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 will vary depending on lifestyle choices and location. Generally you will find that the major cities like London are more expensive to live in, while the provinces and areas of the countryside 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 make savings while experiencing expat life in the UK. For example, most expats will have access to at least some level of free healthcare on the UK’s National Health Service. Expats are also eligible to send their children to British public schools, at no cost.

The cost of accommodation, transport and entertainment are fairly high. However, there are often discounts and savings to be made for expats who take the time to investigate the cost of living in the United Kingdom.

Cost of accommodation in the United Kingdom

As is the case for expats all over the world, the largest part of one’s budget will be spent on accommodation. Most expats will rent rather than buy property in the UK, as the cost of property in the UK is extremely high. Renting doesn’t come cheap either though, accommodation in the UK is very expensive, especially in London. A furnished two-bedroom apartment in the London will cost on average GBP 1,800 per month. Rent in other big cities such as Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds will be slightly more reasonable than the prices you’d find in the British capital.

Renting a room within a larger house is a popular option amongst young expats. It is possible to rent a room in London for around GBP 350 per month. House-shares are also a great way to meet other expats in the UK.

Utility costs vary depending on where expats choose to live in the UK. The average cost of water and electricity is around GBP 100 per month. Heating costs average around GBP 50 per month, and increase quite a bit during the winter months.

Council tax is generally included in the cost of renting a property in the UK. However, if it is not included expats can expect to pay around GBP 100 per month.

Cost of education in the United Kingdom

Expats with temporary residency in the UK will be eligible to send their children to public schools, more commonly referred to as state schools in Britain. There are no fees attached to these schools. However, 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, stationary and school excursions.

British private schools or independent schools as they are commonly called, charge high fees. Parents should expect to pay between GBP 2,000 and GBP 3,000 per term. These schools generally offer a higher standard of education and a whole host of extra-curricular activities.

The most popular option amongst expats living in the UK are international schools. International schools allow students 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 GBP 10,000 per term.

Cost of transportation in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is served by a national network of trains and long distance buses. With the growth of low-cost airlines in Europe it is also possible to fly between cities in the United Kingdom for a reasonable price.

Train travel in the UK can be expensive. On average a return train fare between London and Manchester costs around GBP 70. However, expats can save money by purchasing a discount national rail card or by booking their journey well in advance.

Travelling by long-distance bus in the UK is a more economical. A one-way trip on a National Express bus from Birmingham to Manchester will cost around GBP 15. However, fares can be as low as GBP 5 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 a relatively expensive. A single bus fare will cost around GBP 2 for a short journey within the city. Commuters save money by investing in weekly or monthly travel cards.   

While most expats in the UK won’t invest in a car, it is fairly cheap to buy and maintain a car in Britain. 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 certain countries such as Australia, New Zealand and EU member states are exempt from healthcare payments in the UK because those countries have entered into reciprocal healthcare agreements with the British government. Furthermore, emergency healthcare on the NHS is free to all expats living in the United Kingdom.

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 would like a speedier service. The cost of private health insurance varies according to how comprehensive the policy is and the state of an individual’s health. Recommended healthcare providers include Axa PPP, Bupa and Allianz.

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