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How Much Money Should I Save to Move to the UK? With a Cost Breakdown

Now that you have made the big decision to move to the UK (congratulations!) you are probably thinking how much money should I save to move to the UK?

I recommend saving over £8,000 as a single person. A budget like this will help you cover:

  • Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa (adjust to whether you need a visa and type, this could be as little as £75 if you have a British passport or as high £3,600 with a UK Ancestry)
  • Initial travel cost
  • One month of accommodation in a hostel
  • UK transportation
  • Food
  • Initial monhtly rent and deposit
  • Being without a job
  • and some money for fun activities.

Holy (add swear word) right? Is it really going to cost me that much money to move to the UK? Just translating it in Aussie terms that’s $16,000 which is a lot of money!

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At the end of the day it is about your planning, risk factor and deals you can get. My sister only spent $5,000 of the $10,000 that she brought over but had me to support her. She spent her first 6 weeks rent free which you can imagine immensely helped the pocket. 

The savvier you are with your accommodation, travel and food or happy to take the first job you are offered, the more room you have for being able to save less money. 

Initial Costs

There are numerous costs associated with moving across the world. These costs will all be one-offs to you moving to the UK budget, however, they may make a dent in your budget.

Visa Cost (if required)

Visa costs can quickly add up! You have the initial visa prices and then the immigration health surcharge (IHS).

The table below is the most popular visas and the current costs as of Jan 2020. I’ve added examples of the potential costs you could expect, however, these vary depending on visa length, type and other variables. Always check the Gov website for the latest costs.

Visa Type
Cost (Applications Outside the UK)
Example of Potential Cost
Standard fee ranges from £610 to £1,408 depending on your circumstances
Example cost of 5 year Skilled Worker visa: £3,730 to £4,528
£3,636 for 5 year visa
£1,184 for 2 year visa
£3038 for 2.5 year visa
£1,288 for 2 year visa
Source: Gov UK Jan 2020 Costs

Immigration Health Surcharge Fee (IHS)

This fee gives you access to the UK National Health Service (NHS). The fees vary depending on the type of visa you’re applying for, here’s a summary:

  • £470 per year for a student or Youth Mobility Scheme visa, for example, £940 for a 2-year visa
  • £470 per year for visa and immigration applicants who are under the age of 18 at time of application
  • £624 per year for all other visa and immigration applications, for example £3,120 for a 5-year visa

Not everyone likes filling out visa applications so I recommend Britbound to help. Just to give you an extra bonus to start your adventure, Sarah at Britbound is giving you 10% off visa package (Youth Mobility and UK Ancestry only)! Just use the code KATSGONEGLOBAL.

Travel to the UK

Flight to the UK

You must get to the UK somehow! You’ll need to factor in flights, bus, train or however you plan to get here in your budget. The cost can be anything from £50 to £1,000 depending on your current location. The most I’ve had to pay for a one-way flight from Perth Australia was £500 so this is an area you can definitely reduce my estimated costs.

Able to be flexible on the dates you can travel? Then head to Google Flights or Skyscanner and use their handy calendar tool to find the best travel dates for your route, by locating the dates with the lowest fares.

Travel Insurance

For travel insurance purposes you are only considered a resident in the UK after you live here for 6 months and this means you will need to get one way insurance for moving to the UK.

One way travel insurance does end up costing more but I feel that it’s better to pay a few dollars for the peace of mind. If you are like me, sold all your belongings and only travelling with what you have left then it will be sad if you lost or had anything stolen!

World Nomads offer one-way travel insurances which will cover you whilst you’re settling here.

After 6 months you will be able to access cheaper insurance. Most banks will offer travel insurance with current accounts. This is the best place to check before looking at insurance packages. Normally it is a monthly recurring fee and will include other things.

Otherwise use places like “Compare the Market” and “Money Supermarket” to find the best deals.

Costs of Getting To/From Airport

Costs of getting to from airport
The classic black cab will be more expensive to get to and from the airport, whereas a pre-booked minicab will be cheaper and at a set price. Photo by Biel Morro on Unsplash

Hopefully, this won’t be a massive expense, especially if a friend or a family member has a car and can drop you at the airport before you leave! Otherwise, it is another cost to factor in.

Then it is figuring out how to get from the airport to your accommodation. If you plan on getting a taxi this will cost more, however, you can get pre-paid taxi service instead of metres which will be cheaper. Public transport or bus will be the cheapest option.

For example, a taxi from Heathrow to Crystal Palace (Southeast London) costs between £40 and £60. The same route by public transport costs £8.40 although there are barely any lifts.


Airlines will have baggage rules and it’s so easy to take the kitchen sink with you! It’s always cheaper to buy extra baggage up front than getting a shock at the airport. Alternatively, you can use shipping companies or the post to get those last items over.

I’ve not included what it costs to ship furniture, household items and anything else over as I just bought everything I needed over here. This is where the cost of moving can significantly increase and depending on how long you plan on being here it may not be worth it if you are only here for two years.

Costs When You Arrive in the UK

The best practice is of course to have more savings than you need to cover the costs of any worst-case scenario. As we’ve seen with 2020 you just never know what surprises are around the corner.

I suggest that you allow 3 months worth of padding into your budget, however, I understand this is not always achievable. As this varies from person to person you will be able to adapt the budget to suit your needs.

The Office for National Statistics says that in 2019 the average family spent £585.60 per week which includes transport, housing and recreation, and culture. For a 3 month budget, this would be £7,027.20.

If you are interested in the average cost of living in London check out this article. 

Accommodation on Arrival

Finding accommodation on arrival in the UK

Firstly, you will need to factor in the cost of temporary housing, hotel or hostel while you are looking for a flat. I mention this in things you should organise before you move to the UK that I highly recommend you find accommodation that has a kitchen and allows you to cook your own food.

Average Accommodation Cost

I’ve gathered the average cost for hostel, hotel and Airbnb rooms to help establish potential costs for a month’s worth of accommodation.

If you have friends or family to stay with this will add some major savings to your budget! You could also look into couch surfing or pet sitting as another option to save money. Think about staying outside of the city or tourist areas to make your money go a bit further. 

I’d recommend joining Facebook groups as some people might be renting out their rooms whilst they are on holiday.

Hostel Dorm Room

Daily Average
Example Cost for 1 Month
Northern Ireland
Source: HostelWorld

Hotel Room

Average Achieved Room Rate
Example Cost for 1 Month
London (included as it’s significantly higher)
Source: BDO Hotel Britain Lite 2020


Daily Average
Example Cost for 1 Month
Northern Ireland
Source: Witter Blog


Kat and friend at Duck and Waffle

As mentioned a kitchen is something that really helps the budget go for longer in the UK and food is an expense that can add up quickly!

Just as an example, if I grabbed a coffee and croissant at Pret that would be £4 to £5, Lunch would set me back around £7 then dinner anything from £10 upwards for a dish then add drinks at £5 to £10.

Versus a weeks’ worth of food and cooking. Personally, I spend between £15 to £30 per week on food shopping and this is about 5 breakfast, lunches and dinners.


Catching the tube in London
All aboard the bustling tube! Don’t let this photo fool you, peak times on the tube are intense! Super crowed platforms, everyone squeezing themselves on and occasionally smelling your neighbour’s armpit.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the average family in the UK spends £80.20 per week on transport, including buying and maintaining a car and public transport.

Using three months as a basic guide this means you will need between £960 for transport. However, this can easily be cut down if you use public transport. Even in London, you can get a travel card for £131 (zone 1 to 2 travel card) to £340 (zone 1 to zone 9 travel card) per month depending on zoning.

There are ways that you can save on transport costs like staying walking distance to shopping centres, high streets and other amenities that you may need. That way you are only paying for transport to an interview, sightseeing or a day trip.

Basic Needs

One thing to note is it is very common to find furnished apartments or you can request that you landlord furnishes the apartment (this will be their choice).

With a pre-furnished rental, you can expect the place to have bed frames/mattresses, tables, couches, fridge, washing machine etc. You will need to bring your owning bedding, towels, clothing and anything else you wish to make your place homely.

I went to places like TK Maxx to buy quality products at a cheaper price like bedding, plates, ironing board, sheets, pots & pans.

Phone sim card

Most phone companies will offer low range prepaid sim cards for £10 and upwards. You’ll need to have an unlocked phone otherwise you will be locked into your current home provider. Below are just a few examples of the kind of deals you can get for £10 on a sim only contract:

  • Tesco’s £10 top-up gets you 3GB of data, 500 minutes and 5000 texts.
  • Giffgaff  £10 top-up gets you 3GB of data, unlimited minutes and unlimited texts.
  • Virgin Media £10 top-up gets you 2GB of data, 500 minutes and 500 texts.

Spending Money

Being new in the UK is understandably exciting and you most likely will want to explore your new city or town. In the UK there are a lot of free things to do which is super handy and of course some paid activities. Or trying out the latest coffee shop or restaurant.

Rent And Deposits

You will need to save the up-front costs such as rental deposit and first month’s rent. The rental deposit is typically four to five weeks’ rent.

London will be the most expensive destination to move to in the UK so if you plan to move to a cheaper city like Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff, Nottingham Belfast or Birmingham cost can decrease.

I’ve split the example costs into two sections, one if you rent a share house in a city and the other the average median prices for private rentals. Additionally an example of the initial costs to save towards. As these are averages you will need to adjust based on your circumstances.

Share House

Here are the average rent prices per city in a share housed.

Average Room Rent 2019
Example of Initial Costs (with 1st months rent and deposit)
Source: Hamptons Lettings Index

Spareroom and Ideal Flatmate is where you can find listings for share houses.

Private Rental

Here is the median monthly rent across the UK in 2020.

Median Monthly Rent
Example of Initial Costs (with 1st months rent and deposit)
Sources linked in the table.

Zoopla or Rightmove are the best websites to get an idea of the price of renting a whole property.

Just moving to England can make renting in London harder especially if you are fresh off the boat! The more time you spend in London working, the easier it will get over time. Here are some things to consider:

  • Not having a credit history will impact your ability to be accepted through estate agents. Some landlords will request that you provide 3 to 6 months rent in advance to ensure the landlord has security.
  • If you wish to go down the guarantor route to avoid paying so much rent up front you would need a person that is a UK homeowner who is willing to act as your guarantor so this can be a challenge.
  • You need to prove that you can legally be in the UK so British Passport, EU Passport or working visa. The paperwork can’t be started until you can prove this.

More Renting Articles
10 Things you need to know before you rent in London
A Helpful Guide on How to Find a Flat in London

Finding A Job

Just to give an indication of how long it took me to find a job, each time I have searched for a permanent job in the UK as a Project Manager it has taken about a month. Whereas my mum struggled as her career is a bit more niche and needed more time to find a job that suited her.

Summary of Total Costs

Let’s summarise the costs so we can get a rough indication of the start-up budget. The following figures are based on a single person and as I mentioned above budgeting for 3 months of living costs. Some careers may be quick to find a job and others will take a bit longer so it’s good to factor in how long you could be unemployed.

Initial Travel Costs

Skilled Worker Visa (max example cost of 5 years) 
UK Ancestry Visa (5 years)
Youth Mobility Scheme Visa (T5) (2 years)
Family Visas: Spouse, Children etc. (2.5 years)
Student Visa (2 years)
Visa and IHS
Travel Insurance
Disclaimer: these are estimations and not actual figures. Excludes shipping belongings to the UK.

Estimated Living Costs (3 Months)

Northern Ireland
Hostel 1 Month
Average Rent + Desposit
Average Transport Cost
Average Food Cost
Average Recreation and Culture
Average House Hold Bills
Average Eating Out
Basic Needs (bedding, household items, etc)
Sim Card
Estimated 3 Month Cost
Disclaimer: these are not actual figures. Costs will vary country to country and what options you choose. The information is based off various sources linked throughout the article.

Be sure to download the savings tracking checklist (it can be opened with Google Sheets) which covers all the items I mentioned in the article.

Let me know in the comments below in the comments how your savings are going!

More Moving to the UK Articles

katherine nairn profile pic

Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

Hi, thank you for the information. It is really helpful. I'm from Malaysia, and planning to move to the UK in about 2-3 years depending. I've got my aunt over there, so I guess accommodation wouldn't be a problem. I would just like to know are there NGO's that help people get into the UK? Say for instance a gay person from Malaysia who wants to move to the UK. Will it be any easier for them? In terms of human rights. Hope you get what I mean.


Monday 29th of July 2019

hey thanks for this! I'm living in Panama right now but I would love to move to the UK... this helps a lot.

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