Your Guide to Moving to Belfast

Written by Manasa Ramakrishna, Canadian undergrad, studying Medicine at Queen's University Belfast.

Moving to a new country is always a scary thing, and there are so many things that pop up that you don't think of until the last minute. There are also a few things that work a bit differently in the UK, so it's good to have a list of things that you need to do once you move.

Adjust your phone plan

The first thing that I would recommend is to get a contact system set up before you even land. So, for example, you can usually go on your phone plan and adjust some settings to include international calls, text, and data use.

This is usually temporary, but it made my life a lot easier when I first landed. This was how I was able to order my taxi from the airport! Once you have set up this feature to your phone plan, you're basically set for a few days of your stay. For example, you can order food, groceries, and set up other things.

Your Guide to Moving to Belfast

Get a UK phone number

The next thing I suggest setting up is your new phone number for the UK. If you are staying in Queen's accommodation, Queen's gives you a sim card to set up your new phone number with a company (can be giffgaff, O2, Vodafone, etc.).

Otherwise, you can go online to any phone company of your choice's website and order a SIM card and choose the plan you want. This is important, because this is your first bit of contact info that's linked to the UK, and you need this to set up bank accounts and fill out other important forms.

Get a bank account

Setting up a bank account would be the next step. I recommend shopping around the different banks to get the best deal. There are many options and a quick search of "banks in the UK" should pull up the popular ones. For Belfast, there's:

  • Ulster Bank
  • HSBC
  • Bank of Ireland
  • Halifax
  • Barclays
  • Danske
  • Bank of England
  • AIB
  • Santander
  • Nationwide
  • Northern

To name a few! I recommend going to each website and seeing which one has features you want.

Your Guide to Moving to Belfast

Some have different types of accounts for international students, and I suggest browsing before you rush to decide. This is so that once you have a phone number, you can apply right away for a bank account. The UK has integrated technology quite well into most of their systems and you can fill out most applications online (but you need a UK phone number and address).

How to get proof of address

In addition, they require proof of your status in the UK (you're on a student visa), proof of your address in Belfast, and proof that you go to Queen's. For the proof of address, you can simply ask your landlord for a proof of residence, and they should get it to you within a day or so. For Queen's, emailing the international team for proof of your admission and attendance to the University should be sufficient for the bank.

They sometimes require extra documents, but these are the baseline ones. It might take a week to set up a bank account (as an international student) so an international credit card or a prepaid debit card is useful to have available for the first month, in case of emergencies.

Grocery shopping

In terms of groceries, you will probably be eating out for the first few days. I do recommend this, as moving to a new place is stressful on its own, and worrying about food shouldn't add to your stress. I do recommend getting a few essentials, like veggies, fruits, bread, spreads, beans, and premade stuff, just in case.

I went for the essentials the day after I landed, and I just went to the nearest Tesco in the city centre. Around Queen's accommodation, you have multiple branches of Tesco, Lidl, Iceland, and Boots to shop for food and other essentials. There are all within a five or ten-minute walk from Queen's BT1 and BT2. Boots is good for purchasing things like makeup, toiletries, and any medication, as there's a pharmacy on the top floor.

Your Guide to Moving to Belfast

Once you have all these set up, most of your move is finished (I do suggest signing up for a free Tesco Clubcard — very useful!).

Storage over the summer

For the end of the year, if you're going back home for the summer, it will be useful to store most of your stuff in a storage unit. You can also ask a friend to store your things, but in case that's not possible, you should search for different storage unit companies near campus to see where you can store your things. I also suggest that you split the storage with some friends to lower costs. I split with my roommate!

Moving is difficult, for sure, but a little bit of preparation and planning goes a long way and can make your transition to a new country much easier!

Get international student support at Queen's University Belfast