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Settling into Life in Exeter

This page will provide information on useful things that you will need during your time here.


Everyone in Britain is entitled to free medical treatment through the National Health Service (NHS). Information about the NHS can be found http://www.nhs.uk/Pages/homepage.aspx. On this site you can also search for the nearest doctor or dentist.

Doctors in the UK generally work 8/8:30- 5/6:30 Mon-Fri only. If you're sick outside of these hours or on the weekend you will need to go to the hospital which also has a NHS "walk-in" centre. There are attempts in place to change the hours of GPs to accommodate longer hours and hours on the weekend, but this may take a while to implement.

NHS walk-in centres

The idea behind these is to treat people for things that are not emergencies or do not require a specialist. You simply "walk-in" and be treated. My experience of the one on Sidwell St in town is that they do NOT have a doctor on staff, only a nurse who can probably treat things like burns etc. Anything more urgent or serious and you will need to visit a GP or your local hospital. The NHS also offers contraception services, but only between certain hours.


In order to find a local doctor, use the NHS website above, choose GP, put in your local area and you will be given a list of doctors and their distance from you. Be warned however that surgeries may not accept you as a patient unless you have been in the country for 6 months and you may be told to use the hospital. St. Leonard's Practice on Athelstan Road has accepted people resident in the UK for less than 6 months.


Of course if you're sick, you generally need medicine. In the town centre there are several pharmacies: Boots on High St., Sainsbury's in Guild Hall shopping centre, and Lloyd's on Sidwell St. These are generally open Mon-Sat 9-5, and probably close at ~4:30pm on a Sunday. The Boots store at Exe Bridges is open until 5pm on Sundays and the pharmacy attached to the St. Leonard's Practice is open late most days and even on Sundays! (10 or 11pm)


Fill these at a pharmacy. You will have to simply declare whether or not you have to pay for them and sign. Most GP's surgeries will be able to arrange repeat prescriptions. Current cost is 7.10 per item.

EIC card

The EIC is an European Insurance Card for medical treatment within Europe and outside of the UK. It is free to obtain and useful if you plan on travelling within Europe. See https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/home.do for who is elligible and regarding applying.


Registering with a dentist is either as an NHS patient or as a private patient. It can be difficult to find a practice taking on new NHS patients. The NHS website above will also give you an idea of local dentists that you can try approaching.

If you get on the books of the Barnfield Hill GP Surgery, the dental practice next door may accept you as an NHS patient.

There are also private dentists where you can pay as you go and get more immediate treatment. However some private dentists have plans that you need to sign up for (12 a month) which covers one check-up a year or so and everything you have to pay for ON TOP of this subscription service.


Mobile Phones

Obtaining a mobile phone in the UK is no problem. You can walk into any phone store on high street and buy a pay as you go SIM card, with no identification required.

If you want to obtain a contract, then you will need you bank account details. Pricing plans for contracts depend on the balance of text messages and same network minutes and cross-network minutes.

There are many carriers: T-mobile, 3, Orange, Vodafone, Virgin etc. Take a look at Mobile Phones or visit one of the (many) phone shops on High St.


Obtaining an internet connection for your house is probably best done by asking around people at work to see which carrier they use. Some providers require a landline to connect so don't forget to factor in this extra charge. Try this broadband website for a price comparison.

Grocery Shopping

There are a number of grocery shops in the centre of town. Tesco on High St. which is open late - until 10pm on weeknights. Sainsbury's in the Guild Hall shopping centre which I believe is only open until about 6pm. Sommersbys on Sidwell St. open until 8pm. Tesco is probably cheaper on average than Sainsbury's.

There is also a Sainsbury's outside of town near Whipton and heading towards the M5. Ask others in the dept. for directions. You will need a car or to take the bus.


Postage in the UK depends on the size of the envelope, the thickness of the parcel, how quickly you want to send it, where you want to send it etc. If you are just posting a normal letter, then there is no need to worry about most of this, just stick a stamp on it and drop it in a letter box. If you want to post a parcel go to the post office and ask them for a quote and then decide. Local mail you can send either first or second class. First class should arrive the next day or the day after depending on when you post. You can buy stamps at the post office (avoid lunch times! - even on Saturdays) or at some small grocery stores. Most corner shops will sell booklets of 6 or more stamps. The price is set by Royal Mail so there's no need to shop around.

For shipping parcels abroad it may be better value to look in to other carriers. There is something called "surface" mail which is a slightly cheaper option of sending a parcel long distance. However there seems to be no time frame attached to this and the mentality appears to be "it will arrive when it arrives" and truthfully it is not much cheaper than ordinary mail anyway.


Some (but not necessarily all) foreign driving licenses are valid for one year, after which you will have to replace them with a UK license. To do this go to any post office, request package D1 (?) (the driving license application) to get your provisional license. This will take a few weeks (must send passport with it), so choose a convenient time to do this. The written test is easy, but the practical test is much more strict than in US.

additional new costs encountered: annual road tax on car (<hundred to a few hundred , depending on car) MOT safety/emissions check, ~40 annually car insurance (can be expensive, but depend on age, driving experience, random number generator used) petrol - price typically (7/26/06) ~1/litre

-- TraceyHill - 10 Apr 2008

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