Best apps to download if you are returning to the UK

If you’ve been living abroad for a while, coming back home can be something of a culture shock!
Fortunately, these days there’s an app to help you readjust to anything, from negotiating our health service to travelling around the country.
At Insurance Factory, we’ve got a wealth of experience supporting expats through our work arranging the best expat car insurance policies. So here’s our guide to the best apps that will help ease you back into life in the UK.


Ah, the good old NHS! You might well have missed our free-at-the-point-of-use national health service while you’ve been living overseas. And you might be delighted to discover that it now boasts a really useful app.
The NHS app offers health advice, as you’d expect. But even better than that: by creating a log-in,  you can access your own confidential medical record and GP services.
So you can view information about your medical history, including appointment details. Ordering a repeat prescription becomes a doddle, and booking an appointment to see a practice nurse or GP is possible, too.
Best of all, if you’ve had your Covid jabs in the UK, the NHS app will give you a ‘passport’ that allows you entry into venues and so on. For that reason alone, it’s a common feature on many smartphones in the UK.

Time differences

If you’re going to be continuing to travel a good deal, you might consider downloading an app to help you cope with time differences. There are several on offer, so take a look to see which one would suit you best.
Timeshifter is specifically designed to cope with jet lag and shift work. It reminds you when to take small actions such as avoiding caffeine and bright light to help you adjust to new circadian rhythms.
Or perhaps you’ll find that a general sleep app works best for you? Pzizz claims to be the “world’s most advanced sleep and power nap system”, and it’s recommended by the NHS, too.
So if you want a jetset lifestyle but also need your Zzzs, give these apps a go. 


Travel and transport

If it’s a while since you last lived in the UK, prepare for a shock when it comes to getting around! A lot has changed in recent years.
Drivers should look out for the London low emissions zone, or ULEZ, as well as the congestion charge. You can pay both fees, if applicable, via the Transport for London Pay to Drive in London app. Remember to contact the Insurance Factory for car insurance, too.
These days, you can often pay for parking by app. Annoyingly, you often end up having to download several to cover all the different places where you want to park. It’s still easier than trying to find the right number of pound coins though!
The TfL Go app is great for planning public transport journeys around the capital. Citymapper will guide you round several UK cities by car, public transport, bike, or foot. It even covers e-scooters – there are various new rental schemes around the UK, so look out for the relevant app if you’re interested in hiring one.
For longer public transport journeys, download the National Rail and National Express apps. Much easier than wrestling with paper tickets and timetables!


One of the things that many expats miss is quality news and entertainment in their own language. The BBC has embraced the digital age with its iPlayer app, and ITV, Channel 4 and other TV stations have followed suit.
For podcasts, the BBC is again leading the way with its BBC Sounds app. All of its radio programmes are accessible in podcast form, and there’s much more on offer, too.
If you prefer to read, all the major newspapers have also developed their own apps, giving you access to breaking news and in-depth features.
So download these apps, and you’ll soon be abreast of all the latest shows and current affairs, giving you plenty to chat about with friends old and new.


Perhaps you’re returning home with a new partner? Maybe you’re looking to settle down and put your travelling days behind you – or you’re looking for someone new to accompany you on your next overseas adventure!
Whatever your reason for seeking love, there’s an app to help you. Whether you choose Bumble, Match, Hinge, eHarmony or Tinder is a matter of personal preference – they’ve all got their pros and cons.

Socialising and entertainment

Maybe you just want to expand your social scene?
Your neighbourhood Facebook groups are a great way to find out what’s up locally. If you spot an event you’d like to attend, then Eventbrite is likely to be where you download your e-ticket.
You’ve probably already got messaging apps like WhatsApp on your phone to stay in contact with your friends and family.
But if you want to make some new connections, try a local MeetUp group: in most areas, there’s a group for everything from rock climbing to samba dancing. And if you don’t see something you fancy, you can start your own. How about a conversation class to keep up with the foreign language skills you picked up abroad?

Homes and jobs

If you’re settling down back in the UK, you’re going to need somewhere to live and an income.
Rightmove and Zoopla are the main apps for searching for a place to call your own, whether you’re a prospective owner or tenant. And SpareRoom is your one-stop shop for flatmates or shared houses.
As for jobs, Indeed is a good place to start. Hopefully, your experience of living abroad will help you stand out from the crowd!


All the high street banks offer excellent online services and apps these days. But if you’ve been away for a while, you may not have come across the new digital ‘challenger’ banks, such as Monzo and Starling. So much easier to manage your finances from your phone than queueing up in a bricks-and-mortar branch!
Depending on where you’ve been living, it might be a shock to come home and see people paying by phone! But the UK is becoming increasingly cashless, so if your phone is NFC-enabled, you’ll find that it’s the way forward.



Perhaps you have a hankering for delicious British fish and chips? Or maybe you’re missing the cuisine of the country you’ve just left?
Either way, you’ll find something to tickle your taste buds on food ordering apps such as Just Eat, which makes getting a meal from your local takeaway even easier.
If you prefer going out for meals, try the Wriggle app, which offers exclusive restaurant and cafe deals in several UK cities.
Or if you want to do your own cooking, then the major supermarkets offer online deliveries. Downloading the app of your favourite makes ordering your weekly shop as easy as pie.
And if you’ve bought too much, you can give it away via the Olio sharing app. It’s a great way to meet your neighbours and boost your sustainability credentials. The focus is on reducing food waste, but you can give away – or find – household items, too.


Finally, the UK is a truly beautiful and fascinating country. There’s so much to see – and so many apps to help you get the most out of your time here. Plus, with car insurance for expats arranged by Insurance Factory, it’s easy to get back on the roads in the UK after living abroad for a while.
If you’re keen to explore your home country on foot or bike, then the Ordnance Survey app is well worth the subscription fee. It depicts every footpath in the country – and the GPS means you won’t get lost.
While you’re out and about, why not do a spot of nature watching? The Woodland Trust charity’s app enables you to identify every tree you see on your walks. Search for similar apps for flowers, birds, animals and so on.
Or perhaps you’re keen to find out more about the UK’s incredible heritage. Both English Heritage and the National Trust offer great apps to help you find days out. So if you love stately homes, ancient castles or landscaped gardens, these apps should soon be gracing your home screen.


Get a quote from Insurance Factory today

Returning to the UK after living abroad can be a daunting prospect, with lots of red tape to untangle. But Insurance Factory makes it simpler for you to get your expat insurance.
We’ve been arranging tailored insurance policies for over 20 years, searching a panel of providers to find the deals that are right for you.
Whether you hold a UK or an international driving licence, we can find cover that’s right for you. We can also offer flexible payment solutions, such as paying by monthly instalments.
So contact us for a quote for expat car insurance, and get your life in the UK back on the road!