Cost of living

UK flagUsually, students are expected to be able to cover their living costs independently. Compared with most European countries, the UK can be expensive; although compared to Scandinavian countries, the cost of living in the UK is low.  However, as with everywhere, the cost of living will depend on what you do and where you live. The largest expense is usually rent, which can range from as little as £300 per month in some areas like Manchester, to almost six times that in central London, where you might have to pay upwards of £2,000. Other areas of London with access to the Tube underground stations and bus routes will generally cost less depending on the area and its location.

Some universities and organisations, such as the British Council, offer grants to help international students, but you would need to speak to university representatives who can offer more advice on the available options.

Money and Banking

Payment for goods in the UK is made, as in most countries, using cash or debit cards and credit cards. Almost all everyday money transfers – salary, rent, telephone, credit card payments, etc. can be made directly via an online bank account:. The British Pound Sterling £ – GBP is the accepted currency when paying in cash. Some stores and tourist attractions in larger cities may accept the Euro and major international currencies; however, the exchange rate will be less favourable compared to payment in GBPs.

If you plan to stay in the UK for an extended period, you will need to open a bank account. The most widespread type of account in the UK is the current account and this could be with a bank or a building society. Being mainly a services and especially financial services focused economy, most international banks are represented in the UK. Once you’ve opened a current account, you can apply for a credit card and both MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted throughout the UK. To apply for an account, you will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means, either in the form of regular incoming payments or through the deposit of substantial funds, and evidence from credit checks.

Payment by credit card or cash is most common in the UK and although many businesses still accept payment by cheque, these normally have to be authenticated with a cheque guarantee card. For foreign travel and internet shopping, the possession of a credit card is essential, although online payment systems via providers such as PayPal, PayYours and Nochex are also increasingly common.

European businesses wishing to expand into the UK can benefit from access to the UK financial markets and capital funds. Companies usually choose between three main types of funding. They can apply for loans at any of the commercial banks operating in the UK; however, the acceptance of their application depends on their particular situation and the attractiveness of their business plan.

Another option is to find a physical or legal entity to co-fund your business. In England, there are currently 18,000 informal investors or ‘business angels’ who are constantly looking for investment opportunities. With some degree of luck, it is possible to find a suitable partner willing to share and invest their capital in your venture. Increasingly, both investors and entrepreneurs are using online crowd funding schemes to increase their reach.

The UK Government is active in supporting innovation and business growth through a number of grant initiatives. More information about how to apply for a government grant can be accessed from the IS4PROFIT Business Profit Organisation.

Major Banks in the UK include:

  • HSBC
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Lloyds banking group
  • Barclays
  • Co-operative bank
  • Tesco Bank
  • Sainsbury’s Bank
  • Standard Chartered

Travelling costs

Unless your employer has stipulated otherwise, travelling costs have to be covered by you. Some companies reimburse travel costs for interviews, but most will only cover your costs for travel within the UK. It is always best to clarify the arrangements with the organisation you are planning to work for. If your travel costs can be reimbursed, you would have to produce copies of receipts. If you are a student and have to travel during your placement year most public transport networks have special student rates, so having proof of student status with you at all times is very helpful in reducing travel costs.

Do you want to learn more about UK business culture?