Belfast is amongst the most magnificent cities in the United Kingdom. Founded in the early modern warfare era of the 19th century, Belfast is the capital and the largest city in Northern Ireland. This beautiful city also shares its borders with many famous names such as Glasgow, Liverpool and Edinburgh and is a one-of-its-kind city based upon both land area and the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast.
While many cities may stand above in popularity, the city of Belfast is supposedly known as the capital of travel and tourism in the whole of Ireland. In fact, with a total population of 343,542 as of 2022, Belfast city holds the immense pleasure to cater to students worth more than £170 million annually. The city is home to some of the best universities in the country, making Belfast a prominent contender amongst the international education providers.
Which are some of the top universities in Belfast
As Belfast is home to many renowned universities, it would be impossible to name all of them. So, adding the first topic in our Student Guide Belfast 2022 is the top and well-liked universities in Belfast that every student should consider before applying to study abroad in Northern Ireland.
1. Queen's University Belfast
The Queen's University Belfast is the most popular university and the number one university in Belfast. Established in 1845, the QUB holds an esteemed reputation for offering a high-grade college education. More than 25,000 students enroll in the university to study in one of the most excellent and vibrant study environments in the whole country every year.
2. Ulster University
The Ulster University is stated to be the inception of professional education in Belfast. Being the most significant competitor of the QUB, Ulster University is a multi-centre college, having separate branches in Cathedral Quarter, Jordanstown, Coleraine, and the Magee Campus offering a plethora of graduation streams to more than 24,500 students every year.
3. Belfast Metropolitan College
With more than 37,000 enrolments annually, the Belfast Metropolitan College is a further education college specializing in various skilled courses for every age group and gender. When the city council felt the need for a particular course induction activity, the Belfast administration panel held the ground for a new university catering to every professional field of learning, and later became known as the Belfast Metropolitan College.
4. Irish School of Economics, Belfast
The Irish School of Economics was founded in 1970 by Father Michael Hurley to support Culture, Arts, and Christianism. The college also holds a mutual partnership university with Trinity College, Dublin, which is more than ample to attract a large flock of students to study in one of the calmest environments that one could ask for.
How much can it cost you to live in Belfast?
In the last few years, the parliamentary government of Ireland have solely focused on providing affordable living to its citizens. In fact, you might find it contradictory but according to recent statistics, living in Northern Ireland is £500 less expensive than in London. Thus, it is no doubt how Belfast has emerged to become a leading name for living a budget life.
To help you out, here we have mentioned a quick breakdown of the average monthly costs linked with students in Belfast.
Rent for accommodation - £280
Food and other eatery shopping - £90
Local Transport - £30-45
Books and stationery - £35-40
Internet and mobile phone - £40
Social and leisure activities - £80-90
Due to many local producers living in nearby towns and boroughs, Belfast is a prominent producer of essential goods and services such as food supplements, furniture, and rental homes. This leaves out all the student worries related to monthly expenses and can live their student life more freely than expected. It is advisable to have a monthly budget of around £600-700 to live comfortably in Belfast.
(Note: All the above expenses are average monthly expenses and exclude tuition fees).
The main costs of living in Belfast as a student
When it comes to housing options for students in Belfast, the place has many options to choose from. The city is filled with numerous student accommodation options that can become a little confusing or tiring if not dealt with correctly. That's why we have included the most suitable student accommodation options in Belfast that can suit every student's needs.
What are the different types of accommodation present in Belfast?
When it comes to students living in Belfast there are 2 types of accommodation on-campus and off-campus.
Students will be able to embed themselves in their college experience by living on-campus. They have different types of rooms from single rooms and shared rooms to ensuites to 1 bedroom apartments.
PBSA stands for purpose-built student accommodation, which is developed and constructed by private developers exclusively for university students. Living in a PBSA has a number of benefits. Typically, all utility bills are included in the rent, and some even provide laundry service, lowering your monthly expenses even further.
HMO stands for "House in Multiple Occupation." A residence with 'common spaces' used by several households is referred to as a 'home of multiple occupancies' in British English. College or university students reside in dorms, sometimes known as dormitories. In dorm rooms, bunk beds are standard. There are two, three, four, or even six beds available.
En-suites: These rooms have a bedroom area and a private bathroom. However, you do not have access to your kitchenette or cooking facilities. In the ensuite room, all of the residents share a kitchen.
Non-en-suites: Here, you'll get your room with a communal bathroom. It's not quite the same as having your bathroom. You'll have a bed and a safe place to sleep, but you'll have to share the bathroom with one or more of your housemates.
Studios: The main section serves as a study, living room, and bedroom, with a bathroom and toilet separate.
Which are the best restaurants in Belfast?
Hungry? Belfast is supposedly an epicentre of some of the best city cuisines, a blessing from local organic vegetable producers. These local products are then mixed with the best ingredients to provide an array of mouth-watering and delicious dishes, from international cuisine to local fast food intakes, all ready to be eaten by you.
Little Wing Pizzeria
Students are welcomed with warmth, love, and excitement at the popular pizza place. The restaurant holds esteemed popularity amongst both the local and international populace to create some of Northern Ireland's most giant pizza that can go up to a whopping 24".
St George's Market
Ever wondered what to eat when everything looks delicious? Well, if you haven't then you can at the most important markets in Belfast. The St. George's Market is a local market where you will find hundreds of local vendors selling delicious and affordable meals from Falafel to Continental to Italian to Indian food.
Have less time before your class and haven't eaten your breakfast? Well, don't fret a sweat because the city's most filled location is always open for you to eat the best breakfast at pocket-friendly prices. From bacon to carrots, sausage, egg, tomato, mushrooms, and their finger-licking pancakes is a must-try for you.
Every person is bound to have tasted a burrito. But if you think you have tasted the best ones on the planet, try visiting Boojum, where you will find the natural and organic ingredients of Mexico mixed with crunchy fillings and put inside the crispy burrito that is more than enough to complete your appetite.
How to make the most of local attractions on a budget?
Well, this is the most common query that every student has in their mind. To make a living on a budget while seeing all the eye-catching beauty attractions of Belfast is a challenging task to get done. But don't you worry because in our Student Guide Belfast, we have introduced some of the best local tourist attractions that every new student in the city visits.
Did we mention that the real 'Titanic' ship was built in Belfast? You can see for yourself the actual process behind the making of this prestigious ship by visiting the Belfast City Hall, where you can enter the free tour of the vessel's model.
Experience the 360-degree view from Victoria Square
Similar to London Eye, Belfast hosts the 360-degree Victoria Square, where you can witness the city's all ends from a single point. Don't miss the lift taking you to the top at full speed where you will also find the most fantastic shopping centres and shops from all local and international brands.
Rediscover The Chronicles of Narnia at CS Lewis Square
No, Belfast isn't any movie capital, but the city has some of the most magnificent locations that attract many moviemakers. Take, for instance, you can visit the renowned CS Lewis Square, where Maurice Harron, an Irish artist, created seven magnificent sculptures, including Aslan the Lion, Maugrim, Mr and Mrs Beaver, the Robin, the White Witch, the Stone Table, and everyone's favourite – Mr Tumnus.
Take a field trip with your friends and take them all out to the Jungle NI, where each one of you can enter an inflatable PVC Ball and make the day with anything that comes to your mind. Football, racing, wrestling, anything can be done till there's a bit of energy left inside of you.
Ice Hockey Competition: A must watch a sports event
Students are often lined up whenever they hear the name of an Ice Hockey match going on in the humongous SSE Arena, Belfast. Here, you will see all the local sports persons giving their best to win the city cup and similar events going on in the stadium that we are going to mention down below.
Are there some bills and mandatory expenses for students that I should know?
Being a student has become an expensive business nowadays. While there can be infinite expenses to bear, there will be some minor yet mandatory bills to face while living in Belfast. As most of the student accommodations cover rent and other costs, here are some of the most basic expenses that students should keep in mind.
Electricity, gas, and water are the three basic amenities that will be used in your day-to-day life. So, to allow less tension to come at you during every month-end, you should consult with your landlord or go through the rental agreement to cover these utility bills at the earliest.
Stationery is an inseparable part of every student's life. But as we said earlier, many local producers grow significant goods near the city which reduces the prices of various products, including wooden-made items, far lesser than in other cities. Furthermore, you can also buy them in bulk to attain maximum discounts as well.
During the time of the pandemic, mobile phones have become a necessity more than an add-on. Being in regular touch with your loved ones and letting them know your well-being is a must nowadays. Subsequently, to assess the need for a mobile phone, try choosing the cheapest mobile service providers in Belfast that should come in handy with affordable local and international calling plans.
Interestingly, to own a tv cable in Northern Ireland requires the owner to apply and receive a tv license. So, an intelligent approach here is to choose a group of friends who have the same interests as yours and choose online streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video or Netflix, thus keeping your budget in control.
How to travel to the city under a budget?
Our Student City Guide 2022 would have been a total downfall if we had left Belfast's transportation system. The city comprises some of the most fantastic public and national transportation, for starters, which are smartly woven around the city. Going through every significant university and student accommodation area, these modes of traversing are suitable for every student.
Without further delay, let us discuss all the common ways to travel in Belfast.
Common ways to travel in Belfast
Belfast community waterways
Due to maximum exposure to both land and water, the Belfast City transport system also helps its local population through the water. The city is home to the Port of Belfast, the busiest ferry port on the island of Ireland, and is known to carry over 1.2 million passengers every year.
Belfast has a vast network of delicate bus routes that are provided on mere spending costs of travel. Here, the city has various bus companies giving great offers for student cards, including Translink, Translink Metro, Ulsterbus, and Aircoach. Furthermore, these can be spotted at every corner, making them the most used public transportation system in the city.
Belfast City council has also established a local taxi system that is organized under private organizations. These cabs that provide the fastest mode of travel in the city can be booked from their free mobile apps. This way, you can enjoy the best roadside view of Belfast that comes to you at the lowest fares than other parts of Ireland.
*Note that Belfast's Transport's expenses solely depend upon your distance travelled and the seasonal busyness/rush.
Which are the most preferred places to stay in Belfast as a student?
Being an affordable place in North Ireland, Belfast is a highly affordable place to live as a student. You might find it contradicting, but according to a survey, Consumer prices, including rent in Belfast, are 72.48% lower than in London or many popular parts of the United Kingdom. That's why a majority of students flock to Belfast to study and live every year.
But despite having all the cards in favour of yours, there is still one question left unanswered
Where do most university students live? To help our readers out, we have culminated a list of the top student accommodation options in Belfast that are pocket friendly and deliver comprehensive services in their packages.
1. Swanston House
Swanston House is located on the famous Queen Street, a.k.a 'Student Street of Belfast'. Swanston House is amongst the best in the student rental homes that offer good room service and 24×7 maintenance support at a price range of £149 - 189/week. Swanston House is also located at a 15-minute walk from the Queen's University and a 10-minute Bus drive from the University's Jordanstown Campus, which makes it a heated competition to get rooms available here.
2. Great Patrick Street
Great Patrick Street is another name when it comes to luxurious student accommodation in Belfast at reasonable prices. The popular student housing option is available near both the Queen's University and City Centre. The average rent for staying at Great Patrick Street ranges from £135 - 171/per week. It offers amazing services, including a clean and sanitized room, smoke detectors, double beds, and emergency lighting & fire alarm.
3. Botanic Studios
Students often concerned for friendliness and a safe environment in their top priorities find Botanic Studios a well-known winner. Botanic Studios apartments is a well-furnished site that offers quality student housing options at the price range of £168 - 196/week. Rooms at Botanic Studios are located within walking distance to the Queen's University Belfast, St. George's Market, and the Kingsbridge Private Hospital.
4. Liv Student Belfast
If you are a fan of many add-ons like a movie theatre, gyms, and rooftop terrace, Liv Student Belfast is a perfect choice. Liv Student Belfast delivers a beautiful and scenic route via the location and offers top-notch student accommodation amenities and a complimentary grab-and-go breakfast. The place is also located within a walking distance of Ulster University Belfast Campus and Belfast Metropolitan College and comes at a starting price of £140/per week.
5. John Bell House
The John Bell House will cover our top student accommodation in the Belfast listing. It delivers good service facilities to the students, including separate cinema rooms, social space rooms, and a clean and hygienic bathroom and kitchen space. The John Bell House student housing place costs an average of £139-199/week.
You can always check all the top and available student accommodation places in Belfast here.
Are there some ways to earn some bucks by side hustles?
It is no surprise that living in Belfast may not be as costly as living in London or Edinburgh, but it doesn't mean that you can leave your expenses in thin air. Using your spare time and letting yourself experience a part-time job can save you a few pounds, which could help you advance in times of rainy days.
Thus, we have decided to include a new entrant in our 'Student City Guide Belfast: 2022’, the top part-time jobs and side hustles that are doable by every student and can be easily found in Belfast. While these jobs can or cannot become your full-time career, it is an excellent deed of work experience and a whole new experience to make yourself a little bit more of a responsible person.
Part-time tutoring is amongst the most wanted jobs in any city. Teaching young minds such as yours but somewhat little can be a great option to start with because of the lack of experience required and minimal competition. Moreover, in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can also teach students via an online mode that gives you the freedom to provide tuition without going anywhere.
A significant part of the city is inclined towards cultural events and many social gatherings every month. While you won't be taking part in each of them as an attendee, it would be more profitable to participate in these events as a festival coordinator. More fun, a lot of people to work with, and also get paid. What else would be great?
University application mentor
A university application mentor is amongst the most respected positions in every university. As a university application mentor, your role will be to introduce a large number of students to the university and help them via 1-on-1 chat/video calls. While this can sound a little hectic, having the role of application mentor leaves a positive image on faculties' minds', which could help you in the long run.
Another university job position that aspires many towards it is being a student ambassador. Student ambassadors are such students who indulge with every student and act as a point of contact between the students and the university. They must address all students and aim towards the best services such as the best university courses, safe accommodation, and other essential utilities.
What is the lifestyle in Belfast Like?
Having discussed all the places of the city, let us take your class outside the university building and help you reach out to the heart of Belfast. Interestingly, Belfast holds majestic arts and honorary mentions in Ireland's history of civilization. The city caters to thousands of international visitors who attend some of the most popular festivals and parades arranged on popular holidays in the city.
Besides these, many such places can make your whole weekend more awesome and forces you to say, "Is the weekend already over?" So, here are some of the significant city places that boast the prevalent lifestyle of Belfast.
Fan of Game of Thrones? Visit the real-life locations of the hit TV series.
Did we mention that the popular television drama series "Game of Thrones" was shot in Belfast? If not, you can witness some of the best real-life locations, such as Castle Ward, which may be more familiar as Winterfell, Tollymore Forest Park, Downhill Beach (Dragonstone), and Murlough Bay in County Antrim, where Stormlands was portrayed.
Foresee the high speed 'Sea Safari' at Strangford Lough
Besides being a county area, Belfast owns a large portion of the hilly regions and Midland zones. For instance, students can visit the exclusive Strangford Lough, where they can foresee the world's first electricity-generating tidal turbine added with the fantastic surface Whirpool, the 'Routen Wheel', filled with seals, porpoises and even basking sharks.
Spend the evening in indie-history Belfast pub
Filled with a plethora of traditional pubs to choose from, Belfast city doesn't disappoint its visitors when spending some quality time in the town. Visit Bittles Bear at the 70 Upper Church Lane or the exotic The Kitchen Bar at 1 Victoria Square which offers pocket-friendly drinks and many additional discounts to students.
Belfast night out is a must
Belfast city is one of the safest cities in Northern Ireland, which is more than ample to attract young students to discover the city's turnaround during nighttime. Try visiting Belfast Belsonic and AVA Music Conference and Festival, which offers vibrant nightlife filled with the city's best musicians, DJs, and artists who can make you whirl all night.
How to make your life a little easier in Belfast as a student?
Living in another city could be new and exciting but at the same time can bring particular challenges that can cost you both time and money if not dealt with correctly. That's why our 'student guide Belfast' also includes these small yet essential details that every newcomer should have a glimpse of.
What to do in case of emergency(rental frauds/immigration issues etc.)
The basic premise that every student should remember is that they are on their own, making them their supervisor. While going out and updating yourself with the city is hard to suppress, ensuring each step lands you with comfort is also necessary.
Such a case as fraud, misconduct, or fake schemes is more than expected in every city nowadays. That's why you must know what to do if you face the same scenario as mentioned above.
For starters, try consulting your university management to acquire some valuable tips on how to live and manage yourself in Belfast. You can also take help from your college seniors to get to know the ins and outs of the city.
Moreover, students who wish to live outside the university graduate halls can contact their tenets or get in touch with the City Council, who are always 'On the Go' to help the student community.
Best tricks to manage finances
By far, you may have already deduced that living in Belfast doesn't come at significant expenses as living in London. But it is also your responsibility to keep a bar on your monthly payments to make sure you don't end up borrowing money now and then. To make sure you have a sufficient budget for every month, try navigating your basic expenses and making up a list of all necessary items.
This will allow you to have more command over your spending and let you know where you can save and where you can spend a little more. Additionally, we would recommend you minimize credit card bills to ensure maximum financial stability. Last but not least, try finding student discounts on various city centre activities and invest in only those amenities which are helpful for your academic activities.
Some useful apps and offers for students
Belfast City YLink Bus Pass is always a great option to grab. Students can use this pass to get heavy discounts on regular public transport. If chosen for a certain fixed period (such as one year or six months), the Belfast city council also offers an accessible bus facility that allows limited free bus rides.