I spent seven years living in Australia and I’ve been back in UK for 4 months now. There’s some obvious differences in terms of how much things cost and with the perception of Australia being really expensive, I thought I’d show my experience of the cost of living comparison between London and Sydney.
I know everyone will have various views on this topic and it’s definitely subjective as to what part of the UK and Australia you live in/move to but here’s what I’ve found as someone who’s lived and worked in Sydney and now commutes from Brighton to London everyday. Obviously I’m aware that I could live in much cheaper places in UK and in Sydney but this what I’m doing at the moment.
Cost of living comparison between London and Sydney
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Expect the rows and rows of the same housing in England!
When we looked at renting a one bed in the Eastern Suburbs, prices were looking at $650+ a week so we ended up living on the North side of the bridge and moved three times to; Kirribilli, Neutral Bay and Cammeray. We found the quality of rentals to be much better North of the bridge and slightly cheaper.
We paid between $460-$650 a week for a one bed in three different places and somehow spent our final year in Cammeray paying just $460 a week for a tiny studio with a garden. The main reason we lived there was because we were saving to travel the world and it had solar panels meaning the only bills we had to pay were Netflix and internet (although the only bill we ever had to pay in Sydney was electricity).Our little flat in Cammeray cost us $460 a week
In England I’ve noticed how expensive bills are; council tax is like £200 a month, then there’s water, gas, electricity, TV licence, internet, Netflix… I mean honestly… it costs like an extra £400 on top of rent a month (council tax itself if over £200).
Because we only decided two weeks before we were going to move back during our travels around the world, we moved back on a whim and booked an airbnb for the first two weeks. We were lucky because we got on so well with the host, we asked if we could move in and she agreed. Because we both didn’t have employment, getting a rental was near to impossible and no-one wanted a couple to move in with them. We even looked at renting a studio to make it cheaper yet the UK seems to have a law about more than one person living in a studio so we couldn’t do that.
So how much does it cost to live in Brighton or London?
We’re paying £800 a month which includes all bills but we’re living with someone else. If we were to get our own place in Brighton we’d be paying around £1000+bills (so around £1400 a month) for a one bed in a decent area. We’ve looked into London and £1000 will get us a bed sit, or between £1200-£1500 for a one bed flat excluding bills. To us, it’s not worth living in a box in the middle of London and currently we prefer to live by the sea.
If there’s one thing to note, apartments in England are much better quality than in Sydney (there’s no insulation in housing in Sydney so it’s freezing during Winter) but there’s no denying there are some god awful places in UK for rent.
Obviously I can’t comment on buying house prices as I’ve not done so. I think we all know how notorious the Sydney housing market really is and from what I’ve been told by work people in London, it seems almost impossible to buy here too. I know that there are some much, much cheaper properties to buy in England though.
Outcome: almost the same
Sydney $460+ a week (approx £1000 a month) vs Brighton £800 a month
2. Commute to work
OK so this one is a hands down win for Sydney as I’d either cycle, run, or get a ferry over Sydney harbour to work which was just incredible and one of those never take for granted moments. So my commute costs were pretty much zero in Sydney and when I changed jobs and worked outside of the city and drove the 20 minutes to work, it cost me about $20 a week in fuel.
Now, I know I’m doing probably the worst commute in the UK from Brighton to London which takes me 2 hours each way to work and costs me £531 a month. Sometimes there trains are too crowded and I’ve had to sit on the floor in the train aisle which is not fun at all. Standard way of trying to get on a tube during rush hour in London
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that English people seem to have a tolerance and patience for the embarrassingly awful transport system. I’ve never seen transport as bad anywhere else in the world. The tube, yes is brilliant but only because it has to run every minute because of the sheer volume of people. I’ve spent many a times waiting outside of London Victoria tube station because there’s just too many people inside it.
If I was to live in London and get the tube each day, I’d be looking at spending roughly £100 a month
. When I first moved to Sydney, we were staying with Steve’s family in Hurstville and a 30 minute train ride into Town Hall cost $40 a week (£20).
Outcome: Sydney wins
Sydney commute $0 v Brighton to London commute £531 a month (nearly $1000)
3. Transport costs
As I already mentioned my commute costs to work are insane, but what about taking normal modes of transport? At the moment I live in Brighton where all buses going to any route within the city costs £2.60. That means getting on a bus to go down the road for 10 minutes or 30 minutes will all cost the same. We find that we tend to walk as much as we can now rather than in Sydney you could just drive to most places and park for free (Westfield, on the street etc).
Taxis are pricey in England. We paid an uber £35 for a 20 minute ride. It honestly nearly caused a massive argument between us as we wondered why we took it in the first place. I wish both Australia and UK did the Uber car pool sharing like they do in USA, it would cost so much less!
Trains are crazy expensive in England. We were going up to visit our friends in Chester from Brighton and would you believe the four hour journey would have cost us £100 each? We ended up hiring a car for £50 and spent over £60 on fuel. When we used to visit Steve’s family in Newcastle NSW, just a 3 hour train ride away, it was actually free with the Opal card’s free weekend use. Never again will I ever complain about Sydney transport.
Outcome: Sydney wins
Sydney 3 hour train ride: $0 (on weekends) v UK 4 hour train ride £100 ($180)
4. Petrol costs and buying a car
Petrol is ridiculous in England. Our car in Sydney cost us $40 (£20) to fill up but in England it costs us nearly £70!! It truly makes you not want to venture out in UK not only because of the petrol prices but because there’s so many people in the country that you’ll be stuck in traffic the entire day.
Petrol outcome: Sydney wins
Sydney tank of petrol $40 v UK tank of petrol £60 ($110)
5. Work pay
Someone sent me a message recently saying I’d have a better quality of life if I didn’t work in London but the truth is, getting a job in Brighton was just too impossible due to the limited jobs vs skilled people. Luckily London pays a lot more so I’m thankfully looking at the nearly (at a stretch) on the same as I was on in Sydney. If I was working in Brighton, I’d be on half the wage I was on in Sydney.
Work pay outcome: similar but depends on work location and industry
6. Weekly food shop
The weekly food shop one is probably the one big difference I’ve noticed since coming back to England and probably one most Brits would agree with that it’s a rip off in Sydney.
Firstly you have like a hundred more supermarkets to choose from in England other than your Coles or Woolies in Sydney, but we’re actually shopping at the exact same supermarket in both countries – Aldi. Now Aldi has obviously better fresh food in Sydney than in England but we’ve found in the England one that there are some great healthy pre-made meals with actual real food and no processed crap in them like the one pot meals, raw nut bars and soups.
In Sydney we paid between $200-$250 on a weekly shop for two compared to our usual £60 weekly shop in England. That’s a big saving in itself. We actually shopped at Asda when we first arrived, averaging at around £80-£100 a week but Aldi is our clear winner!
Outcome: England wins!
Sydney food shop $200-$250 v England food shop £60 ($110)
Cost of living comparison between London and Sydney
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7. Eating out and alcohol
I’ve actually been really surprised about how expensive it is to eat out in England. To eat in a pub, you’re looking at around £12+ a meal, compared to in Sydney, we could easily get a huge chicken parmi, chips and salad for like $12 (out in the suburbs)! We went to a village pub the other day and the mains were like £17 each – we couldn’t believe it!
In general eating out England will cost anywhere between £8-£15 pounds a meal in general. In Sydney, we were looking at $20 for brekkie and lunch and more like $30+ for dinner but the main thing I’ve noticed is a lot of places in Sydney have a BYO policy, not so much in England.
The interesting thing I’ve really noticed is eating Asian food out – we had a Chinese meal recently (just 2 mains, 2 rice and 1 wine) and it came to £40. It was the same at a Thai place, £45 for two mains and one starter – we couldn’t believe it. We were used to paying like $45 for a Thai meal in Sydney. Food quality and portion sizing is a million times better in Sydney than it is in England in our opinions as well.
The best pancakes I’ve ever eaten at Speedo’s in Bondi!
We’ve found drinking in the pub costs about the same as it does in Sydney although I once ordered a glass of wine in a pub in Brighton and it came to £11!! Other than that buying alcohol in the shops is much, much cheaper in England. You can buy a bottle of vodka from £10 compared to around the $50 mark in Sydney. You can even get a decent bottle of wine for like £5 in England too but that’s not saying you can’t get a decent bottle for $10 in Aus.
Outcome: Sydney wins for eating out, England wins for alcohol
Sydney thai meal $45 v England thai meal £45
8. Clothes shopping
It may well be absolutely no surprise to you that clothes shopping is going to be an easy win for England. The amount of variety and updated stock in the shops is incomparable to the Aussie shops. With the likes of Primark in UK, clothes shopping is much much cheaper. One thing I’ve really noticed is online shopping in England. I always had to wait weeks to get a delivery from an English shop in Australia (understandably) but now, I can order and get the same day or next day delivery.
If you’re moving to Australia and wondering about what shops to shop at, just stick to the international ones you already know like Topshop, H&M and Zara. I found that Aussie high street stores like Sportsgirl, Witchery, Portmans etc are pretty bad with not only their pricing but mainly for the terrible quality.
Clothes shopping outcome: England wins
9. Electricals and gadgets
If you want to buy any electrical items or gadgets then 100% buy them in Australia. I found that you can always go into a shop in Aus, mainly The Good Guys and just ask them what their best price is and they’ll give you at least 10% off. You can always bargain electricals and gadgets! For example, I bought my electrical toothbrush in Sydney for $150, in England it currently retails at £300 ($600). That’s just mad. Same goes for the iPhone. My phone was $1000 compared to the £1000. Same also applies for camera equipment and so on.
We also notably found electricals cheaper in Australia than in Japan. So if you reckon Japan stocks cheap stuff, just get it in Australia. If you’re visiting Aus, you can also get the tax back at the airport!
Outcome: Sydney wins!
Toothbrush in Sydney $150 v in England £300
10. Mobile phone plans
I was on Vodafone in Sydney and paid $40 a month for 2GB a month on pre-pay/pay as you go. Now in England, I’m on 3 and pay £30 a month for 10GB. Network coverage is appalling in England, my phone rarely works most of the time, especially in London. Google maps is also terrible in London as well.
So basically, if all you’re interested in is getting a cheap weekly food shop and some better quality cheaper clothes, London is cheaper. I also think I saved more money living in Sydney because I spent most of my weekends out either at the beach or going on hike! But it’s only been four months so let’s see how time goes on as these are just initial price comparisons I’ve noticed since moving back.
Have you read my other moving back to England posts yet?