All overseas students wishing to study in the UK will need to obtain a visa for their PhD before arrival. There are strict rules governing the requirements for obtaining a UK study visa and most universities will be able to offer you advice and guidance on this before you apply.
When you travel to the UK, ensure that you carry all your important documents (including letters from the University) in your hand luggage, as you may need to show these at immigration.
Before you leave
Before you leave for the UK, make sure that you have booked accommodation for at least the first two nights. This could be university accommodation (see below), but if you have not arranged this before you leave then you should book a room in a local hotel for at least the first couple of nights. Remember that it might be late at night when you arrive and it is not always easy to find accommodation in an unfamiliar city.
What you should bring
You do not need to bring everything with you! Many items, such as cooking equipment, kettles, bed linen etc., are widely available and inexpensive to buy in the UK. However, the following items may be useful:
- All information sent to you by your University
- All important documents, including medical documents
- A dictionary and some basic course reference books in your own language
- An international driving licence (if you have one)
- Lap-top computer (if you have one)
- UK adaptor plugs for your electronic equipment
- Warm clothing – bring at least one warm jumper and a jacket, but if you are coming from a warm climate then remember it will be easier to buy most of your winter clothing in the UK
- Clothing for warm weather, if you will be in the UK over the summer months
- National or traditional dress – there may be special occasions when you will want to wear this, eg. university cultural evenings etc.
- Photographs of family and friends to decorate your new room and help you feel less lonely
- Favourite books/posters/music etc.
- Souvenirs or small items from your country to give as gifts to your new friends
Travel within the UK
If you wish to drive a car in the UK then you MUST ensure that you have a driving licence valid for use in the UK. It is illegal and a criminal offence to drive in the UK without a valid licence. It is very important that you check the latest guidelines on the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website: http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/ . You must also make sure that you have valid motor insurance and that the vehicle you are driving has a valid tax disc. All traffic in the UK drives on the left.
Most students find it easier to use public transport to get around the UK. You can travel by coach/bus or by train. Travelling by coach or bus is usually the cheapest way to travel, although journey times can be longer. Train travel can be more expensive if you do not book your ticket in advance, however if you book your journey early then you can often buy tickets at reduced prices.
Regions of the UK
The UK is a varied country and although quality of higher education is high throughout, your living experience may be very different depending on where you live and what you are looking for. The UK is made up of 4 regions, England – the largest, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each with something unique to offer. If you are used to big cities, the convenience of round-the-clock services and the hustle and bustle of urban life, then you may wish to opt for some of the largest cities in the UK: London, Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow. But it is possible to find cities and towns with a significant student populations (and associated atmosphere) in all parts of the UK, from Aberdeen, in the Northeast of Scotland to Kent in the Southern tip of England.