With 48 colleges and universities in London, some of which are considered the best in the world, and 2.3 million students at UK higher education institutions in 2017/2018, it’s no surprise London is one of the most desired cities for students to live in.
While London has many great things to offer students, you must consider the cost of living before making the move.
The cost of living in London will vary from other UK cities and it will certainly be different if you are moving from another country.
Although London is one of the more expensive cities in the UK, you can still enjoy your time here on a student budget.
In this guide, we’ve broken down the cost of rent and several other areas to give you an overall view of what the cost of living in London will look like.
We know there are many things on a student to-do list so let’s get started!
Table of Contents
1. Cost to Rent
This is somewhere that you will be living at least for the year, so it’s important to consider all aspects so you can make an informed decision.
Are you willing to be a little further from the city centre? Do you want to live alone or with flatmates? Will you live on campus or in private housing?
Being flexible with your requirements will help cut down unnecessary accommodation costs.
The cost of student accommodation is elevated in London compared to other UK university cities. Central London is one of the most expensive cities to live in as an international student.
Average prices in this area are £1,694 per month. However, when you broaden out to South or East London, the prices can be around £927 – £1,045.
These prices can differ depending on location, number of bedrooms, and if it’s a private or shared accommodation.
If you are unfamiliar with the different areas of London, we’ve broken down the 24 best places to live.
For private accommodation in a studio or townhome, you can expect prices to range from £1250-$1475 per month with bills included.
For a shared room, prices can range from £250-£1000 per month with bills included.
Most private housing options come with little to no furniture so look into second-hand shops or social groups online for people selling used items.
Halls of Residence
If your University has Residence Halls available, it’s a great way to meet new people and they usually provide standard furniture like a bed, desk, and chair.
This is a cheaper alternative to private housing and is usually easier to arrange for international students.
Prices can range from £137 – £390 per week for the duration of the 52 weeks you will need for the school year.
Prices can vary depending on if you want a private room or a shared flat and whether you want to have a regular room, ensuite or a studio.
Living at a residence hall can provide other benefits like a shorter commute, dining card options and scheduled activities for socialising.
Some of these benefits will help you save money as well.
2. Cost of Food
Now let’s take a look at another expense that will have a major impact on your wallet.
Most university halls have dining options available on campus which can be cheaper and more convenient than grabbing food in other areas of London.
One of the best ways to save money is to buy your own food at a grocery store instead of buying each meal at a restaurant. If you do prefer to eat out, some nearby restaurants will offer student discounts with your school ID.
Supermarkets such as Sainsburys, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose are more expensive than Tesco and Asda. To save money, opt for either Tesco or Asda for the best prices.
Try and budget about £25-£35 per week on food supplies, and save the rest so you can enjoy activities throughout London.
Eating out every day at restaurants will start to add up and can be the bulk of your expenses if you are not careful.
Let’s say you decide to have all your meals at local restaurants, you could see the following prices:
- Traditional English breakfast: £4-£10
- Basic Lunchtime menu: £12-£15 with Beer (.5 L): £4-£5
- Meal at Pub or Restaurant: £10-£15 with Beer (.5 L): £4-£5
That brings your total daily budget for food to around £50, not including snacks or more than just 1 drink per meal.
This can quickly add up if you are not careful and you can deplete your savings in a matter of weeks.
Set aside some of your budget for eating out with friends, but try not to make it a recurring thing.
Speaking about activities throughout London, we’ve gathered a list of must-sees when you are studying in the city.
3. Cost of Entertainment
Besides food, trying to fill your days with entertainment can also be a huge drain on your bank account.
When you come to London, there will definitely be time for some fun wandering around the city but do it wisely.
You should be mindful of how much the little things can add up.
Here are some of the prices for London’s biggest attractions:
- London Eye: £28.00
- Tower of London: £27.00
- Buckingham Palace: £23.00
- St. Paul’s Cathedral: £18.00
- Westminster Abbey: £122.00
There are many other attractions that can be viewed for free, such as the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery, Imperial War Museum, Tate Modern, Natural History Museum and Walking Tours.
When you first arrive in the UK, there might be several attractions that you want to see, but adding them up individually can be pricey.
You can sign up for the London Pass to get discounts on local attractions in the area for a period of 1,2,3,6, or 10 consecutive days.
There are 80+ incredible attractions that are included in this pass like The London Pass including the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Thames River Cruise, Kensington Palace and many more.
This might be worth the cost if you want to dedicate a few consecutive days to explore the city.
But one of the best things you can do is take a stroll and roam around London getting lost. Lose yourself in the beauty of London and enjoy your time as a student in the flourishing city.
Go to one of London’s green parks (for free!) and spend your day in nature while experiencing a different side of London.
4. Cost of Household Bills & Other Utilities
Now let’s get into the monthly costs that aren’t as much fun… bills!
This is an important living cost you must factor into your student finances to ensure you have enough money each month.
If you choose to live in a Residence Hall, most of the time bills and utilities are included in the overall annual cost. Be sure to check with your housing provider for confirmation.
However, if you choose to live in private housing it’s important to compare different companies and packages before purchasing your utilities.
Sites like U Switch can be helpful for finding out which companies supply utilities within a certain area and for comparing the service and prices.
Typical utilities include:
- Water – £20-30/month
- Gas and Electricity – £50/month
- Renter’s Insurance (if you are in private housing) – £10/month
- Internet – £35/month for a minimum download speed of around 50Mbps
- TV Licence (Optional) – £154.50 for colour and £52 for a black/year
Author’s Note: These are average costs and will vary depending on your lifestyle or the package type, in the case of internet providers.
These bills do not include the monthly cost of your mobile phone. The cellular service competition is very high in the UK which makes prices lower than you would find in the US.
You can expect to pay around £15/month for 5GB of data, 1000 texts, and 500 talk minutes.
With recent eSIM technologies, you will most likely be able to use that data across several different European countries without any additional fees, which will help your travel costs.
5. Cost of Transportation
Speaking of travelling, you will have to consider your transportation cost throughout London as well.
If you don’t have a vehicle in London or even if you do, public transport is a very cost-effective and convenient way to navigate the city.
All transport for London is cheaper and quicker if you use an Oyster Card. You can use them in conjunction with season tickets, railcard or on a pay-as-you-go basis.
With the 18+ Student Oyster card, it gives an additional 30% off adult-rate travel cards. See if you are eligible by checking out the website.
The basic requirements are that you have to be 18 or over and a student living in a London borough.
There is a £20 charge for registering the card, and then the extra costs of what it takes for you to get to your destination.
The price will depend on where you’re travelling to, where you’re travelling from, what time of day it is and even the amount of connections you’ve made that day.
Prices also depend on whether it’s during peak times (£3.90) or non-peak times (£2.80).
It’s best to calculate the cost of your trip before you top up your card.
Now that you can travel to your University, let’s take a look at the cost of the course supplies you’ll need once you get there.
6. Cost of Course Materials
Besides tuition fees, you must also consider the cost of your other course materials.
This includes textbooks, learning devices (such as a computer, calculator, etc.), software, pens, paper and much more.
If you don’t have your own printer, you will need to think about printing costs as well.
Most universities have a book store where they offer everything a student would need for their specific courses but there are many other alternatives that you can look into.
Look at the possibility of renting your textbooks instead of buying them or buy them from a reseller like Abebooks.
Students can save between 50% and 90% on textbook list prices.
You can also join groups on social media that are specific for buying and selling course materials.
It takes a little more work to track down these discounts but it is worth it when managing all of your living expenses.
7. Cost of Shipping & Storing Items
Another expense that students don’t think about is shipping and storing costs.
If you are an international student, this will be extremely important to look into prior to moving but it can be important for students moving within the UK as well.
University is a big transition period in many people’s lives. You are leaving home possibly for the first time and there will be many items you need.
You might be able to take some of the furniture from your previous living arrangement and that is where the shipping costs come in.
Instead of exhausting your time and effort shipping the items yourself, let our team at STORED help.
We offer 2 moving experts and 1 large van for only £79 per hour.
Our removal services also include:
- 80-litre moving crates available to rent
- Dis-assembly and reassembly services
- £500 standard liability
We make moving across London or across the world simple and stress-free.
Once you arrive at your residence hall or new housing, you may find you don’t have as much room as you first thought. We can help in these situations as well.
We offer several student storage solutions, including packages to store your items over winter break and an option to store with a friend.
Our storage options for students start as low as £15.92 a week and we cover the majority of London universities.
8. Additional Costs to Consider
When you first arrive, try to set yourself a budget and adjust it depending on real-life factors.
You will find that there are additional costs that you haven’t considered until you actually start living in the city.
It will depend on each person, but some expenses in addition to the ones we’ve discussed above can include:
- Pet supplies
- Dental Cleanings
- Shopping for Clothes
- Renting movies
It’s also important to keep in mind expenses like Council Tax and Health Insurance.
1. Council Tax
Council Tax is paid to provide local services like transport, police, fire, libraries, and rubbish collection in the area that you reside in.
Good news – if you are studying a full-time course then you are exempt from paying the tax. You are also exempt if you live in residence halls.
If you are a part-time student, unfortunately, you are not exempt and have to pay.
If you live in shared accommodation you may be required to pay for council tax if your household includes people that are not full-time students.
The amount you pay varies depending on the size of the house you live and which borough of London it’s located.
Check the government website for further information.
2. Health Insurance
As an international student, it’s important to note the UK has a national health system called the National Health Service (NHS).
If you qualify for NHS, you get the same benefits as a UK citizen and the following comes at no additional cost:
- Office visits
- Emergency treatment
- Family planning
- Compulsory psychiatric treatment
- Diagnosis and treatment of certain communicable diseases
It’s important to start thinking about these additional costs so they don’t surprise you after you make the move.
Now that we’ve shown you a breakdown of what you can expect, it’s your turn to evaluate your budget to make enough money for everything.
Making small lifestyle decisions will save you the most money on a daily and weekly basis.
You can use this student budget calculator to have a better understanding of the additional costs that could occur while you are studying in London.
Simply type in your University, and adjust some of the factors depending on your lifestyle.
Of course, this is just a guide and will vary from person to person. You must consider your own lifestyle and the type of income you have based upon a part-time job vs full-time employment.
If you need help finding a job, check out our guide on how to find a job in London.
We hope this guide helps you calculate your living costs while attending university in London. Enjoy the beautiful city and your time here!
Some additional resources you might be interested in:
- How to Reduce Plastic Use: 18 Simple Ways (for 2020)
- How to Pack for a Move: 16 Tips You Can’t Ignore (2020)
- Student Life in London: The Ultimate Survival Guide
- Top 14 Property Websites in the UK (for 2020)