London Expat Guide

Living and Working in London as an Expat in 2020

Looking to take on bigger challenges in your career and setting your sights globally? More expats are setting their sights on Europe's biggest countries to take advantage of better opportunities. The United Kingdom continues to be a top destination among expatriates, with many moving to London due to its status as a global city for finance, commerce, education, fashion, the arts and more. This expat guide to London provides you with a road map to working in one of the world's oldest and vibrant cities. Could living in London be your cup of tea?


The World's Cultural Capital

In HSBC's 2018 Expat Explorer Survey, the United Kingdom ranked 22nd out of 163 countries from more than 22,000 expatriates who responded to the survey, climbing five spots from 27th place in 2017. The UK remains to be one of the highly regarded relocation choices for expats who wish to live and work in Europe. London, in particular, is favoured for its proximity to the rest of Europe, as everything is within driving, train or flying distance.

The city is famous for its iconic attractions such as Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the Tower Bridge, The Shard, and cultural havens such as the West End's theatres, the British Museum, the Tate Modern, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. However, there's certainly more to London than just tourist draws.

Past, Present and Future

To say that London has a rich heritage is an understatement. The Romans settled here in AD 47 and called it Londinium, which over time, became London and viewed as the capital of England as well as the United Kingdom. London not only includes the ancient City of London – home to around 7 million people currently - but is also the common name for Greater London which has grown over the centuries to an area of around 1,583 square kilometres. Urban expansion has extended it further into what is now called the London Metropolitan Region that covers 8,382 square kilometres and a population of nearly 13 million.

The reality is that London is huge. Its entire area is divided into 32 boroughs or local government districts that include the City of London. Under the stewardship of the Mayor of London and the 25-member London Assembly, the Greater London Authority (GLA) shares local government powers with the 32 borough councils and the City of London Corporation.

Central London is its heart, with many of the world's biggest companies and financial institutions as its hub. Other popular districts are Leicester Square that is home to Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and London's cinemas and theatres; the very cosmopolitan Notting Hill in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; and Westminster where England's most famous residence can be found – Buckingham Palace.

While London treasures its history, it also has its eyes firmly set on the future. The city has lofty ambitions to be the "most advanced hotspot city in the Western world," according to an article published by The Standard. Plans are afoot to upgrade networks from 4G to 5G, while driverless cars are being tested and zero-emissions taxi fleets are also headed for the road. By leveraging technology, London aims to make digital infrastructure a necessary and basic utility for all.

A Global City

London certainly has everything that makes it a world city. Along with its status in the financial industry, it's a major player in national and global economic, political, cultural and business affairs, and home to many multinational corporations like HSBC, Unilever, and Citigroup.

Even with Brexit on the horizon, many technology companies are choosing to expand their presence in London, among them Facebook which is set to open a bigger office in the city. Fintech companies also find that it's easier to work in the UK, according to Business Insider, due to the country's global financial prowess and its Open Banking initiative.

When it comes to higher education, there's no need to look further as London is home to renowned universities such as the University College London, Imperial College London, King's College London, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. These four are among the top-ranking universities in the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. Outside London are other global academic centres of excellence like the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester.

Choosing the best school in London for your children is easy due to the high number of international schools that cater to all nationalities. Many are located within and around London and have different academic environments to suit international students. There's also the option to have your kids attend a state school or public school, especially if you see your family staying in the UK for a long time.

Life in London

HSBC's latest expat survey lists London as second in the world when it comes to job opportunities, something that 49 per cent of the responding expatriates agree with, even with the impending impact of Brexit. The median expat salary for London is currently pegged at USD 107,863 compared to the global average of USD 99,903.

While a big income is certainly an incentive, note that London is also known for its high cost of living. Even with the high salary, it's likely that a majority of the millennial expats who work in London – 52 per cent according to the survey – share accommodations to minimize costs.

Like any city with a high number of expatriates, there are areas in London where you have to pay an arm and leg for a three-bedroom house or apartment, especially if you have a family. Factor in the cost of school fees, health care - especially family health insurance – plus transport and utilities, and it can add up. Find out from the onset how much you need for day-to-day expenses.

Once you've settled into your new expat life, getting to know your new home city can be an adventure. The upside is that it's easy to soak up the London lifestyle in baby steps when it's right outside your doorstep. There's plenty to see and do in many parts of London without emptying your wallet. There are parks, free days at museums, festivals, and events for fellow expats to meet lots of friendly people and expand their network. London's gastronomic scene is also famous, boasting everything from Asian dishes to Middle Eastern and African cuisine at five-star restaurants to tasty street-corner shops.

It's not surprising that many of those who started life in London as expatriates have become locals themselves over time. Many find it easy to assimilate, even if English is not their first language, as London is home to people from all nationalities.

Moving to London

London attracts a high number of career-driven individuals owing to its high status as a global financial powerhouse. If you're moving to London from another country as part of a work assignment, or to accompany your family or partner, there are many decisions to be made and factors to consider. Where should you live? Where should your children go to school? Should your spouse get a job? In this great city of more than 8.7 million people, you're bound to find fellow expatriates who have made the same choice of taking on a career challenge and getting to know London from a different perspective.

Welcome to the Big Smoke!

London was once known as the "Big Smoke." Back in the 19th century at the height of the Industrial Revolution, the area was usually covered in thick, grey smog due to the massive coal-burning at that time. The same nickname was given to "The Great Smog of 1952" which happened during December of that year and brought the entire city to a standstill for five days.

If you're moving from a tropical country, it's likely that the UK's climate might be a shock to your sunshine-powered system, especially during the winter season. Generally, those who live in London experience its temperate climate with cool to warm summers, and freezing winters without the requisite snow. Summer can bring temperatures soaring up to 38 degrees Celsius, especially in the city, and more recent changes in the world's climate have also brought severe storms and hurricanes. Make sure to have a brolly (umbrella) on hand!

The World in the Big City

While the actual City of London only measures about a square mile – 1.12 square miles or about 2.90 square kilometres – Greater London geographically is much bigger and is divided into 32 boroughs or local government districts. For more information about London's boroughs as well as a directory of services they offer, check out the London Council website at

As of 2017, the estimated London population is around 9.3 million, which makes it the largest city in the United Kingdom, the largest in the European Union (EU) and the third-largest city in Europe. Apart from EU nationals hailing from Poland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, and France, to name a few, the biggest number of people in London - around 5 million, to be exact - comes from India. The rest hail from Bangladesh, Romania, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica, the Philippines, Kenya, Turkey, the United States, Australia, and South Africa.

As such, it's not a big surprise to hear so many languages spoken in London, and for you to meet people from all over the world right in your own neighbourhood. However, the vote to have Britain leave the European Union in March 2019 has so far resulted in a big number of EU nationals who live and work in the UK opting to leave instead.

Do You Need a Work Visa for the UK? It Depends Where You're From

Prior to Britain's vote in 2016 to leave the European Union, citizens from the 28 EU member states and from EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries – which are Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway – can live and work in the UK without restrictions, along with their families.

The UK government website at states: "There will be no changes to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK until 2021." However, all this may change once Britain officially exits the European Union in March 2019. Get more information at

Expatriates hailing from outside the European Union are required to get a work permit in order for them and their families to legally live, work and study in the UK. The primary requirement for a work permit is a valid job offer from a viable employer in the UK. The work permit specifies the particular role and company the applicant must fulfil, and the permit also stipulates that the holder must be able to support themselves and any of their dependents on their own, without having to rely on government funds to do so.

Which Visa Do You Need?

Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas are among the most frequent types of work permits granted by the UK government to expatriates, each with its own subcategories and requirements for eligibility. The visas are part of a points-based immigration system to help regulate immigration into the UK outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). Of these, the Tier 2 visa is what most expatriates usually need to obtain in order to work in the UK.

According to the ONS, between July and September of 2018, there were 2.25 million people from the European Union working in the UK, and 1.24 million non-EU nationals, an increase of 34,000 from 2017. The Gov.UK website records 167,271 work-related visas granted by the end of June 2018, which includes 5,502 Tier 1 visa, 96,376 Tier 2 visas, and 40,360 Tier 5 visas.

Investors, entrepreneurs and those classified as "exceptional talent" may apply for a Tier 1 Visa. The Tier 1 visa under the Entrepreneur subcategory is for people who wish to create or take over an existing business in the UK. The Investor visas are for those who investing capital in the UK, with threshold amounts ranging from GBP 2,000,000 to GBP 5,000,000 and GBP 10,000,000. For people recognized as exceptionally talented in various fields such as the sciences, humanities, engineering, the arts, medicine or digital technology, they may apply for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa. Each subcategory has validity ranging from two years up to five years, along with its own set of eligibility requirements.

The Tier 2 work visa is for skilled, non-EU nationals with a confirmed job offer in the United Kingdom from a licensed sponsor along with the appropriate certificate of sponsorship. The visa's four subcategories include General, Minister of Religion, Sports Person and Intra-Company Transfer (ICT). The ICT, in particular, is for people working in multinational companies who are being transferred by their employers to their UK office or branch. Under the ICT subcategory are another set of subcategories designed to streamline applicants into the appropriate roles such as Established Staff, Graduate Trainee or Skills Transfer.

Tier 5 visas are designed for people moving to the UK for short-term work. The visas have several sub categories catering to different objectives such as Charity Worker, Religious Worker, Creative and Sporting, Government Authorized Exchange, International Agreement and Youth Mobility Scheme. The last one is similar to the working holiday visa program of other countries and is available for citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Monaco, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, and Japan.

For more information on getting a visa in the UK, please visit the Visas and Immigration section of

Where Should You Live?

During the last official census by the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2011, the population of Greater London was at 8.1 million and 7,375 people for those living in the City of London itself. Inner London residents at that time were recorded at 3.21 million and in Outer London at 4.9 million. The boroughs cover East London, West London, North London, and South London.

The boroughs covered by Inner London are Camden, the City of London, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, and Westminster. These areas are much more expensive since they're closer to Central London, and therefore command higher costs of living than those in Outer London.

The Outer London boroughs consist of Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kingston upon the Thames, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond upon the Thames, Sutton, and Waltham Forest.

Each of these boroughs has its own zip code or postcode, which are usually made up of one or two letters, and one- or two-digit numbers to help identify its particular location along a street. As an example, the famous Sherlock Holmes Museum's location is at 221B Baker Street, Marylebone, London NW1 6XE.

London boasts one of the highest costs of living in the world. While it appears on the annual list of the world's most liveable cities, there also pros and cons to living in London like congestion, pollution, and expensive housing. Just like any other city in the world, the closer you live to the city, the higher your cost of living. Make sure to check with your employer beforehand if your accommodations are covered in your contract.

If you're single, sharing a flat makes rent and utility bills more affordable and enable you to save money. A flat is the British equivalent of an apartment, and maybe part of modern property development, or converted from a house into several rooms. But if you're moving as a family, you'll definitely need a bigger space. Detached houses are more spacious and may even have a garden. You're bound to find detached houses farther from Central London. Do your homework prior to your move by checking out rental listings and popular expat neighbourhoods to get an idea of the prevailing rates and the corresponding council tax in areas of London.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) runs its own website at, which provides, among others, a map showing the average rents for different types of housing available for rent in London. The map is updated quarterly and shows various accommodations ranging from single rooms for flatshares, studios and anywhere from one- to four-bedroom options. View the map here.

Taking Public Transport

The capital of the UK is highly accessible thanks to its extensive transport network that moves its more than 9 million residents all over easily. If you're moving to London, familiarize yourself with the many public transport options on hand. While you can also choose to walk or cycle, chances are, you'll be an Oyster card-carrying passenger in no time at all. This smart card makes paying easier since it's valid on almost all of London's public transport, and its stored value can be reloaded easily at any train station and even online.

The Underground, Overground, Trams, and Rail

London is synonymous with the London Underground, the most popular rapid train system in the UK carrying over 5 million passengers daily and 1.35 billion annually through its 11 lines. With its distinctive red and blue logo, the Tube is the most popular mode of transport in the whole of London and extends into certain areas of Buckinghamshire, Essex, and Hertfordshire. The Central Line is the longest Tube line spanning 49 stations over 74 kilometres, from Epping, Essex to West Ruislip in the Hillingdon borough, and traversing Central London.

Aside from the Underground, other train and rail options are the London Overground, the London Trams, the National Rail, and the Docklands Light Railway. These go through the inner and outer suburbs of London and serve as connections for a huge number of Tube and rail stations as well as bus routes.

The London Overground has 112 stations and passes through 23 of London's boroughs while the London Trams (formerly known as the Tramlink and Croydon Tramlink) has 34 trams servicing 39 stops and over 50 bus routes. Serving East London is the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) which uses a computerized, driverless system and stops at 45 stations along the way. For expats, especially those with families who chose to settle outside of London, the National Rail is the best way to efficiently commute into London and is operated by several private companies.

Taking the Scenic Route

For a more scenic way to travel to work and school, the London River Services offers a fleet of passenger boat services via its licensed independent boat operators via eight docks along the Thames: Greenwich, Tower, Bankside, Blackfriars, Festival, Embankment, Westminster and Millbank.

The more recent addition to London's public transport services is the Emirates Air-Line, an urban cable system that started operating in 2012. It crosses the Thames river between Greenwich and the Royal Docks with a journey time of 10 minutes. Its 36 cable cars can also accommodate wheelchair users and cyclists and is open seven days a week.

Take the Bus, Taxi or Car?

The city is also known for its red double-decker buses that ply the streets everywhere. The current fleet of London buses number over 9,300, including the 2,500 hybrid electric buses – the largest in Europe so far - that help reduce pollution and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 30 per cent. Aside from being wheelchair-friendly, passengers can also access live bus arrival information via their smartphones, SMS or online.

London's famous black taxicabs can also be found all over the city, and are famous for its drivers possessing "The Knowledge." Drivers take up to three years to memorize and navigate London's entire road network.

If you plan to drive a car in London, make sure you know about the Congestion Charge and the upcoming T-charge. The Congestion Charge is similar to Singapore's Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) which imposes a fine for entering designated areas in Central London during peak hours. The T-Charge or Toxicity Charge is officially known as the Emissions Surcharge, an additional fee for older vehicles designed to curb vehicle pollution. The T-Charge is to be replaced by the Ultra Low Emission Zone in April 2019 which will cover all vehicles that travel in Central London.

For more information about London's transport system, visit the Transport for London (TfL) website at

Working in London

For many professionals seeking to put their career on a definitive upward trajectory, the opportunity to work in London is a chance coveted by many. The city of London, known as the "Square Mile," and a global financial centre, a leader in world-class technology, innovation, and architecture, continues to attract top foreign talent, the biggest companies and investment money from around the globe. Indeed, working in London could be the crown jewel in one's resumé.

Working in the UK

The United Kingdom is one of the world's most powerful economies for centuries, kickstarting the Industrial Revolution, and becoming a formidable financial powerhouse. It continues to be one of the top preferred destinations for expats looking to improve their careers in what is considered a global city in the world. In HSBC's latest Expat Explorer Survey, over 9,000 expats currently based in the UK cited "career progression" as their foremost reason for moving.

Despite the Brexit vote in 2016, many expats found their way into Britain to work in various industries, including the financial institutions along Canary Wharf, as well as in the creative industries and information technology, among others. Many made the choice of living and working in London, and now count themselves among the denizens of Central London, in sectors such as investment banking, insurance, film and media, and more.

Get the Work Visa You Need

Unless you're a European Union citizen or hail from an EFTA (European Free Trade Association) country, you are absolutely required to obtain a work visa in order to live and work in the UK. It's best to find a job earlier and secure a job offer prior to moving to London, and then get a work permit. If you're moving to the UK with the purpose of finding a job in London, you may also consult the UK government's Shortage Occupation List which may help in expediting the processing of your work visa.

No visa is needed to live and work in the UK if you can prove that you're a citizen of a country recognized by the UK government as a Commonwealth Nation. Those who have British ancestry can also try to secure a UK Ancestry visa which allows one to live, work, study and even settle in the UK permanently if you meet the eligibility criteria.

The UK's points-based immigration system offers different types of work visas available in five "tiers" that help regulate immigration into Britain outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). There are officially five tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, Tier 4 and Tier 5. With the exception of several subcategories of Tier 1 and Tier 3, all other tiers are available for applicants.

Tier 1 Visas: Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Exceptional Talent

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visas are for those who wish to create or take over an existing business in the UK. To be eligible, the entrepreneurs must either be company directors or self-employed in the businesses they are involved with and must have funds amounting to at least GBP 200,000. Those who eligible for these visas are allowed three years to remain in the UK, and this may be extended up to two years pending the visa holders' success in investing the funds in their businesses and creating a number of full-time jobs during the initial three-year period.

The Tier 1 Investor visa requires applicants to invest at least GBP 2 million in share capital in British companies or in UK bonds. Successful Tier 1 Investor visa holders may apply to settle into the UK after two years if they invest GBP 10 million, or after three years if they invest GBP 5 million.

Applicants for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa must be recognized or at least have the potential to be recognized as exceptionally talented in the arts, humanities, digital technology, sciences, engineering or medicine. The visa is initially valid for up to five years and four months.

Tier 2: Long-Term Work Visas

The Tier 2 visas cater to skilled, non-EU nationals who have received a job offer from a licensed sponsor, and an accompanying certificate of sponsorship. Any organization or company who wishes to sponsor a worker must register with the UK Visas and Immigration's register of licensed sponsors which also includes their respective ratings and locations. Once your employer is accepted into the register, they can apply to the UK Visas and Immigration department to receive an annual allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS). In turn, your employer-sponsor gives you a CoS required to apply for a work visa outside the UK or for an extension of stay, if you're already in Britain.

Just like the Tier 1 visas, Tier 2 visas also have subcategories which include the General work visa and the Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa. Those applying for a Tier 2 General work visa must have a valid job offer and a Certificate of Sponsorship from a legitimate organization or company in the UK, and be paid at least GBP 30,000 annually or the appropriate rate for the job you are offered based on the UK Immigration's rules, depending on which is higher.

The Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa has two types, one for Long-term Staff who are being transferred to another position within the company, and have been working for the organization for more than one year; the other is for Graduate Trainees designed for specialist roles. Those applying for the Graduate Trainee visa must be a recent graduate with at least three months' experience in the sponsoring company overseas.

For a majority of expats moving to the UK, especially those who are moving to London on assignment, the ICT visa is what they need. The ICT visa also requires a valid job offer, a Certificate of Sponsorship, and the appropriate salary for the job you're offered or the minimum salary required for your visa – whichever is higher. For Long-term Staff, the UK Visas and Immigration department sets the amount at GBP 41,500.

Applicants for the Tier 2 General work and ICT visas may also be required to have a minimum of GBP 945 in their bank account for at least three months prior to applying for the work visa as proof of self-support. If your sponsor is listed with an A rating in the register, you may not need proof of funding in your bank account.

Aside from the visa application fees, people applying for a visa from outside the EEA for the purpose of working, studying or joining their family in the UK for more than six months – but not remain permanently in the UK – need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This Health Surcharge entitles the visa holder to 100 per cent free healthcare under the UK's National Health Service (NHS). The Immigration Health Surcharge is required even if you already have private health insurance.

Get more information about the United Kingdom's immigration and visa requirements at

Expat Salaries in London

London is one of Europe's most expensive cities and commands a high cost of living. Recent events have affected the value of the British pound and inflation is also driving up costs. What does your company cover upon moving to London? Is your base salary adequate for housing expenses and education? How about health insurance or transport costs? How much should you be earning if you're living in London?

Bloomberg report in 2018 indicated that expats in London earn an average salary of USD 107,900, slightly higher than the global average of USD 99,000. The HSBC Survey itself shows a figure of GBP 66,670 as the average salary of the UK expats they interviewed, with many reporting a 29 per cent increase in salary when they moved to Britain. But is this enough to get by in a country known for its high costs of living?

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there are 1.24 people from outside the European Union working in the UK in 2018, an increase of 34,000 from 2017. The ONS also released its annual report on employee earnings in the UK in April 2018. London topped the list among the workplace regions with a weekly median salary of GBP 713 for employees working full time, which is higher by GBP 144 in the UK entirely. According to the report, the high median salaries in London reflects a large number of workers in high-paying industries and jobs, plus allowances given to employees who work in London.

While expat salaries may vary greatly, housing costs are the biggest expense even among expats. Food, healthcare, education, transport, utilities, and leisure will take up the rest of your expenses. This Minimum Income Calculator, created by the independent charitable foundation Trust for London, helps determine how much you should be earning while living in London with three simple questions: where you live in London, how many adults and children in your family, and their ages. Thus, a couple of working age with two children in primary school should earn at least GBP 26,936 each year at their job in London to have a decent standard of living.

For more information about the National Minimum Wage in the UK, please visit

Cost of Living in London

How much are you paying for a cup of coffee where you are right now? If you're living in London, one of the most expensive cities in the United Kingdom and in the world, you know that a cup every day does add up. However, if you're an expatriate preparing to move to London, it pays to be prepared when it comes to expenses. What will it cost to live there including rent, utilities or your regular flat white at coffee shops? Find out what's the cost of living in London.

Moving to London? It's an Expensive City

The city came in 19th place in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2018, jumping 10 spots from 2017. What does this mean if you're an expatriate getting ready to up sticks and move to the great city of London?

The HSBC Expat Explorer Survey reports that expats in London are earning slightly higher at USD 107,900 versus the global average of USD 99,900. However, this varies greatly from expat to expat as not all relocation packages are the same. There are also other factors to consider such as inflation and currency fluctuations in the world market.

The median wage in London was GBP 713 per week for employees working full time, according to the Office of National Statistics in its April 2018 report. This represented an increase of GBP 144 over the weekly median wage of GBP 569 for the entire United Kingdom. According to the report, the high median salaries in London reflect a large number of workers in high-paying industries and jobs.

It goes without saying that the cost of living in London for a family of four will be significantly higher than the cost of living in London for a couple. A family with young children will spend more on food, transport and perhaps childcare. Spouses or partners with no children may count leisure activities like holidays as part of their necessary monthly expenses.

Use the Minimum Income Calculator, a cost of living calculator created by Trust for London, to get an idea of how much you should be earning by answering three simple questions. For a more detailed analysis, the Nationwide Building Society also offers a Budget Calculator that takes childcare, pensions and benefits, insurance, and household costs into account.

Find Your Ideal Housing Location

People in London pay one of the highest rates in the world when it comes to housing, although nowhere near the asking prices in Hong Kong and Singapore, which are among the most expensive places to live in the world. While the British pound has gained strength against the US dollar, the cost of renting still takes up the biggest chunk of expenses for many London residents. Location matters so be prepared to pay a pretty penny if you want to live in a popular area, near a Tube station, or closer to the city center.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) website includes an interactive map showing the average rental prices for private housing, ranging from studio flats up to four bedrooms. Updated quarterly, the map is color-coded according to rental prices by borough. A three-bedroom flat in Islington in Central London may go for GBP 1,800 to GBP 2,400 monthly or even higher. In the Outer London borough of Hillingdon, you may only need to pay at least GBP 1,450 to GBP 1,800 for the same number of bedrooms.

Your Housing Options and Paying the Council Tax

In the UK, apartments are called flats housed in blocks and share a common entry and stairway. Flats may also be converted from large houses and contain at least one or two bedrooms, or just a one bedroom in shared housing, which is the cheapest option especially if you're a single expat. Terraced houses are row houses with only a wall separating you from your neighbors. A maisonette is French for "little house" and is somewhat similar to a duplex - basically a house divided into apartments with a separate entrance for each.

Do your research before making a deposit, like finding out how old the property is if there were any prior renovations done, etc. If you have a property agent, make sure to ask what existing utilities or services are in place and ready to use, and which ones may need to be installed prior to moving in.

What is the council tax? Whether you're buying or renting a property, you need to pay the council tax. It's a tax levied on the domestic property based on the property's estimated purchase value, and is applicable to flats, houses, bungalows, mobile homes, maisonettes, and even houseboats.

Each domestic property is categorized into one of eight bands (A to H) depending on its estimated purchase value. The council tax amount is based on at least two adults living in a home and the borough where your property is located. The Gov.UK website stipulates that "spouses and partners who live together are jointly responsible for paying the bill." Find more information about the Council Tax here.

Utilities and Food

Your other cost of living expenses will be for food, water, electricity, gas, and heating, as well as transport, health insurance, broadband, and phone contracts. Look up utility providers available in your area and compare prices accordingly. For gas, heating, and water, have someone from the service providers check the meters for safety prior to your moving date to make sure all is safe.

For broadband, residential phone and TV services, many companies like BT, Virgin Media and Sky have bundled deals that offer all three at special prices for a fixed number of years. This way, you only need to pay one bill for all the services. When it comes to mobile phone contracts, you can choose from EE, O2, Three UK and Vodafone to find the most suitable plan.

Londoners are spoiled for choice when it comes to grocery shopping. There's M&S, Waitrose, Whole Foods, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrison, and ASDA. You can also shop at open-air markets, and patronize local bakeries, meat shops, and restaurants.

Your Transport Options and Essentials

When it comes to transport options, you can buy a car or take public transport. Getting a car means adding gas and parking to your monthly or weekly. Having a vehicle of your own means you may have to pay the daily Congestion Charge of GBP 11.50 when you drive into designated zones in London between 7 am and 6 pm from Monday to Friday. In April 2019, London will start implementing the Toxicity Charge or T-Charge which is designed to curb vehicle pollution.

London is divided into travel zones, with zones 1 to 6 covered by most of TfL's services. Zones 7 to 9 are serviced by the Tube, the London Overground and National Rail. To get around, use an Oyster card and Travelcard which can be bought at any train or bus station, or online. The Oyster card is a reloadable smart card so you simply have to tap it when using on any of London's public transport services. The Travelcard gives you unlimited travel anytime on buses, the Tube, DLR, the Overground, the TfL Rail and National Rail services in London. You can buy Travelcards good for seven days, monthly, three months, six months or one year. The monthly and annual Travelcards will let you save more on fares especially if you have a regular route. For example, the average cost of a single journey adult fare from zone 4 to zone 1 is GBP 9.80 daily or GBP 49.00 per week, Monday to Sunday, if using a contactless card.

Another way to pay is via a contactless card, which is now used in credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Maestro, and on smartphones like Apple Pay Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Barclaycard Contactless Mobile.

London's buses and trams also offer Hopper fares if you use your Oyster or contactless card. You can catch a second bus or tram for free if you do within one hour from the start of your commute.

For more information on London's public transport and fares, visit the Transport for London website at

Healthcare in London

Access to healthcare is an integral concern of every expatriate, and no expat should even think of moving to another country without securing health insurance first. For expats and their families preparing to live and work in London, it is essential to find out how the public healthcare system of the United Kingdom works, and what treatments are available for expats. In particular, as an expat, what services are you entitled to when it comes to getting medical care in London? Are you eligible to use the National Health Service?

The State of Private Healthcare in the UK

While private healthcare in Britain can be expensive, more people are availing of these services as waiting times at National Health Service (NHS) hospitals grow longer. In 2015, over 4 million people bought private healthcare coverage, with companies and individuals spending GBP 4.7 billion on private healthcare plans. A report by The Telegraph says this has resulted in an increase of British residents seeking health and care services overseas, jumping from 48,000 in 2014 to 144,000 in 2016.

British excellence in medicine also brings an increasing number of foreign patients in many of the larger private hospitals in Central London. These overseas patients also opt to take the self-pay route for shorter stints in their preferred leading health specialist's waiting room. With these developments, London hopes to leverage its reputation as a global center for healthcare excellence.

Public Healthcare

The United Kingdom is one of the countries that have a universal public healthcare system. Known as the National Health Service (NHS), the system is one of the most recognized healthcare systems in the world. England, Scotland, and Wales have their own public health systems which are NHS England, NHS Scotland and NHS Wales. In Northern Ireland, the public healthcare program is called Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland or HSC.

Before the establishment of the NHS, private hospitals, municipal hospitals and voluntary hospitals flourished in the eighteenth century. In Central London, several former voluntary hospitals are now part of the NHS, such as Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

More recently, the UK's total expenditure on healthcare in the year 2016 was GBP 191.7 billion, with the government financing 79.4 percent or GBP 152 billion, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). On average, around GBP 2,920 was spent on healthcare per person through financing schemes like compulsory insurance, voluntary health insurance, occupational healthcare, and out-of-pocket expenditures.

The Immigration Health Surcharge

If you're moving to the UK, your introduction to the country's healthcare system and the National Health Service (NHS) is during the visa application process where you're required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) of GBP 200, and GBP 150 for students or those under the Youth Mobility Scheme. After December 2018, it will be GBP 150 to GBP 300 per year for students or Youth Mobility Scheme applicants, and GBP 400 for all other visa tiers. The Surcharge is only paid by citizens of countries outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) applying for a visa in order to work, study or join their family in the UK for more than six months.

The Health Surcharge entitles you to free hospital treatment courtesy of the National Health Service, and its validity is tied to the visa. If you apply for an extension of your work visa thereafter, you need to pay an added surcharge. Expats who apply for and receive indefinite leave to remain (ILR) need not pay the extra surcharge. However, if your visa is canceled earlier than its expiry date by the UK government, you have to pay for any further NHS hospital treatment, even if you paid the surcharge. Paying the Health Surcharge is not a guarantee of preferential treatment and you'll get the same level of care as anybody else.

The European Health Insurance Card

A national who holds a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from any of the 31 EEA member states and Switzerland may also use it in the UK public healthcare system. The card is free and its validity depends on the issuing country. The EHIC allows anyone who is covered by the statutory social security system of the EEA and Switzerland to get medical treatment in another member state for free or at reduced rates.

The scheme enables people to continue staying in a country for work or study without having to return home for medical care. Routine or specialist care, such as monitoring for pre-existing conditions or the need for repeat prescriptions, may be covered by the EHIC but are determined by the healthcare provider if it's necessary.

The EHIC is only accepted at public hospitals and health centers, and should not replace travel insurance. Click here for more information about the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The National Health Service

Launched in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) believes that good healthcare should be made available to everyone, regardless of social status or wealth. Changes made to the NHS in 2013 resulted in a restructuring of services. Under the old system, the NHS trusts helped with the management of NHS hospital care in England, including community care and mental health services. As an example, London NHS served as the primary care trust for London and helped in the management of NHS primary, secondary and community health services in the area. The present NHS system provides care through NHS foundation trusts and NHS trusts for ambulance services, emergency care, and mental health services.

To be eligible for public healthcare under the NHS, you should be ordinarily resident in the UK. This means you're living in the UK legally, and you may be asked to show proof of address and an ID with your name and birthdate such as a passport or driver's license. Any free NHS treatment you may receive won't affect your immigration status. Hospital treatment is free and does not depend on your nationality, being registered with a GP, having an NHS number, payment of UK taxes or the National Insurance, or owning property.

British expat retirees living in an EEA country or Switzerland can avail of free NHS hospital treatment once they return to England if they have a registered and valid UK S1 form with the relevant health authorities in their country of residence. Former UK residents residing outside the EEA should make sure their personal health insurance is currently active to obtain free NHS hospital treatment. Otherwise, they will be charged 150 percent of the NHS fees for any care they receive.

Some services and treatments at NHS hospitals are free for everyone such as accident and emergency services. But there may be instances where you may be asked to pay for in-patient treatment, so check if your international health insurance can cover the cost. For other free NHS hospital services, click here.

Dependents of expats including spouses, partners, and children under the age of 16 are also eligible for free treatment under the NHS as long as they also reside in the UK. Expats should check if their home countries have any bilateral healthcare agreements with the UK, which may exempt them from certain payments for NHS hospital treatments. Visit NHS Choicesfor the list of exemptions.

Primary Care

Independent general practitioners (GPs), dentists, optometrists, and pharmacists are the first point of contact in primary care for patients when they need medical treatment. Patients can also get primary care via the NHS walk-in centers or urgent care centers for minor injuries. They can also call the NHS 111 telephone service for medical help or advice as long as it's not for a life-threatening situation. Otherwise, call 999 for emergency service.

Once you're in London, register with a local GP and fill out the paperwork for you and your dependents. You can also get your 10-digit NHS ID number at your GP. There's no fee for NHS GP registration or consultation but it's up to the GP to decide whether to accept new patients or not. With your GP's help, you can ask for a referral letter for specialist treatment, and you may specify whether you wish to go to a public hospital or private hospital. The NHS also offers online GP services for patients, making it easier to book and cancel appointments, refill prescriptions, and view their GP records.

For dental care, note that dentists are self-employed contractors who work with NHS England. Thus, you may be charged for any dental services you receive under NHS coverage. This may include emergency dental treatment, examinations, and diagnosis including X-rays, fillings, root canal or extractions, and dental crown fittings, bridges, and other laboratory work. There are certain NHS dental treatments for free, and patients may be exempted wholly or partially due to age, pregnancy or income.

Getting Secondary Care

Secondary care is called acute healthcare in the UK and refers to emergency treatment or elective care. Elective care covers specialist consultations and surgeries as these can be scheduled in advance. Such services in NHS hospital and community services are managed by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which include rehabilitative care, urgent and emergency care, rehabilitative care, mental health and learning disability services, most community health services, and some GP services.

If you have a referral letter from your GP for specialist treatment at a hospital, you can choose to go to any hospital in England, including private hospitals and NHS hospitals. However, be prepared to wait because there are a limited number of specialists in the UK who accept NHS patients, and waiting times to get an appointment are notoriously long in certain circumstances.

What if you're not eligible for NHS cover? Then you need to pay for your medical treatments yourself. But if you find yourself with a life-threatening condition, you won't be refused treatment even if you don't qualify for public healthcare. If there's no real emergency but your treatment needs to begin immediately, the medical staff may ask you to sign an "undertaking to pay." Find out the cost of the treatment before signing anything. As a patient, you have the right to delay or even refuse treatment in the UK until you have the money available, as long as there is no medical emergency.

For a list of all NHS services available, please visit

Educational System in London

For expatriate families, education for their children is always the top priority. The educational system in England includes a huge number of renowned educational institutions catering to a global student population for all levels - from primary education to tertiary level and post-graduate studies. Moving to London with your children? In England's capital, the London educational system is composed of state-funded nursery, primary and secondary schools as well as independent schools, international schools and world-renowned universities that help shape future global leaders and citizens. Get to know the London education system works to find the best school environment for your children.

Education in England: Primary Schools and Secondary Schools

In London, expat families have a wide range of schools to choose from when it comes to their children's education. Expat children in England between the ages of 5 and 16 who are the dependents of a person legally allowed to live in the United Kingdom can attend state primary schools and secondary schools for free. You can choose to send your child to a state school, an independent school or private school, international schools, or to home-school them yourself, which is legally permitted.

There are two types of schools which you can choose for your child: state schools and independent schools. State schools are the equivalent of public schools such as those in the US and Canada, while independent schools are synonymous with private schools. Schools in London, both public and private, vary widely in terms of the quality of education as well as facilities. All schools may also have different policies regarding admissions, school fees and term times.

Public Schooling System: State-Funded Schools

In England, a state school or state-funded school is the equivalent of a public school in the US, where the government pays for children's education via state funds such as taxes. Grammar schools and comprehensive schools are considered state schools, as are free schools and academies. A majority of state schools have their own admission requirements and enrollment process.

Based on data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there are many state-funded schools in the London education system. There are currently 49 for nursery schools, 710 for primary, 190 for secondary, and 61 for Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) located in Inner London. Outer London plays host to 30 nursery schools, 1,107 primary schools, 315 secondary schools and 82 for SEND. The schools in each area are under the supervision of the local authorities for education, which in turn reports to the Department for Education (DfE), and are regularly inspected by the Office for Standards in Education or Ofsted.

If you plan to enroll your child into a state school, please remember that state schools prioritize pupils who reside within the school's catchment area. Be aware that your child can't apply for a place in a state school unless you're already residing in London. Thus, expats should carefully consider the London borough area where they want to live as this has a direct bearing on the school their child can attend.

State schools in London follow the National Curriculum for England, which sets established educational knowledge goals at various ages. The curriculum is divided into four Key Stages that each has a prescribed list of subjects to be taught.

The Foundation Stage (which includes Reception) is for ages two to five, and the equivalent of Nursery school. Key Stage 1 serves as primary education for those aged five to 11, which are the years of primary school. The course of study includes core subjects like English, Mathematics, Science, Art, and Design, Computing, Design and Technology, Geography, History, Music, and Physical Education. For those aged 7 to 11 at Key Stage 2, Languages are added to the list.

At Key Stage 3, which is the equivalent of junior high school for those aged 11 to 14, Citizenship is included in the curriculum. In 2016, around 59 percent of students attending school in London met or exceeded the new expected standard for reading, writing, and mathematics in the age 11 group versus the national average of 53 percent. By Key Stage 4, which is usually around 14 to 16 and similar to secondary school, core subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science, Citizenship, Computing, and Physical Education are studied along with Religious Education, Careers Education, and Work-Related learning. Key Stage 4 is also the period when students take the General Certificate of Secondary Education exams (GCSE) for core subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science, Languages, and Humanities to be eligible for a leaving certificate and enter university.

Students who reach Key Stage 5 at 16 may leave school but are still required to do further study through academic or vocational studies. They can do this by enrolling in a Further Education (FE) college, or the "sixth form," to achieve A-level qualifications to enter university, or qualify for work-based apprenticeships.

Private Education: Independent Schools

Many students in London choose private education over state schools as a matter of choice. Private schools, or independent schools as they're more popularly known, are not funded by the government and requires parents to pay fees for admission. Preparatory schools or prep schools are also available for younger children up to age 13 to help them gain entry to independent schools.

Unlike state schools, parents of expat children may apply for a place in private schools even if they're not yet living in London. However, be prepared to pay high fees to get a place. According to a report from 2015, London posted the highest cost at around GBP 15,500 per year for day students in private schools.

 A good number of private schools in London with a big international student population are willing to admit expat children even in the middle of a school year. Many are equipped with staff who assist families relocating from outside the UK to London. However, planning ahead is still one of the best ways to find school places, especially in some of the more well-known private schools such as Harrow School, the Godolphin and Latymer School, and King's College School.

Many independent schools can be found in London, with 2018 data from the ONS showing 272 private schools in Inner London with a total population of 77, 886, and 272 schools in Outer London with a total enrollment of nearly 71,000 students.

Since independent schools are privately run, many have their own curriculum but a growing number of schools offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Other schools are also religiously affiliated or feature alternative learning philosophies as well as cater to special needs students such as the East London Independent School (ELIS). Independent schools are not required to follow the National Curriculum but must still be registered with the UK government. Such institutions are inspected regularly by the Independent Schools Inspectorate via a framework agreed between the Department for Education and Ofsted if the school is affiliated with the Independent Schools Council (ISC). The ISC represents around 1,300 schools that collectively educate over 80 percent of students in the UK's independent sector.

Based on the 2018 ISC census, most independent schools in the ISC network have a student population of 200 to 350 pupils. Around 24 percent of the student population in ISC member schools achieve the maximum score of 45 points for the IB program, and 91 percent go on to higher education at prestigious universities.

International Schools

International schools are familiar ground for expat families. While they command much higher fees than private schools, many offer learning continuity in terms of their school curriculum which may be the same or similar to the student's school in their home country.

There are also international schools which use other languages other than English for primary instruction – or "mother tongue" - including German, French, and Japanese. ISC schools in 2017 counted 23,192 non-British students with parents living in the UK, with 42 percent coming from the European Economic Area (EEA), and 14 percent originating from the US.

Aside from the admission fees and tests, there may also be added costs for uniforms, school meals, athletics and extra-curricular activities such as immersion trips abroad. Admission requirements will also greatly vary from school to school so it's best to contact your preferred school directly to get information firsthand.

Some of the international schools in London popular with expat families are the Southbank International School, International Community School (ICS), International School of London, La Petite Ecole Bilingue and the Deutsche Schule London.

The Home Office website at allows you to compare schools or colleges in the UK using the name of the school or college, or its reference number (URN). You may also search using the postcode, town or street name. For school terms and holidays, click here.

To view the schools located in Greater London, use the Greater London Authority's (GLA) interactive London Schools Atlas to see the location and basic information. 

Transport Options in London

It's hard to imagine a British cup of tea without a delicious scone. Now imagine Great Britain without the London Underground, red double-decker buses, or its London Black Cabs. Getting around one of the most famous cities in the world is impossible without taking these types of public transport. Now that you're moving to the capital of the UK, hop on and get to know your transport options in London!     

London's Big City Problems

London IS as a big city. With a population of nearly 8 million in the City of London alone and over 13 million in Greater London, it requires a sophisticated and efficient public transport network to navigate it.

However, being a global city does come with its own share of problems regarding traffic congestion and public transport difficulties. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), transport expenses took up the biggest chunk of households' weekly budget in 2017 at around GBP 79.70 weekly.

Driving in London? Leave the Car at Home

London has 213 cars for every 1,000 persons, according to a June 2018 urban transportation report by global management consulting firm McKinsey.Most vehicle owners live in the outskirts of London or have young families that make it difficult to take public transport. Otherwise, the majority of Londoners find it easier to take public transport, ride a bike or walk than to take the car for several reasons.


Parking is notoriously expensive in London, and car parks fill up immediately. Many streets in London are considered Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ), which are areas reserved for residents who pay an annual fee to park in front of their own homes. Other areas have parking meters by the roadside, which can also be expensive.

In August 2018, the City of London Corporation also began charging fees for street parking based on an "emissions charge." The goal is to reduce nitrogen oxide and other pollutants in the air and to encourage drivers to use "cleaner" vehicles. Diesel vehicles and gasoline-fed vehicles pay more, with GBP 1.30 for 15 minutes, and GBP 5.20 for one hour. Electric and hybrid vehicles pay less at only GBP 1.00 per 15 minutes and GBP 4.00 per hour.

The Congestion Charge and the T-Charge

To prevent streets from clogging up with vehicles during peak hours, London implements a Congestion Charge. The charge is GBP 11.50 daily for driving within the charging zone between 7 am and 6 pm from Monday to Friday.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan introduced the T-Charge or Toxicity Charge in October 2017 to curb vehicle pollution. Older vehicles that don't meet Euro 4 standards have to pay an additional GBP 10.00 charge on top of the Congestion Charge to enter Central London within the Congestion Charge Zone. The charge applies to diesel and gasoline vehicles registered before 2006.

By April 2019, the T-Charge will be replaced by the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which covers the same area as the T-Charge. The difference is that the ULEZ is applicable 24/7, 365 days a year, and will cost GBP 12.50 per day for cars, vans and motorcycles, and GBP 100 a day for trucks, buses, and coaches.

Choosing Public Transport

London is cited in the McKinsey Urban Transport Systems report for the external connectivity and ecological sustainability of its public transport system. Accessibility and public transport efficiency gave London high scores, as its trains, trams, and commuter rail network are complemented by buses, taxi, river services, and even cable cars to bring next-level urban mobility to its residents.

The London Underground, Overground and Other Rail Services

The London Underground carried 109.2 million passengers in the month of October 2018 alone over 402 kilometres of track spread via its 11 lines traversing all through London. The Tube is the most popular mode of transport in London and has been operating since 1863. Set to open in the autumn of 2019 is the Crossrail line. It spans 118 kilometres between London and the home counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Essex, and will be called the Elizabeth line in honour of Queen Elizabeth II.

On the other hand, the London Overground provides rail services to connect the Greater London suburbs and Hertfordshire. Waterloo Station is the busiest railway station and passes through Wimbledon, Portsmouth Harbor, and Hampton Court, among others.

Another popular rail option is the Heathrow Express. The service operates between London Heathrow Airport and Paddington Terminus in Central London. Meanwhile, the Southern trains service commuters coming from the Central London terminus at London Bridge and London Victoria up to South London and Sussex.

Docklands Light Railway

Part of the London Rail division of Transport for London, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) serves East London via a computerized, driverless system. The automated system opened in 1985 to serve the redeveloped Docklands area and has racked up 9 million passengers on average in 2018 alone.

London Buses

London's red double-decker buses are a familiar sight on the roads. There are now 2,500 hybrid electric buses out of the 9,300 currently plying the streets of London to help reduce air pollution. There are night bus services available, with certain 24-hour routes in operation both day and night. Passengers can now get bus arrival information down to the minute through their smartphones or online.

London Trams

The London Trams averaged 2.2 million passengers so far in 2018 and is known for its blue and green livery. The light rail tram system primarily serves Croydon and its surrounding areas in South London along 27 kilometres of track dotted with 39 stops.

London River Services

In the past, travel on the River Thames was popular until the construction of numerous bridges and tunnels hampered river service. The London River Services was reborn as part of the Millennium Celebrations in London and is now a popular option to travel.

The Emirates Air-Line

You can now commute through London using the Emirates Air-Line, an urban cable car system that crosses the River Thames between Greenwich and the Royal Docks in 10 minutes. The shorter journey time makes for a less stressful commute. The service maintains 38 cable cars, with 36 in constant operation to carry passengers, including wheelchair users and cyclists.

London Black Cabs

London's black taxicabs are famous for requiring its drivers to pass a test called The Knowledge, which involves remembering very detailed information about London streets, buildings and more. The minimum fare for black taxis is GBP 3.00, but there's no extra charge for additional passengers, luggage or service dogs.

Walking and Cycling

London's plan to encourage a healthier lifestyle and create a greener city is to improve street environments to make walking and cycling more convenient. The goal also includes creating housing estates within easy walking distance of transport hubs and stations, to make it easier for residents to use public transport.

The Oyster card and Travel Card

Thanks to Mayor Sadiq Khan's goal of making public transport more affordable, fares remain at their 2016 levels until the year 2020. If you have an Oyster card, make sure to take advantage of the Hopper fares. If your travel requires riding a second bus or tram, that ride is free if you finish it within one hour of your commute.

Having a Travelcard and Oyster card in your wallet at all times makes commuting in London a lot easier. The Oyster card the most commonly used travel pass by Londoners to pay fares on just about all the public transport services. Payment using contactless cards or through mobile payment facilities like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay are also accepted. Visitors to London may buy an Oyster card or London Pass for sight-seeing.

For more information about London's transport system, visit the Transport for London (TfL) website at