Best For Living: The UK vs Ireland

Are you thinking of moving to the UK or Ireland? Both offer a high standard of living, excellent quality of life, and abundant work and career options. Here we cover all those details to help you make the right decision. 

The UK is the better option for those interested in arts, culture, career and educational opportunities, and modern conveniences. Ireland is the better choice for those looking for a quieter and more laidback lifestyle that still offers many of the perks of the UK. 

Of course, many factors determine the feasibility of living in a particular country. Read on to learn more about the lifestyles, job prospects, salaries, and cost of living in the UK and Ireland, along with other essential information. 

Living in the UK vs Ireland: Main differences 

Generally speaking, life in the UK is faster and more frenetic than in Ireland. It’s a much more urban and cosmopolitan country, with more of a “Big City” buzz and excitement. 

Of course, things are much livelier in major Irish cities such as Dublin and Belfast. Even so, they are a far cry from most English towns in terms of art, music, culture, and career opportunities. 

The UK is also more diverse than Ireland. Major urban centers such as London are radically different from smaller towns such as St. Ives in Cornwall, for example. Although this diversity is also apparent in Ireland, it isn’t as extreme as in the UK.

What are the reasons why you should not move to Ireland?

Brits vs Irish people 

The Irish are generally considered to be warm and friendly, while the British are often regarded as ‘cold’ and ‘aloof.’ But this perception has changed over the years, with the UK becoming more and more like other European countries. 

Banter is one thing that many Brits and Irish have in common. Called ‘craic’ in Ireland, it’s similar to the interaction between close friends in the UK.

One thing that many people will agree on is that the Irish generally love conversing. Although Brits have become more open and accommodating in recent years (possibly due to the influx of immigrants from other cultures), they aren’t nearly as chatty as the Irish tend to be.

Quality of life 

The quality of life in Ireland is generally considered to be higher than in the UK. Again, this is an entirely subjective assessment, but it seems to be the prevailing sentiment among many people that have lived and worked in both countries.

In the United Nations’ ranking of 189 countries in 2020, Ireland was ranked second in terms of quality of life. In contrast, the UK ranked only 13th. Factors contributing to these rankings were life expectancy, education, and gross national income per capita. 

Of course, many other factors should be considered when assessing the quality of life in a particular country, one of which is public transportation. While Ireland beats out the UK in terms of life expectancy, education, and GNP, it lags behind in its transport services and infrastructure. 

The score is pretty even as far as the weather is concerned. Both countries are known for their rainy and windy weather throughout the year, although summers have been increasingly warm. Even some the weather can be quite unpredictable, so take that into consideration when deciding to move to Ireland or the UK.

Cost of living 

Interestingly, the cost of living in Ireland is significantly higher than in the UK. A study conducted by Provident Personal Credit in 2018 revealed that living in Ireland was about 13.97% costlier than in the UK. Rent is about 50% higher, and consumer goods and grocery products were significantly higher as well.

Rental prices are a significant factor in determining the cost of living in a particular place. But although rent is higher in Ireland than in the UK, purchase prices are lower. For about the same price as a home in the larger UK cities, you can get larger property in the Irish suburbs. 

Furthermore, the higher incomes in Ireland make mortgages more affordable. This is a crucial factor when comparing the relative costs of living in both countries. 

Here’s a look at some of the typical prices in Ireland and the UK: 

IrelandUnited Kingdom
Dining 
Lunch (mid-priced restaurant)€13.6€15.8
Dinner for two (upscale restaurant)€60.2€62.1
Fast food meal€8.93€7.2
Beer in a pub (pint)€6€5.38
Cappuccino€3.74€3.61
Soda (0.5 liter)€1.96€1.85
Rent
One-bedroom apartment (downtown, 40 sq.m)€1,355€1,184
Lower priced one-bedroom apartment (40 sq.m)€1,037€928
3-bedroom apartment (downtown, 80 sq.m) €2,190€2,038
Lower-priced 3-bedroom apartment (80 sq.m) €1,720€1,517
Utilities 
Electricity, heating, water, etc. (single)€114€132
Electricity, heating, water, etc. (family)€177€203
Internet (50 Mbps+ per month)€47.2€37.2
Property 
Mortgage interest rate (20 years)3.28%2.96%
City apartment€5,490/sq.m  €7,502/sq.m 
Suburban house €3,647€4,508
Transportation
One-way local transport ticket€2.94€3.28
Monthly local transport ticket €107€93.9
Taxi (8 km)€20.4€17.8
Gas/petrol (per liter)€1.85€1.89
Groceries
Milk (1 liter)€1.15€1.14
Bread (0.5 kg)€1.6€1.21
Rice (1 kg)€1.45€1.63
Eggs (one dozen)€3.01€2.7
Cheese (1 kg)€10.2€7.97
Chicken breast (1 kg)€9.41€7.35
Round steak (1 kg)€10.6€10.8
Apples (1 kg)€2.36€2.41
Banana (1 kg)€1.82€1.39
Oranges (1 kg)€2.33€2.19
Tomato (1 kg)€2.7€2.61
Potato (1 kg)€1.49€1.34
Onion (1 kg)€1.2€1.29
Water (1 liter)€0.82€0.82
Soda (2 liter) €2.52€2.43
Wine (mid-priced, 750 mL)€11.8€9.25
Beer (0.5 liter)€2.87€2.24
Cigarettes (one pack)€15€14.4
Cold medicine (weeks’ worth)€7.85€5.13
Shampoo€4.86€4.54
Toilet paper (four rolls)€2.28€2.42
Toothpaste€2.72€2.09
Other
Gym membership (monthly)€41.8€41.8
Cinema ticket€12.1€12.5
Doctor’s visit€60.6€109
Haircut€15.5€14.7
Jeans€76.3€77.4
Sneakers€83.4€82.7
Daycare or preschool (monthly)€1,075€1,301
International primary school (annually)€8,981€17,258
Source: livingcost.org

Visas and residence permits

Irish and British citizens can freely travel to and from either country by virtue of the Common Travel Area agreement. This also applies to Chinese and Indian nationals, who have been permitted to travel within these areas without a visa since 2014 and 2015, respectively. 

Citizens of Europe countries, EEA states, and Switzerland can also enter Ireland without a visa. These individuals can stay in the country for up to three months, with the only requirement being a passport or a national identity card. 

Citizens of all other countries should have a visit or holiday visa to enter Ireland. Visa holders are allowed to stay in the country for up to 90 days. 

Non-EEA nationals will have it report to an immigration officer upon their arrival, whether or not they need a visa for entry. They should also provide supporting documents attesting to the nature of their visit. 

Ireland also has a “Short Stay Visa Waiver Program”. This allows citizens of some Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries to enter the country without a visa if they have a short-term UK visa.

Permanent residence in Ireland is granted to individuals who have legally lived in the country for five years. They may also apply for a permanent residence certificate if they wish, but this isn’t a legal requirement.

Visitors to the UK are granted a “Standard Visitor Visa,” which allows them to stay in the country for up to six months. However, the British embassy may shorten the time that visa holders are allowed to stay for any reason. 

The Standard Visitor Visa can be used for the following purposes: 

  • To tour the country 
  • To visit family 
  • To obtain medical treatment
  • To engage in professional functions 

The visitor visa may also be subject to the following restrictions: 

ConditionMaximum length of stay
Traveling under an ADS agreement30 days
Family visit or tourism6 months
Private medical treatment11 months
Academic research12 months
Source: visaguide.world

Anyone with a valid visa for at least five years may apply for permanent residency in the UK. This is also allowable for applicants who marry an English citizen. After being granted permanent residency, the individual can stay in the country indefinitely.

Jobs

Certain jobs fall into the category of “skill shortages” in Ireland. These include jobs in the following sectors: 

  • IT
  • Hospitality
  • Engineering
  • Healthcare
  • Transport and logistics

If you are qualified for jobs in these sectors, you have a higher chance of finding employment in Ireland. Furthermore, UK nationals have an equal chance of being employed as Irish nationals.

UK’s population is about 14 times higher than Ireland’s. Consequently, there are more jobs available and a higher chance of being employed. 

That said, Ireland has its share of multinational firms, particularly in the IT sector. And in Dublin, employers generally offer higher salaries than their English counterparts.

On the other hand, Dublin‒where most of the jobs can be found – is a pretty expensive city. Single adults will need to earn at least 50,000 EUR per year to live comfortably.

For a family of four, an annual salary of 75,000 EUR would be more feasible. For this reason, many people who work in Dublin choose to live outside the city to keep costs down. 

Of course, London is also expensive to live in. and although there are many more jobs available, living outside the city isn’t really feasible given the long commuting times.

Commuting to Dublin from the outskirts will take one to two hours at most. Commuting from one end of London to the other could easily take that long. 

Salaries

The average salary in the UK as of 2022 is about £29,600 per year or £1,950 per month.

In Ireland, annual salaries average €44,202 or €3,683 per month. The weekly average is €850. The minimum wage in the country is €10.50 per hour as of January 2022.

Here’s a look at typical salaries in the UK:

ProfessionAnnual salary
Dentist£72,000
Engineer£48,000
Pharmacist£40,250
Plumber£32,000
Nurse£31,000
Tyre Fitter£26,300
Handyman£24,800
Computer Technician£23,300
Secretary£22,000
Nanny£19,200
Source: jobted.com

And typical salaries in Ireland

ProfessionAnnual salary
Pharmacist€62,970
School Teacher (secondary)€56,736
Accountant€52,117
Software Engineer€51,915
Nurse€45,337
Social Worker€43,829
Executive Officer€37,138
Special Needs Assistant€32,799
Truck Driver€32,547
Dental Hygienist€32,492

Salaries in Ireland are considerably higher than in the UK. Of course, the cost of living is also significantly higher, because most services are owned and operated by private firms rather than the government. Food, rent, and mortgages are also generally more expensive.

Read more about salaries in Ireland in the dedicated article.

Lifestyle 

Ireland is decidedly more peaceful and laidback than the UK. That applies to pretty much any city in both countries, although life in Dublin and Belfast can be quite frenetic and fast-paced as well. 

Pubs are an important facet of Irish and English cultures. Most social interactions revolve around these places, attracting people who are looking to unwind after a day at work or simply to enjoy their favorite beverages.

Check out this table to get an idea of the comparative lifestyles of both countries: 

Lifestyle aspectIreland United Kingdom
People who consider themselves “very happy”42%38%
“Happiness” percentage  89%87%
Life satisfaction7.87.2
Quality of life index138.53149.05
Government spending on recreation and culture0.607%0.886%
People who’ve reported negative experiences/ depression6.08%11.25%
Source: nationmaster.com

Healthcare

Ireland and the UK both have universal healthcare systems: HSE for Ireland and NHS for the UK. But although both are available to all the country’s residents and funded by the public, they are managed differently. 

In the UK, residents have the advantage of an integrated healthcare system in the NHS at no cost, apart from prescriptions. In Ireland, on the other hand, the HSE works on a co-pay system that costs patients €40 to €80 per procedure.

UK patients can even stay in the hospital at no cost under the NHS. With HSE, Irish patients have to pay €80 per day. However, they will not have to pay more than €800 annually, even if they have to stay in the hospital for a year. Childbirth and other maternity services in Ireland are free.

Irish patients also have to pay €100 for emergency room visits if they are involved in an accident. This service is offered at no cost by the NHS.

The good news for Irish residents is that most medical costs can be charged to insurance. There are many providers in the country, including VHI, which is partly owned by the government. 

Furthermore, insurance in Ireland is cheap compared to the UK. It is also easy to obtain and offers a comprehensive range of coverages. Plus, any medical costs that aren’t covered by insurance can be deducted against the individual’s taxes. 

There are current initiatives to make HSE more of a truly universal healthcare system like the NHS. In particular, there is a growing movement to eliminate the co-pay system. 

For expats, we recommend insurance from Cigna Global. They provide services worldwide, including the UK and Ireland.

Best cities to live

Finally, here’s a rundown of some of the best cities in the UK and Ireland and what makes them so special: 

UK

1. London

  • One of the world’s major financial, educational, and cultural hubs 
  • Diverse communities
  • Picturesque sights 
  • Vibrant entertainment and nightlife 
  • Plenty of excellent restaurants, pubs, and cafés 

2. Manchester

  • Many varied work opportunities 
  • High employment levels
  • Relatively low cost of living
  • Vibrant nightlife and culinary scene 
  • Many educational options 

3. Reading

  • Only 30 minutes from London by train
  • Warm and friendly community 
  • Active nightlife
  • Affordable housing options 
  • Flourishing IT industry
  • Many employment opportunities  

4. Southampton

  • Budget-friendly accommodations 
  • Two highly-regarded universities
  • An up-and-coming cultural center 
  • Active marine, retail, and hospitality industries 

5. Bristol

  • Rich cultural and historical heritage
  • Many employment and business opportunities
  • Excellent transport system 
  • Easy access to the gorgeous English countryside 

Ireland 

1. Dublin

  • Big city conveniences 
  • Vibrant nightlife 
  • Picturesque suburbs 
  • Many excellent art galleries, theatres, and restaurants 

2. Skerries

  • Only 15 miles from Dublin
  • A quaint and picturesque seaside town
  • Beautiful homes 
  • Friendly people 
  • Many annual festivals 

3. Malahide

  • One of the more affluent communities in County Dublin
  • Quiet and shady neighborhoods 
  • The east coast’s culinary center 
  • Many fine restaurants, bistros, and cafes
  • Gorgeous beaches 

Moving to Ireland and looking for a place with the best climate? Check out this article.

4. Skibbereen

  • Striking natural beauty
  • Rich architectural and cultural heritage 
  • Gorgeous beaches 
  • Many food and walking festivals throughout the year 

5. Kinsale

  • Rich and colorful history 
  • Quaint fishing town atmosphere 
  • Beautiful and picturesque location 
  • Plenty of opportunities for golfing, yachting, and fishing 
  • Fine art galleries, restaurants, and food festivals 

Anna

Anna is an experienced expat and writer. She has been living abroad for over 6 years.

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