An International Student’s Guide to Cambridge City

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Allaa Ashraf

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13 September, 2023

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7 mins read

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If you are an international student considering studying in Cambridge, we’d just like to say: What a choice!

Cambridge, a picturesque city located in the heart of Cambridgeshire, is renowned worldwide for its prestigious university and rich history. Home to the University of Cambridge, which consistently ranks among the top universities globally, the city has a lot to offer international students seeking a world-class education and a unique cultural experience. The city is also known for its charming architecture and vibrant cultural scene. Cambridge is also a very international city, with over 20,000 international students from over 120 countries.

This comprehensive guide is designed to help international students navigate and make the most of their time in Cambridge. So, are you ready to explore your chosen study destination? Buckle up, and let’s go!

international student Cambridge

Your Student Guide to Cambridge

First Things First, Obviously, The Visa!

If you are an international student from outside the European Union, you will need to apply for a UK visa in order to study in Cambridge. The type of visa you need will depend on your nationality and the length of your stay. The application process is a bit rigorous, so be an early bird when it comes to it! Find out more on our guide on how to get a UK student visa!

Getting to Cambridge

1. By Air

  • The nearest major airport is London Stansted Airport (STN), approximately 30 miles from Cambridge.

  • London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and London Gatwick Airport (LGW) are also accessible, with direct train and bus connections to Cambridge.

2. By Train

  • Cambridge Railway Station is well-connected to London Kings Cross Station, with frequent services taking around 50 minutes.

  • Trains also connect Cambridge to other major UK cities, making travel within the country easy.

Transportation in Cambridge

international student Cambridge

Cambridge is a small city that is very easy to get around. The most popular way for students to travel is by bus. The local bus service, Stagecoach, operates a bus network covering the city and surrounding areas. 

Buses are frequent and affordable, and you can purchase an Academic Annual Student Bus Pass for £240. This bus pass is made for students with a valid student ID. It is valid for unlimited travel within your chosen zone for the academic year (September to June).

Another popular way to get around is by bicycle. Cambridge is a very bike-friendly city, and there are plenty of cycle lanes and dedicated parking spaces. You can get a bicycle from one of the many bike shops in the city.

There are also a few taxi companies in Cambridge, but they can be expensive. If you are travelling in a group, booking a minibus may be more economical.

University and College Campuses

When you’re all settled, you need to explore the campus of your university of choice and familiarise yourself with the layout of your college and its proximity to academic buildings. Here’s a brief description of each of the top universities in Cambridge:

1. University of Cambridge

Starting with the main one, The University of Cambridge. Often regarded as one of the most renowned universities in the world, it consists of 31 colleges and multiple departments spread across the city. This university is like the Hogwarts of academia, minus the magic (although they do have some seriously magical minds).

The university’s layout is as magical as its academics, with cobblestone streets winding through ancient buildings.

international student Cambridge

2. Anglia Ruskin University

Anglia Ruskin University’s Cambridge campus is a delightful blend of modern marvels and historical quirks. ARU Cambridge offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The university is particularly strong in the arts, humanities, and healthcare. It is also a research-intensive university, and its research is highly ranked in the UK.

Student Accommodation in Cambridge

There are a variety of accommodation options available for international students in Cambridge. Here’s a breakdown of them:

1. University-Based Accommodation

For international students, university-based dorms are a highly sought-after and cost-effective choice. Not only does it provide a chance to save money compared to private options, but it also facilitates connections with fellow international students! It's worth noting that due to its popularity, securing university-based accommodation can be competitive, making early applications crucial. 

Additionally, many international students are assigned accommodation within their college for the first year. This arrangement presents a unique opportunity to fully immerse oneself in college life and forge enduring connections within the close-knit community!

international student Cambridge

2. Private Accommodation

Private accommodation is another popular option for international students. Many different types of private accommodation are available, from PBSAs to shared apartments to studio flats. Private accommodation can be more expensive than university dorms, but it offers more flexibility and privacy. Casita offers you plenty of private student accommodation options in Cambridge if you’re looking for one!

3. Homestay

Homestay accommodation is a third option for international students. This option allows you to live with a local host family and experience British culture firsthand. Homestay accommodation can be a great way to improve your English language skills and make friends!

Cultural Attractions

Cambridge has some of the most interesting, not-to-miss spots and activities you need to check out during your stay; here are some:

international student Cambridge

1. Museums

Cambridge is home to a wide variety of museums, from world-renowned art galleries to lesser-known scientific institutions. The Fitzwilliam Museum, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology are just a few of the city's cultural treasures.

2. Punting on the River Cam

While in Cambridge, you need to experience taking a punt (flat-bottomed boat) down the River Cam. We promise you won’t regret it!

3. Historic Landmarks

Cambridge is a city steeped in history, and its streets are a treasure trove of iconic landmarks. In Cambridge, history isn't just a thing of the past; it's an ever-present companion, inviting you to explore its rich tapestry of time. Explore historic sites such as: 

  • King's College Chapel

  • Mathematical Bridge

  • The Round Church

4. Festivals and Events

Cambridge's cultural calendar bursts with a vibrant tapestry of festivals and events that cater to every taste and interest. It hosts numerous festivals, including the Cambridge Folk Festival and the Cambridge Science Festival. Whether you're into music, science, literature, or film, Cambridge's lively events scene always ensures something exciting to celebrate and explore.

For more, check out our guide on the top things to do in Cambridge!

Dining and Cuisine

Experiencing the culinary delights of your study destination is one of the upsides of studying abroad and is a fun part of the journey. Don’t miss out on it!

1. Traditional British Fare

Sample classic British dishes like fish and chips, roast dinners, and afternoon tea.

2. International Cuisine

Cambridge's diverse international student population means you can find cuisine from around the world.

3. Pubs and Cafés

Enjoy the cosy ambience of traditional English pubs or study at one of the city's many cafés!

Social Life

In Cambridge, students don't just attend lectures; they embark on epic quests through a maze of pubs, cafes, and quirky hideaways. Here’s a breakdown:

1. Clubs and Societies

Joining student clubs and societies at your university is a great way to meet people who share your interests. From sports clubs and literary societies to music ensembles and political forums, these clubs offer a vibrant social tapestry that fosters personal growth and a strong sense of community. 

2. Sports and Recreation

Sports and recreation in Cambridge are not just hobbies; they're a way of life. Participate in sports and fitness activities at college gyms and university facilities.

3. Nightlife

Cambridge has a vibrant nightlife scene that caters to students of all interests. There are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from, as well as a variety of other events and activities, such as live music.


As an international student in Cambridge, you are entitled to free healthcare under the National Health Service (NHS). However, you will need to register with a GP (general practitioner) to access NHS services. You should also take out travel insurance before you come to Cambridge. This will cover your medical expenses in the event of an emergency.

Resources for International Students

Several resources are available to help international students in Cambridge. These resources can provide information on everything from accommodation to healthcare to visa requirements. Some of the most helpful resources for international students include:

  • The University of Cambridge International Student Office: This office provides a range of services to international students, including visa advice, accommodation assistance, and cultural orientation programmes.

  • The Cambridge University Students' Union: This union represents all students at the University of Cambridge, including international students. The union provides various services and resources, including a social events calendar, a food bank, and a career advice service.

  • The Cambridge City Council: The city council provides a range of services to residents of Cambridge, including information on housing, healthcare, and employment.

Final Tips

Here are a few tips for international students moving to Cambridge:

  • Start planning early! The earlier you start planning, the more time you will have to find accommodation, apply for a visa, and get other things sorted out.

  • Do your research: A lot of information is available about living and studying in Cambridge. Take some time to do your research so that you know what to expect.

  • Get involved: One of the best ways to make friends and experience British culture is to get involved in activities and events. There are many different things to do in Cambridge, so you will surely find something you enjoy.

  • Plan your budget: The cost of living in Cambridge is relatively high, so it is important to budget carefully.

  • Packing your suit: The weather in Cambridge can be variable, so it is important to pack for all types of weather!

And there you have it! Cambridge is a beautiful and vibrant city that offers international students a unique and enriching experience. With its rich academic tradition and vibrant cultural scene, you can immerse yourself in the city's academic, cultural, and social offerings to make the most of your time studying in this historic and picturesque English city. Embrace the challenges and opportunities that come your way, and you'll leave Cambridge with a world-class education and cherished memories that will last a lifetime. Bon chance!


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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cambridge city good for international students?

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Cambridge is just perfect for international students! The city has a lot to offer, from world-class education and a rich cultural heritage to vibrant student life and friendly people!

What are the visa requirements for international students in Cambridge?

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The visa requirements for international students in Cambridge vary depending on your country of citizenship. You can find more information on the UK government website or through our blog on UK Visa requirements.

What is the cost of living in Cambridge?

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The cost of living in Cambridge can be high, but it is possible to live on a budget. Here is a breakdown of some of the average expenses in Cambridge:

  • Accommodation: £1000-£1500 per month
  • Food: £200-£300 per month
  • Transport: £50-£100 per month
  • Utilities: £100-£150 per month
  • Entertainment: £50-£100 per month