Where do you start with a city like London? Diverse, historic and very, very busy, the nation’s capital is an unbelievable place to study and live. But a city of this size needs a little preparation before the “big move”, whether you’re moving across the UK or you’re flying in from another country.
We’ve already covered the general things international students need to do when moving to the UK, like registering with a GP and setting up a bank account. That’s why we’re fine-tuning our focus and getting more specific with this piece, to give you some tips and tricks to help you get used to big city life.
From making your money go further to travelling around the city, our insider info is here to make your move to London as smooth as possible.
Get an Oyster card
Although London is a great city to explore on foot, the best way to get from A to B is by using its extensive public transport network. It’s a bit daunting at first, so we recommend downloading the Transport for London app to help you plan your journey; you need to input your starting point, your end destination, and when you want to leave/arrive by.
But above all, be sure to get yourself a Student Oyster Card. With these, you can hop on a bus or the underground by tapping your Oyster card on the receiver when you get on the bus or when you’re entering the underground station, and then do the same when you get off or leave the station. Just be sure to tap out or you’ll be charged extra if not. Plus, you can save yourself 30% off travel with them too!
What should I know about transport?
While we’re on the subject, there are a few things to know about transport ahead of your move.
The most popular and quickest way to get around. The network itself is split into different lines, which can be a bit confusing at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
As well as the tube, you also have the option of taking the bus. Buses are cheaper, but you’ll often find yourself in city traffic, so they’re not the best if you’re in a hurry. Overground trains are also available, but they aren’t as reliable in certain parts of the city.
Where should I shop for food?
You’ll find plenty of large grocery chains in London, so you can shop according to your budget. Stores can be broken down by price as follows:
Budget stores: Aldi, Lidl and Iceland
Mid-range stores: ASDA, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Morrisons
High-end stores: Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and Ocado
Although not all parts of London will have these large stores, you’ll find smaller local versions of their main stores – though the selection is limited. However, some of the large stores offer online shopping which can be delivered straight to your door, so you can browse their whole selection with greater convenience.
You can explore London’s local markets too. Borough Market is worth visiting, but it gets very busy and its products are more expensive than the local markets. If you’re looking for great produce and reduced prices, you should definitely seek out your local market.
Is London expensive?
We won’t sugar coat it: although it’s an awesome place to live, London can be expensive, especially when you’re a student. Compared to other areas of the UK, prices across the nation’s capital stay pumped up, whether it’s the cost of living or the cost of a loaf of bread.
However, with a bit of know-how and a lot of budgeting, it’s definitely possible to keep your costs low. For more on how to make your money go further, from studying essentials and entertainment to food and drink, check out our guide to living in London for less.
Be a tourist during the week
With so much to see and do, London gets pretty touristy through the year. And though you might be busy with your studies and social life during the week, saving the city’s main tourist attractions for the weekend is a bad idea. Why? Because EVERYONE will have the same idea.
Instead, make time through the week to check out all those museums, galleries, street food markets or bus tours you keep hearing about instead.
Get used to queuing
Like everyone else in the UK, Londoners love to queue. Whether it’s buses, ATMs, using staircases (yes, really!) or anything else you can think of, there’s bound to be a queue for it.
And if don’t have to queue, then there’s a good chance that you didn’t see the queue and you’ve just pushed in without realising – a big no-no! Always be sure to check unless you want to make a line of Londoners super angry.
A word about escalators
When faced with an escalator in London, always remember the golden rule: stand to the right and walk on the left. Standing while on the left is perhaps the worst thing you can do when in London, so heed our words.
Stay up to date with your apps
To help you get the most out of your time in London, it’s a good idea to keep your phone loaded with the latest apps. As well as the Transport for London app we mentioned before, Citymapper makes getting to and from places super easy, while Free Now and Uber are essential for getting rides anywhere in the city.
While rain isn’t usually a problem here, you should still get the Met Office app for up-to-date forecasts throughout the day. Feeling hungry? Deliveroo is your friend, delivering all kinds of different cuisines to your doorstep, while TablePouncer lets you book last-minute tables at local restaurants with savings of up to 65%.
And when you think you’ve seen everything the city has to offer, try Hidden London, an app dedicated to the hidden gems of the city without pesky tourists getting in your way! Speaking of which, you’ll find some more weird and wonderful facts about the city here.
If you’re looking for a student living experience that offers more, head over to NIDO STUDENT to see our global properties or drop us a line on 0207 1000 100 for more information.