Living and Studying in the UK

Do I need a visa to study in the UK?

If you are a student or intern coming to the UK from outside of the EU, you will require a visa to study, work or undertake your internship. UK visas and immigration services are run by the UK Border Agency, an agency of the Home Office. http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/

The UK immigration system can be a difficult and time-consuming process. You may have to wait some time for your UK visa application to be processed by the UK Border Agency. Please ensure you leave enough time to apply for your visa and that you meet the criteria asked by the UKBA and have all of the relevant paperwork before making your application.

Do I need travel insurance?

Yes, London Homestays always strongly recommends students get travel insurance to cover themselves during their stay in the UK. Even if you are eligible for free healthcare in the UK, travel insurance can help cover circumstances such as loss of baggage, personal liability, legal expenses and even having to leave your accommodation early due to yours or a family member/friend’s poor health.

Can I receive healthcare treatment free of charge?

If you are a coming to the UK from a country that the UK holds bilateral healthcare agreements with, you are only eligible for treatment of conditions that first occur when they are in the UK. This is providing it is considered to need immediate treatment. Elective treatment of pre-existing conditions, of which the GP believes can wait until you return home, are excluded from free treatment.

If you are a coming to the UK from a country that does not have hold bilateral healthcare agreements with the UK you will be charged for all treatment you receive from the NHS, except for emergency care. In these cases, it is essential you have travel insurance to cover any unforeseen medical issues you might face during your stay.

Full list of bilateral healthcare agreement countries:

European Economic Area countries (EEA):
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus (Southern), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland by special arrangement
Nationals of, and UK nationals in, the following countries:
Anguilla, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Bosnia, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Falkland Islands, Georgia, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Israel, Jersey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Monserrrat, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, St Helena, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Ukraine, Uzbekistan
Residents irrespective of nationality of the following countries:
Anguilla, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Falkland Islands, Iceland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Montserrat, St. Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands

If you need specific health advice telephone NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or use the NHS website for advice www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk. If you can get to a hospital without the need to an ambulance and you are in an emergency situation please call 999.

Is London a safe place?

Generally, London is a safe and welcoming place for international students. However it is always best to err on the side of caution, always keep the doors and windows of your host family/residence locked if you go out. When you do go at night, if possible stay in groups. You should use common sense and keep aware of your surroundings. Be careful not to flash around large amounts of money or expensive possessions such as mobile phones.

Incidents of crime on public transport in London do exist, but are very rare. The London Underground network is one of the safest to ride in the world, and is an excellent means of transport for you in the evening until service ends at about 00:30. Every station is staffed at all times.

If you need police, ambulance or the fire services in an emergency ring 999 or when it is not an emergency, the non-urgent number is 101. All emergency numbers are free and will work from a mobile telephone.

Can I drink alcohol in the UK?

You can only purchase and drink alcohol if you are 18 years old or older. If you are under 18, then most bars and clubs will not let you in without some form of ID, such as a passport, as it is illegal to serve you alcoholic drinks.  Make sure you carry ID with you when you are going out, to drink sensibly and in moderation. Being drunk in public is not legal in the UK and although the police often use discretion, if you are noisy or disorderly, you could be arrested.

Can I smoke in the UK?

Smoking in enclosed public places such as pubs, restaurants, public transport and all places of work/study is not legal in the UK. Individuals contravening this law can face on-the-spot fines of £50, which can rise to £1,000, should the issue be brought to court. Even when smoking outside, please ensure smoking is permitted in that area. Please look out for ‘no smoking’ signs.

Staying in touch

Mobile phones are relatively inexpensive and you should be able to pick up a ‘Pay As You Go’ phone or sim card for less than £20. Post offices are generally open from 9am-5.30pm Monday to Friday, 9am-12.30pm on Saturdays. Skype has revolutionised international communication, offering free audio/video calls over the internet where you can speak to and wave at friends and family; download it at www.skype.com.

How do I access the internet?

There are many ways to access the internet in the UK. Sometimes wireless internet access is free in places such as coffee shops, libraries and even some underground stations, but do make sure your computer security is up to date.

Can I drink the tap water?

Although the mineral content of the water may differ slightly to your home country, tap water in the UK is safe to drink.

How do I get around?

Public transport in the UK is generally cheap and well-organised; student cards often get you a discount on buses. If you’re in London, an Oyster card is essential (see www.tfl.gov.uk). Black taxis can be hailed in the street; minicabs should be phoned to make sure they’re legitimate. Never take an illegal minicab as they will not be licenced and may be dangerous.

London has arguably the best integrated transport network system in the UK, including a tram, tube and bus system. So travelling across the city is simple. The trams, buses, underground (tube) and overground network will take you pretty much anywhere you want in London but if you are unsure then you should plan your route by using the London bus journey planner https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/ .

There are a lot of different ways in which you can pay for your journey on the London bus system. The first huge tip is to get yourself an Oyster card. They can allow you to get money off all types of transport within London.

For long-distance travel by coach or bus, many students choose to take the Megabus (budget) or National Express.

Can I cycle in London?

Yes you can but take care. London has an enormous network for cyclists. Cycle lanes are available on all the major roads in and around London. However, you do need to be careful as in some parts the cycle lane will run along the busy bus route. Just remember to be on your guard, check your brakes and wear a helmet!

Buying a bike can be expensive and you may not be able to store it at your accommodation, therefore you may be interested in the cycle hire scheme https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles . It allows you to pick up a bike at a designated point and then ride it to another stopping point for as little as £2 a day for non-members and 16p a day with an annual pass.

Things to do

London is full of entertainment and it shouldn’t be hard to find things to see and do. There are loads of places to visit along with some great shopping hot-spots, some of the best urban parks in England and plenty of bars and restaurants.

It boasts a large amount of entertainment all year round and is one of the many reasons why the city attracts so many students from across the world!

Camden Town – Located in the North of London. It’s a fantastic quirky area to explore for shopping and just as good at night with plenty of live music and relaxed bars. Perhaps the single biggest attraction is Camden Market, which has a vast array of shops for alternative clothing and unusual items. You can pick up some amazing bargains here and it has an amazing food court area which is good to keep in mind for lunch.

The O2 arena – Located in the South East of London in the Millennium Dome, this is a major entertainment centre. From eating out to seeing your favourite pop artist it offers so much to any visitor with its gorgeous in door streets. However, the gigs can be expensive so check your bank balance before visiting.

Oxford Street – If you are a fan of shopping then Oxford Street is the place to go for the latest fashion trends. It has all the largest fashion retailers on one street. Other fashionable areas such as Carnaby Street and Bond Street are very close to Oxford Street, meaning there should be something for every taste.

Leicester Square – This is a great party area popular with tourists and visitors to London. There are a good number of bars and clubs and also the famous Odeon cinema. This is not only great for catching a movie star attending a premier – if you show your student card, you can usually receive a discount!

Museums – There are a large number of museums in London for people interested in a range of things. The best thing is that most of them are FREE. Here are our top picks for students to visit. The London science museum has 5 floors dedicated to science and technology so there is so much to see. The Imperial War Museum offers a great day out for all you war history enthusiasts out there. Last but not least is the Natural History Museum, which offers a great view to the natural world and the earth.

Seasonal Attractions – London has a number of seasonal markets. Hyde Park is the usual venue for Winter Wonderland, other locations in London such as Canary Wharf or Hampton Court also have a Christmas Market usually with outdoor ice skating. Throughout the year there are lots of festivals in the parks. The Wireless Festival in Hyde Park is one of the best city festivals in England and always has a number of top acts performing. For bonfire night (5th November), go to any local park and there is most likely going to be a firework display on.

Health & Fitness

You’ll have no problem keeping fit and healthy in London. There are plenty of gyms many of which offer discounts to students. If you enjoy swimming then you will love London. There are swimming pools located all over the city offering great prices, if the weather is nice or you are really brave, check out your local Lido where you can try some outdoor swimming. For jogging or running there are plenty of parks and open spaces in London. Try Hyde Park, Holland Park or Greenwich Park for lots of running tracks and green space.

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