As with any country, the cost of living in the United Kingdom varies depending on an expat's lifestyle choices and location. Major cities such as London have a well-earned reputation of being pricey to live in, and while life in the rest of the UK is by no means cheap, the cost of living is substantially lower outside of these big metros.

In 2019, the Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked London as the 23rd most expensive destination out of 190 destinations surveyed. Further down the list, a few other UK cities appear including Birmingham (135th), Aberdeen (137th), Glasgow (145th) and Belfast (158th).

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. But there are plenty of ways to save while still getting the best of expat life in the UK. Most expats living in the United Kingdom will have access to at least some level of free healthcare on the country'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 will find plenty of discounts and ways to circumvent this.

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 cities, but most expats still choose this over buying property in the UK, which is impossibly expensive in a city such as London.

London has the country's most expensive rent, though there are still large price variations between different areas in the city. Rent in other big cities such as Manchester and Glasgow is a little more reasonable but still pricey, while rental costs in smaller towns will generally be on the lower side of the scale. Some students and young expats choose to rent a room within a larger house or apartment, which can save a substantial amount of money. House-shares are also a great way to meet other young people.

Utility costs vary depending on the size of the property. It's worth noting that heating costs can increase considerably during winter, particularly in an airy older property without proper insulation.

Council tax is usually not included in the cost of renting a property in the UK and is loosely based on the value of the property.

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. 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. 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. Fees at these schools can be extremely high.

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, though 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, though.

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. Commuters can 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 permanent residents. Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to pay for medical treatment in the UK. Non-EEA expats who are "ordinarily resident" (i.e. in the country for longer than six months, but not yet a permanent resident) must pay a yearly surcharge in order to have access to 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.

Cost of living in the United Kingdom chart

Prices vary across the UK – these are average costs for London in February 2020. Prices may vary depending on product and service provider.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

GBP 3,200 – 4,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

GBP 2,500 – 3,200

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

GBP 1,500 – 2,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

GBP 1,200 – 1,500

Food and drink

Milk (1 litre)


Dozen eggs

GBP 32

Loaf of white bread 

GBP 1.20

Rice (1kg)

GBP 1.30

Packet of cigarettes (Marlboro)

GBP 11


City centre bus/train fare

 GBP 2.50

Taxi rate per km

 GBP 2.50

Petrol/gasoline per litre

 GBP 1.30

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 GBP 6

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

 GBP 1.40


 GBP 3

Bottle of beer


Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

GBP 55


Internet (uncapped ADSL per month)

GBP 35

Mobile call rate (mobile-to-mobile per minute)

GBP 0.10

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

GBP 100

Expat Health Insurance


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