A basic guide to the cost of living in London

A basic guide to the cost of living in London

For anybody contemplating moving to London to study and work, there is the daunting prospect of the much publicised astronomical cost of the living in England’s Capital City. True, there are locations where prices of everyday goods can appear prohibitive, but in general living expenses for some commodities are not that much greater than for other parts of England.


Finding somewhere to stay in the capital is perhaps one of the more demanding tasks and unfortunately prices tend to be above the national average for both renting and purchasing property.

Rental prices in London vary according the area and the standard of accommodation. The general rule is that the further into the city centre, the more expensive accommodation becomes. The rent for a single room in a shared house or flat starts at about £80 per week, the average cost of a studio flat varies between £570 and £1330 per month and a one bedroom apartment can be more expensive with the minimum rental price at about £700 upwards per month, but it is worth checking if utility bills (such as gas, water, electricity and council tax) are included in the rent. In the White City area in the west of London, the rate for a four bedroom flat may be £2000 per month to rent, while a similar property closer to the Centre in Camden may have a £2500 monthly charge and in Eastern London can range from £1500 to £2000 per month. Check the London Rents Map (www.london.gov.uk/rents) and Net-Lettings.co.uk which show the average rental prices of various accommodation types for London areas.

It may also be worth consulting Lettinginternational, a reputable agency specialising in East London, while PalaceGate lettings, DouglasandGordon and Clive Lawrence cover much of the rest of London in rental property.

For anybody looking to move quickly into the property market, it will be difficult to find a reasonable three bedroomed house within Greater London for less than £200000. A 3 bedroom flat can be bought from £150000, but prices rise according to affluence and proximity to the centre as a similar flat in inner London near Clapham may cost near to £400000. In Hounslow, 10 miles to the west of the city centre, the cheapest 3 bedroom house may be valued at approximately £220000, whereas as a similar property 5 miles further East in Ealing could be up to £150000 more expensive. Propertylive.co.uk, BridgeProperty.co.uk services and StruttandParker.com
are amongst several estate agents providing a property buying service.

Usually newcomers to London seek short term rental property as a basic starting point, and Hyde Park Suites (www.hydeparksuites.com) are recommended for such cases.


Surprisingly the cost of transport is not that much different from the rest of the UK, and is actually cheaper than in more rural areas.

For those people intent on using a car, the price of petrol has increased quite markedly in the capital in recent years. Motorists can expect to pay anywhere between £1.34 and £1.48 per litre for unleaded petrol and 5 pence extra for diesel. Larger supermarkets with adjoining filling stations tend to sell petrol at the cheaper rate.

The roads are often very busy, especially in the city centre, with the miles per litre ratio being extremely poor. There is also the inner city Congestion Charge
to consider, so it is worth checking this and considering other modes of London transport.

The underground tube is probably the most convenient and most widely used method of public transport although stations can be quite congested at peak periods. As with any city possessing a similar railway network, charges tend to be based on zones and short journeys are relatively more expensive.

A single, i.e. one way, fare of £4.30 is the cheapest available, but this can apply to a distance of several stations. It is worth checking alternatives such as Oyster Cards or travel cards, which can considerably reduce costs. For example, a monthly travel card for £160 will allow for unlimited daily travel within a 10 mile radius (4 London zones), balanced against a single cash fare of £5.30.

There is also an overground rail network around London, and although there are not as many stations, it can be much quicker. A day return ticket on a 30 minute journey each way from Wembley to London will be £10.60 at peak periods while a similar ticket for a 10 minute journey from Clapham into the city is £5.20. Concessionary passes are available and oyster cards can also be used on these services.

Red London Buses are another mode of transport and are quite popular. The minimum single cash journey is £2.30, which can apply for just one stop or as many as 20+, but there is a variety of money saving offers with a monthly pass amounting to £72.20.

Also worth considering are the bike leasing network, where cheap registration is required, and river transport. For a more general consideration of options the London Transport at www.tfl.gov.uk website has full details.

Food and Drink

The cost of food can be exorbitant in London, but much will depend on where it is bought and who from as in many boroughs prices are reasonable compared to the remainder of England.

For buying the daily essentials any large supermarket such as Asda, Tesco or Sainsbury will tend to have special offers with more favourable pricing structures. For example a standard loaf of bread will cost between £1 and £1.10, a pint of milk approximately 50p, and a family sized box of breakfast cereal can be bought for about £1.50.

Within all London boroughs there are a network of Tesco Metro/Express shops which offer groceries at fair prices. Inexpensive meat can also be purchased with 1kg of Chicken breasts equating to approximately £7.50.

Eating out will depend much on the choice of venue and location. For the more standard restaurant chains expect to pay up to £2.70 for a traditional burger and fries from Macdonalds and between £8 and £9 for a regular Pizza from PizzaHut.

Pub meals are widespread in London with the Wetherspoon and Samuel Smith taverns offering basic meals at about £10 or under for special deals. A pint of beer can vary within a few hundred metres but on average expect to pay at least £3.


There are other items worth considering when assessing the basic cost of living in London.

The price of electricity and gas has recently escalated, and during winter months the utilities of an average family 3 bedroom house may cost between £150 and £200 per month. For a 1 bedroom flat expect to pay up to £50 per month and similar when sharing larger premises.

When using a mobile phone, tariffs and special offers will vary amongst the network providers, but for an average pay-as-you-go phone standard rates are usually about 35p per minute for calls and 10p per text.

Clothing will be dependent on taste and fashion sense. There will be the usual trendy shops around Oxford Street and the Knightsbridge area, but also chain stores such as Primark where a shirt can be bought for as little as £5.

Expect a night at the cinema for one adult to cost between £8 and £10 per adult and £6-7 for children.

As for paid employment, a social care worker can expect approximately £8-£10 per hour with qualified nurses earning on average £15 per hour. The rates for bar staff are generally £7 per hour while a graduate software developer might expect a salary up to £25000 per year. Pay for plumbers or other tradesmen can vary between £20000 and £35000 per annum depending on experience. Some jobs in the public services may also include a London Weighting allowance of between £2500 and £4000 to cover the increased cost of living in the capital.

For further information it may be worth checking www.numbeo.com as there can be such a variety in living expenses in London.

Image by Pep Hernández via Flickr

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