This section is given for guidance only.  Some things may seem obvious, or you may already know them, but please read through to be certain!


Money and Numbering

The unit of currency is pounds sterling (GBP).  The symbol is £ and is generally placed before the numbers, e.g. £2.10.  At current exchange rates* £1 is equal to approximately EUR 1.33 or USD 1.50.

A full stop is used to indicate a decimal and a comma is used as a separator for large numbers, e.g. 10,001.2 is ten thousand and one point two.

If you wish to open a bank account you will need to provide proof of identity and proof of your UK address.  Check with your intended bank to confirm what they will accept.  Most banks will not accept exchange students who are staying for less than six months.



Mains electricity is supplied at 230V / 50Hz.  Electrical sockets are three-pin rectangular design.  2-pin Europlugs will NOT fit UK sockets without an adaptor.  You can see what a UK plug looks like by clicking here.

You can sometimes find shaving sockets in certain bathrooms.  These will usually offer 230V or 115V, and accept most two-pin plugs, including Europlugs, Australian, and two-pin US.


Healthcare and Emergencies

In an emergency, dial 999 or 112 for free from any phone.  This number is for emergencies only.  These numbers can be used to contact the police, ambulance service, fire service, or coastguard.  For police non-emergencies, dial 101.  For medical non-emergencies, dial 111.  These numbers are usually charged at the same rate as a local call, but may cost more from a UK mobile or considerably more from a foreign mobile.

EU citizens with an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) can generally get treatment for free at any NHS (National Health Service) hospital, or doctors' surgery.  Others are strongly advised to ensure they have insurance that will cover them for health care whilst in the UK.

Prescription medications are free in Wales and Scotland, but are subject to a fixed fee in England.


Driving / Roads

Remember: in the UK, vehicles drive on the left, and speed limits are given in miles per hour.  The national speed limit for cars, which generally applies unless otherwise indicated, is 30mph (~50km/h) in urban areas, 60mph (~100km/h) on single carriageways, and 70mph (~115km/h) on dual carriageways and motorways.  Speed cameras, including average speed cameras, are commonly used on UK roads, and the minimum penalty for speeding is a £60 fine and 3 penalty points.

The alcohol limit for driving in England and Wales is 35 micrograms of alcohol per l00ml of breath, or 80mg per 100ml of blood.  In Scotland the limits are 22µg of alcohol per 100ml of breath, or 50mg per 100ml of blood.  The maximum penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is six months imprisonment, a £5000 fine, and a three-year driving ban.  It is also an offence to refuse to provide a specimen, and this carries exactly the same maximum penalty.

You must have insurance to drive on the road in the UK.  The maximum penalty for driving without insurance is £5000 and a driving ban.  Your car may also be seized.

If you do not hold a British driving licence, you must carry your licence with you at all times whilst driving.  Click here to check what restrictions apply, if any.  Please note that this link applies to England, Scotland and Wales; if you are drivng in Northern Ireland, click here to see the licensing restrictions that apply to you.



By default, UK computers use the British QWERTY keyboard layout.  If you are not familiar with this layout, you may want to strongly consider bringing your own laptop and/or a USB keyboard of your preferred layout to plug in to public computers.


Television and TV Licensing

All television in the UK is now via digital, satellite, or cable.  There are many subscription TV services, including Sky and Virgin Media, however you can also watch over 100 channels without subscription using a regular TV and aerial.

If you have a television anywhere in your house, or you use any device (such as a computer) to watch live TV, you must have a TV licence.  Go to to find out more about TV licensing.


Alcohol, Tobacco and Drugs

The legal age to purchase alcohol and tobacco in the UK is 18.  It is illegal to smoke in any indoor public place, including all bars and clubs, railway stations, etc.  Other drugs, including cannabis and marijuana, are illegal in the UK.


* last updated 30 January 2015