Moving from Ireland to the UK: Everything you need to know

Bojana Babić

If you’re considering a move to the UK, you’re not alone. Despite Brexit, Britain remains one of the top destinations for Irish citizens looking to move abroad - whether that’s for study, a career change or a permanent relocation.

With home just an easy hop away and a range of interesting cities in the UK to explore, it’s no wonder Britain remains high on the list of places to head for an expat experience. This guide will walk through the most common questions you might have if you’re thinking of making the move, including your legal rights, how to find a job and home and the cost of living.

To help you settle more easily in the UK, we’ll also cover how Wise and the Wise multi-currency account can help you manage your money between euros and pounds, while paying less for currency conversion.

Curious? Read more about Wise

What are the legal requirements for Irish citizens moving to the UK?

The long-standing common travel area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland remains in place post-Brexit, and means that citizens of the UK and Ireland can live, travel, work and study in both countries.¹

In the UK you’ll have the right to access social benefits, healthcare and housing support and even vote in some elections. It’s important to note that these benefits don’t apply to anyone who is not a UK or Irish citizen, including family members. If you have a family member who’s not an Irish citizen, they might still need to apply for a visa or other permits to travel to the UK with you.

What is the cost of living in the UK?

restaurant camden london

If you’re thinking of a move abroad, you’ll want to know the overall costs involved and how they compare to life at home. A cost comparison website like Numbeo is a great place to start when doing your research. Numbeo users enter live data about costs of living in different locations, giving a dynamic average cost.

At the time of writing, the overall costs of living in the UK are lower than in Ireland. Here are some key facts to consider:²

  • Consumer Prices Including Rent in United Kingdom are 18.37% lower than in Ireland
  • Restaurant Prices in United Kingdom are 8.53% lower than in Ireland
  • Groceries Prices in United Kingdom are 16.06% lower than in Ireland

To help paint a picture, here’s a cost comparison of a few common expenses in the UK versus Ireland:

Item Cost in Ireland Cost in the UK
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant €15 €13.61
0.5 litres domestic beer €5 €4.20
Loaf of bread €1.48 €1.12
Monthly transportation pass €110 €73.73
Rent one bedroom apartment in city centre €1147.88 €846.55
Broadband package €49.71 €35.29

The actual day to day costs you incur will vary according to your lifestyle and where in the UK you choose to live. Regional variations in cost are huge, with city prices, rent and day to day costs far higher than life in a smaller town or more rural area. Check out Numbeo for up to date information, which can be searched by town or city to give a better comparison based on your choices.

How to set up your finances in the UK?

woman holding coin
One of the most important steps when moving to another country is opening a bank account. The UK has a modern banking system with both familiar high-street names, global banking brands, and online options available. You’ll not struggle to find an account which meets your needs - although some research and comparison between products can mean you save money and hassle in the long term.

It’s worth thinking about how you’ll use your account when you choose a provider in the UK. As an expat, you may find you need to move money frequently between euros and pounds - and this can be pricey with traditional banks. You’ll often find high currency exchange or international payment fees and a poor exchange rate.

If you’re making international payments, or converting currency often, using a specialist provider can save you a lot of money. Take a look at Wise for international payments which use the real mid-market exchange rate with no markup.

Or consider getting yourself a Wise multi-currency account which works just like a regular bank account, but allows you to hold 40+ currencies, receive payments in pounds and euros - and a range of other major currencies - for free, and switch between them using the mid-market rate. You’ll only ever pay a low transparent fee which can be far cheaper than using a normal bank.

How to get a job in the UK?

two pancras square london building
Life in the UK isn’t cheap, so you’ll probably need to find a job to pay your way. There are plenty of online job sites which can give you a great place to start - try these popular options as an example:

You can also get great information about the relative salaries in the UK compared to Ireland from Teleport - check out these live salary averages for common roles in London:³

  • A mobile developer could earn €45,625 as an average salary
  • Average salaries for an HR Manager are in the region of €42,890
  • On average, an accountant can expect to earn €36,040

Doing some research into the average salaries for different roles by region makes good sense - as does checking out the sectors in the UK suffering skills shortages. The global pandemic has changed some of the in-demand roles in the UK, with nurses and medical professionals still very much needed. HR managers, developers and IT professionals are also in demand going into 2021.⁴

How to find a place to live in the UK?

apartment doors uk
The costs of accommodation in the UK vary wildly, and can be roughly split with places in the north typically cheaper than the south, and rural and town life less pricey than the larger cities. It will probably come as no surprise then, that the cheapest places to live in the UK in 2020 included Aberdeen and Glasgow in Scotland, and Durham in the Northeast of England. The most costly cities included London, Cambridge, Oxford and Brighton.⁵

To start your research, try these popular online sites for buying or renting a home:

If you’re thinking of a flatshare, you can also check out Spareroom or Gumtree as one of the best places to get shared accommodation sorted in the UK.

To illustrate the regional differences, here’s a rundown of the average cost of renting a one bedroom city centre apartment in 5 of the UK’s cities:

City Rental cost
London⁶ €1,918.90
Glasgow⁷ €751.25
Leeds⁸ €814.92
Cardiff⁹ €747.46
Bristol¹⁰ €1,026.31

UK National Insurance number: How to get it?

You’ll need a National Insurance number (NI number) to make sure you’re taxed correctly in the UK, and to have your earnings properly recorded against your name. It is possible to start to work without your NI number already set up, but this could mean you’re taxed too much and need to get a refund at a later stage.

The application process for NI numbers is straightforward - but disrupted at the time of writing due to the global pandemic.

You can learn more about how your National Insurance number will be used¹¹, and how to apply online¹², on the UK government’s website. You’ll need to check the application processes which are in place at the time you arrive in the UK, which may include a visit to a local Job Centre or an online application.

How to register with the NHS in the UK?

To access free routine healthcare in the UK you’ll need to register with the National Health Service (NHS). This is easy to do - just find your local GP surgery once you arrive, and call in. If they’re taking new patients they can help you complete the required forms.

It’s possible your closest GP may not be able to take you on, if they’re fully subscribed. You can ask for details of other local options or search online using the tools available on the NHS website to find a surgery that suits your needs.¹³

How to move your money to and from the UK?

Wise can help you cut the costs of your move to the UK, with simple online international payments and currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markups.

As an expat you’ll likely need to change your money between euros and pounds, and receive payments in multiple currencies. Open a free online Wise multi-currency account to get paid fee free, hold, spend and convert currencies as you need to. You’ll also get a linked debit card which makes spending in person and online simple. There’s no charge to spend any currency you hold, and you can use your card whether you’re in the UK or Ireland - or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

Try Wise now

Moving abroad is a great experience, but does require a good deal of forward planning. Use this guide as a starting point - and good luck!


  1. Citizens information - common travel area between Ireland and the UK
  2. Numbeo - cost of living comparison tool
  3. Teleport - average salaries in the UK
  4. Prospects - career advice
  5. Moveiq- cheapest places to live in the UK
  6. Cost of living in London
  7. Cost of living in Glasgow
  8. Cost of living in Leeds
  9. Cost of living in Cardiff
  10. Cost of living in Bristol
  11. - what is the National insurance number
  12. - how to get the National insurance number
  13. NHS - how register with a GP
    All sources last checked on February 11, 2021

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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