The practicalities of living in the UK and at Chigwell School

Whilst we understand that some of you may have visited the UK before, or even studied here, we know there are some applicants to which the UK will be a whole new experience. This section is designed to give you essential information about living in the UK, and at Chigwell school, whether you’re a frequent visitor, or coming to the UK for the first time.

Arrival to London

The city has five airports: Heathrow, which is the largest, to the west; Gatwick to the south; Stansted to the northeast; Luton to the northwest; and London City in the Docklands.

Visitors from Europe are more likely to arrive at Gatwick, Stansted or Luton. Most flights to continental Europe last from one to three hours.

Another form of transport is the Eurostar – the Channel Tunnel train – between London and Paris or Brussels. The journey lasts 2¼ hours to Paris and less than two hours to Brussels.


We are very fortunate to live so close to central London, with Chigwell Underground Station just a few minutes’ walk from the school, which will take to directly to central London in 35 minutes on the Central Line.

Public transport in London is extensive and is managed by Transport for London, which has a user-friendly, multilingual website with a journey planner, maps, detailed information on every mode of transport in the capital and live updates on traffic.

The cheapest way to get around London is with an Oyster Card or a UK contactless bank card (foreign card holders should check for contactless charges first).

The tube, DLR and Overground network are ideal for travelling around the city; buses and the Santander Cycles are great for shorter journeys.

Weekends and Free Time at Chigwell

We always celebrate birthdays, we hold parties and barbecues, we decorate the house for Christmas, and we regularly cook a house dinner together on Fridays. During the last year we have enjoyed a number of formal dinners as a community including The Headmaster’s Welcome Dinner, the annual Chinese New Year Dinner and Orthodox Christmas celebrations. In September Houseparents, their families and the boarders travel for a weekend to Othona which is on the Essex coast, enjoying a break from school life as well as visiting the oldest stone church in England and having a bonfire on the beach. Every year the LVIth visit Cambridge University where they are shown round colleges by old Chigwellians who are now studying there. They return to Chigwell, inspired and motivated by what they experience.

Please note that we do not have exeat weekends.

The best that London has to offer – for free!

Visiting the sights in London in your free time doesn’t have to be expensive. There are a huge number of museums and galleries with free admission, and nearly all of London’s main attractions can be seen for free (from the outside, anyway!).

Here are just a few of our free museums:

The British Museum
The National Gallery
The Tate Britain & Tate Modern
The Science Museum
The Natural History Museum
The Soane’s Museum
The Wellcome Collection
Imperial War Museum 

Many others are listed here, and lots of other museums also offer discounts to students on presentation of your student ID card.

The majority of London’s historical sights and building can be seen for free, on foot, by following the River Thames. It’s possible to walk from the Tower of London (starting at Tower Hill Underground station or London Bridge Station) all the way to Westminster for Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey (Westminster Station). The walk can take an hour or more, depending how many times you stop and how many pictures you take!

By simply walking along the river, following signs for the Thames Path, you will walk past HMS Belfast, the Shard, St Pauls Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge, the Golden Hind, the South Bank Centre and the London Eye, to name but a few!

From Westminster it is a very short walk into St James Park to Buckingham Palace, or you can walk up the famous Whitehall, home to our Prime Minister on Downing Street, Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms, the Cenotaph and other war memorials, House Guards Parade and on to Trafalgar Square in the shadow of Nelson Column and the National Gallery.

Closer to Chigwell, at Stratford, is the sight of the London 2012 Olympic Park – now called the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The park is home to extensive green spaces, canals and walking routes, as well as West Ham Football Clubs stadium and the Arcelormittal Orbit, designed by Anish Kapoor, complete with the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide!

Medical Care and other considerations

We register all our boarding students with the British National Health Service (NHS), which provides free care (except for a few small charges). The school has its own Medical Centre on site, staffed by registered nurses and the School Doctor. The School Doctor holds a surgery every week, and at other times he sees students at his main GP surgery. Hospital treatment is arranged through the School Doctor as necessary.

Most UK residents do not have private medical insurance, as the NHS provides a very good service. Private treatment may, however, shorten waiting times for non-urgent treatments, and can provide some extra comfort (e.g. private rooms in hospital).