How To Move To The UK

“Adventurer Stacey’s in the London, that’s awesome for her! How do I do that?” is what I hear behind every question I’m asked about my recent re-location. I used to ask those questions too before I took on a life of travel and adventure, now that things have gone full-circle I’m smiling to myself. I’ve created a list to break down the steps for a move to the UK (or any country for that matter) which I hope you can find useful:

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#1 Draw up a plan

Preparations for relocation can start up to six months before you move. For me this time, it was only three months however, many people take less time. It’s up to you and your personal needs.

#2 Passport check!

Do you have one? Is it valid for much longer? If you need a new one start going through the process of passport application ASAP as you need a passport to apply for visas. For some people who’re eligible for a UK or EU passport, they won’t need to worry about the next steps (and the rest of us are jealous of you, by the way!)

#3 Get the correct work visa

Most Aussie’s, Kiwi’s and Canadian’s under 31 will opt for a Working Holiday visa. These are easy to get and can take as little as two weeks however, if you’re highly skilled you may want to apply for the highly skilled migrant visas. Check with the British High Commission ASAP which visa type best applies to your situation.

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#4 Book Flights

I’ve written a bit about how to find cheap flights in the past but as a general rule, booking in off season or shoulder season to the UK is usually cheaper, you may also want to see if there is a big difference between business class seats and economy as sometimes the price is very close and being such a long flight for some, you may want that luxury.

#5 Purchase travel insurance

I’m with World Nomads who I strongly recommend because their coverage is so good – they even offer coverage for work-related injuries (lets hope that’s never a problem!) and cover you for more than just the UK. You can also renew your cover as you travel which is great for those of us who need it (like myself!)

#6 Sort out your home

If you own your place, you might want to consider renting it out to help with those mortgage repayments. If you are renting, you’ll want to find someone who can keep your stuff at their place or work out a storage option. Make sure you have this sorted well in advance to moving as you don’t need the stress.

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#7 Mail: what are you doing with it?

You might want to consider getting a friend or family member to open your mail at home and relay anything important to you. Or alternately you can get everything sent to you electronically through a service or from the companies themselves.

#8 Consider power of attorney

This is not a must-do however, many long-term travellers or expats give their power of attorney to a trusted friend of family member back home. This is an extension of someone just reading your mail for you however, you might want to look into it and see if it’s an option for you considering you do plan to be away for a while.

#9 Health checks

You will want to ensure any vaccinations are up-to-date, your dental checks out and your doctor has had a good look at you before you go. You’ll also want to ensure any medications you are on are also available in the UK and take a note from your doctor about any medications you’ll be taking with you on the plane. It’s also important if you have contact lenses or glasses that you take an optical prescription with you as well.

Apparently the horse had a hole drilled in him to drain water... hole is in his penis so he looks like he is weeing when it rains. Cannot verify this story, but thought you'd like to know...

Apparently the horse had a hole drilled in him to drain water… hole is in his penis so he looks like he is weeing when it rains. Cannot verify this story, but thought you’d like to know…

#10 Pack properly and on time

I am an experienced backpacker but for sure, there were packing mistakes I made the first time I moved here. I left some things at home that I sort of needed and had to buy there. I would prefer to go that way than the other way though. You should start packing no more than a month before you leave (in order not to over-pack) and no less than a week before you leave (because you don’t need to stress about packing last moment). I have a general packing list for backpacking too that is a good starting point.

#11 Photocopy important documents

Make copies of important documents before you go: passport, travel insurance, visas, credit cards, hotel/hostel reservations and tickets. You’ll want to leave these at home however, some people make several copies and carry some with them, leave one copy at home and email another copy to themselves so if something goes wrong they can deal with it then and there rather than having to call that person at home and ask for their credit card numbers when they need to cancel them.

#12 Get some spare passport photo’s taken

Generally with travel this is a good idea – I’ve had to use spare passport photo’s a number of times for things like visas. I’ve never been unlucky enough however, I’ve heard some police in some countries want them for police reports if you have to report theft.

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#13 Get your CV sorted

I’ve previously mentioned this on the blog however, UK employers prefer two-page CV’s with dates of each job (starting and leaving). Make sure yours is UK ready before you go as this will save plenty of time and hassle once you arrive.

#14 Contact your UK-based mates

This is super important! Sure, a whole lot of Aussie’s, Kiwi’s and Canadian’s move to the UK every single year and it won’t take much for you to make new friends but it’s much, much easier to have those familiar friends around you when you arrive and it’s never been easier to do this. Shortly before you leave (I left mine to a month before I left) you can change your city on facebook to the one you will be moving to in the UK and then search for other people in your friends’ list who’re in the same city. Surprisingly, you will find people who you didn’t know had moved. I found some old university friends which was great because they already knew what professional jobs were like here, employers expectations, etc. and could help me out. Also, joining facebook groups is a great way to hit the ground running. There’s a bunch of more formal ways to do this too like university alumni organisations, clubs and groups you’re a member of back home, etc. however, this is becoming the more popular way to connect so why not?

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I hope that break down has helped you guys’ who’re thinking of making the big move and I sincerely hope this method of breaking things down encourages some of you to chase those travel dreams. I’d love to hear about others’ experiences with moving to the UK and any advice they would have for people considering it in the comments below. Keep adventuring guys’!

Harry Potter Tour, Edinburgh

Tour meeting place: Make sure you rub Bobby's nose for luck!

Tour meeting place: Make sure you rub Bobby’s nose for luck!

The first time I saw him was when I was walking down the street looking for the café J. K. Rowling had written the first book in, my eyes wide, NO WAY I thought. I was suddenly transported to a different world I’d only read about and here was the famous Harry Potter.

I’d seen them walking around Edinburgh a few times since. Groups of muggles trailing a handsome wizard who looked like a grown-up version of the famous Harry Potter. I didn’t want to spoil everyone’s wand-waving fun so asked around at the hostel I was staying in. Did anyone know about this tour? Was it, like I thought a Harry Potter tour?

Our Tour Guide: Harry Potter(look-alike). He was great though!

Our Tour Guide: Harry Potter(look-alike). He was great though!

The next day I was standing under the famous statue of Grayfriars Bobby waiting for the famous Harry Potter to show me his Edinburgh.

I was quietly excited when Harry Potter gave me my first wand and couldn’t keep the smile from my face as he showed the group how to wave their wands and how to pronounce the magic words just right. We were to use this, our first spell to change traffic lights from red to green. This turned out to be a very important spell for road safety.

Diagon Alley (With my wand hand showing!)

Diagon Alley (With my wand hand showing!)

Harry showed us around Edinburgh, chatting to us about his world in his English accent and showing us all the hidden gems I’d missed while Potter hunting on my own.

I learned plenty about J. K. Rowling’s writing, inspiration and a few of the real-life inspirations she used. She had loved funny names and used many of the names she found in the Grayfriars Church yard, she changed the names of course as she didn’t want her characters to reflect on real people, especially the baddies.

Tom Riddle's Grave... or is it?

Tom Riddle’s Grave… or is it?

Tom Riddle’s name, for example is borrowed from someone buried in Grayfriars and every Halloween apparently there is a bunch of Potterfiles who head to the cemetery and duel with their wands in front of the grave every year. Although I would like to say I would enjoy watching this, I can’t see myself going into a cemetery, after dark, on Halloween.

We also saw the school that inspired Hogwarts and that later J. K. Rowling’s children attended. This very exclusive school is next to Grayfriars church yard and had four houses the same colours as the Hogwarts houses and that were also named after important people to the school. Interestingly enough, both of J. K. Rowling’s children were placed in the red house – Gryffindor.

The real life Hogwarts!

The real life Hogwarts!

As a Potter fan who loved the books as a child and grew up with Harry, I wasn’t happy to hear about J. K. Rowling’s treatment by the media. Apparently she had been sitting in one of her favourite café’s writing as she always had and the media were hounding this quiet writer. One photographer sat next to her and took pictures over her shoulder as she wrote. I enjoyed however, J. K. Rowling’s revenge. She wrote nosey, annoying reporter Rita Skeeter into her novels. This was satire of what she was dealing with as she tried to work.

And where exactly were all these great sites? Want to learn to wave your wand to change traffic lights? If you’re interested in taking the tour yourself, it’s a tour-for-tips arrangement (as in, you pay what you think the tour is worth). You can find more details on the tour company’s website.

The hand prints of the woman herself!

The hand prints of the woman herself!

Have you been on the tour? Suggest any other great tours in Edinburgh? Write about them below.

Goodbye Scotland, can’t say I miss ‘ye

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It’s not that I didn’t have a good time in Scotland: I learned plenty, saw some beautiful landscapes and castles (as anyone on my Instagram will tell you) and came into contact with a culture I’d been curious about for some time. Meeting a Scot abroad is not the same as meeting one in their homeland so I knew I would need to go to the place to get a real feeling for why the people are the way they are and also to meet more of these lovely people.

But then there were the other things. Edinburgh my chosen city was full of foreigners, although I love a good international city the rich Scottish culture I had been seeking wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped. The scots I met there (outside of service jobs which the Scots and indeed anyone no-one in the UK excels at) were generally nice people with a few exceptions as happens anywhere else in the world.

People chilling out in the grave yard at lunch time: Only a Scot wouldn't notice how depressing that is!

People chilling out in the grave yard at lunch time: Only a Scot wouldn’t notice how depressing that is!

 

I had my heart set on Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular so the idea of moving back down to London or to another UK city didn’t really appeal to me right in that moment. I tried Glasgow (a nightmare from the first), Belfast held little interest for more than a day trip, I had previously decided London was too big and crazy for me (still love you though London!). Generally nothing else really fit the bill for what I wanted – a small city with charm and great food and night life.

Although this feeling has changed after leaving the UK, I wonder how much of that is nostalgia or me not knowing I had a good thing when I had it.One needs to give herself some time to consider this as the obstacles for working in the UK as an Aussie are quite difficult.

 

I swear, Edinburgh has the biggest Sea Gulls! Pretty sure their dogs are smaller...

I swear, Edinburgh has the biggest Sea Gulls! Pretty sure their dogs are smaller…

 

One of the big barriers for me was the cost of living in the UK and the fact that as an Australian who was in the country legally it was near impossible for me to do basic things you need to do before I can work like getting a national insurance number (a tax requirement for anyone working in the UK) and setting up a bank account. I met plenty of Aussie’s who’d given up on working legally despite the hundreds of dollars they had spent on the visa and who were working illegally for cash and earning much less than the minimum wage (the UK minimum wage is not a living wage to start with). Some as low as four pounds an hour which is lunch money.

I never thought the move would be easy but it really was an uphill battle right from the start. Without the option for legal work, I would be stuck working illegally in industries outside my own (I’m a scientist) and would be living underneath the poverty line in foreign country. What about my dreams of international travel within Europe? About a wonderful resume when I return home with yet more international experience?

It got dark at around 11pm but was cold much, much sooner that far north.

It got dark at around 11pm but was cold much, much sooner that far north.

Taking a look around at this situation you can imagine what I did next. The next logical step after touring the UK and visiting all those castles and ruins I was so crazy about was to book a one-way ticket to Mexico! Didn’t see that coming? Not on my Instagram then?

If you’ve had similar issues with travel plans not going quite to plan, I’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments below. Or just commiserate with me. Poor girl, has her health but cannot live in cold, dreary Scotland! Must be so hard!

How I became the mascot of the Scots Dragoon Guard (Scottish Cavalry)

UK-Scots-Flag-Adventurer-Stacey

It was dinner time and like any good visitor to Scotland, I was looking for a pub that served cold beers and hot food. feet made tired from constant pounding on the cobble stones I turned into the nearest pub and made a bee line for the bar through the crowd of old Scottish guys’. While waiting at the bar it occurred to me all at once that I was in the tourist district of Edinburgh, there were never any Scottish people here. At least not in these numbers. I turned to one of the older gents’ and he started to tell me his story.

Tomorrow there would be a march down the royal mile to celebrate 200 years since Waterloo and these fellas were all marching. They were part of the Scots Dragoon Guard and explained to me that it was the Scottish cavalry. Since then I have visited several sites around Scotland and have learned a heap about their military history. Below is an extract taken from Army.mod.uk:

“The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are Scotland’s most senior and only regular cavalry regiment, formed in 1678”

Now, these guys were not the original Scots DG (although, they looked old enough! Just kidding!). The men in front of me had been all over the world and being that I love a good story of adventure I did plenty of listening as I sipped my beer.

One of the fellas owned the bar and was giving me beers to taste (whole pints mind!) and another lad was giving me small mementos of my visit to the pub, Scots DG pins and a bracelet were promptly pushed into my hands and I was told it would be rude not to take them so I did.

After the bracelet was placed around my wrist this tipsy Scot was walking me around to show someone else. The other gent was mildly upset that I had been given the band as I was clearly not a member of the Scots DG and wouldn’t even know what to do with a horse. Then it came out, “She’s our wee mascot!”

I looked at my new friend confused, “What do you mean your mascot? Like that little boy the Aussie soldiers stole and took home with them?” He looked at me perplexed as I told him about the small boy who had been adopted as a mascot by an Australian regiment and one soldier who took particularly kindly to this orphan had smuggled him back into Australia and raised him as his own son.

The scots laughed, then started telling each other about their new Australian mascot. At this stage I had been in the pub drinking for several hours and still had not eaten. These fellas were really drunk too and I couldn’t understand their now very thick Scottish accents half the time. I smiled, made my excuses and left.

Petting a manta ray... do you see my pretty blue Scots DG Bracelet?

Petting a manta ray in Belize… do you see my pretty blue Scots DG Bracelet?

Meeting people now, I often am asked about the story of the bands on my wrist, so I tell them the tale of how I became the mascot for the Scottish Dragoon Guard, a senior cavalry regiment in a bar in Edinburgh.

I think it’s a good story anyway.

Announcing my upcoming working holiday!

The London Bridge is falling down, falling down...

The London Bridge is falling down, falling down…

I recently graduated university with a science degree. The ceremony was beautiful, I had my whole family there cheering me on as I walked across the stage to accept my certificate. Happily, I didn’t trip over my gown and fall flat on my face, I just breezed right in gracefully accepting my certificate before turning and smiling at my proud family.

Until now, I’ve been working travel around my studies. With 11-week semesters twice a year I had plenty of time to take off and explore however, I had to keep coming back to my homeland, Australia to complete my degree. Not that I’m complaining as I am really lucky to be a resident of Australia’s cultural capital Melbourne but it does inhibit you from living elsewhere, finishing a degree.

I’ve had my eyes on the UK for a long time now. In 2012 I first visited London, Belfast and Stone Henge. I enjoyed my time there but didn’t feel I was giving myself enough time to delve deep enough into the UK’s history and culture. I was just a tourist, flittering through having a good time but not really connecting with the place on the deeper level I’d like to.

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A few weeks’ ago I went to pick up my passport. I had received two ambiguous emails about the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) working holiday visa I had applied for and was feeling a little worried, as if I wouldn’t receive this visa and therefore wouldn’t be able to experience the UK as I’d like to. I went through the heavy locked door into a room where I had to empty my pockets and turn off my phone, placing everything into a locker before being called into another security room and being told to stand on a red dot as I was scanned with a hand-scanner. As if I could have hidden any weapons in my dress. Then I was allowed through to a third room where I’d sat just two weeks before when I applied for my visa. I waited to be called and when I was the woman just handed me an envelope. I stared at it for a second before I was dismissed, I stood up to leave then asked, “But, did I get my visa?” the girl behind the desk smiled at me, “You’ll have to open the envelope to find out.”

I walked over to one corner out of the way and opened the envelope. I was flipping through my passport looking for the visa. Finally, after twenty-odd pages without the visa I found it and smiled. When I looked up the security guard who’d scanned me coming in was standing nearby smiling back at me. I had it! I allowed the guard to walk me out and he said, “So you got it then?” I was so happy I started telling him how happy I was and that I couldn’t wait to get home and book my flights. We talked about the international world we live in (my visa was granted in Manila, not my countries capital of Canberra where I assumed they’d send my visa) and talked a little about history and what I wanted to do when I got there before I had to leave for another appointment I had made just down the block.

I had a few drinks with some friends that night to celebrate then at 2am, still a little tipsey I booked my flights and travel insurance. I’m so happy to be taking this journey and cannot wait to share all the ups and downs (hopefully mostly ups!) with my readers.

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Your turn! Have you ever had a working holiday before? What advice would you give to someone about to undertake one?