Gone Living

A Beginner's Guide to Live Abroad in Leeds, UK

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Cristina Reina
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Are you planning to move to Leeds? Or are you thinking about moving to a different city than London? In this guide, I’ll let you know why Leeds is a great city to live in.

Leeds is located in the North of England, just an hour from Manchester. Despite being smaller than London, it’s still within the top ten biggest cities in the UK and it has a population of over 800,000 people.

Leeds has plenty of things to offer, but at the same time, if you love exploring new cities and cute small towns, it's surrounded by other beautiful cities you must see.

Other great places to live in Europe are Sweden, Florence and Dublin.

Neighbourhoods in Leeds and Cost of Living

Leeds is a more affordable city than London and other cities in the UK. However, there are still ways you can save even more money.

Shared accommodation can be a good option if you’re on a budget, and you’ll meet other people at the same time. You can find shared accommodation for 325 pounds per month with bills (electricity, water, etc.) included outside the city centre.

Prices increase as you look for accommodation in the city centre and the average is £727.

It’s cheaper to live in Leeds than in other cities in the UK, however, you must be careful with the areas you choose. 

Some of the best and safe areas to live in Leeds are Leeds City centre, Headingley, Meanwood and Horsforth. From all of these, my favourites are Leeds City Centre, especially, living by the picturesque riverside and near the market, and Headingley as it’s very convenient if you’re going to study at university.

Areas like Beeston, Chapel Town, Hunslet and Harehills are much cheaper than the areas mentioned above, but they aren’t as safe and I’d personally avoid them.

A rooftop view of a red setting sun over the city of Leeds, UK
Stunning red sunset over Leeds

Rent

When you’re looking for an apartment or house to rent, consider other things such as transport, supermarkets and distance from work as this will make your routine easier. Generally, Leeds is well-connected and public transport is frequent, but I’d consider staying somewhere near a bus/train stop so you don’t need to walk long when it gets dark during the winter.

Also, some of the things that landlords usually ask as part of the rent agreement are a guarantor (especially if you’re not working), address history and reference from previous residence and from previous employment. If you don’t have a job and don't know anybody in the UK, you can sometimes choose a family member as your guarantor. This is exactly what I did when I moved.

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Job hunting 

Things have changed over the last years, but one of the easiest ways to find a job is to go online and apply from websites like Reed.co.uk, Indeed, CV-Library and Linkedin

If you’re a student, I would highly recommend you join the student hub because they advertise job opportunities (part-time/full-time or short-term jobs) in the university hall and online, and help you write or improve your CV. 

I remember joining the student hub and receiving an email to work two days in the “Freshers week” guiding new students and parents to the university facilities. It was a great opportunity and they paid me well.

I have never had problems finding a job. I personally think it’s easy to find a job in the hospitality sector when you are new to the city. As time passes, you can look for other opportunities if you wish, as you’ll have a job reference and, believe me, they really value references from previous employers.

However, if you feel very confident with the language and profession you want, go for it! 

A Spanish woman posing in front of pink, yellow and orange blossoms at a garden in Leeds, UK.
Enjoying a day at Temple Newsam Garden

Visa requirements

When I moved to Leeds in 2016, I didn’t need a visa or any legal document to live in the UK as a European citizen. Since I don’t have any experience with visas and I don’t know much about it, you can check whether you need a visa or not here.

Also, as the UK is officially leaving the European Union, from what you may have heard as “Brexit”, you can check the new rules that will take place from January 2021.

Fun things to do

Leeds is a cosmopolitan city and there are plenty of activities to do in the city as well as its surroundings. If I could describe Leeds in three words, I would say “friendly, multicultural and creative.”

It’s the perfect place for nature lovers, shopaholics and foodies.

Although Leeds has two main shopping centres (Leeds Trinity and Victoria Leeds), the shopping options are endless - from independent and local to high-end street stores. Shopping in Leeds is amazing as everywhere is close and the city centre is quite compact. The same happens with cafes and restaurants. You’ll find cute and independent cafes to enjoy a delicious brunch produced with local ingredients as well as restaurants from different cuisines (Indian, Chinese, Italian…)

A view of the Victoria Quarter Arcade, a shopping centre in Leeds with very colonial architecture
The beautiful Victoria Quarter Arcade


The pub culture in the UK is very famous and you can find plenty of pubs and bars in Leeds, especially in Call Lane, known as the best place to go out. If you’re up for a sophisticated cocktail experience, then go to Angelica in Trinity Leeds.

At the same time, you’ll also find must-see attractions like Leeds City Museum, Royal Armouries, Leeds Art Gallery and Leeds City Market where you can also buy your fresh local ingredients. 

But that’s not all, one of my favourite things are nature and country houses in Leeds. Roundhay Park, Kirkstall Abbey and Golden Acre Park are some of the parks you can’t miss. In terms of country houses, you need to add to your list Harewood House and Temple Newsam.

A front view of the beautiful Leeds City Market
The best place to buy fresh fruits and veggies


Food

You can save a lot by knowing where to buy food in Leeds. Aldi and Lidl are the cheapest supermarkets, but If you care about food brands, you’ll find more options in Asda, which is still a cheap option.

For fresher vegetables and fruits, you must go to Leeds Market in the city centre. You’ll get a good value for money.

Generally, you can spend between 120 and 200 pounds per month depending on your diet and food choices.

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Transport

The most used bus company is First Buses. Prices increase as you look for accommodation in the city centre and the average is £727 as they travel to anywhere in Leeds. They have different prices depending on the ticket you choose (daily, weekly, monthly). If you need to use it almost every day, get a monthly ticket (61 pounds) to save money.

Two extra tips to save money on buses

  • Download the First buses app on your phone. Tickets are cheaper when you buy them online. You can save a couple of pounds. 
  • If you’re going to be a student, look for student tickets as you’ll pay a considerably reduced price. From 61 pounds per month to 35 pounds!

A picture of the front path to the Harewood house with the house on one side and the gardens on the other
The Harewood House, a nice place to enjoy some fresh air

Other things and tips you need to know before moving to Leeds

  1. Get yourself a waterproof jacket, as well as plenty of warm winter clothes. Winter can be cold, especially if you are used to living somewhere warm, so be ready to put layers on. At the same time, Leeds can sometimes be very windy and when it rains you will get wet.
  2. If English isn’t your first language and you learnt the “Standard” British English in school, be aware that Leeds and Yorkshire (the county) has a special accent, so don’t be surprised if you don’t understand certain words or even sentences. As time passes you’ll learn words like hey up (hi/hello), dinner (it’s actually lunch for them), brew (a cup of tea), lass (girl), etc. and you’ll get used to the accent.
  3. It gets dark very early in winter (around 3:30-4:00 pm), so I highly recommend joining something after uni or work to get you entertained and socialised with others. However, as the time changes to British Summer Time (BST), be ready for long days as the sunrise is earlier than 6 am. 
  4. You get a lot of support as a university student. If you ever struggle with homesickness, finding a job, managing your finances, you’ll find plenty of support from the university. At the same time, uni life was one of the best times for me, there are plenty of activities and events to meet new people. 
  5. Go to language exchanges. When you’re new and you don’t know anyone, going to language exchanges can help you meet lovely people that are likely in the same position as you. Also, you’ll learn a bit about other languages and cultures as well as make friends.
  6. Explore North England. Leeds is very well-connected to other beautiful cities and small towns. You can easily get National Express coaches to other main cities like Manchester, Liverpool, etc. or a train to London. However, if you fancy travelling abroad, you have Leeds Bradford Airport that is connected to many European destinations or Manchester Airport for a bigger variety of international destinations.  

Living in Leeds has helped me meet amazing people from other countries, learnt about the British and Yorkshire culture and opened my eyes. If you’re a city girl, you’ll love living in Leeds.

xx,

Cristina

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