So you’ve decided to move to the UK…

Congratulations! Making the decision to move is the first big step I reckon. Yes it’s scary and yes it’s a big deal but rest assured, it’s going to be one of the most amazing experiences of your life. And you’re going to love it, even when you have days where you absolutely hate it!

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While my decision to move was a long time coming, I really did just pick a date, bought a one-way ticket and then did the countdown. Of course, there were bits and pieces in between but I did it the way I did because I knew if I didn’t, then I’d waste more time talking myself out of it.

The key to success I think is to be prepared. I know it sounds like a total cliché but if you want to do well, you will need to do your research. And lots of it. There are plenty of guides online and blogs by people who have been in your shoes and I really think they helped me with my planning. In saying that, I also felt like there needed to be more people blogging about their experiences because it’s always so fascinating to read! Everyone experiences moving to a new country differently so getting a variety of perspectives is always handy.

In saying this, here are some of my tips and experiences to add to the mix to help you prepare for your big adventure. While my advice would be more relatable to a fellow Kiwi, I’m sure there are still some bits and pieces non-Kiwis will find helpful.

The important things before the trip

This is the kind of boring part of the whole process but it’s also the most important. If you don’t get these things sorted, honey, you ain’t going anywhere!

Make sure your passport is up-to-date! Or if you’re like me, make sure you get your passport! Cause guess what… if you don’t have your passport, you’re not leaving the country!

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetBefore I bought my ticket, I applied for my passport. In New Zealand, it costs $180 to get a passport. This is the standard fee but if you need to get one urgently, it’ll cost about $360. Mine took about a week to arrive and I was so happy when I finally got it in my hot little hands!

You can find all the information you need about getting your New Zealand passport here.

Now that you’ve got your important little booklet with your swanky, ‘just got out of prison’ photo (or is that just me?), it’s time to think visa. As a New Zealand citizen, if you’re between the ages of 18 to 30, you can apply for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa, which entitles you to live and work in the UK for two years. If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents that were born in the UK, you can apply for an Ancestry visa, which entitles you to live and work in the UK for five years, after which you could probably apply to be a resident.

It’s important to note that you can only apply for your visa six months before you intend to travel. So if you’ve chosen a date that’s far, far into the future, make sure you note down in your calendar when it’s time to apply for your visa.

For a Tier 5 visa, there are fees you need to pay:

  • £244 application fee
  • £300 healthcare surcharge
  • £1,890 in savings – I’ve included this as an expense because you need to be able to show that you’ve got equivalent to this amount in your bank account as part of your application

It doesn’t take long for your application to get processed… well, I didn’t think it did anyways. Once you’ve applied, a decision will be made and you’ll get a letter in the post confirming the outcome. My memory is a bit fuzzy but after my application had been approved, I had to go down to Wellington for an appointment to get my photo taken and to get my fingerprints into the system for my biometric residence permit (BRP). A BRP is a little card you get when you arrive in the UK and it’s a form of ID that confirms your right to live and work in the UK.

Once that’s done, you’ve got your visa sorted! All the boring, legal stuff is now done and you get to move on to the more exciting parts!

If you want to check your eligibility or want to apply for a visa, check out this page.

Money honey!

I think it’s important to stress that the UK is not a cheap country. While groceries tend to be cheaper here, everything else is relatively expensive and I can’t stress enough that you should save, save, save and bring as much money as you can possibly can.

Based on my research, people have said a comfortable amount to save and bring with you is around £5000 so you’ve got enough for a deposit to move into your own place and enough to tie you over if you’re stuck without a job for months. I think it’s sound advice having now been here but I have to admit, I didn’t listen to this advice… only because I’m absolutely RUBBISH with saving.

So I came here with about £1500 in my bank account. I honestly thought that I’d probably have to move back to New Zealand in a week because there was no way I could’ve survived on that, especially if I was paying for my own accommodation.

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I was EXTREMELY lucky in two ways: I got a full-time job within two days and I had the luxury of staying with a friend for free while I settled. After I got my job though, I immediately went out to find a place of my own just because I’m the type of person that likes having her own space. So, I found a place in East London in the thriving metropolis that is Bow. I paid £1270 for the deposit and moved in the following day. The rest of my money went towards groceries and pillows, blankets, sheets, etc.

So yes, while I was very lucky and managed to get a job and a home in a couple of days of arriving, I could’ve also been extremely unlucky and not gotten either and would probably be back in New Zealand right now drowning myself in sorrow. I am a stickler for preparation… however, I’m also a useless saver and a damn good spender. So my advice to you, dear reader, is save as much as you can and unless you have a free home to go to and a job lined up (or know you’ve got a high chance of getting a job within a month), definitely bring more than £1500. I think the safest thing to do is to bring AT LEAST a month’s worth of living cost.

Bank accounts and transferring monies

When you get here, you’re going to want a bank account and a bankcard so you have access to your monies. It’s true what they say – it can be quite challenging to open a bank account. You’ll need to provide proof of address so the logical thing to do is to get your bank to send a copy of your latest bank statement to your new address in the UK. If you don’t have a home in the UK, then you’re screwed (but not really).

If you have friends or family in the UK and they are happy for you to use their address, have your bank send your statement there. Bear in mind though, they want proper hard copies of the statement, not a printout.

While I had my bank send my statements to my friend’s address, both Barclays and Lloyds wouldn’t accept my statements as it looked to them like a printout. It baffled me to be honest but oh well.

I was introduced to an online bank called Monese where you could open an account without having to provide copies of your bank statement. All you need to do is send them a copy of your identification and then bam, they give you an account and send you a contactless debit card. Easy! Monese has been great.

There’s also another online bank called Monzo which is quite popular in the UK actually. They have these insanely bright coral debit cards which I must say, gets a lot of attention every time I whip it out to use it. They also offer overdrafts which is great if you’ve got a credit record but as I don’t have one (and it’s likely you won’t either if you’re an expat), you won’t be eligible.

So if you’re struggling to apply for an account with ‘traditional’ banks, definitely give these ones a go, even if it’s just for a start.

With regards to transferring your monies from your current account to your UK account, I highly recommend Transferwise. I’ve used them religiously since arriving to transfer money to and from my New Zealand bank account. They’ve also got great exchange rates and best of all, no bank fees. They do charge a transfer fee but it’s quite nominal compared to what you’d pay at a bank or at an exchange counter. They also provide a calculator so you know exactly how much you’re going to get. Another bonus is that you usually get your money within a couple of hours!

BTW, I’m not sponsored by any of these companies (as much as I’d love to be!). I’ve tried them and highly rate them for the service they provide and just want to share the love!

Finding a flat 

Finding a new home is quite similar to finding one in New Zealand. There are flat sharing websites available, such as, Rightmove, Spareroom, Zoopla and you can also use Gumtree (though I’ve never actually used it).

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Most places are advertised via an agency. Move in costs are usually a month’s rent in advance, a bond (which is typically equivalent to one month’s rent) and sometimes, agency fees, which can be up to £200. As the rental market is a competitive one, if you find a place that you’re really keen on, some agencies require you to pay a ‘holding fee’ which comes off the move in costs when you sign the paperwork. This just tells them that you’re definitely serious about moving in and secures you as the tenant. Some agencies ask to do a reference check (so definitely ask your landlord back home if it’s okay for you to use them as a referee) and if you fail it, or if for some reason you lose out on the room/flat, you can lose the holding fee as well. So just be mindful of this…

Another thing to be mindful of is that you can actually secure a room before you’ve even arrived in the UK. So if you’re very keen, like I was, you can do your research, talk to agencies and if you like the look of a place, pay the holding fee and it’s yours when you arrive. I didn’t do this but I did book a few viewings before I arrived. Agencies also tend to want to work with you so if you tell them what you’re after, they’ll give you a list of places they have available that fits your requirements and that saves you having to do more searching.

In my experience, I never did the whole holding fee or had to do reference checks. When I got my place, I gave them £100 to hold my spot, signed the contract and then paid the remainder of the move in cost later that day once my money came through (thanks Transferwise!). I then picked up the keys the next day and moved in. As for the place that I’m in right now in Exmouth, it’s owned by a friend’s employer and I just paid a week rent in advance plus four weeks for bond and moved in immediately.

So again, it’s one of those things where everyone’s situation is different.

It’s also true what they say, you do come across some shocking places in London. Rental properties are EXTREMELY expensive and you get bugger all for what you pay. I was paying £585 a month including expenses for a room in a flat in Zone 2 where there was no lounge, no dining room and no garden area. There were six of us in the flat with one bathroom, one toilet and the tiniest of tiny kitchens. If you want to live in a decent place in either Zone 1 or 2, you’re gonna have to be prepared to shell out a lot of money.

The place I’m in now is a HUGE improvement and I pay £400 a month including expenses to live in the heart of Exmouth. It has a lounge and two bathrooms and there’s five of us that live here. The kitchen is open plan and it smells nice most of the time. Plus it’s clean and carpeted. I guess you expect to pay so much less and get so much more when you move outside of London.

Oh, and another thing that’s quite common here is, you don’t tend to meet the flatmates as most places are advertised through agencies. Some places are advertised privately so you do get to meet them before you move in. But most cases, you don’t, which can make it tricky when moving in and realising you’re going to be spending months with a bunch of awful people. If possible, try to meet them when you go for your viewing or try to get into a short-term contract where you can extend should you choose to stay longer.

Packing light and packing right

It’s a bit tricky to ascertain what you’ll need when you move over. I did a lot of trawling on Pinterest for some inspiration on what basic items I may need. I knew that I had to make sacrifices seeing as my baggage allowance was 32kg and I also knew that I’d end up accumulating a bunch of stuff once I was there anyways (cough, Primark, cough).

I did a lot of research on the season and what the typical weather would be like for March when I arrived. It was the end of winter so I knew it was going to be cold but as it was going into spring and summer, it was going to warm up. So using common sense and being inspired by Pinterest, I made sure to bring a coat, raincoat, clothes that could be used in both summer and winter (for example a pinafore that I could wear as a dress on it’s own in the warmer weather but I could also wear layers underneath when it’s colder).

Again, remember, if you forgot something or need something, you can always go shopping. After all, you’re not moving to the middle of nowhere!

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Okay I know I’ve basically made your eyes bleed with the amount of information I’ve put up but hopefully you’ve found the whole thing or at least aspects of it useful. Please don’t feel overwhelmed and end up putting off your trip! It’s a lot of information to take in but it’ll make so much more sense once you’re here.

There’s still heaps more to talk about like finding a job which I thought I’d save for the next post otherwise this would get WAAAAAAAY too long and there’s lots to talk about with that topic.

Let me know if you have any questions and if you’d like me to cover something in particular… I’m always open to new content! Until next time 🙂