Living in the UK

Big Ben
London is a bustling cosmopolitan city, home to people of many cultures, faiths and backgrounds. As well as getting to know London and UK culture, as a student you will need to consider more practical needs, such as banking, insurance and healthcare.

The RCM’s Student Services team is here to ensure you settle in quickly and make the most of your time in London.

When you first arrive in the UK you may notice differences in the way people behave, speak, eat and dress. It can take a little time to adapt to these differences. The British Council’s Study UK website provides a useful guide for international students to life in the UK. It includes information about the weather, clothing, food and drink, language, religion, etiquette, and information for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

Visit the British Council's Study UK website

We advise all international applicants to budget for additional expenses such as overseas travel. This is particularly useful for getting home in an emergency.

The Royal College of Music’s hall of residence, Prince Consort Village, provides high-quality accommodation for just over 400 students in all years of study.

Lots of RCM students choose to live in privately rented accommodation instead. London has a large rental market offering a range of properties in locations across the city.

Find out more about accommodation

Living Costs

We cannot say exactly how much money students need while studying at the RCM. Different students have different needs, preferences and live different lifestyles.

We estimate that most RCM students will need to budget at least £12,500 per year in living costs. Many students will need more than this.

Students who require a Student visa must show they have sufficient funds to support themselves. If you are a Student visa applicant you need to prove you have at least £1,334 per month (£12,006 per academic year) available for living expenses for your first 9 months in the UK as part of the visa application process. Note that the Home Office is expected to increase the maintenance requirement for visa applicants for students in the near future.

We advise all international applicants to budget for additional expenses such as overseas travel. This is particularly useful for getting home in an emergency.

Money & banking

The currency in the UK is the British Pound (GBP), which is also called sterling. Cash is accepted almost everywhere, but not on London Buses.

Cash machines are widely available in London and in other towns, but can be harder to find in rural areas. Most let you draw money without a fee. A message will be clearly displayed before you make a withdrawal if a fee is charged.

Card payments are widely accepted, including contactless payment. You may be charged a fee if you use a card from your home country. This will depend on the conditions set by your bank or card provider.

Cheques are rarely used, but banks and a limited number of retailers will accept them.

When you arrive in the UK, you should have a minimum of £100 in cash for your immediate needs, such as meals and train fares.

Banks in the UK are usually open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Some branches are also open on Saturday mornings. You can change currency and cash travellers’ cheques at bureau de change offices which are open for longer.

Shops and services in the UK will normally accept payment in UK currency only. Credit cards are accepted in most places.

Before you leave your home country, you should:

  • Speak to your bank and ask their advice about opening an account in the UK.
  • Find out if your bank has a special relationship with a bank in the UK, which may make it easier to open an account.
  • Check if you can use a cash card from your home country to withdraw cash from UK cash machines, as you may need this until you sort out your UK account.
  • Ask what charges apply for using your card in the UK.

To open a UK bank account, you will normally need the following:

  • Your passport or national ID card.
  • If you are a visa holder, your visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
  • A letter from the RCM confirming: that you are fully enrolled, the length of your course, your home address and your address in London. You can submit a request to the Registry through the RCM's virtual learning environment, learn.rcm, which you will be able to access once you have registered. Please allow at least three working days for the completion of this letter, especially at the start of the academic year.

Please note that we cannot issue a letter to confirm your enrolment until after new student check-in. If you have any queries, please contact the Registry team.


London is generally a safe city, provided you use your common sense, as you would in any major city. There are simple things you can do to keep yourself and your belongings safe. Do not walk around with your handbag open or your wallet in your back pocket, especially in tourist areas, which are targets for pickpockets.

When going out in the evening you should always make sure you take enough money to get home safely and try not to walk around on your own after dark. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and never leave your valuable possessions, such as phones, handbags or instruments, unattended. Leave your passport, visa and/or Biometric Residence Permit safely stored at home unless you need them.

Please be aware that UK laws may differ from those in your home country. It is illegal to carry any sort of weapon including knives, self-defence CS gas sprays, guns and stun guns, even if you do not use them.

Travel & exploration

London is a fantastic, vibrant city with lots to offer. There are lots of tourist attractions, historical monuments, cultural events and festivals you can visit and you can find goods and cuisine from all over the world. The city’s parks, riversides and historic streets are fantastic places to relax, walk and socialise. Often, the best and cheapest way to explore London is on foot or by bike. However, the city is large and longer journeys are best made by public transport.

Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for the local transport system. TfL controls the London Underground, which is also known as ‘the Tube’, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), the London Overground, London Buses and several other transport options. TfL operates a contactless pay-as-you-go scheme, which is cheaper than buying paper tickets on most services, and students on full-time courses lasting more than 14 weeks can apply for an 18+ Student Oystercard. The scheme works with contactless bank cards or mobile payment and Oyster Cards.

Find out more about travelling in London

The UK is a diverse country with lots to offer! London has a unique atmosphere and is very different from the rest of the country. The pace of life outside the capital is generally more relaxed. Make sure you take the opportunity to explore other parts of our beautiful and exciting country.

Full time students qualify for a 16-25 Railcard, giving a 30% discount on rail travel. National Express and Megabus coach services offer tickets at very low prices. 

British Council's guide to exploring the UK

International team

International student enquiries

Student Services

Enquiries relating to student support at the RCM

Registry Team

+44 (0)20 7591 4310

Back to top