Prices in England

Hi,

We're planning on doing a home exchange in England during the Summer of 2015. (we did one in France in 2011 and in Belgium and the Netherlands in 2013....we love it!)

Anyways, we're a family of 5 (3 teenagers...girls) and in planning our next exchange I've heard things are extremely expensive in England. Anyone have a ballpark price, say, for dinner at a moderately priced restaurant? (Not that I advocate eating there, but for comparison sake, we're taking about something along the lines of maybe and Olive Garden-type restaurant, not a Ruth Chris' style). I'm not asking about meals at chain restaurants in England, but just to give you the sense of a standard family fare we'd encounter in England.

Thanks!

Posted by emma
London
784 posts

I think saying England is "extremely expensive"is a slight exaggeration.:-)
It really does depend on where you are planning to go? London is expensive but the rest of the country is generally cheaper especially in the north and if you are away from the real tourist hot spots.

Even in London there are huge range of prices, even at the moderate end of the scale. A lot of restaurants in London do pre/post theatre deals that are very good value. There are also a whole range of voucher deals etc.

To get an idea,have a look at the Timeout London website which lists 100s of restaurants. They do a very good Cheap Eats section which will give you an idea of reasonable prices.
Never having been to an Olive Garden or a Ruth Chris ( going to have to look them up now) I can't give you a comparison, but have a look at the following chains for a vague idea. None are exciting, but they are reliable and accross the Uk

Frankie and Benny's
Pizza Express
Prezzo
La Tasca
Wagamama
Canteen
Carluccios

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4267 posts

I live in Montreal and have visited many times my elderly sisters-in-law in the UK, (both now, alas, dead), but always tried to make my stay easy for them by doing shopping and cooking, and also taking them out to dinner at a local family restaurant or pub. This would be in Winchester most but not all of the time, a quite up-market part of England but less expensive than London. With the exception of wine, I could almost always count on everything being about twice what I would pay at home. So whatever it is you pay at a "moderately priced restaurant" in your neck of the woods, double it for similar fare in England. Others may disagree but that has been my experience.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Grocery Stores:

The problem is comparing item to item.

Roasted chicken. less than half again.
Good steak, three times as much.
Stew makings, about the same.
Cheese, better and cheaper.
Vegetables about the same.
Recognized brand condiments, twice as much.
Summary: switch cuts and brands and you can stay even.

Restaurants and Pubs:
Good pub meal with a beer, twenty-five dollars. Swap pasta for meat, twenty-dollars.
Bap and expresso, five bucks or less.
Full breakfast, fifteen dollars.
Soup or sandwich and beer, a bit more than ten bucks.

Traveling alone, I figure thirty bucks a day for a good supper - - and breakfast and lunch out of the sack in the back of the car - - which also has a stash of cokes. A half beer at mid-day and a coffee or two are in that figure as well..

London: About the same as above with care, maybe ten percent more, still with some care. The upper limit is unreachable, but a hundred bucks is easy.

I don't know too much about chain restaurants, except that Ruth Cris and Olive Garden both stink.

Posted by Alex
Sheffield, UK
50 posts

In my experience, I'd say that for a moderately priced restaurant you'd probably be paying from £10 to £25 per person (depending on if you have starters, and what kind of drinks you have). For a pub meal, assume around £8-14 for most main meals (if the pub is not one of the large chains that offer deals on meals - Wetherspoons is one that does this, if I remember rightly you can get a curry and pint for £5.99 on Thursday nights. Its not great food, but its not terrible either).

If you're not going to eat out all the time and cook at home instead, consider looking for local markets, butchers, fishmongers, bakers, and greengrocers which can sometimes be cheaper than large supermarkets - and a bit more flexible too (in the sense that instead of having to buy a pack of 3 onions, you can choose how many you want to buy). It does depend on where you want to stay, London generally being more expensive (a thing I'm coming to appreciate having just moved to Sheffield and visiting relations in London).

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11113 posts

I don't know about chains much, and it has been so many years since I lived stateside that I have no clue how much an Olive Garden would cost. Don't go out to eat much, but when my wife and go for lunch in London it usually runs the two of us between £20 and £28 for a nice sit down easy lunch, no alcohol. That's usually burgers, dim sum, burritos (that was cheap yesterday, just £6 per huge burrito and £1 for a can of coke), mexican, noodles, or a nice roast.

OTOH, there are many cheaper alternatives. Lunch, for example, from many places such as supermarkets, Marks and Spencers, Boots, etc., as a takeaway, consisting of a sandwich, crisps, dessert, and a drink for £3.99 or £4.99 or so.

It may now be a little different now but I have generally found, on the whole, that if you plan for something in dollars you may often find about the same numbers but in Pounds Sterling. Something you may pay $20 for you may find at £20, give or take.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
2431 posts

Doug in Mass,

you can spend as much as you want or as little. theres alot of food vendors around that can make a decent meal. what you can do is to look at google maps at where youre going to stay and look for any nearby restaurants. then look to see if they have web site with menus. Some will post prices so you can get and idea on costs. Not that it will be high/low or such but get and idea.

as mentioned a grocery store would help with costs too.

also, as mentioned pub food can be good and a good deal. So far ive had more meals in pubs than restaurants but that may change.

happy trails.

Posted by Lee
Dallas
1017 posts

I agree with Norma. Double what you spend in the States for a ballpark idea of what your expense will be in the UK.

Posted by Bob
Bristol, UK
322 posts

Don't forget that the price you see on the menu is the price you will be expected to pay. There will not be some mysterious sales tax added afterwards, nor need you allow another 20% for a tip. Even if the prices surprise you, remember that these are the same prices that the locals pay, and they reflect the costs of the business. Property prices, especially in London, are way higher than those in the rural United States, and staff and materials costs are also higher.

You also visit a country to enjoy the differences between their culture and economy and your own. So don't grumble and sit in your hotel room eating the cheapest food you can find. Live like a local (isn't that what Rick Steves believes?) and experience the costs and the benefits.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
1566 posts

According to The Economist, the price of a Big Mac is now the same in the UK and USA, give or take 10c ...

More seriously, as you are doing a home exchange, try to also swap local knowledge too as to the best place locally to eat, shop etc. Visitors to anywhere tend to overpay on items compared with locals as they don't know where to go and don't have the time to find out.

Posted by Stacey
Kansas City
121 posts

For comparisons sake, I found prices to be around the same numerical amount in terms of dollars to pounds. For example, if a meal cost $8 here, I generally found the same meal to cost about £8 in England. So, the actual cost to you is more based on the exchange rate. For most things, I added 50% to the cost to determine if I was willing to pay that much for it. I think in general terms, doubling the cost in dollars is a bit on the high side.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
1249 posts

Oh good, another home exchanger! We just did a home exchange in a suburb of London this summer and found the prices to be not as bad as we thought they were going to be. In fact, in our particular suburb things were downright cheap! In London proper things were more expensive but it wasn't that bad. We frequently ate at mid-range pubs and found the prices to be similar to Olive Garden, maybe even a little better. It's drinks that get you! If you're not going to be in a "touristy" town then the prices will be even better. We live in southern CA and I felt like we spent the same $$ as we would have if we were home. We ate out when we were out and about seeing things, ate breakfast at the house and often had dinner there as well depending on how long our day was.
Enjoy your exchange! We've done many of them and LOVE it.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8581 posts

UK is expensive because the GBP is kicking our dollars.

Someone cited 15-25 GBPS for a meal.. well same in France only its 15-25 EUROS.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
1156 posts

To dine out at moderate prices, think ethnic. That's what my friends in the UK do. Britain is increasingly a multi-cultural society, to the benefit of its cuisine. Curry has replaced fish 'n' chips as the national grub.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Huh!

I'd have thought pies, roast, damn squished peas, ice cream in winter, and nasty bangers were more the national food that dead fried fish - - let alone curry.

You need to watch those curry places - - some of them are as expensive as anywhere else. One place in London we barely made it out the door at forty bucks a head. The cheaper curry and kebab joints have all the ambiance of a homeless kitchen - - the food's okay, but you want to grab it and go sit on the curb.

Other parts of the UK:

Pitlochry has five good pubs and one Indian place. Guess which one costs more?
Thurso is four to one with the same results.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
20610 posts

Doug,

I've found that while London does tend to be expensive, there are lots of choices when it comes to dining and "pub grub" is usually quite reasonable (although there are different types of Pubs, and some of them are quite upscale). One of my usual meals is Fish & Chips with mushy peas, and that tends to range from about £8.00 to £11.00 (US$14.00 to $18.40, at current exchange rates). Of course I usually have a pint of Guinness with that, which increases the cost. There are also more posh restaurants such as Santini in the Victoria Station neighborhood, and a good scoff there could easily run $50 per person.

@Ed,

"I don't know too much about chain restaurants, except that Ruth Cris and Olive Garden both stink." LOL!

I tend to agree with you on Olive Garden, but as I recall my last meal at Ruth Chris' was reasonably good (although not cheap).

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2591 posts

My recent experience in London and Portsmouth was that for a meal alone (entree and a non alcohol drink) it is hard to get by for less than 8 pounds, more like 10 pounds in a pub or sit down restaurant. For alcohol, add on 5 pounds per person, so about 15 pounds total. If you go a little nicer or add an appetizer, salad or dessert, plan on 20 pounds per head. After conversion, that is abot $12 to $30 US. My wife and i went out most nights and whether it was pizza, fish and chips, pasta, pub food, it nearly always came up to 30 pounds for the two of us, and not by any means an extravagant meal. Many of the sit down restaurants (not pubs) also did add on an "optional" 12.5% service charge, you will need to ask them to remove it if you wish not to pay. Some credit card processors also may prompt you to add in a tip.

Obviously you can find deals, take away is huge in London, saving you some money, and all of the grocery stores have an extensive selection of ready to heat/eat meals at better prices, saving you even more without extensive cooking.

Posted by emma
London
784 posts

VS not sure what fruit and veg you were looking for but they are plentiful in the UK!
The issue might be that , as you said, you mostly ate in pubs. Pub menus don't tend to be the healthiest., unless they are particularly "gastro" To generalise people don't tend to go to a pub for a healthy meal. Probably something to do with the consumption of alcohol!

Fruit veg and other heathy food is widely available and easy to find.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4267 posts

Yes, I agree, masses of fruits and veg in the shops but pubs are not known for offering them and I suspect the average customer is not greatly concerned about it either.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
839 posts

"I live in California so my standards are pretty high"

The most risible statement anyone has ever made on this website?

Edit - PS only joking, we liked California on the (sadly, few) occasions we've been.

Posted by MC
Glasgow, Scotland
438 posts

For eating at home the major supermarkets have websites which could give an idea of your grocery bills, for restaurants Frankie and Bennies also has a website with the menu and any deals available on it which will give an idea of price. They are not cheap nor expensive by UK standards, but remember that VAT and service will be included.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Other Californians with high standards:

  1. Randy Cunningham

  2. Charles Manson

  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  4. O. J. Simpson.

  5. Kim Kardashian

Posted by susiepoth
3 posts

Doug, we are two families thinking to lease or swap a house in the UK in summer 2015. Do you recommend a particular booking outfit with whom you've had good luck in your previous trips? I've booked thru VRBO for Barcelona, Paris, and stateside destinations, but wonder if there are organizations that specialize in UK.

Posted by susiepoth
3 posts

Doug, we are two families thinking to lease or swap a house in the UK in summer 2015. Do you recommend a particular booking outfit with whom you've had good luck in your previous trips? I've booked thru VRBO for Barcelona, Paris, and stateside destinations, but wonder if there are organizations that specialize in UK.