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Moving to and living in the UK

Most universities provide a range of activities to help you settle into UK life. Here are some tips about moving to and living in the UK.
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Most UK universities have an orientation week before the start of studies where you can make new friends, get to know your surroundings, and complete any remaining administrative tasks connected with your move.

Your university will also provide you with information about the UK. But it’s best to know as much as possible about moving to and living in the UK in advance. Below are some FAQs about studying in the UK, and make sure you also check out our guide on applying to study a postgraduate qualification in the UK (1 MB).

  • Arriving at the airport, rail or boat terminal

    Normally, there are two entry points when you arrive in the UK: one for European Economic Area and the other for the rest of the world. A Border Force Officer will want to see:

    • passport and visa
    • proof of study and Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number if you are coming to the UK as a Tier 4 Student
    • proof of finances
    • where you intend to live

    You'll also be expected to communicate with the Border staff in a way that convinces them you have a good command of English. Your passport will be stamped if you need visa clearance. There are also rules about how much money you can bring in to the country. Please see banking and currency below.

  • Food, drink and supermarkets

    These days, most cuisine in the UK is reasonably international and you can expect to find Indian, Bangladeshi, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, American, Polish, Thai and sometimes Nepalese, Mexican, African and Brazilian restaurants in major cities. Some of those will have specialist food stores too, especially for Asian, Middle Eastern and Polish tastes, plus those from the region around India and Pakistan.  Many major supermarket chains also have sections catering for international food.

    There are stereotypically British foods such as fish and chips, roast dinners and fried breakfasts. But there are many national and regional specialities too, e.g. Cheshire cheese from the north of England, haggis from Scotland and laver bread, which is a seaweed dish from the South of Wales. Vegetarians are reasonably well catered for in the main cities; vegans may have to look a bit harder for food sources but there will be options.

    You’ll find very well developed chains of supermarkets in UK cities. They divide into inexpensive, mid-range and more upmarket in price and produce, although at the moment more supermarkets are competing at the cheaper end. Lidl and Aldi are big, new inexpensive supermarkets, but there are discounts too at Tesco, Sainsbury, Co-op, Morrisons, ASDA, Budgens, Poundstretcher, Iceland, and Poundland among others.

  • Public transport

    Getting around is normally quite easy. There are student discounts for train, coach and bus journeys provided you have a student discount card, which you may need to buy depending upon the transport network.

    The London Underground (also known just as the Underground or the Tube) is the best way to get around London – for more information and a journey planner visit the Transport for London website. Taxis licensed by the council are like London 'black cabs' (although they can be other colours outside of London) and have yellow 'for hire' signs on top and do not look like regular saloon cars. These can be hailed in the street. Minicabs are normal cars, often with a phone number on the roof or doors and you should phone for these from a legitimate firm listed on a website.

    Useful websites are:

  • Banking and currency

    Currency in the UK is in pounds sterling, and there are 100 pennies to the pound. Scotland has its own bank notes in pounds and these are used alongside bank notes from the rest of the UK.

    You can get a basic bank account  one that will enable you to deposit and withdraw money but which does not give you a credit card. Credit accounts are normally reserved for students with UK passports. 

    At the airport, if you are travelling to the UK from outside the EU and are carrying 10,000 euros or more in any currency or form (cash or cheque), you’ll need to declare this at Customs.

  • Living costs
    • To get your visa, you’ll need to prove you have sufficient finances. Most universities will want you to pay course fees and maybe housing fees (if in university accommodation) up front.
    • The average cost per year of study in the UK for international students is around £11,000 per year in tuition fees plus living expenses, which can be £8,000 to £11,000 a year. However, course fees can vary, and some are around £30,000 a year. For more on fees and funding, please go to our funding FAQS.

    • You’ll need to budget – for essential costs and socialising. A meal out can cost between £6 – £10, a drink in a bar around £3 or more, a cinema ticket £7 – £10, although there will be regular student discounts and student evenings when costs are cheaper.
    • Rent will be your biggest expense. Housing costs are highest in and near London and the other capital cities. Our regional guides include average rental costs around the UK.
  • Climate

    The seas surrounding the British Isles give it what’s called a temperate maritime climate. This means that it varies a lot from cool to warm, dry to wet. The temperature rarely gets really cold or really very hot – not much lower than 0ºC in winter and not much higher than 32ºC in summer. The coldest months are normally October to February. The South can be warmer than the North, and the West can be warmer and wetter than the East.

  • Healthcare

    Currently, you won’t pay for treatment on the NHS (National Health Service) if you are a student in the UK for six months or more. You will have to pay for dental treatment.

    • Local doctors are called GPs (general practitioners) and work in local health centres, general practices, and surgeries. You will need an appointment to see a GP although many cities now have a walk-in clinic, usually in the city centre, where you don’t have to reserve a place – but you may have to sit in a waiting room for a while to be seen.
    • Accidents and emergencies are seen at the A&E departments of hospitals. Call 999 for a medical emergency (or to call the police or fire brigade in an emergency). Dial 111 for non-emergency medical assistance.
    • Pharmacists can offer some advice on illnesses and some may test your blood pressure and run tests for conditions such as diabetes.
  • University international societies

    Most universities have these and they can be a great support and source of friends, but you’ll get more out of living in the UK if you also join other activities too.