One of the most important things when living abroad it is to find a pleasant place to live. This is going to be your home away from home and much of your feeling of belonging comes from having a nice place to live. This is even truer when it comes to living in London; the famous grey weather will make you want to stay in more often with your new friends.
So, we have prepared a guide for you on how to look for accommodation in this busy city.
If the institution where you are going to study offers student accommodation, we highly recommend you living there. These places are great when you are alone in a new city as they usually host parties and events for residents to get to know each other. However, it is important to plan in advance as their rooms tend to be sold out very quickly. Generally these places are close to the schools and quite central, which makes it more expensive.
If you are looking for something cheaper, then the institution where you are going to study can recommend you a host family which is also a great way to be fully immersed on the English culture. To live with a host family also means that there are certain rules that will need to be followed. You can choose to have your meals catered by the family, or to be self-catering. Bear in mind that your home country’s popular dish might not be that common in the UK and that the family will provide you what they are used to having.
When I first came to London to study English, I decided to live with a host family just for a month and then to find a place to live by myself. If you are looking for accommodation it is important to know that London is divided in tube zones from 1 to 9, being zone 1 the most central and expensive and zone 9 further away and cheaper. However, if you are going to study in zone 1, it is not very practical to live in zone 6, as this is going to be a long and expensive commute (public transport in London is expensive and you pay more depending on the zones that you go through). Given that, it is important to look for places that has an easy commute to your school/university. Not having to change tube line during rush hour is always a good idea.
If you are looking for a place to live by yourself, you can search for one bedroom apartments or studios. Those are the most expensive options to live in London. Prices for 1-bed apartments are estimated based on two people living there, being them a couple or just two friends. Even though a studio just has space for one person, you will benefit from living by yourself and not having to share the bathroom and the kitchen.
One of the most common types of accommodation in London is a shared house. This is the cheapest way to live in the city and it gives you the opportunity to live and meet people from all around the world. Even though you are going to share the common rooms, such as kitchen, living room and sometimes bathroom, you will be able to enjoy some privacy in your room. We recommend that you arrange a viewing on a day that all the housemates are there so you can get to know the people that will be living with you.
If you are looking for an apartment to rent, the safest option is to talk to an agency. On ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) you will find all the licenced agents. Be careful when looking for places on GumTree, as even though they have some good deals many of them are schemes. SpareRoom is one of the most popular websites to look for bedrooms to rent. Be sure to always view the place before making any deposit payment.
Finally, we advise you to stay in a hotel or at a friend’s house on your first days in London so you will have time to get to know the city, visit the places that you are interested in, and choose the one that suits you better. Prior to your arrival, you should not book a place for more than a month as you don't know if you are going to like it. Also, in the UK it is common for landlords to ask for a one month deposit that will be refunded when you leave the accommodation; this is subject to a professional inspection.
Good luck on your search!