The following section will provide some useful information on arriving to Cambridge, visiting London, and travelling around Cambridge.
The five main airports around London are Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), City (LCY), Luton (LTN) and Stansted (STN, the closest to Cambridge).
The six main train stations in London are Victoria, Paddington, King’s Cross, Waterloo, Liverpool St and Euston. For travelling between London and Cambridge, the most convenient route to take is the First Capital Connect trains to King’s Cross (average 55 min); however, the tickets are rather pricey, so you might want to consider going to Liverpool St instead, using Greater Anglia trains. If you are coming from north and changing at Euston, the Euston station is about 10 minutes walking distance from King’s Cross a good opportunity for you to stretch your legs. Again: do not forget to check the National Rail and TFL websites for updated information. Especially over the weekend some tube lines tend to be closed for scheduled engineering works. Otherwise, you can also take a coach from Victoria Bus Station to Cambridge.
The main mode of transportation at Cambridge is cycling (or walking)! If you have not been on a bike before or need to brush up your skills; the following websites provide information on such courses:
There are a number of places where you can buy first hand or used bikes. If your course of study is longer than a year I would definitely suggest for you to invest in a relatively cheap “new” bike sometimes the repair of a used bike can cost more than a new one. The following website is particularly useful when buying a secondhand bike: http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/workshopwhattowatchforwhenbuyingausedcarbonframe23020/ Here are some bike shops. Make sure to shop around before you commit (yet, don’t spend too much time, because the best bikes tend to sell out quickly, especially when you are competing with thousands of others):
Points of Caution
Alternatively, you can also use the bus system.
The ticket prices range according to your destination and are sold on board. For those of you working at Addenbrooke’s or the West Cambridge site, the Uni4 bus provides a direct route with discounted prices when you show your student card. There are also a number of taxi companies, mainly useful after an exhausting night out in town. Finally, walking is a cheap and healthy mode of transportation. The pedestrian and cycling paths are clearly labelled and are wheelchair friendly.
The most well known Taxi companies are Panther (which also has an app for booking) CamCab and A1. When booking you will be asked for your current location and the destination you would like to go. Around central Cambridge the price might range between 620 depending on the distance and traffic.
Hope this post gives you a general idea about transportation to and around Cambridge. If you have any questions please post comments.
Wishing you all a safe journey!
The following section will outline some general information on accommodation matters at the University of Cambridge.
Housing is usually allocated via a ballot system.You will be getting e-mails about the options, he rule of thumb is that better rooms are usually more expensive (surprise). At Queens’ College, only a limited number of rooms at the main site are allocated for graduate students, while most stay either at the Owlstone Croft or the college owned houses around Cambridge. A similar set up is also in place at all other colleges. Owlstone Croft is 15 minutes walk or 7 minutes of cycling from the main site of Queens’.
Points of Caution If you are asked to provide a list of top choices for a housing ballot, make sure to consider:
Although most of you will be allocated a college room in your first year, a few brave (wise?) soldiers may want to consider living in private accommodation. In any case, the following section will be useful during your second, third year or fourth years.
The student registry, guidance on the statues and ordinances, terms of residence suggests that “all full time graduate courses require you to be in residence in Cambridge for a minimum period of 3 terms if you are registered on a fulltime basis. In order to satisfy the University’s residence requirement you must reside within the University’s precincts; that is, within the 10 mile radius of Great St Mary’s church, Cambridge throughout your terms of study, unless you have specific permission to live elsewhere.” Living more than 10 miles away from the city centre is not very practical anyway. When searching for private accommodation your first point of contact should be the University Accommodation Service. After signing up for an account, indicate the specifications of your housing choice and search through available properties. The website not only lists university/college owned properties, but also private landlords, and a few letting agencies. The biggest advantage of this service is that you don’t need to pay for agency fees if you get the property through them (which can normally sum up to £100 including the reference checks). Sign up for weekly emails and most importantly stay on top of your game. There is an unbelievably high demand and very limited supply. http://www.accommodation.cam.ac.uk/
The above mentioned websites are informative when obtaining a general idea about the housing prices and availabilities. However, they are frequently not updated on time and you might end up calling the agencies just to find out that the property has already been let. I would advise you to check the agency websites instead and give them your details.
Points of Caution
The letting agents will also conduct a credit check to make sure you can pay the rent. If this is your first time renting a property in the UK you will not have a credit history making this procedure a little trickier. They usually ask for 36 months in advance or a massive deposit to compensate for the lack of trust. In any case, prepare yourself to pay a month in advance and 2 months’ rent in deposit (start saving now!).
One item you will urgently need is bedding! If you are an international student or don’t own any pillows or duvet, bedding is usually provided by your college for a nominal fee (price varies depending on the type of animal that donated its feathers/fur for your comfort). Alternatively, you can purchase one at John Lewis or order it online (use your college as the delivery address): http://www.johnlewis.com/homegarden/bedroom/c6000074
OR the following stores at the Beehive Centre: HomeSense, Dunhelm, TK Maxx and Next Home, and Debenhams, Primark or BHS at the Grafton Centre are alternative places where you can purchase bedding.
Dedicated information is available on the Welfare tab.
The very first official TODO upon your arrival is to register with a general practitioner, a.k.a. GP! The choice of medical practice does not matter, but “location” should be your determining factor since the GP will be your first point of contact when you catch a cold after swimming in the river Cam (you will probably catch more than a cold if you do that) or need any regular prescriptions. Don’t forget to obtain a letter from your college before going to the medical practice and be prepared to battle with 10,000 other students who will also want to register. You can purchase your medicine from any drug store, most conveniently at Boots or Superdrugs. The current prescription charge is £8.05 and aid may be provided for students in financial hardship (ask your welfare officer for more information). Similarly, you can also register with a dental practice and receive service at a nominal fee.
Disclaimer for International Students: Depending on your course of study, you may be asked to go through a health check via the Occupational Health Office, where you will be asked for general information on your vaccinations or previous checkups. Make sure to bring such documentation from your home country, otherwise you might be asked to have the vaccinations once again, and unless you have a particular fetish for needles, I wouldn’t recommend it. In addition, although the NHS provides free emergency care, some conditions may not be covered. Please check out the following website to find out more: http://www.educationuk.org/global/articles/health/
Irrespective of your level of sexual activity, it is always advisable for you to have regular sexual health checkups: https://www.icash.nhs.uk/where-to-go/icash-cambridgeshire Express home kits are also available free of charge every 12 weeks here
The booking system for appointments is very easy and I am sure you will find the staff very friendly and helpful. Any information regarding your visit remains confidential and only you will receive the result of your tests.
University life can often be overwhelming for us all, especially in the first couple of months. If you ever need any help concerning stress, eating disorders, counselling or any other aspect of mental health please do not hesitate to contact the University Counselling Service (http://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/), which is an excellent resource for all mental health matters. Alternatively, you can always contact your welfare officers, the college tutors and the college nurse who will also provide the necessary information. In addition, the following local services also run at Cambridge: www.sane.org, www.samaritans.org
Want to stop smoking? Your GP will be more than happy to help (they get points for helping people quit :P). After your initial consultation, the nurse will provide you with nicotine replacements such as inhalers, gums, patches etc. In addition, CAMQUIT runs a great service with lots of information and weekly support groups. http://www.camquit.nhs.uk/
Also, don’t forget to order your quit smoking pack from the NHS website, which contains a useful information, and most importantly a poster and lots of stickers for you to mark your progress.
The two main emergency numbers you need to know are 112 and 999 either of which will connect you to an operator who will ask for the nature of your emergency and will direct you accordingly.
The DRC is extremely friendly and helpful, and the staff is fully equipped with the necessary information on any issues with disabilities. Please pay them a visit or check out their website: http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/disability/
There are a number of different ways of dining at Queens’. Usually people are having lunch and dinners in the cafeteria in Crisps Hall, for more information, see the Queens’ website – http://www.queens.cam.ac.uk/life-at-queens/domestic/catering.
Upay is a payment system used by the College and you will need to sign up in order to be able to pay in the cafeteria or in the QBar. You will need your University Card available at the Welcome Meeting. To activate your account:
Cambridge is full of cafes to cater for the growing number of tourists, sleepy undergrads and thesis focused grad students. In addition to the corporate brands such as Starbucks, Costa, and Nero, you can always enjoy a friendly and cosy environment in one of the independent cafes on Mill Road e.g. order fair trade coffee at CB1 or Black Cat, have delicious pastries at Cafe? de Paris, or smoke shisha at Jaffa Net Cafe? (shhh, it is technically an internet cafe?). Best places for an afternoon tea are Patisserie Valerie, the Harriet’s Tearoom or the Orchard at Grantchester. About 30-40 min walk from the city centre, Grantchester is a lovely little village with the highest number of Nobel laureates per square meter and a famous tea room called the Orchard where Virginia Woolf, Rupert Brooke and John Maynard Keynes used to chillax and drink their tea. Furthermore, do not forget to check out the Grads Cafe? at the University Centre, with its stunning view of Darwin and Queens’ Colleges.
Cambridge is also blessed with an ethnicblend of mouthwatering restaurants. Your gastronomic adventure should begin with a full Turkish breakfast overlooking King’s College, at Agora the Copper Kettle. Some colleges also allow nonmember students to have brunch or lunch in their own buttery and I would highly suggest you try Queens’ or Pembrooke. In addition, the Stickybeaks and the Rainbow Cafe? offer great vegetarian options. You can also explore the market for exotic foods e.g. an ostrich burger on a Saturdays. As for dinner, I am absolutely in love with Nando’s (chicken), Pizza Express and Wagamamas. The local gems include Efes (kebabs), Curry Queen, Bedouin (Algerian), Loch Fyne (seafood), Cau and St. John’s Chop House. If what you are after is a culinary firework then you should check out the one Michelin star “Alimentum” and the two Michelin stars “Midsummer House”; I guarantee it will change the way you look at food.
Though every night has the potential to be turned into a tunnelvision pub crawl, the end of the week is usually when grad students finally manage to have some time for nonacademic activities (just a tiny bit). College MCRs and bars always offer a great deal of fun for cheap (around 2.20 a pint, yes, I can see your jaw dropping). Browns, the Anchor, the Mill, Cambridge Blue, the Empress and Kingston Arms are great pubs to take your colleagues and enjoy a pint of lager or ale, and do not forget to check out the winter and summer Cambridge beer festivals. Another option is to stop by for a cocktail at either the Snug, All Bar One, Vaults, Ta Bouche or Baroosh. If you still have the energy then get ready for a club night at Lola Lo, The Place, Fez or Ballare (Cindy’s) or Vodka Revolution (where the Cambridge LGBT+ night called “Spectrum” will be held every Monday).
Cambridge also offers a number of social activities. Make sure to check out the local ADC theatre and the Picturehouse where you can enjoy a romantic movie with a glass of wine. Tenpin bowling at the Leisure Centre, concerts and parties at the Junction or a quick trip to London are alternative options. For a quieter evening I would suggest a bike ride around Cambridge, reading a rare book at college or university libraries, walking through the zoology and Fitzwilliam museums or art galleries, and my personal favourite “punting on the river”. While some colleges have boats on the river others offer discounts with the private hires.
Overall, because grad students tend to be a little more isolated, it is highly recommend to make some extra effort to meet people, attend freshers events or organize your own “monopoly nights”, and generally just MAKE THE BEST OF YOUR TIME IN CAMBRIDGE.