Best student cities: London
A major bonus for those studying in London is the extra programming that top universities regularly offer students. King’s College London, for example, screens films on campus multiple nights of the week. Many of the nightlife locales that surround the city’s campuses also cater to the nearby student population, hosting concerts and throwing costumed or theme parties that are well advertised and require a student ID to purchase tickets. Student unions also serve as a go-to source for getting involved with activities on and off campus and finding out about events. One example is the University of London Union, which includes student sports teams and faith organisations under its umbrella and even runs a pub for students.
Other iconic establishments like the National Theatre by Waterloo Bridge in the South Bank offers students discounted tickets to see classic dramas and contemporary plays. Catching a show last-minute at Shakespeare’s famed Globe Theatre can be done on the cheap by choosing one of the standing-room-only spots available for every show. Students who are more discerning about their seats should head to the TKTS ticket booth in Leicester Square for half-price tickets for hot West End shows on the day of the performance, though a select number of discounted advance tickets also are available.
Ever bargain-savvy, many students slip into the free, open-to-the-public previews of high-end contemporary art sales to take in works like the Phillips de Pury collection even if they are likely not yet in a position to purchase. Other events that attract masses of students are the numerous gratis festivals that take place throughout the year in public parks, such as the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland festival.
With seemingly every type of establishment offering some deal for students, including the Tower of London, all learn quickly to take their student ID with them everywhere. Museum access across the city is free for all, and many students also take advantage of the free film screenings and monthly parties they offer. Even fast food restaurants recognise the business opportunity -- McDonald’s offers those bearing a student ID an extra perk like an additional burger or ice cream with the purchase of a meal.
The Oyster Card, a reloadable card that works for Tube, bus and tram tickets, is what many consider the ultimate student discount -- 30% discount. Most study abroad programs help students arrange the card ahead of time, but information also is available on the London transportation site.
Furthermore, student unions in the UK are very active and membership offers advantages. All are grouped under the umbrella organization the National Union of Students (NUS), which offers a student discount card called NUS extra for £12 for a year. Discounts include retail, food, entertainment and travel, and many students consider the card a valuable investment.
London is well situated for jaunts outside the city. The impressive prehistoric monument of Stonehenge in Wiltshire is a popular destination, as is the city of Bath, where ancient Roman baths sit right in the middle of the city. Many students also take the opportunity to visit other standout student destinations, such as Cambridge and Oxford. Many bus tour companies like National Express, Arriva and Megabus offer budget-friendly tours that stop at popular destinations like Windsor, York, Stonehenge and Bath. For those blessed with sunny, summery weather, the coastal town of Brighton also beckons beach-seeking daytrippers.
Travelling on a budget
Transit can get pricey in London, but a discounted Oyster Card certainly helps. The city is also fairly easy to traverse on foot, and for longer distances and a bit of exercise, many rent bikes through Barclays Cycle Hire at docking stations scattered across London starting at just £1. Some universities like University East London provide rental bikes to students independent of the city programme.