Starting a PhD is a significant milestone and can be quite intimidating, especially if you are coming from abroad and moving to a bustling city like London. The excitement of embarking on this new academic journey is often accompanied by the challenges of adapting to a new environment.

Here, we want to share some valuable tips and recommendations to help you plan your move and settle into life in London smoothly. From finding accommodation to navigating the city's public transport, we’ve got you covered. Our goal is to make your transition as seamless as possible so you can focus on your research and enjoy everything this vibrant city has to offer.

Information for new starters

Do you have a query regarding your student finances? Current students' Fees and funding pages are your first port of call.

Also please check our department web pages for more information about opportunities within the Department of Materials:

If you receive a conditional offer from Imperial, it will detail all the requirements you must fulfil before your place can be confirmed. These requirements may include proof of academic qualifications and English language proficiency. You must meet all the conditions specified in your offer before you can register at Imperial.

Check out this webpage for more details: Submit offer conditions | Study | Imperial College London

Please, check out the Imperial College ICT website for all the details.

All students must register and enrol online. Online enrolment opens 30 days before your course's start date.

You can find more details at this link: Enrolment | Imperial students | Imperial College London

Once you are enrolled get ready for Day 1 of your PhD in the Materials Department!

Carefully read the Mutual Expectations document, and ensure you discuss this with your supervisor(s) before the start of your PhD.

It is important for you all to be happy as you start this important path together.

Setting up a bank account in the UK can be tricky because you need a permanent address to open an account, and you often can’t rent a flat without one. This is where online banks like Monzo and Revolut come in handy. Setting up an account with one of these online banks is much easier than with larger banks like Barclays or HSBC.

To set up a Monzo or Revolut account, you only need to provide an address where they can send your card. If you have a friend in London, you can use their address, or you can have the card mailed to your current accommodation.

If possible, set up your account before you move so you have a bank account ready by the time you arrive in London. This will make things much easier when renting a flat.

The TransferWise app (now known as Wise) can be a game-changer during your move. You can use it to transfer money from your home bank account to your UK bank account and to transfer the holding deposit to your landlord to secure your flat. The transfer should be quite quick, though this can vary depending on your country and the time you initiate the transfer.

If you don’t plan to stay in Imperial’s postgraduate accommodation, be prepared to act quickly when searching for a flat in London: flats can be taken off the market within a day! 

Here are some useful websites and apps for finding rental accommodations:

  • SpareRoom
  • Rightmove
  • Zoopla
  • OpenRent
  • OnTheMarket
  • Gumtree

You can find more options by searching on Google. Also, don’t hesitate to negotiate the rent, as this is common in London!

An important heads up: if you are a self-funded student without a UK guarantor, you might be asked to pay six months' rent upfront when securing a flat. This is quite common when renting from letting agents and landlords, while it seems less likely if you use Gumtree or SpareRoom.

Have you considered being a sub-warden in one of our student halls? It could be a valuable option to save on your rent while supporting our student community: Halls recruitment | Imperial students | Imperial College London

Finally, check out the webpage below for more tips on finding accommodation in London:

Accommodation | Imperial students | Imperial College London

  • Take time to settle in before starting your PhD. If possible, give yourself at least a week to have enough time to recover from any jet lag, set up a bank account, find a place to live, become familiar with your neighbourhood, and why not, take a break before you start!
  • Be proactive and connect with your group members. Why not ask your prospective supervisor to put you in touch with the rest of the group? If you’re moving to London for the first time for your PhD, it can feel quite isolating. That’s why it’s beneficial to connect with a few people from your group before you arrive. Not only will it help you start building relationships with your fellow PhDs and postdocs, but they’ll also be happy to share their personal tips and tricks. This support can make a big difference as you prepare for your move to London and the start of your PhD.
  • Make the most of Student Discounts! First, sign up for UNiDAYS to access discounts from various stores and restaurants, such as Deliveroo and
    • If you’re renting a flat, ensure you get exempt from paying council tax (you can google the process).
    • If you plan to use the tube or trains regularly, get a student Oyster card and a UK Railcard. A student Oyster card offers discounted tube fares for travel cards (monthly or annual passes), not single rides. A Railcard provides discounted fares for trains outside London (e.g., Oxford, Bath). There are 16-25 and 26-30 Railcards, and while student status isn't required, it’s a useful way to save money if you plan to explore the UK during your time in London.
    • Additionally, many movie theatres and restaurants offer student discounts, so keep an eye out for those too.
  • Check out these game-changing apps! When moving to London, several apps can make your life easier. Here are some recommendations:
    • Citymapper: A core public transport planner for London (and most cities in Europe).
    • Tfl Go: Provides updates on tube services (best used alongside Citymapper).
    • Santander cycle hire: Shows cycle hire and drop-off locations around London.
    • Trainline: Helps you search and book overground and intercity train journeys in the UK and Europe.
    • Google Maps: Useful for navigation, although Citymapper is more accurate for commutes.
    • Bolt: A ride-sharing service that’s cheaper than Uber.
    • Uber: When Bolt isn’t available.
    • FreeNow: Another option for London cabs.
    • TFL Oyster: Easily top up your Oyster card if you have a railcard.