Before arriving in Bristol

  1. Before arriving in Bristol
  2. How to get to Bristol - Getting to Bristol by train, plane, car or bus
  3. Public transport in and around Bristol - Getting around Bristol and the UK
  4. The cost of living in Bristol
  5. Save money in Bristol - Tips for living on a student budget in Bristol
  6. Accommodation for students in Bristol - Top tips and advice
  7. Bristol neighborhoods - The most important districts of Bristol
  8. Nightlife in Bristol - Nightclub guide and going out in Bristol
  9. British cuisine - The gastronomy of Britain and traditional dishes
  10. What to do in Bristol
  11. Festivals in Bristol - Festivals and events in Bristol and the South West
  12. Day trips from Bristol - Places to visit and excursions around Bristol
  13. Bristol in 3 days - What to see and do in 3 days

What to pack

As I am sure you will know, England is renowned for wet and cold winters so if you are coming in the first semester of the academic year (September to January) I would definitely recommend packing warm clothes. The colder months are December to March where the weather can sometimes drop below 0°C on the coldest days, with averages of around 4°C. Therefore, I recommend packing a good coat that is both warm and waterproof, some decent boots or shoes that, again, are both warm and waterproof, plus a pair of gloves, a scarf, and a hat for those particularly harsh, cold days. Layers are always a good option here in Britain! Bristol and Britain as a whole are very unpredictable during the Spring/Summer months (April to September), so be prepared for rain and shine during this time - you will see many a rainbow. A combination of shorts, t-shirts, jeans and lightweight jumpers/jackets will be perfect - and a raincoat. Of course, should you forget anything, you can go check out the awesome shopping centres and vintage shops in Bristol to get whatever it is you might need.

If you want to try and save space and/or weight in your suitcase I recommend buying your toiletries here. Boots are a good option for buying toiletries. I wouldn’t say that it is particularly cheap but you can pick up a Boots loyalty card in store and quickly build up points to get some free stuff along the way - what student doesn’t love the word free, hey?

Documents you need

Of course, the most important thing you will need to arrive in England is your Passport; do not forget it on your kitchen table! If you are coming from a country that is within the EU you will not need a visa, however, if you are coming from a country that is not within the EU then please check here to see whether you will need to obtain a visa before your arrival, you can also check which type of visa you will need upon arrival and whether you need to have a Tuberculosis (TB) test. It is a good idea to bring another form of ID with you too in case you lose your passport or you don’t want to take your passport out clubbing with you. A good option would be your driving license or another form of identity card that has your name, date of birth and photo on it. I also recommend having at least 2 photocopies of your passport and carry one of them around with you whenever you can…it may sound silly but you never know.

Another thing that you should definitely bring is the European Health Insurance Card, otherwise known as your EHIC card, as this will come in handy should you ever need medical attention during your stay in Bristol.

You will also need to bring your learning or working agreement from your University as this will usually, depending on your home country/university, enable you to receive your Erasmus funding. Any other university documents would be useful too.

Basically... if you are in doubt and something seems important/useful, bring it.

Let's talk about money

Although Britain remains in the EU (for now), it is important to know and remember that here in Britain we use British Sterling Pounds (GBP), not Euros. Currently 1 Euro = 84 p (roughly) and 1 USD = 77 p (roughly). Of course, these things are always subject to change so you can use websites such as XE to look at current exchange rates.

I would recommend having some cash with you upon your arrival in Britain so you can use it for the bus or buying a bottle of water etc., as exchanging in the airport is never a good idea - the exchange rate there is not great. Visit somewhere in your hometown to get the cash before your departure and bare in mind that depending on where you are, the store may need to order the currency in, so be sure that you leave plenty of time (one to two weeks) to do so. The amount of £50 will be more than enough to serve as a little ‘emergency’ cash, so they call it - just in case!

Obviously, once you are in Bristol you can withdraw cash from ATM’s which are located all over Bristol. Be careful though, depending on your bank account and what type of card you have, you may be charged to withdraw cash. It is best to do some research before you come but you should be able to find the best travel card for you by searching Google as it will differ depending on the country you are coming from.

As we were saying, Bristol is different, it is unique and it even has its own currency; ‘Bristol Pounds’, making Bristol the first UK city to have a city wide local currency. For more information, head straight to the website. Don’t worry though, you can still use Sterling pounds throughout Bristol and it is the main currency used there, it is just interesting to know about it!

What about the language?

If you are coming to Bristol for your Erasmus you will most likely be studying or have studied English at some point in your life, so you will have at least the basics of the language. Living and studying or working in England is the best way to improve and advance your knowledge and fluency in the language, so grasp every opportunity to speak English and don’t be afraid to ask someone to speak more slowly or repeat something. Like I said before, the people in Bristol are very friendly and willing to help, so just ask!

If you do want to take some extra English lessons or receive some extra support to really get you on your way, both the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England offer support before and during your stay. Otherwise, you can find language centres throughout Bristol such as The Bristol language centre, International House Bristol and the English Language Centre. Do take into account that courses at the Universities will usually be free or cheaper than language schools outside of the University, so take advantage of what your University has to offer and make sure you are compare and check the prices before enrolling in any course.

Being a native English speaker, I have noticed that many people who learn English often learn it through watching American TV shows or films and therefore pick up some American English words. Of course, the language is largely the same, there are just some words that differ and you might find this link useful for learning the different lingo. Don’t worry though, you won’t get a blank face look from a native speaker in Bristol if you do use an American term.

Lastly, the accent. The accent in Bristol is what we call ‘West Country’. You will meet many people with a strong West Country accent. You can watch a YouTube video here where you can hear the accent and some of the phrases used in Bristol by the locals. You will also meet a lot of people with a neutral British accent so don’t worry about the accent, it shouldn’t cause you many misunderstandings.

Coming to Bristol as an international student

Like we were saying earlier on in the guide, moving to a new place, university and country all at the same time can be really scary but just remember there will be hundreds of other students in the same boat as you. That is why it is a really great idea to join groups such as ESN Bristol. They organize trips and excursions at the cost price, so you won’t get ripped off. Be careful when using other Erasmus groups as they sometimes are profit companies, so will charge more than just the cost price. ESN also set up parties and events in Bristol throughout the year and you can join in if you are studying or working during your Erasmus.

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