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Cost of Living in the UK and Living Expenses for International Students

Make the most of your money

You want to enjoy a healthy and happy study life in the UK. Knowing how much you need for living expenses is a great starting point, but keep in mind the cost of living may be higher or lower depending on where you live.

The UK Government suggests you will need around:

  • £1,265 per month if you live in London for the majority (more than 50 percent) of your study
  • £1,015 per month if you live outside London for the majority of your study (more than 50 percent of study time)

These figures do not include the cost of your study or tuition fees.

There are some handy websites you can use to help budget for your time in the UK. One option is Expatistan, which calculates the cost of living in the UK using up-to-date, crowd-sourced data.

Your banking and payments options

In the UK, you generally pay (and are paid) in pounds and pence. You can make purchases at stores using coins and notes, or a debit or credit card.

You might notice that the notes you get in Scotland and Northern Ireland look a bit different – even though the currency is the same, Scottish and Northern Irish banks print their own notes. These are usually accepted in the rest of the UK, but if you have any problems and need to change them to Bank of England notes, you can do so at any major bank in the UK.

Most UK banks will be happy to open an account for you while you’re living in the UK. To open an account, you will generally need:

  • Your passport
  • A document confirming the school, college or university you are/will be attending
  • Proof of address at home and in the UK
  • Reference and statements from your home bank

To make the process easier, you might want to first check with the bank you currently bank with in your home country, to see if they have a relationship with a UK-based bank and can help you set up an account.

To access money from your account, you can:

  • Use your bank’s online or telephone banking service
  • Visit your local bank branch
  • Withdraw money from an ATM
  • Ask to get ‘cash back’ when making an in-store purchase on your debit card

Getting your phone and internet organised

You’ll probably want to get your phone and Internet sorted pretty quickly after arriving in the UK.

When it comes to phones, you have three main options:

  • Landline: usually only relevant if you live off campus. You might be able to get a better deal by bundling your landline with Internet access, or you might choose not to have a landline at all and stick with your mobile
  • Mobile – prepaid: gives you control over how much you spend and you can stop using whenever you want. Pre-paid SIM cards are widely available from UK shops and supermarkets, as well as from mobile phone providers
  • Mobile – contract: Depending on how much you use your mobile and what for, a contract with a UK-based mobile phone provider could be cheaper

Making international calls

International calls can be a lot more expensive than calls within the UK. You might want to buy an international calling card (which gives you better rates) or use online options like Skype or FaceTime instead. You can buy international calling cards from most convenience stores.

  • To call a UK number from overseas, you need to enter the country code (44) followed by the area code and then the telephone number
  • To call another country from the UK, enter 00 followed by the relevant country code, followed by the area code (if required) and then the telephone number

Accessing the internet

You will have lots of options for Internet access in the UK, but it pays to shop around to find the plan that offers the best price and download limits for your needs.

Most educational institutions provide free Wi-Fi which you can access with your student logon and password. If you can’t access the Internet through your own laptop or computer, you can usually find one to use in the student library, at an off-campus public library or internet café.

Some places offer free Wi-Fi, but some Internet cafes for example, will charge by the hour. Don’t forget to check the security of the network you are connecting to.

Recommended articles

Employment while you study

Working part-time while can be a great way to help with the cost of living in the UK and also gain work experience in your field of study.

Health and support services

Moving to a new country isn’t always easy. That’s why most schools, colleges and universities in the UK offer orientation programs, which help you make new friends and get to know your new campus and city.


You should think carefully about insurance cover to help protect your health, your home and your belongings.

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