If you’re just tuning in to my blog and feel as though you’ve walked in mid-conversation, head over to Working Abroad: Getting There and get yourself caught up. This part is 100% specific to London but I’m sure you’ll be able to get a fair idea of what you’ll need to do when you reach your Destination X. If you’re headed elsewhere, just pay no attention to the specifics here.
Regardless of where you are off to though, this part, getting set up is where a company such as The Working Holiday will prove to be your guardian angels. It can be a bit daunting to have to organise your bank account, housing and UK tax file number equivalent when you require at least one to get the other (ie; home address to set up your bank account or vice versa). When going through a working holiday company you can choose to include to have these things taken care of for you which takes a lot of pressure off you. However, if you are set on doing this all by yourself, it is possible, albeit stressful, and a bit fiddly; don’t say I didn’t warn you.
There is no real order to which you should go about getting set upon, however, once you get one item ticked off the list, the ball starts rolling and it’s easier from there. But I’ll just go with my experience and order this the way I did it.
National Insurance Number
10 Days to get this bad boy sorted.
When you get your visa sent back you’ll also receive a number you need to call once you’re in the UK to get your National Insurance Number (NI). I called through on my second day in the UK as you need to set up an appointment at the nearest office – they will find this for you, no need to research and stress out about that. Definitely best to give yourself too much time as opposed to not enough.
Because earplugs aren’t an option when you need to wake up at 4am
For my first few weeks in London I found myself living in a Hostel whilst I got myself setup. While it’s good for a time, there’s a point when you need to be able to sit in your knickers, eating a pack of chips and bingeing on Orphan Black; and although I’m sure this isn’t banned, it’s most likely frowned upon. I used websites such as Flatmates, to not only search for room vacancies but to advertise my need for one. Some pointers here:
1) As a safety precaution I would recommend not uploading a photo of yourself as it can get the attention of the wrong people.
2) Be wary of adverts looking for Roommates. In Australia we use this word quite loosely often referring to our housemates, that’s generally not the case in places like the UK. When they say roommate they mean a mate with whom you share your room.
3) Some areas where you’ll be able to find ‘decent’ (I use this word lightly) rent for your own room that isn’t too much of a trek to the city centre like Acton Town and Shepherds Bush out West, or Leyton/Leytonstone out North East. These places are awesome as they are along the Piccadilly (navy) and Central (Red) and District (Green) lines, this generally means you won’t need to change trains. I don’t suggest South of London as there aren’t many lines that service South of the Thames and as for North London, the Northern and Bakerloo lines are pretty unreliable.
4) Some landlords may be hesitant to lease to you until you have a job or even a bank account, I find that honesty is the best policy. Also if you’re able to pay a 4-6 weeks in advance they’re all good. Just pretty please make sure you get it all in writing before you hand over that poundage!
Shut up and take my money!
I can’t really advise on one particular bank that is better than the others. You’ll stumble upon the same 4 or 5 multiple times whilst walking along popular streets. They all appear to be pretty accessible but I will have to leave you to your own devices when it comes to choosing as I walked into the first bank I saw and ended up setting up my account with them. In saying that, I wasn’t able to set it up on the spot, you will need to make an appointment to open your account and will need to provide documents such as your visa, passport and National Insurance Number etc. When it comes to transferring your money over, do it in one big chunk to avoid paying multiple fees. Otherwise, I put all my money onto my currency card – as my bank did not charge for loading and had a pretty good rate – withdrew it and then cashed it in at the bank.
After all, when your family and friends visit, you’re supposed to be the expert.
Get on the Hop-on Hop-off bus loops, go (window) shopping at Oxford Street and Harrod’s, soak up the gory history at the Tower of London or the genius of Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre. London has so much on offer and there is a number of great day trips or weekend getaways within reach! Stay tuned for more on “what to do and see, where to go and how to ‘do’ London in a day” – great to pass along to the family when they drop by for a holiday but you need to work.