Living in London as an Irish Student

Firstly, the whole time I lived in London I never opened a UK bank account. This was because they will not let you open a student account if you are only living + studying there for less than 2 years. This means you’ll have to pay quarterly and transaction fees on this bank account (while also paying this on your Irish bank account) and it is difficult to close your bank account with them. For this reason, I kept my Irish bank account, would take out a lump sum of cash and only use this.

Secondly, the charges you pay on your Irish card can be huge! They are different depending on what bank you are with, and of course me being me, I was with the worst one for charges – Permanent TSB. Sometimes, I would take out money and they would charge me an extra €11 on top of that!

Permanent TSB can be anything from €0.46 – €11.43

AIB can be anything from €0.45 – €11

BOI can be up to €11.43

Ulster Bank can be anything from €0.25 – €6

KBC can be anything from €0.46 – €11.43

This is something I never would have given any thought until I noticed all the charges from my account. So it is good to look into especially the percentage your bank takes from your transaction because that determines how high the amount will be. PTSB charge is 1.75%

Next, I will speak about budgeting. This is very important as a student. Obviously, whatever supermarket is closest to you is going to be the one you use most. Nearest where I lived there was a big Tesco in a shopping park that also had a poundland, but beside my uni – there was Morrison’s, Lidl and Sainsbury’s! The campus where I had classes was beside Westfield Stratford and Stratford centre so this made it useful if I needed to pick up a few bits. If you’re on a tight budget for your weekly shop, Tesco has the best prices for its own brand stuff. Also, while you’re checking out it automatically checks if what you’re buying would be cheaper in a different supermarket and it doesn’t charge you the difference! So I really found Tesco the best for price and selection! Tesco value chicken nuggets were a staple lol.

Personally, night outs weren’t important or even really that desired by me because the stress of everything else was too much and I knew I’d be putting more stress on myself by spending money on Ubers and drinks and club entry. Most universities have a uni bar/club on campus as part of the student union. They usually do free entry until a certain time and super cheap drink! Ours was very small, but it was great just to go and dance crazy, have some needed beverages and let go. I went on some night outs there. The student union would also do deals for different clubs around London if this is a priority to you. A very popular nightclub in central is Piccadilly Circus. My university did a deal with a club named Fiction in Essex, and they provided a party bus to and from it. There are ways to do it without spending much:

  • UberPool is cheapest but never get one alone (I feel like they’re so weird and dodge but they’re so common in London especially outside central.)
  • You can check your university social media and SU pages to see what events they have, sometimes they provide a wristband which entitles you a return ride on the party bus, entry and a free drink. Which is pretty good especially the transport. Majority of universities have things like this, I’ve never seen one that hasn’t.
  • Instead of taxis/Ubers, there is the night tube and some 24 hour buses so if this goes to your campus it is much more affordable. Again, I wouldn’t advise going on this alone! Just stay safe, always stay with friends!

– Nothing has ever happened to me or my friends personally in a Uber or on a NightTube, I’m just an extra cautious person! London did feel very safe and staff always present in stations. I don’t mean to scaremonger anyone.-

When not in classes, it is good to find hobbies to do. Universities do always have plenty of societies to join! And the uni bar was open in the daytime for drinks and food. My uni had an amazing gym that some of my friends joined, they did have good rates for students but depending on your membership – you were limited to what times a day you could go.

A hobby for me was carspotting (ig: thelondoncarspotter_), a secret love I adopted from my boyfriend. I will talk more about this in a separate article as I have so many good spots and pictures to include. However, I found it important to mention as it is so important to just get out and do something you enjoy for your mentality. Since I wasn’t a fan of clubbing, I would go do this on a lot of the weekends and I really enjoyed it. I met some great people who would also be car-spotting or car photographers. London is an amazing city for this if there is any supercar lovers. I also liked sight seeing and going on walks around the amazing places in London.

If you are on a tight budget while studying abroad, and you feel like you can’t spend any money so you have to stay in – I completely feel you! Take some Netflix days! But you have to prioritize your mentality. Even over your food shop maybe (but don’t starve!). But there is plenty to do around London where you don’t have to spend money apart from your travel to it. Some free sights and activities would be Hyde Park, all the art galleries, a walk along the Thames, Buckingham palace, Roam around Harrods, Natural History Museum & Science Museum (both just ask for donation to enter – I once gave 50p lol).