As a multicultural metropolis with a distinct cultural heritage, it is easy to understand why more than 100,000 overseas students head to London each year.

It is home to many internationally ranked universities, and the recent devaluation of the pound has added to the destination’s appeal – helping it climb to 3rd place in QS Best Student Cities 2017.

The cost of London living is still high compared to many other world cities, but don’t worry. These tips will stop you splurging, but won’t prevent you from having fun in the vibrant UK capital.

Budget, budget, budget

First thing’s first: budget. The word itself probably makes you want to yawn, but it doesn’t have to be emotionally taxing.
The national charity Brightside has developed an International Student Calculator, to help you work out your income and outgoings. You might want to consider the 50/20/30 rule, where you spend 30% of your budget on enjoying London while also budgeting for the essentials and saving for the future.

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Travel smart

London’s travel network is extensive and convenient, but it can be difficult to navigate the varying payment methods.

Your best value option is likely to be the 18+ Student Oyster photocard discount, which gives you 30% off underground (or tube), bus and tram pass season tickets.  Contactless payment card might also be a good option, depending on your route. Check the Transport for London (TFL) website to find out more.

The free app Citymapper is a great journey-planning tool, which will help you plan the cheapest, most convenient route. It includes real-time departure times and transport maps, and gives you alternative travel options such as taxi or walking.

Many Londoners prefer walking or cycling where possible, which are cheaper, healthier and generally more pleasant activities. Tubes and buses can get very crowded, especially during peak times. But if you opt to cycle, make sure you check out TFL’s page on ways to keep safe, as London’s roads can be chaotic.

Dine In and Save

Unless you can afford to eat out everyday, you will need to cook regular meals. Don’t worry if your culinary skills are not up to scratch – there are tons of student recipes online to get you started.

Local markets, such as Whitechapel and Yasar Helim, offer great value ingredients of equivalent quality to those sold at Borough Market and other famous counterparts. Meanwhile, you can usually find great deals in supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl and Morrisons – especially in the discount aisle.

Pinterest is a fantastic source of inspiration for discovering new cuisines and helping you step outside your comfort zone. Some students opt to go vegetarian or vegan while studying in London, to boost their health and save money they would otherwise spend on meat and/or animal products.

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Find the free gems

One of the best things about London is that there are countless free things do, from a simple stroll in Holland Park to a full-blown party at the annual Notting Hill Carnival. Many of the well-known tourist attractions, such as the Changing of the Guard, are also free, as are many popular museums and galleries such as The National History Museum and the Tate Modern.

For students looking to school in London, London South Bank University is just a few miles away from the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

Local websites such as Londonist are great resources to keep track of latest updates about free events. Meanwhile, some lesser known free activities include:

  • comedy shows at Angel Comedy Club
  • be part of a TV audience (via BBC, ITV and Channel 4 websites)
  • visit a neon wonderland at God’s Own Junkyard
  • sample free tea, music and cake at Daylight Music at the Union Chapel
  • enjoy a free lunch at a Hare Krishna temple
  • see the world’s oldest dinosaur sculpture at Crystal Palace Park
  • take part in exercise classes at stores such as Sweaty Betty and Nike
  • embark on a free city walk

Hunt for discounts and bargains

When it comes to high street shopping, the UNiDAYS app is your best friend. It helps you get discounts from big retailers such as Apple, ASOS and Spotify, with discounts of up to 50% off.

Alexandra Palace Ice Rink, The biggest (it has a total capacity of 1,250) and best permanent ice rink in London is a favorite for Middlesex University Students.

It might also be worth applying for a National Union of Students (NUS) Extra Card. For a small fee, you get access to a range of discounts from similar high street retailers.

Primark is well-known for value fashion, but for high-end items it is worth checking out second hand stores in affluent areas such as South Kensington.  It is not uncommon to find designer labels at heavily reduced prices.

Dining out doesn’t have to be expensive either. Keep an eye on blogs such as londonontheinside.com and skintlondon.com to find out about the latest giveaways and deals at London restaurants and bars. It is also worth subscribing to newsletters of your regular haunts, so that you find out about special offers.

Last but not least, you can’t live in London without at least one trip to the theatre. You can find up to 60% off tickets online, or visit the TKTS booth on the day if you don’t mind what to watch. Shakespeare’s Globe, an open-air playhouse where Shakespeare’s plays are performed, also offers standing tickets for as little as £5.

For more helpful advice related to studying abroad, contact us and we will get back to you shortly!