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10 Important Things to Know Before Studying Abroad in London

I’m gonna be blunt here… you will absolutely flipping love studying abroad in London. This city (my home for the past 4.5 years) offers so much, no matter your budget, interests, and personality.

Before studying abroad in London, these are the important things to know so you can feel prepared and knowledgeable before you step off the plane at Heathrow airport.

London is HUGE

Most people don’t realise how big London is. Parts of it are walkable, but you will definitely be using public transportation, especially if your student housing isn’t in central London. Use the Google Maps or Citymapper app to figure out how to get from point A to point B anytime you’re exploring London.

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If you're studying abroad in London, these are some important things to know before your semester abroad, including ways to save money, what to do about the London weather, and how to make friends with people who live in London.

Students get discounted public transportation

When you study abroad in London, you can get 30% off travel cards and Bus & Tram Pass season tickets, all you need is to get a student Oyster photocard.

You can also get a 16-25 railcard, which gets you ⅓ off rail and pay as you go tube fares for just £30 for the year. If you plan to take the train to other parts of the UK on the weekends, this extra add on will pay for itself in just a couple of trips.

One more option for saving on transportation on day trips or weekend travel around the UK while studying abroad in London is the BritRail pass. It gives you unlimited train travel for a number of days each month. Find out more about the BritRail options, and you can only order it while you’re still back at home, so do this in advance of your departure date. If you’ve not done that, then go for the 16-25 railcard mentioned above.

Read next: 7 Day Trips to Take While Studying in London

Get student discounts 

Beyond transportation, London students get so many great student discounts, so take advantage. Sign yourself up to Unidays and you’ll be able to get discounted clothing, food, electronics, gym memberships, and more. It’s free to sign up to.

There’s also the NUS card, which costs money, but offers even more deals across London, the UK, and Europe.

What to do before studying abroad in London. Important things to know before studying abroad in London

There are tons of free things to do in London

As you’ve probably heard, London is a very expensive city, especially when you’re on a student budget. But there are SO many free things to explore in London, that even if you are studying in London for a semester or longer, you’ll find it hard to run out of things to do.

Most of London’s museums are free to visit, and are the perfect option for bad-weather days. There are also many photogenic areas in the city, like Shoreditch, Notting Hill, and Camden, so go explore one area at a time as you take photos and spend little to no cash.

Finally, the city’s parks are completely free to visit, so whenever you have ok-ish weather, grab some friends, sandwiches, and a bottle of prosecco, and have yourself a picnic in one of London’s world-famous green spaces.

Read next: How to Save Money While Studying in London

You’ll be able to find a lot of your favourite brands and items

Compared to your friends going to other parts of the world for their study abroad semester, you’ll feel pretty at home in London when it comes to getting your favourite brands of clothing, makeup, etc. There are even quite a few supermarkets around the city that have American sections, perfect for when you’re feeling a little homesick.

So save your suitcase space and don’t worry about bringing all of your favourite items from home.

It can be hard to make friends

Because the city is so big, and because Londoners aren’t as approachable as Americans, it can be hard to meet people and make friends beyond your classmates and roommates. But, because most other people in the city are in the same position, there are lots of Meetup groups you can join for free to meet some locals, for people with all types of interests.

Also be sure to take advantage of any university-organised events at your school, which are usually free and include a complimentary beer and food…THE DREAM.

Partying is very expensive

When you study abroad in London, if you’re on a strict budget but plan to go out every night, you’ll quickly blow through your semester’s worth of savings. This might be a good time to choose to slow down your partying tendencies, which will not only save you money but also reduce the amount of days that you can’t go explore the city because you’re too hungover.

That being said, you can definitely save money on going out if you’re smart. Beyond just pre-gaming as much as you can before you head out, if you want to go clubbing, plan to get there early enough to get free entrance, and actually DO IT. There are also lots of bars around the city that have great happy hour deals if you visit earlier in the evening.

Things to know before studying abroad in London. Tips for future London study abroad students

Don’t worry about the weather

Take it from someone who’s lived in London for almost five years now… we don’t have the best weather. But that’s ok, because Londoners are SO great at embracing the weather whatever it is, and if you’re open to it, you’ll become this way too. You’ll notice people drinking outdoors even when it’s quite cold (thank you heaters!), going for walks in the park even when it’s raining, and then when the sun DOES come out, you will not find one Londoner sitting inside!

So plan to “become British” and don’t let the weather hold you back from doing anything while studying abroad in London. That’s what umbrellas are for.

You can get cheaper attraction tickets

There are a variety of ways to get student discounts on the city’s most popular attractions while studying abroad in London. Some will have student discounts offered directly on their website, or if you plan to visit multiple attractions, consider getting a pass like the London Explorer Pass. You get free entrance to up to seven of the attractions, and you can just rock up whenever you have some free time within the month timeframe. But the real draw is that you can save yourself a LOT of money on entrance fees.

Find out more about how the London Explorer Pass works, plus the best money-saving combos.

London is incredibly international

You might be studying abroad in an English-speaking country, but London is a very multicultural city. You’ll meet Londoners that are from all over the world, speaking all different languages and with many different life experiences. Sometimes, you’ll feel like different areas of London are their own little study abroad semesters in themselves. Embrace it, and soak it up as much as you can.

Read next: How to Make Friends With the Locals While Studying Abroad

More studying abroad in London advice:

The Abroad Guide to London’s Markets

16 Great Places to Eat While Studying in London

How to Fit in with the Locals in London

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Jess is the Editor-in-Chief of The Abroad Guide. After studying abroad in Belgium during her junior year of college, she caught the travel bug. Her experiences include volunteering in Nicaragua, backpacking through Europe, and a year-long adventure in Italy, and she's now settled in London.


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