Croeso i Caerdydd! (Welcome to Cardiff!)
Cardiff – the second smallest capital city in the UK is the most multicultural, modern and vibrant city in Wales. Despite only having 357 thousand residents (not even top 10 in the UK) it is quite unique. The residents of Cardiff enjoy a less crowdy and more relaxed lifestyle, but the good thing is that there is still loads going on all the time BECAUSE it is a capital city. Due to lower population density, cost of living in Cardiff is significantly lower than in some other parts of the UK too.
The city follows what I call a “standard European capital” layout – a river weaving through the city centre, a big church nearby, busy businesses, cafes and restaurants surrounding it from all sides getting less and less busy as you move outwards.
Probably the only slight discrepancy from this model is that Cardiff has “the Bay” which, during sunny summer days or specific events becomes almost as busy as the city centre. People come to The Bay to watch sports on wide screens, to socialize over a cocktail or to attend cultural events such as concerts and performances taking place in the Wales Millennium Centre.
Exploring Cardiff you will find that it has a castle, which is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, a University which is one of the leading educational institutions in the UK as well as a number of parks, libraries, museums and other funky and interesting places dotted around the city.
I like living in Cardiff because it is so young, modern and lively. However, just before you start packing you bags let’s take a look at how much living in Cardiff costs per month.
Cost of Accommodation in Cardiff
Cost of accommodation in Cardiff, when compared to other capitals or even some other major cities in the UK is very reasonable.
The most popular and sought after areas are the city centre, the Bay and Pontcanna. A slightly more remote, but very green and peaceful area called Pen-y-lan is also very attractive.
When it comes to rental properties, a single bedroom apartment with a separate kitchen/living area will go for around £500 to £700 per month. Naturally, location will play a significant part in determining which end of the spectrum you are going to end up in. However, the age of the building, additional services such as 24/7 concierge and the presence or absence of facilities such as the gym or swimming pool will also affect the cost.
Rent for a two bedroom apartment will range from £600 to £800. As an example, our spacious 2 bedroom apartment in a popular residential location about 15min drive away from the city centre is being rented out for £685 pm.
An average size family looking for a more substantial apartment or house (3-4 bedrooms) would have to fork out somewhere between £800 and £1200 for the rent alone.
It is worth noting estate agents charge a one-off non-refundable fee before the contract between the landlord and the tenant is in place. This varies from agent to agent but generally, you should expect to be asked to pay £150 to £250.
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Cost of Utility Bills and Services in Cardiff
Bills and common services for those who rent apartments in Cardiff will typically include council tax, gas and electricity, water, broadband and mobile.
Council tax generally depends on what is called a “band” of the property. Based on its value each property is assigned a band with “A” being the cheapest and “I” the most expensive. In shared accommodation, each person is responsible for paying their share of the council tax. To determine your council tax bill you would have to know the exact address as well as the number of people living in that particular property. For the purpose of this article, a couple living in band “A” property would pay around £900 while a luxurious band “I” property would set them back by around £3200 a year.
Gas and Electricity is another major cost that needs to be factored in when trying to determine a complete budget for living in Cardiff. In summer months gas and electricity should not cost more than £100 for those living in moderately sized apartments and can be as low as £50 pm. When my partner and I lived in our 2-bedroom apartment, we never paid more than £90 per month even in winter.
Water, unlike in Scotland, is not free in Wales and people living in Cardiff normally pay between £400 and £700 per year. This payment includes potable water as well as management of surface run-off and sewage of the property.
Broadband and Mobile is probably the most variable of all as it can cost anywhere between £15 pm for both to £60 or even more. Before we bought our flat we were on a promotional Sky Broadband offer which was £8 pm and my pay-as-you-go mobile service was (and still is) £5 – £7.5 per month. After moving into the new flat we upgraded the broadband to fibre optic (25£/month).
Having said that I am aware some people are paying substantially more for extensive TV packages and unlimited mobile plans. If you are into that kind of thing it is probably wise to budget another £100 just for those.
Food and Eating Out in Cardiff
Depending on your eating habits and whether you are into organic, healthy foods or not the cost of groceries can vary significantly. To complicate this even further, in Cardiff you will find a selection of shops ranging from cheap (such as Lidl and Aldi) to expensive (Waitrose or M&S Food). A frugal person who is not a fussy eater can definitely survive with £250-£300 a month, however, £300 to £400 would be my estimation for an average person.
Eating out in the UK is quite expensive and Cardiff is no exception. A meal out with a drink will average around £20-£25 per person, however, chains and fast food restaurants are there too offering more affordable alternatives.
Our two favourite places to eat in Cardiff are Anna Loka which serves the most flavoursome vegan food I have ever tried and Wahaca which is a Mexican food chain restaurant. We dined a number of times in both of those places and our bills (2 people, a meal and a drink each) were fairly consistent with around £30 in Wahaca and £40 in Anna Loka. Tips are not included.
If you like dining out a lot, deep pockets are recommended!
Cardiff’s Cost of Attractions and Entertainment
With plenty going on, Cardiff can quickly become a money vacuum. The Principality Stadium is a major venue in Cardiff every year attracting international singers and bands. Rugby is the most popular sport in Wales so this is where a lot of big matches take place too. Other popular venues include The Motorpoint Arena and Wales Millennium Centre.
Local rugby match tickets might be as low as £5 but during major events such as commonwealth games prices skyrocket to hundreds of pounds. It might be worth mentioning hotel and even Airbnb prices follow this trend to the extremes if finals are played in Cardiff.
Concert, opera or ballet tickets range between £20 for less significant events to £200 and more for performances of international musicians or celebrities. Students normally get extra discounts.
For those who would rather avoid the fuss and the crowds these events bring may want to opt to explore Cardiff Castle which is £13 for an adult or £38 for a family, St. Fagans National Museum of History or National Museum of Wales which are both free of charge.
If you want a really extraordinary nightlife experience I suggest you visit a secret cocktail bar called The Dead Canary or attend a Bingo Lingo (essentially bingo but with beer and cool prizes!) night at the depot.
Just keep in mind parking in central Cardiff is usually “pay and display” and can be very limited during weekends of bank holidays… which brings us to our last topic which is transportation.
Cost of Having a Car in Cardiff
Having lived both in and outside of the city centre I would say that there are two main options when it comes to making a decision about owning or not owning a vehicle.
If you love a busy city life and/or work in the city centre then it does not really make much sense to own a car. During rush hours the roads become heavily congested and walking/cycling becomes faster and cheaper. A lot of busy roads have public transport lanes so even using public transport might be a better idea.
On the other hand, if you like a quieter and more peaceful environment of a suburb not owning a vehicle can be tricky. Getting groceries, meeting up with friends, etc. becomes a hassle without a car and you might have to use expensive taxis more often.
The decision is not easy, but hopefully, numbers will make this a little clearer. Let’s have quick look at your options of getting around Cardiff.
Cost of Public Transportation in Cardiff
The monthly bus pass will cost around £50 and with a pretty extensive network of buses in Cardiff, that’s not a bad option. Every once in a while you are likely to need to use a taxi or UBER, but generally, an average trip will only be around £10. A reasonable budget estimate of not owning a car in Cardiff is probably £150 pm. I do believe costs could be further reduced if you were into cycling but I appreciate that due to unpredictable weather and patchy cycling infrastructure in Cardiff this might not be for everyone.
If public transportation is not your cup of tea and you would rather be in complete control of how to get out and about the following are the things to consider. Purchasing even a second-hand vehicle is likely to require a substantial chunk of cash. There are reasonable second-hand motors on sale in places like Autotrader or in garages in or around Cardiff – finding one that suits your needs should not be a problem.
What might be a problem is maintaining and keeping your vehicle going without blowing your budget! In the UK car insurance is quite expensive compared to some other countries in Europe and for an inexperienced driver can easily be more than £2000 a year but it depends on a whole number of other factors and the type of car you own. A person older than 25 with several years of experience of driving in the UK and a small-ish car would probably not pay more than £500 per year. Other expenses include road tax (£10 pm for small cars) and fuel which with moderate usage could be around £150 pm. Drivers also need to factor in other things such as parking or maintenance and repairs but as you can see these costs add up very quickly.
This means that even for an experienced driver with low insurance premiums owning a car in Cardiff will cost more than £250 every month!
Is Living in Cardiff Worth a Shot?
For those who are after city life in a place which has plenty of character but is not overcrowded Cardiff is a place to be. The cost of living in Cardiff is relatively low compared to other cities in the UK, opportunities to work and study are great and there is always something going on.
As mentioned before, the best thing is that it is modern and quirky in its own way which is why I think you will love it too.
About the Authors: This post is by a Lithuanian couple, Kristina and Andrius from Around the World Travel Blog www.katrippin.com. On their blog, they share budget travel tips and stories from their own journeys from 30+ countries in 5 different continents. They are also active on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest – make sure you check them out.