The student experience is not all reading and writing. There should be plenty of time for fun too. For international students in the UK, part of that fun is getting to be a tourist. Finding enough money lying behind the sofa cushions to fund trips is not always going to happen.
You may already have in mind some of the ‘go to’ destinations you want to visit but those trips might be a little too hard on the purse. To avoid an aching wallet, the first thing to note: avoid London. The UK is a surprisingly big place. Almost seventy million people live on its isles and although London, as a ‘so called’ world city, attracts almost seventeen million visitors yearly, there are plenty of cool things happening outside the capital. Below we will touch on three great cities. The UK has a lot to offer, even if you are on a budget.
Try Manchester, the largest city in the north of England. Manchester is home to a whole plethora of arts and culture sites. So, London has the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, and the Natural History Museum. Big deal. If these kinds of cultural exhibitions are what you’re after, Manchester has more than its fair share to offer. The Museum of Science and Industry offers both interactive and non-interactive exhibits; Patrons walk through a human love affair with science, industry and the historic relationship between the two.
And, the art. The recently reopened, and stunningly re-imagined, Whitworth Gallery holds a permanent collection of more than 60,000 works by artists as formidable and wide-ranging as J.M. Turner, Millais Rossetti and, more contemporary figures like Sickert Epstein. Suffice to say, there is plenty of art in Manchester.
If Manchester’s diversity of museums doesn’t wet your whistle, Bristol will. If you fancy something a bit different from a bog standard city trip, then Bristol is the one. A Ferry boat trip down Bristol’s waterways is a must. They are relatively inexpensive. Tours of the City Docks come in somewhere shy of seven pounds per person. The city also lays claim to the coolest graffiti murals in the UK and a bustling youth and bar culture you are bound to fall in love. And, if all that wasn’t enough, it has a huge zoo too.
Lastly, check out Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast. There you can take in a show at the gorgeous Grand Opera House, visit the Titanic Belfast, ‘the world’s largest titanic visitor attraction,’ or, do as the Northern Irish do, and have a good drink. Boasting some of the most beautiful pubs and bars the world has to offer, if there was anywhere one should find himself falling off a stool, after drinking a little too much, it would be Belfast.
Cutting down the Cost of Transport
Suffice to say, there is a diversity of culture throughout the UK’s cities and they span the country’s length and breadth. With regard to cost, it doesn’t have to be too expensive. Firstly, make sure to get the bus. Megabus is your new best friend. As an example, tickets from London Victoria to Manchester, purchased weeks in advance, should not cost more than fifteen pounds for a return and additional discounts are offered to students who hold an NUS Extra card. So, make sure to get one. Travelling by bus does have its many downsides. Apart from being uncomfortable and sometimes a little stuffy, journey times are very long. It isn’t uncommon for that London to Manchester trip to take four or so hours. If that sounds like hell, and you are thinking ‘who cares if they are cheap, that sounds awful,’ fear not. There is always the train.
Train travel throughout Britain is a relatively expensive form of transport but if you book early, and you make sure to take advantage of your status as a student by getting a student railcard (this entitles you to a third off from your tickets), you should be able to grab some cheap inter-city train tickets. If neither the bus nor the train takes your fancy, and you don’t have access to a car, there is always Blablacar. Blablacar is a social network of car-poolers, all waiting to pick you up on the way to where they are going. You just log on, pick a driver that is travelling to a place you want to go, and pay a small fee for the driver’s trouble. Pretty neat.
Of course, travel to Belfast will be a little more difficult. Megabus and other bus services do offer cheap returns to Belfast, but the quickest, and often the cheapest option is to fly. From any of the UK’s major airports, flights to Belfast - again, so long as they are booked far enough in advance – can be bought for anywhere between forty and a hundred pounds.
For more information on studying in the UK, click here.