In collaboration with the UoE Southern African Society
Coming to the UK as an international student, you’ll be able to set up a bank account. You will need one to pay for your fees, rent, utility bills, etc. Setting up a UK bank account is beneficial, as using your account from overseas will lead to transaction charges. However, it is important to note that you will not be able to create a student account, meaning you won’t have access to benefits such as free railcards or overdrafts.
Setting up a bank account: To set up a bank account in the UK you will need your passport; biometric residency permit; proof of student status (which can be found on MyEd); and proof of address. If you are staying in student accommodation and you don’t have any utility bills in your name, you can find a bank introductory letter in MyEd. Some banks accept this as a proof of student status and proof of address.
Banks in Edinburgh: A large majority of the banks in Edinburgh are international banks and are either accessible across Europe or solely the United Kingdom.
Lloyds Banking Group (RBS, Bank of Scotland, Halifax, etc.)
Al Rayan Bank
The above listed banks offer lower charges on depositing and sending money from abroad. However, please consider all of the pros and cons of the banks before signing up with one. You can find out more about these banks at Save The Student. When opening an account, you will want to set up a current account, as these typically incur no charges up to a set amount.
There are however some alternatives to setting up a traditional bank account. Banks such as Monzo and Revolut are ideal for students who only want one account for both home and university. These accounts have no international charges. These are considered online-only banks and therefore, you will not need to go into a branch to set up your account. However, once again, please weigh up the pros and cons for each bank before making a decision.
Budgeting Applications: There are various applications you can download to help keep track of your daily expenditure whilst being a student. Applications such as Yolt, allow for you to plan how your money is to be spent and notify you when you are reaching your weekly/monthly expenditure for certain categories. If you are entering into student accommodation, utility bills such as electricity and gas, etc. will be included in the fee. Therefore, you don’t have to factor these items into your budget. If you are in catered accommodation, you will not have to factor in the meals included as well, although most catered accommodation only offers breakfast and dinner.
There are also certain apps that allow you to gain student discounts for a wide variety of items. Unidays and Studentbean are the two largest student discount apps that allow for great savings as a student. All you have to do is sign up with your student number once you matriculate. There are also Google Chrome extensions which search for the best discount codes on an item such as Honey. All of these options will allow you to get whatever you want for a fraction of the price so it redefines the idea of a “student budget”.
While at university, it is incredibly important that you register with a doctor, also referred to as a GP (General Practitioner). This will allow you access to the NHS and free public healthcare, which is really important should you get sick or injured at university.
There are many GPs in Edinburgh, and you can explore which you feel is best for your needs and register with them. However, the University of Edinburgh has its own University Health Service, located in Bristo Square, that students can register at. Please note - the University Health Service registers new patients each year, but spaces are limited, so if you cannot register with them, you will have to register with a different doctor in the city.
Registering at a GP is especially important in current times, but being registered will also allow you to meet with a doctor and refill most prescriptions that you may have received in your home country. You can find GP practices here
You can then phone them to find out if they are accepting new patients. It’s not unusual for GP practices to be closed to new patients so it is worth asking when they will re-open to new patients and how the process works. You can also register with a dentist and an optician, should you require those specific services. For more information, see the link below.
If there is a life-threatening emergency, call 999 immediately.
There are a number of resources available to contact when things do not go as planned:
For urgent but not life-threatening medical emergencies call NHS 24 on 111.
The police are contactable at 101 for non-emergencies.
The University’s Security Department can be reached at +44 (0) 131 650 2257.
If you require anonymous and confidential support, please do not hesitate to contact Nightline at +44 (0) 131 557 4444 from 8pm-8am. They are also available online at https://ednightline.com.
The Samaritans are also available when you feel you would like to speak to someone for some emotional support: 116 123 - 24 hours a day. You could also speak to someone via an email, a letter or face-to-face in most branches. For more information please visit www.samaritans.org.
Uber is widely available in Edinburgh and regarded to be safe.
EUSA has a scheme in place with Central Taxis in case you have forgotten your phone, friends, wallet etc, these taxis will get you home and you just have to give your student number (s1234567) - EUSA will send you an email later on how much you owe. Central Taxis are found driving around Edinburgh, but can also be contacted by phone: +44 (0) 131 229 2468.
Renting in Edinburgh
When looking for somewhere to live as a student in Edinburgh it is important to find somewhere that fits your needs as well as your budget! Luckily, there a multiple living options available and here you will find a brief overview housing advice.
Option 1- Private Renting
Private renting from a landlord or letting agent is very popular amongst university students because it is generally cheaper than student accommodation and there is a greater range of options for the type of housing you want.
Here are a couple of links to websites where you can find properties from a variety of letting agents.
TOP TIP: When looking at these websites, have a look at the letting agent companies of the properties that you are interested in and give them a call or look at their website directly. Popular flats will go quickly so if you can get in touch with the letting agents themselves, you might be able to hear about a property more quickly.
Option 2- University Student Accommodation
It is common for students to live in university accommodation (halls) in their first year and the largest accommodation for UoE students is Pollock Halls. However, there are a variety of options for halls and here is a link for you to explore the accommodation that the university provides.
Option 3- Purpose Built Private Student Accommodation
This is student accommodation that is managed by a private company and is often more expensive. However, it can be very convenient as these accommodations usually have a central location and utilities come included in the price.
The EUSA website has a very comprehensive guide to finding accommodation in Edinburgh and the page is linked below if you are looking for some further guidance.
What is Council Tax?
Council Tax is a charge made by local authorities for each property within the area. It helps pay for local services such as schools, libraries and rubbish collection. The amount of council tax you pay depends on a range of factors including the value of the property you live in.
If you are a full-time student then you might not have to pay council tax. Most full-time students are exempt and do not have to pay council tax. You might have to pay if you:
Own your property and rent to other students
If you have to pay Council Tax and you are the only liable person in your home then you may be able to get a 25% single person discount.
If you live in a property where you share facilities with other tenants who are on separate leases to you (e.g. you share a bathroom or kitchen), then your landlord may be the person liable for Council Tax. You should claim your exemption as normal to ensure that you do not get a bill.
If you have to pay Council Tax, then you should organise payment as soon as you can to avoid any issues. If you are paying for a full year then the default is to ask you to pay in 10 instalments, but if you pay by direct debit, you can pay over 12 months. You can also request longer if you are struggling to pay over the time given on your bill.
If you do not need to pay Council Tax, you must apply for an exemption via Edinburgh City Council. https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/discounts-exemptions/student-council-tax-discount/1
Mobile phone contracts
It is important to stay in contact with your friends and family in the UK and abroad. Depending on where you are from, it might be a good and affordable idea to set up a UK phone plan. If you currently have an EEA-based phone plan (EU + Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), then you probably do not have to switch yet - your phone plan will not charge you extra when you are in the UK. This might change in the future if there are changing policies around the UK’s decision to leave the EU (Brexit).
If you are from other parts of the world, then it might be a good idea to set up a UK phone plan. This does not have to be expensive! Three, giffgaff and EE have phone plans that start at £5 a month and can be bought in almost any supermarket or online. Most providers give the option to pay monthly without a contract of 12 or 24 months for SIM only packages.
Wellbeing & Support
It is important that students are supported in all ways.
You will find wellbeing resources and help lines on the back of your student card but
Vice President Welfare
Vice President Welfare leads the development and ever important position of supporting the Students’ Association activity on welfare, diversity, including and equality, student safety, mental and physical health, and wellbeing.
The Advice Place:
The Advice Place is part of EUSA and provides impartial and unjudged advice, whilst listening and offering high quality advice and tailored information. There are lots of different ways to contact the Advice Place from Microsoft Teams appointment, to email.
Currently open for Telephone and Email advice during Covid-19 Lockdown.
Nightline is a Edinburgh University student led support and information service open from 8pm until 8am to ensure support is available at any time. https://ednightline.com
SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health):
SAMH supports adult and young persons mental health and well being across Scotland.
SAMH Information Services: Available 8am-6pm Monday to Friday.
Phone: 0344 800 0550
Edinburgh specific SAMH location:
Redhall Walled Garden
Redhall Walled Garden is open to the public but offers a space of help and support for whomever needs it.
Available: Monday to Friday 9am–4pm
Phone: 0131 443 0946
Breathing Space Scotland offers support for anyone over 16 struggling with anxiety, low mood and depression. Breathing Space Scotland provides a safe and supportive space by listening, providing advice and offering information. http://breathingspace.scot
Call for Free: 0800 83 85 87
Access to Free Period Products:
Sanitary ware and period products have been made free by the Scottish Govt.
These products are available for free on Campus in the locations listed in the link below.
Additionally, there are services to get period products delivered to your door.
Edinburgh has an excellent public transport network that takes passengers all over the city. Its small size means that just about anywhere in the city center is quick and accessible to get to, even by foot - if you’re prepared to walk!
The three main forms of public transport in Edinburgh are buses, trams and public-hire bicycles.
From Edinburgh Airport:
The transport links between Edinburgh Airport and the City Center are criminally good: plenty of options exist to ferry you to plenty of locations in the city.
Buses are by far the cheapest option. A single ticket will cost you £4.50, an open return £7.50, and a Network Day Ticket - allowing you to utilise Edinburgh’s other bus and tram networks - will cost you £10. For more information, please go to https://www.lothianbuses.com/our-services/airport-buses/
Airlink 100 goes to St Andrew’s Square (New Town), and runs every 30 minutes. Average journey time of 30 minutes.
Skylink 300 goes to Suregon’s Hall (Newington - near Central Campus), and runs every 60 minutes. Average journey time of 50 minutes.
Skylink 200 and 400 - go to Leith and Fort Kinnaird respectively.
Trams - Edinburgh has one tram line, but is the most convenient option. Trams run from the airport every 7 minutes, and will take you to Princes Street for £7 https://edinburghtrams.com
Taxis - Edinburgh Airport has a dedicated black-taxi rank outside its arrivals terminal. Taxis are possibly the most expensive option - recommended if you’re travelling with lots of luggage. Alternatively, Uber will also pick you up from the terminal, as will pre-booked taxis such as Capital Cars (0131 777 7777) and Central Taxis (0131 229 2468).
From other airports:
Edinburgh is accessible from a small number of other airports including Glasgow Airport, Dundee Airport and Newcastle Airport. A limited number of bus services run between Edinburgh and these cities, as does a much faster and more efficient train network. For more information, please go to https://www.edinburghairport.com/transport-links/buses-and-coaches, or book train tickets via https://www.thetrainline.com.
From Edinburgh Waverley Station:
Edinburgh Waverley is Edinburgh’s central train station, located in the heart of the city to the northern end of Prince’s Street. Edinburgh Waverley runs trains all over the UK, including to other parts of Scotland and to a small number of London Stations including Euston and King’s Cross - all in less than 5 ½ hours, at reasonable prices should you book in advance (https://www.thetrainline.com/train-times/edinburgh-to-london).
A large number of bus services run either to or near to Edinburgh Waverley along Princes Street. Please consult https://www.lothianbuses.com for more information.
Transport within Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a remarkably small and compact capital city. Virtually everywhere within the city center can be walked.
It takes approx. 10-15 minutes to walk between Pollock Halls and Central Campus (George Square), and approx. 25 minutes between Pollock and King’s Buildings.
Cycling is another easy and reliable option for getting around the city quickly. Second-hand bicycles, ranging from £50-£300+, can be bought at either Soul Cycles (1 Brougham Pl, Edinburgh EH3 9HW - off the Meadows), or the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative (8 Alvanley Terrace, Edinburgh EH9 1DU - off Bruntsfield). If you decide to purchase a bike, we recommend purchasing a suitable, sturdy lock (£20+), as bike thefts are unfortunately commonplace in Edinburgh.
There is also plenty of cycle storage in Edinburgh, both private and on the street. The University offers secure bike stores on all five campuses (Central, King’s Buildings, BioQuarter, Easter Bush and Western General), and at Pollock Halls - enquire at https://www.ed.ac.uk/transport/cycling/facilities/bike-parking
Just Eat Cycles are Edinburhg’s public-hire cycle scheme, offering both pedal and electric bicycles. You can find these red/orange cycles dotted around the city, including at Pollock Halls, and the Central/KB campuses. A very good value student discount is available through the University: for £10, you get 4 months of access, with 10p/minute after 3 minutes of riding on electric bikes, and 5p/minute after 60 minutes of riding on pedal bike (note - a UK phone number is needed). For more information on the student discount, please see https://edinburghcyclehire.com/buy/studentpass. For more information on the cycle scheme, please see https://edinburghcyclehire.com.
Edinburgh’s bus network is extensive, cheap and reliable. Single tickets for all buses, with the exception of Airlink/Skylink buses, are £1.80, and can be paid for with a contactless card (or change - correct change needed).
Network - information about Edinburgh’s bus network can be found at https://www.lothianbuses.com/maps-and-times/network-maps/. The Transport for Edinburgh app, available on both iOS and Android, is the best way to get routes and bus/tram times - https://tfeapp.com. A number of buses run near Pollock Halls including: 2, 3, 5 ,7 , 8, 14, 29, 30, 31, 33, 37, 47, 49, N3, N30, N31, N37, X29, X31 and X37.
King’s Buildings - a number of buses stop at King’s Buildings - please see https://www.ed.ac.uk/transport/travelling-here/kings-buildings/by-bus for more information. A discounted shuttle bus, ferrying students between Central (off Bristo Square) and the King’s Buildings Campus, exists, taking approx. 10 minutes. Note that due to Covid-restricitons, the shuttle bus is currently suspended, and is planned to recommence in Semester 1 2021/22.
Ridacard - if you’re a regular passenger on Lothian Buses, it might be wise to purchase a Ridacard, a good value option that allows unlimited travel 24/7 across the city. It is cheaper than paying for buses every day. Ridacards can be purchased for £510/year with a student discount, or £45/month via Direct Debit. For more information, please see https://www.lothianbuses.com/ridacard/
Night Buses - Lothian buses offers 13 bus routes running through the night, running from midnight to 4:30 AM every day, starting at £3 - please see https://www.lothianbuses.com/our-services/nightbus/ for more information.
Voting & Elections
Although Scotland is part of the UK, the Scottish Parliament is devolved, meaning elected representatives, or MSPs, (Members of the Scottish Parliament) are able to decide on their own policies in certain areas such as health and education. The Scottish Parliament is led by the First Minister (currently Nicola Sturgeon) who leads the party with the most seats (currently the Scottish National Party).
Everyone in Scotland is represented by 8 MSPs. One is a constituency MSP and the other 7 are regional MSPs. When you go to vote, you will receive two ballot papers. One is for you to choose your constituency MSP. The other is for you to choose a political party (or independent candidate) for your region.
The Scottish Election (Franchise and Representation) Act 2020 states that all internationals residing in Scotland can register to vote for local and Scottish Parliament elections. You can do this by registering through the official website https://www.mygov.scot/register-to-vote-scotland/register-to-vote-online.
If an election is called in your home country while you are studying in the UK, and you wish to vote, contact your country's Embassy or Consulate General for advice. An overseas vote may require you to register and vote earlier than normal, so get advice as soon as possible after the election has been called.
The Students’ Association is led by a team of 12. These include 5 elected “Sabbatical Officers” and 7 appointed Trustees. Each year in the Spring, elections take place, so make sure to register online with EUSA.
Whilst Edinburgh may be the capital of Scotland, all international embassies in the UK are based in London. In Scotland, each country is represented by specific consulate generals in Edinburgh. Consulate Generals can assist with all manner of issues ranging from visa applications to emergency assistance from your home country.
For a comprehensive list of consulate generals and their contact details, please click below
Tesco – Nicholson St
Sainsbury – Richmond St
Boots – Princes St/Nicholson St
Superdrug – Nicholson St
Royal Mail Post Office – Forrest Road
Places to Eat:
Annual Events by our Society:
Beer Pong Tournament
Rugby screening, Pear Tree
Socials & Others to come
‘Saffa’ Family Program & Related Events
Other Society Events:
RAG casino night
African Caribbean Society (ACS) Talks
Places of Worship:
Hillson United - Rose Street
Chalmers Church - Morningside
Christian Union - University
Life Church - Newington
Rascals - Bourbon Thursday
‘Juju’s’ Monday - Lulu Club
Three Sisters - Friday/Saturday
Atik - Ice Wednesdays
La Belle Angele
Church - Monthly
John Brash Butchers
The Proper Pioneer
Shebeen Restaurant ($)
Cold Town House
The Standing Order (Wetherspoons)
Pollock Halls (Chancellors/Holland/Lee/Baird/John Burnett are most common)
Salisbury Court (Self-catered)
EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY SOUTHERN AFRICAN SOCIETY (social media links)