Everything You Need to Know about Flying into the UK to Study Abroad

Everything You Need to Know about Flying into the UK to Study Abroad: Things I learned and wish I knew before flying to the UK | College with Caitlyn

Currently writing this from my dorm room in Glasgow. Whoop whoop!

I flew into Glasgow three days ago and let me tell you it was a trip. Flying doesn’t really stress me out, but security does, so the thought of international customs was very overwhelming. It ended up being not too bad (besides a couple minor hiccups) so I thought I’d share my experience and what I learned during the whole ordeal. I thought it might help anyone nervous about their own flight into the UK.

Airplane meals and drink service

My flight to London left Chicago around 9 p.m. and landed in London around 11:30 a.m. so I was very confused about whether they would be serving us dinner or breakfast. Turns out we got both. For free. Sounds like a bargain to me! Especially with the amount of food they gave us.

For dinner, I got pesto pasta, cracker and cheese, bread and butter, and a brownie. Then for breakfast (which the flight attendant kindly left on the tray for me since I was asleep), I got yogurt, granola, and trail mix.

Throughout dinner, all the flight attendants went up and down the aisles offering different beverages as well. It was mostly alcohol, and I was tempted to ask for some but was scared they would turn me down and that would be embarrassing. I was hesitant because I’m 20, so not legal in the US but I am legal in the UK. I later found out that it would have been okay for be to request an alcoholic drink since I was flying somewhere where it is legal, but it will not be okay for me to do on the way home.

There goes my chance to get free alcohol.


After landing in London I was so excited. This is my first time abroad so it was surreal to be somewhere you hear about in the media. It was very easy to find where I needed to go because of all the information screens. My flight to Glasgow was in Terminal 5, so I followed the purple signs and easily found the shuttle to the terminal.

After getting to the correct terminal, I followed the purple signs again and ended up at customs. I went to the UK side since I would be staying in the UK and not flying elsewhere.

At the officer’s station, he asked for my passport right away and somehow knew I was there to study. (Guess I just look like a uni student). This is the part where I say: make sure you have your passport and school documentation handy!!

He also asked to see my landing card, which is something to make the process go by smoother. They were handed out on my flight after dinner so I had mine all filled out and ready. The landing card asked for my name, where I flew from, where my final destination was, and my address for the duration of my stay so make sure you have that handy! Luckily I had printed out all my accommodation documentation so I had the address with my other school paperwork.

The officer also told me that if I chose to do some traveling out of the country while I was in Europe, that I had to bring my school documentation with me to get back in the UK. Bless him for telling me that, because my dumb self would have never thought to bring that with me.

Overall, it was a lot less scary than I thought.

To leave the customs area though, they had these weird machines where you have to stand in a certain position, scan your ticket for your next flight, and stare at a green light? I think it scans your face for security reasons. They also used these at my gate in the terminal when boarding my flight to Glasgow as well.

Security in London

Now, this was the overwhelming part. I was always told that airport security at international airports was a lot less intense than American security. Lol wrong. I hadn’t been this scared at security since a TSA officer yelled at me in Denver three years ago for forgetting to take my phone out of my pocket.

You are still required to remove your coat, belt, and shoes so that I was used to. I also had to take out and power down my phone and iPad. Then I had to take the liquids out of my suitcase which is when things went south.

You see I had two bags of liquids, and when the officer saw that he informed me I was only allowed one and everything else would be dumped. He gave me one plastic bag and told me to fit it all in there and make sure it zipped shut. Well, that obviously wasn’t happening and I was so frustrated and annoyed when a lovely woman came over and said she would do it for me just to spite the other officer because he was being rude to me. She was able to fit everything in the one bag except two little germ-x’s which the male officer had already thrown away. She then held the bag up and said, “Ha, told you it would fit Frank.” She’s my hero.

Then we had yet another hiccup

After going through the metal detector I quickly got my suitcase and boots back, but everything else was held up. The officers there had to start going through everything individually because the scanner thing got backed up. When the officer picked up the bin with my backpack he pulled my water bottle out of the side pocket and we both realized there was still water left inside. He told me I had to drink what was left or he had to dump it. I told him to dump it thinking he meant the liquid, but he meant the whole water bottle. When I realized this I told him I would just drink it. So there I was in the middle of the London airport chugging water like my life depended on it so I wouldn’t lose my favorite blue water bottle. Once it was all gone and I was wiping my mouth he told me I was all good and could leave.

Like seriously what? Did he think there was poison in the water and wanted to make sure it wasn’t deadly so I had to drink it? Like can someone please explain this to me?

Any more flights?

After that, I had six hours to kill. I spent most of them watching episodes of Supernatural that I had pre-downloaded onto my iPad. I also brushed my teeth in the bathroom and considered changing clothes but opted against it. By this time, I was exhausted and just wanted to shower and sleep. I wish I had brought some baby wipes to clean up a little since I felt disgusting. 

There were a couple couches and sleeping chairs throughout the terminal but they were all taken so I had to sit in an insanely hard and uncomfortable seat for most of the time.

Since I was only flying to another city in the UK now, I had no more security to go through. It’s just like taking a connecting flight in the US after you first go through customs and security which was nice to not have to worry about once I finally got to Glasgow after like 22 hours or something like that.

So I think that’s everything! I hope someone found this super helpful, if not entertaining because of my secuirty fiasco. And if you have any more questions feel free to reach out to me at collegewithcaitlyn@gmail.com or just leave a comment below!

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