Montag, 26. Januar 2015

The Travelogue Homefront Edition - Moving to London in One Page

After a total of 6 years of London and getting many questions by friends who want to move here, I’ve decided to distill my personal experiences with this wondrous city into a digestible blog post to save me some breath. Please mind that these are entirely personal thoughts, and your mileage may vary. Most of this, however, seems to tread common ground with most of my friends, so it is not an entirely singular view.

Moving to London

There are already plenty of sites giving you advice on where to live and how to find accommodation, so here are only a few distilled personal recommendations to complement what's already out there.

Before you even consider looking for a place, be sure you know where to live. Unless you have a well-paying job (you can find out here), you will have to find a compromise between closeness to work (sanity), quality of the location (happiness) and price (money). None of these are easy finds in this city on their own, let alone in combination.


If money is your primary concern, then you will have to share. Sharing is normal for most people up (and often well past) their 30’s, so just roll with it. At the time of writing, living by yourself will eat around a thousand pounds for an okay place in Zone 2. You can also check this handy interactive map to map your salary to an area.
The further you move out, the less it will generally cost to rent. Unless you are really desperate or asocial, I would strongly advise against moving further than zone 2, as getting home at night or even getting into town can be a real nightmare (taking three different night buses and beyond). Also you will want to be close to a major tube line (no, the overground is not a major tube line) at ANY COST. The tube lines are the arteries of London, and if you live too far off them you will wither and die. Ignore this at your own peril.
Mind that because of London competitive rent market, a lot of people who’d better live alone. The lower the price is, the higher the chance are you will live with someone you don’t want to live with. Keep that in mind and don’t scrimp too much. Which brings me to:


Unless the idea of an angry sardine party sounds appealing to you, avoid having to use public transport (especially the tube) during rush hour at any cost.  Possibility to walk or cycle (the latter not without dangers in London) to your workplace will make you the happiest coworker in the office and reduce morning grump. It will also save some of those precious hours of your day to be able to do things other than work. And work you will. The average Londoner does an extra 11.5 unpaid overtime each week, in addition to an average of 74.2 minutes of commute.


Same as sanity? No sir. London is full of people who are quite happily insane. Sanity is what keeps you doing the things you need to do, but happiness is what gives you pleasure. That ranges from the quality of your chosen flat (working showers, I tell you!) to proximity to bars, markets and other places where fun and friends gather. As a general rule, the further you go west and south, the less fun there is to be had. There’s pockets of excitement, but if you value action in any way, you will want to look north of the river and eastwards. London moves fast, and the hip place to be can change within one year (rent prices follow just as quick). Yelp has even created a hipster map to help you find or avoid the respective areas.

Finding a place

There’s many ways of finding a flat in London, but only one that guarantees good results: rely on your friends. Just like any big city with expensive rent, the best bits are traded among those in the know. It also improves (but alas not eliminates) your chances of not living with crazies.

If you don’t have friends in London, I’d personally recommend checking those three sites. Always use the map feature if the site has one, as It will make it easier to find places near where you want to live.


Similar to Craigslist, gumtree offers everything from used furniture to sexual services. While you can find the odd gem, it tends to be low-budget, low-quality housing. Totally fine if you’re on a budget, but if you are looking for something akin to northern European living standards only check if you are in a rush or want to maximise your chances.


For all I can tell, most major flatsharing sites covering London are owned by the same umbrella conglomerate now, so it doesn’t really matter which of these you check, they all have the same content and all will ask you to pay. The reality is that if you don’t pay you might as well not bother as everything of relevance will be gone by the time you are allowed to message people. Considering you’ll be forking out several hundred pounds a month for a broom closet, the 10 quid it will cost you to get an early bird account won’t kill you.


While the interface experience is a bit lacking, moveflat is sort of your shy little brother of London flat hunting. There isn’t as much variety, but there seems to be a certain community of people only advertising on moveflat, meaning you get lots of exclusives here. Has a map feature.

Scams and Tourist Traps

London has a rent industry thriving on poorly informed new residents. There are a few basic advice bits to help you wasting your time.

1. If it sounds too good to be true, it never is. Like, ever. Don’t even bother going to see the place, there is always a reason it’s cheap.

2. Double check the pictures! Some owners put up pictures of different flats, or even random internet ones. I’ve seen people advertise garden views with pictures of subtropical flora!

3. Check all appliances. Nothing will make you hate mornings more than getting a slow trickle of cold water when you were expecting a hot shower.

4. Prefer to take over a room from a flatmate, not the owner. It’s easier to read between the lines with someone who has less of a vested interest in making you move in. Always insist on meeting all flatmates if you can.

5. Check average prices for the area before you go see anything. Some people will happily charge you 700£ for a room worth 400£ because they know they’ll find some poor idiot who will not know any better.


No advice in the world can save you from all the surprises communal living as to offer. There are some things to keep in mind, however, if you haven’t been living in a metropolis before.

1. Because London is so expensive, a lot of people live in flatshares who’d rather live alone. This means that your chance of living with someone who has got some serious social issues is a lot higher than elsewhere. If they are not interested in meeting you, then they don’t care about the social climate in the flat and you should consider your other options. If you meet them and you get that bad feeling, listen to it and thank me later. No cheap rent ever outweighs a bad flatmosphere, and good flatmates will be a key contributor to a good London time.

2. Know thy crowd. If you can’t handle spontaneous 4am Monday parties, don’t move in with a Dalston DJ. If you like to host scruffy backpacking hippies on your couch, don’t share with a Tory banker. It sounds like a no-brainer, but because flat hunting is so competitive in London, people often take the next best thing and then spend hours lamenting the character flaws of their house mates. Don’t be one of those.

If you only remember one piece of advice from this paragraph, make it this one:

Be early and be local!

Take plenty of time and be in London. Take at least a month for flat hunting, and be in London the entire time. Some things go on the day, or they go to whoever the current occupier meets on a night out. Don’t try to rent from afar, you won’t get what you want.