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How to Live in London for a Year 

A city that’s popular with temporary expats is London, thanks to its job market, travel links, and relatively close cultural ties to the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. So, how can you live in London for a year? Let’s find out!

Sometimes when we move to another country or city, we know it’s not going to be forever.

Maybe it’s only a year contract on a job, maybe it’s a sabbatical, maybe it’s due to visas, maybe we just fancy a temporary change of scenery.

Whatever the reason, there are some unique things to consider when you move to a new country for a year. 

Know Your Visa Options

First things first, let’s get the paperwork out of the way. If you’re coming from the US and want to spend a year here, then chances are that you’re going to need a work sponsorship visa.

There are exceptions, like if you have family links through your parents or grandparents, or if your spouse is a UK citizen.

If you’re coming from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or another Commonwealth nation and you’re aged 18-30, you might be eligible for an 18-30 mobility visa. This enables you to stay in London for up to two years, so if you qualify it’s a great option to live here temporarily. 

Of course, as with any visa, allow plenty of time for your application to go through and get approved, make sure you have copies of absolutely everything, and budget for the process.

Visa applications can get expensive very quickly, so check the government website before you start the process.

Here’s my guide on how to move to London without a job secured ahead of time.

If the visa processes seem too difficult or stressful for you right now, look into living in London for 6 months instead, which is a MUCH easier process with no visa needed.

Take This Quiz to See if London is Right For You!

Sort Out Your Accommodation

Next up you’re going to have to think about where you want to live in London.

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Honestly, London is not the cheapest, so unless you’re moving over with family or friends, or you’ve got a high-paying city job, you’re probably going to be looking for a room in a flatshare.

On average, a room in a London flatshare costs £760 per calendar month and a two-bed apartment costs £1800, so have a look at your finances and see what’s realistic for you.

Of course, this varies depending on which area or borough you’re looking to base yourself in, and you can read more about which borough might be right for you in my article here.

It’s pretty easy to find accommodation for a year with the two standard rental agreement lengths being either six or twelve months.

Just double-check your contract to see if you need to find a replacement flatmate before you leave or what happens if you leave early. Chances are that you’re not going to walk into a new flatshare on day one in London, so you might be closer to an eleven-month contract than a 12-month one.

If you don’t know where to start with London accommodation, check out sites like Rightmove, Zoopla, and SpareRoom.

You can put in your area and accommodation requirements such as parking, amount of roommates, whether bills are all included, and more.

I‘ve lived abroad for many years and love helping others find work abroad and figure out their “Move Abroad Plan.” Check out my class below to get you started ASAP!

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Create a Social Life in London

With a year to spend in London, you both have loads of time and a limited window to explore the city and the surrounding area.

When you’re only there on holiday or for a couple of months, you tend to hit up the main tourist spots and spend more liberally than you would if you were at home.

Sure, you still want to tick off some of those London must-see attractions and locations, but you’re also a local now, so you can take your time and check out some of the places that are off the beaten path.

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The temptation when you move to a new country and you’re only there for a year is to immediately do all the touristy stuff so you don’t run out of time. This is fine, except if you’re on a budget, you might run out of money pretty quickly. 

A year is a long time, so plan to do something different at least once a month or try a new restaurant or bar one day a week.

You’ll soon find new favorites and create lasting memories at a sustainable rate that isn’t going to burn you out or rinse your finances.

Don’t Forget to Visit the Rest of Europe While You’re There

London is also a great jumping-off point for other parts of the beautiful UK as well as the rest of Europe. Low-cost airlines and train connections mean that it’s fairly easy to book a weekend away in a European city with just some hand luggage.

It sounds ridiculous, but often a flight to Prague or Milan or Bucharest might be cheaper than a train ticket from London to the seaside. While you’re in this part of the world, it’s worth taking advantage of London’s prime location.

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3 Essential Tips to Move to London for a Year

Okay, now we’ve covered the basics, let’s finish this article off with a few final tips.

1. Budget Your Money But Not Too Much

You should budget your money but don’t become a shut-in.

coins falling onto a table from a money jar
Photo from Unsplash

It’s all well and good to live within your means, and it’s important in a city that’s as expensive as London, but when you’re only there for a year, you’re going to want to experience as much as you can.

There are so many free events or pop-ups in the city that you can check out and enjoy if you keep your eyes peeled.

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2. Explore All Sides of London

One side of London is completely different from another. Even going a couple of tube stops down the line and you might find a completely different vibe.

So, if you can’t afford to live in the area that you want to be in, try a couple of stops away which might not be as nice, but might be cheaper due to a different postcode (zip code). You can still access the area you want but without the price tag.

3. Learn the Tube Etiquette Quickly

There’s a stereotype about Londoners and the tube for a reason – there are unwritten rules to this massively important piece of public transport.

Rules like standing on the right side of the escalator, having your ticket or your Apple Pay ready before you reach the barrier, not making direct eye contact, or talking to strangers on the tube itself.

Get these down and you’ll look and feel like a real local Londoner. 

You CAN Move to London for a Year!

I lived in London for six years, so I know how much fun it can be and how much there is to see, do and enjoy. It’s a great place and one I’d recommend to anyone who wants to move to a big city. 

With temporary moves, you can often feel freer to enjoy yourself, knowing that it’ll come to an end and you’ll either go home or move on to the next place. It’s a cool way to dip your toe into expat life without diving straight in.

If you’re looking to move to London or try expat life for yourself, I have plenty of resources across my site, so have a read and get ready to have the best time on your new expat adventure!

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