The costs of living in London
Our two years of living in London were extremely fun - we spent far too much and made the most of what the city has to offer. Whilst there are ways to save money (such as on theatre tickets) and there's great food for relatively cheap prices if you know where to find it - London is expensive
Below is advice and estimates on costs to expect in the capital.
£20 for a hostel bed and £40 a room in a shared house found on Air BnB would get you basic, comfortable lodging for when you first arrive.
For long-term rentals, SpareRoom or FindaFlat is the best source of finding a house and/or flatmates. Rachel lived in two houses, one in Hammersmith and another in Kennington, found through SpareRoom. Both had responsive private landlords, which saved on agency fees.
Rachel paid £575 a month in each house which included all bills. This was for a double room in houses with large lounges and dining space, a garden, a kitchen including dishwasher and a bathroom with a bath! Although this is not cheap, you will always hear people moaning that they can't find anything less than £700, not including bills, and anything they do find is dirty or tiny.
Do not fear! There ARE *sort of* affordable rooms available - you just have to be alert and keep searching as often as every hour. It is not uncommon for rooms listed in the morning to be gone by the evening.
£20 hostel beds, £40 Air BnB rooms, circa £600 for the long-term rental of a room in a shared house
The London Underground: forever complained about but still one of the best transport networks in the world. Once you start moving around the city regularly, you realise that every journey takes at least half an hour. It just does.
You can purchase travelcards (7 days, 1 month, 1 year) for your Oyster card or just pay as you go with a contactless debit/credit card. Oyster cards can be picked up at ticket offices within the Underground stations.
As of July 2016, price caps for an Adult travelling pay as you go in Zone 1-2 are £6.50 a day and £32.40 a week. Prices for an Adult with a travelcard are £12.10 a day, £32.40 a week, £124.50 a month and £1,296 a year. Many employers offer a season ticket loan which works out cheaper in the long run over the year.
Train prices outside of London (e.g. to Nottingham and other UK cities) can be extortionate. We recommend checking train fares on National Rail's website and in some cases booking as far as 12 weeks in advance.
£32.40 a week, £124.50 a month in Zone 1-2
There are a number of supermarkets across the city, with Lidl being one of the cheapest (and with good quality meat and fish, surprisingly). Marks and Spencer & Waitrose are two of the most expensive. Check out Planet Organic or Whole Foods for organic produce. If you like Asian food, there is the Japan Centre on Shaftesbury Avenue, Longdan at Elephant & Castle and various markets in Chinatown. You can buy sauces and galangal, for example, way cheaper here. Our favourite supermarket is Tesco - you can also earn air miles by collecting clubcard points with them.
Standard prices at Tesco (as at July 2016) are as follows:
- 2 pints of milk: £0.90
- 1 loaf of bread: £0.50
- 500g chicken: £4.00
- 6 eggs: £1.00
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes/beans/spaghetti: £0.40
- 5 bananas: £1.00
EATING & DRINKING OUT
From Wetherspoons' cheap n' cheerful pubs to slick rooftop cocktail bars such as Kensington Roof Gardens, there's something for everyone where drink is concerned.
Look for restaurants that let you BYO (think curry houses on Brick Lane in East London) if you want to save some £ when dining out. Restaurant chains such as Pizza Express always do offers (e.g. two courses for £9.95), and burger joints including Byron and Meat Liquor do occassional free or BOGOF burger days - sign up to their mailing list for more information.
£10 cocktails, £5 pints, £20 bottle of wine
£15 meal + soft drink in chain restaurant, £25 three-course pre-theatre menu + drink
There is so much to see and do across London it's mind-boggling. Fortunately, some of London's best museums are free (National History, Science, Imperial War Museum) and many others such as the Churchill War Rooms are worth their entry fee (£17.25 at time of writing).
For those interested in live comedy, The Comedy Store opposite the Prince of Wales Theatre is a great place to start, having presented comedians such as James Corden and Russell Kane in the past. Expect to pay £20 for a Friday night ticket.
Cinema tickets aren't cheap, when you consider what great deals you can get for live theatre. It will cost you around £14.50 for an adult ticket in a Central London Odeon or Vue cinema. Imax, based at Waterloo, will be more expensive.
Whilst you can expect to pay around £65 for a clear view, stalls seat in a West End theatre in advance, there are many on-the-day, last minute or concessions deals for live performance across the city.
For a memorable live music experience, there is nowhere better than the Royal Albert Hall. Other gig venues include O2 Academies which can be found across the city, including in Brixton and Shepherd's Bush. The Roundhouse in Camden is another great venue.
The best allrounder is the Barbican Centre - theatre, cinema, gallery, with a full events calendar, it's worth a look in.