Highland cow on Arran Island, Scotland

So you’re thinking of moving to Scotland? Let me tell you everything, friend.

I backed my bags and moved across the world in April 2019 to wee Glasgow, Scotland. Before we get into the nitty gritty, the NINs and NHS, let’s start with the why. Because really, why did I move to Scotland is the question that literally everyone asks me. 

Why did I move to Scotland? 

There’s a few reasons. Back home in New Zealand I worked in the TV industry. I wanted to continue building my career while living in the UK and there’s limited places to do that. Sure, I could have moved to London, but I wanted to afford to live, ya know? 

I was entranced by Scotland’s beauty, the accents and the idea of exploring family history. I’d heard that Glasgow was the ‘Green City’, that ‘People Make Glasgow’, that Glasgow was cool. And mostly I liked the idea of being 2 hours and a £50 flight from the rest of Europe. New Zealand is literally at the bottom of the world.

Now that I’m here? I love Glasgow. It took me a little while, but there’s something about the great restaurant scene, tenement buildings, and the Glasgwegian accent that has gotten under my skin. Glasgow is cool, it’s friendly, there’s lots of young people and there’s always something happening. And contrary to what my parents told me before I left, it’s no longer the knife crime capital of the world. 

Considering moving to Scotland? Here’s everything I’ve learnt and everything I wish I’d known beforehand. Dive straight into this bumper guide to everything you need to know about moving to Scotland for all things visas, NHS, bank accounts and more. 

Girl sits on beach, Arran Island

Apply for a Visa

The first thing you’ll need to do if you’re considering moving to Scotland is look into what kind of visa you can apply for. Now a disclaimer; I’m no expert on visas, and everything I write about here is from my personal experiences. This information may only be helpful to you if you too are from New Zealand.

I applied for the Youth Mobility Visa, which you can apply for six months before you travel. You can apply for this visa if you: 

  • want to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years
  • are aged 18 to 30
  • have £1,890 in savings
  • have certain types of British Nationality or are from certain countries
  • meet the other eligibility requirements (to see the other requirements check out the website here)

For me the visa application process was easy but not cheap. You have to pay a £244 application fee, and you also have to pay a healthcare surcharge of around £600. Ouch. 

If you’re from New Zealand (and other Commonwealth countries) you can also apply for a UK Ancestry Visa if one of your grandparents was born in the UK. This visa lasts for 5 years, after which you can apply to settle in the UK. 

How much should you have saved before you move to Scotland? 

Another important thing to consider before you make the big move is how much you should have saved before you arrive. You want to have enough of a safety cushion to give yourself time when you land. Time to find a job, time to find a flat, and enough so that you don’t have to panic while looking.

I wanted a safety net that would last 3 months. My savings had to cover accommodation (including bond), food, transport and other essentials. 

I estimated I would spend around £450 a month on rent, £50 per week on food, and £20 per week on transport. Most flats in Glasgow come fully furnished but I would need to buy bedding and other essentials, so I allowed myself £150 for that. All up I made the move to Scotland with around £2500 put aside to get me through.

Your situation will be different so take the time to work out how much you think you’ll need, then allow for a little more. It may take you longer to get there and it’s not as exciting as booking a plane ticket, but that safety net will make your move a lot easier. 

Bagpipe player in Edinburgh, Scotland
Colourful street in Edinburgh, Scotland

Setting up a bank account in Scotland

One of the first things you’ll need to do when you arrive is set up a bank account. Gotta get those dolla dolla bills, ya know?

As an expat moving to a new country you can encounter difficulty when it comes to opening a bank account. First off you’re going to need proof of address, so a bill or bank statement with your name on it. Except that if you’re new to the country you’re not going to have a bill or bank statement with your UK address on it. To get around this you can change the address on your home bank account and use that as proof of address.

I looked into traditional banking with UK banks like Lloyds, Satander and Bank of Scotland, before going with the online banking tool Monzo

Honestly, I could sing Monzo’s praises for days. Though Monzo doesn’t have physical banks their customer service has been great. You do all your banking through the Monzo app, and the easy-to-use interface allows you to divide your money into different ‘pots’ for effortless saving. Monzo is super easy to set up as an expat as you only need to provide valid ID, not proof of address. 

Monzo is also a great option for travelling as you can use your card anywhere in the world without any added fees. You can also withdraw up to £200 every 30 days free of charge. The only downside with Monzo? It doesn’t offer great interest rates. I have one savings ‘pot’ and the interest rate is set at 1.12%. So Monzo is a great option if you’ll be in Scotland short term, but if you’re moving permanently you may want to look into other options.

Nairn Wharf Inverness

Finding a flat

Alright, you’ve made the move, you’ve opened up your bank account, and you’re crashing at an Airbnb for the foreseeable future. The next step? Finding a place to live.

You may be at a totally different stage in your life than I am, and maybe you’re looking to buy your own home in Scotland. Sorry friend, but I’m no help there. Spending all my money on travel has meant buying a home is probs a few years away yet. Welp. 

If you’re looking for a flatshare in Glasgow, you’re in luck! Having lived in two flats in my time here I can offer you a little advice to make your search easier. 

Firstly, set up an account on Spareroom to search for flats and potential flatmates. Though Gumtree is also good, I found Spareroom easier to use. Then, decide what area you want to live in. I live in Glasgow’s West End in a lovely suburb close to lots of cafes and public transport and couldn’t be happier. Though I’d probably stay away from areas like Ibrox or Govan, Shawlands and the Southside are quickly rising in popularity and are now great places for young people to live. 

Once you’ve found your new home, there’s a few things to keep in mind. Most flats in Scotland come fully furnished, so the only things I had to buy when I moved in were towels and bedding. Your rent will depend on where you live; my current flat is just shy of £600 per month (including bills), but you could find a room in the West End for around £450-£500 a month. If you’re a full time student your living costs will be significantly cheaper as you won’t have to pay Council Tax. 

Finding a job

This is a tricky one to write about as finding a job is so particular to your industry. For me, working in television, I find a lot of work through Facebook groups. Glasgow has a booming television industry and my skills are in demand, which had me landing a job at the BBC within three weeks of arriving.

Depending on what you do, you could try looking on websites like Indeed, Gumtree or GuardianJobs. Interested in hospitality? Glasgow has a great bar and restaurant scene and a lot of my expat friends found work by door knocking with their CV’s.

Urquhart Castle Inverness

Getting a National Insurance Number

Now you’ve got a job, you’ll need to apply for your National Insurance Number ASAP… otherwise you’ll be on the Emergency Tax bracket, and that’s not fun. 

Your National Insurance Number may be printed on the back of your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), but if it’s not you’ll need to apply for one. You can only apply for your NIN once you arrive in the UK and you must have one if you plan to work.

To apply for a National Insurance Number you first call the application line to apply. You’ll then be sent a letter asking you to go to your nearest Jobcentre Plus for an interview. After your interview you’ll then be sent your National Insurance Number in the mail and it can take up to 6 weeks to arrive. 

Register with a GP

Alright, life in Scotland is starting to look a little more normal. You’ve got a job, you’ve applied for your NIN, and you’re turning that new flat into a home. There’s a couple more steps to tick off on that ‘Moving to Scotland’ checklist, though.

Once you’ve settled into your flat, it’s time to register with a GP in your area. Not gonna lie, it took me about 6 months to do this… and it was only when I ran out of my inhalers and couldn’t breathe that I made it a priority. But it’s actually a fairly painless process in Scotland. You can use this directory to find a GP in your area, or simply do a wee google search. 

Once you’ve found a GP clinic you’ll need to contact them to register. Some may require you to make an appointment to register, but for my GP I only had to drop off my forms, provide proof of ID and proof of address. And that’s it! Free healthcare for all… until Boris gets his hands on it.

Street art Glasgow


The Weather

Ok, I hate 3:30pm sunsets as much as the next girl, but the weather in Scotland hasn’t been as painful as I thought. Before I moved to Glasgow I’d read somewhere that it was the third wettest city in the UK. I had imagined perpetual rain, gloom and damp, but actually during the one week of summer it didn’t rain at all!

I joke, I joke. Seriously though, the weather in Glasgow isn’t all that bad. When it gets above 15° locals will immediately go ‘taps aff’, and even on the most miserable of days there’s a warm pub to dry yourself off in.

Making Friends

This is a topic that deserves a post of its own, but making friends as an adult can be tough. Glaswegians are friendly, if not quite as approachable as kiwis, but if you’re a social anxiety prone introvert like me this may be the hardest part of your move.

Some of my best tips for making friends as an expat include swiping on Bumble BFF, joining groups or finding a hobby through sites like MeetUp, and saying yes to things. Get prepared for a lot of drinking; it’s the best way to make new friends in Glasgow.


I feel a bit silly even mentioning this. In the time I’ve been living in Glasgow I’ve never once felt unsafe, and I’ve drunkenly walked home alone from a few pubs now (*not something I’d recommend). Still, it has to be said; Glasgow has an unfortunate reputation.

Before I made the move more than a few cautious friends and family members told me how sketchy Glasgow was, how it was the knife crime capital of the world. And while some areas in Glasgow remain a little rough around the edges, Glasgow is overall a safe and friendly city.

Girl at Loch Lomond

Ready to take the plunge? Scotland is a beautiful country, and I have a feeling you’re going to love it. I hope my guide to moving to Scotland helps make your transition a little easier, because next comes the fun part; bagging munros, tattie scones and Irn Bru.

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Everything You Should Know About Moving to Scotland
Everything You Should Know About Moving to Scotland

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