Staying in the UK
Staying in London
Before you arrive
- What you will need before coming to England
Here's a list of useful things to bring to the UK:
- Enrollment documents.
- Details of your accommodation/the family where you are staying.
- Credit cards/ travellers cheques.
- For European citizens: EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).
- Mobile phone – and charger!
- Relevant documents if you have arranged your own insurance.
- An adaptor for non-British plugs - we use three-pin plugs and the power is 240 volts in the UK. You can buy these adaptors in London. We also have them for hire in the school.
- A laptop/tablet computer – especially if your course will cover making presentations, etc. We have wifi at both our centres. You are also welcome to use the student computers during school opening hours.
- An internationally recognised student card if you have one.
- Your driving licence in case you wish to hire a car. Please note that you have to be aged over 23, and have held a (clean) license for a minimum of 2 years. If your own license is not in a West European language or if an authorized translation into English is not provided, you may need to get an International Driving Licence.
- A good bilingual dictionary. Monolingual dictionaries are available at the school or in London if you do not already have one.
- A memory stick to save any work you do in the computer room.
- Any materials you might wish to use for self-study, (for instance, a technical text or book on a specific subject that interests you) or for a presentation on a business English course, (for instance, statistics, graphs or a map).
- Some passport-sized photographs, for student cards, travel passes etc.
- Face covering, disinfect wipes and/or hand gel.
- Cost of living in the UK
Cost of living in the UK depends on your location. We recommend the following external pages for checking up-to-date information on cost of living:
Finding somewhere to live
We can arrange accommodation for you. Visit our accommodation pages to find out more.
We are also happy to help and advise if you are arranging accommodation for yourself.
Renting private accommodation
Here is some advice on arranging your own accommodation. There are lots of different types of apartments (or "flats" as we often call them in the UK) and houses available to rent in London, from flatshares (a room in a shared house or apartment), studios (where everything, including the kitchen, is in the same room. The bathroom is separate), one bedroom flats (with a living room, bedroom, kitchen and a bathroom), to large apartments and houses. Here is a post on our blog with information about finding accommodation in London.
Most accommodation in London will ask you for a months’ rent and a months’ deposit in advance (although if you are looking for something for less than year, they might ask you for more. It can be common to pay six months in advance if you are taking a short-let). A deposit is asked to cover any costs of damage you may make to the accommodation.
Before you give anybody any money, make sure you sign a contract (called a tenancy agreement). These are usually standard and will tell you what is required of you in the accommodation. Make sure you get a receipt of anything you pay too.
Most contracts will be for one year, with an option to increase the contract if everything is OK. Please remember that if you want to leave before the end of your contract, some places may make you find someone to replace you in the accommodation. Some places may not allow you to leave before the end of the contract. You should definitely make sure you understand what is required if you want to leave the contract early.
Some types of accommodation may ask you for personal references too. We can help you with this.
If you are happy to do so, it can be very helpful if you put your name on a utility account (like gas, electricity or water). This will give you a proof of UK address and will make it easier for you to open bank accounts, etc. Remember to take your name off the bill if you move out!
If you have rented (or bought) an appartment or house in the UK, you will need to pay council tax. The local goverment charges council tax to pay for the maintenance of the local area (e.g. keeping the streets clean, maintaining the parks). If you are living in private accommodation, you will receive a letter asking you to pay.
Fortunately, you are able to claim a student discount. We can provide a letter confirming you are a student. You will either receive a full discount or a twenty-five per cent discount, depending on which council area you are living in.
Unfortunately, each London council has its own rules about whether they give our students a discount or not. Some councils will give our students a full discount (but only if they are studying for a certain amount of time – usually six months or a year). Some councils will give our students a partial discount (usually twenty-five per cent). Unfortunately, there are one or two councils who will offer no discount at all.
If you receive a council tax bill while you are studying here, bring it to Reception and we can help you apply for a discount.
You can find further information about council tax at https://www.gov.uk/council-tax/discounts-for-full-time-students
- Banking, money, and paying for things
Bank opening hours
Most banks are open from 09.00 - 16.00 Monday to Friday; some banks are open on Saturday from 09.30 - 12.30.
In the UK, we call them Cash Points, or Cash Machines, but most people will understand if you call them ATMs.
It is easy to withdraw cash from cash machines in the UK using your credit or debit card. You can find them outside banks, and often inside supermarkets and in other shopping areas. Please take care when using an ATM, as you would in any city, and don't take a large amount of cash out in one go. We would recommend taking cash out 'little and often'; if you want to make a large withdrawal go into the bank, rather than using an external ATM.
Paying for things
Credit cards are widely accepted for ordinary shopping in the UK, in addition to cash. If you need to exchange foreign currency we recommend that you do this in a bank, at the Post Office or at a currency exchange place. Be aware that exchange shops that stay open for long hours can be more expensive.
Tipping is not as common in England as it is in some countries. If you want to give someone a tip, this is normally 10-12.5%. You may want to leave a tip for:
- A waitress or waiter in a restaurant - but check your receipt to see if a service charge has already been included in the bill; it's not necessary to tip if so.
- A taxi driver if she or he has been very helpful – but this isn’t necessary as part of the homestay accommodation or airport transfer services.
- You do not need to leave a tip in an English pub.
Opening a bank account in the UK
Opening a bank account can be difficult in the UK, It is probably only worth doing if you are going to be in the UK for several months.
There are a number of factors you should consider when opening a bank account or building society account as an international student in the UK.
If you are coming from outside the European Union, you must have at least six months on your UK visa. If your visa is for anything less than six months, you will not be able to open a bank account (even if you have five months and twenty-nine days left on your visa, it is still not long enough: It must be at least six months.) If your visa is for less than six months, it is illegal for banks to open an account for you.
If you are from the European Union, then it is much easier to open an account.
Banks will need to see your ID and proof of your London or Canterbury address and your address in your home country. For your UK address, it is much better if your proof of address is something like a gas or electricity bill, or a council tax bill. If you are unable to provide these, then we can give you a document to help (but there’s no guarantee your application will be successful.)
One other thing to think about is that most banks will make you sign up for at least a year with them (and pay a monthly fee).
Most ‘high street’ banks will offer customers the option to use a ‘basic bank account’. It is usually free to open and use one. It allows you to receive money and pay bills but does not allow you to have an ‘overdraft’ facility. Many banks will also offer an account specifically designed for international students. This will often be, or be similar to, a basic bank account.Here's more information on Basic Bank accounts.
An alternative is to open an account with an online bank (and which is much easier than trying to open an account with a regular bank). We can help you applying for an online bank account.
If you are unsuccessful, don’t worry. Most international banks will have offices or agents in London and you might find your own bank has an office in London where you can bank.
Arrival - Travel options from a London airport
- Heathrow Airport
By London Underground (Piccadilly line)
There London Underground (tube) stations inside Heathrow airport. The stations are on the Piccadilly line, which will take you into central London in about 40 minutes. You can pay for your journey using a contactless credit or debit card, or an Oyster Card, which you can buy either at the station or before you travel to the UK.
During the day there are trains every few minutes. At night the Piccadilly line does not run. These are the times for the first and last trains of the day:
Station First train Last train Terminals 2 & 3 05:12 (Sun 05:56) 23:45 (Sun 23:28) Terminal 4 05:02 (Sun 05:46) 23:35 (Sun 23:15) Terminal 5 05:23 (Sun 06:07) 23:42 (Sun 23:25)
The Heathrow Express is a non-stop train service that offers the fastest travel option between Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station (Central London). To pre-book tickets visit the Heathrow Express Website. You can also pay with a London Underground Oyster card (see the section above).
Each Heathrow terminal has clearly signposted taxi ranks. Expect a fare of around £30-35 to West London. The journey time is about 30 minutes.Only take a licensed or London (black) cab.
- Gatwick Airport
The fastest train service into Central London is the Gatwick Express which travels directly to London Victoria station and operates seven days a week. Southern and Thameslink also run a service from Gatwick, with a slightly longer journey time of 35 minutes. There are four or five trains per hour, Monday to Friday, with an hourly service overnight. You can buy tickets at the station or online.
There are taxi ranks directly outside the arrivals terminal. As Gatwick airport is located outside London, taxi fares are high. It is more cost-effective to book an airport transfer.
- London City Airport
By London Underground
Take the Docklands Light Railway to Bank underground station. Here you can change to the Central line to get to West London.
You can take a taxi from London City airport to West London. Only take a licensed or London (black) cab.
- Luton Airport
Thameslink operates a fast, frequent service direct between central London and Luton Airport Parkway train station. Luton Airport Parkway is around 35 minutes away from King's Cross Thameslink station.
Green Line 757 provides an express coach link between London Luton Airport and Central London. For information visit the Arriva Website.
Luton is further from London than Heathrow and we do not recommend a taxi since they are very expensive. If you want the convenience of a taxi, you should book an airport pickup.
- Stansted Airport
The Stansted Express is a fast and convenient way to and from Stansted Airport, with trains departing every 15 or 30 minutes, with an average journey time of approximately 45 minutes. They arrive at London Liverpool Street, and from there we suggest that you take the Central Line, which goes quickly to West London.
If your flight is due to arrive late in the day and you are concerned about a possible delay and the impact this would have on your journey into and across London click here to read about our airport transfers.
The coach station is located below between Zone C and D of the Short Stay Car Park. Tickets can be purchased from the coach ticket desk in the arrivals area in the terminal (06:00 - 21:30) or in the coach station (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Tickets may also be purchased on the coach. Services include:
- A6 - London Victoria (Central London)
- A8 - London Liverpool Street and London Victoria (Central London)
- A9 - London Stratford
There are taxi ranks directly outside the arrivals terminal. As Gatwick airport is located outside London, taxi fares are high. It is more cost-effective to book an airport transfer.
- How to find our centre in London
Please see our "How to find us" page for information about getting to our centre.
It is mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport in the UK. You can find hand gel sanitising stations in most main stations.
While you are here
- Getting around London
London has many public transport options, including the Tube (The London Underground), buses, and even boats. Most places in London are very well connected, and you can travel round quickly and conveniently. This page on the Visit Britain website has a useful introduction to the different ways that you can travel around London You can find more information on the official Transport for London website, including ticket prices, Oyster cards (a type of pre-paid pass card you can use to pay for your journeys), and route options.
London buses are all cashless, so you need an Oyster card, Travelcard or contactless payment. A bus fare is £1.50 per journey, and you can hop on unlimited buses or trams for free within one hour of touching in for your first journey.
- Tube zone 1-2: Weekly £36.10; Monthly £138.70
- Tube zone 1-3: Weekly £42.40; Monthly £162.90
- Useful Places in London
Shopping: Both the Westfield Centre and Notting Hill are approximately 15 minutes walk from the school.
Parks: Holland Park is just a short walk away and 3 of our royal parks just a short bus ride. Central London with everything it has to offer; museums, galleries, theatre, and sightseeing is very easily accessible by tube or bus.
- Local places of worship
450 Uxbridge Rd, Shepherd's Bush, London W12 0NS
Tel: 020 8749 7523
An Anglican Church in the Catholic tradition based in a modern building on the corner of Uxbridge and Wormholt Road.
41 Brook Green, Hammersmith, London W6 7BL
Tel: 020 7603 3832
Neo Gothic church building (1853) with spire, located on Brook Green.
St Petersburgh Place, Bayswater, London W2 4JT
Tel: 020 7229 2631
The New West End Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in the United Kingdom still in use.
302 Uxbridge Rd, White City, London, W12 7LJ
Tel: 020 8740 0463
Sunni Muslim Prayer Hall.
For information on other faiths, please come to Reception
- General safety
The UK is generally a very safe place, but with a population of over 66 million people it is always good to think about your personal safety. The British Council has produced a useful guide to help you understand the laws in the UK and how to keep yourself safe at all times.
Before you arrive in the UK, we strongly recommend that you take out insurance for your own financial and personal security. Please see this page for more information, and details of our insurance policy.
In the UK, we drive on the left-hand side of the road. Please be very careful crossing the road, and use pedestrian crossings where they are available.
Getting home at night in London
It is usually safe to walk around UK cities at night, but you should still be careful. In London, some Tube lines are open at night, and there are also night buses. You can use the Journey Planner on the TFL (Transport for London) website to plan your route.
There are plenty of taxis available. In London, you can catch a Black Cab in the street, or book a minicab by going into a booking office (you can find these on high streets), calling a taxi company, or using an app, e.g. Uber. Always book your minicab and do not catch an unbooked minicab in the street because these may not be official taxis.
Contacting the emergency services
The emergency phone number in the UK is 999 (you can also use the Europe-wide emergency number, 112). This number is for ALL emergency services, including the Police, Ambulance Service (for medical emergencies) and Fire Brigade.
If you need to get medical help and it is not an emergency, call 111.
If you need to speak to the Police and it is not an emergency, call 101.
What to do if you are arrested
If you are involved in an incident that involves the police or if you are arrested, please call us on our emergency phone number as soon as possible: +44 (0) 7949 114795.
If are arrested and you have difficulties understanding what the police say, or understanding written information that they give you, you can ask them for an interpreter who speaks your native language.
- If you are unwell or have an accident
If there is a serious emergency and you need urgent medical help, call 999 or the Europe-wide emergency number 112. This is free from any telephone, including mobile phones. You will be asked which service you require: Fire, Ambulance or Police. For medical emergencies, ask for Ambulance.
All other medical issues
Call 111 to get help and advice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Call 111 if:
- You urgently need medical help fast or advice but it is not a life-threatening situation 999 emergency
- You think you need to go to A & E (Accident and Emergency) or need another NHS urgent care service
- You do not know who to call or you do not have a GP (General Practitioner - this is the doctor you see in the UK for all non-emergency health problems).
- You need health information or reassurance about what to do next
Medical treatment for common and minor illnesses
If you need medicine for common illnesses (colds, headaches etc.) or medical supplies (e.g. plasters, bandages), you can go to a pharmacist. Most high streets in the UK have one or more pharmacies, including the national chains Boots. Pharmacists can also give you medical advice on common and minor illnesses
Local Hospitals (London)
These hospitals in West London have an A & E (Accident & Emergency) department and an Urgent Care Centre:
St Marys Hospital
Praed Street, Paddington, London, W2 1NY
Tel: +44 (0)20 3312 6330
Charing Cross Hospital
Fulham Palace Road, London, W6 8RF
Tel: +44 (0)20 3311 1234
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
369 Fulham Road, London, SW10 9NH
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3315 8000
Please note that treatment at an A & E department is for people who have a major, life threatening illnesses and injuries. It is not suitable for minor or ongoing problems. There is no appointment system at A&E departments. Go when you need to but be prepared to wait.
Emergency treatment in hospitals is free for everyone, wherever you come from. You may need to pay for some non-emergency care. You can read more about this on the NHS website. We strongly recommend you take out insurance before you come to the UK in case you require medical care. If you are a European citizen, take your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).
Please ask at Reception if you would like more information.
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