A couple of Aussies living in London: Part 3 – Arriving in the UK: Where to live? Utility bills, bank accounts, National Insurance Number
We’ve had so many people come up to us and ask us …
“How do you pack up everything and relocate across the other side of the world?”
For us, the answer was quite simple… We wanted to experience as much of this world as we possibly could.
This post is the 3rd in a series of posts that we will be publishing about our journey of relocating from Australia to the UK. Our blogs will cover the following:
Part 1: Our story
Part 2: Relocating from Sydney to the UK, including visa information as well as packing and logistics
Part 3: This post! Arriving in the UK. Where to live? How to set up internet and utility bills, bank accounts, National Insurance Number and a guide to the NHS
Part 4: Living & Working in London. How to find work, Driving in the UK, day-to-day shopping, transferring money to and from the UK & Public Transport
Part 5: Travelling Europe and how to make the best of your available time, including many travel tips!
Moving to London
Before you arrive, make sure you’ve set up some sort of accommodation. Whether it be staying with friends, an Air B&B, hotel or temporary accommodation – just something. The last thing you want to do is get off a long haul flight and not have somewhere to for a nice shower and sleep!
We had two weeks temporary accommodation provided to us through work where. Having this meant that we could set ourselves up and start looking for a place!
Finding somewhere to live
Having temporary accommodation was a big relief, but we did need to lock something in quickly before our arrangement ran out! We used a relocation agent to help us find a property, help us with the paperwork and negotiate with the property agent.
We spent quite a bit of time before getting to London liaising with our agent to make sure we had the right areas locked in for inspections. If you’ve started looking at properties on the market, there is a good chance the property won’t be available. The property agents’ don’t tend to take properties off the market, especially if they were well priced and nice to lure more potential to their agency, yes, pretty annoying if I must say so myself.
We narrowed our search down to West Hampstead. I had work commitments in a couple of offices, both central London as well as St Albans and also tend to work out at my client’s premises – a well-connected location was a must! West Hampstead had the National Rail direct to St Albans, the underground, the overground and plenty of buses should we ever need that!
It seemed perfect, and it was.
When you’re looking for somewhere to live, it needs to have the things you like around you for it to work. For example, we were able to take a walk up to Hampstead Heath on weekends, enjoy a nice run through the heath and grab breakfast at a nice cafe on our way home.
There were local bars, pubs, restaurant, grocery stores (three to be precise to choose from!) and plenty more things. It was super convenient.
You will find a lot of Aussies head to Clapham Common or Wimbledon, so it depends on what you’re after as to where you look. If you have friends already living in London, I’d suggest living close to them as getting from one side of London to the other can be extremely time-consuming!
Setting up a National Insurance Number & Bank Account
We had absolutely no idea what a National Insurance (NI) number was when we first moved over. It is essentially your Tax File Number which you need to have when you’re working.
In most cases, you may be able to start work without it but just be cautious as you don’t want your employer to withhold your pay because you don’t have your NI number. You really need to get this done as soon as possible after moving to London. Click here for info on how to apply for this.
Not only do you need this for work, but if you plan on using the NHS you will need it for this as well.
And then comes the bank account… you obviously need this before you start work as you will need something for your pay to be deposited in. We went with NatWest international simply because it was the easiest account for us to open while still living in Australia, in particular as NatWest International is based in Jersey and familiar with Expatriates.
We had no issues with them overall, however… because they are an International bank, they don’t have any physical branches in London, it is not to be confused with NatWest bank (affiliated but not the same!).
The only hurdle we had to overcome was getting cash out in our first week of getting to London. The issue was that we needed to pay the bond and fees for our apartment and at that stage had not received our new bank debit cards and given the value did not want to use our Australian credit cards. NatWest International was, however, able to provide authority to a NatWest branch (via fax) to provide us with funds after the internal paperwork and funds transfers were complete – a little confusing and very stressful but once we got our bank cards we were set.
The only issue you may have when setting both your NI and bank account up is the fact that you normally need proof of address before applying (a bit of an issue!). Many of you probably won’t have an address until after a few weeks of moving so you’re in a bit of a pickle.
I would strongly recommend reaching out to a friend, ask permission and confirm their address to use on the forms, at least you will have a trustworthy (hopefully) location to have your documents mailed. If you don’t know anyone, an alternative may be to use your work address (although this may not work) or to speak with the staff at your hostel or hotel and ask if you can use their address.
Once you have your address sorted, there is a good chance the bank will seek proof of you actually living there. This is normally in the form of a bank statement, or utility bill. If you can change your billing address on your Australian bank account, you can then get a statement printed with the new address and you will be able to use that… If you have any other suggestions – comment below!
Once you have everything sorted, make an appointment with the bank and get everything locked away. You will need proof of ID, so take your passport with you and if you have been lucky enough to secure a job, take in your contract as well. They normally need to complete a 100 point check to confirm your ID so maybe take your licence, credit card or any other cards or documentation with photo ID and details present – the more information you take the less chance of any issues.
A guide to the NHS
This was probably one of the most frustrating things we had to deal with when we moved to the UK. In Australia, we can go to any GP, any location and not have to worry about it. In London, you need to be registered with a GP and a practice (close to your house) and you can normally only be registered with one GP at a time.
The last thing you want is to be caught out, need a doctor but realise you’re unable to book an appointment because you haven’t registered yet. So, as soon as you have moved in and found a place, find your local GP and read the reviews to ensure you’re happy and then go ahead and make an initial appointment which is usually with a nurse and get yourself registered. Once you’re registered, you can then make an appointment to see a doctor.
Our GP was pretty good, they kept appointments available for walk-ins on the day which was fantastic as there were bookings for weeks or even months in advance (I guess depending on where you live!). Our GP ran 10 minutes appointment slots and never ran over – it was fantastic. The other great thing about the GP’s over in London is that if you have a repeat prescription, and if you’ve been a few times before you can normally just phone up and they’ll leave it at the reception desk for you to collect – no appointment necessary!
Walk-in Clinics: If you’re travelling within the UK and you fall ill, don’t panic! There are walk-in clinics around which are available to everyone and you don’t need to be registered. The downside to this is that the wait time can often be a few hours.
Hospitals: If your GP refers you to the hospital, the chances are it won’t cost you anything. The treatment is typically free for residents of the UK and extends to those people who are legally allowed to be living in the UK.
A&E (Emergency): A&E is what they call the emergency room – it stands for Accident & Emergency. If you’re looking for your closest A&E, click here. You might need to make a visit if you’re stuck out of your GPs opening hours and you have an urgent issue! But, expect to wait for a few hours as you would any other emergency department.
Dentist: This is an area we didn’t have great experiences in. To be honest, we only went when we needed to for a check up and waited until we got back to Australia for our more serious dental work to be done. If you go to a dentist that is part of the NHS then the costs will be lower than that of a Private dentist.
Jenna went to a private dentist first up and it cost a small fortune. I guess we are used to having these things covered in our private health back in Australia so having to pay a couple hundred pounds out-of-pocket was a bit of a shock… especially given not much was actually done!
We then went to a cheaper private dentist and it was a disaster. The equipment they were using seemed from the 90’s and he said he didn’t do white fillings… only silver ones – who does that anymore!! Anyways, needless to say, we never went back. I suspect if you went to the NHS dentist you may get similar service with a longer waiting time. Click here for a guide on pricing for the NHS dentist.
Many employers in the UK will also have medical insurance available, check what you’re covered for and see a proper private dentist if you can. It is worth the extra if you’re there for a long period of time… you only get one set of teeth (well… unless you replace them all and have endless amounts of money!!)
Contact details: The emergency number in the UK is 999 and that is for the typical emergency services such as Ambulance, Fire Brigade and Police. If you need to contact the NHS for medical advice or help (that is not life threatening) then you can call them on 111. They can also advise what service you need so give them a call if you need.
Setting up utilities
Before you even get a place, you will want to arrange a UK Sim card. You can then use that while you’re living abroad. There are a few providers you can choose from, I was with O2 and Jenna was with EE. There is also Vodafone. Check out each of them and see which provider can give you the best deal.
Gas & Electricity: We went with British Gas and had no complaints. Their online service was great and was quick and easy to set up.
Water: We chose Thames Water and again had no issues with them.
Internet: We went with BT. Also, no issues and they had great, fast internet!
TV Licence: Yes, I know… seems a bit archaic doesn’t it? If you plan on having a TV in your flat, you will need a TV licence. If you don’t and get a knock at the door, you will need to pay a fine. My advice, just pay the licence fee!
There are other companies out there so just make sure you check rates and pick one that suits your budget.
Click here for all posts London related!
“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton
Do you have any tips? Comment below!