Hi my name is Bern. My husband and i and our 21 month old daughter are moving there.I just found out today that we are PCSing in Lakenheath. I heard its a good place to live, but i would like to know from your point of view. Any info that can help me, please feel free. Thanks soo much. :)
They will pretty much give you the run down in a two day orientation that runs on tuesday and thursday. the most annoying part was dealing with finance, so my words of advice there are, as always, keep your receipts and make sure you have enough money to live for a couple months. the reimbursements take a lonnnng time.
most people have to rent cars when they first get here. they're really cheap, at £40/wk-ish (approx $60). of course they aren't new cars, but if you'll need a car till yours is shipped over it will save you money. BUT from my own experience, do NOT go with Low Cost Car Rentals. If you like you can read my blurb on my experience. It was frightening. We ended up saving our cash and just buying a cheap car.
I live off base and love it but it comes with its price. we have very hard water (don't know if on base does) and all of our socket are 220/240. We need a transformer to run our fridge and a few electrical stuff we brought. We decided to buy british stuff for our normal daily electric usage. For instance the tv cable company transmits its programs using a PAL system instead of NTSC (which is american). So buying a british tv was beneficial for many reasons.
The houses can be smaller off base too. We can't use our washer because it doesn't fit anywhere and our home isn't made for a vented dryer. But we thought these were just small compromises to make to be able to live in the english countryside. We drive through beautiful forest each day to go to and from work. And it *feels* more like we're overseas, since we rarely see or hear anyone with an american accent this far out. It's fun! :D
Hello Bern! We have two girls. They are 15 months and 32 months. We arrived in April. In my opinion, we love living off base. So far we have had nothing but good experiences with it. It just depends on where you live. We have a large house. The only draw back we have is oil heating, and in all honesty it's not really a draw back. We just have to pay for oil in one lump sum. Our house was remodled and has beautiful hard wood floors. That is a HUGE plus when you have children. There is a place for a washer, dryer, and we also have a dishwasher. A beautiful conservatory, garage, backyard...everything we wanted. We live in a great little village, but it may be considered to far for some.
My husband and I have lived on base before(back at Whiteman AFB). We enjoyed the friends we met, but we prefer living off base. The housing on base stinks in my view. Especially if you have children. Well, Liberty Village isn't too shabby, but there is a long waiting list to get into those. I have heard nothing but bad things about Lords Walk. We were offered a house there first, but didn't take it due to lack of space and no backyard. You can build your own, but it would be at your own expense. Just not worth it to me. The farther you get from base, the bigger and less expensive the houses will be. It just depends on where you look. If you want to live on base because of comfort, safety, and convience there is nothing wrong with that. I just would like to say, get off base and explore some. If you stay on base the whole time, you will be miserable.It is what you make it. If you need anymore info feel free to shoot me a message. I also have a facebook account. Oh! There is an awesome group on facebook called Ladies in England. They have lots of information to share! Take care!
we have lived on and off base here.. we live on feltwell now and the housing is nice. Both 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom. If we were still at our old base(whiteman as well) We would be off base... But here, I like it, I like knowing my car is safe and all that. I also like they have rules for the kids, which some don't follow, as anywhere.
Thanks for the great info about the housing. In our current base..we live off base and loves it and for what youre telling me living off base is a better suit for me. Im one of those people that if possible i would like to deattach myself from the base. When i was young, we used to live on base and boy the headache and heartache my mom went through was unbelievable,lol! How much is the rent there? How far from base for the rent to get a little cheaper?
Go to rightmove.co.uk, baselets.co.uk,shiresestateagents.com, and there are a few others. They will give you a list of houses off base. We are the same way about wanting to get away. My husband loves being able to "get away" from work. It depends on what your OHA will be(for rent or should I say Let). This is the website for OHA just in case you weren't sure.http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/perdiem/ohaform.html
Oh and just in case you don't know what towns or villages to search for. There is Lakenheath, Mildenhall, Red Lodge, Ely, Bury St. Edmunds, Newmarket, Mundford, Littleport, Hockwold, Brandon, Thetford, Barton Mills, Weeting. I'm sure I missed some towns, so feel free to add :P I have heard some bad things about Brandon, certain parts of Mildenhall, and Thetford. But, just like everywhere in the world, there will always be a bad spot in town. So, just be careful. I hope that helps.
I just wanted to add something to what B-Sooner said about oil heating. My wife & I used to live out in Flempton....in a FLIPPIN' HUGE barn conversion. It was awesome. Problem was it was oil heated...which in a big house didn't work out too well. It was an old structure (most ALL houses here in England are pretty old compared to the American equiv) but had been remodeled back in 1990. So, it wasn't as efficient with conserving oil as other houses probably are. We spent WAYYYYYYY too much money on oil only to come to the conclusion it wasn't heating the house. You could see your breath everywhere you went in the house in the winter. So, our solution was to only use the back of the house for showers and keep the doors to that back half closed. We slept the entire winter in the livingroom beside the woodstove. You can buy wood on base, it was still expensive but not as bad as buying oil was!
We had put our name on the housing list for Liberty Village cause honestly (and no offense guys) Lord's Walk is the ghett-o! Base housing way way way out in Ely is absolutely CRAZY...CRAZY I tell you! It takes me 45 minutes to drive to my buddy's house in Ely and that is ONE WAY! It's nuts! I'm not even exaggerating.
We used to live in Mildenhall Village and it was fine....but we had trouble with some crazy people that smashed out our trucks back window. We didn't have any trouble out in Flempton with our neighbors though. Now we live in Liberty Village which I must say is awesome. I'm not too keen on all the goofy kids running around at all hours of the night but aside from that we like it. I don't need tea & crumpets sitting on top of a Union Jack table cloth to remind me I'm in Ol' Blighty. Basically we like Liberty Village as it is like "little America" yet we have Britain outside the nearest gate to go and explore at our leisure. OP, hope your move goes well and hope you enjoy England when you get here....it takes a little getting used to, ok honestly it took ME ALOT of getting used to but all in all it isn't bad. I'm glad I got the experience to do this but do look forward to going back CONUS.
Hi Bern, Just wanted to let you know about the Mildenhall, Lakenheath, Feltwell spouses group on Facebook. Its a great place to meet new people, ask questions about the area,Get advice, etc.. Also If you have a pet you are planning on bringing here, There is ALOT of stuff you will need to do. Before you can ship them here.
I completely understand the wanting to live away from the base. Me and my husband are both military brats, and we have always agreed that we will NEVER live in base housing. There are some small houses out on the economy, but there are also large ones as well. Make sure you tell the realtor what YOU want, down to the last room. Example, how many rooms, how big, how many bathrooms, type of yard, also (And this is important) if you want the house detached, semi-detached (meaning that it is attached by like the garage or something such as that), or does not matter. I personally do not like to live on top of people so I made sure we were in a detached house, with a good size yard that was fenced in due to the fact we have a dog. We have a WOUNDERFUL property manager that we have had since we have gotten here (have been here for over 2 years), and I would not trade him for ANYTHING! We live in a HUGE 4 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath house. And we have American size washer, Drier, Fridge with British hook-ups that the military is letting us use for our time over here.(You can get the British sizes as well to use during your tour as well.) The majority of the houses over here are two story, and like B-Sooner said, the oil is the major way of heating, but you get a utility allowance.
As far as everything else, (If you plan on driving) you have to sit through a driving class and take a written test. The best advice I can give you is take it as soon as you get here (It is offered ONLY on Wednesdays). I say this because your time in TLF will be limited, and the base is really walker friendly. Meaning that you can get to pretty much anything you need to from TLF with in walking distance. What me and my husband did was he took it first, then I took it the next week.
I live off base in Weeting, about 15 minutes away from Lakenheath, and I LOVE it!!! The thing I really recommend is getting to know your landords, and making sure they are nice people. A few friends of mine have had problems leaving their house because their landlords.
My house is pretty small, and the dryer is in the garage, but my yard is fully enclosed with a gate to the driveway, very nice garden and decent size rooms. Although I'd love American appliances, everything is British in our house.
As for the oil, we have oil heating as well and for my house, 3bedroom bungalow, we pay an average of 500-700GBP a year to heat it...but that's because we decided to live without hot water. Our shower has it's own heater, as well as washer and dishwasher, so really the only thing that we'd need hot water for is to wash our hands, and when the hot water uses the heating oil, for us it's not worth it since the cost for oil is pretty high. A great website we use for oil is boilerjuice.com. It compares all the prices and picks the cheapest!
Yes you can, but you should know that it will be much more difficult to do things like pass slower cars ahead of you or to see oncoming traffic. Also, the roads are so narrow here (often with no lane indicators) that I've found it very helpful to actually sit on the right hand side of the car to gauge how close the oncoming car is going to be to my side mirror. (I hope I explained that well)
I also live in a barn conversion and we have gas heating, we love it! I live 8 miles from base but it usually takes just under 20 mins to get here wtih all the windy roads and going through other small towns.
Sounds like you'll be coming in the winter. Don't judge anything for the first few months! Its going to rain a lot and be dark but the spring and summers here are very pretty!
Masterchef- Yes...We'll be coming in the winter, i just found out a few hours ago that we will be there early 2011.I'm all for gas heating coz for what i've read so far most of the houses there are oil heating and it gets a little expensive.Oh and thanks for the winter warning now i know exactly what to expect.
O.o- You're right its gonna be difficult driving our car there. Question about buying a car though, is it relatively expensive?
Well it depends on what kind of car you want. We just bought a car for £600 and it runs great and looks really really nice. Of course we shopped a bit because for a while we were only seeing cars £1k+ and we couldn't really afford that.
Our goal in buying a car was something that would just get us through our PCS time, was safe, and was fun. But just like anywhere, there are NEW cars or relatively new cars you could buy that would be more expensive. And as you've seen, the lakenheathyardsales.com website is often filled with people posting who are leaving the bases and need to sell their cars.
Bern- I have experenced both right hand and left hand drive cars. We brought our car over and have bought cars here. Personally, I, just like most people, took awhile to get use to the roads, and had no desire to drive my American car once it got here. However, we kept are car because the majority of the cars here are throw away cars, meaning the people do not take care of them because they are only here for 3 to 4 years. Being that they are throw away cars, you can get a cheep car, but you get what you pay for. So we brought my car over as a back up, and I am now driving it (glad we kept it). When and if you do bring a car over, you need to send it over as soon as you can cause they ship it by boat.(Can take up to two months) Then when it gets here, you have to do a light converstion to your car, which pretty much all the garages around the bases do. It does not cost much. The road tax and MOT(car insepection to make sure your car is good to drive) is a little much, but you are alloted one road tax to be refunded to you by the military finiace department. And is is HIGHLY adviced if you do bring over a American car that you use that one cause our cars have stronger engines, and the stronger the engine, the more the road tax. Road tax on average is 210 pounds a year. MOT is on average 40 pounds. (you do not get refunded MOT). Road Tax and MOT are done on ALL cars, both British and American.
Do be leary of the lemon lot on base. People will price things in pounds because they know that new comers do not know the exchange rate.
Ohhh also forgot, if you are still paying on your car, you have to request that the company that you are making payments to release your car so you can ship it. They have to sent a release form so your car "Can leave the country". Pretty much to make sure you are not stealing it and you will still make payments.
Another note on cars, if it is new, MOT does not need to be done if it is under 3 years old. So our 2007 hasn't needed MOT yet, but in January we will have to get it because it will be 4 years old. The base also does MOT's. And for Road Tax, the first year here you have to go to MPS to get it done because it will be reimbursed, after that you can either order them online or get them at the british post office.
Bern, so far nobody mentioned a VERY important thing about cars here. Do NOT buy a car and fall in love with it and get the idea that you can simply take it back home with you. The only exception is REAL American spec cars. I say "real" because some people PCS from Germany and may or may not know that the car they PCS'd from Germany with is German-spec. German-spec cars are left hand drive just like US-Spec cars are. A good example of not being able to tell much of a difference would be if you looked at a US-Spec BMW MINI Cooper vs. a German-Spec BMW MINI Cooper.
My wife & I made the mistake of buying a British-Spec Audi A3 that we fell in love with thinking it would be ok to spend the $6000 on it cause we could just bring it home....not gonna happen. There is a list from the National Highway Safety something-or-other back in the states that has a limited list of British-spec vehicles that can be brought back to the US.
There ARE older cars (25 years old or older) that can be brought back into the US with no worries such as the iconic "Austin Mini" (I owned 2 of them). So please, keep this in mind.
Also, about the boilerjuice.com thing. We used them to get our Oil when we lived in the barn conversion. We lived in that place for only 11 months and had to buy 500L of oil THREE TIMES. It cost around 400 quid (GBP) each time. So, we spent approx $1,850 in less than a year on Oil. Don't let people make you believe it is cheap to buy oil or that the little amount the USAF gives you will substantially help you afford to pay for it. If you live in a house that can CONSERVE the amount of oil used then you'll be fine. Our barn conversion was also setup the exact same way Christina mentioned hers was. Meaning we only used the hot water to heat the house (radiators) and to wash our hands....our showers were self-heated. Pretty much EVERY shower here in England is self-heated.
Our house was simply inefficient when it came to oil heating. We look forward to this winter here in base housing. When others are spending money to keep themselves warm we will be nice and toasty and not pay a nickel! Also, when you move out of a house that is oil heated you will most likely have to refill the oil tank to the same amount it was when you moved in.
If you decide to purchase a brand new car on base through Exchange New Car Sales then that car will be exempt from MOTs for two years from the date it was first registered here in the UK. It will also come with a year of Road Tax. My wife & I decided buying a new car while here was the best move because there NO car dealership back home that can honestly match the deals ENCS (or BMW Military Sales...this is where we got our MINI, Steve Dewar RULES!) can offer. It is quite honestly the best time to buy a new vehicle. Also, light conversions are done before you take delivery of the new vehicle. Basically once you get it then it's ready to drive.
Don't get too concerned about driving over here. It really is easy. Simple, stay in the left hand lane and when approaching a roundabout YIELD to the oncoming traffic to the right....nobody seems to remember that one. Passing people in a US/German Spec car is difficult so I don't do it....unless it is some guy on a ten speed wearing speedos. Lol.
Currently the exchange rate is $1.54, you should bookmark "XE" on your computer. It is a VERY good exchange rate website. Be VERY aware of the exchange rate....in fact don't look at pounds as pounds. Look at pounds as if you really only see dollars. It can be a "mirage". An example would be seeing one of the new iPod Touchs for 189GBP (you will hear the money here referred to as "quid"...it's like how we call Dollars "Bucks"). It might seem like a good deal only seeing the 189....but in USD that is $291! We can buy the same EXACT iPod Touch for $229! So, keep a VERY close eye to the actual value of things here.....
Nobody mentioned that the Liberty Village (Probably Lord's Walk too, but eh....don't live there!) base housing has BOTH US outlets and UK outlets. Oh, this may not pertain to you but if you decide to visit a German base and stay in billeting buy a German outlet adapter before you leave because they don't have US outlets in the billeting there. It screwed me over cause the BX/PX there at Ramstein/Vogelweh didn't have any in stock so my laptop died. I couldn't email anyone back home. Just a tip! Might as well buy the adapter here in England cause they are always in stock!
We kinda got forced into buying a new vehicle because some dork rear-ended out 2004 Pontiac Vibe (that was nearly paid off!) on the A1101 going towards Norwich). We ended up spending $12,000 on a brand new Truck while the guy that rear ended us only had to pay a 200 quid fine and go to a driving class for three days! No justice here I tell you!
Another thing you'll have to pay is TV Tax.....not sure if anyone mentioned this yet as I didn't read every post. I can't remember exactly how much it is per year but I *think* it is around $180 or around that much. Total rip-off if you ask me. People try to justify it by saying "Yeah but, English TV doesn't have an many commercials as American TV does". Lol.....not true. You'll see about a million Carlsberg commercials, Barclays commercials, Free Trade Tea commercials, Churchill's Insurance commercials, Cadbury's commercials etc...etc... it is the same as back home except you have to pay for it here. Just wanted to put that out there!
Bear with me...I'm just thinking of things that are important.
I don't think anyone mentioned the gas cards/driver's license nor the Ration cards. You need the ration cards to buy things that are rationed out such as booze (not beer or wine though) and ciggys (I quit smoking while I was here so no big deal for me!). The gas card must be presented every time you get fuel on base. It is quite a hassle if you ask me....plus there is no option to pay at the pump. Gas off base is expensive per gallon. Too expensive.
If I can think of anything else I'll post it. Also, if you have any questions for me let me know!
TV Tax is at £145.50 (about $224.07). You can pay it online or at the Co Op in Lakenheath. You can be reimbursed if you just bring the receipt to base.
As for friends for your little one, there is a "stay and play" available at a lot of local villages. Or there are also groups on base (Liberty Tots, Moms of Preschoolers, etc.)
Biggest thing at the moment tho-take pictures of your furniture, precious valued items, etc. when the movers come. It'll give you proof in case something is damaged. And if there is anything left over after the movers leave, remember, you can always ship it via USPS. Dont over pack for the big trip. We had two car seats, a base, stroller, two kids (2 months and 20 months at the time, a dog and 5 huge bags. Never again. :)