Skip to Content


Making the Move to Belfast from the Republic of Ireland: A Step-by-Step Guide

Making the move from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland can be a big transition and involves a few key considerations. Astrophysics student Lauren McGinley provides some useful tips to help you get settled into life in Belfast.

Front of Belfast City Hall
Queen's has student accommodation located in the heart of the city

Moving away from home can be a scary transition for anyone. I highly recommend to any student from outside of Northern Ireland to get settled in before your classes start. I moved up from Donegal into Queen’s student accommodation a week before my first lecture began. Having never set foot in Belfast, I chose to move into the city centre accommodation to be situated in the heart of the city.

Commercial Court street view

Outside Duke of York pub in Commercial Court

I was so close to many shops for groceries, clothing, furniture etc., many items which I had to leave at home which made the transition easier. Queen’s guarantees offer of accommodation for the first year of study if you apply by the deadline set out on their website. They also offer trips and events within the student accommodation. This is a great chance to meet new people, as not knowing anyone in a new environment can be daunting. If you are exhausted from travelling, I recommend getting one or more of the packs available, such as bedding or kitchen packs to save you the hassle of going out and buying them yourself.

A new phone plan is essential

One of the first things you should do when you make the move is set up a phone plan. Some students buy another SIM card while they’re up here, while others already have a phone plan which includes international calls and text. Have a look at what’s available to you with your data provider and shop around for the best deal.

Student using phone

Having a phone plan or SIM is useful for international students

Bank in Belfast

Another important step is to open a UK bank account. You’ll need a proof of address which the staff within the accommodation are very quick to provide. Proof of acceptance into Queen’s is another requirement to set up a Student Account. Depending on the bank, some accept UCAS letters, student IDs or a letter of admittance to the university. You will need a bank account not only for day-to-day shopping (avoid those exchange fees!) but also to pay for your student accommodation. You’ll also need a UK bank account for renting a flat with others as letting agents generally want to use these for direct debits. There are many banks in Belfast that provide services designed for students. To name a few there are Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland, AIB NI, Halifax, Santander, and Danske amongst many others.

Belfast city centre with city hall

There are many banks located in the city centre

Applying for funding

I’m sure you have heard so much at school about SUSI applications and deadlines. If you are wondering if you can still apply for funding even though you’re going to Northern Ireland, the answer is yes! However, you can only apply for the maintenance grant.  This can help with rent or day to day spending. For your tuition fees, you can apply for a tuition loan through Student Finance NI to cover the cost and you don’t have to start making repayments until after you graduate!

There is no online application form for undergraduate EU students, so you will have to print off the form from their website and post it to them before your course commences. The tuition fees for ROI students are the same as those from NI, updated on the Queen’s website each year. Reapplying for funding is easy, Student Loans Company (SLC) will send you a form to update any details that you return by post and SUSI can be completed online.

A smooth transition to part-time work

If you’re looking to have a part time job alongside your studies, you should apply for a National Insurance Number. This is equivalent to a PPS number down south. It allows you to pay tax in NI and apply for social welfare benefits and other public services. It’s very simple to get, just apply online through the government website. Being from ROI, you don’t require a VISA to work or study in the UK, which makes the transition much easier!

Student working on laptop

Applying for a National Insurance Number allows students to work part-time during their studies

Getting from A to B

Next on the list is a yLink card, which is a travel discount card for people aged under 24 and can be used on most transport services across Northern Ireland. As of now they are offering 50% off for card holders, making it much more affordable for students to get around the city. I would frequently get the bus to campus from accommodation for as little as £1! You can order this card online or at their stall at the fresher’s fair. Translink is the best website for checking how to get from A to B in Northern Ireland with most train and bus timetables easily accessible.

Stay healthy

Another thing you should do is register with a GP. The University Health Centre is popular with students and is situated on campus, just pick up some forms and fill them out. Again, you will need proof of admission into Queen’s and a proof of address.


The University Health Centre provides both student-focused and general National Health services

Summer storage

If you are heading back home for the summer, there are companies around Belfast that provide affordable storage solutions for students. Go Box Self Storage is a popular choice among students at Queen’s Accommodation as they collect and return your stuff to your next address. There are many self-storage companies around Belfast, so shop around for the best deal and consider splitting the cost with a friend/roommate.


Find out more

Life in Belfast

Queen's Accommodation: Your Questions Answered

See what the residents at Queen's Accommodation get up to on Instagram

Lauren McGinley

Astrophysics| Undergraduate Student | Donegal, Ireland

My name is Lauren and I'm a 2nd year physics student taking the astrophysics pathway. Originally from Donegal, I moved into Queen's accommodation for my 1st year and now live in a flat with my uni mates. Outside of lectures I enjoy archery, pub quizzes and jewellery making and art.