Travelling from abroad?
If you are travelling to the UK from abroad, you might be concerned about a few things UK residents might not be, like getting a new phone number or setting up a bank account. But don’t worry! I’m here to help.
I was a fresher last year, and came to live in the UK for the first time from Spain. In this post I will mainly talk about my experiences: some problems I faced and how I managed to solve them.
If you are still wondering whether this post is worth reading here is a list of the things I will talk about:
Moving in: where to stay if you are not travelling with your parents, what happens if you are early, arrivals weekend
Setting up a bank account and making sure you get your debit card
Advice if you are planning to bring a lot of cash into the UK
Getting a new phone/phone number
Buying things for the kitchen and your room
Moving in: where to stay if you are not travelling with your parents, what happens if you are early, arrivals weekend.
Last year, I arrived to the UK a little bit less than a week before the start of term. My mum came with me and we stayed at a hotel in Coventry, since arrival day for me was on Sunday. This gave us a few days to set up a bank account and buy crockery, decorations for my room etc. (more about that later).
If you are coming to Warwick early, like me, you have a few options: if you are travelling alone and don’t want to book a hotel (and are not taking part in the international orientation programme) you can move into your room early. However, you will be charged for every night, similar to a hotel. If you are arriving with a parent, you will be likely to stay at a hotel.
Setting up a bank account and making sure you get your debit card.
If you don’t have a UK bank account yet, I recommend getting one with either Barclays or Santander, as we have them on campus. You will only be eligible to get a student account, which means you’ll only get a debit card (as opposed to a credit card), the bank will explain the terms in much better detail than I can. Having your account with one of the banks on campus will make it more convenient for you.
At the start of my first year, my account gave me a lot of problems. So I was actually quite happy not to have to travel to Coventry or Leamington every time I had an issue. It was simply more convenient. One of the problems I had was that my debit card (and the two letters with the account number and pin) got lost in the mail. Apparently it didn’t recognise the hall’s address.
This is unlikely to happen, usually when you order something online, or receive mail from someone the address isn’t an issue. But just if you want to avoid the hassle (since your bank account will be super important for you to live) I’d recommend sending it to your bank and picking it up from there.
Advice if you are planning to bring a lot of cash into the UK.
When I first travelled to the UK I didn’t have a bank account my parents could transfer money to, so instead I brought enough cash with me to be able to live comfortably for the first couple of months.
If you are planning on bringing pounds into the UK (which I do recommend because you save the fee for transferring money), I would advise to change your currency at your local bank rather than the airport, especially if it is a relatively large sum. The exchange rates will be better than at airports. Check online to see what the maximum amount of money is that you can bring through customs before you depart!
Just as a side note, a 50 pound note is not very common in the UK. I was really surprised, since 50 euro notes are quite common. So if you get weird looks by the people at the bank when you want to deposit a few hundred pounds in 50 pound notes, don’t worry, I got them too!
Getting a new phone/phone number.
This was probably my biggest issue. My original plan was to get a new phone with a contract. Sounds straight forward right? Well, after going to every single phone company, I still couldn’t get a contract. Since I had created my bank account a few days earlier, my credit rating was too low.
If you are thinking of getting a new phone with a contract, but don’t have a UK account yet, chances are you’ll need a plan b. At any of the phone stores they will ask you for your passport (so have that with you, including the student visa should you require one), your letter of enrolment from Warwick, a copy of your UCAS acceptance letter, and a copy of your accommodation contract. After a really long process of typing in all the information, if you are lucky, it will work. More like scenario, however, is that a very friendly person with a very apologetic face will tell you that it doesn’t work. So what are your options?
Depending on the phone company, your account has to be between 3 months and 1 year old for your credit rating to be good enough to get a contract. So now you have a few options. One of them is, you bring your old phone (or a new one bought without a contract) and get a free “pay as you go” sim. Every company will have their own one with different price ranges and so on. Tesco, not a phone company but a grocery store, also has one of these sim cards, however, they are likely to be “pay monthly”, which again you might get problems with.
My top tip (which is also how I solved my problem last year) is this: bring your own phone (again, either your old one, or a new one, doesn’t really matter) and get a giffgaff sim card. It uses the O2 network and it shouldn’t give you any problems. They deliver a sim card for free (this takes about 2 weeks, possibly less, so if you already know your address I recommend ordering one about a week before you arrive). Then you go to their website (once you have the sim) www.giffgaff.com , create an account, buy a goody bag, et voilà!
Then, if in a few months time you still want a contract, your credit rating should have improved so it shouldn’t be an issue anymore.
Buying things for the kitchen and your room.
I can imagine most of you are flying to the UK, so you will obviously have limited luggage (as opposed to a lot of UK students). So presumably you will be bringing mainly essentials, like clothing and maybe a few things you are attached to like a leavers photo (like in my case) or any other random things. Fact is: you will need to buy a lot of stuff!
Now, I know everyone has their own preferences with things they’d like, how your room should look like etc. but my tip would be IKEA. Though for some of you it may be controversial, it is “easy way out”. There is an IKEA in Coventry!
If you are going with your parents and they have hired a car that will be the easiest option. If you are alone and already staying on campus, you can get either the 11 or the 12 bus to Coventry (for both you will have to do some walking!), ask the bus driver which the closest stop to IKEA is, they are usually very friendly. If you are one of the lazy ones, a taxi to Coventry is about 10-15 pounds, depending on traffic and time of day.
If you are bringing any electronic devices from home, remember to bring an adapter! This is SUPER IMPORTANT! You won’t be able to find a suitable one in the UK, they are mainly to go from the UK abroad, so not what you need.
Do you have friends you want to visit in other parts of the UK? Are you planning on taking the train a lot (e.g. Birmingham or London)? Or are you planning on visiting different parts of the UK? If this is the case, you may consider getting a railcard.
If you only want a railcard to travel to London, there is an alternative. There is a coach service called Megabus, which has a stop just off campus, behind Tesco, and it takes you straight to Victoria station. Prices vary from only one pound to 5 pounds depending on the time of day. You’ll have to book the ticket online. If you want more detailed information on this let me know and I’ll give you more details.