Your price guide to living in London

You’ve finally decided to take the leap and make the move to London. How exciting! London is one of the most thrilling cities in the world – it has an endless cultural offering, great history, and is a foodie heaven. You definitely won’t regret your move to the British capital.

By now, you’ve probably heard that London is an expensive city to live in. According to Mercer, London is the 19th most expensive city in the world. So how much is living in the Big Smoke actually going to cost you? Our handy guide will help you manage your expectations and start planning your budget. Of course, everyone is different, and people might prioritise spending more on some aspects, and less on others. The aim of this article is simply to give you an idea of the value of money in London. 

We’ve examined four main lifestyle categories – housing, transportation, food & drinks, and leisure. Keep reading to know how much living in London is actually going to cost you.

Housing

When moving to a new city, choosing your accommodation is often one of the first decisions you need to make. Where you live affects so many aspects of your life – it’s an important part of what will define your experience of living in a new city. Additionally, housing usually represents a huge chunk of your budget, and will likely be one of your biggest monthly expenses. This rings even truer for residents of London. Indeed, housing in London is known for being quite pricey, and in 2019, Londoners spent nearly half of their total income on rent.

Traditional London terraced houses

Coming up with a ballpark figure for an average room rental price in London is tricky, as this will depend on a bunch of factors. Living with several flatmates or further away from the city center are examples of things that could help drive down your monthly rental payments. As a rule of thumb, a budget between £600 – £800 pcm will get you a decent room in a 3-bedroom flat in zone 2 or 3. If you want less flatmates, a shorter commute to the city centre, a bigger room or a recently renovated flat, expect a more expensive offering. For more information on rental costs, check out our complete price guide on renting in London.

On top of rent, you might have to pay monthly fees pertaining to your accommodation, such as utilities and Internet. Some rented flats include bills within the monthly rent, but others don’t – always check to make sure you know exactly what you’ll be paying for. If your monthly rent doesn’t include bills, you can expect monthly fees of about £170 for utilities for an 85 sqm flat, and £30 for Wi-Fi.

Transportation 

You definitely won’t be bored living in London, and will probably want to spend your free time exploring the city. Delicious brunch spots, charming neighbourhoods, relaxing parks – there is no doubt you’ll want to experience it all. Luckily, London has an efficient public transport system that will take you from one place to another in no time. The network is extensive, and it’s estimated that it accounts for approximately 37% of journeys in the city.

Street in London with red double-decker buses

Public transport in London is pricey, though, so you’ll need to make sure that you take transportation costs into account for your budget. With a monthly travelcard for Zones 1 & 2 costing around £140, London has the highest public transport costs of any major city. Don’t want to commit to a monthly travelcard? You can use contactless, Oyster Card top-ups or buy single-use tickets. For the tube, fares for contactless and Oyster Card top-ups are calculated by distance and zone, and can be estimated in advance. Single-use tickets are more expensive and come down to about £4.90 for journeys in Zone 1. Taking the bus is cheaper, with a journey only setting you back £1.50.

As for private transportation, taking a cab costs about £7.00 per mile with normal rates, and the average price of a liter of petrol is around £1.24.

Food & drinks

With great cuisine from all over the world, London is the place to be for food-lovers. From street food in markets, to upscale restaurants and local greasy spoons, one can find any type of food in the city. How much is it going to cost you to try out all these delicious food spots? For a quick bite, you can expect to pay about £6.00 for a combo meal at a fast-food restaurant, and about £11 to £20 for a sit-down meal at a casual, inexpensive restaurant. If you’d like something a bit fancier, a meal at a mid-range restaurant will cost you about £20 to £40.

People sitting at the outdoor tables of Kingly Court,London, UK.

Part of experiencing London’s food scene resides in experiencing the city’s famous pub-culture. Pubs have such an important place in British culture and are often the focal point of local communities. Pubs are where families come together for Sunday roast, where co-workers hang out for after-work drinks, and where groups of friends spend their weekend evenings. A night out in a neighbourhood pub will typically cost you £17.00 for food and £5.00 per pint. 

Making home-cooked meals can be a good way to save money while living in London. When doing so, buying groceries from budget stores such as Tesco, Morrisons, or Lidl can make a big difference at the end of the month. Here are examples of what you can expect to pay for some of the staples: £2.51 for 12 large eggs, £3.26 for 1lb boneless chicken breast, £0.91 for 1l whole milk and £2.25 for 1kg tomatoes.

Leisure

London is a playground for adults. At all times, you will be met with endless possibilities of things to do and see around the city. If you don’t want to allocate much of your budget to leisure, you’re in luck – London is one of those cities that is full of options in terms of free activities. You’ll be able to take full advantage of the city’s parks, monuments and even some museums without spending a penny!

There it is: your London Price Guide! We hope that this information has given you a bit of clarity on how much living in London is going to cost you. The cost of living in London can be daunting, but rest assured that if you plan your budget in advance – and stick to it – you’ll be able to enjoy everything that this wonderful city has to offer.