Cookie Consent by
a person standing next to a tree

Living in London

Navigating London: Tips from an International Student

By PaulineComms 17 Nov 2023

London welcomes thousands of international students each year. As I reflect on my own initial days in this bustling city, here is a quick guide to navigating some of the initial hurdles and discoveries that mark the transition to student life in London.

The Importance of a UK Bank Account

If you're accustomed to easy digital payments in your home country (such as GPay and Venmo), not having a UK bank account can be quite frustrating. If you split costs and need to send money to friends or hallmates, the only seamless way to transfer money is through a UK Bank Account’s mobile app. Make opening a UK bank account one of your top priorities when you arrive in London, as the process may take some time to complete.

Address Proof: Avoiding Common Pitfalls

One of the most common mistakes that international students make when opening a UK bank account is using an invalid form of address proof. To save yourself from delays and possible rejections from banks, visit the Student Services Centre at LSE as soon as you arrive. You can ask them to provide you with a Bank Letter, which they provide instantly and even help you make any changes to the address recorded on the University portal. This document will help expedite the approval process, and you can open your bank account entirely online.

Exploring London's Libraries

The LSE Library offers numerous study spaces, but due to its large student body, you may need to explore multiple floors and rooms to find a quiet study spot. As a possible alternative, make use of the several public libraries in London that provide free access for students. For instance, you can obtain a free British Library reader pass (providing access to content and study rooms) by following this link. All you need to do is register online, and then visit the Library with a Proof of ID and Proof of Address (tip: the Bank Letter from LSE serves as a valid address proof here!)

Grocery Shopping

You’ll soon learn that London's grocery stores have a pecking order. From the budget-friendly Aldi and Lidl to the pricier M&S and Waitrose, there's a place for everyone. But here's a handy tip: avoid bulk-buying perishable items to save costs. Staples like milk, yoghurt, bread, and condiments don't vary much in price across stores, so buy small quantities from these stores to save money and prevent waste. Tesco and Sainsbury, which are relatively mid-range grocery stores, have outlets at multiple locations, so you'll likely find one near your accommodation or hall. Of course, if you have someone to split with, you could buy larger quantities for cheaper and share with your friends or hallmates.

Staying Connected with an e-SIM

While adapting to life in London, I realised the importance of keeping my home phone number active, especially for receiving bank OTPs and essential messages. An easy and effective way to keep your old number active while also getting a UK number is to buy and activate an 'e-SIM.' One such option is the one provided by Lyca; check your phone’s compatibility here. If your phone is compatible, this is one of the most seamless ways to obtain a UK number upon your arrival.

London is a city of endless opportunities and experiences for international students. While you'll encounter some initial challenges, these tips should help ease your transition and make your student life in London more enjoyable. Embrace the diverse culture, explore the vibrant city, and don't forget to savour every moment of your time in your new home away from home!

Written by Avika

Lilian Knowles House resident