The cost of living in the UK as an expat

The UK is a country brimming with opportunities. Migrants are an integral part of the nation’s diverse and multicultural population. However, living in the UK can be a mixed bag for foreigners. Depending on where you come from the cost of living can seem exorbitant, especially in the UKs largest cities. Those planning to migrate to the UK for work, studies, or other pursuits must do some careful financial planning. Here are some ideas on what to expect.


The UK’s big cities are home to some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. The largest head of expense for most people who live in these cities is rent. According to the BBC the rent for one-bedroom apartments in the UK averages GBP 600 per month. It is notable that big cities cost much more than the country’s national average. An average London apartment can cost GBP 2,100 a month to rent. That is hardly surprising, considering these flats cost nearly GBP 480,000 to buy. Foreign students traveling to the UK often find it a challenge to find cost-effective accommodations. Usually financed by their overseas sponsors via international money transfers, foreign students often end-up sharing flats with other students to minimize costs.


By all accounts, London is among the top 10 food capitals of the world. The variety of food and drink offered in London’s restaurants, cafés, and pubs is astounding. The city attracts food connoisseurs from all countries. The cost of fine dining in London can range from GBP 22 to GBP 45 per person, depending on many factors.

Migrant workers on the other hand are usually rather more practical in their culinary pursuits. Numbeo, the world’s largest cost of living database, reports that the average food cost per person in the UK is GBP 5.7 a day, or about GBP 176 a month. The office of National Statistics reports that households spend an average of GBP 3,224 annually on groceries and GBP 1,581 on restaurant takeouts.  Expect to pay around GBP 2-6 each time you buy snacks, sandwiches, or fast-food.

Getting around

Many migrants see public transport in the UK, and particularly in London, as expensive. A bus ride in London costs GBP 1.50 or more, while tube rides start from GBP 2.40. Taxi cabs are a more readily available mode of transport and cost a bit more. Owning a car is an option for migrants, and comes with its own cost considerations. The average price of a liter of fuel is about GBP 1.24 (petrol) or GBP 1.30 (diesel). There are other modes that offer tradeoffs between the cost of ownership and comfort. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are very practical and popular solutions.


Basic medical care in the UK is free. Access to healthcare is provided by the National Health Service (NHS). In order to have this service expats are obligated to get NHS numbers. NHS covers doctors’ appointments and some hospital treatments. However, prescriptions often cost extra. Medical insurance is not compulsory in the UK. With access to NHS migrants can choose not to buy health insurance, and still get a range of free treatments. Expats who do not qualify for NHS must get medical insurance. AXA, Bupa, and Allianz are among the leading health insurance companies in the UK that offer plans to foreigners. Private healthcare insurance premiums in the UK average about GBP 1,435 a year.


Relocating to the UK with kids makes the cost of education a consideration. Public primary and secondary education in the UK is free for the children of expats. Parents will however incur the costs of uniforms, meals, and books that are not part of the UK’s education system. Your child’s previous schooling, academic ability, and English language proficiency would affect the choice of school. Private preschools cost about GBP 1,040. Private primary and secondary education costs GBP 15,300 annually. Expats from non-English speaking countries can send their children to international schools. These offer a broad, globally-oriented education. They are also among the most expensive schools in the country. University education in the UK costs approximately GBP 9,000 per year.

About the author:

Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.