Arriving in the UK

Travelling to the University is a busy and exciting time for all students. If you are arriving from outside the UK, there are some extra things you will need to think about, but we are here to help make your arrival as smooth as possible.

Flexibility for the 2020 academic year

We are planning for every eventuality given the uncertainties, and we know you will be trying to make your plans too. We very much hope the situation allows as many of you as possible to join us on campus so that you can access as many aspects of the wider student experience as possible. However, we are also extending our welcome period for new students – so that whenever you are able to get to us, you can be sure of a warm Birmingham welcome.

For new and returning students, the options you have for the first semester are:

  • Arrive at the start of the semester as originally planned
  • Start online and arrive on campus at any time during the first semester to suit you
  • Or study the first semester all online.

Whatever you choose you can be reassured that we are planning to support you to begin your studies wherever you are, whenever you can get to us, and whatever happens with the pandemic.

To arrive at the start of the semester, you should plan to arrive in time for Welcome Week, which begins on Monday 21 September. For 2020, we have extended our arrivals period so that you can arrive at your accommodation safely at a time that suits you.

If you are required to self-isolate on your arrival, you will be able to arrive between Saturday 5 September and Monday 7 September so that you can complete your 14-day self-isolation before Welcome Week begins.

For students on an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programme, additional information on the academic year can be found in our ITE programmes FAQs. 

Self-isolation on arrival

We recommend that before you travel you refer to the UK Government Guidelines.  Currently, students arriving in the UK are required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days unless they are travelling from a country which is listed in Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel corridors (for England).

We are here to help and support you if you are self-isolating in University accommodation, including allowing early arrivals for you to complete your self-isolation before Welcome Week.

Find out more about self-isolation

Travelling to the UK

Booking your flights

We’re delighted to have teamed up with our travel partner, Key Travel, who will be operating an online booking portal especially for Birmingham students to help you arrange your flights. This dedicated service can be used to book your flights from anywhere in the world, and means we can align our free airport collection service from London Heathrow and Birmingham to ensure your smooth transition to our campus. The Key Travel team have 24/7 traveller support services and they are working with global airlines to offer you promotional packages including additional luggage allowance and access to special academic fares.

To access this service please register below so we can set up your account with Key Travel. It will take approximately a full working day to set-up your account and, once this is complete, Key Travel will email you with your log-in and access details.

Register for this service

Do I have to use the Key Travel portal to book my flight?

No, you are welcome to book your flight in any way you prefer. The University is offering the portal with Key Travel to offer additional reassurance to students. The use of a trusted travel agent such as Key Travel gives support and services not always available through other means. We have also worked with Key Travel to secure promotional rates for our students which aim to offer you the best value. 

Who can use this service?

The service is available for all University of Birmingham students and to all confirmed University of Birmingham offer-holders starting their programme of study in September 2020. Students with an offer to start their courses on programmes commencing in January 2021 will also be able to use this service.  

Current students should use their University email address to register for the service.   

If you register for the service as an offer holder we will verify your details against our application system prior to releasing the information to Key Travel. 

What do I do if I have not received, or I have lost, my Key Travel access details?

If you have lost your access details or not received the original email you can retreive them on the Key Travel portal and use the email address you registered with and click 'forgot your password' to reset your access.

What are ‘Academic Fares’?

Academic fares are specialist flight tickets usually only available to university staff through Key Travel. Key Travel has negotiated with some airlines to offer these directly to students to support us in this challenging time. The academic fares are designed to offer a competitive price combined with increased flexibility that enables you to better manage your travel plans and avoid the indirect costs commonly associated with unplanned travel. Usually, these fares are the cheapest flexible fares available; other key benefits include: 

  • A guaranteed fare with a discount vs. the airline’s published fares available to the public
  • Free of charge changes or cancellations to your booking with no fee charged by the airline*
  • Flexible tickets
  • Extra or generous baggage allowances 

Please note the type of fare and benefits varies from airline to airline and from flight to flight. 

*Please note there is a small change/cancellation fee charged by Key Travel to process the change or cancellation. 

How much extra baggage would I be allowed?

Baggage allowance will vary by airline and is often between 23-32kg with fees or fines for exceeding this limit. Key Travel are working with airlines to include an additional allowance of up to 10kg for students at no extra cost within our academic fare packages but please check the terms and conditions of your flight when booking to confirm. 

Please note, upon your arrival to the UK, assistance will not be provided with lifting/carrying your luggage between airports and onto coaches or transferring from coaches to your accommodation in adherence to COVID-19 safety guidance. Any luggage that you bring with you will be your responsibility to move. 

What payment methods do Key Travel accept?

Payments must be made directly in the portal via credit card, Key Travel accept Visa and Mastercard. 

What are the advantages of booking through Key Travel?

  • 24/7 availability of their online tool
  • In the 24 hours prior to your trip, you will have access to Key Travel’s emergency team should there be any disruption to your trip
  • Access to a broad range of flight options including specialist academic fares
  • Weekly Travel updates 

Once I’ve booked my flights how do I arrange the airport collection service?

You can book your place on the University’s free airport collection service for students from Birmingham Airport (BHX) and London Heathrow (LHR). You will be met at the airport by our friendly meet and greet team and will be brought to the University campus on coach. You will need to book your airport collection in advance, and we advise you book as early as possible to guarantee your seat, as places are limited.

I’m travelling with my family; can I book group flights via Key Travel?

In the Key Travel portal you can book for up to four people in one booking.

Please note when considering family travel that the airport collection service will be for students only and other travellers will need to make their own arrangements.

Will there be any ‘flexibility’ on flights and tickets?

The level of flexibility for your ticket will vary based on the fare you pay: please be sure to read the terms and conditions of your flight carefully. Changes to flight dates ;may be permitted for a small fee and cancellations (refunds) may be accepted. (NB: the terms of the fares are shown in the online tool when you are searching for your flight)

If your flight is cancelled or changes are made by the airline, Key Travel can support you with this and will notify you of your options should this occur. The emergency team are available 24/7 so they can offer support should changes or emergencies occur while you are travelling.

Do we have any data on availability of flights from China?

The CAAC (Civil Aviation Authority of China) has implemented what is called their ‘Five One Policy’. As part of the policy, international airlines are allowed to fly into China no more than once per week. We have seen this ease up slightly with selected airlines being allowed to fly into China twice per week and further easing of the policy is expected throughout October.

We have seen increasing flight options via Hong Kong since the confirmation of an approved transit/transfer service at HK Airport (HKIA) from Mainland China which is valid if you travel on one ticket and you are checked in on both sectors of the flights at the original port of departure.  Please note this is not valid if you purchase your Mainland China to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to UK flights separately.

How do I find the best value flights?

Flight prices are extremely changeable and varied which can make it an overwhelming process to find flights that suit your plans and budget.  In line with the University’s flexibility on arrival date you may wish to consider travelling to the UK a little later in the first semester when flight availability increases and prices are more affordable.  For example, at time of writing this post, flights departing from China and India in late October (six weeks ahead) were 25%-50% cheaper than flights departing in late September.

Which routes can I book?

Students are welcome to book any route that suits their needs. Most students will arrive at Birmingham Airport (BHX) or London Heathrow (LHR). We advise you to fly to Birmingham Airport where possible.

We strongly advise that students do not travel to the UK via Ireland. The UK and the Republic of Ireland are part of a Common Travel Area. This can cause problems for non-visa nationals who have not applied for entry clearance before travelling because you will not pass through the correct UK immigration control, meaning you will enter the UK as a tourist and therefore will not have the correct permission to study in the UK.

How can I prepare for my trip?

The best way to get ready for your trip is to prepare early as much as you can. Be aware of requirements that may be in place with the airline that you are flying with.

As an example passengers arriving in Dubai from any destination, including passengers connecting in Dubai, must have a negative COVID-19 test certificate to be accepted on the flight. The test must be taken a maximum of 96 hours before departure and needs to be from an accredited medical centre.

Regulations are changing rapidly and therefore, ;we advise students to keep up to date on what requirements are being enforced both by airlines and airports.

University Student Charter Flight from Nanjing

As part of the University’s continued efforts to support students in securing flights to the UK from China we have secured access to charter flights being arranged by INTO Global and Juneyao Airlines exclusively for UK university students. The flights are planned for early October and will travel from Nanjing to London. The airline have secured approval for the flights. To read the terms and conditions and to book onto these flights please complete the survey and the airline will update you directly.

University Student Charter Flight from Chongqing with Hainan

Another option available for University of Birmingham students are flights from Chongqing to Manchester with Hainan airways. As with the INTO flight above, this is a student charter, only available for students looking to study in the UK. To register and purchase tickets on these flights please complete the registration form.

Providing your journey details

As a student travelling to the UK, you will have to provide your journey and contact details on an online passenger locator form 48 hours before your arrival.

You will need to show your completed form when you arrive at the UK border, either by printing a copy or showing it on your phone. The UK Government will use this information to contact you if you or someone you have travelled with develops symptoms of COVID-19. It is your responsibility to ensure that you provide the correct information.

Travelling and arriving

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) provides advice on preparing for your arrival, including what to bring with you in your hand luggage. Currently in England, it is mandatory to wear face coverings in locations including public transport, planes, and airports.

When you arrive, you will need to go through passport control. It is important that you are ready to answer questions about your visa and that you make sure the details are correct. Read more about immigration and passport control.

You will then need to collect your luggage and proceed through customs. You will need to declare certain items. Find out more about restricted and prohibited items.

Free airport collection service

We are offering a free airport collection service for students arriving to Birmingham Airport (BHX) and London Heathrow Airport (LHR), the two main entry points for new students arriving to the UK. Please note, it is a mandatory requirement for students to wear a face covering when on coaches.  The University will provide each student with a face covering before boarding.  

We'd encourage incoming students to arrive at Birmingham Airport where possible. Birmingham Airport is close to our University campus (just a 30-minute coach transfer away) and after a long journey, our students really value a short transfer. Travel time from London Heathrow to Birmingham is approximately 2.5 hours.

The airport collection service will drop you to selected halls of residence on our main campus in Edgbaston, Birmingham. If you're not staying in University accommodation, we will work with you once you've booked your collection to ensure you know how to get to the right place once you arrive.

Airport collections are available from Saturday 5 September to Monday 21 September 2020.

Book your airport collection

Alternative travel

We recommend that you use the University's dedicated airport collection service if you are arriving between Saturday 5 September and Monday 21 September. If you have not booked a place on the airport collection service, you will need to make your own way to your accommodation.

From Birmingham Airport (BHX)

Option 1: Taxi

We currently recommend TOA Taxis, who is a trusted supplier of taxis to the University. This is a private, fast and comfortable way to travel once you land in the UK and the taxi will take you directly to your accommodation. 

The approximate costs to travel to University of Birmingham campus will be £30 plus car parking charges, though this may vary. All TOA vehicles accept cash payment, but also offer ‘Chip & Pin’ card payment option for debit or credit cards.  

At the airport, follow signs for the taxi rank. The taxi can take you directly to your University accommodation. You should only take a taxi from the marked taxi rank to ensure that it is a registered and insured taxi driver. 

A taxi can be the quickest option and may particularly suit you if you have heavy luggage or arrive late at night or very early in the morning. 

Option 2: Train

You can catch the train from Birmingham International railway station (BHI) to the station on the University campus (UNI). This will take around 45 minutes - 1 hour, and will cost between approximately £5 and £20 depending on travel time and route. You can plan the journey in advance and check train times using National Rail Enquiries.

At the airport, take the free 'Air Rail Link' monorail from the airport (near the Terminal 1 Departures area) to Birmingham International railway station. It takes two minutes and operates between 05.15 and 02.00 daily. From Birmingham International, you will need to take a train to Birmingham New Street (BHM). These trains run as regularly as every three minutes throughout the day, though schedules may be subject to change.

From Birmingham New Street you can either:

  • Take a taxi - follow the signs to the taxi rank at the station. A taxi to the University will cost approximately £15 and will take approximately 10 minutes.
  • Take a train to University station - take a train towards Longbridge or Redditch. Check that the train will stop at University station. This will cost approximately £3 and will take approximately 10 minutes. You will then need to travel from University station to your accommodation. Depending on how far your accommodation is, you may find it easier to take a taxi directly to your accommodation.

Currently, the UK Government requires that face coverings are worn on public transport in England. Find out more

From elsewhere

If you are travelling from other UK airports, or elsewhere in the UK, there are several ways to get here. Currently, the UK Government requires that face coverings are worn on public transport in England. Find out more


The University has its own train station, simply called 'University' (UNI). There are also stations in Selly Oak (SLY) and at Five Ways (FWY) which are near to some student accommodations. Trains run through these stations up to every 10 minutes during the week, and regularly at weekends. You can plan rail journeys and check times and ticket prices in advance using National Rail Enquiries

Birmingham New Street (BHM) is two stops away on the cross-city line and is a major national station, with trains running to cities across the UK, such as London and Manchester, as well as Wales and Scotland. If you are travelling by Eurostar, you will need to change at London stations.


If you are travelling with heavy luggage, you may find a coach more convenient. Remember that we offer free airport collections by coach from both Birmingham Airport (BHX) and London Heathrow (LHR).  

You can travel to Birmingham Coach Station, in the Digbeth area of the city centre, and then take a taxi directly to your University accommodation. Coaches to Birmingham Coach Station are operated by National Express

Megabus coaches also travel to the city, but do not use Birmingham Coach Station.