So you’re preparing for your first visit to the UK – whether it’s for PLAB, a medical student elective, or a clinical attachment. You must be very excited! I certainly was back in my time and I have to say, I did not prepare as well as I could have. Looking back, there are certain things I would have done differently.
Travel documents and plane rides aside, these are the practical things you need to think about when you come to the UK for a short visit. Whether it’s for PLAB, a clinical attachment, or any other exam.
If you’re coming to the UK to attend a PLAB preparation course or a clinical attachment, be sure to choose as close to the academy or hospital as possible. This will help you save time and money on travel, and avoid travelling late at night in unfamiliar places.
To further save money, we recommend looking for accommodation which provides cookware, a kitchen, and access to laundry facilities. AirBnB is a great website where you can filter your search based on this.
As mentioned above, try your best to book near the accommodation to save time and money. Certain PLAB academies are notorious for running classes late into the night and just like any other city, it’s best to avoid travelling on your own at night. If you are worried about your safety at any point, you might want to consider using Uber. If you do, sign up with the code 7798ae to get a discount off your first ride.
Also, don’t forget about your transportation on the day of the exam. Check the route to the exam centre and book your ticket in advance to take advantage of discounts.
Many IMGs decide to bring cash to the UK. They either exchange it back home and bring GBP, or bring foreign currency and exchange it in the UK. However, this is a very expensive way of exchanging money.
A better option would be to bring a debit or credit card with better exchange rates, however there is a cheaper option if you know someone in the UK, family or friends, with a bank account and whom you trust. You send them money through TransferWise and get it back in cash when you arrive. This will give you the best exchange rates and lowest fees.
Mobile phone contract
Like us, you might consider phone and internet access to be a basic need these days so you should be thinking about how you’ll get this in the UK. Your accommodation is likely to have Wi-Fi, but that won’t help you when you’re out and about and need directions, need to contact someone in the UK, or when you’re feeling homesick and want to call friends and family back home.
We recommend reviewing the data plans (internet access allowance) as well as the international call rates. Lebara and Lycamobile have some pretty decent deals that you can check out.
I had a lot of meal deals and fried chicken take-away during my PLAB 2 preparation days. This wasn’t healthy and also burned a hole in my pocket! In hindsight, I could’ve saved a lot of money by preparing my meals in advance.
So to save money and keep healthy, we always advise bringing a packed lunch to your PLAB course or clinical attachment. If you get accommodation with cookware and kitchen access, all you need is your own food containers which you can bring from overseas or purchase when you arrive in the UK.
The cheapest and most convenient option to buy food containers in the UK is through Amazon. You can create an account when you arrive and arrange for deliveries to your accommodation. Just make sure you let people know you are expecting a package. Here are some containers you can buy on Amazon
Preparing for PLAB, especially PLAB 2 where you’ll be doing a lot of talking, will make you very thirsty! Don’t waste your money buying bottles of water every day. Get a water bottle and keep hydrated. This is a brand we like to keep us going throughout the day.
Tap water in the UK is treated so technically you can drink water straight from the tap, but due to old habits, I just can’t bring myself to do this. If you’re like me, then purchasing a water filter so you can filter tap water before drinking it might save you money depending on how long your stay is.
We use this filter (Amazon link) on a daily basis. The water tastes fresh and doesn’t have a weird metallic taste that some other filters have.
The other option is to buy 5L bottles of drinking water and refill your water bottle with it. Much cheaper than buying small bottles of water every day!
UK weather is pretty unpredictable. You can leave the house under sunny skies and get soaked from heavy rain on the way home. Definitely bring an umbrella everyday no matter what it looks like outside, or what the weather forecast says. It’s always best to be prepared!
Oxford Handbook for the Foundation Programme
This book was immensely helpful not only in my preparation for PLAB 2, but also for my first job! It helped me consolidate my learning from medical school and the PLAB 2 course, as well as understand how the NHS works and what’s expected of UK doctors.
I recommend you get this book early on because by the time you start working, you’ll be so familiar with it you’ll know the UK management plan or at least where to look when you come across a case or problem at work.
This is something you need to put serious thought into. Travel insurance is a life-line that will help you out in unforeseen emergencies. Nobody knows when or where they will fall ill, have an accident, or when a pandemic is going to strike and their exam is cancelled and they can’t go back home. Make sure you arrange travel insurance before coming to the UK.
If you are willing to take the risk and skip this, you only have yourself to blame if something unthinkable happens.
Don’t underestimate how cold it can get in the UK, especially the further north you go. Be sure to pack appropriately warm clothing or save up to buy some when you arrive.
Some things are actually cheaper to buy in the UK than back home. Before you visit, make a list of what you plan to buy when you get here. Amazon is usually the place where you can find items at the lowest prices.
Pro tip: Sign up for Amazon Prime for free one-day delivery for 30 days, then cancel your Prime subscription.
If you are coming to the UK for PLAB 2 and you have a 6-month visa, it may be worth your time to stay a bit longer after the exam for a clinical attachment. Doing an attachment during your PLAB 2 visit will save you the extra plane ticket!
Related: How to find a UK clinical attachment
When you think about the details of your trip and prepare accordingly, you can make your trip smooth and worry-free. I hope these tips will help you, and if you have any other tips, please leave them in the comments section below!
Find out how much the process of GMC registration will cost you in our article:
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