So... you've packed your bags, you've got your 2-year Youth Mobility Visa in hand (or any other work visa for that matter), and you're about to head to the airport to kick off a gap year in the Big Smoke (London was labelled as such during the 'Great Smog' of 1952). No matter how you cut it, your first few days are going to be hectic, but here's a run down of 10 essential tasks you should prioritize when you arrive in the United Kingdom.
1 •. Activate your free Sim
We provide a free Sim with £5 free credit with our services. Activate your sim so you can provide contact details for all your prospective employers and new friends in the UK.
2. Pick up your BRP card
An absolute essential! When you were issued your UK working visa, UK Visas and Immigration affixed a 90-day vignette into your passport. This allows you to enter the UK anytime within that 90 day period. Your visa approval letter will have included information about where and when you should pick up your Biometrics Residence Permit (BRP) - most likely a post office location nearest to the UK address you provided on your visa application. Stop in at that post office location as advised in your approval documents, and pick up your BRP. You must pick up your BRP within 10 days of your arrival in the UK or as soon as it is ready, around two week after the start date on your visa.
3 • Open a UK bank account
If you're going to work while you're in the UK, you're going to need a UK bank account (most UK employers will only pay via direct deposit, so this one is important). Our top recommendation for opening a new account in the UK. We recommend Monzo Bank. They're a non-traditional bank, offering excellent low-fee account options, and best of all - all of your banking is done online and via their mobile app. Check out Monzo on your phone's App Store.
4 • Go for a stroll around London
You're going to be tired, but with all the adrenaline running through your veins, we say "push on"! Why not wander the historic streets of London, take in the sights and sounds of the big city, and hit some of the essential tourist hot-spots. We will map out our favourite walking tour in a separate post.
5 • Grab lunch at the pub
Which pub? Any pub! THERE ARE SO MANY! You could literally eat a pub lunch every day for 2 years in London, and you wouldn't even come close to trying them all... But, if you want our recommendation for a true, historic London pub experience, try The Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. It was rebuilt shortly after the great fire of 1666, and is said to have been a favourite of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.
6 • Take a nap!
Yes, really. You've knocked out a couple of important ones with your BRP card and UK bank account. You've seen the sights. You've had lunch at one of the most historic pubs in the city. Now it's time to get some shut eye! We highly recommend you book at least a few nights to start off with, and if you're after a top hostel in the city, try The Generator - located not far from Kings Cross Station. Check in for a post-lunch kip, and then get back out there!
7 • Apply for your UK National Insurance Number
Another essential when you first arrive in the UK is to apply for your NIN (this is basically the same as your tax file number at home -- or social insurance number for our Canadian friends). It's free to apply for... just visit this link for more information.
8 • Grab a cheeky pint!
Back at the pub already! Why not? You've made some solid headway during day one (and you've had a nap to charge back up), so it's time to hit the town. The options are truly endless in London, so pick a tube station (we recommend staying 'inside' the Circle Line), hop off, and find a spot to get the night started.
9 • Take a ride on a Double Decker bus
Little known fact... a great way to see the city without paying the cost of a tourist hop-on, hop-off bus tour? Just take a regular bus! And for the best view, climb up top and wait patiently for the front seats to open up. London is covered with more than 700 bus routes, many of which hit some of the most tourist heavy parts of town. Click here for a list of London's best bus routes for sight seeing.
10 • Apply for a job
You've spent a little more than 24 hours in the city now, so you've already worked out that London isn't cheap. If you don't already have work lined up, jump on a site like Gumtree to browse the latest job openings around the city. Don't be discouraged if it takes a bit of time to find work - stick with it, put yourself out there, and be persistent! OR, if you'd rather have a little help, try our friends at The UK Pub Co. for assistance with live-in UK based pub jobs, or JCR Au Pairs & Nannies for live-in work with families.
It's been a big first few days. You deserve to do whatever the heck you want! Give yourself a pat on the back... you've picked up your BRP card, opened a UK bank account, seen the sights, checked out AT LEAST two pubs, applied for your National Insurance Number, started the process of applying for jobs... If you're travelling on the Youth Mobility Visa (like many of our clients are), you've got 728 more days to go (so pace yourself)! Maybe head back to your hostel for an early one? Or check out a west-end show? Or head back to the pub?
London is your Oyster, and if you are staying in London, you will need to buy an Oyster Card to travel around the city. But in all seriousness... have fun, be safe, and if you need any help, drop us an email - we're always happy to help.