How do I get to Cambridge?
Cambridge airport offers services from/to a limited number of destinations.
The nearest major airport is Stansted. There is a regular train service from Stansted Airport to Cambridge, taking approximately 30 minutes.
From Heathrow Airport, you can travel by the Piccadilly Line on the Tube to King's Cross and then take the train to Cambridge, or there are regular bus services from the airport. The journey from Heathrow to Cambridge takes around 2 hrs by underground/train, and 3.5 hrs by bus, subject to traffic conditions.
From Gatwick Airport, you can travel by train to Victoria, followed by the Tube to King's Cross, and then via train to Cambridge. Alternatively, bus services are available. The journey from Gatwick to Cambridge takes around 2 hrs by underground/train, and around 4-5 hrs by bus, subject to traffic conditions
What are the colleges?
The ancient university does not exist in a campus as such, but spread throughout the town. Also unique to the Cambridge (and a few other old universities) is the collegiate membership for undergraduates and postgraduates. Postdocs do not need to formally become members of a college to work in the University, but opportunities exist to become affiliated when you arrive.
If you are affiliated to a College, remember your college is NOT Cambridge. Cambridge is a lot broader and socially diverse than you'll ever know if you stay within the confines of your college social scene. Get out; go to free events, read the departmental notice-board/emails.
How do I find accommodation?
The very success of Cambridge makes it expensive as the housing stock is limited. It helps to plan in advance as much as is possible. Contact the Accommodation service as soon as possible and look for private accommodation as well. There is a good accumulation of letting agencies in Regent St. next to the Chemistry Dept. Accommodation is usually furnished, but details are normally listed in the advertisements. Consider that in the UK, along with paying your rent you have to pay Council tax and this is quite a lot of money over 12 months so be prepared!
How easy is it to get a Bank account?
If coming from overseas then you will need the appropriate visa to enter the UK and this will be dealt with in the completion of the contract details. The bureaucracy in the UK is efficient if you have the correct documentation. When setting up a bank account or renting accommodation, bring along your passport, prior references/introductions (if available) from your home bank, and a letter from the department (which will be provided when you arrive) stating that you are employed by the University of Cambridge. With these documents you will be served quickly and efficiently.
What happens if need a doctor?
It is wise to register with a medical practice as soon as you arrive, as the NHS provides lots of services, and Addenbrooke’s Hospital is one of major national teaching hospitals.
What are the schools like?
Local schools tend to be excellent, but if you are bringing your family to Cambridge, registering children at local schools can be difficult unless you plan as far in advance as possible, there are limited places, especially for nursery places. The University offers nursery places and an excellent payment scheme.
How easy is it to get around town?
Cycling is the way to go round Cambridge. Don’t bother having a car as the traffic is surprisingly bad and parking is very limited (and expensive) for a small town. Get yourself a good bike, and especially good safety equipment (you may need to get one as soon as you arrive from the many stores around Cambridge). Lights are very important, in winter it gets dark quite early (link to University scheme?).
Cambridge is either full of students… or full of tourists (or both) be patient if you’re cycling though town, especially on weekends.
What is the shopping like?
There are excellent stores in central Cambridge and in commercial parks not far for the centre. A number of large supermarkets are available throughout Cambridge and a market operates at the heart of the city (don’t expect much fish though).
What can I do in my spare time?
For a city of its size, Cambridge offers a great deal of entertainment to cover all tastes – popular and classical music, theatre, museum, libraries and galleries, sports clubs and gyms, and lots of restaurants and cafes.
The city also benefits from a number of large parks and green spaces along a lovely river to enjoy walking, running or having a picnic. Your University card will grant you entry to visit colleges, King’s College Chapel, and get you reduced fees for punting.
There is a great diversity of sports and outdoors activities. As indication, it is often said that football is only the 5th most popular sport in Cambridge (being the undisputed #1 in most of the country). Rowing is very popular, but most clubs set training sessions very early in the morning.
London is less than an hour away.