I lived in Guildford, Surrey, for three years. While I was employed, I shared a house with many students. Here is the budget I had.
A room rents in Guildford for anywhere between £350 and £700. For £350, you will be “near campus”, which generally means Park Barn, a not so nice neighbourhood. You will be close to Uni and Tesco but far from the town centre, about 20 minutes walking. And when it rains, you won’t be happy to walk. £700 gets you a very nice room in a two bed place in the centre. Having less roommates is more expensive.
I rent rooms in the centre for £580 on average, with all bills included. The extra £200 is a lot for a student, but you won’t need extra bills payments, and being close to the station is nice so you can come back late on the weekends without having a big walk home.
Also, finding a room to rent in Guildford gets crazy from mid August, so I would recommend coming early, renting an Airbnb (use the link for a £16 discount) for a few days to see which neighbourhood you like best, and reserving your room ahead.
Most rooms are advertised on Gumtree or the student board. You can contact alumni too, to see if they are leaving their room after graduation.
Things you should be aware of
- Students don’t pay council tax. If your landlord says “all bills included” you should ask for a council tax rebate. I have done it but only when my flat was rented fully by students, otherwise the council won’t have it, and you have to go claim your share of the council tax individually.
- All bills included is the way to go if you don’t want to fight with roommates over who uses too much hot water or leaves the lights on. It is very frustrating. I used to live with people who loved to waste energy, and hated paying their share, so I had to track them and request the money. Now everyone is happy.
- Considering having a weekly cleaner can also be good for the peace of the house, you can find cleaners for £12-20 an hour.
- Parking is complicated in the town centre, each unit is only given one parking permit (about £30 a year, a steal), and you are looking at £80 a month or more for a parking space. If you have a car, better rent a little outside of town.
- Many houseshares won’t have a common room, as the living is rented as an extra room. Sometimes, being only in your room gets old. Make sure there is at least a welcoming kitchen or a garden area.
- You should talk to your future roommates, even if the room is nice, to make sure you are a match. I have horror stories because I took the first room around. Who cleans, who works late, noise policy..
It is hard to rent a room as a couple, and usually comes at a premium. For the same price, you can probably get a bedsit, but you will have bills on top, which can be up to £200.
Cycling is very nice in Guildford and around Surrey. You can find a cheap bike on Gumtree and buy a rain pant for winter cycling. You will rarely be more than 15 minutes away from your destination. Otherwise, Guildford has a good bus service. A ticket is around £2 and you can get a monthly pass, but it adds up fast.
A day ticket to London is the cheapest way to go to the city, and you can use the Tube and bus as much as you want for around £17. Check online for the latest rates. If you go on Saturday and come back on Sunday, you will need two one-way tickets, which is expensive.
There is a Sainsbury’s in the High Street, and a Tesco near Uni. Both have a selection of discounted items if you shop a bit late at night, like sandwiches for the next day, or meat you can freeze. There is a weekly market and a monthly farmers’ market, that also offer discounted very ripe fruits or vegetables that are excellent if you turn them into soup, stew or preserves immediately.
A few places offer student happy hours, and many chain restaurants have 2 for 1 on main dishes if you download a coupon or join their newsletter. Google them before you go out to see if there is anything good going on.
Guildford and Surrey are areas of great natural beauty. You can row on the Wey river, bike around the Surrey Hills, and go for hikes without having to take a bus out of town. That makes for a lot of cheap entertainment. Guildford also has a swimming pool, a library, and the university has a lot of free and cheap activities.
Many places around, such as the RHS Wesley Gardens, will offer 2 for 1 upon proof that you took the train to get there. A quick online search will give you the whole list of 2 for 1 sites.
It is definitely more expensive to be a student in Guildford, Surrey, than in other places in the UK, but if you are resourceful, you will be able to make it work on a £700-ish budget.