Common misconceptions about living costs in the UK and Canada

It is a well-known fact that the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada have been holding a long legacy of academic excellence that attracts hundreds of thousands of international students every year. Over time, some misconceptions and misunderstandings from a lack of knowledge about studying abroad led to the formation of certain stereotypical myths about the cost of living in the UK and Canada. These myths tend to get spread among potential international students through word of mouth or any social media platforms.

Hence, being an aspiring international student, you can come across many instances where you might encounter various misinformation that can lead you towards bad decisions. Hence it is important to equip yourself with an accurate set of information before finalizing your decisions.

In this article, we will be debunking the top four stereotypical myths about high living costs in the UK and Canada through which we will reveal the reality behind those myths to help you make informed decisions regarding studying abroad.


Myth 1 – The accommodations are too expensive

Many of the students believe that living in the UK or Canada can be unaffordable especially due to high accommodation costs. However, it is important to note that, the accommodation expenses do vary depending on the university you have chosen and its location. Some of the cities might be expensive but it does not mean that all of the cities in these study destinations are expensive. Several “student-friendly” cities offer affordable rates to keep expenses on the lower side.

Also, students will have many options of accommodations to choose from depending on their budget. If you can’t afford the on-campus accommodation facilities, many off-campus accommodation options are available for international students. It varies from a one-bedroom apartment, shared apartments to even shared houses which are much cheaper than the on-campus accommodations. Some options are more affordable than others hence, the students have the chance to compare the different cities and accommodation options available before choosing the best one that would work according to their budget.  

Myth 2 – It costs a fortune to travel around as students

It is very common for potential students to think that travelling expenses can be high in famous study destinations like UK and Canada. However, not many are aware of the ways available for students to save up on their travel expenses.

If we take the UK in particular, a student over the age of 18 studying in London can apply for a “Student Oyster Card” that would offer 30% off the price of adult-rate travel cards and season tickets. With this card, you can travel the underground, overground, national rail and buses. Also, most of the student cities in the UK are easy to get around on foot and some universities do provide transport services that run from campus to the nearby towns. Further, most of the cities in the UK do provide bike rental services too. All these are some alternative options for students with a tight budget to manage their travelling expenses in the UK.

The same applies to Canada. They have very convenient public transport systems, bike renting services and safe routes for the students to go on foot. Further, international students studying in Canada have the privilege to get some discounts on public transport if they have a specific student card.  For example, the students can apply for an “OPUS Card” which is a smart card used to pay the transport charges from which the student can avail 40% discount on their monthly pass. Hence, there are many options available for international students to travel around without having to empty their pockets.

Myth 3 – The foods are too expensive

The food expenses are one of the important things that adds to the living cost that all international students do worry about. Most people do believe that students living in the UK or Canada have to spend a lot even for a regular meal. In other words, the food items are believed to be overpriced. However, this is not entirely true. It all depends on the store, restaurant and the food item that you had selected. For example, some supermarkets are way more budget-friendly than others and some food brands are way more affordable than others. Hence, the food expense mainly depends on the student’s lifestyle and preferences. 

Also, not many are aware of the privileges they have as an international student. In the UK, many retailers and restaurants do offer discounts and deals for students with tight budgets therefore, you can even go up to 50% off depending on the retailer by simply showing your student ID as a golden ticket.  (However, this strictly depends on the retailer hence, the rate and discounts may vary accordingly).

Similarly, even in Canada, there are many stores and restaurants that offer discounts, and promo codes, especially for students! There are many student savings cards available to help you get student discounts. The Student Price Card (SPC), and the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) are some of the well-known student-oriented membership cards that allow students to receive discounts on food, entertainment, shopping or travel. Hence, it is clear that there is one way or another that would help you manage your food expenses.

Myth 4 – Students are obliged to spend a lot to obtain healthcare services

Healthcare services are very essential and as a potential international student, you might have come across many myths about how unaffordable the healthcare bills would be and how the students are compelled to pay a high cost to get even a minor treatment at the healthcare centres while studying in UK or Canada. This belief is not entirely true.

If we look through the UK context, international students entering to study on a Tier 4 visa, need to pay the “Immigration Health Surcharge” as a part of their visa application fee. This would allow the students to receive the necessary healthcare treatments in the UK without any additional cost.

Further, some treatments in the UK are free for everyone, no matter what their immigration status is. They include accident and emergency services (excluding the follow-up treatment or admission as an In-Patient), Certain family planning services, Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, Diagnosis and treatment of some infectious diseases, Treatment in prison or immigration detention, Compulsory psychiatric treatment or any treatment ordered by the court and Treatment of conditions caused by torture, FGM, domestic violence or sexual violence provided you’re not in the country exclusively and specifically to seek treatment for those reasons.

On the other hand, Canada has its own set of regulations on providing healthcare to its international students. The health care system does vary from province to province. Some provinces cover international students under the provincial health insurance plans while some provinces would require the student to get health insurance for the duration of their study in Canada. Therefore, once again the healthcare expense can vary depending on the treatment you get and the place you live in.

Final Thought

Looking through the truths behind the myths would have opened your eyes to the real picture of living in these famous study destinations. You might have realized that the living cost depends on your lifestyle and the extent to which you can manage your budget. If you plan the right way and take advantage of the available student discounts, studying in the UK or Canada will be manageable. Hence, it is important to know the accurate information on all the aspects of living as an international student and plan accordingly rather than believing the stereotypes blindly.

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