A Student’s Travel Guide to London


Prior to Arrival                            Visa                                     Visa Categories
Organising the Travel                 Arriving in London              From Heathrow
From Gatwick                             From Stansted                    From City Airport
Accommodation                         Oyster Card                         Getting Around London
Tubes                                         Buses                                   Trains
Taxis                                          What to do in London          Attractions
Events                                        Clubs                                   Eat Outs

If you are a student aspiring to study in London, then you need to plan quite systematically. Right from travel to securing an accommodation to getting in and around the city, every aspect evoke incessant anxiety among students who want to travel to London for their study. To relieve you off that anxiety, here is the complete guide to aid you for your travel to London.

Prior to Arrival
Before you pack your bags for your study in London, you need to make certain preparations. Tick off the following things before you pack the bags:

Securing Visa
Visa will allow you to enter UK. It is put into your travel documents and passport by an Entry Clearance Officer by the British embassy of your country.

International students travelling to UK come under two categories: The first category comprises those students who are EU/EEA/Swiss nationals. If your passport has been issued by the countries that come under this category (for the whole list of EU/EEA/Swiss countries visit ukcisa.org.uk) you do not require a visa to enter UK. This list also includes those students who have dual nationalities. You can also bring your family members (they should also be EU/EEA/Swiss nationals). For more information regarding this, click at ukcisa.org.uk.

The second category covers those students who are non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals. If you come under this category, you will have to secure a visa to study in London. There are two broad types of visa categories for students who are coming to London for studies. They are:

  • Tier 4 (General) – If your intended course in UK lasts more than six months
  • Student Visitor – If your course has the duration of less than six months

The thing to remember here is that if you belong to the country that comes under Non-Visa National Category (as formulated by UK authorities), you will not need a visa. If you want complete list of the countries that come under Visa and Non-Visa Nationals categories and the other requirements such as documents required and other such things, click here.

Organising the Travel
All the visa formalities done, now comes this part. Organise your travel in the most scrupulous manner as you would be spending a long interval of time in London. Nail every thing, whether packing, immunisations or other areas to perfection. Some essential tips are:

  • Pick the right clothes and pack them in a light backpack. London weather is extremely unpredictable. Therefore, it would be better if you pack for all types of clothing be it woollen, shorts or raincoats even if your course duration is less than six months. If you are still confused about how to pack the right way for your trip to London, take an idea from studenttravel.about.com.
  • Purchase travel insurance before you embark on your journey. It will give you a cover against any undesirable happenings that might occur while you are in London.
  • Secure your medical certificate and arrange for vaccinations. Most of the students who desire to study in London should have Meningitis C vaccination prior to their arrival. In addition to this, if you hail from a country that has a high occurrence of Tuberculosis, then you should have an X-Ray which should not be more than six months old. For more information on this, click on arts.ac.uk.
  • Have the duplicate copies of all of your essential documents like passport, birth certificate, university admission letter and other such papers. It would be a better idea if you leave one set of copy of all those with your parents at home and bring the original documents with their duplicate copies with you.
  • Keep an accurate account of your deposits with you. You would need money to finance your whereabouts before opening a student bank account in London.

Arriving in London
There are four major airports in London: Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, and London City. Whichever airport you land into, you need to travel to Central London so that you could get to your desired college or university as most of the major universities of the city are located in Central London.
Travelling from Heathrow Airport to Central London

First Option: By Tube
This will be the most pocket-friendly route for you. The Piccadilly line connects all Heathrow terminals to Central London with continuous services from 0500 hours to 2340 hours. This line takes approximately 1 hour to reach Central London.
Second Option: By Coach
There are operators like National Express that run frequent services from Heathrow Airport to Central London. The normal journey time would be 35-50 minutes. If you want to know about booking a coach, click here.

Third Option: By Rail
Heathrow Express is the best option if you are going to travel via train to Central London. The Heathrow Express has four non-stop trains every hour to and from Paddington. Additionally, Heathrow Connect also operates between Heathrow and Paddington with two trains every hour.

Fourth Option: By Taxis
Taxis operate all day round from Heathrow to Central London. All the five terminals at the airport have taxi ranks with information desks. However, before boarding the taxi, do see to it that the taxi is a licensed one.

Travelling From Gatwick Airport to Central London

First Option: By Rail
There are four trains run by Gatwick Express every hour to and from London Victoria station. After reaching the Victoria rail station, board tube to reach Central London. Along with Gatwick Express, Southern and First Capital Connect also operate rails to and from London Victoria.

Second Option: Coach
National Express has 24 hours services from London Victoria Coach Station via Streatham. Easy bus too operates coach from Earls Court/West Brompton.

Travelling From Stansted Airport to Central London

First Option: By Rail
The Stansted Express operates directly from Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street Rail Station. At Liverpool, board the tube to reach Central London. The express has four trains per hour and the expected journey time is 45 minutes.

Second Option: By Coach
There are two distinct coach services operated by National Express: A6 to and from Victoria Coach Station and A9 operated to and from Liverpool Street station and Stratford.

Apart from National Express, Terravision and Easybus also have coach services. Visit their official websites for more information.

Travelling From London City Airport to Central London

First Option: By Rail
The London City Airport has an exclusive station on the Docklands Light Railways (DLR). It will take around 18 minutes to reach Canary Wharf (London’s financial hub) from the airport.

As you would be new to the ambience of the city, it would be best if you have pre-planned your stay in London. Are you going to live with someone you know or would you search for hostels and other accommodation options in the city? The best option would be to have provisions for your stay. If you are looking for a hostel or a cheap accommodation in London, then search websites like londonhotels4u.com that has a wide variety of hotels in London for your requirements before you fly to London.

If your university does not have the provisions for hostels or if the hostel does not have enough capacity, then you will have to search for affordable accommodation options as you cannot stay in a hotel for long. Visit ukhostels.com for the best information on hostels in London and their prices.

Getting Around London: Discounts
As a student you will have to travel a lot to get the feel of the city. However, travelling in and around the city can be extremely expensive. Here are some ways through which you can save some bucks while you would be getting around the city:

Secure an Oyster Card
An Oyster Card is a substitute for money while you are travelling in and around the city. Oyster cards can be used for the underground, bus, tram, DLR, London over-ground trains and few National trains. Purchase a Student Oyster Photocard for £5 from any of the Underground tube stations in the city that offers a 30% discount on Bus & Tram passes and Travel card. Normally a Student Oyster Photocard saves 30% on adult rates. Nevertheless, do remember that if you are travelling during peak hours (0730 to 0930) from Monday to Friday, you will be charged more for your travel.

If you are below 19 and doing a full-time course in London, then you are qualified for 16+ Student Oyster Card. This will enable you to travel in London buses and trams without any cost. In addition to this, this card allows you to purchase Travel card at discounted rates. If you are still confused about Oyster card or want to know more about it, visit tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14312.

Getting Around London: Options

The London Underground is one of the most diverse tube networks of the world. Sprawling all over the city, the sheer magnitude of its network confuses many foreign students. Here are some major things that you should remember before travelling via tube:

Zones – London is divided into 9 zones, zone 1 covering the centre of the city. The same pattern continues till the zone 9 that covers the outmost part of the city. The major city of London is covered by zones 1 to 4.

Along with this, remember, that travelling across different zones is much expensive than travelling between zones. For example, journey between zone 2 and 3 would be cheaper than journey from zone 1 to zone 6.

Tube Map – The tube map is not accurate, therefore while you are referring to it, be extremely cautious. If two tube stations are depicted quite close to each other in the map that does not imply that those two stations are at a walking distance. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the tube map before venturing out in London tubes.

To download the pdf file of London tube map, visit www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads.

Closures at Weekends – In order to carry out maintenance repairs, certain sections of the tube in London are closed on weekends. To save you this infuriating discomfort, visit the official website of London transport regularly for latest updates.

Though not as popular as tube network, bus service has its own place in the map of London transportation network. However, the major drawback with bus service in London is that the charges are same for travel, either you are travelling till the end stop or alighting the bus at the next stop.

Trains are also a great way to travel in and around the city. In addition to this, if your train journey ends within 1-9 zones of London, then you can use your Oyster Card for availing discounts.

There are two types of taxis in London: the registered black cabs and minicabs. Black cabs are the traditional cabs of the city that cannot be booked in advance. However, riding in a Black Cab can be extremely expensive. All the cabs run on meter that charges not only per portion of each mile covered but stoppage time as well. Therefore, if you are stuck in traffic, the charges can reach astronomical heights.

Mini-cabs are cabs that can be booked in advance. Just give a call to Mini-cab station and they will arrange a Mini-cab for you provided it is not already booked. You cannot hail a Mini-cab off the road as you can with Black Cabs. Mini-cabs are cheap to travel as they do not charge for traffic stoppage and other such things. Apart from this, there are ‘women’ exclusive Mini-cabs that are run by women. Therefore, if you are a female, then travelling in such Mini-cabs is a good option for you.

What to do in London?

London offers you do much to see that you will literally need a lifetime to visit all that. Famous wit Samuel Johnson aptly said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life: for there is in London all that life can afford.” From the sense-fainting heights of The Shard to discovering unrivalled depths of Thames, there are plenty of things to do in London.

The capital city of UK abounds in majestic tourist attractions that will win your heart like never before. During your study period in London, do make sure to visit these attractions. Here are the most visited London attractions:

  • British Museum
  • National Gallery
  • London Eye
  • Tate Modern
  • Madame Tussauds
  • Tower of London
  • Royal Museums Greenwich
  • Science Museum
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Tower Bridge

Want to have detailed information about these attractions and the ticket prices? Log on to visitlondon.com.

Before you make plans for visiting these places, it would be great if you invest a little fortune in London Pass. It will not only help you in having a free access to over 60 tourist attractions in the city (free access for single entry only) but with travel card will save you costs on transportation. (In case, you have not secured an Oyster Card.)

It is not for no reason that this capital city of UK is called the cultural capital of Europe. All year-round, there are plenty of events that keep happening in the city. Most prominent (it would be sacrilegious to miss these London events!) events among them are:

  • London Gay Pride
  • Buckingham Palace Summer Opening Ceremony
  • Notting Hill Carnival
  • Wimbledon Grand slam
  • Chelsea Flower Show
  • Entertainment

Whatever you preferences may be, London has the answer for you. Either you love indulging in hardcore partying or crave for a foodie haven, London will not disappoint you.

Even though there are plenty of effervescent nightclubs in the city, yet as a starter in the city’s nightlife it would be better if you venture into London’s student clubs. These student clubs offer reduced entry prices, promotional drinks offer and a great musical ambience. Ten of the best student clubs in the city are:

1. Club De Fromage
Address: 16 Parkfield Street, Islington, London, N1 0PS
2. Club NME, Koko
Address: 1 A, Camden High Street, Camden, NW1 7JE
3. Los Locos
Address: 24-26, Russell Street, Holborn, London, WC2B 5HF
4. Metra Bar and Club
Address: 14 Leicester Square, London Chinatown, London, WC 2H 7NG
5. Popcorn at Heaven
Address: Under the Arches, Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NG
6. The Roxy
Address: 3-5 Rathbone Place, Soho, London, W1T 1HJ
7. The Social
Address: 5 Little Portland Street, Soho, London, W1W 7JD
8. Tiger Tiger Haymarket
Address: 29 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4SP
9. Tutu’s Nightclub, King College London Student Union (KCLSU)
Address: The Macadam Building, Surrey Street, Strand, London, WC2R 2NS
10. Zoo Bar
Address: 13-17 Bear Street, Leicester Square, London, WC 2H

Eat Outs
London is undoubtedly one of the most expensive cities of the world. Nonetheless, there are plenty of spots in the city that will not burn your pockets when it comes to ‘eating-out’ in the city. As a foreign student, one of the best places for you to have an economical ‘eat-out’ would be Borough Market. Located quite close to London Bridge Tube station, this market is largest market in the city. Whatever your preferences may be, this market has it all. Among the specialities of this market are marinated Tofu, Mediterranean Olives, Cheese scones and French cheese. When it comes to prices, they are quite pocket-friendly too.

Along with Borough Market, there are plenty of places in London where you can have cheap and delicious street food, South Bank and Brick lane most notable among them. The city also has a wide range of cheap eateries where you will not have to stretch your budget to appease your taste buds.
Studying in London is an “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. Read this comprehensive guide and fulfil your dream of studying in London without any anxieties.
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