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Coming to the UK can involve finding out about and organising a number of different things, and it’s easy to overlook something important. This guide provides accessible and practical guidance to the essential things you’ll need to consider. Contact [email protected] if you need help at any stage.

Pre-arrival checklist

Before you leave home

  • Accept your offer
  • Pay your deposit
  • Make sure your passport is up to date
  • Get your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies). A CAS is issued to you three months before your programme start date
  • Apply for your Visa
  • Book your accommodation if you are able to do so
  • Have enough funds for your living costs
  • Book your flights

Remember to bring

  • Your correct visa
  • All documents (including electronic), kept in your hand luggage for verification upon arrival in the UK. These will include: details of accommodation; TB certificate (if applicable); original qualifications
  • Medical records of any pre-existing conditions (if applicable make sure they are translated in English)
  • Approximately £500–1,000 (cash, pre-paid currency card or credit card), as you will not have a bank account in the UK until you have registered with the College

Travelling from the airport to central London

Heathrow airport

Tube: The Piccadilly line runs a regular service from Heathrow to a number of central destinations across London, including South Kensington and Kings Cross St Pancras. The tube is much cheaper than the Heathrow Express or the Heathrow Connect.


Heathrow Express: Runs every 15 minutes directly to Paddington Station. Journey time is 15 minutes.



Gatwick airport

Traim: The Gatwick Express runs every 15 minutes directly to Victoria Station. Journey time is 30. Cheaper, slower trains are also available to Victoria, London Bridge and City Thameslink stations, and take 35–45 minutes.


Stansted airport

Stansted Express: Runs every 15 minutes to Liverpool Street and Tottenham Hale. Journey time is 35 minutes to Tottenham Hale and 46 minutes to Liverpool Street.


Coaches from the airports

Several coach companies run regular services from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airport to Victoria. Journey times range from 40 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes.




Uber or taxis

You may prefer to take a Taxi or Uber from Heathrow Airport. Please also note that Black Cabs can be very expensive, so ask how much it would cost to your destination before you get in. Comparing quotes and booking minicabs or taxis online will often be quicker and cheaper than by telephone.


International welcome

In order to welcome incoming international and EU students, the Student Support team host events at the beginning of the academic year. There will be formal and informal events that aim to introduce students to living in London and studying at the RCA, alongside providing social opportunities to meet fellow students and staff.

Opening a bank account

All international students should be eligible for a basic bank account. This type of account allows for basic services such as payment in and out of the account. It also allows for the use of ATMs or cash machines. We suggest you have sufficient funds in a travel money card of £1000 –£2000 or a credit card so that you can meet everyday expenses until your bank account becomes active. Remember if you are going to deposit funds into a UK bank account, it can take time to clear before you withdraw the money: four to five working days for UK cheques and often 28 days or more if converting to another currency.

To open an account, you will generally need to provide the following documents:

  • Passport, BRP card
  • Evidence of your overseas address (utility bill or bank statements)
  • A bank letter from the RCA. You can request this on the RCA Intranet.
  • Proof of your UK address (tenancy agreement, utility bill or letter from the RCA)

UKCISA has a specific a blog article on Student banking in 2018


Register with a doctor (GP)

It is recommended that you register with a GP (doctor) within the first two weeks of registering as a student at the RCA. To find your nearest GP you will need to visit the NHS (National Health Service) website and enter your postcode: www.nhs.uk/service-search

Bring your passport, BRP card and proof that you are a student at the RCA with you to register. You can request a certificate of attendance on the ‘Letter Request’ page on the RCA intranet. You will not be able to make an appointment to see a doctor until you register.

Do not leave registering with a GP until you are ill! For minor health concerns consult your local pharmacist instead of your GP


If a doctor prescribes you medication, they may write a prescription for you. You will need to take the prescription to a pharmacy or a large supermarket with a pharmacy counter and pay a standard charge. The prescription authorises a pharmacist to give you a particular medicine.

Dental treatment

Students are also advised to register with a dentist and can get help with finding an NHS dentist on the NHS website at nhs.uk. You will be able to find the nearest dentist in your local area. There is a charge for all dental treatments in the UK but it is less expensive to be treated through the NHS than as a private patient. Some dentists will be unable to take you on the NHS and offer to put you on a waiting list. To avoid additional costs, we recommend you visit a dentist in your home country before your arrival to the UK.


Eye care in the UK is provided by opticians, which are found on most main High Streets in London. There is usually a charge for an eye test (around £20–25) and if you need glasses or contacts the costs of lenses and frames varies considerably.

Covid-19 Vaccinations

Getting vaccinated is important in keeping our community and loved ones safe from the effects of Covid-19. You don’t have to wait to be contacted by the NHS to access a vaccine and we encourage all students to take up the offer of both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Find you can find out more here or by calling 119 in the UK. If you need additional support please contact the RCA's Student Support team via [email protected].

Living in the UK

Culture shock

While usually temporary, culture shock is common among international students arriving in the UK. You will notice differences between the way things are done and what you are used to at home. These include the way people dress, speak and behave, teaching and learning styles, food – potentially all aspects of life. You may not experience culture shock initially but, after a short time as you start to settle in the UK, the differences may start to frustrate you and you may feel confused and isolated. You may experience homesickness, sleep loss, appetite loss, lack of concentration and fatigue. These feelings are natural and temporary and everyone, including home students, will probably be going through a similar experience, so you are not alone.

Clothes and climate

The weather can be unpredictable, even within a single day, so it is best to be prepared with suitable clothing. The rain doesn’t come all in one season – it can come at any time of year, and on any day. You might experience beautiful sunshine, blustering winds and drizzling rain – all in one afternoon!

Mobile phones

It may take a couple of days to sort out a mobile phone, so you are advised to travel with an unlocked mobile phone. Alternatively, take time to look at what is available and try more than one retail outlet. The same deal may be cheaper with another store. Check online price comparison sites such as: uswitch.com or moneysupermarket.com for the best deals. Be wary of getting into a deal before you’ve considered all the pros and cons.

Accommodation and living costs

Visit Accommodation in London for information on housing options and how to find somewhere to live. Visit Living costs for an indication of accommodation, travel and other living costs.

Find government services and information


Find information and advice on health conditions, symptoms, healthy living, medicines and how to get help.


Information on all forms of transport in London including cycle hire. Routes, maps, plan a journey, tickets sales, realtime traffic and travel updates.


For information about British Council activities and a list of offices worldwide, please visit britishcouncil.org.

British Council Safety First

This contains learning resources which are activity-based to help you find out about different aspects of academic life in the UK and the skills needed for effective study. As well as preparing you for what to expect during your studies, the activities provide scope for English language improvement.


Emergency Services

Around crime or personal safety, including the fire service you should call 999.

For non-urgent contact call 101 or visit www.met.police.uk

The United Kingdom Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)

UKCISA offers information and advice to international students who are studying or considering studying in the UK. Their website offers information on a wide range of issues of interest to international students, and can be found at ukcisa.org.uk

Student helpline: +44 (0)207 107 9922 (Monday–Friday, 1–4pm)


A confidential listening, support and practical information service for students You can talk to them about anything – big or small – in complete confidence. All volunteers are students themselves, who have undergone extensive training and who understand that university life isn’t always plain sailing.

Open Hours: 6pm – 8am every night of term.

+44 (0)207 631 0101 Instant messaging available

[email protected]

Skype Chat: nightline.chat

Skype Phone: londonnightline

Text: +44 (0)7717 989900


This is a charitable organisation dedicated to supporting people struggling with their mental health. They provide lots of practical information and information on where to seek help. www.mind.org.uk

The Samaritans

This is a charity that provides confidential telephone support to anyone in distress.

+44 (0)8457 909090


National Domestic Violence

Helpline 0808 2000 247


Citizens Advice Bureau

This is an organisation that provides free, impartial, and confidential advice and guidance on a wide range of practical matters, including consumer rights, housing law, employment disputes and debt.


Housing and homelessness charity. This charitable organisation have a very useful website with fact sheets on a range of common housing issues, from landlord disputes to maintenance issues.

Dean Street Clinic

This is an NHS provided sexual health centre where you can get tested, receive advice and information, and get any follow up care that is necessary. You can always speak to your GP or the non-emergency 111 service regarding sexual health, but this is another option. www.chelwest.nhs.uk/services/hiv-sexualhealth/clinics/56-dean-street

Drugs Support

FRANK helps you find out everything you might want to know about drugs (and some stuff you don’t). For friendly, confidential advice, talk to FRANK.

Alcohol Support

If you are struggling with alcohol yourself, having access to the right help and advice can make the world of difference. The service Alcohol Concern tries to inform you as much as possible and gives you all the advice you need to tackle alcohol-related problems. Whether that’s working out exactly how much you’re drinking, the impact it’s having on your body or which local services can help you, you’ll find everything you need to know here. www.alcoholconcern.org.uk