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Money and living tips for UK students

You want to enjoy a healthy and happy study life in the UK. Knowing how much you need for living is a good starting point, but keep in mind that the cost of living can be higher or lower depending on where you live.

The UK Government suggests you will need:

  • £1,265 per month if you live in London for most (more than 50 per cent) of your studies
  • £1,015 per month if you live outside London for most of your studies (more than 50 per cent of study time)

These figures do not include the costs of your study or tuition fees.

There are some useful websites you can use to budget your time in the UK. One option is Expatistan, which calculates the cost of living in the UK using up-to-date, crowd-sourced data.

Your banking and payment options

In the UK, you generally pay (and get paid) in pounds and pence. You can make purchases in shops with coins and notes, or with a debit or credit card.

You may notice that the banknotes you get in Scotland and Northern Ireland look slightly different – ​​although the currency is the same, Scottish and Northern Irish banks print their own banknotes. These are usually accepted in the rest of the UK, but if you’re having trouble and need to exchange them for Bank of England notes, you can do so at any major bank in the UK.

Most UK banks are happy to open an account for you while you live in the UK. To open an account you generally need the following:

  • Your passport
  • A document showing which school, college or university you attend
  • Proof of address at home and in the UK
  • Reference and statements from your home bank

To make the process easier, it’s best to first contact the bank you currently bank with in your home country to see if they have a relationship with a UK-based bank and can help you set up an account.

To access funds from your account, you can:

  • Use your bank’s online or telephone banking service
  • Visit your local bank branch
  • Withdraw money from an ATM
  • Ask for ‘money back’ when you make an in-store purchase with your debit card

Get your phone and internet in order

You’ll probably want to get your phone and internet up and running pretty quickly after you arrive in the UK.

When it comes to phones, you have three main options:

  • Landline: usually only relevant if you live off campus. You may be able to get a better deal by bundling your landline with internet access, or you may choose not to have a landline at all and stick to your mobile phone
  • Mobile – prepaid: gives you control over how much you spend and can stop whenever you want. Prepaid SIM cards are widely available from UK shops and supermarkets, as well as mobile phone providers
  • Mobile contract: Depending on how much you use your mobile and for what, a contract with a UK based mobile operator may be cheaper.

International calling

International calls can be quite a bit more expensive than calls within the UK. You may want to buy an international calling card (which will give you better rates) or use online options like Skype or Facetime instead. You can buy international calling cards from most convenience stores.

  • To call a UK number from abroad you must enter the country code (44) followed by the area code and then the phone number
  • To call another country from the UK, enter 00 followed by the relevant country code, followed by the area code (if required) then the phone number

Access to the Internet

You have many options for internet access in the UK, but it’s worth looking around to find the plan that offers the best price and download limits for your needs.

Most educational institutions offer free Wi-Fi that you can access with your student login and password. If you don’t have access to the internet via your own laptop or computer, you can usually find one to use in the student library, off-campus public library, or internet café.

Some places offer free Wi-Fi, but some internet cafes charge by the hour, for example. Don’t forget to check the security of the network you are connecting to.