Brazilian author of the book ‘Moving Abroad, one step at a time’ Rafael has been living in London for 13 years and is the Founder of roominthemoon.com a social travel network that connects people moving to London.
If you are planning on moving to London and you have never been here, you will soon find out that London has a lot to offer – but sometimes it comes with a price tag!
Being one of the world’s most expensive cities, it is hard to find quality accommodation and affordable at the same time. We have selected a few areas that vary from budget to luxury, so you can decide which suits your personality and pocket.
London is divided into 6 zones: Zone 1 is the most expensive, with some of the most expensive square metres in the world. Areas like Mayfair and Belgravia are top of the list. Here are some suggestions of areas to live depending on your age and budget.
Elephant and Castle – South London
If you are look for cheap and central, Elephant and Castle is the cheapest zone 1 area you will find. The area is undergoing a lot of redevelopment which is increasing the prices of accommodation but it’s still relatively cheap for a zone 1 postcode.
Around the Elephant and Castle roundabout you will find hundreds of shops and in the shopping centre itself you will find a daily market where things are going to be much cheaper than the shops. Shoes for £10? That’s the place to find them!
It’s also the place where Charles Chaplin was born and where clubbers find the Ministry of Sound, one of the world’s most famous clubs. There is also the Coronet Theatre, which is actually a club but they have varied nights so I recommend you double check what’s on.
If you take a bus towards Camberwell Green, you will soon be on Walworth Road. You will find everything there from Chinese medicine and massage to McDonalds and banks. You probably don’t need to go anywhere else to find food, clothes, phone shops or banks.
The area is 50% African or Caribbean but in recent years it has had a huge influx of South Americans too – mainly Spanish speakers but you will also find lots of Brazilians. It’s also where you will find South Bank University and University of Arts and Communication.
Transport wise, it’s a great place to be. Most buses that go to south London pass through Elephant and Castle, so you will have many options if you are in town on a night out. There are many 24 hour bus routes that include Trafalgar Square, so you will be home in no time. There is a tube station on the Bakerloo and Northern lines and also a train station by the Elephant Castle shopping centre.
Prices vary but starting at £100 per week for a single room, living central could not be cheaper.
Stratford – East London
I have seen Stratford being transformed before and after the Olympics. Many years ago the bad reputation and distance made the area a ‘no-go’ for young single girls.
Because of the Olympic games, the area received so much investment and has had a ‘face-lift’ making it an attractive place for leisure and living.
The only problem with making it look better is that the prices go up, but only if you want to buy, as rent prices have stayed the same. It’s still relatively cheap to live in Stratford. You can find single rooms for £90 and double rooms for £120.
Stratford is super well connected for transport. It is on the Jubilee (one of the best underground lines) and Central Line. It also has a bus station with 24 hour buses. Bus number 25 runs a 24 hour service from Trafalgar Square, so if you are going out in the evening it will take you around 30 minutes to get back home from there. There are also trains running from Stratford station. The area is zone 3, so transport is slightly more expensive. You must balance rent and transport, so make sure that what you are saving on rent you are not spending it on transport.
There is a shopping centre opposite the station where you can find food from all over the world, so you will not feel homesick. On the other side of the shopping centre you will find Starbucks, Argos and many other shops and two big supermarkets. If you live and work around Stratford you don’t need to go to central London for anything else to be honest. Europe’s largest shopping centre, Westfield, is also in Stratford, so if you work in retail or catering there are hundreds of jobs available.
Clapham – South London
Clapham is a favourite area for British people and now becoming increasingly popular amongst Australians, New Zealanders and mainland Europeans. Clapham Common is a huge green park that gets packed in summer time. Rugby players get together, runners, dog lovers and young professional couples are attracted to the pond and the vast green space that the Common provides.
The area is also known as ‘Clapham Village’ because of its local butchers, bakeries, cafes, restaurants and many other local businesses that make Clapham so unique.
It’s slightly more expensive than Elephant and Castle. You will not find a double room for less than £600 a month and it’s zone 2 with the Northern Line being the only line going south, so in the mornings it’s rather difficult to get the train. It’s usually really busy and you may feel like a sardine in a can at 8am! Yet it is worth it – some will say. The area is lovely, the people are polite and friendly and you will find great bars and restaurants as well as two large supermarkets.
Bus 88 takes you to the centre and is 24 hours. Clapham is a large area and is divided into three stations; Clapham North, Clapham Common and Clapham South. Clapham Common, because it is near the park is the most expensive area of them. Clapham South is the only station in zone 3, and slightly more affordable than the other two.
Similar atmosphere to Clapham but slightly more expensive, Angel has a lot to offer.
As you leave the station you can see that the area is always buzzing with young professionals around and it’s the area where the City University is. Bars, clubs and restaurants are everywhere, so having a glass of wine is always on the menu.
The houses are beautiful around there, rooms are expensive though. With prices starting at £650 a month upwards you will have to be quick to make a decision once you find somewhere nice to live.
All major high street shops are in Angel and there is also an Exhibition Centre, so you will have plenty of things to do and visit if you live around there. Not far from Angel is Sadler’s Well Contemporary theatre and Kings Cross St Pancras station is one stop away – in case you are thinking of going to Paris for the weekend!
The area is very ‘British middle class’ and because of the price of accommodation, it attracts the same type of Europeans as other nationalities that can afford such prices.
It’s a great area to live, with green areas around, and squares and pubs where you can have the famous Britsh Sunday Roast. Overall it is an area not to be missed if you want a ‘happening’ place.
Living centrally is everyone’s wish and you could not live somewhere that is closer to the centre than Victoria. It has really modern new buildings and also the traditional London houses. It’s a very expensive area to live, so be prepared to pay £500k for a two bedroom flat, if you are thinking of buying. Room prices start at £180 a week, so you need to be earning quite a good amount on a monthly basis, otherwise you will waste your money away.
Victoria is the home of several theatres, so if this kind of entertainment is your cup of tea, you are in wonderland. As modern living goes, there is also a shopping centre and buses are 24hours from several parts of the city.
Victoria tube station is very busy, serving the Victoria, Circle and District Lines.
There is also a train station, a bus station and a coach station. From Victoria you can take coaches to several European cities, including Paris (if you book in advance you can travel for £30 return). Gatwick Express takes you to the airport in 30 minutes.
If you are looking to live centrally, minutes from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and have plenty of things to do – including pubs, restaurants and clubs, then this is the place for you. Buckingham Palace is minutes away, so every now and again you will see The Queen passing by. Say “hello” for me if you see her!
A film called Notting Hill made this area even more famous and fame brings a price tag. Notting Hill is notorious for its expensive houses and I mean EXPENSIVE.
Accommodation is in line with Victoria and anything less then £500k is not worth buying. The area is hugely popular, and is where the old money lives, so you will see plenty of Bentleys parked in the area.
Some of the streets are breathtakingly beautiful. Rows of white houses with Roman pillars. If you are renting, be prepared to pay a lot. Prices starting at £700 a month for a room for one person.
It’s busy any day of the week and you certainly have plenty to do. Portobello Road is around the corner and if you like antiques, you will be in paradise. It is middle to upper class I’d say, so the type of people you will find there will probably not have any problems with money. Also their English accent is rather nice to hear. Every now and again you spot a celebrity around there, so if you are moving, carry your camera or have your phone ready for a picture.
If a street party is your thing, London’s largest street party is held there – the Notting Hill Carnival. It’s a Caribbean party but slowly it is being taken over by the Brazilians and their samba schools.
Notting Hill is a relatively safe area on the Central Line, and has several 24 hour bus services to and from the centre.
Photos – courtesy of photographer Samira Eugster