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Prepare / Arrival
Things to do after arriving in the UK
Arrival (c) R.T.Allen
  Goods for living
  School / university
  Money / documents
  Postcodes / post office / directories
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This section provides advice about things you can do to become organised as soon as you arrive in the UK. Being organised from the start can save you a lot of time and money.

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If this is the first time to travel abroad or to the UK, you may want to arrange for someone to welcome you at the airport. If you have a school or university, ask if they can arrange this and what extra charge you have to pay for this service. There are also private companies which can provide this kind of service. If you are staying with a host family, they may offer to come to the airport to make sure that you reach their house safely.

For more information about the major airports, the procedures you will have to follow, and public transport services from the airports, see: Travel/Transport/Air.

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If possible, you should try to arrange your initial accommodation (at least for the first week) before you arrive. This may be easier to arrange if you have a credit card. For information about finding cheap short-term accommodation, see Travel/Accommodation.

If you need to find rented accommodation, see: Life/Accommodation.

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Once you have found accommodation, you will probably need to buy some goods for daily life. Most basic things such as cutlery (knives, forks and spoons), plates, glasses and pans can be bought individually as well as in sets. Think about what you need and how much storage space you have. If you will only be in the UK for a short time, you may not want to pay for high-quality goods that are designed to last for a long time. If you need to save money, you may be able to buy some things cheaply from someone who is about to leave the UK. Below are some items that you may need, together with instructions about how to buy them online (it may be easier to find things online, you can avoid having to carry heavy items, and the total cost is often lower this way).

John Lewis is a good place for practical household goods, which can be bought online. For example:





Rice cooker



Desk lamp

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A local street map can be bought from most bookshops and newsagents, or online from (as a search term, use the town's name followed by "street map" or "street atlas"). Free online street maps are available at or

You should obtain information about local transport.
- Ask for local transport maps at bus/underground/rail stations.
- Find out the cost of ordinary tickets and season tickets, and whether there are student discounts.
- Find the times of the first and last buses and trains, and (if available) the nearest night bus route.
You can find more information about local transport from the Travel/Transport/Coach, Travel/Transport/Train and Travel/Transport/Bicycle sections of this website.

If you are in London, details about bus, underground and other services are given in the section: Travel/Transport/London.

You should also make a note of the numbers of local taxi companies. For information, see: Travel/Transport/Taxi.

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Register with your country's embassy in London (if you come from a country which is a member of the Commonwealth, the embassy will be called a high commission). If the embassy know where you are living, it may be easier for the staff to contact you if there is an accident or emergency. To find the embassy's website, choose Country from the menu at the top of the screen and then select your country.

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Many schools (or colleges or universities) offer an induction programme to new international students. This will give useful information about the school and about living in the UK.

Find out if your school has someone whose job is to provide support to international students. A welfare officer may be able to provide information on a wide range of practical subjects (for example: accommodation, immigration, opening a bank account), and can give you advice if you have serious financial or personal problems.

Check your school's website - there is often useful information there for international students.

If you are at a UK university check if there is a way of buying textbooks or other things you need from other students at the university. A student-led organisation which you may want to use is Boso ("buy or sell online"):

If you are studying in London and need to use public transport regularly, ask your school if they can issue you with a Student Photocard. With this card you will be able to get a discount of 30% on bus and underground travel. For details, see: Travel/Transport/London.

If you are interested in taking some part-time courses or evening classes, find out what is available as soon as possible so that you do not miss the start of the courses. For details, see: Course/Short.

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If your passport stamp says something like "the holder is required to register at once with the police", you will need to take your passport and two passport photos to the police registration office within 7 days of your arrival. There is a fee to be paid (in 2002, this was usually about £35).

If you are staying in central London (the Metropolitan Police Area), you need to go to the Overseas Visitor Records Office, 180 Borough High Street, London SE1 (near the underground stations called Borough on the Northern line; click here for a map) between 9.00am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday. If you are not staying in the Metropolitan Police Area (central London), contact your local police for the address and opening hours of your nearest police registration office

For information about how to find your nearest police station and about the other emergency services in the UK, see: Personal/Advice.

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Write down the numbers of travellers cheques and credit cards in case of loss or theft. To reduce the chance of having your money stolen, read the advice in the Personal/Safety section. See Life/Money for information about opening a bank account, money exchange or transfer and other financial matters.

Organise your documents. Keep your bank statements, water/gas/electricity/telephone bills, rental agreements, as well as any correspondence with your school, bank or immigration authorities. You may need these documents, for example to open a bank account or to apply for an extension to stay as a student in the UK.

Make some passport photos. Photo booths are located in many train or underground stations, and in some shopping centres. They are also sometimes found on a university campus (often near shops, banks or travel agents). Passport photos are useful for student cards, travel passes, job applications and immigration forms. The picture on a British passport photo is about 4.5cm high and 3.5cm wide.

You may want to start to record how much you spend. If you find that the cost of living is higher than you thought, try reducing your spending by using some of the methods listed in this website (for example, see: Life/Shopping). Consider looking for a part-time job if your visa allows you to work (see: Work/Search).

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Find out your postcode (US English: zip code) by asking your landlord. You can also find the postcode from your address by using the Royal Mail's "Postcodes Online" service at or It may also be useful to make a note of the postcode of your school or workplace.

As well as helping your post to be delivered to you more quickly, your postcode is also very useful for finding out about local services on the internet. Websites which use postcodes include UpMyStreet ( and Electronic Yellow Pages ( There is a map showing the locations of London postcodes in the Life/Accommodation/London section of this website. This may be useful if you are looking for accommodation in London.

Yellow Pages

Thomson Local
Yellow Pages and Thomson Local are directories of local services and telephone numbers. They are delivered free to most addresses, so you should check if there is a copy in your accommodation (people usually keep them near to the telephone).

You can find a post office using UpMyStreet: Select Find My Nearest … , enter a postcode or town name, select Find by category and choose Shopping then Post offices. The nearest ones will be listed first.
You can ask at your post office for a list of local doctors, dentists, opticians and pharmacists, or for the addresses of local government organisations.

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For information about finding a doctor or dentist and applying for a medical card, see: Personal/Health.

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Visit your local public library. You can usually find practical information here about local services such as doctors, dentists and hospitals. To improve your English, you can read newspapers or magazines or books (for other ideas about how to improve your English reading skills, see: English/Reading). You can borrow books from a lending library, but not from a reference library. There is usually a section in the library with books for people who are studying EFL (English as a foreign language). If you find the books in the adult section of the library too difficult, look at the children's section. Reference books or files on local companies may be useful if you are looking for a job (for more information, see: Work/Search). In larger libraries, there may be space on a desk where you can study during the day (some libraries are also open in the evenings). Audio books (stories on CD or cassette tape) can be useful if you want to improve your listening skills (for other ideas, see: English/Listening). Many libraries lend music CDs or cassettes for a small charge: you can use this service to learn about British popular music (see: Britain/Music). Many libraries have computers with access to the internet. This is usually a free service, but you will need to book a time, you may be limited to half an hour or an hour, and there may be limits on what you can do on the computer.

Anyone can use a public library. If you want to be able to borrow books from a lending library, you will need to become a member. You normally need to live, work or study in that area. You will need to show proof of your name and signature (for example, your passport). You will also need to show proof of your present UK address: usuallly an accommodation contract, a rent book or a UK bank statement or utility (gas, electricity, water or telephone) bill. If you are an au pair, the parents of the children may be able to confirm that you are living with them. If you have a problem proving your address, ask the library what can be accepted. You may need to ask someone who lives locally to sign your form (for example: your landlord), or you may be asked to get a stamp from your school or company. Once you have joined, you should be able to borrow books from other libraries in the same area (ask for details).

If you cannot find a book which you want to borrow, you can fill in a book request form with the details (name, author and ISBN). The library will usually buy the book, or borrow it from another library. There is a small charge for this service (for example: one pound).

You can find a public library using UpMyStreet: Select Find My Nearest … , enter a postcode or town name, select Find by category and choose Education & childcare then Libraries. The nearest ones will be listed first. If you are at a school, you should also check if there is a private library which you can use (or if you can borrow study books from your school).

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You can find a lot of information and contact your friends and family by e-mail if you have access to the internet.

If you have your own computer, check if your accommodation provides a telephone line which you can use to access the internet. If you are living on the campus of a university, rooms will probably have internet access. If you do not have such a line, you may want to ask if you can have a line installed, but if so you may be asked to pay the cost of this.

If you don't have your own computer, find out where there are computers which you can use. Many schools have a computer room which can be used by students. However, often there may be a need to book a time in advance, and there may be a limit on how long you can use the computer or controls on what you use it for. Your local library may also provide a limited service providing access to the internet. Alternatively, you may want to use an internet café.

See Life/Computer for more information about using a computer in the UK.

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You may want to buy a television, for your entertainment and also as a way of improving your English. The following features are recommended for international students:
- Teletext (so that you can see the words to television programmes at the bottom of the screen - these are not recorded)
- Headphone socket (so that you can listen to the TV at any time without disturbing your neighbours)
- Video casette recorder (so that you can record programmes to play back, or watch rented videos)

Usually you will need to buy a television (TV) licence if you can watch television in your own room (either using a TV or a TV card on a computer). For example, you will need a licence if: you have a TV and you live in a room in university accommodation or rent a room from a landlord. You may not need your own licence if you share accommodation with your landlord and have signed a joint tenancy agreement. You may have this type of agreement if you are living with a host family or sharing a house with a group of students.

The rules are explained on the TV Licensing website:

From April 2004, a colour TV licence cost £121 for a year, and a black and white TV licence cost £40.50. You have to buy a licence for a full year. However, you can obtain a refund of a quarter of the fee if you stop using the TV more than 3 months before the expiry date (or half if you only use the TV for 6 months). If you are caught watching TV without a licence you could be fined up to £1,000.

To get a licence, ask for a TV licence application form at any post office. If you are living in accommodation provided by your school or university, you may be able to get a student application form from the school. If you move, you must obtain a form from your post office to transfer your licence to the new address.

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Your local government office may be known as a district council or borough council, and may deal with local issues such as council tax, rubbish collection.
Your regional government office may be known as a county council.
They may be able to provide information such as regional transport guides.

You can find out about your local council using UpMyStreet: Select Local Area, enter a postcode or town name, then select My council & reps.

See Life/Accommodation/London for a map of London boroughs.

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