THE HIGHWAY CODE
Driving in a new country can take some getting used to especially when you are on the wrong side of the car and the road, and so it is important to understand the rules of the road in order to be safe, not only for yourself but the other road users around you.
The Highway Code applies to England, Scotland and Wales and is essential reading for everyone. It outlines the mandatory rules for all road users in the UK and gives information on road signs, road markings, vehicle markings and road safety, as well as guidance on vehicle maintenance, documentation, license requirements and vehicle security.
All road users (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, horse riders) need to be aware of the Code and must be considerate towards one another.
Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements and any disregard for them could potentially result in a fine, driving suspension or penalty points on your license.
Knowing and applying the rules contained in the Highway Code could significantly reduce road accidents and so it is important to familiarise yourself with the Code. You can pick up a hard copy in most bookstores or it is available to download online.
Driving in a new country is a daunting enough challenge, and so adding in another aspect to think about – the congestion zone – can be quite overwhelming.
The London Congestion Charge is a daily fee for motorists travelling within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ). The main objectives of the charge are to reduce congestion and raise funds for investment in London’s transport system.
The congestion charge has a set daily rate that you have to pay if you drive or park in the zone between 07.00 and 18.00, Monday to Friday. You only need to pay once, no matter how many times you drive in and out of the Congestion zone in one day. There is no charge on the weekends, public holidays, between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day inclusive, or between 18.00 and 07.00 on weekdays.
Ways to Pay
The easiest way to pay the charge is by registering for Congestion Charge Auto Pay. This automated system will record the number of days your car travels within the zone and bill you each month. There is a small fee to register a vehicle, but the daily charge is then reduced. It also means you will never forget to pay the charge again or face Penalty Charge notices.
Alternatively you can pay in advance (up to 90 days) or by midnight on the day of travel. This can be done online via Transport For London’s website or by SMS or phone.
It is also possible to pay by midnight the following charging day but this will cost more. If you travel on a Friday you have until midnight on the following Monday to pay.
Exemptions and Discounts
There are a range of exemptions and discounts available to certain individuals. If you live in the charging zone or in a designated area next to the zone you may be eligible for a 90% discount. You will need to register online to apply for this discount and it is possible to claim a refund for the charges incurred since submitting your application.
Queuing at the machines in rush hour and being confused by the endless ticket options is no fun at all which is why the Oyster card is a must for Londoners.
Oyster is a plastic smartcard which replaces the need for paper tickets. It can hold pay as you go credit, Travelcards and Bus & Tram passes and will work out which one to use to make sure you never pay more than you need to. Oyster cards can be used to travel on the bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and most National Rail services in London.
You will need to pay a deposit when getting a new Oyster card, however this will be refunded when you return your card.
Using your Oyster card is easy. Simply touch in and out on the card readers to pay the right fare.
Your Oyster card can also be managed online enabling you to check your balance, journey history and top up easily. By signing up for auto top-up you can be sure you will never run out of credit. Your card will be automatically topped up with money from your debit or credit card whenever the balance falls below £10.
There are also over 4000 newsagents and shops across London where it is also possible to top-up your Oyster card.
CASH FREE BUSES
London is a city that is always on the go; with places to go and people to see any time saving solutions are most welcome. London buses are always busy and so to save time, cash is no longer accepted to pay for your bus fare. That means no more passengers rummaging about in their wallets to find the right change and no more bus drivers counting out the change for the passenger that paid with a £20 note!
Instead, you can pay using an Oyster Card with pay as you go credit, a Travelcard, a Bus & Tram pass, or a contactless payment card. You only need to touch your Oyster or contactless payment card on the yellow card reader when you board the bus. It is not necessary when you get off.
If you do not have enough credit on your Oyster card to pay the fare or your Bus & Tram Pass or Travelcard have expired, do not worry as you will not be left stranded. You can make one more journey on a bus. You must then top up your pay as you go credit to clear the negative balance before you can use your card again.
When the sun does shine in London, the Santander Cycles scheme can be a welcome relief from the hot, stuffy tube.
Popularly known as ‘Boris Bikes’ after the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Santander Cycles is London’s public self-service bicycle sharing scheme for short journeys. There are more than 8000 bikes and over 550 docking stations across the city. Bikes can be hired by the day, week or year based on a small registration fee.
Once you have paid the bike access fee for the day, the first 30 minutes of each journey is free. Longer journeys cost more for each extra 30 minutes.
Simply go to any docking station with your bank card and follow the on screen instructions. There is no need to book and you can simply hire a bike, ride it where you like and return it to any docking station.
CYCLE SUPERHIGHWAYS & QUIETWAYS
Cycle Superhighways are cycle routes running from outer London into and across central London. They give you a safer, faster and more direct journey into the city and could be your best and quickest way into work. There are currently plans for 8 cycle superhighways in total. You can download the routes and maps here.
Quietways will be a network of radial and orbital cycle routes throughout London. There will be seven in total, most of which will be completed by the end of 2017. Linking key destinations, they will follow backstreet routes, through parks, along waterways or tree lined streets. The routes will be great for cyclists who want to use quieter, low traffic routes and travel at a more gentle pace. Each Quietway will provide a continuous route for cyclists and every London borough will benefit from the programme. You can download the routes and maps here.
A primary concern for any family moving to the UK is the education of their children. The decision must be based on considerations that might not be relevant in other situations. The opportunity for a child to live and attend school in a foreign country can be a challenging but rewarding experience; living overseas and meeting people from different cultures is in itself an educational experience. Parents are therefore under a lot of pressure to make the right decision, and when the whole schooling system is unfamiliar it can be somewhat of a minefield.
There are 3 systems of schooling available in the UK:
- State maintained schools (no fees)
- Private schools (fee paying)
- International schools (fee paying)
STATE MAINTAINED SCHOOLS (NO FEES)
Full time education is compulsory in the UK for children between the ages of 5 and 16 and as such they are entitled to a free place at a state school. Most state schools have to follow the national curriculum. Children are likely to attend the school nearest to their home.
Applications for entrance to these schools are usually dependent on confirmation of a local address before being considered and so it is important to have your Tenancy Agreement ready. Some grammar schools will require applicants to do well in an entrance exam.
It is possible to read online the Ofsted inspection reports for schools in the local area to see how they are rated and it is also worth checking the schools league tables which include exam results.
The London Schools Atlas is an innovative interactive online map providing a uniquely detailed and comprehensive picture of London state maintained schools, current patterns of attendance and potential future demand for school places.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS (FEE PAYING)
Private schools (also known as Independent Schools) charge fees to attend instead of being funded by the government. Pupils do not have to follow the national curriculum. All independent Schools are required to register with the government and are inspected regularly.
Independent schools vary in size, facilities and philosophy towards education. Entrance into many schools is determined by examination and/or personal interview. In some instances, several years advance notice for admission can be required.
INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS (FEE PAYING)
There are a wide range of International schooling options now available to expatriate families in the UK. They can be a great option as they often have a higher turnover of students and therefore are able to offer greater flexibility regarding admissions. These range from International schools offering the International Baccalaureate to specific nationality schools e.g. French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Swedish and Norwegian.
Often the American Schools will accept other nationalities and may have an International Baccalaureate program to suit. They are mostly run under the supervision of their respective Governments and are state subsidised, and as such they normally give priority to their own foreign nationals.
Nationality Schools are sometimes the most obvious answer for expatriate families as texts are imported from their Home Country for core subjects. A curriculum similar to that found in their Home Country is offered leading to a relevant qualification in preparation for Higher Education. However, if your child has not yet started school in the UK the British system may be appealing and will not be as costly as the International and Nationality Schools.
With an estimated 400,000 French people living in London, the French Schools are heavily oversubscribed especially the Lycée Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington. Such demand has meant they have opened a new campus in Wembley, the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill.
French families should look out for schools registered with AEFE and CNED. AEFE is a national public agency under the administration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France that assures the quality of schools teaching the French national curriculum outside of France. CNED is a French public institution under the oversight of the department of education dedicated to providing distance learning material.
The ACS Schools, TASIS and The American School in London teach the American curriculum as well as the International Baccalaureate.
International Schools such as Southbank and Dwight School London teach the International Baccalaureate. The International School of London teaches the IB and also offers mother tongue programmes for International students.
We are often told by our clients that they wish they had organised their utilities and bank account sooner. With so many more important things which need your immediate attention, utilities are not often a main priority and left to deal with upon arrival in the UK. However, without limitless internet connection when you first arrive, research becomes that bit more complicated. We strongly recommend spending a little bit of time researching before arriving in order that you can hit the ground running and get the process started sooner rather than later. The process can quite often be a lengthy one!
The UK has three types of mobile phone service:
- Contract phone (pay monthly)
- SIM only
Contract phones are paid monthly based on a set rate for your plan. In the UK, contracts generally run for 18-24 months. Depending on which provider you use and how you purchase your phone, you may need to provide a proof of address and signature.
SIM only plans allow customers to purchase a SIM card and insert it into an unlocked phone. SIM cards generally come as either rolling monthly, quarterly or annual contracts – a good option for those who want flexibility or already have their own phones!
Pay-as-you-go phones allow customers to purchase a phone and add minutes to a SIM card. When you need more minutes, just top-up. This can be done online, by text or phone, or in many supermarkets and newsagents.
The most common providers in the UK are o2, EE, Three and Vodafone. It is worth checking which have the best coverage in your chosen area.
INTERNET & TV
The most popular UK home Internet providers include BT, Virgin, Sky, EE, and Talk Talk. In the UK, most Internet runs through phone lines so you must also pay for and set up a landline to get Internet access- regardless of whether you intend to actually use a landline.
Providers offer landline rental for a fixed monthly fee or as a full service plan as part of bundled packages with Internet (and in some cases, TV). Their deals can be quite confusing so it is worth reviewing packages online. Simplify digital is a good website for this.
Virgin Media offer broadband without the need for a phone line with their fibre optic technology, but this is not available in all areas.
Unfortunately, regardless of the company you decide to use, it can take up to six weeks to set up internet and often requires two visits from engineers. One to set up your landline and one to set up your Internet service. Visits generally happen between 9am and 5pm and often the engineers can only give a large time slot for their visit so you do have to be patient. Don’t get frustrated – it is just how it is!
To minimise hassle, we suggest that you order your TV and internet as soon as the Tenancy Agreement is signed. We also strongly recommend that you order a pay-as-you-go 3G stick, dongle or mobile wifi device from one of the mobile providers for your first few weeks in town. When you arrive in a new place you inevitably have lots of questions and need to look places up, so having no internet to research these things can be most frustrating!
Please also be aware that only the person who actually orders the internet can call and get status updates from providers – not even your partner can speak for you! Be sure to put both peoples’ names on the account to minimise frustration later.
Do not forget that if you plan on getting a TV package, you will also need to buy a television license.
Your HR department may have a relationship with a major UK Bank but if not, TTA do have some links and would be happy to put you in touch.
Each bank is different with varying requirements and application processes but in general to open a bank account in the UK you will need to submit the original, completed and signed application forms along with a certified copy of your passport. We strongly recommend that you get the certified copies of your passport prior to your arrival in the UK. This certification can only be made by a Notary Public, Attorney, Consulate or Senior Official from your overseas bank.
You will also need to bring a letter of recommendation or credit form from your bank to open a cheque account or credit card. All applications must be accompanied by a letter of introduction issued by the Company in the UK and signed by an authorised member of your HR Department.
You may use your American or European cards – Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Diners Club – whilst in the UK, but they will be billed back to your overseas account. You are advised to speak with your bank in regards to the charges and interest on current accounts as these may vary.
We would recommend that before leaving for the UK you take lots of copies of your documentation (passport, driving license, bank statements, certificates, references etc.) When setting up your utilities many providers will ask for several copies and so it will be useful to have copies to hand.
You and your family may be included in a Company Private Health Insurance Scheme whilst in the United Kingdom. Your HR Department will be able to advise you on the details.
Private treatment as an alternative to the NHS is costlier but allows the patient much greater control over factors such as when and where treatment should take place. However, if this is not available to you the NHS may be able to provide you with healthcare free of charge.
It is important to remember to bring all medical prescriptions, medical records, dental records, optician’s prescriptions and vaccination records with you to the UK.
THE NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE
If you are lawfully entitled to be in the UK, usually live here or are legally working in the UK you may be entitled to free NHS treatment. Your family members will also be able to get free treatment. However, they must be living with you throughout your stay to qualify.
Like other UK residents, you will have to pay some NHS charges. These include prescriptions, some GP services, dental and optical treatment.
Hospitals are responsible for checking who should pay for NHS hospital treatment. The hospital will ask you for evidence to prove that you intend to live in the UK permanently.
Foreign nationals from EEA member states have bilateral healthcare arrangements for both dental and medical health care so can access the full range of NHS services using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Regardless of your residential status or nationality, you are entitled to free emergency NHS treatment from a GP practice, A&E department or NHS walk in centre.
LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCIES: CALL 999
NON LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCIES: CALL 111
111 is the NHS non-emergency number. It is fast, easy and free. Call 111 and speak to a highly trained adviser, supported by healthcare professionals. They will ask you a series of questions to assess your symptoms and immediately direct you to the best medical care for you, relieving the strain off of GPs and A&E departments. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones.
TTA Relocation will provide you with details of doctors, dentists, hospitals etc. close to your chosen place of residency once your Tenancy commences.
Under current rules anyone can register with a GP practice in England and receive free primary care. You will need to visit your local GP’s surgery to register and you should make them aware that you wish to register as an NHS patient.
In order to establish entitlement, hospitals/GP practices can ask you to provide documentation that supports your claim that you intend to engage in employment in the UK or prove residency. These documents include a copy of your Tenancy Agreement, a valid work permit, proof of nationality, copies of vaccination records and routine medical tests. You will be required to provide documentation for each member of your family. On successful application you will receive an NHS number.
Please be aware that many surgeries are heavily oversubscribed and you may need to seek an alternative choice of surgery.
If you have problems getting an appointment with a GP for a minor illness or injury, then you can try a walk-in centre or a GP-led health centre. Registration is not required and patients do not need an appointment. Most centres are open 365 days a year and outside of office hours.
There is an increasing shortage of NHS dentists in the UK and you may need to register with a private dental practice and pay for treatment.
If you have a dental emergency, contact the dentist you are registered with. If you are not registered with a dentist obtain advice from NHS Direct on 111.
Optical treatment tends to be provided by High Street Opticians, including Specsavers, Vision Express, Boots, David Clulow.
A minimum charge for an NHS eye test will be made and most people have to pay the cost of glasses, frames and lenses.
Get the most out of your city with the Time Out app. They have put everything that is great about the city in one place with information on gigs, events, bars, restaurants, club nights and film releases. Cities available include: London, Dublin, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, and Manchester.
Unsure if you want to take a bus, walk or cycle to your destination? Unsure which route is quickest? With a statement we can all understand, CityMapper is on a mission to ‘make cities usable’. The highly rated app is loved by both locals and expats for its easy to use interface to get them where they need to go. It gives you all the best routes to get to your destination and even details the best train carriage to use. Available in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
Santander Cycles is the self-service, bike-sharing scheme for short journeys in inner London. Download the app to make getting around London by bike even easier. It will show you bike availability, routes to your nearest docking station and wills end bike release codes straight to your smartphone so you can skip past the docking station terminal and get on your bike quicker.
HAILO TAXI LONDON
This taxi app lets you order a black cab to your current destination and even tells you how long you will have to wait. That means no more jostling on the street to flag down a cab! The driver will even let you know when they are outside. Convenience and safety in one app. Available in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.
LONDON TUBE MAP
Whether you are a Londoner, commuter or tourist for the day, this app is a must. It helps you plan your route, locates your nearest stop and points out nearby places of interest. Live information helps you avoid delays.
This app shows you where to go and what to see in London. Quickly find out what is free near you and browse their must see recommendations.
MUSEUM OF LONDON
This amazing app from the Museum of London lets you travel back in time. Hold your camera up in the present day and watch as images from the past appear on screen!
There is no getting away from it; the UK, and especially London, are expensive. Vouchercloud has the biggest selection of mobile discount vouchers for restaurants, pubs, bars, entertainment, days out and hotels, so you never need to pay full price again.
If you fancy doing something different after work instead of just heading home, this app has got you covered with its smart and curated list of that evening’s events. Y Plan lets you purchase tickets to various concerts, theatre performances, comedy shows and lots more. The app is designed for spontaneous individuals who are on the go and looking for something to do in London, Bristol or Dublin.
NATIONAL RAIL ENQUIRIES
If you will be commuting in to work or plan on taking the train frequently at the weekends to visit other cities, this app is a must. It lets you effortlessly book cheap train tickets, find out train times and rail fares on the go, and receive train service updates. Real time train information enables you to track specific trains, save favourite journeys, find out about disruptions and re-plan your journey.
Waze is the world’s largest community based traffic and navigation app. Join drivers in your area who share real time traffic and road information to save time, fuel and improve daily commuting for all.
Bizzby brings local service professionals to your door at the tap of a button, ranging from decorating, cleaning, rubbish disposal, personal trainer sessions, and childcare. All professionals are vetted and checked, and you can receive an instant quote.
With live bus times, journey planning and route maps for every stop in London, this app lets you know how long you will have to stand in the rain before your bus arrives or two come along at once!
Another alternative taxi booking service which hires local drivers to take you around. Once you have signed up for an account, the app will let you choose which type of car you want to collect you, tells you how much the journey will cost and will charge your card automatically upon reaching your destination. This way you will always have a ride home. You can also use a feature called Uber Pool allowing you to split the cost with other people heading in your direction.
This map and navigation app works totally offline meaning no expensive roaming charges. You will be able to easily navigate any city.
Booking holidays, city breaks or flights back home for the holidays can be a nightmare. With so many options, many of which are pricey, it is impossible to ensure you get the best deal. Kayak does the work for you, searching hundreds of travel sites at once to find the information you need to make the right decisions on flights, hotels and hire cars. You can also sign up to receive alerts when there is a drop in price so you can bag yourself a bargain.
Hopper analyses trends and patterns in flight ticket sales. It helps you find the best deals and even informs you when would be the best time to book the tickets. This app is all about saving you time and money.
‘The ultimate city guide in your pocket’, this app helps you find the perfect places to go with friends. Discover the best food, nightlife and entertainment in your area. It will suggest local restaurants, give you tips and reviews and even translate them to your chosen language.
If you are out and about or without internet when you first arrive in the UK, this app will locate all the Wi-Fi spots close by so that your next phone bill does not cost you a fortune with all the extra data and roaming charges.
If you are fed up of hotels and their cost, or if you have friends and family coming to stay for a while, this app lets you rent out local homes or apartments in the city of your choice.
Please contact us for access to the following London area guides:
Belsize Park, Hampstead & Primose Hill
Brook Green, Hammersmith & Shepherd’s Bush
Camden & Kentish Town
Clapham, Wandsworth & Battersea
Fulham & Earls Court
Islington & Shoreditch
Knightsbridge & Belgravia
Marylebone & Mayfair
Putney & Barnes
St John’s Wood
Victoria, Pimlico & Westminster
Please contact us for access to the following area guides including the Home Counties:
23/06/2016: Britain votes to leave the EU
The results are in and the British public have spoken. Britain will be leaving the European Union. This result has come as a shock to many and there is a lot of uncertainty going forward. We simply do not know what the outcome will be as no one has ever gone through this process before. All we have is speculation.
There are a lot of questions to be answered in the coming months. What will Brexit do to property prices, both rental and sales? What does this mean for EU nationals already in the UK? Will they have to leave? Will businesses move their headquarters as it will no longer be so easy to transfer employees? And what about British expats living overseas?
Watch this space…
19/08/2016: Night Tube arrives in London- Victoria & Central Lines
A 24 hour service on the London Underground launches tonight. Trains will operate throughout the night on the Victoria line and parts of the Central line every Friday and Saturday.
The Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines will follow in the autumn.
Over 200,000 Londoners are expected to make use of the service to get them home safely after nights out or working late in the office.
12/09/2016: London bus 'hopper' ticket to launch
From 12th September 2016, the new one hour hopper ticket will make bus travel cheaper and more convenient for millions of Londoners.
The £1.50 fare will allow you to change onto another bus or tram for free within 60 minutes of touching in at the start of your journey.
The hopper ticket will automatically be given to anyone who uses Pay As You Go with Oyster or contactless payment cards.
01/10/2016: Tower Bridge Closure
From this Saturday, 1st October, Tower Bridge will be closed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until 30th December 2016. It will be closed to all vehicles and cyclists whilst major maintenance works are carried out.
The bridge will be open to pedestrians during the works for all but three weekends, when full pedestrian closures are needed. Closures to pedestrians will be needed from 08.00am-10.00pm on the weekends of:
Saturday 26th – Sunday 27th November
Saturday 3rd – Sunday 4th December
Saturday 10th – Sunday 11th December
Please ensure you check your routes and travel plans as diversions will be in place, including bus routes. Please be aware that your journey may take longer than normal. You can find all route closures and diversions here.
07/10/2016: Night Tube Jubilee Line Opens
From Friday 7th October the Night Tube network will be extended as the Jubilee line also goes 24 hour.
Passengers will be able to travel between Stratford and Stanmore throughout the night at the weekends, with one train every ten minutes. The line includes Canary Wharf, major stations Waterloo and London Bridge as well as being close to two of London’s biggest venues, the o2 arena and Wembley Stadium.
18/11/2016: Night Tube Northern Line Opens
The Night Tube launches on the Charing Cross branch of the Northern Line tonight.
Trains will run every 8 minutes between Morden and Camden Town, and every 15 minutes from Camden Town to High Barnet/ Edgware.
There will be no service on the Mill Hill East and Bank branches.
16/12/2016: Night Tube Piccadilly Line Opens
The final of the five Night Tube lines opens on 16th December 2016. Trains will run on average every 10 minutes between Cockfosters and Heathrow Terminal 5.
04/01/2017: Lancaster Gate Tube Station Closure
TfL will be carrying out essential work to replace two lifts at the station. The station will be closed from the 4th January 2017 and will re-open mid-July.