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THE UK: Essentials - Must read

Essentials: What to pack for the UK

What should you be packing for the UK? Read our checklist of what you should bring and what you can leave at home...

Suitcase Contents

So you’ve been accepted by a British institution; you’ve been granted entry to the UK; and you have a place to live; now all that’s left to do is pack your bags and board the plane to the UK. But whilst it’s exciting to condense your life into a suitcase and set off across the world, it’s important you pack strategically to help you settle in as smoothly as possible.


Choosing what to bring can be difficult, but you have to remember not to get too sentimental: you have limited luggage space and you need to use it wisely. Let our rundown of some essential packing Do’s and Don’ts help get you started...


Before you start packing...

Check with the airline you're flying with what the luggage limitations and restrictions are. You should weigh your bags at home so you're not carrying too much. Also, take care to ensure you're not bringing any sharp objects or liquids in your hand luggage (liquids in your hand luggage must be in small quantities of 100ml and in see-through bottles). Read the UK government's full rules for what you can bring with you when you fly into the country.


DO pack...

Clothing basics

While you will be able to buy new clothes in the UK, this can be unnecessarily costly unless you pack smart. It will be the end of summer/beginning of autumn in the UK if you’re arriving in September, so pack appropriate clothing. This will include a warm winter coat, cardigans, jumpers and boots. You can still pack a few clothing items for warmer weather which may be sticking around from summer. Any other clothing for the rest of the academic year, you can buy or pick up from home when you’re back for Christmas.



In addition to money in your bank on which you’ll be surviving while studying abroad, you should make sure you have a reasonable amount of cash on you in pound sterling when you arrive. Things like single bus or taxi fares, quick meals or drinks can sometimes only be paid for in cash unless you want to incur charges; and trudging through an airport arrivals terminal looking for an ATM will be the last thing you’ll want to do when arriving in your host country. We would recommend having about £150-£200 in cash on you when you arrive depending on your plans and circumstances (e.g. Do you have a place to stay immediately? How long until you can access further funds from your bank, or set up a UK bank account?). Keep this cash on your body at all time, ideally in a small purse or money pouch which you must keep an eye on.

Find out why you should arrange your bank account before you arrive in a new country


Travel adaptor

UK power sockets require unique plugs that you will need to buy a power adaptor to use. You can always buy this when you land. However these will be much more expensive at an airport and you’ll want to have a fully-charged, working phone/laptop/tablet/shaver at your disposal to help you settle in. In fact, remember to pack adaptors and accessories for your devices; if you have important documents regarding your immigration status or you simply need to let your family know that you’ve arrived, you’ll need your devices to be fully charged.



Important documents

You should always take the extra precaution of making copies of all your important academic, visa, passport, travel and identification documents, and storing them in a safe place. Keep them in a plastic pocket or folder in your carry-on luggage whilst you travel so that you can access and produce them at a moment’s notice, and to prevent them getting lost in transit. You should also always make digital copies of all documents if for some reason your paper copies are unusable; you can use a storage system like Dropbox or Google Drive for this.


LEAVE behind...

Cooking equipment and bedding

Pots, pans, crockery and bedding are heavy and can all be bought once you arrive. Sometimes your new accommodation will provide these things for you, while in others you’ll be able to purchase it when you land as a pack. If possible, get in touch with your future housemates and arrange to share the costs once you arrive. Many institutions will also offer deals at local shops where you can buy these items, or even have full packs with everything you’ll need when you get to campus.



Sentimental items

Whilst it’s important you feel at home in your new country, filling up your new room with too many tokens of home is unnecessarily sentimental and impractical. Bring a few photos and sentimental items but not much more than that: leave yourself space to make new memories (a tip for helping with culture shock), as well as space in your luggage for things you might actually need. There are ways to make your new room feel like home without cluttering it with photo frames and trinkets: why not buy a warm-coloured lamp shade or a string of fairy lights to personalise your space and create a comforting ambience so your housing feels more like a home? And for pictures, buy an electronic photo-frame which can display many photos.



Books & DVDs

There is no doubt that your university will have a library and services that will help you locate and purchase all the books you’ll need for your studies. Books are heavy and will take up space. You can buy all the books you need through Amazon and other online retailers, as well as through campus bookshops. You can also access them online and through your campus (or off-campus) library. Bring a book or two with you to read on the plane (on a tablet or e-reader if you have one) but once you’ve arrived in your new home, buy them or get them from the library. Of course, if you need to start reading in the weeks before you arrive, you can’t work around this.


On a similar note, do you need to bring all your DVDs? They may not even be the correct region and thus unplayable in another country. Bring a few but bring the rest of your TV & Film collection on a hard-drive, or just sign up to a streaming service like Netflix. However hopefully you’ll be out making new friends and NOT inside on your own watching films.


Read more:

’Before you leave home: International students’ checklist’

'40 Questions international students should ask before leaving home'

'The essential travelling-home-for-the-holidays checklist'


Study in the UK


'Study in the UK' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the UK into one handy digital book.

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