Living and travelling in London

Finding Accommodation

As a cosmopolitan city, London is in a constant state of flux and finding accommodation can be challenging. There are a number of resources available, both private and public, that may be used to assist in your search.

The Accommodation Bureau is a resource that is available to all prospective international medical graduates (IMGs) looking for advice.

App-based services such as Spareroom, Rightmove and Zoopla may be useful and cater for shared accommodation as well as single living.

The internet itself is a treasure trove of information which could be used to assist a newcomer in finding their feet. Blogs such as The Box Room may be of use.

Selection of mobile phones, mobile operators and mobile data

All smartphones work here and buying a prepaid SIM card is very easy. There are many mobile operators (Vodafone, O2, Three, Virgin, Lyca, Lebera etc). You should be able to buy a SIM card for most operators at the airport, railway station or any shop. You will not need any documentation and the SIM cards are pre-activated.

Finance

Opening a bank account is essential and can be challenging. Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) HR will be able to help with this. Once you have a registered address in the UK that you are residing at (non-hotel), the GOSH Medical HR team will be able to provide you with a letter that you can take to a local bank, which will assist you with opening a bank account.

GOSH currently has an understanding with HSBC, but any bank may be used.

Travel

Central London is well connected to all the London airports (Gatwick, Heathrow,  London City, London Southend, Luton and Stansted).

Contactless credit or debit cards can be used on public transport in Greater London. This includes London Underground (also known as 'the tube’), London Buses, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), London Overground services, trams, some river boat services, and most National Rail services within the London fare zones. Be careful though, as using a contactless card from your home country may incur bank charges.

Oyster Card is an alternative form of electronic ticketing which can be used for day or season tickets. Oyster cards are promoted by Transport for London (TfL), are easily available at any tube or train station and can be recharged in person or online.

An important thing to remember is that no cash is accepted in any of the transport modes in Central London directly. A London Underground map can be obtained from any underground station or the TfL app can be downloaded from TfL, as well as their journey planner which is helpful for finding your way around initially. 

The closest underground stations to Great Ormond Street Hospital are Russell Square (Piccadilly Line) and Holborn (Central and Piccadilly lines). There are several mainline train stations within walking distance (Euston, Kings Cross, St Pancras, Waterloo and Charing Cross).

More information about traveling to GOSH including the hospital site plan and downloadable map is available on the GOSH website here

Uber and My taxi, yellow cab apps can be used in Central London. 

Taking the tube is generally the most economical way of getting to GOSH, but can be difficult with luggage, as many stations have stairs to negotiate. Taking a taxi is the simplest, but the most expensive way to get around, particularly during the day when traffic is heavy.

Directions from surrounding airports to the hospital can be found here:

Getting to GOSH from nearby airports (182.47 KB)

Exploring the UK and Europe by rail

The UK has the oldest railway system in the world. Despite what you may hear from commuters it can be a very enjoyable way to explore the rest of the UK and Europe by train. Information about the rail network including links to tickets can be found through National Rail which also has a helpful journey planner. 

Unless it is a very short journey it is often very expensive to buy tickets for travel on the day, it is much better to pre-book online. This can be done through National Rail, or the rail company who run the service (ie Virgin Trains), or through a comparison website such as The Trainline, or others. It can be beneficial to compare prices but remember to print out any confirmation in advance to avoid difficulties when travelling.  

You can reach mainland Europe by Eurostar from London St Pancras International.

Childcare and schools

Arranging childcare and finding schooling for your young family can be expensive and potentially challenging. There are a number of websites and agencies that can help with babysitting, childcare, nannies and school searches. Some of these are included below. 

Formal schooling in the UK starts from the year the child turns 5 years of age, and continues for 13 years until (up to) 18 years of age. The school year runs from September to July. The education system consists of non-fee paying state-funded schools, religious schools (some of which are state funded, some are fee paying) and independent fee paying or 'private' schools. Information about the British education system is available here.

In most cases, children arriving from overseas have the right to attend state-funded schools in England. If you plan to travel with children and need to find out more about enrolling them in the state education system in the UK there is up-to-date information on the UK government website.

Independent or fee paying schools are available in most areas, and information on options is available at:

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. They inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and produce very helpful reports on educational services you may be considering.

Information about childcare is available here.

Climate

The British weather is not usually the main reason for coming to the UK! Between May and October (our summer), the average temperatures are often a little cool, but still a pleasant 10°C to 20°C, peaking in July—August, with a maximum of around 30°C. Rain generally occurs on around two out of ten summer days. Between November and April (in London), average temperatures are fairly cool (between 0°C and 10°C). You definitely need sufficient warm clothes (jackets, coats, cap, gloves etc) and a house with heating.

Personal health

Registration with GP/Dentist/Optician

The healthcare system in the UK is divided into primary care (‘General Practitioners’ (GPs) or ‘family doctors’), secondary care (local district general hospitals) and tertiary care (specialist services). You should register with a GP soon after your arrival in the UK as they are usually the first point of care for non-emergencies or accidents in the UK health system. Find a GP near you by putting the post code into this website.

The closest GP services to GOSH are Holborn Medical Centre at Lambs Conduit or Brunswick Medical Centre at Brunswick Square. The closest adult hospital to GOSH is University College London Hospital (UCLH) which has a casualty (A&E/ER) department. Should you become unwell with any accident or emergencies, go to casualty at UCLH, otherwise make an appointment with your GP. 

You will not be able to see a hospital based specialist without going down one of these routes. The same is true for dentists and opticians. Nearby dental practices are at Tavistock Dental & Facial Care, Bloomsbury Dental and Russell Court Dental Practice.

Support services

Although we are doctors, we are all human. Sometimes being in a new environment can feel tough and makes us feel low. It is important to know that you are not alone and to remember that there is always help around. Talk to your peers – many will have have gone through the same things as you and can provide an ear for listening or a helping hand.

The hospital has 24/7 access to a confidential telephone counselling service called ‘Care First’ (0800 174 319), through which you can access further short term counselling via the phone or in person.

London doctors also have access to a government funded schemed called the Practitioner Health Programme which is free and confidential.