Top 5 Pre-Arrival Tips for New International Students

If you are starting a degree course at a university in London this September, you haven’t got long now until you pack your bags and set off on your journey to London. There are many questions that will go through your mind when you prepare to travel to London. Here are a few practical tips to consider before you leave home.

  1. Book Your Accommodation

It is very important that you arrange accommodation before you arrive in the UK. You cannot arrive at your university and move into a room without having booked.

If you haven’t secured long-term accommodation yet, make sure you book a room in a hotel or hostel before you arrive. The city will be very busy with new students so it is best to book in advance.

Find information about how to find your ideal student home in our Student Accommodation Section.

  1. Make Travel Plans

University airport welcomes

Many London universities send teams of student ambassadors to welcome new students at the airport and help them find their way to campus. Some universities also organise direct transport to your accommodation. Check with your university if they offer an airport welcome and how you can sign up.

Public transport in London

If you have to find your own way to your accommodation, make sure you familiarise yourself with London’s public transport system via the Transport for London (TfL) website. Even if you have signed up for an airport transfer, it is important to have a back-up plan in case your flight gets delayed and you miss your transport.

The cheapest and easiest way to travel by public transport is using a pre-paid electronic ticket called the Oyster card. You can buy an Oyster card online before you arrive. This can be posted to your home country.


Taxis may be the best option if you have a lot of luggage. There are two types of London taxis:

  • A pre-booked ‘mini-cab’ which can be arranged before you land.
  • Black Cabs which cannot be pre-booked and are more expensive for long journeys.

You can find contact details for a number of taxi companies on the Transport for London website.

  1. Sign up for a digital bank account or pre-paid credit card

Consider signing up for a digital bank account to avoid having to wait for appointments at banks once you get to the UK. For example, you can open an account with Unizest from your home country (but note there is a monthly charge for this account). Loot offer a free digital account, but you can only register for this once you arrive in the UK.

Alternatively, you can order a pre-paid credit card and top up enough money to last you for the first few weeks.

  1. Print relevant documents

Print your university offer letter (CAS), your accommodation details and recent bank statements and pack these in your hand luggage. The immigration officer may ask to see them.

We also recommend that you take photocopies of all of your important documents (e.g. passport, accommodation details, phone numbers) and keep these copies in your main luggage as a back-up in case you lose the original documents.

  1. Mobile Phones and Sim Cards

Check if you will be able to use your phone when you get to the UK and consider any roaming charges before you connect to the internet.

Most London airports have vending machines in the arrival hall where you can buy sim cards. This means you can call your parents the minute you land and let them know you have arrived safely. Make sure your phone is unlocked to take any sim card.

Once you arrive at your accommodation, you can finally call London your home. Have fun meeting your fellow new students and explore your new neighbourhood. Your university will be able to provide you with information about the nearest stations, supermarkets and other useful amenities.

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