Moving to a new country can be very exciting but also nerve-wracking. The International Students’ Campaign are here to make that transition smoother. They’ve been through all of this before and are here to help you settle into the UK!
On this page you can find information on what to pack, transport to Cambridge, healthcare, finances, police registration, communication (phone plans etc.) and places you might want to visit around the UK!
What to pack
Be sure to bring lots of warm clothing for the cold and windy weather! A winter coat is essential – preferably waterproof. Gloves and scarves are definitely useful, especially if you plan on cycling. Comfortable and waterproof shoes are highly recommended, in the winter, walking in the rain and snow can lead to damp, sore feet. To cope with the common, spontaneous showers, a hat or raincoat can be very helpful. Throughout the year, there will be numerous occasions where you will be required to dress formally. This will require smart trousers and a shirt/top or a dress. You may need to purchase a gown for formal events, but please follow instructions from your College.
Don't worry if you haven't got everything or don't want to bring it to Cambridge, you can get anything you need here and most colleges will provide storage so you can keep things here over the vacations. For more guidance on what to bring with you, check out our Packing List.
Getting to Cambridge
The closest airports to Cambridge are in London: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or Luton. Long haul International flights usually arrive at Heathrow. All four are linked to Cambridge by coach and train.
National Express coach will take you directly from the airport to Parkside coach station. Timetables can be found on nationalexpress.com. Pre-booking online can sometimes be cheaper, but you can also buy tickets at the airport.
Cambridge railway station is located 1 mile (1.6km) south-east of the city centre, so it is advisable if you have a lot of luggage to get a bus or taxi to your college. The only exception to this is Homerton College, which is approximately a 15 minute walk from the train station and Girton College which is about 15 minutes from the station when travelling by Taxi. Train timetables can be found on nationalrail.co.uk.
Staying healthy whilst you study will ensure you can soak up the Cambridge experience and everything the city has to offer. Be sure to complete any necessary medical forms and vaccinations in good time:
Your College will send you medical forms prior to your arrival. Be sure to fill in the form carefully and ask your doctor for help if necessary.
The Health Protection Agency and the University of Cambridge strongly advise you to have vaccinations for the following before you arrive in the UK:
Check with your local embassy, UK border agency and healthcare provider, or visit the CDC’s Travelers’ Health page for further recommendations.
It is important that you familiarise yourself with the healthcare in the UK and your eligibility for it. If your course of study is for 6 months or more, you will qualify for NHS (National Health Service) treatment. For further information, visit www.camstudenthealth.nhs.uk as it provides comprehensive advice on health and local services, including optical, dental and pharmacies in Cambridge. If you do become ill, the first point of contact is your College nurse, or GP (General Practitioner). These are doctors who are trained in diagnosing a wide range of health problems so remember to register with a GP promptly after arrival; your college will provide the necessary assistance. The Accident and Emergency department (A&E) is only for very serious urgent medical conditions or accidents. If you need urgent medical help but it’s not a life-threatening situation you can call 111.
Opening a bank account should be the number one thing on your ‘to-do’ list. Opening hours of banks are generally 9am to 5pm on weekdays and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. All banks close on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
It can take up to 4 weeks to open a new account. You may need to provide the following:
Your passport and a photocopy
Original or certified copy of UCAS offer letter
University admissions letter
Proof of residence (e.g. College bill)
Other documents the bank may request
For a list of banks with branches in Cambridge, go to: www.cam.ac.uk/local/local/banks.html
You may have previously received information stating you would be required to register with the police after arriving in the UK. Please note this is no longer a requirement.
Keeping in touch with friends and loved ones for moral support during your studies will help reduce homesickness and make you feel less isolated.
The main UK mobile networks are: EE, Vodafone, O2 and 3 Mobile. Companies which offer cheap deals for international calls and texts are: Lebara, GiffGaff, Lycamobile and Talktalk.
- Pay as you go: Where you have no basic charge and you ‘top-up’ your phone with credit. You have to pay for the phone. This is handy if you already have a phone and don’t want to buy a new one. Prices usually vary between 10p-20p per minute
- Pay monthly: Where you have a fixed monthly charge for a limited number of free minutes, text messages and internet access. You may be required to pay for the phone, but a lot of options include the phone for free as part of the contract. To set up a contract you will need identity documents such as your passport, a letter from College and bank details.
Different colleges use different companies; ask your College how to connect the phone. Calls to university numbers are usually free from a landline in College. International calling cards are available from the Post office and in certain stores around Cambridge. The UK country code is +44.
The cheaper alternative to international calls is Skype, Zoom or Microsoft teams. Download the app from the internet and create your own account to video chat with friends and family.
Dial 999 for the Police, Ambulance or Fire services.
Places to visit
If it’s your first time coming to the UK, no doubt you will want to explore outside of Cambridge! You can visit www.enjoyengland.com for ideas on where to visit in the UK and www.visitcambridge.org for places a bit closer to Cambridge.