Being a Student in London

Find out about the perks and pitfalls of studying in London with our London Student Guide.

To be a student in London is to be active, no matter how in-active you believe you are just buying a loaf of bread involves a bit of hassle, namely choice. There is so much to choose from that in some ways it can be overwhelming.

London is huge you could live your whole life here and not know all its secrets. To leave the house/ flat/ halls is to be bombarded with images, with people, with atmosphere, with history. You can be a tourist, spectator, and student; pick and choose, take a good look around; London has so much to offer. At the same time as this being a bonus; that you can sculpt your own life out of the chaos; find your niche, it can also be a bit of a nightmare.

There is so much to do in London and you just simply can’t do it all, and for most it would be near impossible, being a strapped for cash student and all.


Transport is a killer on your bank account, if you’ve already got a bike and all the gear then it’s the cheapest way to travel (see our Cycling in London Guide here), otherwise a second hand bike shop or looking carefully on Ebay could get you a good bargain.

Make sure that you get yourself a strong bike lock, if possible use both a chain and a D-lock to insure no one runs off with your bike. Cycling is perhaps not such a great idea though, if you’re not very confident on a bike, as with London traffic, you’re going to need to be.

Public Transport

If you’re a regular user of public transport then splash out £5 on a student Oyster card, it saves you 30% on travel cards and bus passes, and can also be used as a normal Oyster card. Simply collect a form from your Student Union, get it stamped, then send it off with a passport photo and five quid, you should receive it within a month’s time. A normal Oyster card costs £2 and is much easier and cheaper to get if you’re an infrequent user of the tubes or buses.

The bus is a great way to get you orientated in a foreign city, you’ll learn how ridiculously close to one another some of the tube stops are, and that nothing is really as far away as it seems.

Make sure you’re kitted out with an A-Z map and that you pick up a tube, cycle path or bus map from your local tube station so you know your way around. Being a student in London is pretty amazing, sometimes I don’t realise how lucky I am, not going out for a couple of days seems like torture, but when I call up my friends in for instance St Andrews, I realise I’ve got it pretty easy.

I complained of going out three nights in a row and working, whereas she had gone out once, and to the pub, the greatest amusement aside from that seemed to be the union, or the mini golf course.

Entertainment and Amusements

In London there are a whole host of great nights out to be had. Entry rates can vary from being free, £3-5 or up to £15 depending on what sort of club you’re going to, clubs in Leicester Square are generally around the £10-15 mark.

Sign up to University of London Union’s (ULU) email newsletter as well as your union one to let you know what’s going on.

Look out for SCREAM pubs, buy a yellow card for around £1-2 and you get a whole host of price reductions. The Rocket, near Euston is a good example of a SCREAM pub, it has karaoke nights on Sundays, and opens up as a club on Fridays and Saturdays, it requires student ID to get in.

Great nights out can also be had at your union (although don’t limit yourself to that); King’s Phase and LSE’s Crush are great fun, although Crush does seem to suffer from a continual fire alarm problem!

Walkabouts are free on Wednesdays; make sure you get down there on Australia day, as they’ll celebrate in style (a cheap drinks and odd hats kinda style.) Wetherspoons and Yate’s are obvious cheap student places. Vodka Revolution, is quite cheap to visit especially when you buy a privilege card which should come with a load of vouchers, avoid Revolution on weekends though as it’ll be packed with city and office workers.

Camden is the perfect place for indie clubs and interesting nights out, but avoid this area like the plague if you’re feeling in a dressing-down, relaxed kinda mood, you’ll feel very out of place, in Camden the ‘I’m more grungier, cooler, more provocative than you’ look is very in vogue.

For LGBT nights out try The Ghetto, generally £3-5 to get in with student ID, or £1 on Thursday nights when it becomes the lesbian night, Miss-Shapes.

Shopping like a student!

Shopping as a student on a budget isn’t as hard as it may sound, there are many food markets on in local areas, which can get you cheap fruit, veg, and household products.

Supermarket chains are very competitive but the best ones, in terms of price, are generally Tescos, Morrisons or Asda, however when it all comes down to it you’ll probably find that when you’re hungry proximity is more important than price. If you’ll lucky enough to have a Lidl or Netto nearby then there are some great deals to be found there especially if you’re buying in bulk or want something specific.

In terms of clothes shopping I’d avoid Oxford Street as much as possible, not really because of the price, or the shops, but the great hordes of people. To simply walk a couple of metres up the street seems like a chore some days, and the buses always move slower than you on foot. The cheapest shops are generally H&M, Peacocks, Primark, Tk Maxx and Matalan, but if you keep your eyes open bargains can be had everywhere especially in sales. Markets and charity shops are also great ways to get cheap clothing, in fact charity shops can offer you a whole host of brand names you probably couldn’t afford before, plus you can feel good knowing your money is going to a worthy cause.

If you’re looking for a cheap haircut try going to trainee hairdresser nights at places like Toni and Guy or Schwarzkopf. To get discounts at cinemas and stores such as HMV use your NUS or student card.

Cafés around the Strand and Tottenham Court Road advertise in their windows if they do discounts or special student deals. If in doubt, ask, it could always be to your benefit. Generally membership and tickets have a concession prices for students. Thinking about after uni? Well, start attending careers fairs if not for the advice and for companies to try and snatch you up, then for the freebies!

Careers after University

Look out for what your uni does to help you find work, talking to a careers adviser is a great idea, as they’re usually really helpful, the University of London careers advice centre is situated at Russell Square, you can take a look at their website Which also has great job listings: full, part-time or holiday. If you’re interested in part-time work there are loads of catering companies out their, such as your union’s work board and All In London Jobs for more job listings.


Looking for somewhere to live? It tends to be more expensive to use an estate agent to find accommodation than to search yourself. ULU sets out a list of accommodation from reputable landlords, which you can collect from the London Accommodation office at ULU.

The uproarious student life can lead to a load of spats between flatmates, meaning new places needing to be filled so check out noticeboards at your uni. Your union’s website and local newspapers should also have listings.

International Student House (ISH) is an independent halls, which you can apply for, mainly aimed at international students, it also has its own societies and activities going on, if you’re an international student many universities give you automatic free membership to ISH.

UL also has its own intercollegiate halls, where anyone from their colleges and institutes can live; information on this should be available from your university if you are a part of UL. If you live close to London, then you could of course live at home, the only problem with this is many people make some of their really good friends at halls, and through going out on the town together. So in some ways it may be better for your first year to live at halls, then you can make those vital contacts, so when you live at home in the second year you’ve got somewhere to crash after a well-deserved night-out.

London is a place of great choice; make sure you choose what’s best for you and most importantly, choose to have a great time.

Author: Emily Cracknell

Useful Links:

- See our dedicated guide Student section of the website
- Study In London - a list of the universities and colleges in London
- London Jobs - source of employment during and after university and college

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