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The real cost of living in London

9 Comments 31 October 2013

view of London

My first flat in London, with views across to the City.

Looking for a rough guide to the cost of living in London? This post was written for The American Resident by Chris Jerome and is a welcome addition to my other references on expat living. As always, if you have any further tips, please jump in and add them in the comments!

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Moving to London can be an exciting prospect, with such an amazing opportunity to enjoy the wealth of entertainment, shopping, touristic sites and culture on offer. However, the daunting cost of London living is often enough to put people off.

This guide will give you an idea of how much it costs to live in London and how you might be able to save money along the way:


Rental prices in London vary greatly depending on the standard of accommodation and location; you should expect to pay much bigger premiums the further central you go.

Single rooms in shared houses or flats can start from around £200 per week. In Chiswick, West London, rooms are between £230-£250 per week, and £112-£210 in Leyton, North East London.

The most expensive rooms are in areas like Chelsea, Paddington, Kensington, Hampstead, Euston, King’s Cross and Fulham, all averaging £251-£290 per week.

On average, studios cost between £850 and £1350 per month, with a one bedroom flat upwards of £800; as with all properties it is worth checking to see if utility bills are included in the rent.

The best value is found in areas like Willesden, Harlesden and Shepherd’s Bush, all within proximity of West Central London and without a huge price premium; here a three bedroom letting will cost £250-£450 per week, compared to neighbouring Hammersmith and Notting Hill, at £539-£750 and £751-£1400 respectively. Other good-value areas include Camberwell, Bethnal Green and Stratford, all at £450-750 per week.

The London Rents Map is a really good way of checking average rental prices across London.

For buyers, it is difficult to find a three bedroomed house within Greater London for less than £200,000. A three bedroom flat can be bought from around £150,000, with proximity to central London again increasing the price, with Clapham closer to £400,000.

For shorter term accommodation, fully serviced accommodation in London can be found for as little as £60.00 per night for a single room or £110.00 for a triple; a similar standard double hotel room, on the other hand, can cost up to £200.00.


The cost of transport in London is very similar to the rest of the UK, with petrol ranging from £1.34-£1.48 per litre for unleaded. Road tax does not vary either, although Londoners driving into the Congestion Charge Zone will have to pay an additional £10 per day.

The Underground is the quickest and most popular mode of transport, but can become congested at peak periods, with charges based on zones and shorter journeys being the most expensive. Buying single fares is expensive, at £4.30, although you can buy monthly travel cards for unlimited travel between a short radius for £160; The Oyster Card system means you can achieve discounts for regular travel.

Alternative modes of transport include over ground rail, although there are very few stations on the network, and red London buses, which also use the Oyster card system, or have a minimum cash payment of £2.30, and monthly passes of around £72.

The cheapest way to move around the capital is undoubtedly by bicycle, with Mayor Boris Johnson’s new network of Barclays blue hire bikes allowing you to pick up and drop off at various locations for only £2 per day.


The price of a pint of lager is often a good way of determining the value-for-money of an area, with the average Greater London price being £3.60, Kensington £4.20 and Camden Town £3.50; compare this to Birkenhead in Merseyside, at £1.90, and it’s quite expensive; although nearby Reading is in a similar ballpark at £3.30.

Eating out can be expensive in London, although you do have access to Britain’s best selection of restaurants. Reasonable main dishes can vary from £8-£25 depending on your choice of eatery and dish. For particularly good value evening meals, try Time Out’s London’s Best Cheap Eats guide.

If you like watching football, London clubs come at a high price premium. Arsenal tickets are around £60, with their cheapest season ticket being a massive £985; you can watch a game at Liverpool, on the other hand, for only £38 a game, or £23.20 in Newcastle. If you want a really cheap London game, try newly promoted Crystal Palace, which offers Premier League football at knock-down prices.

Shopping in London varies depending on your tastes, although prices in most high street retailers will be similar to other areas of the UK. However, with a wealth of high-end and independent fashion boutiques, top-quality markets and well-stocked charity shops, temptation to spend is always there.

Cinema outings are generally fairly priced compared to other areas of the country, and you also have access to some pretty amazing theatre, opera and ballet. For the quality on offer, London provides excellent value-for-money for entertainment.


Fortunately for London tax payers, relative incomes are higher in the capital than other areas of the country. For example, public sector jobs like teaching often include a London Weighting Allowance to cover increased costs of living, ranging between £2500 and £4000 a year.

However, the Evening Standard recently announced that you would need to be earning £38,000 a year to afford to rent on your own in the capital, the equivalent salary of a teaching head of department or private sector middle manager.

With the costs of living in London high, it’s important that you manage your budget and find the best location, accomodation and career to suit your needs.

If you are looking to set up home in London but would like to get to know an area better prior to making a longer-term commitment, Refresh Accommodation can provide you with short-term, fully-serviced accommodation that can make your move as stress-free as possible.


This is a Partnered Post. For information on what that means, please click here.

If you’d like to read more posts about my Expat Life, click on the category Expat Life.

If you’d like to find some useful tips on Living Overseas, click on the page, Living Overseas.


Your Comments

9 Comments so far

  1. Expat Mum says:

    Interesting. I thought accommodation would be higher but that’s probably because I haven’t looked at it recently. I always find tube travel incredibly expensive if you’re only there for a week or two.

    • maria says:

      I live in London, and believe me when I say that these prices are very far from the truth. Rents are incredibly expensive, a very modest 1 bedflat starting at £1100, and this is from zone 3 upwards nothing cheaper, adding to this a weekly travel pass that can go from a simple fair of £35/week to £150 week (this for zone 6)….sorry but this article is not to be relied on

  2. London resident says:

    I am currently living in London and I can tell you that the accomodation prices you mentioned are incredibly optimistic as the actual costs will be about 30-50% higher than the prices you stated before accounting for council tax and exorbitant utility bills.
    It is also a mystery as to which part of London you are referring to as it is impossible to find a studio apartment for less than £200,000, let alone a 3 bedroom house in any area that any expat would consider living in if they wanted to be within 1hr of the city centre.
    If you are considering moving to London please do a bit more research on the matter before taking the plunge and ask some of the locals of the real costs of living here as the costs can really add up.

    • Hi London resident, thanks for your comment and additional information. I’m not sure where Chris is referring to but I assumed it was an average.

      Out of curiosity (because I did not write this article and so I haven’t done any recent research on the subject) I did a search on for 3 bedroom houses under £200,000 within 10 miles of central London and found 596.

      A search there may help any readers who need more information.

      • maria says:

        Doubt they were HOUSES…more like flats, and maybe worth check the square metres!!! Check commute prices as well (something like £300 – £500/month) , consider time used for travel, constant delays etc. Also the £200K you found is just the start, add stamp duty and all legal fees, you may be in for an extra £50k. This of course considering the place is liveable, as per experience these places make you wanna cry just to think that that’s where you are meant to live, and get in debt for.

      • Sarah says:

        Speaking of where people would want to live, they would consider commuting times as well–the 10 mile radius takes you outside the M25. The areas with no transport links are the ones that might have a few houses with those prices, so you’d have a hellish commute.

        • Good tip–and trying the commute in advance of a purchase is a great idea as well. What one person considers hellish might be manageable to another. I know many people who live in Essex who commute an hour in and an hour out each day but they use that time to catch up on emails (if on a train) or phone calls (if they drive).

  3. Nelson Maia says:

    Hi, how`re you?

    I would like to understand this shared flats that it`s possible to find for rents.

    Do I will live in someone else at the same house? Or its more like an apartment?

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An American writer in the UK for over 20 years. Lives in Essex. A pretend extrovert.

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