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Pros and Cons Of Living In London (2024 Guide)

If you are thinking about moving to London and want to know about all the pros and cons to living abroad in London, you are in the right place!

I’ve lived in other cities, but London is my home. After many years of living, working, commuting and socialising in the city, I know it very well!

I might be biased but I believe that the pros outweigh the cons, however, London isn’t for everyone. Keep reading to find out why.

So, here is your guide to the pros and cons of London life.

Pro: Public Transport Can Get You Everywhere

London’s public transport system is extensive and generally very good (although we do sometimes have strikes). The Transport for London network includes the famous London Underground (or ‘Tube’), buses, riverboats and trains. 

Virtually every part of the city is served by either a bus or the Tube, and the majority of Londoners commuting into the city do so via public transport.

I got my driving licence in my mid-20s, and lived in London for many years without a car. 

You really don’t need one to get around, and that’s a good thing – Central London is not very car friendly. Parking is hard to find and expensive, there are lots of narrow and one-way roads, and traffic can be horrendous. 

Con: Public Transport Crowds

Because everyone uses the Tube to get around, it can be very crowded during peak commuting hours. As in, you have absolutely no hope of maintaining any personal space, packed in like sardines, crowded. 

It’s particularly unpleasant in the summer (I’m looking at you, Central line), when you are squished up against strangers in the heat trying to get to work. 

The Tube will get you anywhere, but it also serves everyone else. At the same time. It’s still an infinitely better way to get around the city than driving, but I recommend avoiding rush hour on the Tube if you can. 

A Tube platform with a tube train on the right side of the image, and signs saying London Bridge on the wall on the left.

Pro: Historical and Cultural Sites

London has an incredible range of cultural highlights. Buildings such as the Tower of London are hundreds of years old, and museums like the National History Museum that are completely free to visit. 

You can see a Roman wall, Victorian market and modern skyscraper all within a mile of each other. Few other cities have the variety that London can offer.

If you enjoy history, architecture and culture, London is a great place to live. 

A large pale building, with a circular ramp up to the main entrance with two tall towers either side of an archway opening. The are pedestrians walking along the ramp to the entrance of the Natural History Museum.
The Natural History Museum is one of the country’s best museums, and is free to visit!

Con: Brexit

Brexit is still very contentious and probably will be for a long time to come. It made us even less popular at the Eurovision Song Contest than we already were! 

Side note – If you’ve no idea what Eurovision is, take a detour to YouTube. It’s a bizarre European annual music contest, that for some inexplicable reason also includes Australia.

Each participating country submits an original song, from any genre they want. The entrant doesn’t even need to be from the country they are representing.

Most countries vote for their friendly neighbouring countries, even if the songs are terrible. It’s something of a cultural phenomenon.

Anyway, back to Brexit.

Londoners no longer talk about it every. single. day (and we only really stopped once the pandemic happened and became our replacement topic). But Brexit, and politics generally, is still a divisive issue. 

For many years it was considered impolite to ask about people’s political leanings, but Brexit made political small talk much more common, and as 2024 is an election year it’ll only get more contentious in the immediate future.

As I write this, it seems almost inevitable that the Conservative government will lose (yay!) and Labour will take over, but you can never be completely certain what will happen next. 

Pro: Healthcare

The NHS (National Health Service) is hugely important to UK residents, providing healthcare to everyone who lives here. 

I’m a big fan. I’ve received regular treatment since childhood for epilepsy. My father has had several operations and hospital stays that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the US. Neither of us have had to pay for it.

Unfortunately in recent years the NHS has struggled with funding and waiting times have significantly increased, but it is still a big pro to living in London, and more widely in the UK. 

If you have a healthcare emergency, just go to the doctor or A&E. Ambulances don’t cost anything. Childbirth doesn’t cost anything. 

Certain costs aren’t included, such as eye tests and prescriptions. But prescriptions are set so you pay a flat fee per item – £9.65. A two-week course of antibiotics? £9.65. A month’s worth of anti-depressants? £9.65.

Some long-term conditions such as epilepsy and diabetes are covered so your prescriptions are completely free. The only money I’ve had to pay for my treatment is the cost of parking at the hospital car park. 

Looking down on a person wearing an orange sweater, taking out white, oval pills from a transparent container.

Con: Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

If you apply for a visa to work in the UK for 6 months or more, you’ll probably have to pay an immigration health surcharge, currently £1035 per year. 

So, technically for non-British citizens working and studying in the UK, healthcare isn’t free. But the IHS then gives you access to NHS services so you won’t incur further costs to see a doctor or access medication. 

Take a look at the Gov.uk website to see if you would need to pay the IHS, as there are some exceptions.

Con: Tourism Crowds

To be clear, I welcome tourists to my home city. Tourism is a very important part of the economy. Diversity is always a positive, and I love that London is such a multi-cultural, international city.

But it still goes in the con category from the standpoint of daily life in London. It’s a busy city with just the residents, and adding in tourists makes the crowds in certain parts of the city even worse. Tips – avoid Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and never go to Oxford Street on a Saturday.

You will inevitably find yourself occasionally frustrated by people who reach the top of an escalator and immediately stop while everyone piles up behind them. 

Or annoyed with visitors who come to a sudden standstill in the middle of the street to check a map forcing you to veer wildly to avoid bumping into them. But that’s no different to any other major city. 

As our famous phrase goes – Keep Calm and Carry On.

Pro: Proximity to Europe

At the risk of sounding hypocritical based on the previous con – proximity to mainland Europe is a big plus point to living in London. Whenever I am a tourist myself, I try to be as considerate as possible.

One major benefit of living in London is how easy it is to visit other countries, using London as a home base.

You can travel to France in just a few hours on the Eurostar. Some European cities can even be done as a day trip from London. There are regular cheap flights to other parts of Europe. 

In roughly the same time it takes to drive across the widest point of Texas, you could drive from London to the southern border of Denmark, passing through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany on the way.

Location is a big plus point of expat life in London. 

Paris is close enough that you can visit just for the day from London.

Pro: Higher Wages

London typically offers higher wages compared to other parts of the UK, making it an attractive destination for work. This financial benefit can offset expenses like the Immigration Health Surcharge, ensuring a better quality of life for workers in the city. 

Additionally, London is a hub for industries such as finance, technology, and media, providing access to competitive job opportunities with higher salaries. This can be especially beneficial for international workers with specialized skills or qualifications.

Companies with offices around the country will often offer ‘London weighting’, a higher salary than a comparable role in another part of the country to account for a higher cost of living. 

Receipt with a selection of British coins and cash notes on top

Con: High Cost of Living

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that London is an expensive city. 

London has one of the highest costs of living in Europe, with rent prices being particularly steep. This means that even with a higher salary, you may have less disposable income compared to living in smaller cities. 

I would also add that a superficial glance at salaries might make them seem very low, especially compared to the US. But you won’t need health insurance once you have access to the NHS. 

There are also other savings – groceries tend to be cheaper, and using public transport instead of owning and insuring a car can cut costs. You don’t need to tip as much or as often, so the price on a menu is what you will pay.

Pros: Safe

London is generally a very safe city. I live alone and often end up walking around Central and East London on my own at night after seeing friends without any safety issues.

Public transport runs late, with night buses and a few 24-hour tube lines at weekends so you’ll never find yourself stuck and unable to get home. 

Just like any other major city there are pickpockets in tourist areas, and a low-level terrorism threat. But by and large you can rest assured that you’ll be safe living and working in London. 

Con: Weather

It’s not always terrible, but we have more than our fair share of grey, rainy days. Perhaps that’s why the weather is a fail-safe topic of conversation if you find yourself stuck trying to make small talk with someone. 

It’s especially useful in taxis. 

‘Isn’t the weather miserable/lovely/freezing/warm (delete as appropriate)’ will always help you seem polite without having to spend any mental effort on coming up with something to say!

Also, a rainy day is a perfect time to explore one of London’s many free museums and galleries. 

On the other hand, you will also experience those magical summer days, when the weather is just right, people are extra friendly, and you can sit in your nearest park with a picnic and a drink. 

Nevertheless, I’m not going to pretend that people come here for the sun!

Somerset House – winter open air ice rinks are one benefit of colder days!

Con: No Air Conditioning

Our houses are built to keep heat in, and workplaces aren’t routinely fitted with air con. 

Generally we don’t need it (as per the previous con!), but heatwaves are becoming more common and we don’t really have the infrastructure to cope with it when they do occur. 2022 saw a heatwave with a few days at 40°C (104°F). 

I was (thankfully) on a road trip in the US at the time and had to explain to a few people there why the Brits were making a big deal about it. 

In the US, or other countries that are generally hotter than the UK, it’s fairly common to go from your air-conditioned home, to your air-conditioned car, to your air-conditioned workplace. 

In the UK, you’ll be stuck in a hot home with just a couple of fans to make it bearable, then get onto hot public transport with lots of other people, and then into your workplace which may or may not have air-con. 

Most of the year, the lack of air-con isn’t a big deal, but it’s becoming more common to have a few extremely unpleasant days without much to provide relief from the heat. 

Pro: Arts and Culture

Whatever kind of art or music you are into, London will have you covered. 

Opera in Covent Garden. Live rock bands in Camden. Hit musicals on Shaftesbury Avenue. Live comedy in Soho. 

Modern art at the Tate Modern. Classical Art at the National Gallery. Ancient pottery at the British Museum. Sculpture and textiles at the V&A. 

The list truly is endless. Plus, many of the best museums and galleries around the city are free. When it comes to live performances, you can often get last-minute cheap tickets.

London is a fantastic city for the arts, and unlike many other cities, getting involved doesn’t have to cost a fortune. 

National Gallery

Pro: Parks

London has some spectacular pockets of greenery – Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Green Park, Victoria Park, Hampstead Heath… they are all over the place. 

If the city ever feels too oppressive, you’ll always be a short Tube journey away from a large green space. 

A rose garden at Regent's Park, with flower beds containing red, pink, yellow and white roses. There are bushes and trees behind the flower beds and a clear blue sky.

Con: Weird Water

The question of whether of not tap water is safe to drink comes up surprisingly often, and I think it’s largely to do with the fact that our water does taste a bit weird. 

The water is very safe, but before entering the water system it runs through chalky limestone and picks up traces of calcium and magnesium. Hard water is common around the UK, and it is quite obvious in London.

It does alter the taste, which some people find unpleasant for the first few days.

Another unfortunate side effect is that it is harsher on your skin and hair, so you may find yourself needing more moisturiser and conditioner than at home. 

Pros: Food!

The UK has something of a reputation for bad cuisine. 

I’ll admit our own national dishes can be somewhat lacklustre (although there are notable exceptions such as the traditional roast dinner and afternoon tea). 

However, this is less about British food and more about the international nature of London.

From Michelin-starred dining, to fancy doughnuts from a food truck, London has a huge range of food options. You can find virtually any type of cuisine somewhere in the city. 

An indoor food market. The ceiling is made of glass, and there is a lower level with seating and small, round lights hanging over the tables.
Seven Dials Market – which includes a restaurant that just serves cheese!

Cons: Social Isolation

Making friends in a new city can be tough, and it’s one of the reasons why people sometimes leave the city. It requires some effort and consistency to make friends in a city this big. 

On the plus side there are a lot of expats in London. There are even Facebook groups and websites dedicated to specific nationalities in London – for example Kiwis in London and Americans in London.

I wouldn’t recommend relying solely on those groups to boost your social life – most Londoners are pretty friendly and worth getting to know. 

Pros: Major Events

If you want to live in England, most of the major events and tours that come to the UK will make it to London. 

Music tours by international stars will often be at Wembley or the O2. West End musicals will go to London first. Big sports events will generally be in London.

For access to as many different options as you can get, London is the place to be.

Wimbledon is a popular annual event, one of the 4 annual Grand Slam tennis events.

Final Thoughts: Pros and Cons of Living in London

London isn’t a perfect city, but nowhere is. Some people find it overwhelming, but I still believe it’s one of the best cities in the world. Big enough that you can find anything you want, but still easy to get around. 

In my opinion the pros to London outweigh the cons.

For more information about why London would be a good place to live, find out more about safety in London. To learn more about what makes London so iconic, check out these famous London landmarks.

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