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Living Abroad

Cost of Living in the UK: A Guide for Expats

Updated: 4 April 2022

It’s no secret that living in the United Kingdom is expensive. It is one of the most costly countries in the world, according to various surveys. In addition, London is consistently ranked among Europe’s most costly cities. However, like in any other country, your costs and savings will be largely determined by your income and lifestyle.

We all know that the cost of relocating to another country is difficult to forecast, but we’ll take this opportunity to learn more about living costs in the United Kingdom. In this article, we’ll have a look at the costs of accommodation, groceries, and life in general.

Cost of Living in the United Kingdom

Before deciding to relocate to the United Kingdom, you’d better get a sense of the country’s general living expenditures. This information was obtained from Numbeo in March 2022.

According to this data:

  • Estimated monthly costs for a family of four are £2,273.10 (without rent) 
  • Estimated monthly costs for a single person are £653.37 (without rent)

Here is a breakdown of these costs.

Accommodation Costs

The below chart shows the average monthly rent costs in the country.

Apartment (1 Bdr.) in the city center£769.36
Apartment (1 Bdr.) outside of the center£633.81
Apartment (3 Bdr.) in the city center£1,249.05
Apartment (3 Bdr.) outside of the center£1,001.53

If you want to buy an apartment in the UK, the below chart will give you a rough idea.

Price per m2 in the city center£4,144.75
Price per m2 outside of the center£3,037.91

Here are the estimated accommodation costs you’ll be expected to pay in different cities in the UK.

Rent (per month)LondonManchesterBristolBrightonCardiff
Apartment (1 Bdr.) in the city center£1,741.80 £882.64£945.77£1,052.78£726.67 
Apartment (1 Bdr.) outside of the center£1,300.52£598£765.20£907.81 £562.50
Apartment (3 Bdr.) in the city center£3,408.54£1,537.93£1,661.14£2,265.00£1,221.25
Apartment (3 Bdr.) outside of the center£2,121.89£982 £1,266.01£1,648.99 £907.25

BuyLondonManchesterBristolBrightonCardiff
Price per m2 in the city center
£12,326.67 £3,857.65£4,843.75£5,814.67 £2,485
Price per m2 outside the city center£6,103.48 £2,588.25£3,272.31£4,333.33 £1,866

London, as the UK’s capital and a worldwide financial center, is one of the most expensive cities to live in around the world. It is without a doubt the most expensive city in the United Kingdom. 

If you don’t have to commute every day, you can consider living outside the city center. The UK boasts great countryside which offers a good quality of life.

Average Food Costs

The UK is famous for its restaurants that host many various cuisines. When you move to the UK, you’ll have the opportunity to taste the flavors of many different countries. The country, especially London, offers a wide range from Michelin-starred restaurants to affordable street foods.

These are some of the prices you can expect to pay when you dine out or shop in the UK.

Restaurants
Meal, inexpensive restaurant£13
Three-course meal for two, mid-range restaurant£50
McMeal at McDonald’s£6
Domestic beer£3.95
Imported beer£4
Cappuccino£2.79
Coke/Pepsi£1.37
Water£0.99
Markets
Milk (1 liter)£0.92
Loaf of fresh white bread£0.98
Rice (1 kg)£1.11
Eggs (regular) (12)£1.94
Local Cheese (1 kg)£5.62
Chicken Fillets (1 kg)£5.42
Beef Round (1 kg)£8.20
Apples (1 kg)£1.84
Banana (1 kg)£1.08
Oranges (1 kg)£1.70
Tomato (1 kg)£1.82
Potato (1 kg)£1.07
Onion (1 kg)£0.97
Lettuce£0.70
Water (1.5-liter bottle)£0.95
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)£7
Domestic Beer (0.5-liter bottle)£1.75
Imported Beer (0.33-liter bottle)£1.95

Travel and Transportation Costs

If you plan to travel by car during your stay in the UK, note that it’s going to be slow so taking public transportation is a good option. Large cities have substantial public transportation networks, but tickets can be expensive.

  • One-way Ticket (Local Transport): £2.50
  • Monthly Pass (Regular Price): £65
  • Taxi Start (Normal Tariff): £2.90
  • Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff) £1.24 
  • Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff): £17.40 
  • Gasoline (1 liter): £1.42

It might be useful to give an overview of London public transport too. 

Public transportation in London is expensive, so it’s worth taking the time to make sure you get the best deal.

In London, you should never pay the whole cash fare for any mode of transportation. The full fare is purchasing a single paper ticket from a ticket machine at an underground station, either with cash, coins, or a debit/credit card. Instead, you can choose to get an Oyster card or a travel pass.

London

  • One-way Ticket (Local Transport): £2.70
  • Monthly Pass (Regular Price): £154

Education Costs

Government-run state schools, private schools (referred to as “public schools”), and international schools are the three main options for education in the UK. Only state schools offer tuition-free education to all pupils who live in the country.

The fees for a three-year-old in an international school start from £10,000 in general and can go up to £19,950. For a 17-year-old student, the fees can go up to £30,000 per year.

Public University Tuition Fees

Tuition costs at public UK universities might vary greatly. Depending on the university, the type of discipline, and the length of the studies, the ‘home’ cost typically ranges from €5,500 to €10,200 per year.

The ‘international’ price is normally €3,000–8,000 on top of the initial ‘home’ fee. It could potentially be two or three times the ‘home’ fee in some circumstances.

Private University Tuition Fees

While some private universities offer tuition fees that are comparable to public university programs, private higher education is often more expensive in the UK. Furthermore, these entities frequently make no distinction between EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA citizens.

Per school year, students can pay anything from €5,000 to over €35,000. Business and medical programs are the most expensive at both public and private universities.

Bachelors and Master’s degrees are available for free or at a very low cost (around €5,000) per year) in the United Kingdom. However, keep in mind that the vast majority of these are only available to EU/EEA students.

Healthcare Costs

The NHS, The National Health System, provides free healthcare to anyone who is legally residing in the United Kingdom. To be a part of the system, you don’t have to be a British citizen or employed. The NHS is known to be operating very efficiently. In a report by Commonwealth Fund, the NHS ranks the fourth-best healthcare system in the world.

Still, there are a few NHR services that require you to contribute. For example, dental charges start from £23.80 and can go up to £282.80. Also, there is a prescription charge which is £9.35 per item. If you have a lot of prescriptions, you can opt to get a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) which will save you money. A 3-month PPC costs £30.25 and a 12-month PPC is £108.10.

Minimum Income To Live Comfortably in the UK

The amount of money you’ll need each month depends on where you live. In big cities, like London, it’s obvious that the costs will be higher. 

The Minimum Income Calculator UK tool lets you calculate how much you’re going to need on average while you live in London. According to this, a family with two children should earn £980.18 per week to live comfortably.

Cost of Living in the UK vs. Other Countries

The below table compares some of the most basic costs (GBP) in London and some other big cities around the world. 

Rent for an Apartment (1 Bdr.)
in the city center
Meal for two,
Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course
Monthly Transportation
Pass
London£1,741.80£60£154
New York£2,454.88£75£97
Toronto£1,199.20£47£92
Paris£1,050.32£50£62
Tokyo£952£39£66
Sydney£1,418£118£54

Conclusion

Overall, the cost of living in the United Kingdom can be quite expensive, especially in London. However, thanks to the lifestyle it promises, it remains a popular location for expats. Good luck!

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