Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tips on Relocating to London - 5 things to do within the first month

Now that you got a job offer in London, what’s next? Fine, you firm has probably arrange for a relocation company to ease your transition into the UK. That said, other than applying for a work permit (which is of paramount importance) and arranging for your initial lodgings, the relocation company wouldn’t be much of a help.


With most of your days spent in the office, you’re unlikely to have much time to figure what’s important and what’s not. Well, let’s take a look at the five things that you have to do within the first month of you reaching London.

1. Get an Oyster Card

Depending on how you are getting from Heathrow Airport into London (see how to get from Heathrow Airport to London), please get an Oyster card either right at the airport or at the first London Underground (Tube) station that you encounter. That’s basically used for tapping in/out of Tube stations and buses.

Always get a stored value Oyster card (read why you should get an Oyster Card) even if you plan to leave London within a month. A one trip Oyster card will set you back by £4 while a stored value version will cost less than half of that. Also, the £3 deposit for the stored value card is fully refundable. Go figure.

2. Get connected back home

Once you touch down into London, you probably like to call your folks back home. You’re most like to be calling using your mobile phone’s auto-roaming, which can be expensive.

If you have not already, get a Skype account. I have been with Skype for the last couple of years and has not looked back since. Some drawbacks include the fact that there are cheaper options around and you do need an internet wifi connection. However, Skype’s free if you call to another Skype account so do get your folks’ Skype account set up before you leave. Also, Skype offers video conferencing too.

However, once you are properly settled down, check out LycaTalk. Unlike Skype, it doesn’t have any connection charge and has one of the lowest per minute cost in the UK. Calling back to Singapore costs 0.5p/min compared to Skype’s 1.4p/min. That said, the website is kind of cranky and the topping up process can be a bit unreliable at times.

3. Opening up a Bank Account

Setting up a bank account almost immediately is of utmost importance. For starters, you’ll need an account to channel your salary into as well as your rent deducted from. While some employers will point you towards NatWest, I have
come across some comments about the process with NatWest can be rather tedious.

Before heading to the UK, check whether your local bank has a presence in the UK. Names like HSBC, Barclays, Citibank, Standard Chartered (just to name a few) have got branches in many major cities. So if you have an account with any of them, check whether they can help you set up an account in their UK branch. I know for a fact that HSBC does that for a fee.

In any event, when opening up a bank account, you’ll need to provide proof of identity, residence and employment. That basically mean your passport, a valid work permit as well as your company’s reference. If the papers are in order, it should not take more than a couple of days. Other than a cash card, which allows you to draw cash from cash machines (or ATMs), apply for a credit card on the same account as well. For more information about opening up a UK bank account, refer to Directgov.

4. Getting a National Insurance (NI) number

This is for the taxman. Without the correct National Insurance number, the HM Revenue and Custom will not be able to ascertain the correct amount of tax you need to pay. Once you have started work, your HR will also be asking you about this as well. Ironically, your HR should be arranging for your application for a National Insurance number.

In any event, you can kick start the process by calling up your local Job Centre Plus (at 0845 604 3719) and arrange for an interview appointment. The interview is just to confirm your identity and will take only a couple of minutes provided that your papers are in order. Your National Insurance number will be issued to you a couple of weeks after the interview. For more on National Insurance number, refer to DirectGov.

5. Register for the National Health Services (NHS)

While there is always private healthcare (BUPA etc.) available, their services don’t come cheap. Expect to pay £60 upwards for the first fifteen minutes of GP consultation. Unless your firm has an in-house GP, your personal or company insurance will require that you get a referral from a GP before any payout. So it might be worth your while to get registered with the National Health Services. Refer to NHS website for registration procedure.

As NHS centres/clinics are localised, you can only register for the one within your area and there has to be spaces available. NHS clinics get their funding from the number of people registered with them and there is a maximum number of people registered with each.

You might have already guessed that not all NHS clinics are created equal. Some are really decent and others are downright bad. Find out which are the better ones in your neighbourhood, check out their user ratings before registering with them.

Naturally, you might have to change your NHS clinics if you move to a more permanent accommodation. Just give the new clinic a call and request that they transfer your records over.

So these are the five things that you have to do within the first month of you relocating to London. Of course, you can do all these while looking for your permanent accommodation (read London Accommodation Guide).

More often than not, you'll come across a property, which lease might not overlap with your current temporary accommodation. If that's the case, a facility storage is required. Check out Storage London for competitive prices and secure lock ups.

Did I miss anything here?

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Helena Lim said...

i have some to add:

6. Get yourself a thick cashmere scarf and some thick woolly coats + a 13.5 tog duvet for the cold wintery/spring (still cold) months in london.

7. Stock up at least 10 portable mini umbrellas. You need one in your bag all the time and with the strong wind, one umbrella per month. You'll exhaust your stash soon enough - so always keep some handy.

C K said...

Wow, you got yourself a heavy duty duvet over there. Ever thought of getting a electric blanket heater? Just slot it beneath your blanket cover and there's no need to store it away during the hot summer. :)

Cannot agree more with you on the umbrellas. Got quite a number of NTUC ones when I'm back in Singapore. But realise that it's not very practical if the wind starts to act up.

Abel Brown said...
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