Setting oneself up in the UK - help needed

So I’m moving to London next week, and am trying to sort out (among other things) my finances. I’ve been looking at the First Contact website, and their Kickstart package seems like a good idea, especially as my bank in NZ will take up to three months to set up an account for me with their UK partners.
I should have done this months ago, I know, but I haven’t, and I’m starting to think I’ll be arriving at Heathrow with all my savings stuffed into a sock in my backpack. (Luckily the NZ dollar continues to fall, so said savings will probably equal 50p by mid-September)
Have any Dopers used this service, or know anyone who has? Would you recommend it, or is there a better service I should look into?

And less specifically, have any dopers set themselves up in London recently? How was it, what should I do/avoid, and can I sleep on your couch? I can pay in Pineapple Lumps…

Edit: I’m currently in Auckland, New Zealand, which is almost as far away from London as it’s possible to be, geographically speaking

I don’t actually need a couch, but is it smarter to book a backpackers on line, or can I get a cheaper deal face to face?

The Lonely Planet forum is a good place to look for information about backpackers/budget travel and such:

We set up (well, tried to set up) a Passport account through the HSBC before we left. It had a similar timeframe and we had quite a few problems when we arrived here.

Bring a decent amount of cash with you, but keep your NZ accounts open and use your cashflow card to withdraw decent amounts of money. It’s only $5 a pop with most NZ banks.

oooh, I didn’t know that, thanks!

It is hard to open an account without the information stated - the kickstart program sounds good.

Sure - for a few days anyway.

Ohhh good luck. Hope you’ve got a mobile. You’ll need one to rent a flat. And a bank account. And you’ll need an address to get the mobile (and a bank account, normally).

I set up shop here about four years ago. Some advice:

Once you’re done sleeping on couches look for a place to stay that’s not in central London. Zone 3+ housing is cheaper and it doesn’t take that long to travel to the centre. I’m in Zone 4/5 (on the border) and it takes me 20 minutes to Euston.

For travelling get an Oyster card. It will make the cost of journeys plummet. Available from Tube stations and many local shops. Also, if money is tight then use buses more (cheaper) or walk/cycle.

Additionally, walking the city is a great way to see how it links up. London is actually quite small so it’s not too hard to wander around and there’s lots to see. The parks especially, are great places to stroll.

Steer away from the tourist-trap businesses. There are plenty of pubs, restaurants and other fun places which are cheaper than those aimed at foreigners. Basically find something that looks like it is aimed at tourists and walk two streets away. You’re guaranteed to find something cheaper.

Find a job! London *eats *money. Even temp work lugging boxes of widgets is better than nothing. Once you are set up and looking feel free to message me and I can give some more specific advice on how to get a nice job. :wink: