One of the most confusing and frustrating aspects of planning a move to the UK (whether it is permanent or temporary) is financial. On the surface it looks like you need to lock away tens of thousands of dollars in order to secure an international banking account that allows you to operate in multiple currencies at the same time.
For weeks I thought so based on browsing dozens of financial websites and listening to some customer service representatives from varying banks in the UK. That is until I talked to the right person at HSBC UK and learned that anyone with legal permission to live in the UK can open a basic checking and savings account with no or low minimums. International banking accounts are not necessary at all. Here are the steps the specialist at HSBC UK told me to follow:
Upon arrival go to a physical branch of the bank you are opening the account at. Check in advance if you need an appointment to do so as different banks have different rules.
Show documents at the bank branch. You will need:
Your passport and residency visa;
Proof of UK address such as a lease, utility bill, etc. in your name. If none exist at the time of your account opening, a letter from the owner/manager of the property you are staying at initially confirming their address and the dates you are staying there is acceptable;
Opening deposit (in British pounds) for the account.
Easy, right? It’s not nearly as hard as most financial websites make it seem. That’s because ultimately they want to sell you what you probably do not want or need. For me, all I want really is the ability to direct deposit my earnings from work and pay my essential bills like rent, council taxes, and utilities. I don’t want to tie up my assets in poor performing financial products which is what most of these international banking accounts come off as to me: high minimums paired with low or no interest paid to me for the trouble of not being able to access my money.
Remember that it always pays to shop around, place phone calls, and ask for help. Banks want your business. Make them earn it.
After two months of planning the time is very near. I’m leaving North America for the first time and yes, I’m so excited my skin is breaking out!
Over these two months I’ve read countless blogs, countless travel sites, visited United.com more times than I want to know, and created a decent sized pinterest board relating to travel. I’ve shopped. I’ve packed. I’ve re-packed. I’ve rechecked the location of my passport weekly — just
My initials in nail polish makes my checked bag stand out.
in case I’ve misplaced it. And through it all I’ve learned a few things worth considering.
Follow your own travel habits. Every other blog or pinterest pin talks about traveling internationally with just a carry on. Guess what? That’s not me. I’ve flown for twenty years checking a regular bag and using my carry on for just what I need at the airport and on the plane. In all this time I’ve never lost a bag. And since I put my initials in nail polish all over this bag, I’m pretty sure that no one else has a bag looking like mine.
Packing cubes equal more space. I’ve found I couldn’t put everything into packing cubes, but they’ve done wonders for my organization, especially the narrow 4x8x2″ ones which now I wish I had more of. Everything is categorical thanks to the cubes. I even have one just for toiletries, allowing me to keep those together.
If you are checking your bag, don’t stuff the carry on with clothing. Influenced by those websites I became convinced I needed a big packing cube in my carry on. There’s
Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on bag has been with me on every flight I’ve ever taken. It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.
two problems to this. One: space. In a soft side carry on, just one packing cube will take up half of the space, space I need for my netbook, my snacks, my medicine, and other things I really will use in flight. Two: weight. Soft sided carry ons are shoulder bags — no wheels. Burdening yourself down as you board and leave planes and navigate the airport is not only no fun, but makes that walking more difficult. I use a white cane to walk. Believe me, that cane is useless if I’m encumbered; I just don’t have the range of motion with my arms that I need. When I stopped following the fancy travel blog advice and repacked all but a pair of flat shoes and whatever socks/underwear I could stuff into my shoes back to the checked bag I found, to my delight, that my carry on now weighs HALF of what it did before.
Drawstring purses for electronics chargers. Years ago I picked up a couple cute silk drawstring purses — the kind that is nice for when you are out on the town and only need your id, some cash, credit cards, and your payment cards for public transit. As it happens, those are PERFECT for my cell phone chargers (one phone for US, one for UK) and my netbook power cable, keeping everything neat and compressed and recognizable in my carry on.
Limit computer accessories. Unless you are giving a business presentation at your destination, you really DON’T need more than your power cable for your computer. Leave home your nice case and slip the computer directly into your carry on. After all, TSA makes you remove the computer from its case to scan it. Why add to your weight and space with more than you need?
Keep a folder for all your paperwork. Creating a folder for the document part of my bag makes it easy to find my itinerary, photocopy of my passport id page, and other important papers. Keep everything together.
Photocopy all cards and identification and email to friends/family. Anything can happen when you travel. Making scan copies of your passport id page, official government identification, and front/back of every payment card you are bringing with you makes replacing those documents easier in case of an emergency. Once scanned, print out a copy of your passport identification page and a page with your home address and your destination address and put that in a visible place inside your bag. Email yourself and trusted friends/family copies of your documents and financial documents.
Don’t over think the trip. People will give you great advice. They will give you poor advice. They will unnerve you with horror stories meant to help you. At the end of the day though you need to follow your own instincts. The more relaxed you are, the better you can solve problems should any come up. Think but don’t over think your trip. Plan but don’t over plan. Stay grounded and have a good time.
Travel is an adventure. Embrace it and enjoy what comes your way!