Many students traveling to London wonder how they are going to live in a new city with their budgets. This page is here to help. With tips from past Lawrence students who studied in London, living in the city on a shoe string budget is much more manageable than many would think.
Cash & Cards
Money is one of everyone's concerns when abroad. Here are some tips on cash and credit cards before you leave and once you are in London.
- Have a budget in mind prior to your departure. Keep in mind that different things may occur to where the budget fluctuates a bit, but try to keep as closely to your budget as possible.
- Get an idea of the conversion rate - how many pounds will my dollars get me? Also, keep in mind that the conversion rate often fluctuates.
- Change a little bit of money before departing - enough for the first weekend - to get settled in. Changing your currency at the airport is the most expensive option.
- Make sure you check with your credit card company about how much it will cost to make cash withdrawals while abroad - the interest rates and hidden fees can add up to where you are paying for more than the amount you take out. For a list of credit card options without international transactions fees, please see Travel Preparation to Consider under the "Accepted Off-Campus Study Students" tab.
- Exchanging money in London can be tricky - banks and the post office are the best options as well as larger shops such as Marks and Spencer. Small exchange shops are expensive.
- Budget your cash. Taking out money with your card is expensive. Take out a larger amount and keep it in your personal safe (located in your bedroom). Only carry as much cash as you need each day on your person.
- It is a good idea to bring a credit card with you for emergencies only. Using credit cards in the city is expensive because you are using U.S. dollars. The exchange rate as well as the credit card's interest rates can take students by surprise when they see how much money they have spent.
Travelling in London
One of the biggest perks about the London Centre Program is the Oyster card. Each student receives an Oyster card during their first week. This card allows students to travel through zones 1 and 2 on the Tube (subway) and on any bus in London for free.
While the Oyster card only covers zones 1 & 2, those are the areas most courses utilize as their classrooms. Zones 1 and 2 contain many of the big tourist attractions (Westminster Abbey, the London Eye), as well as London hotspots (Camden Market, Borough Market, Piccadilly Circus). There are some instances where you will travel outside of these zones, so you must top up - add money - onto your card. This is very easy to do at any Tube station, and usually costs less than 10 pounds depending on where you are going. Your professors will tell you ahead of time if you need to top up for certain explorations.
Walking and Biking
One of the best aspects of London is how you can walk anywhere in the city. Londoners walk everywhere - to work, to the gym, to get home. Walking is usually one of the fastest options, especially during rush hour, and gives students the chance to really see the city around them, rather than being underground on the Tube. The app Citymapper shows fixed maps of the streets and is great to use even if your phone is not connected to WiFi. There are also fixed maps on the street, showing you what is in the area, including attractions and the nearest Tube stations. If you are worried about getting lost, ask people. It is the perfect way to interact with Londoners as well as find your way around the city. There are also bikes for hire in the city for 2 pounds, and you can read about them here.
Taxis & Minicabs
Taxis are the most expensive option for traveling around London. If you need to get somewhere by car, minicabs are the better, less expensive way of travel. There are also car sharing services, but taxis and minicabs are approved by Transport for London. You can read more about them and the minicab app here.
Each flat has a fully equipped kitchen. Cooking at home will save you lots of money. Don't worry if you do not know how to cook - you have flatmates that you can ask for help. There is also a very helpful website for students recipes here. Here are some of the Do's and Don'ts of grocery shopping in London:
- Coordinate shopping and cooking with flatmates
- Shop ahead for 2-3 days max - food goes bad quickly
- Freeze food to make it last longer
- Buy generic brands
- Buy frozen fruit and vegetables - they are cheaper and just as healthy
- Plan when you will eat at home and when you will eat out
- Bring a reusable water bottle/reusable cup - most cafes will give you a discount for bringing your own cup
- Make your coffee at home
- Cook between classes in your flat
- For class outings, pack a lunch and bring it with you - snacks in shops are expensive
- Buy too much food at one time. Food goes bad quickly - don't shop for the entire week in one go
- Buy brand names - generic is just as good for much cheaper
- Buy food just because of the offers - the item may be 3 for 2 pounds, but how quickly will it go bad?
- Always get takeaway or ready meals - buy a frozen pizza instead of ordering out
- Buy coffee/tea at shops - the cost will add up if you buy it 3xs a week
- Go out to eat in between classes
Travelling Outside of London
Many students utilize their long weekends or midterm break to venture outside of London. This can be very affordable if you plan your trips as early as possible. Wait until after the first week of classes - that is when you get your schedules. Travelling by coach buses, trains and even certain airlines can fit into any student's budget if booked enough in advanced. Check out the Guidebooks & Helpful Links for information about affordable travel options.
Perks of the Program & Living in London
One of the benefits of studying at Lawrence's London Centre are all of the perks included in your program. These perks include:
- Free tickets to theatre shows and concerts
- Free tickets to rugby, football, or horse racing (events vary each term)
- Free day trip outside of London
- Free walks and inside look of the city
- Free museum visits
- A membership to the University College London student union. This includes access to their cafes and dining facilities. You can also get a gym membership there for a discounted rate as well as join any of the clubs and sports teams offered. Some sports teams may require an extra fee so it can be helpful to research your sport of interest in advance. Check out more information about the student union here.
Londoners themselves take advantage of different ways to save money through the free museums throughout the city as well as asking about student concessions (discounts) and reading about free happenings in the city on the TimeOut website.