The cost of moving to the UK (Breakdown of Australian and UK costs)
Save as much money as possible to cover the cost of moving to the UK. Hint: It’s not cheap.
We moved from Australia to Scotland, UK, in 2016. If you’re planning to relocate to the UK, this article highlights what should be included in the cost of moving to the UK and relocating overseas. This post covers some of the additional costs of travelling to the UK, finalising your affairs in Australia, and getting settled in the UK. We also outline some of the savings to be made and benefits to enjoy before you leave Australia.
The cost of moving to the UK
To calculate how much money you need to cover the cost of moving to the UK, I recommend you separate the costs into three pots:
- Visa costs (including how much money you need in the bank to qualify for a specific visa). Read our article about UK Ancestry visa costs.
- The cost of leaving Australia (including getting your affairs in order, selling your things and getting onto a plane). The first half of this article covers these expenses and includes a few ways to save money.
- The cost of establishing yourself in the UK. The second half of this article gives an overview of what to expect. Read our article How much money you need in the first three months in the UK for how much it cost us (as a family of four).
Additional costs BEFORE you leave Australia (your home country)
Banking and foreign currency
- We took about GBP 250 each (about AUD 500) and watched the exchange rate to try and pick the best time to buy.
- You generally can’t open a UK bank account until you have a permanent UK address, so know how much your Australian bank charges you for foreign currency withdrawals when you’re overseas.
- Consider a foreign currency card that you can load/top up from your Australian bank account. We used a Qantas travel card for a while.
- Close any bank accounts you no longer need to avoid unnecessary monthly fees. It’s much harder to close bank accounts in the UK.
- Cancel any direct debits and subscriptions you no longer need.
- Be careful of any cancellation fees if you have a contract. It might be easier on your cash flow to continue monthly payments until the end of the contract, so you have more money in the bank to go towards the cost of moving to the UK.
Pay off debt
- If you are going to pay off debts, loans or credit cards before you leave, request a pay-out figure. You can save money (by paying less interest) when you pay off debts that calculate interest on the daily or monthly balance.
- Otherwise, don’t pay your debts off earlier than necessary if you want to maximise your savings to cover the cost of moving to the UK. But do make sure you set up a reliable direct debit and keep money in your Australian bank account to meet repayments.
- Keep your postal address up to date and choose email statements (ask for a hold on letters).
Removal and storage costs
- Sea or air freight costs when sending possessions to the UK. Remember, it will usually be at least three months before items arrive in the UK. There are often costs that can only be paid in the UK, like import fees and delivery costs.
- If you are leaving items in storage in Australia, consider the cost of storage and any storage insurance (e.g. theft or damage).
- We used Seven Seas and got a medium move cube. It cost us about AUD 1,200 plus about £350 in the UK for customs and delivery charges.
Buy the right suitcases and travel bags
- Know the baggage limits (weight and dimensions) of all airlines you are flying to the UK with, from leaving Australia to arriving at your final destination.
- Buy the lightest suitcase that falls within the baggage limits.
- Choose a suitcase with 360-degree wheels and tamper-evident zips that you can lock.
- When we flew with Qantas in 2016, we were each allowed one large suitcase up to 23kg, one carry-on bag up to 7kg, and one small handbag, computer bag or backpack.
- Suitcase padlocks
- Baggage tags and straps
- Power adaptors (Australia-UK)
- Sleep mask
- Travel cushion
- Compression socks/stockings to prevent deep-vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Money belt or bag that fits your passport and travel papers
Flights and travel insurance
- The cost of a one-way flight to the UK
- Flight cancellation and rebooking fees
- Seat selection (especially if you want extra legroom) – check out Seat Guru for the reviews of the best seats.
- Excess baggage
- Travel insurance to cover the cost of flights and your first two weeks in the UK until you have a permanent address in the UK.
- The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) will cover most of your health costs if you have a temporary residency visa like a UK Ancestry Visa and you have paid an Immigration Health Surcharge.
- If you want separate, private health insurance in the UK, you will need an international policy, and it will cost you a fortune.
- Transit to the airport (e.g. taxi, train, bus)
- Get an Australian passport or renew your adult passport, so you have a maximum of 10 years of validity. Children’s passports are only five years, so you will need to pay for renewal while you are in the UK (and any travel costs to get to the Australian High Commission in London or attend one of their outreach appointments in a major city).
Australian School fees (and savings)
- If your children are leaving school before the end of the Australian school year, you may be able to reduce your fees or get a refund. This is a great way to save towards the cost of moving to the UK. Sell their uniform and textbooks on consignment. Every dollar counts.
Ending your rental agreement (in Australia)
- If you are renting just before you leave Australia, know how much notice you have to give to the property manager/landlord (e.g. four weeks), and if you have to pay break-lease fees. Sometimes if you are relocating overseas, you can break your lease earlier. If there’s no specific clause, try and negotiate.
- How much rental bond will you get back? Ensure you complete the form properly, as the refund can only be deposited into an Australian bank account.
- Will you pay for a cleaning company to do the final rental bond cleaning? We did this to maximise our bond refund and to save time.
- Cost of carpet cleaning, air conditioning service costs, pest control, window cleaning, etc.
Household bills and expenses
- Remember to give notice on accounts: gas and electricity, telephone and internet, entertainment streaming services, mobile and data, gym, etc.
- Go through your direct debits and regular spending on your bank statement. Cancel or downgrade before cancelling.
- Cancel any post office boxes and redirect your mail to a family or friend for at least three months, preferably six months. Paying for six months, instead of two lots of three months, is usually cheaper.
Private health insurance (in Australia)
- If you have an Australian private health insurance policy with extras (non-hospital), find out what services you can get before cancelling and use them before they expire.
- We were with BUPA and were entitled to free teeth whitening and laser eye surgery. So, before we cancelled our policy, we arranged to get our eyes done three months before we left Australia (for after-care). Instead of wearing glasses in the rain (and it rains a lot in the UK), we have perfect distance vision.
Temporary accommodation in Australia
- Where will you live in the last few weeks, and the last night, before you leave Australia?
- We stayed with friends for the last three weeks, and at a hotel across the road from the train station in Brisbane the night before we flew out. We didn’t have to stress about a taxi not arriving at sparrow-fart-o’clock. We just walked across the road and jumped on an airport train.
- Reduce the cost of moving to the UK by planning ahead. For example, if your lease finishes in September, try to time your departure closer to August.
Selling your car
- It can be a challenge to get the timing right. If you sell too soon, what will you do for transport and how much will that cost? If you wait too long, will you have to accept a lower sale price?
- We had to sell one of our cars early to help with the cost of our UK Ancestry Visa and to make sure we had enough saved to move to the UK. If we didn’t, we were going to use all of our savings for a mortgage deposit instead. So win-win either way (I suppose).
- Remember to cancel your car insurance and any roadside assistance/emergency breakdown cover. If you paid annually, you might get a refund.
- If you have a car loan, know your pay-out figure, how to sell your car when it is under finance, and how to sell it when you still owe money. There are car buying companies that will help you in these circumstances. We used Are you selling.
Selling your stuff (make money)
- Be mindful that it may cost you money to sell your possessions. There might be listing fees to sell on some platforms.
- We used Garage sales, eBay and Facebook classifieds.
- We ‘lost’ money by accepting lower-than-expected offers, giving things away and donating items that didn’t sell. We arranged for a charity shop to collect everything that didn’t sell.
- Compare your options when selling electronic items. Consider individual listings over garage sales for some things. Think of niche second-hand buyers like EBGames and Cash Converters.
Medication and consumables
- You can usually take up to a 6-months supply of prescription (PBS) medications out of the country, but you need to make sure you don’t take any prohibited exports out of Australia. Even if items are on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), you might be in for a shock at what 6-months of regular scripts will cost you.
- If you have some favourite consumables, check online if you can buy them in the UK. If not, you might want to buy some in bulk and bring them with you or send them over via sea.
- For example, you won’t easily find alternative medicines like water-soluble eucalyptus, lavender oil, or paw-paw ointment.
- Aussie foods and seasonings are a category of their own. Check online at Amazon.co.uk for anything you regularly use and know you will miss. Amazon has an arrangement with a supermarket chain for food and grocery deliveries; it is a good website to search for food and groceries available in the UK.
- You can also buy lots of favourite things (mostly junk food) from Aussie food stockists that send to the UK, but the postage and import fees are huge. If you regularly use French Onion Soup powder or Holbrooks Worcestershire sauce, consider packing extra into your sea freight boxes. Check the use-by dates first.
Other / Miscellaneous Costs of Moving to the UK
- Mail redirection (e.g. from your last address to trusted friends/family)
- Surge-protected power board for your Aussie electrical items. This way, you’ll only need one adaptor for a power board that powers 4-8 items.
- You usually need an Australian Last Will and Testament for Australian assets and a UK Will for UK assets (and guardianship arrangements for your children in the UK). Check with a solicitor and get Australian documents done before you leave.
- Australian life insurance policies are usually valid as long as you continue to pay the premiums from an Australian bank account. Check with your insurer.
- If you bring any jewellery or valuables, you might want to get up-to-date valuations for any insurance policies or claims.
- Cost of takeaway meals and food in the final days/weeks in Australia, when you aren’t staying in your own home. And the cost of food in the first days/weeks after you arrive in the UK, before you have your own home again, with an established kitchen.
Additional costs AFTER your move to the UK
Following is a brief overview of some of the costs when you first arrive in the UK.
Temporary accommodation in the UK
- This will be one of your biggest expenses in the UK. Save money by considering a weekly AirBNB property compared with hotel chains like The Premier Inn. Get self-contained if you can to save on food costs.
- It might take you two weeks to find a rental property, but it can easily take 4-6 weeks, depending on what is on your rental wish list and how tight the market is. Have a backup plan in case it takes you longer than expected.
Rent and council tax
- When you move to the UK, you will have to develop a credit history and score from zero. Even if you have wonderful rental references or owned your own home, you will probably still need to pay about six months’ advance rent and one month’s rent for bond.
- Cheap two bedrooms can start at about GBP 500 per month up to over GBP 1500 per month, depending on where you choose to live. Add about GBP 100 to GBP 500 for an extra bedroom. We chose to get established in Glasgow, Scotland, because the rent was much more affordable than nearly anywhere within commuting distance of London.
- Read about private renting (paying rent to a private landlord, directly or via a property management agent).
- Council tax (like rates in Australia) is paid by the occupier (the tenant) and can be paid annually or monthly. Monthly payments are easier to maximise cash flow. Council tax is about GBP 200+ per month on top of rent.
Gas and electricity costs
- The cost of heating in the UK rivals the cost of cooling in Australia. Be aware of the type of heating when selecting a rental property. Older styles of electric heating will cost a fortune. Compare energy tariffs between companies and look for discounts for dual-fuel accounts (both electricity and gas with the same company). Do your research on the types of heating systems.
- This is more important than ever. Do your research to understand how to save money on the cost of energy for showering, cooking, keeping your lights on, and running a computer (especially if you work from home).
Shopping, food and groceries
- Good news! Compared to Australia, at least in our experience, the cost of food and groceries is cheaper than in Australia.
- Get yourself a Costco membership to get some fantastic bargains. Shop and Lidl for Aldi the best value. Tesco, Asda and Morrisons are mid-price with good product ranges. M&S and Waitrose are the most expensive with excellent quality, especially ready meals. Co-operative (Co-op) and Londos are chains of convenience stores with some basic offerings.
- Amazon Prime membership gives you TV and movie streaming AND free home delivery on many products, including groceries. You can get same-day delivery on some items. When you can’t get certain grocery items at your local store, you can probably find them on Amazon. One of the best things about living in the UK is quick, affordable, home delivery of nearly anything.
Commuting in the UK (travel costs)
- Travelling to and from work is usually via bus or train. You will save money if you get weekly or monthly tickets. Although, since Covid restrictions, you can also get multi-trip tickets that give you flexibility and cost savings.
- The cost of fuel is more, but you also travel fewer distances and less often, probably just on weekends and when buying groceries. The cost of parking can be very expensive but can be affordable if you take advantage of park-and-ride at train stations.
Clothing and footwear (for UK weather)
- It is generally colder in the UK than what you are used to in Australia, and your wardrobe probably doesn’t include the clothing you need. We lived in Canberra for many years, so we already had a few warm items.
- You can reduce the cost of moving to the UK by taking your lightweight Australian clothing. USE LAYERS! This was our biggest mistake. I thought lightweight clothing would be useless. I didn’t realise that indoor heating makes it warm to roasting inside, and you will be stripping down to t-shirts and lightweight shirts once indoors. Keep your string tops and summer dresses. T-shirts are your friend. Jackets of any type can be worn all year round.
- You will probably need to buy waterproof boots or shoes that keep you upright on ice and in snow.
Furniture and household items
- Another big expense after arriving in the UK is the cost of a bed mattress (or several mattresses). Even if you get a furnished rental, you may not have a mattress, or you may not want to sleep on the mattress that is provided. These are not cheap and, in our experience, do not compare to what we had in Australia in terms of quality. And, the sizes are different. A UK king-size is smaller than an Australian queen-size. If you bring your queen-size mattress, it won’t fit the bed base you buy here, and your Australian queen-size sheets will be too big for the UK king-size. A European king-size is similar to an Australian king-size. Google the dimensions before deciding whether to send mattresses, bed bases or bed sheets to the UK.
- In my experience, electrical items are more expensive in the UK. I bought the same food processor in the UK for a lot more than it cost me in Australia (after accounting for foreign exchange rates). I should have sent it over and just used an Australian power adaptor, as I did for my Nutri Bullet.
Shipping costs (after you move to the UK)
- The cost of moving your possessions to the UK stings twice. First, when you send your items. And again, after your possessions arrive in the UK. You have to pay UK import fees and local delivery charges in the UK before you get your items. Make sure you have the money ready otherwise, you will also have to pay for storage costs until you get your items.
Internet (mobile and home) & TV licence
- A pre-paid mobile SIM with at least 20GB of data for the first three months until you have a bit of credit history with the mobile phone company, and until they trust you with a longer contract. You will need a phone and internet access immediately, to get a rental and a job. Vodafone is in the UK, but many mobile phone and data companies exist.
- Download WhatsApp for wi-fi/data calls and videos back to Australia. International call rates unless you get an add-on, like GBP 5 a month for 100 minutes of overseas calls to designated countries. You can also get an international calling SIM (e.g. Lebara, available at many convenience stores), but you will have to turn your phone off to swap SIMs and make sure you keep it loaded and make at least one call every month, or you will lose your credit, and it will stop working.
- Once you have a rental property, you can get monthly or 12-18 month contracts for the internet. Enjoy super-fast speeds and affordable gigabit fibre speeds with some providers, like Virgin Media. Check out broadband deals on MoneySuperMarket. When you’re searching for rental properties, check the internet speeds before you sign a lease – especially these days with the prevalence of working from home.
- Most people must pay for a TV licence. If you don’t, you risk a huge fine.
Lower wages (Australia Vs the UK)
- This is huge. Perhaps even a deal-breaker for some. Compared to Australian salaries, most people will earn less doing the same work in the UK. If you assume that the foreign exchange rate is about GBP 1 / AUD 2, you would think that an AUD100,000 job in Australia would pay about GBP 50,000 in the UK. Nope! Most people are grateful to have a job that pays more than GBP 20,000, with GBP 30,000+ being a milestone to celebrate. When budgeting and choosing to move to the UK, assume you will start on GBP 20,000. London salaries are more, but so is the cost of living. My first full-time job in the UK in 2016, paid £16,000 (call centre – domestic home insurance claims handler).
- The UK minimum wage (as of August 2021) is GBP 8.36 an hour for persons 21 years and over, equivalent to about GBP 16,084 a year for a 37-hour week. The real living wage is GBP 9.50 an hour (national, outside London), equivalent to about GBP 18,278 a year for a 37-hour week. Not all employers offer a real living wage, and many employers (especially in the hospitality and retail industries) use zero-hour contracts, meaning you aren’t guaranteed any hours.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) Vs Australia’s Medicare
- Here is one area where the cost of moving to the UK is a double-edged sword. On the downside, you have to pay for NHS twice. Once before you leave as part of your visa application (usually) and again when you have National Insurance contributions deducted from your wages (along with income tax). On the up-side, you don’t have to worry about not having enough money to cover the cost of a doctor’s visit, prescription medicine or other necessary medical care.
- If you live in Scotland, you won’t pay a penny when you visit a GP doctor or get prescription medicines. GP visits are free. When you have a script, you just collect the medicine, with nothing to pay for. This has saved us thousands of pounds. You pay for NHS via deduction from wages when you pay tax. More on Scotland NHS.
- Benefits are different under England’s NHS, the pharmaceutical benefits are different, and not as generous, but health care, in general, is really good.
UK State Pension (a benefit of moving to the UK)
- Generally speaking, after paying taxes in the UK for ten years or more, you qualify for a UK State Pension. This is not means or assets tested like the Australian Aged Pension; you can claim it after you return to Australia or if you live overseas. You can also claim it and keep working (unlike in Australia).
- Share your experiences and thoughts about the cost of moving to the UK. Have you relocated, or are you planning to?
- We’ve probably not included a lot of things. What other costs would you add before leaving Australia? What about after first arriving in the UK?
- Read our master checklist for moving to the UK.