Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and is part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland to the south is a separate country in its own right.
Most people have heard of the ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland which lasted for almost 30 years. However, today Belfast is a modern, growing city which, while not forgetting its turbulent history, is moving forward.
If you are considering moving to Belfast, the various costs listed below will help you make an informed decision on what costs are involved when moving and living in Northern Ireland’s capital.
Quick Belfast Facts:
- Population: 295,000 (2017 estimate) in the city, and 585,000 in Belfast Metropolitan area.
- Official Language: English (de facto) with 42 languages being spoken in schools, demonstrating the country’s ethnic diversity.
- GDP Per Capita: $26,930 USD
- Claim to fame: The ill-fated RMS Titanic was built in Belfast.
- Currency: Pound Sterling or Great Britain Pound (£, GBP). As of early 2017, $1 USD = £80, €1 EUR = £0.85, $1 CAD = £0.61, $1 AUD = £0.62
1. Moving and Shipping Costs to Belfast
- London – £360+
- Australia (Sydney) – £2,690+
- Ireland (Dublin) – £250+
- USA (New York City) – £1,100+
- Canada (Vancouver) – £1,820+
- New Zealand (Auckland) – £3,150+
- Hong Kong – £640+
- Dubai – £2,030+
- Singapore – £1,000+
2. Belfast Housing Costs
Housing prices in Belfast are generally lower than the UK mainland. This means that owning a property is within most people’s grasp. The majority of the people living in Belfast and the surrounds prefer to buy property rather than rent.
Monthly Rental Prices in Belfast
- 1 bedroom flat (apartment) in City Centre: £400+
- 1 bedroom flat outside the City Centre: £280+
- 3 bedroom flat in City Centre: £650+
- 3 bedroom flat outside the City Centre: £495+
Belfast Home Purchase Prices
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy in City Centre: £2,241
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy outside City: £1,750
Belfast Housing Cost Comparison
This is how rents in Belfast compare with other cities around the globe.
London is 283.44% more expensive
New York is 394.16% more expensive
Los Angeles is 227.84% more expensive
Toronto is 96.21% more expensive
Sydney is 223.46% more expensive
Paris is 107.53% more expensive
Dubai is 260.93% more expensive
How to Save on Housing Costs
- Share a flat or house. In various surveys, Belfast frequently comes top when it comes to cheap rental prices within the UK. Rent a room in a flat or a house and share a bathroom. Alternatively, a cheaper option would be to share a room. Have a look on Belfast’s Gumtree page or Spareroom or Easyroommate and find a like soul to share the costs with you.
- Different areas – different prices. Like all cities, different areas attract different prices. Castlereagh is the most expensive area to live in. It’s ideal for families and anyone who plays golf. Newtownbreda is cheaper than Castlereagh and is closer to the city centre. It is a community in its own right, with shops, doctors, schools etc and close to open countryside. Queen’s Quarter is close to the university and is a vibrant area which is reasonably priced. The new and trendy Titanic Quarter and the waterfront are redeveloped areas with lots of apartments for rent and sale.
3. Belfast Food, Grocery and Restaurant Costs
Belfast has a wide variety of restaurants, supermarkets and grocers which serve its growing cosmopolitan community. There are also good markets for local fresh produce. However, do note that with the recent decline in sterling, a lot of imported food has increased in price, which has obviously pushed up restaurant prices.
- Inexpensive Restaurant: £10.00 – £15.00
- Takeout Coffee: £2.00 – £3.00
- Bottle of Coke: £0.90 – £1.30
- 1L of milk: £0.60 – £1.00
- Loaf of Bread: £0.80 – £1.30
- 12 Eggs: £1.30 – £2.25
- 1kg Chicken: £4.50 – £10.00
- 1kg Beef: £4.00 – £8.00
- 1kg Apples: £1.50 – £3.00
- 1kg White Rice: £1.00 – £3.00
This is how restaurants and food prices compare with other major cities in the world.
- New York restaurants are 50.69% more expensive and groceries are 80.15% more expensive than Belfast.
- Toronto restaurants are 1.78% cheaper and groceries are 22.98% more expensive than Belfast.
- Sydney restaurants are 10.81% more expensive and groceries are 47.17% more expensive than Belfast.
- Paris restaurants are 19.02% more expensive and groceries are 35.10% more expensive than Belfast.
- Dubai restaurants are 1.29% cheaper and groceries are 3.51% more expensive than Belfast.
Bonus Tips for Cheaper Food, Restaurants and Groceries
- Visit local markets: There are some great markets where you can buy good, fresh produce and prepared foods in Belfast including: St George’s Market, At the mill, Queens Campus food market and Dock Market.
- Find Cheap Eats: The Guardian, BBC Good Food and Budget Traveller all have tips on cheap eats in Belfast, which include everything from traditional Irish fare to Indian curry houses.
4. Belfast Alcohol Costs
Like all Irish towns and cities, Belfast is known for its pubs and the hospitality that they offer. The following is a list of basic prices of beer and wine from the supermarket and restaurants.
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a restaurant/pub: £2.90 – £4.00
- Bottle of imported beer (0.33L) at a restaurant/pub: £2.00 – £4.00
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a supermarket: £1.00 – £1.80
- Bottle of imported beer at a supermarket: £1.00 – 1.50
- Mid-range bottle of wine at a supermarket: £6.00 – £8.00
How to drink for less in Belfast
- Keep an eye out for notices on bulletin boards around the city. Also, look online and in the newspapers for announcements of specials.
- Madison’s has happy hour cocktails from 5.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. on a Sunday. The Northern Whig serves £4.00 cocktails every day from 5.00 p.m. until 9.00 p.m. Go to Made in Belfast and enjoy £3.00 cocktails and Prosecco from midday until 3.30 p.m. every day. If beer is your favourite tipple then visit The Basement on a Monday from 3.00 p.m. until 8.00 p.m. and only pay £2.80 for a pint.
- Scour the areas around the universities and other tertiary institutions to find the best alcohol deals.
5. Belfast Transportation Fare
Belfast has a good bus service which is operated by Metro. The Metro Network serves the whole city and outlying areas. There is also a good train service which links Belfast to all the major towns in Ireland.
The card can be topped up at various outlets and saves the hassle of buying separate train and bus tickets
Here are some example ticket costs:
- Adult Single (Zone 1) – £2.00
- One day ticket for bus and train (Zone 1) – £6.50
- Monthly season ticket for bus and train (Zone 1) – £78
- Yearly season ticket for bus and train (Zone 1) – £720
How to save money on public transport
- Use iLink for the biggest savings.
- Travel after 09.30 for cheaper fares
- Buy a bike. There is good system of cycle lanes all around the city
- The city is not that big and exercise is always good.
6. Cost of Internet in Belfast
Internet in the UK is one of the few things that is cheaper than the US, Canada or Australia. Here are some sample broadband internet prices from early 2017 for unlimited downloads, based on a 12 month contract:
- Sky: £18.99 a month (Standard Broadband up to 17mb)
- TalkTalk: £20 a month (Standard Broadband up to 17mb)
- BT: £24.49 a month (Standard Broadband up to 17mb)
- Virgin Media: £32.25 a month (Fibre up to 50mb)
7. Cost of Clothing, Personal Items, Gym and Leisure
The climate in Belfast is a mild one, with an average high of 17°C in July. February is the coldest month, where the average temperature is around 3°C. October is the wettest month with an average rainfall of 90mm.
Like most places in the UK, rain is always a possibility, so it’s wise to carry an umbrella or a fold up waterproof jacket.
Here are some clothing prices, together with other useful prices:
- Pair of Jeans: £30 – £75
- Summer Dress: £15 – £40
- Running Shoes (Trainers): £40 – £70
- Business Shoes: £36 – £80
- Short Doctor’s visit (15 mins): £65
- Deodorant: £1.20
- Shampoo: £2.06
- Toilet Paper (4 rolls): £1.81
- Gym membership: £18 – £30 per month
- Movie (cinema) ticket: £5 – £7
8. Cost of Owning a Car and Driving a Car in Belfast
Everyone in the UK drives on the left. Belfast is an easy city drive around but, like all cities, parking can be expensive, especially if you want to park all day.
If you’re moving to Belfast from within the UK, you’ll be able to keep your license but need to update your address to your new Belfast one.
If you want to exchange your foreign driver’s license you have to follow the process here. Note that you will need to prove you took your driving test in a manual transmission car. If you can’t prove it, you’ll only be able to exchange your license for an automatic.
Here are some other sample costs of owning and operating a car in Belfast:
- Volkswagen Golf: £16,000
- 1 litre (¼ gallon) of gas (petrol): £1.10
- Registration fee (if any): £55 one time
- Other fees (if any): No more than £54.85 for an MOT fee, after cars are 3 years old.
Ways to save money on driving in Belfast
- Like most countries in the world, car sharing and carpooling is becoming more and more popular. Try Car Pool World or Carsharing.
- Taxis can sometimes be a cheaper option, especially if you are going to have to park all day. Try Uber.
9. Taxes in Belfast
No matter where you live in the UK, you will pay the same rate of tax. To learn more about the different taxes – income, self-employment, business, capital gains etc, have a look at our moving to the United Kingdom guide.
Sales Tax, or VAT (Value Added Tax) is 20% in the UK and is added to most goods and services throughout the country. Unlike some countries, it is always included in the marked price.
Whether you own or rent your home, you will be subject to council tax based on the area in which you live and the size of the property you live in. Learn more about council tax in Belfast at Belfast City Council
Finally, if you decide to buy a flat or house in Belfast you’ll have to pay stamp duty. While there’s no tax on the first £125,000 of your home value, the marginal rate increases to 12% on a value of over £1.5 million.
10. Flight Costs from Belfast
If you do make the move to Belfast, here’s approximately how much it will cost to fly to other major world cities based on lowest, one-way fares from Skyscanner as of early 2017:
- New York: £271
- Los Angeles: £321
- Toronto: £257
- Vancouver: £274
- Dubai: £101
- Sydney: £483
- Melbourne: £452
- Cape Town: £438
- Hong Kong: £330
Other Tips on Moving to Belfast
The costs and pricing above should give you a good idea of the cost of living in Belfast but perhaps the following extra tips will make your move go smoothly.
11. Moving to Belfast Alone
Moving anywhere is stressful, but moving on your own is even more so. Making new friends quickly is the way to make the transition as smooth as possible.
- Meetups:Belfast has lots of free meetup groups you can find on Meetup.com. Find groups that enjoy your passion for photography or walking, soccer or hockey and many more.
- Attend local events:There’s always plenty going on in Belfast no matter what the time of year. Have a look at VisitBelfast.com, Skiddle and Belfast Eventful.
12. Moving to Belfast with a Family
Belfast is a great city for a family. There is plenty to do in the city and lots of countryside and the sea, of course, on your doorstep.
- New parents (or parents to be): Check out the local NCT Courses and NCT events.
- Live in a family friendly area: Newtownbreda is one of the most popular areas for families. It has lots of wide open spaces and countryside and also has good schools, doctors and its own shopping mall.
- Find things to do with the kids: Visit Belfast, Dayoutwiththekids and Kidsbelfast all have great ideas for activities and events your kids will love.
13. Moving to Belfast for Work
Belfast’s main industries were shipbuilding and textiles. While these industries aren’t what they were, there is a lot more going on the city on the work front. Here are a few things to consider when moving for work:
- Salary: Salaries in Belfast are not as high as in London and other major cities in the world. The costs we outlined above should give you a rough idea, how much more you’ll less you can afford to make to still make the move worthwhile. You can also check salary ranges on sites such as Glassdoor and Payscale.
- How to find work: Finding a job before you make the move can make the move the Belfast less stressful, try looking at Monster, Total Jobs, Gumtree, Reed and Indeed. You may also want to google recruiters in your industry, as they can often help land you some initial interviews as well.
14. Moving to Belfast from Australia
There aren’t many Australians living in Belfast. However, you can always nip across the ocean and meet up with the 56,000 living in London.
- Size comparison: Belfast city has around the same population as Logan City in Queensland. If you include the Belfast Metropolitan area, then that equates to living in the Gold Coast.
- Join expat groups: Both InterNations and Expat.com offer ways of meeting up with other Australians in Belfast.
15. Moving to Belfast from Canada
There are more Irish living in Canada than there are Canadians living in Ireland. However, there is a small Canadians expat community which has moved to Belfast to enjoy all things Irish.
- Size:The Belfast Metropolitan area is around the size of Winnipeg, while the city itself equates to the size of Vaughn or Gatineau.
- Expat groups: Canadians living in Belfast should have a look at InterNations, Expat.com and The Irish Canadian Society.
16. Moving to Belfast from the United States
Belfast doesn’t have a large expat American community, but it does attract those Americans with Irish descent, especially students and those who taking a gap year. If you’re considering it, here are a few bonus tips:
- Size: Milwaukee is around the same size as the Belfast Metropolitan area. The city of Belfast has the same population as Anchorage, Alaska.
- Expat groups: There are various expat groups which will help you integrate into Belfast quickly. Have a look at Internations, Expat.com and Just Landed.
Hopefully, the tips and costs above are helpful. If want to get started pricing out how much it will cost you to move to Belfast you can start by comparing moving quotes here.
Guides to moving and living in other UK cities