Skip to main content
Solent Unviersity Southampton logo
Solent Unviersity Southampton logo

Depending on where in the world you are arriving from, life in the UK may seem very different to what you are used to. This is sometime called 'culture shock' and is a perfectly normal reaction to moving abroad.

This simple guide should help to give you an idea of what will need to be considered as part of your move, helping you settle in as quickly and comfortably as possible.

It covers essential topics like accommodation and banking, as well as things you may not have considered like climate, communications and emergency support.

Unless you've already planned and booked your accommodation at the time of starting your studies, we recommend you have accommodation for the first week of your stay in the UK.

Please note that the Southampton International Boat Show usually takes place mid-September. Southampton is very busy at this time and hotel accommodation is impossible to find unless you have made prior arrangements. You can find more information about events happening in the city, as well as hotel accommodation at the Southampton Tourist Information Centre:

Further information on student accommodation can be found in our accommodation section, which also includes accommodation in the private sector.

'Right to Rent' Act implemented

Since February 2016, international students who do not live in halls of residence or in purpose-built student accommodation have to prove their immigration status to their landlord to show that they have the 'right to rent'.

Find out more about the right to rent act, and what this means

Council tax

Council tax is a property-based tax set by local authorities (councils) in England, Scotland and Wales to help pay for services that they provide, such as libraries, the police and fire brigade. If you live in University halls or a house occupied solely by full-time students, you'll be exempt from paying council tax. You can get a council tax exemption certificate from your school office once you have enrolled at the University.

Read more about council tax and international students

Banks are usually open 9.30am - 4.30pm Monday to Friday, and some may open on a Saturday morning. They shut on public holidays.

The major UK banks with branches in Southampton are:

If you're considering studying in the UK and you have children, it is possible for them to stay during the duration of your stay in the UK, provided they are under the age of 18 when they first enter the UK.

The Children and Young People's Information Service (CYPIS) give advice and support to parents and will be able to provide you with information regarding local nurseries and pre-schools in the area. Their contact details are:

Telephone: 0800 169 8833
Opening hours: 8.30am - 4.30pm

Note for Tier 4 students

As a Tier 4 student, you will not be able to claim public funds for help towards childcare costs. The UK immigration rules for students state you must meet the full costs of your course and accommodation and maintain yourself and any family members in the UK without having recourse to public funds.

You should therefore make sure you have enough money to cover living costs, course costs and child care costs. Solent University does not provide any assistance for international students' childcare costs and students are expected to have made adequate provision for the cost of childcare when accepting a place on a course.

Find out more

The University's disability support service aims to remove barriers and enable students to enjoy the full use of all facilities at Solent.

Read more about disability support

You must hold a valid driving licence to drive in Great Britain (GB). For further information on the validity of driving licences issued outside Great Britain, please refer to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website or the UKCISA guidance on driving in England, Scotland and Wales.

The UK has very strict regulations regarding the possession of drugs. The possession of drugs, other than those available from a pharmacist or legally prescribed, is a serious offence and can result in imprisonment or deportation.

British electricity works on 240 volts/50 cycles and most sockets take 13 amp square pin fused plugs. If you're bringing your own electrical equipment with you, make sure they can be safely used on this voltage, otherwise you will require an adaptor.

In case of emergency where an immediate response is required, you should dial 999. This is the UK's emergency number for the police, fire brigade or ambulance services.

You can also dial 101 to contact the police in non-emergency situations where immediate attendance is not required.

It is recommended that students work no more than 15 hours per week part-time so that their studies are not adversely affected.

Find out more about working in the UK

Solent Futures

Solent Futures is dedicated to helping you at every stage of your career planning, and offers advice on job seeking, vacancies, work experience, working abroad and voluntary positions.

Read more about Solent Futures

Working at Solent University

If you're a student at Solent University you have the opportunity to earn a minimum of £6.44 per hour working part-time on campus. The variety of jobs on offer is almost endless, and offers opportunities from working in the library to helping out at university open days, or at graduation ceremonies. All campus job opportunities are listed on our jobs dashboard.

National Insurance number and income tax

If you work in the UK, you'll need a National Insurance number. However you do not need to have one in order to start working.

For full details on how to apply for a National Insurance number, how much tax you can expect to pay, and how to claim tax back, visit the HMRC website.

Working after your studies

If you're an international student with a Tier 4 visa, you can work full-time during an official University holiday, or after successful completion of your course (CAS end date). There are a number of schemes that allow international students to stay on and work after their studies. You can explore your options on the UKCISA website, or speak to our international student adviser in the Student Hub.

If you're applying to bring your spouse or children with you as dependants, the immigration authorities will normally give them permission to remain in the UK in line with your leave entitlement.

You should think carefully before deciding to bring your family with you to the UK. There are important factors you will need to consider, such as immigration, employment, childcare, schooling, finance and accommodation.

See our visas and immigration page for more information about bringing your family to the UK

Living in the UK can be more costly than living in your country. Therefore, it's essential you work out a budget when planning to come and study in the UK. It's very difficult to estimate an individual's living costs as we all have different lifestyle requirements and spending habits.

UKCISA and Brightside have teamed up to create an online tool to help international students plan and budget their finance to study in the UK. Why not have a go at using the international student calculator.

Read more about living costs

It's illegal to carry firearms in the UK and strict regulations apply to the importation and ownership of any weapon. It's also illegal to carry offensive weapons, such as knives, in the street.

If you are from within the EU/EEA, you should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as evidence that you are entitled to reciprocal healthcare provided by the NHS while studying in the UK. The EHIC will only cover you if it has been issued by the authorities in your country of residence, before you travel to the UK. Please note, you will still be liable for charges made under the NHS for medicines (prescriptions), eye care and dental treatment.

Read more about the EHIC

Non EU/EEA nationals

If you are from outside the EU/EEA and your course lasts for more than six months you are entitled to full healthcare under the NHS from the beginning of your stay, as long as you have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of your Tier 4 visa application.

If your course lasts less than six months, you should take out private healthcare insurance (unless you are a national of a country that has a reciprocal health agreement with the UK).

Registering with a doctor

When you have enrolled at the University you will need to register with a doctor. Most students, if living in halls, choose to register with St Mary's Surgery. If you are in private accommodation, a list of other doctors willing to register students is available from the Student Hub.

Medical/health insurance

Students coming to the UK for a course of six months or more are required to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge as part of their visa application. By doing so, you are entitled to receive full health care provided by the National Health Service (NHS), on the same basis as other UK residents, from the day of your arrival in the UK. You should be aware that the NHS charges for medicines, eye care and dental treatment.

Access to the NHS is limited for study under six months on a Tier 4 visa and for anyone coming on visitor visas, including short-term study visas. We strongly advise students in this situation to purchase private medical insurance before coming to the UK.

Personal possessions insurance

You are strongly advised to insure your personal belongings against theft, loss and damage before coming to the UK. Many companies specialise in low-cost insurance for students. We are unable to recommend any particular company, therefore, it is advisable to shop around for the most competitive quote.

To help you get to and around the campus, we have a number of links to zoomable maps and pdf maps. You can also find us on Google Maps.

The largest telephone company in the UK is British Telecom (BT). Public BT payphones accept coins to the value of £2, £1, 50p and 20p. Some payphones accept pre-paid phonecards as well as coins; these vary in value and can be bought at post offices and shops displaying a phonecard sign.

International calls can be made from all payphones; you'll need at least £1 to make an international direct-dialled call. A number of companies offer international calls at cheaper rates than those operated by BT so it's advisable to shop around for the best deal.

It's cheaper to make telephone calls between the hours of 6pm and 8am, Monday to Friday, or all day Saturday and Sunday. A number of payphones can be found in each of the halls of residence and across the campus.

Mobile phones

The main mobile/cellular networks in the UK are: O2, Vodafone and EE. They are available on a contract or 'pay-as-you-go' basis and there are hundreds of different tariffs. It is advisable to shop around to get the best deal and find the appropriate phone and tariff for your needs.

If you need to use your mobile or a landline phone to call home, there are many comparison websites which can provide you will the most up-to-date information on the cheapest international call plans.

To help you find the best broadband, TV and phone packages, you can use price comparison websites such as In addition to providing you with a comparison service, they can also offer a guides on how to save money when calling abroad from the UK

Students (except those from Commonwealth or EEA countries, USA and Japan) who intend to stay in the UK longer than six months are required to register with the police upon arrival. Book your place during the international welcome week or make your own way to the police headquarters to register your details. Information and directions are available from the international advice team.

Read more about police registration

Regardless of your faith, the University's multi-faith centre provides support to students in an inclusive and non-judgemental environment.

Read more about the multi-faith centre


Choose a freight company that has a good reputation; ask friends, your international adviser or consult the British Association of Removers for recommendations.

Firstly, obtain quotations for the cost of sending goods before deciding on a particular freight company. Check if the price includes insurance to cover any loss or breakages. The freight company will usually need three days' notice to deliver your empty export boxes and three days' notice to collect the full boxes when packed and ready to ship.

You'll need to label the freight with your full name, address and telephone number in your home country on each box, and you also need to number the boxes.


Whether you live in halls of residence or in private accommodation, remember that your contract is usually for a 40-week period. It's therefore important to find out where you'll store your possessions during the summer holiday if you are coming back to study the following academic year. The accommodation office does not provide any storage facility.

If you're renting in the private sector, you will need to discuss your options with your landlords, should you decide to stay in the same place. Otherwise, you may need to consider a storage company.

Most shops are open between 9am and 5.30pm, Monday-Saturday, and until 9pm on Thursdays for 'late-night' shopping. Some are open on Sundays between 10am and 4pm.

Supermarkets are usually open until 8pm but some larger stores are open 24 hours from Monday to Friday. Information on local supermarkets will be available during the induction programme.

The University's on-campus newsagent, C-Store, sells a range of soft drinks, confectionery, newspapers and magazines. Solent's student-run store, RE:SO sells clothing, accessories, art and gifts designed and produced by students and graduates of the University.

If you're living in a student residence or alone and you own a TV or other device to receive and record TV programmes, you are required by law to hold a valid TV Licence. 

Shared house

If you live in a shared house, a separate tenancy agreement (contract) would normally mean your room is classified as a separately occupied place. If you have a television in your room, you will need your own TV Licence.

If your house is classed as one place shared by all tenants, you will only need one TV licence for the property. A joint tenancy agreement (contract) would normally indicate that there is only one separately occupied place.

The charge for the TV Licence is £154.50 for a colour licence. You will need to renew your licence every year. It is a criminal offence to watch TV without a licence and could lead to prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

For more information on TV Licences visit

Solent University is located in the heart of the city which makes it an ideal place to live. For that reason, you may not need to use public transport very often while studying with us. However, if you do, there are two main bus companies in Southampton: Bluestar and First.

If you decide to visit places outside of Southampton, you can either use South West Trains or National Express coaches.     

You can buy rail and coach cards from local ticket offices.

These cards can enable you to save between 20% and 30% on many normal adult fares, but check conditions before purchasing.

International Student Identity Card (ISIC)

The International Student Identity Card can be purchased. This card enables you to obtain reduced fares plus a variety of student discounts when you travel abroad.

You will need passport-sized photographs when purchasing any of these.

The British weather is changeable and the winter months can be very cold. The temperature can also vary considerably within one day.

In September, Southampton has a temperature variation of between 9ºC and 22ºC. It's advisable to bring warm, waterproof clothing with you as many students find the climate very cold, although warm clothing can be purchased from a wide selection of stores.

The coldest months of the year are usually January and February, with an average temperature of 4ºC; July and August are usually the warmest months, with an average temperature of 18ºC.

Whilst studying in Southampton, many students wish to travel to other countries for recreational or study-related trips.

You should check with the embassy/consulate of the country you wish to visit whether someone of your nationality requires a visa to travel there.

You may experience difficulties obtaining a visa if you apply to travel towards the end of your studies in the UK. Many European embassies/consulates expect students to have between two and six months' leave to remain in the UK beyond the term of their proposed trip.Therefore, it's advisable for you to travel during the holidays (such as Christmas, Easter) before the end of your course.

Keep in touch

If you would like to stay in touch with us, please complete the form below. We will keep you up-to-date with all things Solent, from information about our industry-focused courses to hints and tips about the application process.

Back to top