All students and scholars must have a University identification card, called a PennCard, which permits access to University buildings and allows you to use other University services, such as the Shuttle Escort. You should carry your PennCard with you at all times.
Some students may arrange for their PennCard before arrival through Campus Express. Students and scholars can also obtain their PennCard upon arrival on campus at the PennCard Center.
All international students and scholars who have secured legitimate employment are eligible to apply for a US Social Security Number (SSN). You will need this number to be employed (but not necessarily to begin working), to file your annual tax return, and often to apply for a credit card. The number assigned to you by the University (e.g., 949-00-9999) is not a Social Security Number; it is a Penn ID number used only for university-related business.
Most Penn students, faculty, and staff have electronic mail (email) access. Email is the most commonly used communication system on campus. For this reason, it is very important for you to have an email account and check it regularly. Email accounts are arranged by the individual schools. To set up your account, please consult with your academic department or visit the Penn Computing web site.
ISSS uses both email and its web site to inform you about various programs, immigration updates, and other timely information. Please read the email messages sent out by ISSS carefully and check the ISSS homepage at least once a month.
One of the first things you may want to do after arriving in Philadelphia is to open an account at a local bank. Investigate various banks before choosing which one you wish to use, as all banks have different charges and fees for services. You should read the small print carefully before signing up with any bank.
Prices in American stores and supermarkets are fixed and not negotiable. Bargaining for a lower price for your items is not an option unless you are at yard sales, some secondhand stores, or street markets at the end of the day when food sellers are anxious to sell their fresh produce. Find directions from your location to these stores by entering the address on Google Maps.
Food Shopping: Area Supermarkets and Convenience Stores
40th and Walnut St.
4301 Walnut St.
South Square Market
2221 South St.
3021 Gray's Ferry Ave.
46th and Market St.
42nd and Walnut Sts.
21st and Market Sts..
Wawa Food Markets
2000 Chestnut St.
3604 Chestnut St.
3417 Spruce St.
3744 Spruce St.
Food Shopping: Selected International Stores
Asian American Market
4421 Chestnut St.
9th St. between
Wharton and Christian Sts.
Bayon Oriental and American Food
4612 Walnut St.
4203 Walnut St.
Between Market and Vine Sts.
and 8th and 11th Sts.
4249 Walnut St.
Predominately Middle Eastern
Dong Dae Moon Oriental Supermarket
4734-40 Spruce St.
Predominately Korean and Japanese
2104 Chestnut St.
Predominately Japanese and Korean
610 S. Union St.
Kennett Square, PA
P & P Grocery
422 Gap Newport Pike (Route 41)
International students and scholars have several options with respect to long-term accommodations. Most undergraduate, and almost all first-year students, live in university residences. Some graduate students and scholars live on campus in graduate residence halls, while others rent apartments off campus. See the pre-arrival section on Housing.
Penn Dining offers several meal plans at five different locations. A wide variety of hot and cold foods, including vegetarian, are served and a nutrition specialist is available to discuss your particular dietary needs. A Kosher dining hall is also available.
You do not have to sign up for a meal plan to eat well on campus. There are many excellent food trucks and restaurants around campus which offer nutritious meals from around the world at reasonable prices.
For information on local restaurants, take-out and delivery services, see Campusfood.com.
Taxi companies are listed in the Yellow Pages phone book. A trip from campus to Center City by taxi costs between $8 to $13 and you should tip the driver 15%. It is a good idea to take a taxi if you must travel late at night and your route does not fall within the boundaries of Penn Transit.
Transportation to New York City, Washington, DC and Beyond
One way to travel to New York City is by SEPTA and New Jersey Transit. Take SEPTA's Trentine Line regional rail train to Trenton. Change to New Jersey Transit to New York Penn Station. You can also explore other options like Bolt Bus and Chinatown buses. Check travel time and cost in advance.
See the Travel and pre-arrival transportation sections of the ISSS website for more information about domestic and international travel.
Pennsylvania Driver's License/State ID Card
If you plan to be in Philadelphia for more than a year, you may consider applying for a Pennsylvania Driver's License or State ID card. Both documents are good alternatives to carrying your passport for identification purposes and the Driver's License will also allow you to drive in the United States.
The state of Pennsylvania honors a valid foreign driver's license with an International Driving Permit for a period of up to one year. When the foreign license or International Permit expires, you must apply to PennDOT for a Pennsylvania license in order to continue to drive. If you have moved from another state in the United States, even if you hold a valid driver's license from that state, you must get a Pennsylvania driver's license within 60 days after moving to Pennsylvania.
All cars in Pennsylvania must be insured, and car insurance can be extremely expensive. Be sure to explore the options for car insurance before buying a car. Annual car insurance rates in the city are a minimum of $2,000 to $3,000. Car thefts and thefts from cars are common in the University City and Center City areas. If you own a car, it is advisable to use a steering wheel lock (also known as a "club") and never to leave valuables in a parked car.
You must have a valid driver’s license in order to rent a car in the United States.