Friday, May 25, 2012

My cost of living in the United Kingdom- Transport

With Yorkshire not exactly being a bustling metropolis, public transport is sketchy and not to mention expensive. I shall cover 3 aspects in this post, namely, short distance public transport (within the W Yorkshire county), long distance trips cross country and private transport (i.e. cars and taxis)

Short Distance Public Transport
Now, this is one thing that is extremely expensive in the UK. As people will already know, the London Underground costs 2 pounds per trip within zone 1-2, which is to say about a 16km radius around central London.
As for West Yorkshire, buses and trains do not use the oyster card (which is like the EZ Link card). The "technology" is still pretty backward.
For example, the West Yorkshire buses still use printed paper tickets and you pay to the driver. The driver can give change which makes the queue at certain city centre stops get quite long. Also, the trains still have train conductors who (depending on their mood) chirpily or grumpily shout out "tickets please!"

A sample fare is this:
A trip spanning 5 bus stops or less: 1 pound
A trip anywhere in Leeds Metro area: 2 pounds
A trip anywhere in West Yorkshire (Bradford, Leeds, Halifax etc): 2.80 peak, 2.50 off peak
Unlimited number of trips within West Yorkshire: 4.60 peak 3.80 off peak
5 person ticket after 9.30AM everyday within West Yorkshire: 7.80 (probably the only ticket that is cheaper than Singapore)

As you can see, this is way more expensive than Singapore.

Also, Metro Trains are expensive around the county. When I had to go to a General Practice for lessons once a week on Tuesdays, I had to pay GBP4.50 return for a short hop of only 16km. That would not cost more than S$4 in Singapore. Moreover, the trains do breakdown but people don't have the same hoohaa as they do in Singapore, they just get on with it and take the next train.

Long Distance Cross Country Trips
Ironically, this can and frequently is cheaper than Metro services. For example, I once paid 11 pounds for a return trip to London (330km; the same distance from Singapore to KL). In Singapore, you'd pay S$35 for a single to KL. However, the normal price is usually 15 pounds for that return trip.

I also paid 20 pounds for a return train trip to London once. But most of the time that trip will cost you 25 pounds. 

Fares are generally very very cheap if you book early; and not that expensive even if you don't (if you're willing to take a coach and not train).

Generally about 7 pounds single if you're travelling 300-400km, 15 pounds single >600km (e.g. London to Edinburgh).

Private Transport

Taxis in Leeds can be comparable to Singapore after factoring all the surcharges in the latter.
In Leeds, the taxi system is competitive. However, the cars can vary wildly, from Skoda Octavias to even BMW 5 series. Prices are simple. No bewildering surcharges and you just pay what is on the meter. No tipping required. Also, the system is alot more efficient; for private hire "call to book" taxis are cheaper than flagging down "hackney carriages". This is more logical than the system in Singapore i think, the drivers don't have to waste fuel driving around and the passenger has the peace of mind knowing a taxi is coming. You never have to wait more than 15m for a taxi even at peak hours. No charge for prebooking a taxi hours in advance too!

Taxis generally charge as such:
2.70 pounds for the first 1 mile. (1.6km)
10 pence per subsequent one tenth of a mile (160m). Every 1 mile, extra 10p charge. (means 1 mile costs 1.10 pounds)

Compare that with Singapore:
$3.20 for first 1km
20c for subsequent 335m
variety of surcharges

Of course, Singapore taxis are still cheaper. But I dont have to travel more than 2 miles normally, whether I am going to school, doing grocery shopping or going to the movies.

Next, Cars.

Cars are so much cheaper than Singapore. For example, a BMW 5 series/Mercedes Benz E200 costs 30,000pounds. Compare that to what, S$250,000? A Skoda Octavia (roughly equivalent to a Toyota Corolla Altis in Singapore) costs 15,000 pounds. I can also get a second hand Ford Mondeo 2.0 Diesel with 160,000km for 1.5 grand.

Most cars here are also diesel except for the Japanese cars. That's probably the reason why Japanese cars like Toyota and Nissan are not popular here. Also, the Japanese cars here cost around the same as the European marques like Vauxhall (Opel), Skoda, Ford (american) etc.

Insurance is quite expensive I think. I'm not sure how much it costs in Singapore but I remember my dad is paying S$9xx with 50% NCB. My friend's dad is paying something like 600 pounds with ?max NCB for a Renault 407. For me, the insurance quote is shockingly high at 3500pounds per annum for a 2005 Ford Mondeo 2.0 diesel.This is the reason why I did not buy a car.

Fuel is also expensive. Petrol is at 1.33 pounds per litre and ULS Diesel is at 1.39 pounds per litre. Even though Diesel can do about 30% more than an equivalent Petrol car, the fuel cost per litre is still more expensive than a petrol car in Singapore.

Parking generally is free except in the city centre where it is 1 pound an hour. So, still quite cheap.

Thus, you can see that transport is more expensive in the UK than Singapore (except cars).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My cost of living in the United Kingdom- Rent and Utilities

In this post I shall touch on the issue of rent and housing. Next year, I am staying with three other friends in a ~1,200 sq ft 3 storey house opposite the university's main building. Our rent per month for this house, excluding bills, is GBP 1,120. That works out to be roughly 64.50 GBP pppw.

Now, this rent is slightly below average for the area; this is because we only have two toilets whereas other more expensive houses have en-suite toilets (this means every room has a toilet).

This area is very much more expensive than outlying areas in Yorkshire where I live, as it is in the city centre and one does not require use of a car.

If one were to look about 5 miles (8km) out of town, the rent falls drastically to 43 GBP pppw (for a four bedroom house, two toilets with a garage and backyard).

Let's compare this to a rent for a ~1,200 sq ft 5 room HDB flat in the outskirts of town, say Choa Chu Kang. The rent is 2,500 SGD for the whole house, bills not included. This works out to be 72.11 GBP pppw. This is for 4 bedrooms and 3 toilets.

As the sale market broadly follows the rent market, I shall not comment on it.

Next, Utilities.

The UK has a multitude of power suppliers you can choose from. These include E-on, EDF, Sainsbury's, npower etc. Singapore has Singapore Power.

Tariffs on Singapore Power include:
28.78c per kWh (14.4p per kWh) for Electricity
22.16 per kWh (11.08p per kWh) for Gas
$1.17 per cubic metre for the first 40m3 and $1.40 per cubic metre for subsequent amounts

Tariffs on E-on include:
20.95p per kWh (42c) for first 720kWh annually and 11.678p per kWh (23c) subsequently
8.248p per kWh (16.5c) for first 2680kWh annually and 4.085p (8c) per kWh subsequently (gas is often used instead of electricity for heating)
Tariffs on Yorkshire Water:
41 GBP standing charge and 60p ($1.20) per cubic metre. 

As you can see, electricity, gas and water as a whole are comparable to Singapore standards. Gas is cheaper in the UK but water is much more expensive. This is because piped water includes heated water (during winter, the cold taps can get really cold).

With rents cheaper and utilities comparable, accommodation is cheaper in the UK.

Next post coming soon. :) 

Monday, May 21, 2012

My cost of living in the United Kingdom- introduction

I had an interesting discussion with people recently regarding the cost of living in the United Kingdom.
As some may know, I am currently a medical student in England, but I am not in London.

I want to dispel the oft-held notion that the United Kingdom is an expensive country to live in. In actual fact, it is not. I would daresay excluding London, it is cheaper (even before taking into account higher wages in UK) to live in than Singapore. (Doctors earn more in Singapore nett, but that's an anomaly; most other professionals earn more here than in Singapore)

Over the next few posts, which will be as and when I have time, I will try to explain what my cost of living is. Readers can then draw their own conclusions. Of course, certain things are more expensive here, but I think overall, it is cheaper to stay in UK excl. London.

Over and out.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

bought tesco

bought Tesco at 317pence. tesco is UK's leading grocer with 30% of market share in the UK. it is also the second largest grocer in the world after Walmart by profits. it also has operations in America, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Malaysia, South Korea etc. I personally shop here because there is a loyalty card programme and the prices are the same as the other big three (asda-walmart, wm morrisons and sainsbury) here, essentially giving me a 1% cashback.