Living abroad is expensive — that’s a refrain any international student is well-acquainted with. Living as an international student in the UK, however, is another matter entirely. It’s been ranked the fourth most expensive study destination in the world, and its capital, London, is among the top 20 costliest places to live in.
With this, knowing how to manage your money is a must. Fortunately, there are many UK student discounts for you to take advantage of, from getting around the country to shopping at your favourite retail stores. Rest assured that you will find many ways to save money — you just need to know what to look out for.
Here are the best UK student discounts every international student should know about — we’ve also thrown in some money hacks for good measure:
UK student discounts: Take advantage of your student card
First and foremost, you should know that your student ID is your golden ticket to saving money. Many retailers and restaurants understand that studying in the UK is extremely expensive, and are quick to offer discounts or deals for those who are on a budget. Some of them even go up to 50% off!
You can approach stores, restaurants, and other services individually for discounts — just show them your student card. McDonald’s offers students a free burger or ice cream when they buy certain value meals.
Outside of that, you can look at a host of offers online. For example, ASOS offers students 10% off their clothing all year round, and you have access to a six-month free trial of Amazon Prime. Students also get a free month of Spotify Premium and only have to pay 5.99 pounds per month after that, which is almost half the price of what regular users are charged. If you’re hungry, Domino’s Pizza offers 35% off when you order more than 25 pounds worth of food online.
In other instances, you’ll have to sign up for a student discount scheme to qualify for deals. Luckily, these are often cheap or free to use. Totum is currently the number one student discount card in the UK, giving you deals for eating out at restaurants, fashion, travel, fitness, and more. You’ll need to pay a small fee to enjoy this service.
If you’re looking for a student discount scheme that’s completely free, you can consider UNiDAYs or Student Beans, both of which give you access to a wide range of deals when you shop online. These include shopping for brands like Apple, Urban Outfitters, H&M, and restaurants like Domino’s and Las Iguanas.
For travel, you can check your local transport services — they usually offer weekly or daily student passes that you can take advantage of. Students attending universities in London can register for an 18+ Student Oyster photocard, which gives you 30% off adult rate travelcards and bus and tram season tickets.
For when you’re looking to travel around the UK, you can consider a few other options:
- The 16-25 Railcard gives you a third off National Rail travel
- A Young Persons Coachcard for a third off for National Express coach travel
- Megabus is similarly known for its cheap coach fares
Student discounts are common across the country, so if you enter a restaurant or shop, chances are you’ll be eligible for one. If you’re unsure, it’s best to ask.
Download apps for food discounts
Similar to student discount schemes, you can sign up for many apps and services to access a wide range of reductions on food. Some chains such as Starbucks and Burger King have their own dedicated app that will allow you to collect points or secret deals that are not available to regular customers.
Then there’s TooGoodToGo, an app that aims to fight food waste by connecting customers to restaurants, cafes and stores that have unsold food surplus. Here, you might find full meals, coffee, or pastries left over from the day at a cheaper price. It’s a great way to save on food whilst also ensuring none of it goes to waste.
Some of these initiatives are available offline. For example, Starbucks sometimes lets certain unsold food items go at 50% off an hour before closing. Other restaurant chains such as Wasabi and Itsu have been known to offer customers half-priced food half an hour before closing, too.
Check for deals on local entertainment
You’d be surprised at how many cinemas and theatres offer special discounts for ticketed screenings. Cinemas such as Odeon and Vue offer student prices, and you can check Cineworld online for cheap tickets. Visiting chains such as Picturehouse Cinemas can get you extremely affordable tickets, and Genesis Cinema in Mile End, London, is a great option for catching a movie on a budget.
If you want to visit the theatre, you’re in luck. There are plenty of options to get cheap tickets, even without a student card. A popular option for many Londoners is catching a live performance at Shakespeare’s Globe, where you can get standing tickets for as low as five pounds.
On top of that, you can find great deals on unsold theatre tickets for the most popular West End shows on websites such as LOVEtheatre and Last Minute. Mobile app TodayTix has rush ticket or lottery schemes for certain shows, which you can enter every day. Even visiting the TKTS booth in Leicester Square can return excellent discounts on same-day performances.
If you want to catch a specific show and don’t have morning classes, you can always queue outside the box office for day seats. These are tickets that many theatres hold to be sold on the day of every performance, and are given off when the box office opens in the morning.
Not all theatres offer this option and you’re not always guaranteed the best seats, but they’re often let go for as low as 25 pounds — decidedly much lower than usual tickets which usually average around £60. Be sure to check Theatre Monkey for more information on this.