UK life Coming to the UK Travelling to the UK
Travelling to the UK
Planning for your departure is a long process. It starts a minimum of six months before the academic year even begins, by applying for your place on a course.
Ideally you should have received all letters of confirmation for your course and accommodation about a month before you leave. To give yourself time to settle in to a new country and culture you may want to come a week before the term starts.
Many universities and colleges host induction sessions for international students where they learn their way around the campus, get help registering for their course and can go to social events to meet other students.
Airline allowance too small for everything you want to bring with you? If so, you can always send your bags separately to and from the UK using a luggage forwarding company like Sendmybag.com.
Decide when you want to travel and go to your travel agent to work out the best route to your destination. Arrange this well in advance, as the earlier you book, the more likely you are to find a good price.
Consider also how you will get from the airport to your study destination. Does your institution run an airport pick-up/arrival service that you can use? Contact them to find out.
Before you leave
The British Council holds pre-departure briefings for students where they and their family can meet other students who are already studying in the UK. They will be able to answer any questions you might have and give their personal account of what they thought of it.
What to bring
Unless there are some specialist items you know you will not be able to buy in the UK it will be easier for you to buy the majority of the things you need over here instead of trying to carry everything yourself.
You may also want to consider taking out possessions insurance for your stay in the UK. Check with your airline how much luggage you are allowed to take with you.
Luggage: Suitcases should be sturdy and have your name and address in the UK clearly printed on every piece. If you are bringing some bulky items you may want to ship them over. Most universities won’t accept such packages before you arrive so arrange for them to come later. Check the baggage allowance with your airline – this is usually between 20 and 23kg.
Pack carefully and check maximum weight and size limits with your airline to avoid excess baggage charges.
Make sure you are aware of airline security regulations that will affect what you can carry in your hand baggage, and remember to pack all important documents in your carry-on bag!
Clothes: The weather in the UK is changeable but rarely goes much below 0°C or above 30°C. It will be wet and cold between September and March so make sure you have a warm jacket and maybe a jumper as well for when you get off the plane. To keep warm it is better to wear more thin layers rather than one thick layer.
Hand luggage: You should carry all your important items and documentation on you at all times, the most important being your passport.
And if you are not an EEA national you will also need a:
- relevant visa or entry certificate for the duration of your course
- letter of acceptance to your course from the university
- financial record showing your ability to support yourself
- proof of UK address
- actual academic certificates
- driving licence or any other ID that is appropriate
- money (small amount of cash and maybe £200 in traveller’s cheques)
- address book with directions to the university and where you are staying
- telephone numbers for the university and your family
- any medicine you take along with a letter from your doctor authenticating its use.
You should leave photocopies of all documentation and the serial numbers from the traveller’s cheques with your family or friends. Be careful that you do not pack any sharp objects such as scissors or anything potentially explosive like spray cans into your hand luggage.
Arriving in the UK: immigration
There will be two queues:
- European Economics Area (EEA) nationals
- all other nationals.
When you get to the immigration officer show them your passport. If you are a non-EEA national you should also show them your:
- academic certificates
- letter of acceptance and
- financial records.
Answer any questions they have as best you can and if there are any serious problems ask to speak to their senior officer.
However, even if, for some reason, you are not admitted to the country you will be allowed to stay for a short time to appeal the officer’s decision.
Arriving in the UK: customs
After immigration you must then pick up your luggage and proceed to customs. There are three exits:
- Green if you have travelled from outside the EU and have nothing to declare
- Red if you have travelled from outside the EU and have something to declare
- Blue if you are travelling from within the EU where your bags will already have been checked.
There are limits to the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can bring into the UK without paying tax on its value. You can find out current custom allowances from the HM Revenues & Customs website.