Living in London

A global cultural and creative centre - London is at the heart of our 6 Colleges. We’re also aware that moving to London from outside of the UK can be an exciting yet daunting experience. This page will give you an idea of what it’s like to live in London, along with some useful tips about daily life, to help you call this diverse and vibrant city home.

London
Photographer: Jo Mansfield

Accommodation

Living in halls of residence is a great way to meet new people, which is so important when you’ve just moved away from home. All international students at UAL are guaranteed a place in our accommodation for their first year of study, and we have something for everyone with 13 halls of residence spread across London.

Applying for accommodation

Here’s some useful information especially for international students from outside the EU:

  • You should apply for halls of residence as soon as you’ve accepted your offer to study at UAL and have applied for a visa. It’s important not to wait until you receive your visa as this could delay your application.
  • Our International Accommodation Adviser can help you with your accommodation questions and application. The Adviser is based at our Asia Branch Office in Hong Kong. You can reach them on accommodation@arts.ac.uk Tel: +852 3753 8813 (GMT +8 hours).
  • If you’ve applied through the UAL Representative in your country, they will also be able to advise you on accommodation in London.
  • If you are studying our Presessional English Programme in the summer before you start your main University course, you can stay in one of our halls of residence during the Programme.

Visit the accommodation pages on our website for more detailed information about our halls of residence and how to apply.

Airport collection

To make arriving in the UK as easy as possible, we offer a free airport collection service for all international students from outside the EU who are arriving in London for the first time.

We’ll arrange for a taxi to collect you from your London arrival airport and take you to your accommodation. You can apply for the airport collection service once you’ve confirmed your accommodation.

Bank accounts

Most international students open a UK bank account so that they can manage their money more easily. We recommend that you speak to your bank in your home country before you come to London - they may be able to help you open an account in the UK.

Opening an account

To open a bank account when you’re in the UK, you’ll need to visit a bank branch. You will need to show all or some of these documents:

  • Your passport.
  • Proof of your address in your home country. Banks will accept an offer letter from UAL as proof.
  • Proof of your UK address e.g. your UAL accommodation contract.
  • A ‘bank letter’ from UAL. You can request this from your College, but only after your enrolment event.

Be prepared to be without a bank account

It will take a few weeks after arriving in the UK to open your new bank account. This is because:

  • You can only get your bank letter (see above) after attending your enrolment event at UAL, which may take place many days after you arrive in the UK, and
  • You may then need to wait for an appointment at your chosen bank, and
  • You may then need to wait for your bank account to be opened.

Therefore, make sure you have another source of money for your first few weeks in London, such as cash, travellers cheques or a debit/credit card with low international fees.

If you have any questions about opening a bank account in the UK, contact our Student Advice Service

Community

Life in the capital is all about making connections. Wherever you come from or whatever your background, you’ll meet like-minded people. You’ll already be part of a huge student community when you join UAL, but here are a few tips to help you settle in:

Students' Union

As soon as you arrive at UAL, you automatically become a member of SUARTs, the University’s Students’ Union. SUARTs has many societies that you can join, which are a great way to meet new people.

International Students House

International Students House (ISH) organises social and cultural events for international students in London, including free cinema on Sundays and trips around the UK. UAL is a member of ISH so all our students can join for free.

Homestay with a British family

HOST is a voluntary group that arranges for international students to stay with a British family free-of-charge for a day, a weekend or the Christmas holidays. This is a great way to learn more about the British way of life and to share your culture with your hosts.

Religion and faith

London is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world and almost every faith is represented by a community group or organisation. UAL has a university chaplain who can provide support, whatever your belief. The chaplain can also help you find a place of worship or community group for your faith in London.

Healthcare

The UK healthcare system may be quite different from that in your home country. It’s worth doing some research before arriving so you know what you may need to do before coming to the UK, and what you need to organise once you're here.

Before you travel to the UK

There are a few things you should consider before travelling to London:

  • Meningitis C vaccination – most UK students have the Meningitis C vaccine before they start university, so it’s a good idea to get the vaccine in your home country or soon after you arrive in London.
  • Tuberculosis (TB) screening – if you’re travelling from certain countries outside of the EU, you’ll need to provide a certificate to show that you’ve been screened for TB before you’re given a visa. You may also need to show this certificate when you arrive at a UK airport.
  • Your medical record – we suggest that you ask your doctor for a copy of your full medical records and bring them with you to London. These will help your new doctor in the UK by giving them your medical history. If your records aren’t in English, you should get them officially translated.
  • Regular medication – it might take a while to register with a doctor in London. If you take regular medication you should bring enough with you to last a few months. 

When you arrive

The National Health Service (NHS) is the UK’s government-run health service that provides healthcare to UK residents.

If you’re from a country within the European Economic Area (EEA) you should get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which will give you access to NHS care while you’re in the UK.

If you’re an international student, you’ll need to pay for UK healthcare as part of your visa application. The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is paid as part of your visa and will mean that you can access all NHS healthcare while you’re in the UK. If you're studying with us for six months or less, you will not have to pay the IHS. Instead, you will need to pay for NHS treatment as and when you need it.

NHS services include:

  • GP (General Practitioner) services – GPs or doctors can diagnose and treat minor or ongoing health problems. You should register with a doctor when you arrive in London. If you’re staying in UAL accommodation, you can find your nearest doctor with UAL Health Advice. If you’re renting privately, you can find a doctor on the NHS website.
  • Emergency healthcare – if you have an accident or emergency health issue, you should go to an Accident and Emergency (A&E) department at your nearest hospital. If you need an ambulance, call 999 for free from any phone. 
  • Some dental care (at a fee - the cost of dental treatment varies) – you can find a local dentist on the NHS website.
  • Eye tests (at a small fee) – eye care is provided from high-street shops like Boots Opticians, Specsavers or Vision Express.

For more information about healthcare in the UK, take a look at the UK Council for International Affairs (UKCISA) website.

Things to do in London

London is one of the most innovative cities in the world, inspiring artists, designers and communicators from across the globe. There’s always something new to experience and influence your creative journey at UAL - or simply just to have fun.

London guides

Many of London’s world-famous art galleries, museums and exhibitions are free to visit and different events take place every night of the week. With so many things available, we’ve listed a few popular websites about all things London:

  • London for Free gives you the lowdown on all things free in London.
  • Time Out is an essential guide to what’s on in London each week – from restaurants and bars, films and theatre, to music, art and more. The magazine version is also handed out across London every Tuesday.
  • The Evening Standard’s Going Out guide features regular updates about London’s latest events and exhibitions.

Student discount card

To help save you money when you’re out and about, it may be worth buying an NUS extra student card. The card will give you access to thousands of discounts from stores, restaurants, bars and more across the UK. You can also upgrade your NUS extra card to an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) which gives you access to discounts across 120 countries worldwide.

Travelling in the UK

As a student in the UK, you’re likely to have to rely on public transport to get around. The good news is that there are lots of options depending on your budget and location.  

Travelling in London

Our Colleges and halls of residence are spread across the city so you’ll need to travel around London while you’re here. The main types of public transport in London are:

  • The Tube – this is London’s underground train network. Tubes run throughout the day until late at night and is often the quickest way to get around.
  • Overground – this is London’s overground train network and you’re more likely to use it outside of the city centre.
  • Buses – buses are cheaper than the Tube and some services run throughout the night.
  • Trams – if you’re studying at Wimbledon College of Arts you might use the local trams.

The easiest way to pay for your travel is to buy an Oyster Card for £5. You can use this on all public transport in London. Your Oyster Card can be used as:

  • A Travelcard – top-up your card with a fixed amount that covers all your travel for a week, month or a year.
  • Pay as you go – top-up your card with money as and when you need it.

Full time students can get a Student Oyster Photocard which gives you a 30% discount on Travelcards and Bus and Tram passes.

Visit the Transport for London (TFL) website for more information about travelling in London.

Travelling outside of London

You might want to travel to other parts of the UK while you’re here. You can travel throughout the UK using:

  • Coaches – coaches are often the cheapest way to travel. You can buy a Young Persons Coachcard for £10. This will give you 10% off National Express coaches. Mega Bus regularly offers £1 tickets across the UK.
  • Trains – you can buy a 16-25 Railcard which costs £28 for 1 year or £68 for 3 years. The card will give you a third off train travel to anywhere in the country. If you’re a student over 25 years old, you can still get the Railcard but will need to prove you are in full time education. Train travel can be expensive so it’s best to book in advance using websites like The Trainline to compare prices. You can get more information about train travel in the UK on the National Rail website.
  • Car – if you’d like to drive in the UK, UKCISA has a guide for international students that you might find useful.

Students can plan and book journeys across the UK via GoEuro, a multi-mode search engine which allows easy comparison and combination of traincoach and plane travel.

Travelling outside of the UK

If you want to travel outside of the UK, you should check the immigration rules for travelling abroad on your student visa. 

The International Student Identify Card (ISIC) gives you discounts on travel in Europe. You can buy one from SUARTS, along with you National Union of Students (NUS) Card, which gets you discounts at shops and restaurants in the UK. 

Students can plan their journeys outside the UK using GoEuro, which provides information on all modes of transport.