Travel to your institution

Last modified: 10 September 2017

Check any information your college or university has sent you, as it may include information about how to get there from the main airports and other ports in the UK. Some colleges and universities also arrange transport services for students at the start of the academic year. For example, some universities arrange to collect students from the airport or train station. Details of any services like this should be included in the information your college or university has sent you. If you want to use these services, you may need to book in advance.

If you are making your own onward travel arrangements, the information below will help you plan the next part of your journey .

Plan your journey

Last modified: 22 January 2016
  • Check the information from your college or university for details about how to get there, including any transport arranged by your institution. Carry this information in your hand luggage.
  • The British government's tourist information service,Visit Britain (VisitBritain) may have an office in your country. Visit Britain can give you information and advice to help you plan your journey.
  • Some scholarship agencies (for example, the British Council) help their scholars with travel arrangements. If you are receiving a scholarship, check the information from your scholarship agency.
  • If you have arranged your international travel through a travel agent, ask the agent if they can help you arrange your onward journey in the UK.
  • Consult airport websites or information from your travel agent for details about services at airports If you have any problem on arrival, go to the Information Centre or Helpdesk at the airport or train station.

Arriving by air

Last modified: 24 June 2016

Most international flights to London arrive at Gatwick or Heathrow airport, but some flights, especially from continental Europe, may arrive at Luton or Stansted. Depending on your final destination, you may need to travel into central London for the next stage of your journey. There are several major train stations in London, so you should make sure you know which one you need before planning that stage of your journey.

  • Heathrow - Heathrow is one of the world’s busiest airports. There are coach connections, a Tube station (on the Piccadilly line, marked in dark blue on the Tube map) and the 'Heathrow Express’ train service to Paddington station in London.
  • Gatwick - There are coach connections, and a train service from Gatwick to central London (Victoria or Kings Cross stations, depending on which train you catch). There is also a ‘Gatwick Express’ train service direct to Victoria station. The journey takes about 40 minutes.
  • Stansted - There are local connections and coach services and a ‘Stansted Express’ train service to Liverpool Street station in London.
  • Luton - There is both a coach service and a train service into central London.

There are special ‘Express’ train services from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports to central London. You can also travel from Heathrow to Central London on the 'Tube' (London Underground), which is much cheaper than the Heathrow Express train.

Trains

Last modified: 18 November 2015

Many train services offer either ‘Standard’, or ‘First’ Class' tickets (and therefore seating). First Class is much more expensive than ‘Standard Class’, which most people find perfectly comfortable. It is advisable to book a seat in advance on long distance journeys, especially if you plan to travel on a Friday.

Long distance coach and train services usually have good luggage facilities. Larger train stations may also have a 'Left Luggage' service where you can leave your bags for a few hours if there is a long wait between connections.

Train services are operated by a variety of different companies. Some companies offer special deals, especially if booked in advance, on certain routes (usually longer distance routes). For timetables and fares, see the National Rail website.

Buses

Last modified: 18 November 2015

Long-distance bus services (coaches) are inexpensive and popular with students.

Local bus services generally cover shorter distances than coach services and are cheaper. In London, bus services are the cheapest form of public transport, but usually take longer than the Underground, due to the large amount of traffic on the roads. Many local bus services do not have much luggage space, although services from airports and train stations may have more.

Buses may be very busy at ‘rush hour’ on weekdays (Monday to Friday). ‘Rush hour’ is between approximately 8am and 9.30am and again between 5pm and 6.30pm. This is when most people are travelling to and from their place of work.

London Underground (the ‘Tube’)

Last modified: 18 November 2015

Many people use the Tube to get around London. There is a Tube station at Heathrow airport, but not at any other airports near London. The helpful  Transport for London website features a London Underground Journey Planner and a map of the London Underground system which details the different Tube lines in different colours, and shows at which stations you can transfer  from one line to another.If you are planning to use the Tube, remember that you may have to change trains to get to your destination. At some stations this can be difficult if you have a lot of luggage, as most stations do not have a lift (elevator); although most do have escalators.The Tube can be extremely crowded at ‘rush hour’ on weekdays (Monday to Friday), roughly 0700-0900 hours and 1630-1830 hours.

Taxis

Last modified: 04 September 2015

‘Public hire’ taxis or ‘cabs’ are taxis that are licensed to pick up passengers without advancer booking. In London, as in many UK cities, these are usually the familiar black cabs. If you need a cab you can signal to ('flag down') any that are passing and ask them to stop (Please note, howver, that if the ‘Taxi’ light on the roof is not lit, this means that they already have a passenger and so will not stop for you). Although very convenient, public hire taxis can be extremely expensive, especially in London, as the meter runs the whole time you are in the cab (including when you are stuck in traffic!).

‘Private hire’ taxis, or ‘minicabs’ are car services that must  be booked by telephone (that is, you cannot simply flag one down in the street as you can a black cab), and in many cases can be found directly outside places such as train stations, or at designated 'Taxi Ranks' . Minicabs often do not have a ‘Taxi’ sign, although should display a company name or other official taxi identification. Generally, they are cheaper than the 'black cabs', as the fare is calculated on the distance travelled. The rules for minicab drivers vary from town to town, but generally the driver will have an identity card on display in their car. It is best to agree the price with the company when you phone or with the driver before starting the journey. Be particularly careful if you are approached by a ‘minicab’ driver that you have not booked in advance. Some minicab companies are unlicensed and may be operating illegally. Using an illegally operating minicab firm can be unsafe and expensive.Information desks at airports, train stations and other travel interchanges may have telephone numbers for local minicab companies.

Transit accommodation

If you wish to stay overnight in London during your journey, you should try to arrange accommodation before you leave your home country. You can book accommodation (using a credit card) before you come to the UK by contacting an organisation such as VisitBritain, the London Tourist Board, the Youth Hostel Association, or International Students’ House. If you arrive in London without accommodation there are hotel booking agencies at all the major train stations, which can help you find accommodation.  Alternatively, you may go to one of the London Tourist Board offices at Liverpool Street Station, Victoria Station or Heathrow Airport if you arrive there. Do not accept offers from agents who may approach you at train stations (especially Victoria) – use one of the offices mentioned above.

Money

Last modified: 04 September 2015

If you are traveling to the UK from a country outside the European Union and are carrying more than 10,000 Euros with you in cash, cheques or a bankers draft you will need to declare this to customs. British coins come in the following denominations: 1p,  2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 (100p), £2 (200p). Banknotes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.Normal banking hours are from 09.30 to 16.30 Monday to Friday. Some are open on Saturday mornings. You can change currency and cash travellers’ cheques at ‘Bureaux de Change’ offices, which are open for longer, and are often located in stations and airports. Try to avoid changing very small amounts of money as there is often a minimum commission charge which makes it expensive. Shops and services in the UK will accept payment in UK currency only. Credit and debit cards are also widely accepted. You may be able to withdraw money from  cashpoint ('ATM') machines if you have a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for that card.

When you arrive in the UK, you should bring about £250 in cash and travellers’ cheques for your immediate needs (meals, train fares, etc.). Avoid carrying any more cash in case it gets lost or stolen. Most shops and hotels will accept credit cards, and some will also accept payment in sterling travellers’ cheques. 

Telephones

Last modified: 18 November 2015

You can sign up for a mobile phone service in the UK, and you can usually use an exisiting handset. When you first arrive, you can use your exisiting mobile phone service from home to make calls within the UK, but you are likely to be charged for the cost of an overseas call.  Check with your home provider what rates they will charge for calls and text messages when you are outside your home country. 

You will find public telephones at all airports, sea ports, railway stations, bus stations and on some streets. Instructions on how to use them are displayed next to the telephone. Most red phone boxes have been replaced by newer modern clear glass ones, and there are different companies operating phone services. They accept coins from 20 pence upwards and many phone boxes also accept credit cards, or phone cards (these can be purchased from most convenience stores & newsagents, and come in many denominations from £2 to £20).For making telephone calls overseas, it can be cheaper to use an international calling card. You can buy phone cards online or from some newsagents or kiosks in the UK.  You can send emails from internet cafes and public access computers in public libraries. For a list of some internet cafes in the UK. For information on Public Libraries in the UK, and to find libraries in your area, see www.gov.uk/local-library-services


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