The United Kingdom, or the UK, is one of the most popular study destinations in the world, and each year tens of thousands of students enroll in universities to live, learn, and work in the capital – London.
Despite being one of the expensive cities in the world to live as a student, London still tops the list of favorite study destinations because of the stellar education and network opportunities the city offers.
If you plan well and manage your costs, the city has the best to offer. According to international students, aside from university fees, rent, groceries, and transportation are often the most significant student expenses. In this guide, we will provide you with tips & information that can help you manage your cost-effectiveness and live a comfortable student life in London.
Table of Content:
1. London – Popular Study Destination
2. Where to Live in London?
3. Where UCL Students Live in London?
4. UK Life for International Students
5. Best Ways to Commute in London
6. Currency Exchange & Banks
7. Learn to Cook
8. Student Discount Cards
9. Free Things to Advantage
10. Working Part Time is Important
11. Stick to the Budget
12. Useful Apps
Why is London so Popular as a Study Destination?
Living in London as a student is exciting and fruitful. There are several reasons why London is a popular study destination. Some of them are:
- Home to 4 of the world’s top universities (QS World University Ranking 2021)
- A global capital of culture
- Ranked as the best city in the world for university students (QS Best Student Cities 2019)
- Home to 485,000 international students from all over the world (Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA))
- Ground-breaking discoveries were made in London universities, including the discovery of DNA, fingerprints and Penicillin.
- Hundreds of museums, galleries & ancient architecture
Where Can a Student Live in London?
Living in London can be a dream come true. With lush gardens & scenic landscapes, London offers some of the best residential options. However, as a student studying in London, you must be careful about your budget and choose your accommodation wisely.
Halls of Residence:
Most of the universities offer Halls of residence to their students. It is a great way to meet new people and usually provides basic furniture like a bed, desk, and chair.
If your university offers halls of residence, you can choose to stay there as they are a cheaper way of housing and is easier to arrange for international students. Other benefits of halls of residence include shorter commute, dining card options, and scheduled activities for socializing.
Price of halls of residence range from £137 – £390 per week. The price can vary depending on the type of room and amenities.
Another accommodation option for international students is private housing; however, it can cost you more. The cost of student accommodation is elevated in London as compared to other UK university cities. The average price in London can be close to £1694 per month. If you want private housing, you can find a place in South or East London, where the average prices fall between £927 to £1045 per month.
The price of private housing totally depends on the location, number of bedrooms & amenities.
Note: Most of the private housing options come with little to no furniture. International students should find furniture from second-hand shops or social groups online.
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Where UCL Students Live in London?
One of the most popular universities in the UK, UCL – University College London, is situated right in the heart of London. UCL is research led, and the courses offered are often taught by top-level researchers and experts in their respective fields. Moreover, the university is surrounded by some of the country’s best museums, libraries and landmarks.
Living close to such a place can be very expensive. Hence, most of the international students in UCL choose to live in suburbs close to the main city. Some of them include:
- Walthamstow: a 19-minute journey on the Victoria Line straight to Warren Street.
- Belsize Park: A short journey to UCL on the Northern Line.
- Kentish Town: One can reach UCL university with a short journey on the Northern Line.
How is Life in UK for International Students?
The UK is very diverse in culture & lifestyle. The very first thing you will experience in London as an international student is culture shock. The language, food, behaviour and lifestyle are different and strange compared to what you are used to in India.
Life in London for an Indian student can be difficult in the initial few days. Combined with homesickness, culture shock can take you on an emotional rollercoaster. Hence, we advise all our students to understand the customs, traditions and social life before landing in the city. It is also recommended to join Facebook groups related to the university to discuss questions & make friends before you arrive.
Do your research well and try to catch up with the differences. Making new friends & hanging out with like-minded people can help a lot.
London is also known for its cold & wet weather. Pack warm clothes & a waterproof coat for the winter months. Don’t expect summer to be hot either.
What are the Best Ways to Commute in London?
If you are living in the halls of residence offered by the university, you will be travelling much less as compared to students who opt for private housing. However, in general, travelling in London can be expensive if you don’t know the right mediums. Some of the common & least expensive ways of commute in London are:
The tube, also known as the underground, makes the commute easier in the big city. London is well connected by an underground network of trains called the “Tubes”. These tubes run every few minutes on routes called “lines”. With more than 270 tube stations altogether, a tube is one of the most popular ways of commute in London.
London has designated cycling lanes & docking stations, where you can hire a cycle. Thus, the city offers an inexpensive way of commute – cycles. It costs as little as £2. You do not need to buy; you can simply hire a bike, ride it wherever you like, and return it to any docking station once you are done.
London is also well connected through buses. These iconic red buses are a budget-friendly travel option. However, you cannot pay by cash for the tickets and need an Oyster or contactless payment card. These Oyster cards also get you discounts on the tube. Hence, it is always advised to the international students to buy an Oyster card when they arrive in London.
Another very common means of transportation in London is walking. Try to walk more, even if you do have a travel card. It’s the best way to learn about the city, and in some cases, it may be quicker to walk.
Currency Exchange & Banking Options:
It is very important for international students to open a UK bank account. This will save them from the hassle of foreign currency charges & complex billing systems. Most of the banks in the UK provide excellent benefits & a joining bonus to the students.
Note: Check if your current bank has any links to the UK banks, as this will make the process smoother.
Learn Cooking & Eating in:
If you want to maintain a comfortable life within the budget, it is better to eat at home. Although London is home to some of the finest restaurants in the world but eating meals out every night will make you run you out of money before the semester ends. It is better to learn cooking (if you don’t know it already).
Get Student Discount Cards:
Many of the places in London offer student discounts. Hence, it is a better idea to get a student discount card and leverage the benefits of being a student. Some discount cards are Student Oyster Photocard, NUS card, National Raid discount, and more.
Also, always keep your student id card handy. Many theatres offer up to 70% off on the unsold tickets to full-time students.
Take advantages of Free Things:
Life as a student in London is cool as people are always giving certain things for free. Things like free food, drinks, pens, T-shirts, bags, etc. will help you in keeping yourself under budget. Also, never shy from asking for discounts & freebies at stores, pubs and bars. Students can also sign up to UNiDAYS to know more about discounts.
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Why Working Part Time is Important?
There are more benefits of doing a part time job in London than you think. It not only gives you the workplace experience, which can later help you figure out what you want to do next in your life, but also helps in building your resume when it comes to real job searching. You can get direct references, and not to mention, the extra pocket money you get.
There are job options for students in London:
- Delivery driver
- Social Media Assistant
- Office Administrator
- Security Guard
- Many, Many Others
Besides your university as a resource, there are several websites that help in connecting students and employers, one of the popular ones being ratemyplacement.co.uk.
Stick to Your Budget:
We always advise our students to fix a budget and stick to it. They should sit down & write about how much they will be expecting to spend, when and on what. Students should split the total budget between the total number of months they will be staying in London. Split the monthly money into different areas such as rent, groceries, commute, etc. They should fix on a certain budget and try their best to remain within the limit.
It is no secret that London is one of the expensive cities. However, with proper planning and budget management, it is still possible to live there on a budget and enjoy the time.
Note: Students should always keep some extra money for unforeseen circumstances & emergencies.
Some Useful Apps in London:
Thanks to the advancement in technology, most of the things today are at our fingertips. We can easily download an app on our phone and can get the required information or service we need. Some of the useful applications that an international student can download on his mobile are:
With this app, you can find the shortest route between point A and point B. It also shows a “rain safe” option, which will help you limit your exposure to the unpleasant elements.
This app gives you information about tube & station facilities.
As the name suggests, this app helps you find the nearest ATM.
This app helps you watch TV on demand. However, you must have a TV license to watch the TV channels. If you watch only Netflix, Amazon Video, or play games online, you don’t need a license, but you still have to declare that you have a TV.
With this app, you need not be worried about your dirty laundry. Most of the accommodations in London use this app for student laundry services onsite. All you need to do is download the app and input your credit card details.
Note: Don’t forget to change your region settings to London once you reach there.
This app helps you plan the best night outs with your friends & loved ones.
This app provides information about happy hours in London’s pubs & bars.
Lastly, moving to London can be overwhelming for Indian students, but they should be prepared to make the best out of their days in the city. They should use London as an advantage and consider the whole city as a classroom.
Remember, being uncomfortable is the first step in the right direction to grow. So, go ahead and live your dream as a student in London UK, and collect experiences, memories & learnings.