Study abroad: What to pack

06 March 2017
A student packing

Packing for the UK 

I still remember vividly the frenzied period right before my first arrival in London. My family and I spent every waking hour trying to figure out what I would need in the UK, where I could get these items and how I was going to pack them in my tiny suitcase.

My mother, being the doting parent she always is, hoarded a warehouse of winter coats and woollen mittens. After all, I was travelling from a tropical country where the sun never fails to shine to a temperate island notorious for its never-ending rain. My father made lists and lists of what he was adamant that I would need in the near future, ranging from plug adaptors to instant noodles. Their enthusiasm along with my compulsive shopping habit terrified me, since I only had 20kg baggage allowance. Despite my valiant effort, my suitcase was 5kg overweight by the time I reached the check-in counter.

Now after four years of constant moving from continent to continent with my entire life neatly (by my standards) packed in two suitcases and one small backpack, I have attained enough experience (some of which is truly physically and mentally painful) to present the ultimate packing list to study abroad in the UK.


It is common knowledge that British weather is capricious. You can experience sun, hail and snow on the same day. British weather is great for starting a conversation, not for packing. If you are coming to Britain in autumn, prepare for some massive fluctuations in temperature. The key here is to bring clothes that you can layer. Multiple layered thin pieces provide much more warmth than a chunky coat. Here is my list of essentials:

  • Thin vests and T-shirts are a must.
  • Tights and leggings are fashion staples here if you are a girl.
  • Sweaters give you the classic British look.
  • Coats - make sure that they are water-resistant.
  • Underwear and socks -  two weeks’ worth of underwear to save you from doing laundry every three days.
  • Jeans/shorts/skirts - whatever you fancy, but keep in mind that Britain is not a tropical destination, although it can still be sunny and warm.
  • Sneakers because you will be doing a lot of walking.
  • Wellies - your new best friend! I’m not kidding.
  • Formal clothing - dresses for ladies, suits for gentlemen.


I would advise packing a week’s worth of everything in case you are stranded somewhere without any shops (most unlikely).

  • Shampoo/conditioners/shower gel/soap
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste: you may want to carry them in your hand luggage (see below)
  • Deodorant
  • Brush/comb
  • Shaving supplies
  • Feminine products: girls, need I say more?
  • Makeup
  • Tissues/toilet paper: for the hypothetical stranded-in-the-middle-of-nowhere situation.

Hand luggage

Hand luggage is even more important and harder to pack then checked luggage, especially if you are travelling internationally. Airline regulations have been tightened considerably - no sharp items and bottles of liquids meeting size requirements. Remember to check with your airline to make sure that you don’t have to throw anything away at the airport because you cannot board a plane with them.

  • Medicine for common ailments such as cold, headaches, sunburn (you never know).
  • Toothbrush/tooth paste/grooming products: you will want to stay as fresh as possible during and after a long-haul flight
  • Wet wipes/tissue: to help you fresh up.
  • Entertainment: books, Kindle, handheld consoles, etc. Whatever you need to alleviate your boredom. 16-hours trapped in (and strapped in!) a metal flying machine has never been joyous.

Valuables - things you cannot afford to lose

  • Jewellery
  • Wallets
  • Camera
  • Laptops
  • Money: enough for your first few days in the UK.

Documents: Keep hold of these if you want to pass the checkpoint and gain entry into the country.

  • Passport with your visa
  • Boarding pass
  • Copy of transportation/accommodation plan.
  • CAS: Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies.
  • Assessment of English competence: IELTS certificate for example.
  • International Certificate of Vaccinations/Health certificates.
  • Evidence about your care arrangement if you are 16-17/guardians if you are under 16.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Bring as much or as little as you are comfortable with. Packing can be a daunting task when going to study abroad but don’t let it ruin your eagerness. You are about to embark on the most exciting journey of your life.

Bon voyage!