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The basics
THE UK: Essentials

Essentials: Maps, apps and finding your way around the UK

Don't get lost in the UK! Read our guide to finding your way around, including what apps can help you.

Finding your way around the UK

In comparison with the majority of the world, the UK is a pretty small country; but despite this, navigating where you need to be without getting lost can cause even the most practical of individuals a considerable amount of difficulty.

In order to make things just that little bit easier, there are a number of ways in which you can make sure your travel around your chosen locality is just that little bit easier...



When you’re looking to accommodate yourself to a new city and you want to do it quickly, investing in a large map of your local area is most definitely worthwhile. Although it isn’t as quick and efficient as using a GPS app or an online journey planner, when reading from a map, your brain processes the knowledge differently, and is more likely to retain this information for a later date. Don't worry about looking like too much of a tourist. Plus you won't have to walk around with an expensive device in the open and be a target for thieves.

If you do decide to purchase a map, it is important that it is an in-detail one that covers all of the local area. The majority of UK households hold a local or national A-Z map which can be purchased either at the A-Z website, or at a local book store for a minimum of £9.95. You may be able to purchase the map from other retailers such as a second hand book store or sites such as Ebay or Amazon for a smaller price, but it is important that you ensure these maps are up-to-date.

Carrying a large map in your bag is highly impractical, so many newsagents and off-licence’s (i.e. small shops) sell maps that can be folded into a smaller and more manageable size. In big cities such as London, these maps are relatively cheap and will also include information about key tourist attractions and public transport. Also in the capital, you'll find maps in the street in key locations like outside of tube stations, which show where you are in relation to key landmarks nearby.

Just mind when you're reading a map in the street that you're not getting in someone else's way!


Online planning and apps

One of the great things about technology is that it simplifies life for those who struggle with directions or don't want to walk around with extra luggage and items. There are currently a number of journey planners available online or to download as an app on your smartphone.

Two such apps and sites that are fantastic to use are the Google Maps Journey Planner and the AA journey planner, particularly if you’re travelling from one city to another. Whereas the AA journey planner specialises in car journeys, Google Maps will not only give you directions for drivers, but also those wishing to use public transport to reach their destination. As long as you have your start address and the address of your final destination, the planner will work out the route you need to take.

Some of the larger cities also have their own online journey planners and apps which are run by their transport provider aiming to help individuals navigate the local area. In Edinburgh Lothian Buses provides an online update for those travelling by public transport which is similar to London’s TFL Journey Planner.


Local knowledge

While having access to maps and apps is great when you’re trying to find your way around the local area, there’s nothing better than asking around for local knowledge. It is also a great way to make friends! During Freshers' Week, you will meet so many people, most of whom will be equally as nervous as you so perhaps suggest that they come exploring with you! Before you know it, there will be a large group of you combing the street looking for interesting places worth noting.

It is also worth noting that many students in the years above you will have already spent their first year exploring and will already have this information to hand from where to get the best student deals to the need-to-know information about the cities short-cuts.

Similarly make sure that you ask lots of questions while you are out and about. The young shop assistant who sold you your text books may know of a perfect little restaurant treasured by locals, while the taxi driver who took you from the airport to your halls may be able to tell you which areas of the city to avoid late at night.

The British often take pride in their local area and are more than willing to showcase its best side to those who are eager for information. They will also have been born and bred either within, or close to your chosen university’s town or city, so they will have access to snippets of information that you won’t find online or in a book.

If you're nervous about asking strangers for advice, read our tips for starting conversations with strangers



Start your journey to studying in the UK - browse popular and highly ranked institutions, read guides and search for courses in the UK.


Read more:

'The British higher education system...simplified'

'Tuition fees in the UK'

'Applying to study in the UK'

'Applying for a UK student visa'

'Student accommodation in the UK'

Study in the UK


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