If you’ve clicked onto this student guide, you’re probably pondering whether to rent student accommodation in Central London or further out. It’s an age-old question when it comes to studying in the capital. Living centrally promises a short journey to university, convenience and the full London experience. Whilst living further out tends to offer cheaper rental costs, a more chilled atmostphere and the potential for a greater sense of community. Let’s dive into this guide to help you come to a decision that’s best for you, your lifestyle and your budget.
First thing’s first, what areas class as Central London and “further out”? London is split up into several zones with Zone 1 in the centre (hence, Central London) which is made of areas such as Bloomsbury, Euston, Earls Court, Pimlico, Westminster and Covent Garden. Zone 2 circles Zone 1 and is still pretty central, with areas such as West Kensington, Fulham, Hammersmith, Hampstead, Camden Town and Shoreditch.
For the purposes of this guide, we’re classing areas outside of Zone 1 and 2 as “further out” as this is where you’ll start to see the biggest differences in factors such as cost of living, compared to Central London. So, that’s Zone 3 (including areas such as Ealing, Golders Green, Stratford, and Clapham), Zone 4 (Richmond, Wembley, West Finchley and Beckton), Zone 5 (Harrow, Edgware, Chigwell and Dagenham) and so on and so forth.
If your university is centrally located (which is very likely given the high concentration of universities in the centre), living in Central London will allow you to be close to class, libraries and other study spaces. This means that you’ll be able to cut down or completely eliminate your daily commute, saving time and money on travel expenses.
Whilst living close to university is a huge pro to student accommodation in Central London, living in the heart of one of the most vibrant cities in the world also shouldn’t be overlooked. Yes, you’re here to study and add a new shiny qualification to your CV but this is also a great opportunity to explore London. Live like a true Londoner near an endless selection of sights, architecture and history. Museums, galleries and theatres. Restaurants, cafes and bars. Parks, markets and cultures. There’s so much to see and do, and living in Central London means that you’ll be able to immerse yourself in all that the city has to offer (during your study breaks, of course).
Another pro of renting student accommodation in Central London is actually how easy it is to get out of the centre and to anywhere else in the city, country and world. There’s no shortage of trains, buses and flights passing through the centre every day. This makes for a convenient move in and out process when you first arrive in London and when you eventually leave, as well as for any loved ones coming to visit you. It also makes Central London a great base for exploring other places at weekends and when you’re not studying.
If you wish to work whilst at university, whether that’s to gain some valuable work experience or for some extra cash, you’ll be surrounded by employment and internship opportunities in Central London. The good news doesn’t stop there because wages are also higher in Central London than anywhere else in the UK and parts of Europe. What’s more, graduates with practical work experience under their belt are more likely to stand out to recruiters and get hired after university. And where better to gain experience than within market-leading companies in Central London?
It’s no secret that London is one of the most expensive cities to rent in the world, with areas of Central London such as Mayfair driving these statistics. If you’re on a budget, however, it’s not all doom and gloom because there are more affordable areas to rent student accommodation in Central London. It’s also cheaper to rent in the centre right now than ever before, with some landlords and student accommodation providers offering discounted rates to fill their properties after a long lockdown. Some providers also offer discounted rates when you pay for a few months upfront, so be sure to check that you’re getting the best deal before committing.
As with any area, there are some cons to renting in the centre. For many, the main disadvantage is probably the fact that living in Central London can be quite expensive. In fact, London is the sixth most expensive city to rent in the world with rental prices in the centre tending to be higher than further out. And whilst there are more affordable areas within the centre, these areas still may not be a feasible option if you’re on a tight budget.
As well as rental costs tending to be higher in Central London, you might also not get as much space for your money compared to further out. Whilst London isn’t quite on New York’s level when it comes to teeny tiny apartments, you might find that the same monthly rent will get you a smaller flat in the centre of London compared to further out. If you plan to use your student accommodation as a base to get out and about to university, around your local area and the rest of the city then having a smaller space might be a worthwhile compromise for centrality. But if you’re a bit of a homebody and want more space, then Central London might not be for you.
Similarly, if you’re after peace and quiet then Central London might not be for you. Parts of Central London can be quite busy and noisy, with crowds of commuters and tourists filling the streets during the day. At night, the abundance of restaurants, bars, nightlife options and a 24-hour bus and train service at the weekend keeps people coming back for more. This is great if you thrive from a bustling and fast-paced city environment but if you prefer a quieter lifestyle, then at least some areas of Central London might not be the best place for your student accommodation.
As with any big city, some neighbourhoods within London are not as safe as others. You might want to avoid some Central London areas that have a higher crime rate per capita. The Met Police has a handy tool on their website that you can use to search crime rates within any London postcode. It’s also good practice to visit an area during the day and at night to get a sense of the overall vibe before renting there. Rest assured, however, that London as a whole is a relatively safe city compared to others across the world.
If you’re a driver and plan to bring your car to university, then you might struggle to find student accommodation with parking or affordable parking options in general. What’s more is that successive London mayors and authorities over the years have been on a mission to curb emissions in the capital, which means that drivers face high congestion charges for driving in certain areas within Central London.
If the pros of renting in Central London outweigh the cons, then we’ve created a list of some of the best areas to rent student accommodation in the city centre, with the universities and colleges near each one.
Renting student accommodation outside of Central London can sometimes be cheaper than the city centre.
One of the biggest pros of renting outside Zone 1 and 2 for students is the potential to save money on rent. Let’s take Fulham, for example, which is a Central London area that’s popular with students. Rental options tend to start at around £475 per month for a room in a shared residence. Whilst across the river in Zone 3 Balham for example, which also has a community of students), student accommodation can be as low as £100 per month for a room in a shared house.
Living further out can also help to establish a good work-life balance, with more separation between home and university life. Having a notable distance between your university and home can boost the mental distance in your mind, making it easier to disconnect and relax in the evening and at weekends. Burnout is very real and finding this balance, whether you live in Central London or further out, is key as it allows you to recharge your batteries and perform better at university.
Another pro of renting student accommodation further out is that you might find a greater sense of community. There’s a running joke that Londoners don’t really do eye contact and whilst this is just a stereotype about the city, the sentiment can be felt more greatly in Central London. This is because people in the city centre tend to be rushing around to get to the next appointment in their busy lives, which could also make you feel isolated in your own little bubble. Life further out from the centre tends to be more relaxed. There are also fewer tourists making it easier to build a long-lasting community.
Having a quieter environment could also mean fewer distractions from your university studies. We’ve spoken at length about how Central London never sleeps and if you’re someone that’s easily distracted, you might find yourself also skipping sleep if you rent student accommodation in the city centre. With so much to do all over the city, however, (including further out) and with great transport links to the city centre, resisting the temptation to put off an assignment is a skill that you’re going to have to quickly pick up!
What are some of the cons of renting student accommodation outside of Central London? Although rental prices tend to be cheaper further out, you’ll most likely have to pay more in travel costs to and from university every day which will add up month after month. A travel card, for example, could cost you upwards of £160 per month which puts a dent in any savings that you’re making from renting further out.
As well as additional travel costs, public transport in London can be unreliable at times. On the whole, it’s pretty efficient compared to transport networks in other cities in the UK but if you step into any office, restaurant or pub in the capital, you’ll most probably find at least one person complaining about public transport! Anything from maintenance to strikes and weather conditions in the winter could make you late to university
Living further out from the city centre can also be less convenient. A longer commute means that you’ll need to wake up earlier for university and, for some, missing out on an extra hour in bed every day is a deal-breaker. As well as less beauty sleep in the morning, you also won’t be able to quickly pop into campus to grab a book at the library for example. If you’re organised, however, then this is likely not to be too much of a problem.
Whilst fewer distractions from your studies is a pro of living further out, it also comes at the cost of having fewer options for things to do during your downtimes. Central London offers more places to meet new people and socialise with friends. You might also find yourself travelling to Central London to socialise which, again, leads to more money and time spent on transport. If you’re quite sociable and are disciplined when it comes to completing university work, then living in Central London might be the better option for you.
Another disadvantage to renting further out is that some suburbs in the capital don’t really feel like London at all. This is great if you prefer living in a quieter area but you could quite literally be anywhere in the UK. If you’re only going to be in London for a short time while studying, then why not get the full London experience?
We've listed some neighbourhoods that you should consider if you want to live further out as well as educational institutions nearby.
With so many pros and cons to renting in Central London and further out, the final decision can only be made by you. Ask yourself what matters the most to you when it comes to student accommodation. Do you want to be close to university and other amenities? Are you on a tight budget? Do you mind commuting? Whilst it might take you some time to figure out, the good news is that London is such a huge city so you’re sure to find somewhere that suits your wants and needs.
At Student.Studios2Let, we manage and rent student accommodation in Central, North and West London. We make renting in London easy for students with fully-furnished and all-inclusive studio apartments. If you need any extra information or advice on finding student accommodation in London, please get in touch and we’ll be glad to help.