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Prepare / Planning
Plan your trip to the UK for study or work
Planning (c) Hemera Technologies Inc


If you are an international student who will soon be travelling to the UK to study, here is a list of some of the things which you should do in your own country before you arrive in Britain. Useful website links are shown for many countries in the "Country" section of this website, some of which may be written in your own language.

A Guide to Studying and Living in Britain
Author: Kris Rao
Publisher: How To Books
Date: September 2005
Studying and Living in the United Kingdom
Author: The British Council
(this can be download free)
The Essential Guide for Study Abroad in the United Kingdom
(US student's guide)
Author: Holly R. Carter
Publisher: University Press of America
Date: March 2004
Living Away from Home
Author: Molly Perham
Publisher: How To Books
Date: July 1997

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Find a course to study

Information about how to find a language school, an undergraduate or postgraduate course at a university, or a further education course in the UK is given in the Course section of this website. You may choose to use an agent to help you to organise your travel, your course and your accommodation.

Contact the British Council

The British Council may be able to advise you on which courses are available, and have information centres which you can visit. They also arrange UK education events and exhibitions in many countries, and may offer briefings to prepare you for living and studying in the UK. You can find the address of your British Council office at: or at:

Study English

You should try to study English as much as possible before arriving in the UK.
You may want to take an English exam such as IELTS before you leave. This will help you to assess your standard of English. To enter some courses, you may need to achieve a certain grade. The main exams are described in English/Exams.
See the "English" section of this website for some ideas about how to study British English while you are still in your country. As well as textbooks or English language classes, you can use other media such as newspapers, magazines, the internet, television, films and music, or you can make friends with native English speakers in your country.
You may want to think about how you will keep studying English after you have returned to your country.

University study preparation

If you will be studying at a UK university you may find this website helpful to prepare you:

Your own culture

You may find that people ask you about your own country and culture while you are in the UK. You may want to read about this, to help you to make conversation about this subject.

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If you have arranged to study at a school, ask them if they can help you to find suitable accommodation. Once you have found accommodation, ask for a letter from them confirming the address and the time and date when you are expected.
Some students who are staying in the UK for a long period prefer to pay for accommodation for a month or two, and then to look by themselves for a place to live after that once they have arrived in the UK.
For further information, see Life/Accommodation/Guide.

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Estimate the cost of living and studying in the UK

As well as the fees of the course you wish to take, you should estimate your living costs in the UK.
If you are studying at a UK university, you need to be clear whether you will pay home fees or overseas fees.
You will need to convince the UK immigration authorities that you have enough money to pay for your studies.
For some guidance about how much money you will need, see: Prepare/Cost.


Make financial arrangements at your bank several weeks before you leave:
- Ask for bank statements (written in English) for your accounts. You may be asked to prove to immigration officers that you have enough money to live and study.
- Order cash and travellers cheques. Write down the numbers of any travellers cheques, in case they are stolen. You should not carry too much cash with you, but you will need enough to survive until you can get to a bank. Ask for your cash to be provided as 5, 10 and 20-pound notes. 50-pound notes can be difficult to use: many smaller shops or taxis will not accept them. It may take some time for you to open a UK bank account and to transfer money into this, if you are allowed to open an account (for details about opening bank accounts in the UK, see: Life/Money).
- It is convenient if you have a credit card in the UK (for example: Visa or MasterCard). If you do not have one already, apply for one from your bank. Even if you already have a credit card, make sure that you tell your bank that you will be Notify your bank

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Consider which types of insurance you will need to consider when you come to the UK:
Health (medical) insurance: Note that you may be able to use the public health system in the UK (the National Health Service) for free if you are studying for more than 6 months or if you come from a country with a "reciprocal health care agreement" with the UK (see Personal/Health for details).
Personal possessions: If you insure your room contents, does this cover accidental loss, damage and theft? Are your possessions insured when they are taken outside your room? If you have a computer, is it covered?
Course fees
Personal liability

Endsleigh Insurance offer a special policy for international students coming to the UK. This policy provides the most important requirements for students. The company has close links with the National Union of Students, and the policy has been developed in consultation with UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs: the association of student advisers in UK higher education). For details, see:

You will normally need to buy additional insurance policies to insure belongings which are not kept within your room or while you are travelling outside the UK:
Mobile phone: Unfortunately, theft of mobile phones is quite common, but may not be covered by basic insurance policies. See: Life/Telephone.
Bicycle: Bicycle theft can be common, especially in towns like Oxford or Cambridge which have a lot of students. See Travel/Transport/Bicycle.

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See Prepare/Visa for information about documents you need to prepare for immigration purposes before travelling to the UK.


Check the expiry date of your passport.
If your passport will expire while you are in the UK, ask in your home country if you can renew it before you travel.
Make a photocopy of your passport (so that it will be quicker to replace your passport if you lose it).

UK school documents

Contact your school or course organiser to make sure that you are expected.
Ask them to send you an acceptance letter, stating the dates of the course, how much you have paid, and the number of hours per week that you will be studying.


You may find it useful to carry some passport photos with you (although you can make these once you are in the UK).
In the UK, the standard size of passport photos is 4cm across by 5cm tall.

Personal references

If possible, obtain personal references in English from your employer or teacher; these may be useful if you want to apply for a part-time job in the UK. Certificates proving your qualifications may also be useful.

Driving licence

If you are from an EU or EEA country and have a valid licence, you can drive in Britain if you carry this licence with you. Otherwise, if you have a licence and want to drive in the UK, you should apply in your country for an international driving licence. This is usually valid for 1 year.
For further information, see the guidance note produced by UKCISA:
"Driving in Great Britain: a guide for international students":

Student card

If you are a student in your own country and you are coming to the UK as a student, you can obtain an International Student Identification Card (ISIC) before you travel. If you are not a full-time student but you are 25 years old or younger, you can obtain an International Youth Travel Card. A wide range of discounts can be obtained using these cards; to find out more visit the website:

Youth hostel card

If you plan to stay at youth hostels, you may want to buy a Youth Hostelling International card from the youth hostel association in your own country. You can find this from the Hostelling International website at
You can also apply for a card directly at a youth hostel in the UK.

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See your doctor and dentist (at least a month before leaving).
Check with your doctor whether you require any injections before you come to the UK, and whether you need to carry any vaccination certificates with you.
Ask your doctor to write a letter in English describing any medical problems you have and drugs or medicines which you need.
You may want to take some medicines with you, as it may take time for you to register with a doctor, and UK medicines may be different from what you normally use. Some drugs may not be carried into the UK.
If you need any dental treatment, it may be cheaper and easier to have this done before you leave.
For more information about health services in the UK, see: Personal/Health.

Contact lenses

If you wear contact lenses, bring to the UK the latest prescription from your optician and your last lens package. If you use contact lenses and you are staying in the UK for a short period (for example: 6 months or less), you may want to take with you a supply that will last until your return (including some spares in case you lose or damage some).
You will have to pay for an eye test before you can buy contact lenses in the UK, unless you can show that your eyes have been tested recently. Contact lenses are quite expensive in the UK.
To find your nearest optician in the UK, see: Personal/Health.

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Airline ticket to the UK

Consider if you can buy a cheap ticket for young people or students
When deciding which type of ticket to buy, you may want to consider what will happen if you want to stay longer or if you need to go back early. A fixed date ticket may be cheaper, but it may be more expensive if you need to change your plans later. If you buy an open ticket (for example, a ticket which is valid for one year), make sure that the return date shown on your ticket (if there is one) is after the date you intend to leave the UK, even if the ticket allows you to change the date later. Otherwise, immigration officers may give you a shorter visa than you require. If you buy a single ticket, immigration officers may be more likely to think that you may want to stay in the UK illegally.
It may be safer to plan to arrive in the UK at a time of day when your school or course organiser can be contacted, in case there is a query by immigration officers. Some schools may provide a helpline telephone number that can be contacted outside office hours.


Consider how you will travel to your accommodation.
If you are not confident, you may want to use an airport collection service; ask your school or agent if they organise this.
Coaches or rail services can be used to travel to many parts of the UK from the major international airports.
For more information about UK airports and how to travel from them to your destination, see Travel/Transport/Air.

UK tourist authorities

Contact the British government's tourist organisations.
They can provide information on subjects such as accommodation, sightseeing and travel.
Visit the Visit Britain site: There may be a local office in your country.
If you are travelling to London, see the London Tourist Board site:

Train tickets

Consider if you want to buy a special train ticket. There are discount tickets which can only be bought in advance from outside the UK.
If you will stay in London for a short time, you may want to buy a Visitor Travelcard.
If you plan to travel around Europe within 3 months of arriving in the UK, you may want to buy a Eurail pass or Europass before you come.

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Contacting friends and family

Let your friends and family know when you are leaving and how they can contact you in the UK.
Help your friends or family to find out how they can make cheap international telephone calls to you.

If you do not have one, you may want to set up your own e-mail account with a provider such as Hotmail (see: or Yahoo. If you want to be able to communicate with friends or family by computer, you may want to ask for their e-mail addresses and find out if they have messenger software installed (for instant messages), microphones (for voice messages) or webcams (so that you can see them). For more details, see Life/Computer.

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