You’re moving to London as a student. It’s an exciting time. You and your friends are all going to different universities and you’re heading to London. But before you go, you’ll want to know exactly what to expect, and what you need to know about before you make the move. London isn’t just any old city, it’s the capital city of the UK, and it has a wealth of opportunities, culture and history on offer. But it’s also vastly expansive, expensive, and it can feel a little daunting if you’ve never lived away from home before.
Whether your a student from the UK, or an international student, London is likely to be a little different to what you’ve been used to at home. Not only do you have to be self sufficient, you’re in a whole new environment too. But fear not, we’ve broken things down in this ultimate guide to moving to London as a student, so that you come to uni prepared.
Where to live
If you’re moving to London, one of the best things that you can do is to live in Student Halls of Residence (also known as “Halls”). When you live in Halls, you will be living with other students, which is a great way to meet people. It’s also a safe option for accommodation, especially if you are moving to London as a student and are yet to get your bearings.
Your chosen university will have information about the Halls accommodation which is available to you, and their recommended choices. There are likely to be multiple different options, each will have their own merits. Consider how many people you’d be happy to share a bathroom with? What part of London do you want to live in? What is your budget for accommodation? This will help narrow down the options available to you.
Be aware that London is split out into separate boroughs, and in each borough there are several neighbourhoods. You can check how close the neighbourhoods are to central London by using a map of The London Underground. Flats and accommodation listings are likely to list which ‘Zone’ they are located in. Zone 1 is the closest zone to central London. This means that if you find accommodation in Zone 1, you are very centrally located. This could be a positive or a negative, depending on what experience you’d like to have as a student in the city.
Moving to London
If you’re moving to London from within the UK, you have several options when it comes to physically moving to London. You can get the train to one of the many central train stations within the city, and then buy the larger items that you may need once you get to London (think pots and pans, duvet, pillows, and textbooks).
Your other option is to drive down to London. This might be the easier choice due to the fact that you’ll probably need to take quite a lot of stuff with you to London when you first move into your student accommodation. If you can rope in a parent, friend, or family member to drive you, this could be the most fuss free option (despite the fact that they’ll have to navigate driving in London!)
No car? You could hire a small removals van through a company like AnyVan. This is a slightly more expensive option, but might be more comfortable and could work out cheaper than travelling on the train and then buying everything new once you get settled into your new room at uni.
And when you move out during the summer break? Don’t forget that storing your stuff in London could be a great option, and can be more cost effective than bringing everything back and forth each year. Try easyStorage who are very affordable and offer a pick up and (free!) drop off service for student storage.
Get a student bank account
Many UK banks have dedicated student bank accounts. Student bank accounts will often have specialist features such as being fee-free, offering cash bonus incentives, and possibly an interest-free overdraft over a certain period of time. Top tip: don’t get a student overdraft if you can help it!
We’ve put together a table of student bank account options here. Deals change all the time, so do check out the MoneySavingExpert list of best student bank accounts, which is constantly updated.
|£100 cash and 4 year tastecard membership
|Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)
|£100 cash and 4 year tastecard membership
|4 year 16-25 railcard
|£100 cash and 1 year Headspace subscription
Get a student card
A student card is the best way to get discounts on clothing, shopping, events, train tickets, fitness, health, beauty and just about everything that you can think of. Discounts will vary between retailers, but you can often expect at least 10% off at most participating retailers.
And if a retailer or establishment doesn’t advertise student discount? It doesn’t hurt to ask! Always ask if the cashier accepts student discount, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
The student cards available to London university students are similar to others throughout the UK. TOTUM is the leading student discount card that offers discounts at hundreds of retailers. Check if your university also has their own student card, but you’ll likely need TOTUM for most student discount offers.
Get a student Oyster Card
An Oyster card is a must-have when you live in London. This is especially true when you are a student. A student Oyster card allows you to get 30% off adult fares when you travel on the Transport For London (TFL) network. That means that you get 30% off tube fares and bus fares around the city.
It’s a great saving and well worth signing up to the scheme if you’re aged 18 or over, live in a London borough during term time, and are currently enrolled as a student at a London university. Check out the TFL website for more information.
Budgeting as a student in London
Saving money as a student in London is not impossible. It may require a little more effort than your friends who are heading to a university up north, but you can still make savings here and there. One of the best things you can do as soon as you get to London, is to start a budget and really stick to it.
Speaking from experience, getting into the habit of budgeting as a student can mean that you can spend more on the things you want to (hi fun experiences!) and less on the things you’re not so bothered about (textbooks). A budget can help you plan for expenses, which can be very freeing as a student. It’s not fun to have financial anxiety while you’re at uni, so get into good habits now.
👀 If you’re looking for an all singing, all dancing budgeting spreadsheet, this is it:
Save money on grocery shopping
Surprisingly, grocery shopping can take up the vast majority of your spending from week to week. In London, it’s super easy to go to convenience stores like Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local and get dinner every night. But in reality? This is a super expensive way of doing your food shopping. Prices are more expensive, and you spend more time in the supermarket than you do in the classroom!
That said, low cost supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl might not be an option for you unless you live right next door to one. A lack of transport as a student in London means that a ‘big shop’ isn’t always possible. That’s where some delivery services can come in really handy. You can also often get money off your shop with your first food delivery with retailers such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons. You can often find coupons for your first shop on VoucherCodes.
And another fun alternative when you’re moving out of home for the first time? Meal kit delivery services. Now, hear me out. Although these are an expensive way to cook, you can get seriously good introductory deals to many meal kit delivery services. It’ll also mean you’ll get great practice when it comes to cooking for yourself.
🥑 HelloFresh– get your first box for 50% off (3 meals for 2 people- but you can easily stretch that for lunches and leftovers!), making each serving just £1.90.
Save money on socialising
Whatever you like to do for fun, know that London has a wealth of free things to see and do. Your socialising and entertainment budget needn’t be sky high. If you enjoy food and drink, you can most certainly find great deals when using a student card, or heading to LivingSocial for discounted food and drink experiences.
And if you’re the type that prefers to stay in and be with your friends? Host a pot-luck dinner and ask everyone to bring a plate (or a bottle!) and share the food between you. If you’re part of a university club or society, this is also often a cheap way to socialise- as long as the joining fees aren’t huge!
There’s no doubt that socialising is probably going to be one of your top expenses as a student, but by using discount codes, hosting at home, and enjoying some low cost activities as part of the mix, there is no reason why you can’t have a great time on a low budget.
Save money on shopping
The best way to save money on shopping as a student is of course by using your student discount card. But did you know that you can also save money on shopping by using cashback websites and services? You can use cashback websites like TopCashback that give you money back on your purchases. Sign up using this link to get a bonus!
Some student bank accounts will also offer cashback at certain retailers, as will cashback apps like Cheddar. You can get cashback from your everyday spending at supermarkets and other retailers automatically when you connect your card. Use the code THRIFTY to receive an exclusive sign up bonus when you sign up using this link.
Sign up to health services
Don’t wait until you feel poorly to get signed up to the doctors or the dentist. It can take a while to get an appointment in London- and waiting lists are often long. Make sure you get signed up sooner rather than later and get that piece of life admin ticked off the list.
If you’re already signed up to the NHS, you’ll be able to transfer your details to a new doctors surgery local to you in London. Use the Find a GP page on the NHS website to locate a surgery near you. You’ll just need your NHS number, some photo ID, and to fill out some personal information online or in person at the surgery.
If you’re signed up to an NHS dentist already, don’t assume that you’ll be able to transfer your details to a new dentist in London. Unfortunately at the time of writing, NHS dentists are extremely stretched any many are not taking new patients. This means that if you have an NHS place at another dentists, you may wish to keep your details there and make sure that you book any dental appointments for when you are back in your home town.
Student gym membership in London
Did you know that you can get seriously great gym memberships as a student in London? Some gyms offer free trial passes, but the discounts don’t stop there when it comes to fitness and health benefits for students. Take a look at popular gym chains such as PureGym (30% off), Fitness First (up to 40% off) and Total Fitness, who all offer generous student discounts.
If your university also has a gym on site? Check to see if the rates are even more favourable than those at the popular gym chains. If in doubt, always check with the uni recommendations first.
Getting a temp job in London
If you’re moving to London as a student, it’s likely that money is pretty tight after all of your expenses. Many students based in London will get a part time job or a temp job to help increase their income while they’re living in one of the most expensive cities in the world!
Temp jobs can quite easily be found during the festive months, but equally you’re likely to be able to find part time jobs at bars, restaurants, and supermarkets relatively easily during term time. Just make sure it doesn’t disrupt your studies!
Another option is to make money online. You can make money online relatively easily, and without leaving the comfort of your own home. Try brainstorming your skills and any experience that you have, and then go from there. Freelance services are often the easiest place to get started- head to a website like Fiverr where you can offer freelance skills for just about everything. From writing, to editing, to tarot card reading!
Making friends as a student in London
Moving to university is an ideal time to make new friends- and you can be sure that London is definitely the place to find likeminded people. Whether you find friends at uni through where you live, on your course, or at social groups, you can be certain that you’ll find some friends for life.
On your first day, make sure you bring a door wedge to keep your door open so that you can chat to your new housemates, and bring something sharable to eat or drink that first evening.
If it’s taking a little longer than expected to make some new friends in London as a student? Check out our guide to meeting people and making friends in London.
Is London too expensive for students?
There’s no doubt about it, London is expensive. The cost of living in London is high. But that said, with some savvy spending, budgeting, and choosing the right accommodation for your budget, it’s not entirely unaffordable. London is certainly the most expensive city to go to university in the UK, but it is also a place full of opportunities, and some of the best universities in the country are based in London.
How much does it cost to live in London for a year as a student?
London School of Economics (LSE), estimate that their students will need around £1,300-£1,400 per month for all living expenses (including accommodation). That means that to live in London for a full year, it could cost around £16,800. However, you may need to factor in approximately 3 months during the summer where students are likely to go back home, which may mean the cost is more like £12,600 per year. Moving to London as a student isn’t cheap, but there are ways to reduce outgoings as a student in the city.
How much does a student need to live in London on average?
To live comfortably in London, the average student will need a budget of around £1,300-£1,400 per month, based on research by London School of Economics. However, this can be influenced significantly by how much is spent on accommodation and day to day spending. It’s possible to spend more or less than this average.
Is it worth living in London as a student?
If you’re attending a London university for classes, it’s definitely worth it to live in London as a student. The experience of living in London is like no other. Many student halls are based centrally, and it’s a great opportunity to live in the middle of the hustle and bustle of London. It may be the only chance you ever get to live in the centre of London without paying huge rents!