Cost of Living in the United Kingdom

double decker bus and london taxi cabAs with most popular expat destinations, the cost of living in the United Kingdom varies depending on lifestyle choices and location. In general, expats will find that major cities like London are more expensive, while the provinces and countryside towns are far more reasonable.

Many expats move to the UK in search of new job opportunities and a better quality of life. Although salaries tend to be relatively high, the reason for this is often to offset the higher cost of living in the United Kingdom.

There are plenty of ways to save while still experiencing expat life in the UK. For example, most expats living in the United Kingdom will have access to at least some level of free healthcare on the UK’s National Health Service and they'll be eligible to send their children to British state schools at no cost.

The costs of accommodation, transport and entertainment are fairly high, but expats who take the time to investigate the cost of living in the United Kingdom will find plenty of discounts around.

Cost of accommodation in the United Kingdom

As is the case for expats all over the world, a significant portion of their income will be spent on accommodation. Renting doesn’t come cheap, especially in London, but most expats still choose this over buying property in the UK, which is much more expensive. Renting a furnished two-bedroom apartment in the London averages about GBP 1,900 per month, with large price variations between different areas. Rent in other big cities such as Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds will be a little more reasonable.

Some students and expats rent a room within a larger house. It is possible to rent a room in London for around GBP 400 per month. House-shares are also a great way to meet other young people.

Utility costs vary depending on the size of the property. The average cost of water and electricity is around 140 GBP per month. Heating costs average around 80 GBP per month, but increase considerably during winter, particularly in a drafty older property without proper insulation.

Council tax is not included in the cost of renting a property in the UK. It is loosely based on the value of the property and expats can expect to pay at least 100 GBP per month.

Cost of education in the United Kingdom

Expats with temporary residency in the UK will be eligible to send their children to a state school at no cost. Standards vary considerably and the better state schools tend to be located in more affluent areas. At more popular schools, admission is restricted to students living in a particular catchment area. Parents will be required to pay for uniforms, stationery and school excursions.

British private schools, or independent schools as they are commonly called, charge high fees. Parents should expect to pay between  5,000 GBP and  7,000 GBP a term. These schools usually offer a higher standard of education and a host of extracurricular activities.

Many expats living in the UK send their children to an international school that allows their child to continue studying the same syllabus as they would in their home country and therefore offer the least disruption to the child’s education. International school fees in London are amongst the highest in the world and can reach up to 12,000 GBP per term.

Cost of transportation in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is served by a national network of trains and long distance buses, but with the growth of low-cost airlines in Europe it is also possible to fly between cities at very reasonable prices.

Train travel in the UK can be expensive. On average, a return train fare between London and Manchester costs around GBP 70. Travellers can save money by booking the journey well in advance or by investing in a railcard.

Travelling by long-distance bus in the UK is a more economical option. A one-way trip on a National Express bus from Birmingham to Manchester will cost around 18 GBP, but fares can be as low as GBP 7 if booked in advance using a Coach Card.

Within British cities the price of public transportation varies considerably. London has the UK’s most comprehensive public transportation network but fares are relatively expensive. A single bus fare will cost around GBP 2.50 for a short journey within the city. Commuters save money by investing in weekly or monthly travel cards.

While most expats living in the UK won’t invest in a car, it is fairly cheap to buy and maintain one. Petrol prices fluctuate but are reasonable compared to elsewhere.

Cost of healthcare in the United Kingdom

One of Britain’s greatest assets is its National Health Service (NHS). Public healthcare in the UK is free to all British citizens and expats from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and EU member states that are exempt from healthcare payments because they have reciprocal healthcare agreements with the British government. Emergency healthcare on the NHS is also free to all expats living in the United Kingdom. Anyone who has lived in the UK legally for 12 months or more when starting treatment is entitled to free heathcare on the NHS. 

The United Kingdom also has some excellent private healthcare facilities and private healthcare is the best option for those who want to avoid long waiting lists and are happy to pay for speedier service. The cost of private health insurance varies according to how comprehensive the policy is and the state of an individual’s health. Prominent healthcare providers include Axa PPP, Bupa and Allianz.

Cost of living in the UK 2015 

(Prices vary across the UK – these are average costs for London in July 2015. Prices may vary depending on product and service provider)
Accommodation (monthly rent in a good area)
Furnished 2 bedroom house
GBP 3,200
Unfurnished 2 bedroom house
GBP 2,800
Furnished 2 bedroom apartment
GBP 2,100
Unfurnished 2 bedroom apartment
GBP 1,900
Food and drink
Milk (1 litre)
GBP 0.80
Dozen Eggs
GBP 1.55
White Bread 
GBP 1.20
Rice (1kg)
GBP 1.25
1 packet of cigarettes (Malboro)
City centre bus/train fare
 GBP 2.50
Taxi rate per km
 GBP 2.75
Petrol/gasoline per litre
Eating out
Big Mac Meal
 GBP 5.40
Coca Cola (500 ml)   
 GBP 1.75
 GBP 4
Bottle of beer
GBP 5.50
Three course meal at a mid-range restaurant
GBP 35
Internet uncapped ADSL per month
GBP 30 
Mobile call rate (mobile to mobile per minute)
GBP 0.29
Electricity (average per month for standard household)
GBP 80

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