to buy any tickets.
If by any chance you land at another airport here are some tips. Gatwick? Take the Thameslink to Kings Cross or the South Western Railway to Victoria. Don’t hop on the Gatwick Express. It’s not necessary and will cost you more. Stansted? Sadly, you’re pretty optionless here (someone correct me if I am wrong) but I’d advise buying either a bus ticket for the National Express beforehand (cheapest) or a train ticket for the Stansted Express (fastest). Luton? Highly doubt you’ll be landing here as it’s mainly for inter-European and UK flights. However, I usually just pop on the Thameslink to Kings Cross.
Whoop whoop! You’re in the land of scones and tea. And it’s probably raining. Don’t worry, when it’s hot it’s hot. Like, “I need to sleep with an ice pack” hot. The likelihood of you securing an apartment before arriving is rather slim. London, bless its soul, has a broad spectrum of ‘where to stay’. To begin your search, I’d suggest checking out websites like Rightmove and Zoopla. I also like to use OpenRent as this is solely between you and the landlord (no estate agents, yay!). You can find decent rooms for rent and a nice little biography about who you’ll be staying with. Like the Tinder of real estate, I guess? Minus a lot of other things.
Some things to consider when renting in London: things generally work in weeks here. So you’ll often see the rental price as, for example, £325pw. You’ll also see a figure that says, for example, £1408 PCM. That means you’re paying £1408 per calendar month. It’s confusing, but if you only see the weeks, multiply that by 52 and divide by 12 and that’s what you’re paying per month. Bet you didn’t think you’d get a maths lesson out of this.
When moving in you’ll often need about 5 weeks worth of rent as your deposit. This goes into a deposit protection scheme so your landlord can’t blow it on their 30th birthday party. It’s there to act as a buffer should anything go wrong during your stay. You’ll (hopefully) get it back at the end of your tenancy if you haven’t gone full Project X on your place.
Some other things: you’ll need to register for council tax, this is pretty easy and can be done online. This is for all of the services your Borough receives like rubbish collection, post, clean streets and the likes. It varies between areas and works in bands such as A, B, C, D etc. Make sure you know which one your property falls into so you can fit that into your budget.
A few people have asked me, “which areas are the best to look at?” This is completely subjective. Each borough has its own quirks and depends on what you’re after. It also depends on your budget, where you’ll be working and what living requirements you’re up for. You can contact me here and I’ll try my best to lead you in some kind of direction.
Money, Doctors and Visas:
If you read my previous article, I portrayed opening a bank account as being a mammoth task. It isn’t. It was more of a joke as back home I couldn’t even step my baby toe into FNB without a proof of address and my great grandmother’s birth certificate (joke, again.) In the UK, I use a bank called Monzo. You can register via their app and all you need is a passport and your face. Literally. Oh, and a postal address in the UK. Other banks to consider are N26 (if you have some Euros coming in) and Starling bank.
You’ll want to register for a GP in your area. This is important as it will also help you with a proof of address for other things that require it. The NHS is free here. This still blows my mind. But yes, free healthcare is a thing.
In terms of visas, I was blessed with an Italian passport. Nicks on a residency permit here. I am rather clueless in this department, however, one piece of advice I can give you is that if you believe you may have any chance at an ancestral visa – get on that shit now. If not, there is always a way. Consider doing another course (most universities offer study visas – but always check) or try to secure a job with a reputable company.
I think that’s all of the boring stuff out of the way? I’m 100% not a “How-To” guide so don’t take all of my advice for word. It is just advice. I’m an open book and am always here for you to pick my brain, so if you have any further questions you can mail me here. Alternatively, slide into my DMs.