Skip to Content
Saved Flights

Your Saved Flights

No Saved Flights

Stuart Messham
Blog, Entertainment,
Arriving at Heathrow can be a daunting experience for international students. But not when you're armed with these top tips!
Learn how to pack ultra-efficiently, successfully navigate Border Control, stay in touch with home, get around while you're here and which apps will make your life smoother. 

Preparing to travel to the UK

Packing hacks

When packing for a long educational stint abroad, it’s important to prepare a checklist to keep everything organised.

Don’t overdo anything. Keep it simple and useful. Remember: most airlines only allow between 23-32kg and you can get almost everything in the UK as we are multicultural country.

Try to take the important stuff along with you and have less-important items shipped. Also, keep a check on weather changes to make sure you have the essentials.

Pack a bag you can take as hand luggage that includes your paperwork, money, warm clothing, and the contact details of your university or accommodation provider. (See Tips to help you navigate UK Border Control “ below)

There are also restrictions on what you can bring into the UK, such as certain foods, plants, and large amounts of money – so familiarise yourself with the rules. (See “Things to avoid when reaching UK Border Control” below)


Arriving in the UK

Passing through UK Border Control

  1. If you’re from a non European Economic Area (EEA) country, complete the landing card given to you during your flight before you arrive at border control.

  2. Have your passport ready. Remove it from any cover, and remember to remove sunglasses and hats.

  3. Keep information about the course you’re studying in your hand luggage. This must be in paper copy (not an electronic copy on tablet or phone). This includes your university Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number.

  4. Keep recent bank statements and details of where you are staying in your hand luggage, Border Force officers may ask to see this information.

  5. Expect Border Force officers to ask simple questions about your stay in the UK when you arrive at passport control.


Things to avoid when reaching UK Border Control

  1. Do not bring in any meat or dairy products from outside the European Union (EU). There are restrictions on traditional medicines, food products such as fish, eggs and honey, and some fruit, vegetables and plants (including bulbs, seeds, cut flowers and tree bark).

  2. There are also restrictions on the amount of tobacco, 7 alcohol and gifts you can bring to the UK. If you exceed your duty-free allowance and do not declare them, all of your items could be taken away from you.

  3. Never bring in counterfeit goods, illegal drugs, offensive weapons or indecent or obscene material. Some items are restricted and will require a licence or permit.

  4. You must declare cash of 10,000 Euros or more (or the equivalent in another currency) if you are travelling from a country outside the EU.

  5. Never give false or misleading information (including forged or counterfeit documents).


Stay connected

It's super-important to still feel connected to home when you're studying abroad, so getting the right phone to stay in touch is paramount.

There are two types of cellular frequencies: the GSM band and the CDMA band. The UK operates on the same GSM band as most of the rest of the world.

One of the worst things you can do is keep your current SIM card while studying in the UK. You'll pay extremely high charges for calling abroad and local numbers.

SIM Local stores can be found across Heathrow and stock a range of handsets and a selection of accessories carefully selected to meet all your needs. You can also find out about local plans from the leading mobile operators. The SIM Local staff are trained to help you choose the options to suit your needs.

And remember: there's free WiFi throughout Heathrow, so you'll always be connected when you're in the airport!


Your onward journey

Meeting points

A lot of Britain’s higher education institutions will pick up international students directly from the airport. This can be done in a number of ways depending on which terminal your flight arrives at.

In Terminal 2, 4 and 5, it’s recommended that hosts and student use the public Meeting Points that can be found on the Terminal 2Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 maps.

In Terminal 3 there is a designated International University Student Meeting Point away from the public meeting points.

Hosts should have a sign clearly designating the student name and be made aware of any late arrivals.


Planning your onward journey

Once you have collected your luggage and negotiated customs, it’s important to have a plan in place with regard to your onward journey.

Heathrow’s journey planner gives you a complete door-to-door guide with times and directions. Just insert ‘Heathrow airport’ in the left-hand field and your desired location in the right-hand field.


Travelling to and around London

Travelling around London is easy if you have a contactless card. Bus, tube, DLR, London Overground, River Bus and the majority of National Rail services inside London all accept contactless payments below £100.

Anywhere you can already use an Oyster card, you can use a contactless card – just look for the yellow Oyster card reader and don’t forget to touch in (and out, if necessary) to pay for your journey.

And remember, the best way to travel to and from the airport is to use the Heathrow Express service, which only takes 15 short minutes to and from Paddington in Central London.


Make life simpler

Useful apps for international students

  1. Heathrow app: Even if you only ever fly from Heathrow once in your life, the Heathrow app is your ideal travel companion. Download the app and have everything you need, right when you need it, wherever you happen to be.

  2. XE app: this is a currency converter app that helps you get the best exchange. And getting the best exchange rate means your money goes further. Priorities!

  3. WhatsApp: The most ubiquitous messaging service used in the UK. Simple to use, and you can stay in touch with everyone at the touch of a button.

  4. Totum: As a student in the UK, you'll be entitled to a wide range of discounts, and TOTUM has over 300 discounts on many national and local brands. For a small fee, you can also get a card which acts as your proof of age, name and status as an international student.

  5. Google Translate: Unsure how to say something specific in English? Just pop it into Google Translate, and all the confusion will fade away. Essential (and available in app form on both Google Play and the Apple Store).

  6. A supermarket app: Wherever your students digs, a supermarket is bound to be nearby. Downloading an app and setting up an account is a good idea if you want to take advantage of discounts and offers. Who doesn't want to save money?!

  7. Your university app: Okay, so not all of them have one, but the ones that do will house maps of the campus, points of interest and other little essentials to keep you ahead of the game.

Thanks for reading

We hope this information has been helpful and that you have a memorable, productive stay on these shores.

If it’s your first time in Britain and you need any more advice, guidance or recommendations, there’s some helpful hints for all newcomers here.