header photo

Cambridge International Student Welcome 2017

Organised by the University of Cambridge Christian Graduate Society

Life in Cambridge

Some of the information on this page is out of date. This page is undergoing revision.

So you've just arrived and...

Where can I get a meal?

Your college dining hall, or 'buttery', is probably the most convenient and the cheapest place to eat if you don't want to cater for yourself. It's usually a good place for meeting people, and a typical meal will cost around £4-£6. However, please don't regard this as typical English food, as some of it is pretty awful! There is also a graduate cafeteria on the second floor of the University Centre, open from 8am-10pm (Sundays: 9am-9pm) and ready-to-eat meals can be bought from shops. Your college 'formal hall' will give you the opportunity to have a formal meal at a cheaper price than you would find in a restaurant.

What about money?

You will need to collect the first part of your sponsorship money or grant as soon as possible, if you haven't already received it. Contact your college Bursar or your sponsor's office in Cambridge or London. You will need a bank account: all the main banks (see map below) have special student accounts; NatWest, Barclays (Sidney Street branch) or Lloyds TSB seem to be good for international students. Pick up a few leaflets from the banks and choose the one which you think is best for you. They often have very specific requirements when opening accounts, so make sure you ask what is needed: generally this will include proof of identification (e.g. passport) and a letter from your college stating your full name, date of birth, home address, university address and confirming you study there. If you have already paid your fees, take along your receipt as it may help you get a better deal! Opening an account may take a long time (several weeks in the worst case), so if you do have problems with money, see your college or your tutor.

Must I register with the Police?

Yes, IF you are from Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, China (people's republic), Columbia, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan or Yemen, or if your passport is stamped with "The holder is required to register with the police". Go to the Aliens Registration Office at Parkside Police Station (see map) within 7 days of your arrival. You will need your passport, two passport photographs and £34 to pay for a certificate of registration. The office is open from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm Monday to Friday. Please arrive as early as possible otherwise you may be in a long queue. The telephone number is 01223 358966; ask for extension 3220. If you feil to register you could be fined up to £5000 or face 6 months in jail!

What if I am ill?

You are entitled to free medical consultations and hospital care under the National Health Service (NHS). You must register your name with a local doctor (called a 'GP'). Your college will tell you where the nearest one is. Many colleges have a College Nurse. If the doctor prescribes medicines for you, you can get them at a chemist such as 'Boots' or 'Superdrug' in the city centre. A prescription costs about £7. Some medicines are available without a prescription, e.g. paracetamol for headaches, but if you want antibiotics etc., you will have to see your GP. The University Dental Service is at 3 Trumpington Street, telephone number (01223) (3)32860. There are also other dentists to choose from. Under the NHS, a simple check-up costs at least £7, and varies from dentist to dentist. A filling costs between £5-£50. You must arrange an appointment to be seen, and you must pay by cash or cheque.

How can I telephone my home?

Most student rooms have the option of using your own phone (look for the phone socket), which is usually cheaper than a pay phone if you use it regularly. A phone can be bought for about £10 from Argos. Try plugging the phone into the socket, lifting the handset, and you may get through to the phone company NTL (or you can ring them free on 0800 052 1680 from another phone). If this doesn't work, you have a British Telecom line, and will need to go to their website or phone them from another phone to get connected (0800 169 2712 - free). International Phone cards can be bought in many shops displaying the phone card symbol in their window and some Porters' Lodges. They are usually the cheapest way of making international calls, though this depends on the time of day and the country you are calling. The international dialling code is 00, which should be followed by the country code and the number, e.g. to phone the USA, dial 00 1 and then the number. Do not use your department phone to call abroad without prior permission. Also: please note that if you live in college accommodation, you will need a NTL pre-paid card.

What clothes will I need?

Sooner or later you will need a waterproof coat or jacket for the rain, and some warm clothes (perhaps warm underwear!) for the winter, which usually lasts from November to March. Prices vary between shops, so look out for the best buys. Charity shops such as Oxfam and Cancer Research Campaign often have good quality second hand clothes at low prices. Burleigh Street has a large number of them.

You may need an academic gown for your Matriculation (enrolment) photograph, for Formal Hall, or for singing in a chapel choir. New gowns cost over £50 from Ryder & Amies or Ede & Ravenscroft (King's Parade) or AE Clothier (Pembroke Street). It may be a good idea to borrow one, buy one second hand from another student or hire one from the Graduate Union (£6/day, £50 deposit, limited supply). You may be able to borrow or buy one from the Porters Lodge at your college. Make sure you know whether you need a B.A. or an M.A. gown (ask in your college).

How do I find accommodation?

If you have not been provided with accommodation by your college, the best way to find accommodation in Cambridge is to use the Cambridge Accommodation Notice board or the University Accommodation Service.
If you are REALLY stuck with accommodation, contact us through the form on our homepage.

What about unfriendly people?

If you find English people unfriendly compared to people in your own country, it's usually because they don't want to invade your privacy. Don't let this stop you making friends with them! Remember, too, that there are many international students in the same situation as you. Cambridge is really an ideal place to meet folks from all over the world.

  • If possible, make friends in your college and the department early in the term because once people get busy, it can be harder to join existing groups of friends.
  • If you receive a written invitation addressed to you personally, it is courteous to reply to it, even if you have to refuse it.
  • Do not be afraid to ask the porters in your college about any practical problems you have. Some might seem a bit fierce at first (or try to be funny!), but they will soon get to know you and will try to help you.
  • Do invite other people into your room for tea/coffee and a chat, including English people!

General welfare

For help with more general welfare issues while in Cambridge, the Graduate Union or CUSU (Cambridge University Student Union) International are the people to contact. Copying and binding facilities are provided along with gown hire and more. The Graduate Union is in the old DAMTP site on Mill Lane near Silver Street, tel. 01223 333312.

Listening Support and Counselling Service

Linkline, a service run by students, provides listening support and information service between 7pm-8am every night of full term. Tel: 01223 744 444 and 01223 367 575
For professional help and advice, please contact Cambridge University Counselling Service. Tel: 01223 332865

The University Telephone Network

There is a University Telephone Network for making calls within the university, with network phones in colleges and departments. When called from an ordinary phone, these numbers have 6 digits, beginning with 33 or 74 or 76, while if you call from another network phone, you ignore the first digit of the number, and the call is free. To ring the Graduate Union from a normal phone, you dial 333 312, while from a network phone you dial 33 312 and the call is free.

The University Mail Service

You will be given a "Pigeon Hole" (a small box in the Porters' Lodge) at your college to which all your mail will be delivered. You can send mail within the University during term time for free by marking it with UMS (University Mail Service) and handing it to a Porter. Your department will usually have UMS. These services can sometimes take a reasonably long time (up to a 48 hours).

Libraries & Computers

Most libraries operate using the University Card, which you should automatically receive. If you need to register for your department's library, try to go before the rush of undergraduates. The University Library holds copies of most books published in the UK since 1920 and many older and foreign books. To register, you'll need to take along your acceptance letter from the Board of Graduate Studies (BGS).

Email is used a lot within the university and beyond, and you will be given your own email address. You'll have to register online with a BGS letter to collect your passwords. Your College or Department should show you how to do this, or you can visit the University Computing Service, where you can also ask about the use of other facilities, to be found on the New Museums Site, off Pembroke Street.

Internet Access

Some college rooms will have a network connection which you may or may not have to pay for. If not, you should be able to connect a computer to the internet through a normal phone line. Your department and college will also provide you with public computer terminals.


Most students find a bicycle very useful in Cambridge. You will quickly get used to cycling, but it's worth taking extra care and recognising the situations where you would be most likely to forget which side of the road you should cycle on: for example, when you are just leaving someone's house on a quiet road. There are many specially marked cycle ways in Cambridge (blue signs with a white bicycle), which can help you to avoid the busier roads.

Rules for cyclists are given on the Highway Code website. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Buy a cycle helmet! They are quite expensive (£25-£40 at bike shops, or £15 at Argos), but they can help prevent bad head injuries if you have a crash.
  • It is against the law to cycle at night without working front and rear bicycle lights and rear reflector. Any lights attached to your bike must be steady not flashing.
  • It is against the law to cycle with either a broken front or rear brake. Make sure they both work!
  • Make sure that you are easily seen. don't wear a dark coat at night. You can buy reflective bands.
  • Try to give clear hand signals. Drivers appreciate it, and are more likely to let you go first.
  • It is against the law to cycle on a footpath, unless it is a marked cycle way.
  • It is against the law to cycle the wrong way down a one-way street. Cambridge has many one way streets. You will often see people breaking these laws, but be warned — the police can fine you £20 if you are caught. In such places, you should walk and push your bicycle.
  • You may see a signpost with a picture of a car and motorcycle surrounded by a red circle. This means that cars and motorcycles aren't allowed down the road, but bicycles are.

There are plenty of good bike shops in Cambridge, and the ones further from the centre of the town are often slightly cheaper. You can hire a bike, but you'll probably prefer to buy one. If so, don't delay! Many cycle shops sell out of second hand bikes when the undergraduates arrive. Adverts for second hand bikes can be found on notice boards around the University, in the newspapers, and the University news group.

The list below mentions a few of the bicycle shops in Cambridge. Those marked with an asterisk (*) also provide a bicycle hire service.

City Cycle Hire* 61 Newnham Road
Cam Cycles 92 Mill Road
Cambridge Station Cycles* Railway station car park
King Street Cycles 82 King Street
Mike's Bikes* 28 Mill Road
University Cycles* 9 Victoria Avenue
H Drake*(closed weekends) 56-60 Hills Road
The Bikeman Market stall Market Square (Monday - Thursday 8am-6pm)

Some Useful Websites

See our links for some useful websites!

Useful Shops in Cambridge

  • Food supermarket - Sainsbury's on Sidney Street (Opening hours: 8am-10pm Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm Sun)
  • Open market - fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, bread as well as clothes and gifts can be bought at the market in Market Square (Open 9am-4pm)
  • Stationery and office equipment - WHSmith on Market Street; Staples on Chesterton Road.
  • Chemist/drugstores - Boots and Superdrug, both on Sidney Street.
  • Bookshops - Waterstones and WHSmiths on Market Street; Heffers on Trinity Street.
  • Banks - National Westminster (NatWest) on Market Street; Barclays (Sidney Street next to Sainsburys), Lloyds TSB (Sidney Street), HSBC (when starting up HSBC account you must fill in application form on the internet and once received forms in post go to Hills Road branch to set up account; for normal use there is a branch in Market Square).
    There are other branches of all these banks but those listed are those that are specialised to deal with students and so are probably the best ones to go to when setting up your account!
  • Grafton Centre - lots of shops! Clothes, gifts, cinema… (Charity shops on Burleigh Street next to the Grafton Centre)

These are just a few of the shops that students tend to use the most. There are many other good shops and interesting places to discover - we don't have space to list them all!

Some late opening shops (North, South, East, West):

  • Garage Shops - Huntingdon Road/Histon Road corner (N), open 24 hours.
  • Shell - Newnham Road/The Fen Causeway (SW), 7am-10.30pm.
  • Mace Stores - 78 Mill Road (S) (Tel. 324399). 8:30am-10:30pm.
  • Sainsbury's - Sidney Street. 8am-10pm Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm Sun.
  • Tesco - Cheddars Lane, 8am-10pm (E).
  • Asda - Beehive Centre, Coldhams Lane (E), 24 hours (except Sun).

There are several Co-op food stores around the outside of Cambridge centre (Hills Rd, Histon Rd, Chesterton Rd, Mill Rd, Newnham), which are usually open from 8am to 10pm or 11pm. There are many takeaway restaurants on Mill Road (to the south-east of the town centre). These tend to be much cheaper than a sit-down meal. Mister Burgers van, on the Market Square, is also open 'til late. If you don't know where to shop, ask a friend!

Some Places to Eat in Cambridge

  • Curry Queen Tandoori, 106 Mill Road, Cambridge, CB1 2BD (Indian subcontinent/Curry House)
  • Curry King, 5 Jordans Yard Bridge Street, Cambridge, CB2 1UG (Curry House, access via Bridge Street)
  • Rainbow Cafe, 9A King's Parade, Cambridge, CB2 1SJ (Vegetarian/Vegan/also an award winner)
  • Charlie Chan, 14 Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1DB (Chinese/Lunch Dim Sum)
  • Dojo Noodle Bar, 1-2 Millers yard, Cambridge, CB2 1RQ (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, cheap large plates)
  • Teri-Aki, 6-8 Quayside, Cambridge, CB5 8AB (Japanese)
  • Aki-Teri, 6-8 Quayside, Cambridge, CB5 8AB (Chinese/Korean, across from Teri-Aki)
  • Nando's, 33-34 St Andrew Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AR (Portuguese Chicken House, great cheap food!)
  • D'Arry's, 2-4 King Street, Cambridge, CB1 1LE (Gastro pub/British, lunch specials start at £6)
  • Agora at Copper Kettle, 4 King's Parade, Cambridge, CB2 1SJ (British Pub lunches/Turkish & Mediterranean at night)

Some of the Churches in Cambridge

Need help choosing a good church where the Bible is taught and Jesus is kept central? It is an important decision, so do ask for advice if you're unsure about all the different churches. Either ask people you meet at our events or feel free to contact us through form on our home page!

Are you Muslim or Jewish?

N.B. Phone numbers in this booklet generally give the landline number. Add 01223 at the beginning if you're calling from a mobile.

Friends International

...is a body set up by local churches in Cambridge to offer support to international students in Cambridge. A prgoramme run by Friends International links overseas students with local families, to give the opportunity for the student to get away from academic studies occasionally and to be in touch with ‘normal life' again: to go for trips with the family and to have meals together occasionally, for example. If you would like further details, please contact Bartow Wylie on (01223) 311130.

Jargon Corner

  • Grad Pad: affectionate name for the University Centre.
  • Bop: Cambridge term for a disco.
  • Phone numbers: Prefix (01223) for numbers in Cambridge if phoning from a mobile. If using the university phone network, the leading (3) or (7) is not needed from another university phone.
  • Fresher: A new undergraduate student.
  • Gyp room: Where you can make food (a kitchen).
  • Plodge: Porters lodge, where you can get help in college.
  • Bedder: A cleaner of student rooms
  • PWF: Public Workstation Facility (university computers)
  • Formal hall: A sit-down meal in college where you will be served at a big table.
  • Matric: Matriculation, the ceremony which all new Cambridge students go through!
  • Queue: Long line of people. Expect lots of these in Britain.