Just landed in London? Here are 22 hacks to get started

Coming from another continent, even worst, from one of the most efficient cities in the World, my spouse and I had numerous difficulties when we first landed in London. How do we find a place to stay in, or get internet set up at home? We found out how through intensive research online and help from friends. I sincerely hope your time getting started in London would be better than ours with this post.

Home hunting

  1. Read – a guide on cheapest places to rent in London
  2. Online platforms
    • Rightmove.com
      • We found this the best website as the messaging system actually works and the agents there are very active. Price wise, they are sometimes cheaper, even for the same apartment.
    • Zoopla.co.uk
  3. Agents

We found the agents through inquiring via the online platforms and later discover that it’s helpful to deal with the bigger names due to higher professionalism and reliability. When you enter your bid for the apartment, they will ask you to transfer 1 or 2 months of rent to a secured deposit box. If the bid is not successful, it will go back to your account and I think that’s convenient and secure. Be prepared to pay 6 months or more rent in advance unless you have a UK resident as a guarantor.

  • Dexters (their agents are super nice and helpful!)
  • Foxtons
  • Portico

Mobile and Data

giffgaff Get a  Giffgaff sim card and send to your hotel/ residential address before you reach (you will thank me for that). I can help you to get a sim card and a bonus 5 pounds on the plan for overseas call etc. Email me at elisetanyl(at)yahoo(dot)com for it.


It was a nightmare. And it took us a month to set it up because we are not residents here. I may sound dogmatic in the instructions below as I mean the best for you haha… Truth be told, having no access to internet or to be able to chat with your love ones at home is a real torture in a new place.

  1. Quick fix for the first few weeks:
    • Sign up for a Giffgaff sim card and get it send to your hotel/ residential address before you reach and live on the data for the time being. This mobile number is also required when you sign up for a broadband plan
    • If you need more data, buy a EE token from EEstore or Currys, www.currys.co.uk
    • Get a bank card when you arrive in London. We recommend Metrobank as they can give you a card on the spot, which is crazily fast compared to the other banks like HSBC, Natwest that requires you to book an appointment days later. It is also free to withdraw or deposit in Metrobank, while the other banks charge you a fee.
    • Monzo — recently discovered this newly set up fintech and it’s pretty cool. Get a queue number for their uber popular glow-in-the-dark debit card https://goo.gl/pNAvQ5 (apply before you reach as there are now #35,861 people in the queue)

sky  Once you get the bank card, go to Sky http://www.sky.com/shop/broadband-talk/ and sign up for your broadband! The next appointment may be a couple of weeks away so do this asap. Sky has been the most reliable and affordable company we found, through all the research and checking with friends. You can sign up for as little as 12 months.

Getting bare necessities in the new house

  1. Amazon.co.uk is our best friend. The prices are competitive and if you save yourself the trouble of prancing up and down Oxford street or shopping malls to get items like bedsheets, lightbulbs, kettles all over the place. Sign up for amazon prime for the first month and that is a life saver.
  2. Poundland, get almost everything for a pound! www.poundland.co.uk/store-finder
  3. Robert Dyas, for electronic or home items, www.robertdyas.co.uk
  4. Ocado, It’s convenient to get groceries online and sent to your place. For the first purchase of more than 80 pounds, you can get 20 pounds off. Just email me at elisetanyl(at)yahoo(dot)com and I will send you the code.

Groceries/ toiletries shopping

  1. Tesco, we prefer shopping at Tesco because the vegetables and fruits are usually cheaper than Sainsbury
    • Remember to get the Tesco card for the points!
  2. Sainsbury, Remember to get the Nectar card for the points! For our case, there were 500 bonus points (enough to claim for Nero coffee with 350pts) if we shop 5 times at Sainsbury within a certain period. Nectar card also allows you to collect points from ebay, expedia, Nike, Holland Barrett.
  3. lookfantastic.com, one of the cheapest places to get your skincare, as verified by google shopping. Get voucher codes here to lower the price further by >10%
  4. Boots, they are at every corner but do compare the prices with Superdrugstore as the latter may be less commonplace but some products can be a few pounds cheaper
  5. Superdrugstore

Read Info on Loyalty cards here

Day tour/ Travel

  1. Citymapper to get around, it tells you exactly how to get from point to point, if any line is down and even which cabin is the best to get up at.
  2. Subscribe to Transport for London to get email notifications about upcoming strikes and disruptions to any public transport such as metroline
  3. Free walking tour in London, love all their tours around Europe, http://www.neweuropetours.eu/london/en/home
  4. Trainline app to check train times and book tickets, www.thetrainline.com
  5. Student Railcard, for 30% off each booking.

twotogether-railcard If you are not a student any or above age of 28, with your partner, you can also get Two together card, http://www.twotogether-railcard.co.uk


  1. Forget the gym chains, get your one time or monthly pass on pay as you gym. Get voucher code here for more than 10%

Meeting new friends

  1. meetup.com (interests based)
  2. Internations, www.internations.org
  3. All you need London Guide http://www.movebubble.com/2016/11/a-london-guide-for-the-uninitiated-part-i/

Enjoy your time in London!


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