Utilities

If your company will assist you in setting up utilities prior to your move, take advantage. Remember to open accounts in both spouse’s/partner’s name so that you can use the bill to apply for a bank account, mobile phone, etc. If not, here are the basics:

Telephone

London has a large variety of telephone providers. The main providers are:

  • BT: www.bt.com, from landline: 080 080 0150, from mobile: 0330 123 4150

Many companies have special packages for calling the US. Some people prefer to use only a mobile phone and a computer service to make calls back home. Decide how much you will be calling and when prior to deciding which plan is right for you.

Most companies also offer bundles, which include cable/phone/internet for one lower price. Researching the prices and options is the only way to decide what is the right plan for you. The UK government has a helpful website to compare plans and answer your questions: www.ofcom.org.uk .

Internet & Television

You basically have two options when choosing internet and cable television providers. First you must decide whether you want Broadband (ASDL) or Wireless internet service. Virgin Media supplies broadband service for both internet and cable television and Sky provides Wi-Fi and digital satellite television. Broadband is typically faster although more flats are typically already wired for a digital connection.

TV license

If you own a television set, you must purchase an annual TV license. If you purchase a television in the UK, you will receive the TV license bill in the post. Most Post Offices also sell TV licenses. Fines for not having a TV license are extraordinary and they do come to your home to check for a television if you have not purchased a license. For more information, visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk .

Electricity & Gas

Electricity and gas meters are typically read on a quarterly basis and you will receive your bill following the reading. If you are not available for the reading, the company will make an estimate of usage and will correct the bill the next time they come out for a reading. To compare major utility prices in your area, visit www.saveonyourbills.com or www.buy.co.uk.

Water

Thames Water is the water supplier for most of London (www.thameswater.co.uk). Water bills are typically based on a standing charge, which includes the value of the property, rather than consumption. Water bills are sent semi-annually and include charges for water and sewage services. Landlords often pay this expense for renters.

The tap water in London is drinkable, though usually only from the kitchen faucet because it is the only tap connected to the main line.

London’s water is very hard so you will need to use a cleaning agent to remove limescale from appliances. You need to put salt into your dishwasher to prevent cloudy and discolored dishes. Water softening tablets/liquid are available for your washing machine and hardware stores typically have special limescale removers for irons and kettles.