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The Complete Guide to Moving to London - Essential Living

The Complete Guide to Moving to London

Blog London Lifestyle Guide to Renting

Back in 2021, the UK recorded around 58,000 people flocking to its shores and the majority of these singled out London as their destination of choice for making a new home. 

When relocating to London, whether it’s from other parts of the UK or further afield, there are plenty of things you’ll want to think about to make the move as stress-free as possible. With any relocation, there will always be worries and concerns. 

We’ve created this ‘Complete Guide to Moving to London’ to help answer any burning questions you may have about moving to the big city and put your mind at ease.  

However, with the correct information, moving and settling in London is one of the best decisions you can ever make. 


Should I move to London? 


River Thames in London


Uprooting your life is always going to be a hard decision to make, so right now you may be questioning whether London really is the right place to settle down. 

London is one of the most populated cities in the UK, being England’s capital and hub of British culture and tourism. There are over 9 million people living in London and its many boroughs as of 2020 and this number continues to grow year on year. Around 37% of those living in the city are not UK natives and 40% of that 9 million are Black and Minority Ethnic.

This melting pot of cultures has given London its vibrant personality and it’s easy to feel the buzz of the community as soon as you step into the city. 

London covers around 607 square miles and is divided into 32 boroughs. Each area of London is unique, with myriad neighbourhoods and villages offering something different. For example, taking a trip to Camden will offer a number of indie shops and vintage clothing boutiques, but walking around SoHo you’ll be greeted by theatre enthusiasts and professional creatives. 

When choosing where to live in London, it’s best to think about what kind of people and places you want to surround yourself with. This will help you to pick the borough that best suits your personality and ensures that you always have access to the type of London lifestyle you’ve been dreaming of. 


Getting around London


London Underground


Each area of London is easily accessible through the city’s reliable public transport network which includes regular tube services, buses, overground railways and plenty of taxi options. 

To make public transport accessible and affordable for all the city’s residents, the transport system is split into six zones. Zone 1 marks Central London where the majority of tourist attractions and major shopping districts are situated. Zone 6 marks the very outer regions of the city, which includes but is not limited to: 

  • Heathrow Airport 
  • Romford
  • Uxbridge
  • Barnet 

These zones make it much easier to understand transport charges and ticketing. For visitors, a simple Zone 1 ticket can be all you need, but if you’re planning to move to the city and need to get around or commute, it’s important to pay attention to these zones to ensure you have the correct ticket. 

You can pay for transport either at the designated ticket machines or at the turnstiles with a valid debit or credit card. If you’re moving to London we highly recommend getting an Oyster Card which is a pre-paid card you can use on the following modes of transport: 

  • Buses
  • Tube
  • Tram
  • Dockland Light Railway (The DLR)
  • London Overground
  • Most TfL Rail 
  • Emirates Air Line
  • Thames Clippers River Bus Service
  • Most National Rail Services in London 

Alternatively, if your bank card shows the contactless payment symbol, you can use it to pay as you go straight away.

If you’ll need regular public transport for commuting, you can also save money by purchasing an annual pass. Transport around the city is relatively cheap depending on how many of its zones you travel through, the more zones you go through the more costly your fare will be. 

There is a fare cap on London transport, which means how much you pay for all your journeys in a day or week is capped at a certain amount. This is extremely helpful if you find yourself travelling a lot. Keep in mind however that there are different caps for different times a day. For example, during peak times the cap will be higher than off-peak travel. 

Don’t forget to tap in and out when catching any of London’s transport services. You’ll see these yellow circular points at stations and on buses across the city. This keeps track of all the zones you move through along your journey and whether it’s off-peak or peak hours. Your payment card will then be charged accordingly once your journey is complete, but remember that you have to use the same card to touch in and out otherwise you may be charged the maximum fare and spend more than you need to. 

As well as London’s public transport, you’ll also find a number of Hackney Carriages, or black cabs, around the city. These can be more expensive than the public transport options, but great if you need to travel greater distances in a shorter amount of time. Keep in mind that for black taxis there is a minimum fare of £3.80 and all black cabs should be fitted with an approved TfL payment device so you can pay contactless.


Cost of Living in London


London House


There’s no denying that London – like most capital cities, can be an expensive place to live, however, there are lots of ways to keep costs down where needed. 

Based on statistics at the beginning of 2021, a single resident’s average monthly living cost was at least £2,000. However, this monthly spending rises almost two-fold for a household with four, where the average expenditure was around £3,500. It’s essential to note though that this spending may be lower or higher depending on your lifestyle.

The area you live in also directly impacts the cost of living with places within Zone 1 often being pricier than areas further out such as Zones 5 & 6. When you’ve decided on your budget, be sure to check out our list of the best places to live in London

It can be tricky to find the perfect balance, but if you choose one of the outer zones to save money on rent or your mortgage, you may end up paying more for travel. This is especially true if you’ll be working or commuting to the innermost zones of the city.   

Generally compared to other major cities such as New York and Milan, London has a moderate cost of living. The only variances come within areas such as housing. The kind of house you settle for, its neighbourhood and the question of buying or renting all matter when considering the actual cost of living in London. In 2021, the average rent across London was around £2,219 per month. If you are moving to London with your family, this cost may be higher depending on the size and location of the house. 

Remember to also research the many council tax brackets of London to make sure you’re taking that cost into consideration. Each borough of London will have up to eight different council tax brackets, so if you’re looking to look into your chosen area, you can use the government website to enter the postcode of the area to get a rough idea of the cost. 

Council tax brackets range from A-H with A being the most affordable bracket and H being the most expensive. The council tax rate is calculated based on the property’s capital value so essentially the more expensive the property the higher the council tax, however it’s always worth checking before making any commitments. 

The Cost of Socialising 


Friends enjoying a drink


One of the complaints you’ll hear most often from people visiting or socialising in London is the cost of a night out in London. Although it can vary from place to place, an average pint of beer will cost £5.00 according to’s Global Beer Lover’s City Index, with spirits costing even more. 

Again, the location will play a big part in the cost of socialising. If you choose to head out within the City of London you’ll find prices much higher than that further afield. Areas within Zone 1 tend to be catered toward heavy tourism traffic and you’ll find the prices in bars, restaurants and clubs reflect this. 

Opting for smaller independent restaurants, bars, cafes and even shops can help you spend a little less than you would in the larger chains. Keep an eye out for events or restaurants that offer BYOB (bring your own booze) which can help keep costs down even further when heading out to socialise with friends. 


The Cost of Utilities 


Union Wharf Apartment Interior


The monthly utilities are another vital factor to consider when moving to London. Here, electricity, heating, water, and waste disposal may be determined based on the size of the apartment and location. 

For instance, for a house with 85m2, the average monthly utilities are around £246.80 PCM. This can change dramatically depending on how many people live in your household and how much time you spend at home. 

A great option is to choose a build-to-rent landlord such as Essential Living. Our studio and 1-3 bed apartments come with free WiFi. This can help ease the stress of having to budget separately for utilities because everything is included in a set monthly price. Plus you have access to communal amenities such as upgradeable WiFi, a games room and regular residential events keeping social costs low.  

Other utilities to consider and include in your monthly budget are: 

  • Mobile phone
  • WiFi
  • Cable/Satellite TV
  • Streaming Subscriptions

All these expenses make up the actual living cost in London. It’s important to consider how these costs will likely affect you before making the ultimate decision to move. And remember, depending on the residential area you choose, the prices could fluctuate significantly. 


The Best Places to Live in London 


When preparing for your move you’ll want to choose a location that has everything you want, both for work and life. As previously stated, each borough of London has something different to offer. 

 The boroughs within London fall into five primary regions, which are:

  • West London 
  • East London 
  • South London 
  • North London 
  • Central London 

Within these regions are various boroughs and neighbourhoods to choose from. Some will be ideal for the young professional looking for a vibrant social life close to work. Others will appeal more to families who want a home close to good schools and green open spaces. 

You can find our detailed breakdown of the best places to live in London here if you’re looking for more guidance, but here are a few we’ve highlighted to inspire you.  


Best for Families – Greenwich


Greenwich Park


A great place to live for families, Greenwich has everything you could need for the perfect family life. With the large Greenwich Park in the heart of this neighbourhood, there is plenty to keep kids and adults of all ages entertained. 

This area of London is best known for its maritime history and is adorned with plenty of museums, monuments and galleries to explore. Situated in southeast London, Greenwich is right next to the river Thames and the O2 arena, so there’s plenty of public transport getting you in, out and around London. Plus, this is one of the best areas in London for commuting to Canary Wharf, so for those working or looking to work in the  financial services district, this is the ideal neighbourhood for you.   

The average rental price for a 2 bed in Greenwich is around £543pw and if you’re looking to buy in the area, you can expect to pay an average of £509,097 for a 2 bed.

If you’re interested in moving to the Greenwich area, our Union Wharf building is ideal for families looking for a slice of London life. Union Wharf also has an on-site nursery and green areas to keep kids and parents happy and taken care of.  


Best for Young Professionals – Bethnal Green 


Dressage Court Exterior


If you’re a young professional looking for an area that’s well connected and has a lot to offer socially, then Bethnal Green is a great place to settle. 

Here you’ll be situated right next door to the stunning Victoria Park as well as Bethnal Green Gardens and Mile End Park so there are plenty of green spaces to relax  and switch off. This part of the city also has great transport links, with Bethnal Green tube station on your doorstep and Whitechapel and Cambridge Heath walking distance away. 

This neighbourhood is very popular with young professionals and feels like a great community to be part of if you’re looking for like-minded people. With lots of cafes and bars, you’ll always have somewhere to meet friends old and new. 

House prices in Bethnal Green range from around £595pw for a 1 bed or £870,047 if you’re looking to buy a 1-bed house. You can also take a look at our very own Bethnal Green apartments at Dressage Court. Our apartments offer great social spaces including a roof terrace, work from home space and a games room to enjoy with your neighbours.       


Best for Students – Brixton





Filled with the vibrant nightlife and sociable atmosphere that all students crave, Brixton is a great place for those looking to study and work in London. Ideal for music lovers and those in search of the sights, sounds and smells of Caribbean culture, Brixton has proven popular with young people over the years. 

Brixton tube station links you perfectly to the city of London via the Victoria line or choose one of the Southeastern rail services at Brixton train station. Plus, there are plenty of bus routes to get you to and from class stress-free. 

There are plenty of green spaces to enjoy when you’re not studying, including Ruskin Park and Brockwell Park. Perfect for taking a break from being in lectures or in classrooms. With everything from delicious artisan coffee shops to traditional Caribbean eateries, It’s both a great place to live and study. 

For those looking to rent in Brixton, the average rent falls at around £401pw for a 1-bed or for those wanting to buy in the area, a 1-bed will typically cost around £398,750 on average. 

Commuting into London


If you’re going to be working in London but want to be able to escape the city after work and on weekends, then you may be looking for the perfect commuting towns instead of a place within Greater London.

There are some very popular towns that offer great transport links to and from London including Maidenhead where you’ll find our apartment complex Berkshire House. Other areas to consider for commuting are: 

  • Luton in Bedfordshire
  • Three Bridges in West Sussex
  • Epping in Essex
  • Amersham in Buckinghamshire 

Some things to keep in mind when looking for the best towns for commuting to London are the cost of travel, the time it takes to get in and out of the city and the reliability of the transport services. 


Why Renting is the Best Option in London


When first moving to London, it’s probably best to start by renting a property rather than buying one. With every area of London so different, renting offers you the chance to explore different parts of the city so that you can choose where you’d like to commit. 

Buying a home is listed as one of the most stressful activities we go through in life so you want to be 100% certain that you’ve chosen the perfect location before putting a deposit down. Renting allows you to explore all your options and enjoy freedom with shorter commitment times than getting a mortgage. 


The Cost of Renting vs. Buying 


Although rental prices are increasing year on year across the UK, London rental prices can often be much less than monthly mortgage repayments. With house prices so high in all parts of London, renting can be a great affordable way to enjoy London life. 

Renting also requires a much lower upfront cost, so you can move around much more quickly without having to save up a huge amount for a deposit. When buying, you can expect to have to pay from 5% to 10% upfront as a deposit. This is compared to rental properties where you only have to pay a max of 5 weeks as a deposit on properties where the rent is under £50,000 per annum or 6 weeks where the rent is over £50,000 .  


The Cost of Maintenance




On top of large mortgage deposits, you’ll also have to consider the maintenance of your new home. When you buy a property you are solely responsible for its upkeep, this means if anything goes wrong such as a plumbing or electrical emergency, you are responsible for rectifying it. 

However, with rental properties, it will usually be up to your landlord to fix any issues or at least support you to get the problems fixed. Any costs that accrue for the maintenance of the property will usually be covered by your landlord so it becomes one less thing to worry about.   

In serviced properties like our Essential Living properties, the 24hr on-site residents’ team are always on hand to help you with any emergency or maintenance issue you have. With all utilities included in the price of the rent, all you have to worry about is paying your set monthly rent each month.  




Buying a home is not only a big financial commitment, it’s also a big lifestyle commitment. Renting a property can give you maximum flexibility. Whether it’s upgrading your property for something more luxurious when that big pay rise comes in or downgrading to a smaller place when current rental prices get too much. You’ll have much more financial freedom with renting if you are currently moving through jobs, test driving a location or just trying to figure things out. 

Tenancy agreements can range from rolling monthly contracts to more secure 12-month contracts, so you can commit to as much time as you like. The average tenancy agreement is around 12-months however you can also get 6-week agreements if you want more freedom or if you know you may need to move at short notice. 


Moving to London Alone


Living alone in London


If you’re looking to move to London alone and are worried about going solo then renting will be a fantastic option for you. If you want to have your own space you can look at renting a 1-bed or if you’d like to make some new friends and have a little more company at home, then you can also look for housemates to share the costs of things like rent and utilities. 

Essential Living’s studio and 1-bed apartments are perfect for solo Londoners because we have plenty of communal spaces and activities to allow you some social time with other tenants. Not only are our locations secure but they can also offer opportunities to meet new people, something that is often tricky to do in a very big city.  


How to Choose a Reliable Estate Agent in London


Estate Agent Meeting


When moving to a new neighbourhood, the fear of dealing with unscrupulous estate agents and property developers is real. However, there are ways you can make sure to find the best estate agents for you and your needs. 


Always Insist on Seeing the Property First 


If you can, always insist on seeing a property before you make a financial commitment. This is especially true for rental properties. If this isn’t available – which often is the case in such a fast-paced property market like London – then ask if they have virtual viewing available. 

Often people will rush into putting a deposit down on a property in order to secure somewhere and a lot of people will do so without seeing the property first. Although this can be a good way of finding somewhere to live at short notice, it also runs the risk of you tying yourself with poor quality landlords or uncomfortable living environments. Try and check a property out first so you can assess the neighbourhood and neighbours and get a feel of what it would be like to live there.   


Consider Fees 


You may be preoccupied with deposits and monthly payments and forget that estate agent fees also need to be considered. Many people are caught out by hefty fees when they finally get the bill from their agent, so to avoid that, make sure you’re fully aware of their fees and how/when they’ll be charged.  

Due to the Tenant Fees Act of 2019, letting agencies are not allowed to charge for a lot of the previously hidden fees, particularly for things like administration or references. However, your letting agent may charge you fees associated with the following: 

  • Early termination of tenancy 
  • Utilities 
  • Communication services
  • Council tax
  • Late rent payment charges
  • Replacement keys or security features 

If you’re buying a property in London then you may be subject to costs from estate agents, brokers or mortgage providers which include but are not limited to: 

  • Valuation fee
  • Surveyors fee
  • Legal fees
  • Transfer fees for electrics etc.
  • Removal costs


Pay Attention to Reviews and Referrals




It can be tricky to choose the best estate or letting agent based on face value. Looking at their website or social media will only show you what they want you to see and not the reality of their service. 

When you find an agency you like the look of, it’s best to do a few quick Google searches to see if there are any reviews from previous clients or regulatory boards that might give you a more authentic picture of what the agency is really like to work with. 

If you’re looking for a reputable landlord, HomeViews offers insight into how residents rate various developments across the capital.

Word of mouth referral is always best because you’re getting a positive review straight from the source. Ask around any of your family or friends to see if they have any recommendations or know someone that can point you in the right direction. 


Moving to London Doesn’t Have to be a Daunting Task


Moving to London should be an exciting and enjoyable experience but when you start thinking about all the finer details things can start to become overwhelming quickly. 

Remember to give yourself as much time to plan as possible and don’t feel rushed into making a decision. Make a list of all the things that are a top priority and also things that you’re not overly concerned about. This can help you narrow down which locations to add to your list and which ones to rule out. Your budget will also be a big factor in your decision-making process, so make sure you’re clear on how much you’re willing to spend to make the move. 

If you’re looking to make moving as stress-free as possible, take a look at our four properties across London and we can help you create a lifestyle you love in the city. 

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