SOAS University of London

Study Abroad / Exchange Programme at SOAS

Arriving in London

Use these resources to begin planning your first days in London. 

Transportation from the Airport

Your first step will be to travel from the airport to SOAS residences. These brief guidelines are provided as a resource to help you get to SOAS residences from either Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted Airports. You are also encouraged to use the Transport for London or Citymapper London app. 


Taxi travel directly from any of the airports will cost anywhere from £50 to £100; only use an authorised, fully licensed London taxi. 

The Underground/The Tube

If your journey involves the Tube/Underground, you can purchase an Oystercard at any ticket office. This requires a deposit.  

Trains and Buses

Depending on where you are arriving from you may wish to use one of the below transportation links for part of your journey:

Heathrow Express
National Express
Gatwick Express
Stansted Express
National Express

Finding Your Way

To help you navigate your first few days in Central London and around campus, you can view our SOAS campus maps. There are also various apps that you can download to help you to get from place to place. Just make sure that you have all of the relevant postcodes for the SOAS Campus (WC1H 0XG), your accommodation and other places you plan to visit.

Attend Orientation and Welcome Week 

The Study Abroad and Exchange Orientation is part of Welcome Week for September Starters and the day before term begins for January Starters.

In addition to events for all incoming students, there will be special orientation events run by the Study Abroad Coordinator specifically for Study Abroad and Exchange students. You will also meet your Faculty Points of Contact and your Academic Advisors.  You will be provided information about:

  • How to enrol and register for classes
  • Assessment for Study Abroad and Exchange students
  • Your SOAS e-mail account and IT services
  • Welfare services
  • Clubs and Societies
  • The Students’ Union and sports and leisure facilities

Food and Drink

London can be expensive, but SOAS students are thrifty and find ways of living on a budget.  

  • Students Union runs its own on-campus bar and a student shop selling university supplies, snacks, sandwiches and hot/cold drinks. 
  • SOAS refectory serves a range of hot and cold meals, always with a vegetarian option. 
  • The SOAS Food Co-op provides healthy organic food at wholesale prices.
  • The London Farmer's Market comes to Torrington Square (right next to SOAS) every week on Thursdays.  
  • The SOAS Russell Square campus is also host to the Hare Krishna “Food for Life” programme, which serves free lunches to students and passers-by daily (be prepared to queue!).
  • There are grocery stores and supermarket chains almost everywhere you look in London – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Aldi, Waitrose, Costcutter, Co-operative Foods, etc. 

Collect Biometric Residence Permit 

If you are arriving on a Student visa, once you arrive in the UK there are some further steps you will need to take. Please visit Arriving in the UK for further guidance.

Register with a GP (doctor)

It is important to find out how to obtain medical treatment while in the UK. The National Health Service (NHS) is the healthcare system in the UK and is primarily funded through general taxation rather than requiring insurance payments. Some NHS services are free at the point of delivery, others you need to pay for. The following treatment provided by the NHS is free for everyone:

  • accident and emergency services (but not follow-up treatment, or admission as an in-patient to hospital)
  • family planning services
  • diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections
Student studying in the UK for 6 months or less (Visitor visa)

You are strongly advised to obtain private medical insurance as you will be liable for any NHS health services that you use. While you cannot register with a GP (doctor), you can still visit one as a temporary patient if required. This means you can visit a GP for advice and treatment. As you will not have paid the immigration health surcharge, you will need to obtain private medical insurance to ensure you are covered for any medical treatment. You will only have access to primary care (i.e. you cannot be referred to a specialist) or emergency care.

Students studying in the UK for 6 months or more (Student visa holders) 

All non-EU international students coming to study in the UK for six months or more are now required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of their Student visa application. This charges covers the cost of NHS from a GP or hospital. Non-urgent treatments or operations are not covered, however, and you will have to pay a fixed price for any medication you are prescribed.

It is important that you register with a general practitioner (GP) within your first week(s) at SOAS.  You can register with them if you live in one of the local postcodes which they cover, and are registered to a programme that lasts longer than 6 months. 

There is a useful list of nearby doctors and other health information available on the Student Advice and Wellbeing webpage.

More information can be found on the UKCISA Medical Insurance website.  

Set up a Bank Account

Opening a UK bank account is by far the safest and most effective way of managing your money. Upon arrival, many other students will be opening bank accounts so please note that the process can take several weeks to complete. Banks in the UK follow their own rules and identity checks and are quite restrictive in the ways they communicate with customers.  You may need to visit the bank several times, in person, to complete the process. The process of opening a bank account cannot be started until you have arrived and completed your in-person enrolment at SOAS as you will need to request a Confirmation of Enrolment letter from the Registry.  With this in mind, it is important that you bring sufficient funds to cover your initial expenses.  

More information can be found on the SOAS Banking website.

Register for a Student Oyster Card 

Full time SOAS students who are studying for more than 14 weeks (i.e. only full year or term 2/3 students) can apply online for a TfL Student Oyster Photocard which entitles the holder to buy student-rate Travelcards and Bus & Tram Pass season tickets valid for 7 days, one month or longer periods, which cost 30% less than adult-rate season tickets. 

To be eligible for this card you must have fully enrolled on a SOAS programme of study lasting at least 14 weeks, as a full time student and be over 18 years of age. 

You can however buy other railcards that will then give you discounted travel on TfL services.  

More information about this programme, and other student discounts, can be found on the SOAS Travel and other discounts for students website.   

Set up a mobile phone

There are plenty of mobile phone providers and three ways in which you can pay for a mobile phone service in the UK:

  • Pay monthly
  • Pay as you Go
  • SIM only 

Pay as you Go may be more convenient as you will not be tied to a contract.  You can find more information on the  Mobile phone guide for students (pdf; 32kb)  .