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Living in Belfast

Living in Belfast
Living in Belfast

Living in Belfast

Living in Belfast – practical information

We want you make the most of your time living in Belfast. Here you will find lots of helpful information and advice. Can’t find what you need? Please email [email protected] and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

Visa information

We have provided detailed visa information in the ‘Downloads’ section of this page, including registering with the police if necessary.
Following BREXIT, as from January 2021 the following visa information is applicable for EU/EEA/Swiss students:
EU/EEA/Swiss students who study for less than six months do not need a visa
From January 2021, anyone who is in the UK as a visitor will be able to study as much as they want for up to 6 months.
EU/EEA/Swiss students will not need a visitor visa: they can arrive at the border and either show their passport, or enter through the electronic passport gates to be granted entry clearance.
EU/EEA/Swiss students who study for more than six months do need a visa
If you plan to arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 onwards, you will need to apply for a student visa if you are studying a course which is longer than six months in length.
You will need to complete an application and have it accepted before you arrive in the UK.
You will need to pay an application fee (£348 for students) and have a current passport or other valid travel document.
Most people will be able to complete their application, including identity verification, using a smartphone app. If you can’t access the smartphone app or you don’t have a biometric passport, you may need to go to a Visa Application Centre in your country.
You will also need to pay a fee called an Immigration Health Surcharge. This gives you access to the UK’s National Health Service. Students receive a 25 per cent discount on the usual cost of this surcharge. Details of costs will be available shortly.
You can apply for a student visa up to six months before your course starts.

Police registration – is it a requirement for you?

Citizens of some countries who intend to study in the UK for more than six months must register with the police within seven days of arrival in the UK. Please check your visa to see if this applies to you.  We will advise you of the process on your first day at the school.


We strongly advise students to take out personal insurance to cover for loss of possessions, including laptops and mobile phones, medical expenses and the loss of tuition and other fees if you have to cancel your course or return home earlier than planned. We recommend Guard.Me.

Cost of living in Belfast

Belfast is a compact, welcoming and inexpensive place to live and study. Find out what you can expect to spend on some typical items here.

Looking for work

EU citizens living in Belfast have the right to seek employment.  First, you will have to apply for a National Insurance Number. There are many resources online for seeking work. We have provided some examples below:


You should be able to open a basic bank account with a number of different banks. A basic bank account provides easy access to banking facilities for adults in the UK. Additionally, some banks offer a bank account tailored specifically for your needs as an international student. BBA provide a great guide to choosing and setting up a bank account. Northern Ireland has fewer banks available than mainland UK – here is a full list of banks available in Belfast.

Public Transport

Translink is the main public transport provider in Northern Ireland. You can pay bus and train fares in cash, or you can buy multi-journey tickets online. There is detailed information on the various fares and tickets available on the Translink website.

Driving in the U.K.

The legal age for driving in the U.K. is 17 years of age.  Most car rental companies will only work with clients aged 21 and above.  For more information about driving in the U.K., traffic regulations etc., see the advice from the UK government.

You should also be aware of the Drink-driving limit in Northern Ireland.

Places of worship

We have a comprehensive list of places to worship covering most faiths in our ‘Downloads’ section on this page.


Belfast is a very safe city. It is a small city with a village atmosphere and the people here are traditionally friendly and helpful. It’s generally a safe place to walk at night, even in small groups. However, you should be cautious when travelling to any city destination to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) offers the following advice: Dial 101 for non-emergency assistance. Dial 999 for urgent help


The minimum age for the purchase, consumption and possession of tobacco products in Northern Ireland is 18 years of age. Most enclosed public places and workplaces in Northern Ireland are non-smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these places. You could be fined for smoking in enclosed public places.  Our school building and most of our accommodation options are non-smoking.


The legal age for buying and consuming alcohol in Northern Ireland is 18 years of age. An alcohol unit is not a standard measurement. In Northern Ireland, one unit is 10ml or eight grammes of pure alcohol.

Sexual Health

The Family Planning Association is a sexual health charity that provides information and support on sexual health, sex and relationships.

Medical treatment

You can find full information about Entitlement to health services on the NHS website
EU students
EU members will receive treatment as they would at home, however if you are visiting for less than 6 months you will not normally be able to register with a GP. A European Health Insurance card (EHIC) is required. All visitors are strongly advised to take out private travel insurance.
International students
You can find full information about Entitlement to health services on the NHS website
  • Studying full-time for more than 6 months?
    International Students in the UK on a student visa are entitled to free NHS care. You will have to have paid a Health Surcharge fee as part of your visa application process,  which costs £150. Please note that this must be paid even if you also have private health insurance.  For more information on the Health Surcharge Fee, see the following link:
    You should register with a GP immediately when you arrive.  Check here to find a GP near you.
  • Studying for less than 6 months?
    You will not be entitled to treatment except by a hospital in an emergency. You should obtain private medical insurance. 
    You should bring any regular medication with you as this medication will be charged at full cost.
The nearest hospitals to IH Belfast are: Dial 111 for NHS non-emergency medical assistance. Dial 999 for urgent medical help.

Northern Ireland and Belfast​

Northern Ireland is justifiably famous for its outstanding natural beauty and the friendliness of its people. Belfast is the region’s capital and while it is best known as the home of the Titanic, it also boasts a thriving, modern business sector and a vibrant cultural scene. It can also claim to be the most affordable city in the UK.