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International Students: 5 Things To Do When You Arrive in the UK

24 Sep 2018
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If you’re coming to the UK as a student, you’re probably worrying about everything you need to do. You’ve already had to pack your life into two suitcases, and you’re travelling away from home to somewhere totally new! We know how overwhelming that can be! That’s why we’ve put together a list of five things that you should do when you arrive.
 

Invest in a Good Phone Plan

… Because no one can live without their phone. So, how can you spot a good phone plan? You can carry on using your current SIM card from your home country, but roaming costs and international calls can get expensive.

Whether you choose Pay As You Go or a monthly contract, you need to think about what you’ll use it for. Lycamobile, giffgaff, and Lebara are most popular with international students because they offer competitive international-call rates. However, if you’re more likely to keep in touch by WhatsApp, WeChat and Skype, you might consider a plan with a greater data allowance. giffgaff and Three offer unlimited data at from £20 per month.

You’ll find that most unis, halls, cafes and bars offer free wifi, as well as some public spaces like train stations, parks, and popular shopping areas, so you’re never too far from being connected.

You can find most network providers on any British high street, or do a search online to compare and find great deals.
 

Set up a Bank Account

You’ll be able to use most international Visa, MasterCard, and American Express cards in the UK. Some banks have charges for withdrawing money or completing transactions abroad – so you should check with your home-country account to make sure you don’t get stung by any unexpected fees.

To set up a student account with a UK bank, you will need to book an appointment, which you should do ahead of your arrival to avoid going weeks without access to money. It’s a busy time for banks, and opening a new account can take about two weeks in the run-up to a new academic year.
 

Registering with the Police

International students from certain countries are required by their visa conditions to register with the police within seven days of arrival in the UK. So check your visa or residence permit, or entrance clearance stamp to see whether or not you’re obliged to do so. If you’re studying in London then it’s likely that you’ll have to register at the Overseas Visitors Record Office; whereas if you’re studying outside London you’ll be asked to register at a major local police station – in either case you must bring your passport and two passport photographs with you.

See the official police registration page on GOV.UK for further information.
 

Registering with a GP

If you’re studying in the UK for six months or longer, you’re entitled to free treatment from the National Health Service (NHS) – this applies to both routine appointments with a doctor (called a General Practitioner, or a GP) and hospital treatments. To access this service, you should register with a GP as soon as possible after you arrive here.

Your university will provide you with a list of local GP surgeries for you to choose from. To register, simply take your passport, CAS (as proof of your identity), and proof of address to the GP surgery. The GP you register with will be your first point of contact whenever you feel unwell or need medical attention – so choose wisely, take into account their location and their reputation in the community.
 

Getting a Travel Pass

If you’re planning on using public transport on a regular basis – whether it’s to and from uni or to explore your home-away-from-home (see our blog for the ultimate travel guide in your city) – you should get a bus pass to get discounted travel tickets and save money. (Hint: if you’re in Greater London, this is called an Oyster card).

The 16-25 railcard is another great money saver: it’s a £30 upfront fee per year, but will save you 1/3 on train fares. Doesn’t sound like much, but train tickets aren’t cheap, so those savings will really add up.

Get in touch with your accommodation provider and they’ll be able to help you with getting one. If you’re staying at one of our student residences, you can drop us a line here.
 

Get prepared

Try not to worry. While moving abroad to study is a huge and life-changing step, it’s also extremely exciting! We can’t wait to welcome you to the UK! Check out what to expect when you get here and make sure you have your bags packed: our packing guide over on Student Source will help! Wondering how Brexit will affect international students? It’s hard to know for sure, but we’ve looked at what might change in the next 12 months.