Welcome to the first piece of my new series titled Buzzing In, specially catered to international students flying to Manchester to commence university. When I first touched down in the city, I had three suitcases and absolutely no knowledge about the city. I had to navigate Manchester from square one; slowly but surely, I managed to settle in and learn my way around the city.
Getting a grip on your new life can be challenging, but there is a variety of mobile applications that can ease your transition. Here are a few student-friendly recommendations collected by yours truly:
Public transportation is ubiquitous in Manchester, making it super accessible to get around if you don’t particularly fancy walking. I found public transportation intimidating since the primary mode of transport in my hometown is cars, but soon fell into the rhythm of it all.
From trains to busses, taxies to trams, Manchester buzzes with easy ways to commute, including a handful of apps to get you to where you need to be.
- Trainline allows you to purchase train and coach journeys within seconds for travels across the UK. Its simple interface shows you all the options you can choose from while planning a trip, usually stocked with discounts if you have a railcard at hand.
- Citymapper lets you plan your route by including all transport modes—walking, cycling, tram-taking or scooter-riding. This nifty little app has thoughtful features such as sharing live trips with your contacts and voice instructions, so you don’t have to keep your phone out when walking.
- If you are a bus-taker, Stagecoach is the app for you. Check bus arrivals to minimize your wait time and see all bus services near you at a glance; you can even save your favourite routes!
- As one of the world’s largest mobility service providers, Uber needs no introduction. While it might not be the go-to option in certain Asian countries, the most affordable taxi choices in the UK are found on Uber, and you can hail one within minutes to reach your destination.
- Calling all bicycle enthusiasts, don’t forget to download Beryl! Throughout the city, you will be able to spot yellow-accented bikes registered at Beryl Bays. You can unlock these bikes via the mobile app, take them for a ride, and park them at any Beryl Bays near your destination. These bikes are lifesavers when you are running late for classes!
As you disembark your flight, you are bound to take a week or two to finalize accommodation, enrolment, or even bank matters. During this hecticness, you might not have time to cook every single meal or even do your groceries—this is where food delivery apps come in handy!
- Deliveroo is the city’s prized way of delivering scrumptious menus straight to their doorsteps. An array of restaurants and cuisines await you on this app, and filters allow easy searches tailored to your dietary requirements. What’s more? You can even order groceries from supermarkets such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, and Morrisons. Once your order has been placed, you can track the progress and even group-share the tracker if you are ordering with others. Then, keep an eye out for your Deliveroo order dressed in turquoise!
- Uber Eats functions similarly to Deliveroo, but you might get some restaurant options here that aren’t available on the former. It always helps to have choices!
Finance and Budget
Coming from Malaysia, I was caught off guard to realize that cashless payment methods have successfully taken over the UK. Most days, I don’t even carry cash on me because of how convenient it is to pay through mobile banking apps.
Depending on which bank you sign up with here in the UK, you should download that bank’s designated app. I will cover the different banks students commonly sign up with in future pieces, but Monzo, Revolut, HSBC and Barclays are definitely in the mix.
These apps make it easy to transfer funds and keep track of your transactions. By adding your card to your Apple, Samsung, or Google Wallet, you can also remove the hassle of carrying your physical cards around.
Another expenses-related app that I think should be introduced more frequently is Splitwise. This is the easiest way to share expenses with large groups and record who owes what amount. Earlier this year, ten of my friends and I had an extensive cooking session, during which everyone chipped in here and there to purchase ingredients. We saved ourselves the headache and settled our bills through Splitwise by simply imputing who paid how much and letting the app calculate the amount we should pay individually.
Being a student isn’t all assignments and deadlines; we also get perks such as student discounts! While your university student ID is sufficient to score some sweet markdowns, downloading apps such as Totum, Student Beans, and UNiDAYS will help you save even more when you are doing the occasional shopping to reward yourself.
This one is a given, but be sure to have your weather app front and centre on your home screen and check it before leaving your house. Manchester’s weather varies wildly throughout the day, so it is best to dress to the clouds and pack an umbrella if you must.
If you are staying in student accommodation, chances are you will also need the Circuit Laundry app. This app allows you to use washing and drying machines by topping up your account and scanning the machines’ QR codes. It also displays the progress of your load to let you know when your washing or drying is done, so you can go off and work on other matters in the meantime.
I hope this series will help you remove the hassle of figuring things out as a new Mancunian and university student and fast-track your familiarisation with this city that has so much to offer.
Now, take a look at my other Buzzing in advice pieces to help you as you start University: