International Student Travel and Accommodation in the UK

    Bhavya Rawal logo

    Bhavya Rawal

    Study Abroad Expert

    After accepting an offer to a UK university, and arranging for a student visa, it is finally time for you to leave for the UK. While planning your study in the UK, you should have ideally arranged for a place to stay. If you have not yet decided on accommodation, this article will give details about travel and stay in the UK. Read further to figure out what to do, right from entering the UK, to managing expenses and getting around the country.

    International Students Travel to the UK

    The first step is to travel to the UK, usually by flight. The one-way airfare to the UK tends to be INR 95,000-1,00,000. Students under the age of 18 will have to be accompanied by adults when they arrive in the UK. You need to double check whether you have all the documents required to study in the UK before you leave:

    • Valid passport
    • Tier 4 UK student visa
    • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
    • Details regarding finances
    • Details regarding accommodation in the UK

    These will be checked by a border force officer at the Immigration Control, where you will also get a date stamp in your passport. You will have to go through Customs Control before you can step outside the airport.

    UK Travel Restrictions for International Students

    In the current scenario, it is important to check Covid-19 travel restrictions as well, as lockdown has been enforced in England, Scotland, and Wales. Once you arrive in the UK, you must:

    • Provide your contact and accommodation information
    • Provide a completed passenger locator form
    • Provide proof of negative covid test, taken up to 72 hours prior to departure
    • Self-isolate for 10 days

    Do not worry if you are unable to travel to the UK at the moment, as most universities are conducting classes as blended learning or purely online.

    What to do Upon Arrival in the UK (h3)

    One of the most important steps is to purchase a SIM card, preferably at the airport itself, for easy communication purposes. You can choose the Pay As You Go option from any of the popular network providers - Vodafone, O2, EE, etc - that will cost you roughly GBP 10 per month. Next, you must immediately go to the accommodation facility you have arranged, where you will have to go into quarantine. You can order any food, groceries, or other necessities via apps like UberEats and Deliveroo.

    International Student Accommodation in the UK

    Finding a place to stay should be at the top of your list when you arrive in the UK. It is better to plan this well in advance, because you will be asked about accommodation at the Immigration counter at the airport. You will need a signed permission slip for accommodation from your guardian if you are under 18 years of age.

    First-year undergraduate students are generally guaranteed accommodation by universities in the UK, whether it be on-campus or off-campus. Some universities do the same for PG students as well. After one year, depending on the college, you may continue with the university accommodation or you may move out to live with friends. Different types of rooms are available for single students and for couples/families. The rent rates for accommodation in the UK depend on:

    • Location of stay
    • Type of property
    • Furnished or not
    • Catered or self-catered
    • Number of people sharing

    Temporary Accommodation in the UK

    When you first arrive in the UK, or when you are travelling to different places in the country, or when you have family/friends visiting you in the UK, you may need short-term accommodation. These do not have the same lease agreements that other off-campus accommodations do.

    Type of Accommodation Cost per Night
    Bed & Breakfasts GBP 30-60
    Guesthouses GBP 30-90
    Serviced apartments GBP 60-100
    Hotels GBP 15-100
    Backpacker hostels GBP 15-45

    Backpacker hostels are most likely the cheapest of the lot, and are quite in demand by youngsters who cannot afford to stay in hotels.

    UK Student Accommodation On Campus

    On-campus accommodation consists primarily of Halls of Residence, sometimes known as just ‘halls’. They are buildings that have a number of separate rooms, as well as some common amenities like kitchen, communal bathrooms, entertainment facilities, etc.

    • Rooms can be single-occupancy or on a sharing basis of 2-6 occupants. They may vary in size, and some may even have en-suite bathrooms.
    • Basic furniture like cot, desk and chair are provided in the rooms, and students have to get everything else on their own.
    • They can be catered, that is you are provided meals every day for a fixed fee, or self-catered, that is you can cook your own meals.
    • They are normally mixed-sex facilities, but some colleges have single-sex facilities as well.

    All these factors decide the price of the room, and you have to apply for them before you move to the UK. Special accommodation facilities are available at most colleges for disabled students, but you may have to announce the disability in advance in order for the Housing Services to take it into consideration during room allotments. Sometimes colleges also have special accommodation services for international students in the UK, in order to make them feel at home.

    The advantage of living on-campus at UK universities is that there is better safety and security than living outside. However, although it makes for great bonding with your fellow college students, it may be difficult to learn to live independently with wardens and guards directing everything you do.

    Cost of Living in the UK On Campus

    The rent for rooms in halls vary from college to college, but we have given below the price range at the top universities in the UK.

    University Accommodation Cost (per month) Catering Costs
    University of Oxford GBP 655-790 GBP 280-400 per month
    University of Cambridge GBP 850 + utilities GBP 4-7 per meal
    Imperial College London GBP 400-1,208 GBP 62.5 per week
    University College London (UCL) GBP 528-1,584 GBP 30 per week
    London School of Economics and Political Science GBP 456-1,724 GBP 50-300 per month

    UK Student Accommodation Off Campus

    If you choose to live off-campus, you can look for either university-owned accommodation or private-owned accommodation. Private property can be owned by landlords as private individuals or registered housing agencies, but either way the places to stay can be:

    • Rooms - You can rent out rooms in a house or building, for a single person or for more number of people. The rent amount varies greatly in different locations, from GBP 4 to 800 per month.
    • Flats/Apartments - You can rent an entire apartment with multiple rooms as well as a kitchen, bathroom, and other facilities. In this case you will usually have flatmates who can split the rent with you. The national average for rent of a whole apartment for a month is around GBP 1,000.
    • Studio apartments - You can rent a studio apartment for GBP 400-8,200, where the bedroom, kitchen and living area are in a single space. These are usually occupied by single students but sometimes people living with spouses also prefer this arrangement.
    • Houses - You can rent an entire house complete with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen, living area, yard, etc where you can live with a number of people, for GBP 376-1,500. This is also a good option for students who have their families, i.e spouse and children, along with them.
    • Homestays - You can live with a family in the UK if you do not want to manage everything on your own. Host families take in International students, charging GBP 10-60 per night, such that the family provides for your stay and food, as well as includes you in their activities. This is a recommended option for students on study abroad/exchange programs.

    There are certain factors to keep in mind while choosing off-campus accommodation in the UK:

    • University-owned accommodation has the advantage of being low-cost, but you can only stay for the time period decided by them.
    • Renting private property can provide you with stay even during the vacations, though it is usually more expensive.
    • Undergraduate students rarely prefer living off-campus, that too in private-owned apartments or houses, but for Masters in the UK it certainly offers the thrill of living away from college regulations.
    • You must make sure to live in a location from where it is easy to commute to your campus, or else you will have to spend more time and money on travelling every day.

    Cost of Living in the UK Off Campus

    The rent price range and cost of living for a single person living long-term in some of the top student cities in the UK are given in the table below.

    UK City Average Rent (per month) Cost of Living (per month)
    London GBP 1,256-3,193 GBP 843
    Manchester GBP 550-1,458 GBP 658
    Birmingham GBP 561-1,239 GBP 644
    Liverpool GBP 476-1,042 GBP 647
    Leeds GBP 520-1,240 GBP 598

    This does not take into account a lot of other factors like food, transport, and any extra purchases, so the UK is clearly an expensive country to live in, especially if you are going to stay in London. Even if you have a work permit and secure a job in the UK while you study, it is unlikely that you will earn a part-time salary that is sufficient to cover all your expenses. Therefore it is advisable to arrange the funding to study in the UK beforehand.

    Transport in the UK for International Students

    Even after you reach the UK, you will need to travel within the country. Therefore, you need to know the transportation options available there.

    • Cycling is a common method of travelling for students in the UK because university campuses are usually located in smaller towns. If you cannot buy one, bicycles are available for hire at many places, costing GBP 2 for 30 minutes. If you buy a cycle, you have to register it on the National Cycle Database.
    • Buses are the next most convenient transport method for students. You can travel around the town for a reasonable fare of GBP 1.5, and bus schedules are available for each college.
    • Trams are operated in Croydon, London's docklands, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Nottingham and Blackpool. They also have GBP 1.5 as the fare.
    • Coaches are the fastest and cheapest ways of getting around the UK, costing as low as GBP 5 for comparatively longer distances.
    • Trains also have similar qualities to coaches, and tickets cost GBP 12.5, though it may go up to GBP 104 in case you are travelling long distance and have not booked in advance.
    • The Underground, or ‘the Tube’ as it is called in London, is a well-known rapid transit system used daily by working people and students. You can get from place to place in London and nearby counties with tickets costing GBP 4.9.
    • Although it is quite unlikely that international students will have their own cars, it is possible to rent them for short durations if you have a valid license. Taxis are also available in the UK, with fares anywhere from GBP 6.2 to 92, depending on the distance and time of day.
    • Finally, domestic flights are an option if you want to travel a longer distance between cities, though they are not as cheap as trains or coaches, and have average ticket prices of GBP 120-140.

    The average transportation cost in the UK is GBP 40 per month, but there are methods to get discounts. If you are in London, you can choose to purchase a prepaid Oyster card, particularly the 18+ Student Oyster card, which will ensure that you don’t have to buy a ticket or Travelcard every time you catch a bus or tram. This will also give you a 30% discount on Travelcards (for one-day unlimited travel) and Bus & Tram Pass season tickets. You may add a 16-25 Railcard to the Oyster, which will give you a 34% discount on the Tube and in Rail services.

    Please note that, due to Brexit, any new students migrating to the UK will need a Schengen visa to travel to neighbouring European countries on vacations and such.

    Contacting the International Office at your university before you fly out to the UK will help you gain a better understanding of what you can do to settle down there comfortably. University websites also provide information regarding the average living expenses and things to do while you are there.

    You can then choose a place to stay depending on your tastes - whether you want to live alone or with roommates, whether you want to buy meals or cook your own, and so on. It is recommended that you set a budget according to the city you are living in, so that you can keep track of how much money is spent. With nearly 20,000 Indian nationals studying in the UK, you will find it to be a home away from home.