cheapest cities to live UK
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5 British Cities that are cheap to live in & offer a high Quality of Life

It’s widely agreed that London is an extremely expensive city to visit and live in, but what about the rest of the UK? Well, the cost of living is considerably cheaper in literally every other city in the country, and usually by a considerable margin. In this post we’ll look at the cheapest cities to live in the UK and consider which are the best options for remote workers or students hoping to balance a high quality of life with affordable living.


5 of the Best & Cheapest Cities to Live in the UK


Cardiff

best cities to live in Wales

The Welsh capital is a good starting point with living costs around 60% of the equivalent in London. The biggest savings come when it comes to accommodation with rental prices in London well over double what they are in Cardiff for comparable properties.

Like many of the cities on this countdown, Cardiff has shed its industrial reputation in recent years and reinvented itself as a place that has plenty to offer both visitors and residents alike, even ranking as one of the best destinations during the summer in the UK. The city of castles, set around a famous bay, is the perfect place for anyone looking to live somewhere with a genuine identity that sets it apart from many UK towns and cities that can be a bit ‘samey’.

As well as the opportunity to learn about Welsh culture and traditions, anyone looking to live on a tight budget will enjoy the fact that it’s also a popular student city. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and entertainment options that are geared more towards those with less cash to splash, meaning of the major cities, it’s certainly one of the cheapest places to live in the UK.

Estimated Living Costs – £1000/month*

* The cost of living estimates for the five cities featured in this post clearly will vary from person to person and are mostly designed as a guide and a means of comparison. They are aimed to represent a realistic figure for a single person, including the cost of renting accommodation.

Students and anyone willing to live in a flatshare or really watch what they spend, should be able to get by on a bit less. Those with more lavish lifestyles will most likely spend a lot more. Anyone planning on living alone and renting their own private apartment in some of the more expensive cities to rent such as London, may also need to increase the budget.


Birmingham

If you’re a fan of big city living but can’t afford to reside in London, then Birmingham is perhaps your next best bet. The UK’s second city has around 2.5 million people living in its metropolitan area and is home to a more diverse and more multicultural population than somewhere like Manchester or Liverpool.

From its famous Balti Triangle to the alternative bars and clubs of Digbeth and the up and coming Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham is certainly a city on the up and whoever you are, you should be able to find a little piece of it that suits you fine.

Birmingham’s location in the very heart of England and at the centre of the UK’s rail and bus networks is also a major advantage. It’s only around 90 minutes by train to London and fares are very affordable if booked in advance, while you can get to most of the major northern cities in around two hours, making it a good base for anyone looking to travel a lot and explore the UK.

Estimated Living Costs – £1050/month


Norwich

cheapest places to live in UK

Norwich Market via Michael Button, CC BY 2.0

If you prefer the pace of life a bit slower, and your cities a bit smaller and quieter, then you’ll struggle to find many better places in the UK than Norwich. While not quite on the coast, nestled in picturesque Norfolk there are all kinds of opportunities for getting out of town and into the beautiful countryside and nearby coastline.

Norwich itself has plenty of history and charm to it, having existed for more than 800 years. It was one of the most important cities in England during medieval times but these days it has been overtaken in terms of size and stature by a large number of midland and northern towns.

The main disadvantage is that Norwich is quite isolated and it’s a bit cut off from other parts of the country with no motorway and relatively slow transport links. For some, that’s part of its charm. If it’s a concern, then it is worth remembering that England is only a small country and if you’re used to travelling large distances to get from A to B, it shouldn’t be a major issue.

Estimated Living Costs – £1000/month


Find Work Placements in the UK

Join Worldpackers ($39/year using our discount code) to get access to a large number of work exchange programs with options including everything from working at B&B’s in the beautiful lake district to hostel work in cities such as London and Edinburgh. They have 97 opportunities in the UK at the time of writing.


Manchester

Manchester is marginally the most expensive of the five cities featured here, but is still considerably cheaper to live in than London. It’s also more affordable than the likes of Bristol, Edinburgh and Oxford, and overall you’d have to say it has much more going on.

The Northern powerhouse continues to grow in popularity with young Brits and people from abroad looking to live in a lively city with a strong identity that is closely linked to its music heritage and football scene. The sense that Manchester really is going places is palpable, with new high rise buildings popping up all over the place to accommodate the city’s businesses and new residents looking to be part of the action. 

Prices are rising in Manchester but for now living costs remain affordable and are only slightly more than the equivalent in almost every other city in Northern England. For many people, that’s certainly a price worth paying given all the advantages that come with living in such a vibrant place.

Estimated Living Costs – £1075/month


Chester

cheapest cities to live UK

Chester via Mario Sanchez Prada, CC BY-SA 2.0 

If Manchester is just out of your budget, or you’d rather live somewhere a bit smaller, consider Chester. It’s conveniently located only around 40 miles southwest of Manchester and just 15 miles south of Liverpool and is a popular destination for people from both cities looking for somewhere a bit quieter to live.

Living costs are low and it’s a genuinely nice city to live in, with an extensive history that dates back to its foundation by the Romans. Its ancient buildings and infrastructure has been well-preserved and today there’s a nice blend of old and new with fashionable bars, shops and restaurants found within the old walled city.

Estimated Living Costs – £950/month


MFT Recommends – Consider getting a Revolut Card before moving to the UK. This will enable you to hold a £ balance and pay for things in the local currency thus avoiding some hidden banking fees. Even if you do ultimately intend to open a British bank account, you’ll certainly save money by using Revolut until that point.


Cost of Living in the UK – Cities Compared

For the table below (and figures above), we’ve used numbeo’s cost calculator as a guide to work out the estimated cost of living in 20 cities in the United Kingdom. As you can clearly see, there is a huge spike in costs when it comes to London and the southeast of England in general. However if you’re planning to find a job or have one lined up, you should factor in the much increased earnings potential in the capital.

Students, remote workers and digital nomads may be wise to consider cities at the lower end of the list although just about everywhere outside of London is affordable by comparison. There’s not much difference in living costs between cities in the other regions of the UK although you can squeeze out a bit more value in Northern Ireland.

Remember that the estimated monthly figures themselves are designed to be just a guide as each person’s living and spending habits are different. They are intended to cover the cost of renting accommodation and all living expenses.

City Estimated Cost of Living (Monthly in £)
London 1600
Brighton 1300
Oxford 1250
Bristol 1175
Edinburgh 1150
Manchester 1075
Birmingham 1050
Exeter 1025
Glasgow 1000
Sheffield 1000
Cardiff 1000
Nottingham 1000
Norwich 1000
Liverpool 975
Swansea 975
Newcastle 975
Belfast 950
Leeds 950
Chester 950
Derry 850

This list consists of almost every major city in the UK and a selection of smaller ones which feature because they tend to rank well in quality of life rankings or are generally viewed as more popular destinations to visit and live in. We’ve also tried to feature cities from all the main English regions with two Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish cities also included to give as diverse a picture as possible.

It’s worth noting that health insurance costs are not factored into these figures. If you are a remote worker, digital nomad or anyone moving to the UK for a short or longer period of time, we can recommend SafetyWing – a respected company which offers affordable global health insurance for anyone living, working or studying abroad.


This post on the cheapest cities to live in the UK was published in August 2020.

Comments and questions are welcome. However please note we are not experts on UK immigration laws (which are evolving as a result of Brexit). It’s also quite hard to answer questions on local job markets/study options. You may have more luck on other forums or groups specific to moving to the UK from abroad.


18 Comments

  • Oceania

    Hello, I am a US citizen looking to relocate to England, I would say the UK in general however I really would like to stay within the country of England rather than Ireland or Scotland. I am looking for a employment opportunity, perhaps employment exchange program or similar. I do have a international diploma in Beauty Therapy (i.e. CIBTAC and CIDESCO certificate & diploma in Swedish facials and body massage, including electric and mechanical. I also can preform makeup, eyelash extensions & brow shaping and tinting, essential oil therapy, hot stone massage, and more), which allows me to work in approximately 33 different countries.
    If anyone has helpful information for affordable cities with work opportunities I would love to hear from you. Thank you very much.
    Oceania

  • Lorraine

    Hi,
    I’m a US citizen who took early retirement at 50 y/o. I have passive income through rental property and want to move throughout UK with my Beagle (senior dog), staying at AirBnBs as various home bases to visit most of UK, Ireland, Scotland and then over to EU countries. [Moving from one airbnb to others.] Can you recommend an affordable location in UK that has a relaxed environment, but is convenient to transportation to the destinations I’ve listed above? Much appreciated!!!!!

    • myfunkytravel

      Hi Lorraine,

      If you’re looking for a general base then perhaps you want to find somewhere central with good train links. Examples might be Lichfield which is a small, relaxed city close to Birmingham with excellent rail links to London and the northwest of England too. Chester (featured in the post) might be one to look at too. You can easily get to the big cities in the north and are close to Liverpool and Manchester Airports which have plenty of links with Ireland and Europe.

      Hope this helps a bit 🙂

      • Shaimaa

        I’m going to UK very soon, I have 2 job offers in different cities, Bath and Buckinghamshire. Which one is better and cheaper to live for an Arabic big family

        • myfunkytravel

          Hi,

          Bath would most likely be more expensive, certainly compared to Milton Keynes – the largest town in Buckinghamshire.

          In terms of which is better, it really depends what you want from life. Bath is a very nice city and ranks quite well for quality of life etc. Buckinghamshire is closer to London but it’s a relatively big county so it depends where in Buckinghamshire you are looking at. Wycombe for example is very close to London and relatively affordable given the proximity.

  • Oyindamola

    Please I am young couple I want to move into UK from Nigeria, I am looking for the cheapest City to live in and that’s good for Migrant and where we can get a good paying Job.
    I’ll really appreciate if you can suggest any for me or any article.

    • myfunkytravel

      Hi Oyindamola,

      Generally avoiding the south, and particularly southeast of England, you should find comparatively low costs of living just about anywhere – although salaries won’t be as great. The pandemic has hit the UK hard though and a lot of people have lost jobs, so it’s likely to be a very competitive job market for some time. What kind of work are you looking for?

      • Eden

        Hi,
        My name is Eden I’m 27 and single mummy of a little boy 4 years old. I’m used to live in London, Brighton, Liverpool and Leicester. I would like to take a fresh start somewhere new by the sea possibly and cheaper for rent a flat. Not too far from London in train and where is safe !! Can you help me please to see more clear when it could be ? Many thanks,
        Eden

        • myfunkytravel

          Hi Eden,

          In terms of places by the sea and an hour to an hour & a half from London by train, the cheapest options might be Southampton or Portsmouth, or something in that area. Alternatively you could look at Suffolk. Ipswich has good rail links to London, is cheaper to live and quite close to the sea. Otherwise the Southeast of England is just quite expensive and you’ll struggle to find a good place by the sea with good rail links to London and affordable rents.

  • Bryan

    Wait, are they really suggested that you can live in london on 16,000 or oxford on 1,250? I have never looked at london but the cheapest flats I have seen in oxford are 700-900

    • myfunkytravel

      Hello Bryan, In a flatshare, it should be pretty easy to stick to those kind of budgets in both London and Oxford. If you’re a single person looking to rent your own apartment, then it would be difficult. The figures are more designed to show a comparison between the cities and the actual amount will clearly depend on the circumstances of each person.

  • Pradnya

    Hello,
    I am looking for a 1bhk,nearby London, kindly please suggest good and reasonable house for a family of three(including a toddler of 3yrs old).

    • myfunkytravel

      Hi Pradnya,

      Not an estate agent so can’t really help you find a specific house!

      You may find this article useful though. It lists some of the cheaper areas near to London and what rent you can expect to pay for a one bedroom house. Maybe if you can choose an area or two to target first before you start looking for specific properties that would be a good idea as Greater London is huge.

  • Aiyed Wahab

    I am an Australian Citizen living in Perth Western Australia now.
    I want to move and live in a Cheap City in the UK.
    ALL what I need is a room with bath shower and Toilet.
    I used to live in Sunderland and was graduated from Sunderland University 1986,so my English is very good.
    I need a peaceful place to live and work from.
    Please advice?

    Regards

    • myfunkytravel

      Hi Aiyed,

      There’s an article here on the cities with the cheapest room rental rates in the UK. It’s from 2019 but things won’t have changed too much since in terms of the cheapest cities, although the actual prices may be a bit different now and in the future depending on how things go with the pandemic.

      The Northeast of England and Northern Ireland dominate the list, so they are probably good starting places to research. You might also find some good rents and a peaceful way of life in one of the smaller towns in North Wales or other parts of Northern England such as Yorkshire or Cumbria.

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