Insider advice, London living, Making magic happen, Moving overseas

A backpacker’s guide to moving to London (or anywhere!)

Step 1: Pack your backpack. Step 2: Leave.

If you’re not quite that ambitious, there’s a few things you probably need to know before you run to the airport.

First things first: visa. Paperwork always sucks, but this one is essential. Check out your country’s visa requirements and length of stay. I’d say probably start this process three months before you plan on setting off, but they often do come through faster. One thing that has changed since I did it, is you have to collect your permanent residency card within about ten days of entering the country. Make sure you carefully read all the paperwork, and that you pick a date that will be possible!

Prep for a bank account if you fancy: there are a lot of companies that will “help you get set up” in London, which I did before I got here. It ends up being more annoying than useful. They will send a sim to an address you’ve provided, and set up a meeting with a bank for your arrival. Problem is, the sim probably won’t work, and the bank appointment isn’t for two weeks. And then your card takes a week to arrive. And the pin takes another week. You get the picture. Instead, I’d recommend getting your bank to send a statement to a friends address in the U.K., and you can use this to sign up with one yourself. This will give you access to the likes of HSBC and Barclays. If you’re not that organised, you can still sign up with Lloyds or TSB without this. The other thing you will need is a national insurance number to be able to work, but you can’t do that until you’re in the country, so leave that for another day!

Make sure you have enough cash to get you started: for the U.K. visa, it advises you have about £2000 in your bank on arrival to get you going. If you’re feeling adventurous, this would be enough, but I’d probably say £5000 would be a safer amount, to give you time to find a job and a house without having a breakdown. Keep in mind that rent can be between £500-800 a month for London, and they will expect a 4-6 week bond. Suddenly £2000 doesn’t go very far…

If London isn’t your thing, all of this applies to working anywhere in the U.K. If the U.K. isn’t your thing, then look into visas for other countries. Most European countries offer a year visa with a fairly simple application process, and is often a lot cheaper and quicker than the U.K. Some you can even rock up at the immigration office and get one when you’re there. Turn up for a holiday and stay for a year! Spain is more tricky, because everyone wants to live there. But countries like Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands should welcome you with open arms!

It may seem like a daunting step to take, but experiencing life in another city, or another country, will open your eyes in ways you could never have dreamed of. And if you need any help along the way, get in touch!

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