How To Travel With the UK ETA for Oxford: A Complete Guide

Known as the City of Dreaming Spires, Oxford is one of the world’s oldest and most-visited university towns. Its historic colleges and scholarly buildings make it one of the most popular cities for travellers to England to visit. This guide explains all you need to know about travelling to Oxford, including how the new ETA system will affect your trip to the United Kingdom.

Early Oxford

Oxford was originally settled by the Anglo-Saxons around the year 900. It was favoured as a point for cattle to cross the River Thames, as the water at this point divides into several shallow channels. As the crossing point grew busier, the town started to develop around it. This was a tumultuous time in British history, with various invading armies fighting for control. When the Normans successfully invaded in 1066, they installed a governor in Oxford, recognising the strategic importance of its location.

Oxford Castle

One of the oldest buildings in the town, the partly ruined Oxford Castle, was originally erected by the Normans. It played an important role during the period of English history known as the Anarchy, which is when King Stephen and Empress Matilda fought for the crown. Matilda chose Oxford Castle as her base and ended up trapped there while Stephen laid siege to the complex. Centuries later, the castle was again besieged, this time during the English Civil War. Today, it is open to visitors and contains exhibits about these periods of history.

The University of Oxford

The exact date of the university’s founding is disputed, but records show that Oxford was already a seat of learning as far back as 1100. In 1209, conflicts between the townsfolk and the students led to violence, with some academics fleeing to Cambridge to establish a second university. Until the 1820s, no further universities were permitted in England, so these two seats of learning enjoyed a particularly privileged status.

University College

Oxford University is made up of numerous constituent colleges. Of these, University College is the oldest, dating back to 1249. Students have included Stephen Hawking, Bill Clinton, CS Lewis and Clement Attlee. Within its walls, visitors can see the Shelley Memorial, a tribute to the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He studied there but was expelled in 1811 for writing a controversial defence of atheism.

Magdalen College

Founded in 1458, Magdalen College is popular with visitors, who often regard it as Oxford’s most beautiful college. It contains a deer park within its grounds and stands adjacent to the city’s Botanical Garden, the oldest in England. The Magdalen Tower was finished in 1509 and has become a local landmark. Each year on the 1st of May, the college choir sings from the top of the tower at 6 am, a tradition that goes back to the days of King Henry VII.

Kings in Oxford

During the English Civil War, the Parliamentarians drove King Charles I out of London. He set up a court in Oxford and remained there until 1646. This was when the Siege of Oxford saw the Royalists lose the city. Later, Charles’ son, Charles II, would also move the court to Oxford. He did this from 1665 to 1666, when London was suffering a serious epidemic of the bubonic plague. Oxford was judged to be a safer, more hygienic location for the court, while the disease ravaged London.

The Sheldonian Theatre

Built while Charles II was located in Oxford, the Sheldonian Theatre is one of the earliest works by the master architect Christopher Wren. It is one of several Wren buildings in Oxford, which would later become better known for overseeing the reconstruction of London after the Great Fire and for designing St Paul’s Cathedral. Inspired by Ancient Roman architecture, this impressive building is open to the public and regularly hosts music concerts, lectures and university events.

20th-Century Oxford

Although other universities were finally built in England in the 19th century, Oxford continued to thrive. 30 British Prime Ministers studied here, more than double the number of nearest rival Cambridge. Unlike most cities in the south of England, Oxford survived the Blitz of the Second World War largely unscathed. It is said that Hitler planned to make it the new capital city, replacing London. As a result, Oxford’s historic buildings remained intact at the end of the war.

Blenheim Palace

The most famous British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, did not attend university. However, his family residence, Blenheim Palace, is located on the outskirts of Oxford, just 10 miles from the town centre. Displaying an unusual English Baroque style of architecture, this palace is open to visitors and has impressive sprawling grounds. It continues to be used partly as a residence for the Churchill-Spencer family.

The UK ETA for Oxford

International travellers who want to pay a visit to Oxford must, from the year 2024 onwards, apply for an ETA. The ETA, or Electronic Travel Authorisation, is part of a new British programme designed to digitalise the country’s border control system, replacing the current visa waiver system. The programme is very similar to existing systems in the United States and Canada, which allow the government greater control over and information about those who are entering the country.

UK ETA Eligibility

At present, citizens of 92 countries can enter the UK without a visa if they intend to stay for a period of no more than six months. These travellers will now be eligible for the new ETA. The UK ETA for Oxford will be issued to citizens of these countries who are visiting the United Kingdom for any reason, whether that is tourism, studying or business. Those who intend to work in the country or plan to stay longer than six months will need to apply for a separate visa, just as they would already need to do under the current system.

Applying for the new UK ETA

Before beginning the ETA application process, travellers should check that they meet the requirements criteria. They must have a valid biometric passport. Depending on their country of origin, this may need to be valid for at least three to six months from the date of entry to the UK.

It is essential that applicants have an approved ETA before they board their flight to the UK. The processing time can take up to 72 hours, so travellers should apply well in advance. There is also a fee that must be paid before the application can be processed. The entire application process takes place online. Travellers should be prepared to give personal details, including the information that appears on their passport, their work information and contact details.

ETA applicants will also need to complete questions about any criminal history, immigration offences and membership in proscribed organisations. Questions about health and vaccination status may also be included. Travellers applying for the UK ETA for Oxford may also be required to include contact information while they are in the UK, including the address at which they intend to stay, which could be a hotel, a friend’s home or other accommodation. Those who plan to visit multiple cities may need to provide all their intended addresses and a brief itinerary of their trip.

Travelling with the UK ETA for Oxford

Once approved for an ETA, travellers can visit any part of the United Kingdom. This includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as England. Movement between these four constituent nations is unrestricted. However, if a visitor wants to extend their trip by travelling to another country, including the Republic of Ireland, the ETA has no relevance. They will have to complete whatever entry requirements are set by the other country.

A Trip to Oxford with the UK ETA

The UK ETA for Oxford lets travellers experience this iconic university town for themselves. Rent a bike and cross the cobbled streets, peer into historic colleges, or walk in the footsteps of politicians, scientists, writers and other famous figures. Inhabited for over a millennium, Oxford continues to attract visitors from all around the world year after year.