Moving to a new city is hard. Moving all your stuff and making new friends might be at the front of your mind in the lead up to coming to university, but there are many practical things that you will have to work out in your first few weeks. As a disabled student, I understand that the stress of being in a new city can last months. You might know your hometown like the back of your hand, but starting again from scratch can be overwhelming. To try and help with this I’ve come up with some practical advice for living in York.
These are things that you probably won’t think to look up or ask about until you need them. They range from small things such as where to find the loos in town, to bigger things like where is the nearest A&E. Knowing these things might save you a headache later when you’re trying to work it out.
Bookmark this blog, so when your friends ask you if you want to go to the cinema in first term, you can look like an expert when you already know the cheapest one is Vue (spoilers).
So… where is the cheapest cinema?
There are a few cinemas in the centre of York.
Firstly there’s Everyman which is just a few minutes walk away from the train station. This one will set you back around £10 for a student ticket. Alternatively you can buy a membership for £50 a month that gets you unlimited access for you and for a friend.
The other main cinema in York is the City Screen Picturehouse. A student ticket here costs about £11, but it can vary so it’s worth checking out what deals they might have on.
I think it’s worth going a little out of town to Vue at Clifton Moor. It’s about 30 mins on the bus from the centre of York but tickets can cost as little as £5, so if you don’t mind travelling a bit it’s by far the cheapest cinema.
Of course I have to give a special shout out to York Student Cinema. During term time they do £3 tickets for members and £4 for non-members. They screen movies a few times a week on campus. If you’re dedicated you can even pay £30 to get a yearly pass.
How do you get to the hospital and what can I access there?
York Hospital (or York and Scarborough Teaching Hospital to give it its full title) is just outside the centre of town. If you’re coming from the train station it’s about a 15-20 minute walk.
In an emergency you should dial 999 and call an ambulance as you can in the rest of the UK. However, if 999 is not appropriate it’s useful to know:
- the A&E department is open 24/7, although it can get very busy so if you’re concerned ring 111 first and they can direct you to the appropriate service
- there is an urgent care unit open 8am to 6pm every day of the week, where you will be seen for issues such as minor cuts, bruises, strains, sprains etc. You do not need an appointment.
Where are the toilets in the town centre?
I’m going to start this off with a quick tip, student to student. The University of York has a little part of campus right in the centre of town called King’s Manor. It’s mainly used by the Department of Archeology and as an Archaeology student, I encourage anyone to go check it out. It does have the bonus of having toilets, so if you are caught short while you’re in town it’s a good place to go.
Most restaurants and cafes have toilets that you can use, but many will require a purchase to be made first. If you, for whatever reason, need to access toilets quickly you can look into places such as Bladder and Bowl Community. They can issue you with a card or QR code which quickly explains to whoever you show it to that you have a medical condition which means you need to access the toilet quickly.
If none of these are useful to you, City of York Council also has a map of the public toilets in York.
How do I get to a supermarket?
Your first port of call for shopping while you’re at the University of York is the Nisa on campus. There’s one on both Campus West and Campus East, so that’s the best place to go for everyday essentials.
If you can walk or drive then there’s an Aldi on Fulford Road. It’s about a half an hour walk from campus, which doesn’t sound too bad but do factor in that you have to carry your shopping back. Bringing a wheeled shopping bag might be a good idea! Aldi is one of the cheapest supermarkets to shop in, so if you can get there and back safely then it’s worth the trip. Unfortunately, they currently do not deliver.
Tesco, Morrisons and Asda all offer online shopping and deliver to the University area. To order from them you’ll need to go to the shop’s website and add the items you want to your basket. When you check out you’ll be able to book a delivery slot. There’s sometimes a small charge for delivery so I recommend booking the slot several days before you need your food. Delivery slots often fill up very quickly!
If you have a car you have many more shopping options. Tesco Extra on Askham Bar, Asda Layerthorpe and Sainsbury’s Foss Bank are all within driving distance. I recommend looking up the place you want to visit on Google maps to get exact directions. You can also search ‘supermarkets near me’ on Google maps to get other options such as the smaller Co-op on Hull Road and Tesco at Piccadilly.
What is public transport like?
The main way to get around York is using the buses. There are several bus stops on campus and the main student bus is the 66. If you use the bus more than three times a week it’s worth getting a student yearly bus pass.
A student single ticket costs about £2 but this can vary. It’s worth downloading the First Bus app as you can buy tickets through the app and it’s slightly cheaper. The buses come regularly and you can use the one that comes through campus to travel between campuses or to get into town. From town, you can get buses to places such as the Designer Outlet or Clifton Moor Shopping Centre. If you’re not sure how to get somewhere then Google maps can help, or you can ask the driver.
What’s bus etiquette like in the UK?
If you’re not aware of bus etiquette in the UK:
- a single ticket will let you ride one journey
- a day ticket will let you use any bus within that bus company (buses will be marked with the name of the company who runs them) for the whole day
- a return ticket will let you get to the place you’re going and then back to where you bought the ticket.
If you wish to get on a bus, you stand at the appropriate bus stop and when you see your bus approaching stick your arm into the road so the driver can see that you want them to stop. Obviously do this safely and give the driver as much time as possible to see you! When you get on the bus you can show the driver the ticket you already have or buy a ticket from the driver. Card payments are often accepted, although not always depending on the bus. If you’re paying in cash the driver will expect you to have the exact amount as they often do not carry a lot of change.
When you’re nearing your stop, to get off then you will need to press one of the ‘stop’ bells on the bus. Make sure it’s the right stop before you press it as this signals to the driver that someone wants to get off at the next stop. You will also need to make sure you give the driver enough warning, otherwise, they may not be able to stop until the next bus stop. It’s also customary in the UK to say thank you to the driver as you get off the bus.
Can I get a taxi?
If public transport won’t work for your situation you can use a taxi. Lots of York students use Streamline Taxis. You can use their app to book and pay for a taxi just like Uber, but they are local to York and will give students a discount. Streamline Taxis also has a student safety policy which means that if you find yourself in town but you don’t have any money, you can get in any of their taxis and leave them your student ID. You can then go to their office and pay the fare the next day.
If you’re unfamiliar with Taxi etiquette in the UK I promise it’s more straightforward than buses! Once you have booked a taxi make sure you are ready for them when they arrive. Before you enter the taxi confirm with the driver that they are indeed there to pick you up – normally this is done by telling them your name. Once you have confirmed it’s your taxi, place any luggage in the boot of the car and sit in the back seat. If there isn’t room then the front seat is also okay, but it’s customary to sit in the back if possible. When you leave, make sure you bring all your rubbish with you. While it’s not necessary it is encouraged to give your driver a small tip.
How do I register with a GP?
There are two main GPs that most students at the University of York use. You can sign up to Unity Health which is the GP based on Campus East – this is the most convenient for most students as it is the easiest to get to. Or you can also sign up to Jorvik Gillygate in town.
I’m registered with Jorvik Gillygate practice. This is because I have a complex health condition and I felt more confident signing up to them, as anecdotally I have heard that Unity Health appointment waiting times can be quite long. I recommend researching both of the practices to work out which one is best for you.
To register with Unity Health head over to their online form. They also have specific information on how to register if you’re an international student.
To sign up to Jorvik Gillygate I’d first advise giving them a call. During the Covid-19 pandemic you cannot walk into the building without an appointment, so it’s worth double-checking if they’re open first.
If you can get into reception then tell the receptionist that you’re here to register. You will need to bring something with proof of your address (such as a bill with your name and address on it) and also some form of ID. They will then talk you through the registration process.
Where is the nearest post office?
There are a couple of options for posting things while at the University. The best one is the Campus Mailroom. You will be able to buy the appropriate stamps there, or they can also take parcels that have already been paid for. This is the best place to go for parcels because it’s a little cheaper than going to a normal Post Office.
There are several post boxes on campus, for example, one by the YUSU building and one by Alcuin Reception. To use these you will need to attach the appropriate stamps to whatever you’re posting. You can buy stamps and work out which stamps you need by visiting the Royal Mail website.
You can also buy stamps, post letters and parcels from the Post Office. There are three that are close to campus:
- Heslington Post Office, only a couple of minutes walk from Derwent
- Tang Hall Post Office, which is just a single counter in the Tang Hall Co-op. It’s about a 20-minute walk from campus but may be more convenient for those living off-campus as it’s closer to the area that some students live
- WH Smith on Coney Street also has a post office with all the usual capabilities including a currency exchange. You can find it at the back of the ground floor.
Are there zero waste and eco-friendly shops?
YES! There are many but I’ll just talk about three here. The best one for students is SCOOP. This is a student-run shop based on a campus in Wentworth College that’s zero/low waste. You can low-waste products and you can also bring containers to buy everyday essential items such as cereal and loose-leaf tea and pay by weight. It’s a wonderful place to visit, even just for a nosy!
Off-campus there are two main eco-friendly shops. The first is Shared Earth, located in the city centre which sells some zero-waste items that you buy with your own containers via weight. Mainly they sell ethically made gifts and sustainable everyday essentials.
There’s also The Bishy Weigh on Bisopthorpe Road (about a ten-minute walk from the train station), which is dedicated entirely to by-weight items. You can bring your own containers or use some of theirs and they sell everything from dried pineapple to popcorn. Buying by weight means that you only buy exactly what you need, but by bringing your own container all the items you buy are completely zero-waste.
That’s the end of all my practical advice for living in York for now! Thank you for sticking around with me this long and I hope some of these things make the first couple of weeks at York a bit easier for you. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything worked out before you get here. I didn’t meet a single person who 100% knew what they were doing in Freshers’ Week (I don’t even think I know anyone who 100% knows what they’re doing now, three years on) and working it out is part of the fun of moving to a new city.
Doing things like finding the nearest IKEA and working out how to cycle to the city can actually be a fantastic way to make new friends in your first couple of weeks. Try not to worry too much about being prepared for everything!