Introduction to cost of living in Edinburgh as a student
Edinburgh, the capital Scotland, is often described as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It is a melting pot of history, scenery and culture, and has to be one of the liveliest cities to be studying in. Despite the cost of living in Edinburgh as a student being higher than the UK average, experiencing everything that Edinburgh has to offer can still be affordable.
There are a large range of student discounts to take full advantage of. You can get money off all the essentials; food, clothes, public transport, and also the non-essentials such as entertainment and theatre tickets!
Although the cost of living in Edinburgh as a student can be pricey compared to other UK cities, there are ways to make sure you get to experience the best of Edinburgh. Even on a limited student budget.
What will I need to spend money on living in Edinburgh as a student?
In addition to your university tuition fees, the cost of living in Edinburgh will vary depending on your choice of accommodation. Also living essentials such as bills, food, transport, books, equipment, clothes, etc.
And how wisely you spend any ‘spare’ money you have left on entertainment, hobbies or socialising.
You may also wish to consider additional initial arrival costs, such as accommodation deposits, utensils, furniture, etc.
According to The University of Edinburgh, a broad estimate of the funds needed to live to a reasonable standard in Edinburgh is currently estimated at approximately £8,500 – £11,000 a year for living costs, in addition to tuition fees (please note that price increases and unexpected expenditure should be taken into account and students arranging initial short-term accommodation on arrival in Edinburgh need to budget for this).
They have estimated overall living costs at an average (lower-range) total of £695 per month:
Unsurprisingly, accommodation is the biggest spend for students in Edinburgh per month at an average of £425.
Student accommodation options and costs in Edinburgh
There are a few options for student accommodation in Edinburgh which this guide explores further in detail:
Private halls – buildings operated by a third party company (though some may have partnerships with universities). Similar to halls of residence, laid out in cluster flats and studio apartments. Most will have ensuite rooms with shared facilities (such as kitchen and dining/lounge area) or the studio flats will be completely self-contained.
University halls of residence – most universities in Edinburgh will provide places for first-year students at their own halls of residence. They are normally located near the university campuses.
Private housing – a room in a shared house which is privately owned by a landlord and normally let through an agency.
The chart below gives a quick comparison of private halls (200 Cowgate in central Edinburgh) versus other student accommodation (university halls & private housing), and some main living costs:
Hidden fees with private housing:
Although other student accommodation may be slightly cheaper than private halls, there are hidden fees to consider (figures based on estimates provided by the University of Edinburgh):
Other things to consider:-
Furnishings – most private housing is unfurnished, you will be expected to provide furniture and kitchenware (white goods normally provided)
Facilities – you will most likely have to share facilities such as a bathroom, kitchen and lounge.
No hidden fees with private halls:
Private halls are all-inclusive and have no hidden fees which makes life so much easier for students:
Furnishings – private halls will be fully furnished with some kitchenware (you may need to bring your own utensils and cutlery)
Facilities – you will most likely have your own ensuite bathroom, and share a kitchen and lounge
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this article is intended as a guide only, as the cost of living in Edinburgh will differ depending on your individual circumstances and spending habits.
About private halls in Edinburgh
Another option for student accommodation in Edinburgh is purpose built student accommodation or private halls. These buildings are not owned by the university. They are usually operated by a third party company (though some may have partnerships with universities).
They are very similar to halls of residence, laid out in cluster flats and studio apartments. Most will have ensuite rooms with shared facilities (such as kitchen and dining/lounge area) or the studio flats will be completely self-contained.
Research by Unipol and the National Union of Students (NUS) found that private halls account for half of student bed spaces in the UK, up from 39% in 2012 (Source: Accommodation Costs Survey 2018).
How much do private halls cost?
There are a variety of room types to choose from, and prices too. A standard room (including bills) in a private hall is £120 – £160 per week, an ensuite room is £160 – £190 per week, and a studio apartment is £190 – £335 per week.
What should I look for in private halls?
Private halls are fairly new to the student accommodation market and have many bonuses compared to university halls of residence or private housing, such as:
– all bills are included. That means you don’t need to worry about utility bills, broadband, council tax, contents insurance or a TV license (only for TVs in communal spaces)
– communal areas are maintained and cleaned
– most have an on-site manager who is contactable for certain hours during the day
– on-site social activities are arranged and are free of charge to attend
– you can rent a cluster of flats with your friends, or book one room and be allocated flatmates to live with
– you have a separate tenancy agreement to your flatmates/other residents, so you are not liable for any damages or if someone decides to leave
– usually there is no deposit scheme or hidden admin costs. But you have may have to pay a one-off reservation fee to secure your booking (which is deducted from your total rent)
– rent can be paid in full in advance, or a payment plan is agreed – usually 3 installments
– some sites also have the option to book for short-term tenancies and summer lets
– you can reserve and book online, and you often don’t need to be there in person to sign contracts
– private halls are also extremely popular with international students due to all the points above as there is less to worry about!
Most private halls have a mixture of residents from many local universities. The accommodation can be an exciting melting pot of students from a variety of nationalities, and from different years of study. Perfect if you are keen to meet new people and expand your social network.
Finding student accommodation in the city centre of Edinburgh means you are normally never more than a 15 minute walk away from everything you need as a student. Including supermarkets, pubs and clubs, shops and gyms.
200 Cowgate (private halls), in central Edinburgh, is within 10 minutes’ walk of all essential amenities and The University of Edinburgh campuses:
How long can I stay in private halls?
Most private halls cater for all university students, no matter what year of study you are in. So in theory, if you find a place to live that you really like, you could stay there for the whole length of your degree course. And even into postgraduate study.
A lot of private halls offer incentives to existing residents to re-book for the following year. So you can bag yourself a bargain and not even have to worry about moving out/finding a new place to live; hassle-free!
In private halls such as 200 Cowgate you will also be able to stay for the summer which means you don’t have to worry about moving out as soon as your final semester ends. There is plenty to enjoy in Edinburgh during the summer months, such as the unique festivals. You could also consider saving up some money by getting a summer job.
Why not stay in Edinburgh for summer at 200 Cowgate & enjoy the buzz of the city during festival season?
Copyright:© CALLUM BENNETTS – MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY
About university halls of residence in Edinburgh
Most universities in Edinburgh will provide places for first-year students at their own halls of residence. They are normally good value for money, all utility bills are included, and they are located near the university campuses. University halls of residence and houses differ but are usually a mixture of:
– furnished flats with shared facilities (such as a kitchen, lounge/dining area, toilet, bathroom)
– can sometimes be catered, or part-catered, but mostly are self-catering
– can be mixed or single sex, and are large-scale
– providing accommodation for any number up to 800 students.
There is a good community feel at university halls. They are great places to make friends, be part of the social scene and help you feel less lonely during the first few weeks away from home and family. However, like any shared accommodation, you never know who you will end up sharing with and Fresher’s Week can often be a rowdy time. So be prepared to not get much sleep or stock-up on earplugs!
How much do halls of residence cost?
The University of Edinburgh offer a standard room (self-catered, including bills) from £3,512 (under £100pw) to £6,413 (£168pw) for a 38-week lease, with some options for twin rooms available from £2,491 (£65pw).
Many halls of residence will guarantee you accommodation if you have firmly accepted their offer by a given date in the summer but it may not be the same process if you come through Clearing.
What should I look for in halls of residence?
Make sure to take full advantage of Open Days to see the university accommodation for yourself. Check out the university’s website which will have invaluable information about the student housing which they provide, but also options in the private sector (please see private halls section below for more details).
Always try and take a friend or family member to view the accommodation with you and do not feel pressured to sign and tenancy agreement straight away. Remember to take into account:
– does the accommodation have the right ‘vibe’ for you
– is it in a good location
– consider what transport to and from the university would be and how much this will cost you (see transport section below for more detail
– does the accommodation have good facilities
– how many people will you be sharing the facilities with
– can you afford it and will you be getting good value for money.
It is important to check that your university accommodation or private halls are covered by one of three accreditation schemes. These cover essential issues like how the hall is managed, health and safety and security. You can find information about the schemes and check your accommodation is a member by checking the UUK or ANUK/Unipol schemes websites.
How long can I stay in halls of residence?
Most students are expected to move out of halls of residence after their first year, which means you will need to start looking for accommodation and planning who you want to live with as early as November of your first year. This can be quite a stressful process and you will also be expected to provide deposits and pay admins fees (see the private housing section for more details).
Some halls of residence do not let you stay for the summer and only offer 38 week tenancies.
About private housing in Edinburgh
University halls of residence or private halls aren’t for everybody and private housing is still one of the most popular ways to live as a student in Edinburgh. This is often because students feel like private housing is their first opportunity to live completely independently without supervision.
However, there is still a lot of responsibility that goes along with renting privately. Bills are not included in the rent and you often have to pay hefty deposits (1-2 month’s rent) and admin fees (£250-£350 and non-refundable).
You will need to find suitable people to live with, and you may have to prepare yourself for disagreements like who’s been running up a big electricity bill and why you’re stuck with the smallest bedroom!
Renting privately also means you will need to deal with a landlord or an agent who will expect the property to be maintained and cleaned to a good standard.
How much does private housing cost?
The cost of private housing in Edinburgh can vary greatly and bills are not normally included in this price. A small studio apartment in Edinburgh can cost from £650 per month to over £900 per month. A room in a shared house costs on average around £225 per month (bills not included) for your own room with shared facilities such as bathroom, kitchen and lounge.
What should I look for in private housing?
It’s worth considering that although it may be tempting to settle for a cheaper private house, it will be cheap accommodation for a reason! Remember to be vigilant when viewing the property and check for any signs of damp or mould. Ask what heating the property has and consider how costly this may be during the winter months.
How long can I stay in private housing?
Most landlords will be happy to keep good tenants in their property for as long as possible. So in theory, if you find a place to live that you really like, you could stay there for the whole length of your degree course – and even into postgraduate study. Providing you have housemates who want to stay there too.
Other living expenses for students living in private housing in Edinburgh
In addition to paying rent there are many other living expenses that you will need to take into account when living in private rental houses in Edinburgh. Depending on your accommodation, some of these bills may already be included in your rent:
Confused about council tax? Essentially, if you are a full-time college of university student you are exempt from paying. NUS offers some great advice to help you work out if you are exempt from paying council tax or not here.
If you live in halls of residence or private halls, TVs in communal spaces will already be covered by a licence.
However, if you wish to watch TV in your room or live in private housing, you must pay for your own. You require a licence no matter what device you watch or record live TV and a licence costs £150.50 a year.
These include gas, water, electricity, and broadband. If you are living in halls of residence or private halls these may already be included in your rent. If you are living in private housing you will need to organise payment of these yourself and split the bill between all of your housemates (approximately £45-60 month). Split the Bills has some helpful estimations depending on house size and number of residents.
Most insurance providers offer competitive quotes for student contents insurance, with the average starting at approximately £15 per month. If you are living in halls of residence or private halls, you most probably won’t need to sort insurance as this will already be included as part of your tenancy. You can find out more about the different types of contents insurance here.
Deposits and admin fees:
Again, this will depend on your choice of student accommodation:
- Private housing often runs up the biggest expenses when it comes to deposits and admin fees, and you may also need to pay a month’s rent in advance. Deposits can vary but they usually range from 1-2 months’ rent.
- Private halls usually ask for a reservation fee to secure your booking of approximately £250. This is then deducted from your total rent. bonus is there won’t be any extra deposits or extra admin fees on top of this, as long as you pay your rent on time!
Furnishings, kitchenware and laundry:
As well as utility bills you will need to consider what you need to live comfortably in your student accommodation. Does your room come already furnished? Do you need to provide your own kitchen utensils? Do you have access to laundry facilities such as a washer and tumble dryer, or will you need to use a laundrette (costs tend to range for £2-3 per wash and £1.50-£2 per dry)?
Storage and removals:
Will you be living at your accommodation during the summer? And what are your plans for second and third year? If your tenancies don’t run back to back you may need to put your belongings in storage. Luckily, self-storage is now extremely popular in Edinburgh and you can store one box per week from as little as £1 per week. If you have heavy items and don’t fancy lugging your suitcase on public transport, then it may be wise to hire a removal van or a company to do it for you (prices start from £25 per hour).
Cost of transport when living in Edinburgh as a student
There’s no denying that Edinburgh has travel options for pretty much everyone. Whether speed is your thing, you need to travel cheap and cheerfully, or you’re cutting down on your carbon footprint. From walking (which is pretty much free) to Uber (which can cost up to £0.30 per minute), take a look at the options for you:
Walking is without a doubt the cheapest, healthiest and most environmentally friendly way to get around Edinburgh. Depending on how close your student accommodation is it to your university campus and amenities, you could be saving pennies and also getting some crucial exercise by walking.
SAFETY FIRST: You will need to research your walking route and make sure to stay to in well lit, public areas when walking alone or at night-time. Do not be tempted by shortcuts through side streets. Remember that your regular route during the day may be far less safe at night. When walking at night it is definitely not a good idea to listen to music. They dramatically reduce your awareness of your surroundings.
Cycling is also another cheap and quick way to get about. Edinburgh has a terrific network of cycle paths and off-road routes. Check out the Edinburgh Inner Tube cycle route map:
If you have your own bike you will need somewhere safe and secure to store it, and your housemates might not be too keen with you keeping your muddy set of wheels on the communal landing! However, most halls of residence and private halls have bike storage as standard.
SAFETY FIRST: Check what you are legally required to do when cycling here.
Buses and trams:
Edinburgh has a 24 hour bus service that operates very frequently and is fairly cheap to use and a single bus fare costs £1.60. Day buses run from 6 am until midnight. Outside this schedule, there are night buses (the N lines).
If you use Lothian buses and trams to travel around Edinburgh, it will pay to invest in a Student Ridacard you will pay a maximum of £4 per day. If you want to purchase a ticket from the bus driver you have to have the correct fare as the drivers cannot give you any change.
Edinburgh tram has one route and 15 stops that link the airport with the new parts of the city. It takes 35 minutes to get to Princes Street (the closest stop to the city centre) from Edinburgh Airport. You can also use your Student Ridacard to pay for fares.
Edinburgh Waverly station is the city’s largest train station and is easily accessible from all of central Edinburgh. The University of Edinburgh has some really useful information about ticketing and railcard options. For example, PlusBus is a discount price bus pass that you buy with your train ticket. It gives you unlimited bus travel around town, at the start, the finish, or both ends of your train journey.
You can buy a PlusBus bus pass with your train ticket at the station ticket office, by ‘phone or online.
SAFETY FIRST: If you take a train late at night try to avoid empty or almost empty carriages, especially if you are on your own.
It may also be worth investing in a 16-25 or 26-30 Railcard for £30 per year. You will benefit from an average annual saving of £192 plus special partner discounts on days out, holidays, theatre and more.
Quickest ways to travel in Edinburgh as a student
Often the quickest way to get from door to door (no walking or navigating public transport involved!) is by car. However, it is one of the most expensive forms of transport in Edinburgh due to parking costs.
Most student accommodation in central Edinburgh do not provide parking spaces for resident. You may be able to purchase a zone parking permit but they are extremely costly and have controlled hours and days.
If you need to get somewhere quickly, it may be more cost effective to leave your own four wheels at home and take advantage of an Uber or taxi instead.
The undeniable luxury of using Uber to get around Edinburgh is the ease of it! Book a ride from your phone, step out your door and into the waiting car, no need to fuss paying by cash or card, and then get dropped off directly at your destination! However, it has a price tag… base fares start from £2.50 and then £0.15 per minute on top of that (or £1.25 per mile). Minimum fare is £5.00 and you can also be charged a cancellation fee of £6.00 if you book and then change your mind.
To put it into perspective, a journey from 200 Cowgate student accommodation in the city centre to the University of Edinburgh central campus will take 8 minutes on foot (and it costs nothing). To travel to the same location by Uber it will cost between £3-6 (for one way), taking 2 minutes.
Surge pricing is also another thing to take into consideration when Ubering. This is when the prices either rise or drop depending on demand. During busy periods when there are more riders than drivers, Uber increases its normal fares.
Taxis in Edinburgh are very similar to those in London. The famous black cabs can take up to five passengers besides the driver. You can book in advance, hail on the street or be picked up from designated taxi ranks. If the yellow TAXI sign is on, the cab is available for hire. Black cabs are metered and there is a minimum charge of £2.10 (Monday – Friday 6am – 6pm) and £3.10 (6am Saturday – 6am Monday).
Prices depend on time of day and distance, but it will roughly cost the same amount as an Uber.
SAFETY FIRST: Be sure you book with a licensed minicab with a license disc: unbooked minicabs are illegal, unsafe and uninsured. Uber also has some great safety tips for passengers on their website.
Cost of food in Edinburgh as a student
By buying and preparing your own food you will save a lot of money whilst living as a student in Edinburgh. Although the choice of takeaways, cafes and restaurants in Edinburgh is second to none, eating out less often and keeping it as a once a month ‘treat’ will save you pennies in the long run.
According NatWest’s Student Living Index 2018, students spend more on supermarket shopping than anything else – on average £76.30 per month.
Budgeting for a weekly food shop and planning your meals is the easiest way to save money and still eat well. Having a set amount of money to spend on groceries and a prepared shopping list means you will be less likely to ‘splurge’ on tempting supermarket offers and you’ll come away with enough food to last you the week (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks).
Become familiar with your local supermarket and work out where and when they markdown stock to clear. You can pick up some great bargains!
Meal prepping has become very popular recently. All you need is some Tupperware and to cook up a batch of your favourite dish (chilli, casserole, curry) to freeze in portions. Having a yummy meal that’s going to take a few minutes to re-heat in the microwave means you will be less tempted to get a takeaway pizza. Or settle for a Pot Noodle!
Deliveroo: You don’t even need to step outside your front door to enjoy food from your favourite restaurants and takeaways! 1. Simply place your order online. 2. Track your food to your door in real time. 3. Eat from the comfort of your own home. However, this convenience comes with a price tag; the menu price plus £2.50 (as long as the order is over £15, below and the fee goes up to £4.50).
Uber Eats: Similar to Deliveroo, you can place your order online and get it delivered straight to your door. Uber Eats is available from 7:00 AM – 4:00 AM, seven days a week.
Eating out in Edinburgh:
Edinburgh has some of the best choices of takeaways and restaurants in the UK. Local takeaways and fast food chains offer cheap meals but if you’re after something a bit healthier, the average price for a meal at a standard restaurant is £15.00. A meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant (three courses) will be £50.00.
Make the most of your NUS discount and always search for voucher codes to save extra dosh! If you don’t finish all your meal, ask for a ‘doggy bag’ and have the leftovers for lunch the next day.
SAFETY FIRST: Always check the ‘use by’ dates on food and make sure you refrigerate and store food correctly. Take care when re-heating food to make sure it is piping hot. Always write the date you made the meal on the Tupperware container/freezer bag so you know how long you have to eat it.
University equipment costs
On top of the everyday essentials (accommodation, bills, transport, food and drink) you will need to factor in any costs for equipment needed for your university course. Though it might be tempting to splurge on shiny new textbooks, desk organisers, pencils, pens, etc. there are plenty of places to pick up a bargain and save some money.
Discounted stationery: Make use of your NUS discount and check which high-street stationers offer student discount.
Borrow equipment: Buy as much as you can online. It’s often cheaper than buying on the high-street. Most universities also offer an equipment loans service where they are able to lend various items of AV/media equipment to students
Get software for free: Save the Student has a run-down of the best free software for students, saving you some serious pennies on office, antivirus, image editing, audio & video software.
Cost of socialising as a student in Edinburgh
It is important to find a balance between managing your university workload and having down-time with your housemates and friends. Your university years are some of the most formative of your life, with new people, new places and new experiences.
The Student Living Index 2018 states that the longer time students spend socialising, the more likely they are to enjoy studying, and there are so many social activities for students to take part in in Edinburgh.
So whether it’s a chilled pizza night with your housemates in your student accommodation or a club/society event at your university…
…or taking up a new hobby or going out for a student night out on the town, there is something to suit every person and every pocket.
Student nightlife in Edinburgh:
You can start by checking out your own university’s SU bar and venue that will have a schedule of events. The drinks – soft and alcoholic – will be cheap and cheerful!
The average price of a pint in Edinburgh is £4.00. So it’s worth taking advantage of any offers or happy hour discounts.
Edinburgh is the world’s leading festival city with over 11 festivals taking place year round. There is something for everyone with art, music, comedy, theatre, book, film, and science all being celebrated.
Clubs and societies:
Your university will have a variety of clubs and societies to join. It is a great way to meet new people with similar interests and make a new network of friends.
Student clubs and societies can range from sports, to subject-related interests and hobbies. You can even set-up your own society with grant funding from your university.
Hobbies and interests:
Edinburgh is a melting-pot of people and cultures which means there is a huge choice of hobby and interest groups to join.
Sport: If exercising is your thing there is a free gym at the University of Edinburgh. Or a lot of public gyms are affordable for students and offer discounts or pay-as-you go rates. Prices start from around £9.99 per month and pay-as-you-go from £4.50 per session.
Music: MakingMusic has a free online search option so you can easily find a music group near you.
Dance: DanceBase Edinburgh has a huge variety of classes to choose from. They have a ‘try before you buy’ scheme and offer concession prices for students.
Try something new: There are many hobbies in Edinburgh to try out. Such as tapestry weaving (£120 for a day class), learning how to upcycle furniture (from £21.91), and walk and talks at Edinburgh Zoo (from £6.50).
Get inspiration online: Meetup is a great way to join a group online. You then meet in person at an arranged event, such as a board-game or photography group. A lot of the activities are free too.
Student discounts in Edinburgh
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest bonuses of being a student is the awesome discounts! You save some serious pounds by being savvy and checking out what discounts are available:
Oyster cards and travelcards: According to the Student Living Index, students spend on average £20.20 per month on day-to-day transport. So it is well worth getting in a student travelcard (please see section above).
TOTUM (NUS Extra) or ISIC card: A TOTUM card (formally known as an NUS Extra card) is a great investment for just £12 a year. You can get great discounts across university essentials such as books, eating out, and entertainment. So pretty much everything a student needs. For a 2-year card it’s £22 or £32 for a 3-year card.
An ISIC (International Student Identity Card) allows students the world over prove their official student status. It also allows access to thousands of targeted student benefits and discounts in over 130 countries. With no travel insurance, a card costs $20. With Premium travel insurance it costs $99 and with Explorer travel insurance it’s $199.
If in doubt, when you’re at the checkout ask if they accept student discount – you might save yourself some dough!
UNiDAYS: UNiDAYS is free to join and also offers great discounts, such as 50% off Amazon Prime and 40% Virgin trains.
Cheap eats: Google is your best friend. Have a good look online to find out the cheapest and best rated places to eat near you. Also, check out our eating out in Edinburgh guide above for more ideas.
Working whilst studying in Edinburgh
Studying can be expensive. There’s accommodation bills, food, transport, books, equipment, clothes… and pretty much everything else to pay for. So you might be considering getting a part-time job? Luckily there are plenty of student-friendly jobs in Edinburgh. These include:
– Event staff/waiting staff
A job can be part-time, evening or weekend only, zero hours contract, or seasonal if you only want to work during the holidays. It’s a great way to earn some extra cash, but try not to let working get in the way of your studies. UCAS has some great tips to make sure you’re picking the right part-time job for you here.
National living wage: From April 2019, the National Living Wage will increase by 38 pence-an-hour to £8.21.
International students: If you are an international student in full-time undergraduate or postgraduate study, you are allowed to work part-time. You can work during term time for up to 20 hours a week and full-time during the holidays. This means you could earn up to approximately £656 (before tax deductions) per month during term-time.