Essential information

Is it expensive to live in the UK?

Before we break down some rough costs, let’s start with remembering:

  • We’re talking UK pounds (£) not Dollars ($)!
  • Salaries in the UK can seem lower than in some countries, e.g. Australia and Canada. However, although the cost of living in London is rising, it’s generally lower than you’d find in Sydney or Toronto.


Cost of living

Imagine you are paid £140 per day (£2,800 per month).

  • After 20% tax, that leaves you with £2,240.
  • You will pay another 13% in National Insurance contributions, leaving you with £1,876.
  • If your rent is £800 per month for a double room, you’re left with £1,076 per month to live on.

Remember: some areas will be cheaper than £800 per month whilst others will be higher.

Think about the standard of living you need – if you’re travelling with friends,  houses sharing can be a really good option.

Based on those calculations, that’s over £250 per week to cover your phone bill, leisure activities, clothing, travel and food, which is equivalent to $400 AUD.

It’s also worth noting that your salary is negotiable and for some teaching positions and subjects, you can earn more than £140 per day.

Breakdown of expenditure

Rental costs will depend on where in the UK you are going to be living and working, and the closer to central London you are, the costlier it will be.

You should consider living slightly further out and using the Underground. Living a few Tube stops out of Zone 1 will be more affordable. You can expect to pay £500-£800 for a room in London, which includes bills.

Many people house share as this is a great way to lower your rental costs, and to make new friends.

If city life isn’t for you, there are some amazing places to explore, live and work across the UK.

Living on the outskirts of London (try Essex, Kent or Hertfordshire) will reduce your accommodation costs, and there are great transport links which will mean you can easily dip into the Capital in your free time.

Moving further north to the Midlands, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire or Manchester and you can seriously reduce your outgoings. You could certainly afford to live alone in certain parts of the UK – and it makes sense to search for a room or property with bills included.

You may be surprised to hear that many people actually save money while they are living, working and enjoying the UK!

In countries such as Canada and Australia you will pay between 10-40% tax depending on your income. In the UK you will pay a basic rate of 20% – it’s a great potential saving!

National Insurance:
Everyone who lives and works in the UK contributes towards the National Health Service. Approximately 13% of your pay will go towards allowing you to visit the doctor or dentist.

GP surgeries are usually the first contact if you have a health problem. When you arrive, you should register with your local NHS GP surgery.

Opening a Bank Account in the UK

You’ll want to be paid as soon as possible when you start work in the UK, and it’s important to be as prepared as possible.

Opening a UK bank account is essential. Your wages will be paid directly into your bank account, and you’ll need it to pay bills such as rent, utilities, mobile, etc. Relying on your existing, overseas bank account is impractical as it will incur high fees and currency exchange costs.

How to open an account – if attending an in-bank appointment:

Once you arrive in the UK you can begin the process of applying for a bank account. You will almost certainly need a UK address (unless you already bank with an international bank such as HSBC). 

When you register for an account, you will need to fill out their application which may take a few days to be processed. Banks are likely to ask for the following when you apply:

  • Your passport and visa/ BRP card
  • A recent bank statement
  • A document which includes your UK address
  • Proof of employment in the UK

Opening an Online Account:

Some people find it easier to get an account with a specialist online provider instead of a regular UK high-street bank. Banks such as Starling and Monzo allow you to open an online account using valid ID. You will still need a UK address and will be asked for your email address, phone number and valid ID to get started.