For sale sign outside a property

Health and Living in the UK

Finding accommodation

In the UK, you have the option to either buy or rent a home. Purchasing a property can be a lengthy process, so you may need to rent ahead of completing your move. Should you decide to rent, you will have two options:

Option 1: Live in a shared property. Shared accommodation allows you to cut the cost of rent and utilities in exchange for a single or a double bedroom. Other facilities, such as the living room, kitchen, bathroom and garden are all communal.

Option 2: is to rent accommodation of your own. This means that you must pay all costs, but you do not need to share facilities. Rental flats (apartments) or houses can be furnished or unfurnished. Furnished accommodation usually includes a bed, wardrobe, kitchen appliances and a sofa.

The best way to find accommodation to buy or rent is by using a local estate agent. There are usually several agencies in towns and cities, mainly located on the high street. You can also conduct your own searches for property to buy or rent on the internet. We recommend;

  • Rightmove
  • Zoopla
  • Prime Location
  • Gumtree

If you opt to rent, you will sign a contract with the estate agent once you have found a suitable place to live. You must provide your passport, proof of addresses from your own country (e.g. a utility bill or bank statement), and the offer letter from your employer. They will then request references from your employer in order to confirm your salary and the length of your contract. This process can take a week to complete.

Cost of accommodation

If you are looking to buy, property prices vary depending on size and location, with houses and flats in London and the south of England generally being more costly than those in northern areas. House prices in London are amongst the highest in the country, while areas in the North East of England are considerably lower.

The majority of homeowners in the UK do not buy their property outright. Instead, they opt to borrow money from a bank or building society. This is referred to as a ‘mortgage’ and is paid back in monthly instalments.

Buying a home is a huge financial commitment, so for some, renting may provide a more affordable option. Much like purchasing a home, the amount you pay in rent will fluctuate depending on size and location. Costs in and around city centres are around £650 per month while renting in more rural locations can cost about £550.

Expect prices in London and larger cities such as Manchester and Leeds to be considerably more.

Average house prices in the UK

Sharing accommodation will help to cut costs. Prices can be between £70 and £200 per week, depending on the size and location of the accommodation.

Rental prices can often include utilities such as gas, electricity, and water; however, it is advisable to consult with the landlord before signing a lease.

Cost of living

The cost of living is dependent on where you live in the UK. The prices of accommodation, goods and services are generally more expensive in the south of England, particularly in London. In contrast, living in the north of England or in Scotland can prove much more affordable, although public transport can be far less reliable in more rural areas.

In addition to monthly mortgage repayments/rent payments, you must pay council tax (to fund local services) and monthly utility bills, including gas, water and electricity, all of which are dependent on usage. Further costs may include annual payments of £150.50 for a television license, monthly phone and broadband charges and travel expenses.

The cost of groceries also varies. Supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl are considered the cheapest, while Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are mid-range and offer more globally recognized brands. On average, a weekly shop for one can cost around £20 to £30, whilst feeding a family of four can be upwards of £80.

Council Tax

Whether you own or rent a house in the UK, you must pay Council Tax on a monthly basis. If you rent, this is sometimes included in your rent, although the majority of times you will need to register with the Local Council, who will be able to give you advice on how to pay.

The amount of Council Tax you will need to pay depends on the size of the property, its value, and the location. Council Tax is the system of local taxation used in England, Scotland, and Wales to part-fund the services provided by local government in each country.

Local governments provide services such as police, fire, recycling, refuse collection and removal, schools, leisure centres, parks and open spaces, street cleaning, subsidising of public transport, sports facilities, and many others.

The quickest way to pay for your utility and general bills is by setting up a Direct Debit with your bank account provider. Every month the money will be taken automatically from your bank account and bills will be sent to your postal or email address.

Find out more about popular places to live in the UK 

Once you’ve found your accommodation there are a few other key things to know. 

Utilities

There are multiple providers of gas and electricity in the UK. To find the best rates, it is worth comparing the prices of different companies. There are various comparison websites you can use to compare the costs of utilities such as gas and electricity providers based on your individual circumstances.

Top Comparison Websites

  • Compare the Market
  • Uswitch
  • Money Supermarket
  • Money Saving Expert
  • Confused.com
  • Go Compare

Top Utility Providers

  • E.ON
  • N-Power
  • British Gas
  • EDF Energy
  • Scottish Power

Internet

The UK’s internet connectivity is first-class and ever-improving. The country is able to offer broadband speeds of around 18.57Mbps, which means that downloading a 5GB HD movie takes roughly 36 minutes.

The cost of accessing the internet varies and is dependent on the speed and service provider you choose, although your best option is to compare the packages offered by different providers. This can be done by using comparison websites.

Top Internet Providers

  • BT
  • Sky
  • Plusnet
  • Post Office
  • Virgin Media

Mobile phones

The cost of owning and operating a mobile phone varies wildly in the UK and is dependent on the brand of phone you would like and the type of contract you prefer.

Both 3G and 4G services are available on competitive contracts, while sim-only deals are also available and can easily be purchased and inserted into your phone if it is unlocked.

Top mobile phone operators

  • O2
  • EE
  • Virgin
  • Three
  • Vodafone

Healthcare

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is arguably one of the best healthcare systems in the world and is envied around the globe. The service offers free hospital treatment at the point of use. Alternatively, private healthcare is available however, charges do apply.

To receive any kind of treatment through the NHS, you must be registered with a family doctor, more commonly known as a general practitioner (GP). You should do this as soon as possible after you have arrived in the UK.

In England, you don’t pay to see a GP but you do pay a standard charge of £9.35 for prescriptions (medicines). However, in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free.

Registering with a GP

GPs are your first point of contact when you feel unwell. Surgeries work on an appointment basis, which means that you must phone ahead and make an appointment. Opening times are usually available online. If possible, select a GP surgery within walking distance of your home.

When registering, you will need to provide the following details:

  • Name
  • UK address
  • Date of birth
  • Medical card details (if you have one)

To receive any kind of treatment through the NHS, you must be registered with a doctor or general practitioner (GP).

Prior to your first appointment with a GP, you will need to provide details of your medical history. A nurse will also record your height, weight, and blood pressure.

Walk-in clinics

If you have an emergency and cannot get an appointment with your doctor or have not yet registered, then you can visit a walk-in clinic. Once there you will have to complete a form and wait in a queue. You are guaranteed to see a doctor that day and it is a free service.

Sexual health clinics

These clinics provide free and confidential advice on sexual matters. Usually, you can just walk in, but sometimes an appointment is required. Here you can receive free condoms, contraceptive pills, the morning-after pill, and a pregnancy test. Some clinics will also test for sexually transmitted diseases.

Dentists

Make sure the dentist you choose offers NHS treatment. Normally you are expected to pay towards the cost of NHS dental treatment so it is important you agree to charges before treatment begins.

Childcare

Childcare is available throughout the UK with prices varying dependent on the level of service provided, the child’s age, and location. Typically, childcare providers such as private nurseries will take children from the age of six months and charge between £30 and £100 per day. Other options for private childcare include an au pair (who usually lives in the family home and can also help with domestic cleaning and cooking) or a nanny.

Help with childcare costs is available. Many employers offer a Childcare Voucher scheme which is where you sacrifice a portion of your salary that isn’t tax-deductible and put it towards childcare payments.

Alternatively, you can receive financial help from the Tax-Free Childcare scheme which is available to parents dependent on various factors such as household income. Also, when a child turns three years old, they are eligible for 30 hours’ free childcare.

Education

The school year usually begins in September and concludes in July and is split into three terms. Children are required to attend primary school from the age of five, although four-year-olds are eligible to be registered, too. Children between the ages of 11 and 16 must attend secondary education. State education is free, however, private school fees vary depending on the establishment.

Once compulsory education has been completed, students may seek further education at college or university, or find employment.

Find out more

Read more on getting settled and daily life in the UK. 

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