Londonist Readers Share Their Advice For New Students Coming To London

Londonist Readers Share Their Advice For New Students Coming To London
Photo: Champnet

We love London, but we know it can be a daunting place for anyone coming to live here for the first time. Every year, thousands of freshers move to London from across the UK and abroad to study at London universities. So we asked our readers for their advice for anyone moving to London to study. Here are the top tips they came up with:

Transport

  • Get an Oyster card. The contactless payment card can be used to travel on tube, bus, tram, DLR, London Overground, Elizabeth line, TfL Rail and most National Rail services through London. Choose pay as you go, or to use it as a Travelcard.
  • Lots of readers suggested a bike is the best way of getting round. Bikes don't have to be expensive — you should be able to pick one up second hand pretty easily. Your university may even have a trade site where students can buy from other students. London Cycling Campaign has plenty of advice for cycling in the city. Don't forget to buy yourself a decent lock for your bike too — and a helmet, of course.
  • Alternatively, the cycle hire scheme lets you borrow bikes from £1.65 .
  • Buses can be better than tubes at getting from one place to the other. Sure, the bus usually takes longer, but when you're in a new city, travelling above ground is a better way to get a grasp of your new surroundings. Be aware though, you cannot use cash to pay for bus journeys in London, so make sure you have an Oyster card or contactless payment card handy.
  • When travelling on tube escalators, remember the golden rule — stand on the right, or walk on the left.
  • Have a look at your route on a map before hopping on the tube. Stations are often so close together, particularly in central London, that it's quicker (and cheaper) to walk than tackling all of those tube stairs. This tube map tells you how long it'll take you to walk between stations.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for directions — people are kinder than they often appear.

Leisure and culture  

  • There's so much to see and do in London (and we're not just talking the famous tourist attractions) that it's best explored in small stages.
  • Sign up to our email newsletters to get ideas for things to do on weekdays and weekends straight to your inbox. We cover everything from new exhibitions to pub quizzes to craft nights.
  • It can be tempting to head for the best-known tourists attractions as soon as you arrive in London, but they can make a significant dent in your budget. These alternative attractions offer similar experiences, often at a fraction of the cost.
  • Many museums and galleries are free, as are parks — here are 102 free things to do in London.
  • Take the time to travel to other places nearby and across the UK, particularly if you're an international student. The Eurostar terminal at St Pancras offers an easy (although not necessarily cheap) way to access mainland Europe. Megabus is a budget way of travelling between UK towns and cities (and offers discount to NUS Extra cardholders). Great for UK students to get home in the holidays and for international students to explore the country.
  • Volunteering for local events and charities in your spare time can be a great way to meet new people and get to know more of the city.  

Living on a budget

  • Get a Taste card to save money on eating out elsewhere. The card offers 50% off, or 2 for 1 meals in restaurants across London.
  • Many students get a part-time job to earn some money. Your university may have a job board, otherwise try local shops, bars and restaurants. As well as getting you some extra cash, getting a local job is a good way to meet local people, who may be able to let you in on local tips and secrets that your fellow students won't necessarily know about.
  • If you're an international student, try to organise a bank appointment to open a UK bank account before you arrive, so that you can have one set up in your first two or three days in London.
  • Ask around for good places to eat locally that aren't too pricey —  newsagents can be full of wisdom about the local area.

Miscellaneous tips

  • Bring a raincoat.
  • Whatever expectations you may have, ditch them!
  • Most universities offer mentoring and help specifically for overseas students. See what your university has to offer.
  • Never stop being a tourist while you're in London.
  • Be open to all cultures and make friends from different nationalities.
  • Get a British Library card — one reader reckons it's the best place to study in London.
  • Stay in intercollegiate halls if possible — that way you'll mix with people from several colleges and universities, not just your own.
  • And finally..."no matter how hammered you are, never eat a night time hot dog from Trafalgar Square" (special thanks to Philip Lee on Twitter for that one — we assume he's speaking from experience).

Above all, many readers advised that you simply enjoy your time in London and make the most of it, whether you're here for one term, or choosing to live here indefinitely.

Got any other advice for new students moving to London, either from the UK or abroad? Share them in the comments below. Or maybe you're a student moving to London? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our newsletters to stay up to date with London news and events.

Last Updated 23 September 2022

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