United Kingdom Country Profile - Cost of Living

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Geographical variation

The cost of living in the UK varies hugely depending on location. London is typically the most expensive place to live, and wages there tend to be higher to reflect this. Many people who work in London choose to live outside the city in so-called ‘commuter towns’ to save on costs, and travel to work by public transport. Across the rest of the UK, living costs are generally lower in the north than the south, although there is still a degree of variation between cities and towns.


Finding accommodation can be a daunting prospect, with several options offering different cost bands. For academic jobs, many universities provide accommodation for international staff. Alternatively, you could arrange rental accommodation locally. Your employer may be able to suggest some areas to consider. Costs will vary, but as a guide average rent ranges are approximately:

  • £50 to £150 per week for a bedsit or studio
  • £60 to £200 per week for a shared house or flat
  • £100 to £400 per week for private house or flat

                                                                                                     Source: www.internationalstaff.ac.uk (accessed April 2014)

If you move to the UK on a long-term or permanent basis, you may want to consider buying a property. House prices are quite high compared to many countries, but there is a great choice of characterful older properties and modern new-builds. Whether you choose to rent or buy, you will also need to arrange home and contents insurance for your property.

Rental deposit

Most landlords and letting agencies in the UK require a deposit to be paid up front. Typically this is one month’s rent, although there is no set rule. The deposit acts as insurance against minor damage to the property. Letting agencies may also charge administration fees for arranging the rent and preparing tenancy agreements. For more information and advice on renting property in the UK, consult the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Council tax

Most properties in the UK are subject to council tax. This charge is levied by local councils to pay for shared services, and is calculated based on the value of the property and the number of people living there. Students are exempt from the tax, but academics and other university staff are not.


Utility bills you need to consider include water, electricity, gas, telephone and internet. Water bills are charged on either a metered or rated basis by the local provider in your area. Other utilities can be provided by a number of suppliers that compete on price. Websites such as uSwitch allow you to compare prices to find the best deal for these services. If you are renting a property, remember to check what utilities are included in the rent.

TV licence

If you own a TV in the UK, you must hold a valid TV licence for your property. The full colour licence currently costs £145.50 a year.

Healthcare and medical costs

Public sector healthcare in the UK is operated by the state-owned National Health Service (NHS). It covers medical operations including hospital care, dentists and doctors (known as general practitioners or GPs). The service was founded in 1948 with the aim of making good-quality healthcare available to all UK citizens, regardless of wealth. 

Foreign nationals are also entitled to some free care on the NHS, but some services must be paid for. Your entitlement depends on the nature and duration of your stay in the UK. The Citizens Advice Bureau website provides information about what you are entitled to. 

There are also several private healthcare providers in the UK. Some employers may offer private healthcare options as part of their pay and remuneration package.


Shopping choice in the UK is vast, with big name chains and smaller independent retailers competing for business. For everyday items, supermarkets are usually cheapest although prices and quality differ between the premium and budget brands.


Value-Added Tax (VAT) is a tax charged on the majority of goods and services within the UK. Most day-to-day prices are quoted inclusive of VAT, however some tradespeople and service providers may quote prices excluding VAT, so it’s always worth checking before accepting a quote.

Price guide

  • Rent on 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – £690.41 per month
  • Rent on 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – £570.05 per month
  • Price of apartment in city centre – £3,097.61 per square metre
  • Price of apartment outside city centre – £2,281.52 per square metre
  • Loaf of bread – £1.03
  • Milk (1 litre) – £0.93
  • Bottled water (1.5 litre) – £1.05
  • Draught beer (0.5 litre) – £3.00
  • Packet of cigarettes – £7.56
  • Petrol (1 litre) – £1.38
  • Cinema ticket – £8.00

                                                                                                                   Source: www.numbeo.com (accessed April 2014)

Budgeting and savings

Keeping track of your budget is really important, particularly if you are trying to save. For advice on budgeting, money saving tips and the best deals on living expenses, consult a consumer website like MoneySavingExpert.com.


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