New to the UK

settling into London life

Moving to the UK is an exciting experience, as no place is quite like London.

Moving to a new country can be daunting and there will be a lot of things which you will need to consider. This page gives a small introduction to things to keep in mind when you are planning for your move to the UK.

Weather and clothing

Weather

The weather in Britain is changeable and unpredictable. Our top tip is to always carry an umbrella!

Average daily temperature:

  • Winter: 5C (41F).
  • Summer: 18C (64F).

For reliable weather forecasts check out the Met Office or BBC Weather.

Clothing

Our tips for surviving the British weather are:

  • Wear layer - this means you can adjust your clothing easily.
  • Waterproof clothing and shoes are essential.
  • It may be cheaper to buy warm clothes for winter after you arrive in Britain than to buy them abroad and pay to transport them.
  • Even if the weather is warm during the day temperatures can often drop quickly in the evening so it is best to carry a light jacket or jumper with you in the summer.
  • Grab yourself an NUS Extra Card – to access lots of discounts on clothing and more.

For a comprehensive guide to shopping for clothes and everything else in London try the Shops and Services section of the Time Out London website.

Electricity supply

The British electricity supply works on 230 volts, so if you bring any electrical goods from home you must be able to use them safely on this voltage. Alternatively you can use a transformer but be sure that you purchase a transformer from a reputable retailer to avoid blowing a fuse.

  • Most buildings in the UK have sockets for 13 amp square pin fused plugs.
  • A 3 amp fuse (red) is needed for stereo equipment, clocks, electric blankets etc,
  • A 13 amp fuse (brown) for heavier domestic equipment such as kettles and hairdryers.
  • Adapters can be bought locally to adapt plugs to fit British sockets but these often do not convert the voltage so please do not use them for long periods of time. 

Remember that certain appliances (televisions, computer peripherals etc.) use a lot of electricity when in standby mode. To save energy, switch off appliances when not in use. For more information about energy efficiency, see our sustainability pages

Mobile phones

There are many mobile phone network service providers and calling plans to choose from in the UK. You should read contracts closely and take the time to investigate your options. Check the rates for both UK and international calls when purchasing a plan as these can vary substantially.

Pay as you go

'Pay as you go' means that you add credit to the phone and use it until it runs out. 

  • You can 'top up' your credit whenever you like. 
  • There is no monthly commitment and you only pay for the calls and texts that you use (but credit can sometimes 'expire'
  • You can buy credit in many shops and at cash points.

If you opt for pay as you go, you usually need to buy a phone. If you already have a phone, you may be able to buy a pay as you go SIM card to use with it, as long as the card is compatible. Check this before buying the SIM card.

Rolling contract

A rolling contract is somewhere in between pay as you go and pay monthly.

  • SIM-only plan with no fixed end date; you must let your network provider know 1 month in advance that you want to cancel your contract.
  • Payment is taken by direct debit so you will need to have a UK bank account and credit or debit card.
  • You do not usually have to undergo a rigourous credit check. 

If you opt for a rolling contract you will need to buy a phone. If you already have a phone, you may be able to buy a pay as you go SIM card to use with it, as long as the card is compatible. Check this before buying the SIM card.

Pay monthly

  • You will have a minimum monthly payment and will be required to keep the contract for a set period of time (normally one or two years). 
  • You will have to undergo a credit check
  • It is not possible to avoid the monthly fee, even if you do not use the phone.
  • Providers usually offer a free or heavily discounted mobile phone as part of the package.

In order to sign up for a monthly contract, you are likely to need 

  • Your exact UK address, room/flat number and post code
  • A UK bank account and the relevant details (sort code, account number, and/or credit card details.)

Remember

  • It is almost impossible to break a mobile phone contract once you enter it, so you must review the contract very carefully before you commit.
  • International students may have difficulty setting up a pay monthly contract as some providers will refuse to set up a contract with someone who is in the country on a temporary basis, or someone who does not have an established credit history in the UK. 

English law

You should be aware of the following relevant points about English law whihc may be different from your home country.

  1. The list of prohibited illegal drugs is comprehensive. Importing, using or possessing such a drug is a serious offence and commonly leads to imprisonment and/ or deportation. When someone has more than a very small amount the law assumes that they propose to sell drugs, for which the penalties are severe.
  2. The possession - and in general the use - of firearms is absolutely prohibited. Even the police are armed only on special occasions. You also not allowed to carry knives.
  3. All adults are equal at law, and there are Acts of Parliament (backed by the School's own policies and procedures) outlawing discrimination on grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, age and disability. Harassing people on these grounds will make anyone liable to legal action. The School goes further than this, and students may be disciplined for discriminatory behaviour or harassment that is not actually illegal.
  4. It is prohibited to smoke in publically accessible buildings.
  5. The public consumption of alcohol is, in principle, confined to premises specially licensed for the purpose.  Please be aware that the minimum age for drinking alcohol is 18 years.
  6. Everyone from inside the European Union is normally allowed to take paid employment. People from outside the UK will only be able to work in accordance with their visa. If you are allowed to work you will have to pay taxes along with everyone else. If you hold a student visa contact ISVAT for information about working during your studies
  7. If you plan to drive in Great Britain, make sure that you know the rules about licensing, driving and parking. Penalties are severe for driving under the influence of drink or drugs. If you choose to cycle, remember that the laws of the road apply to you exactly as if you were driving a car. 

If you get into trouble at any point, seek advice at once. You can talk to the Student Services Centre, your Academic Advisor or the Students' Union Advice Centre.

Cycling and driving in the UK

Driving

Before driving in the UK, it is important that you fulfil the legal requirements and are aware of the correct procedures. It is worth remembering that driving in London is a stressful and time consuming task. Public transport such as bicycles and the tubes are often a lot quicker.

Important legal requirements:

  • You must have a licence that allows you to drive in Great Britain.  For advice on this see the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

  • You must observe and abide by the Highway Code.
  • You must abide by the laws relating to licensing, insurance, vehicle roadworthiness, vehicle registration, and vehicle excise duty (tax). For information regarding these matters see the DVLA.
  • Anyone wishing to drive in central London on weekdays between 7:00am and 6.00pm must pay a daily congestion charge.
  • You can find out more detailed information from the UKCISA guidance for international students on driving in the UK.
  • And one more very obvious thing - we drive on the left in the United Kingdom!

Cycling

Cycling in London can be a quick way of getting around; however, it can also be dangerous. To make sure you stay safe on the roads please:

  • Check over your shoulder when you are manoeuvring
  • Be aware that bigger road vehicles such as buses and lorries may not be able to see you.
  • Ensure that your bike has lights and that you wear a high-visibility jacket and helmet.
  • For a free ‘urban cycle skills’ session check out the TfL webpage

London also has a relatively high rate of bicycle theft. To help prevent your bike being stolen please follow the guidance below:

  • Use the secure bike storage on campus. For more details visit facilities for cyclists.
  • Take a note of your bike's serial number (usually found on the underside of your bike frame). This number can help to return the bike back to you if it has been stolen.
  • Use two types of locks: a Gold rated “Soldsecure” endorsed padlock & chain and a "D" lock.

For more information on keeping safe on campus check out the Campus Safety page

Tips:

  • Many cycling shops around London have a pump outside their shop which is free to you so you don’t need to carry a pump around with you.
  • London roads have many holes and debris that could give you a flat tyre - carry a puncture repair kit with you.
  • You can rent out Santander cycles at the self-service stations dotted around campus and London. For more information and to find your nearest docking station visit  TfL - Santander Cycles link.

TV Licences

If you watch or record programmes as they’re being shown live, on any device,  or want to use BBC iPlayer you need to be covered by a TV Licence.

If you live in Halls of Residence you must buy your own licence. You are not covered by your licence at home or the residence's communal licence.

If you live in a shared house with a single tenancy (as opposed to renting an indivual room) you probably only need one licence but be sure to check with your landlord. 

If you're moving house you can move your TV licence with you but be aware that this will leave the old property unlicenced. 

For more information, including costs, about TV licensing visit  TV licensing for students

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Student Services Centre, (Ground Floor) Old Building, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE