Compare Student Living Costs by Country

Do you want to be an international student? Apart from tuition fees, living costs are the main study expense. Let’s compare living costs by country.

Student budget

The cost of living while you study needs to be considered in planning. It typically costs international students from USD $10,000 – $20,000 per year to fund a simple lifestyle. This is on top of tuition fees.

Budgeting sensibly and spending smartly (within your budget) make studying abroad more enjoyable.

  • Good spending decisions can be the difference between living frugally and living well.
  • An allowance which easily covers necessities will help you experience more of the local culture.

Lifestyle choices

The cost of living in a city or region depends on lifestyle and consumption choices.

  • For example, the cost of a vehicle and fuel may not matter if you live in a city with excellent public transport.
  • Likewise, accommodation costs depend on how you live (e.g. shared versus solo, on-campus or away from campus).

In comparing costs, also consider the availability and potential income from part-time work. By getting a job, you may be able to save money while gaining a qualification.

Living cost indicators

​1. Funds required for a student visa

To be issued with a visa, international students must demonstrate access to funds for living expenses. Different requirements by country partly reflect different living costs.

Living cost funds required to get a student visa

Country Funds (local $) Exchange rate Funds (USD) Source
Australia ,610 0.75 ,958 border.gov.au
Canada ,000 0.75 ,500 studycanada.ca
New Zealand ,000 0.68 ,200 immigration.govt.nz
United Kingdom £9,135 1.43 ,063 exeter.ac.uk
United States ,435 1 ,435 various unis
Required annual living cost funds for international students — Updated: 8 March 2016

Australia, the USA and the UK have the highest living expenses budgets of USD $13,000+. Canada has the lowest setting (CAD $10,000 for a student per year), followed by New Zealand (NZD $15,000).

Note: US authorities do not set a fixed level but require each university and college to determine an amount for each student. An average of $13,435 was estimated using figures for 3 universities (San Diego State, Minnesota and Iowa).

​2. Fees for campus colleges, halls

On-campus residential fees are a useful measure of student living costs. The fees are a large % of expenses for resident students and you can compare fees internationally.

The table shows the average annual cost of an accommodation package by country. The cost is for a standard room for the academic year, with catering included. For each country, we sampled 3 mid-ranking universities (400 – 600 in Webometrics world rankings) and chose popular accommodation packages.

On-campus residential fees (indicative)

Country Cost (local $) Exchange rate Cost (USD)
Australia ,016 0.75 ,512
Canada ,089 0.75 ,317
New Zealand ,417 0.68 ,803
United Kingdom £5,967 1.43 ,533
United States ,837 1 ,837
Annual cost of a room for academic year (with meal plan) — Updated: 8 March 2016

The figures show that accommodation costs are highest in the USA and Australia but broadly similar across countries.

​3. Minimum wages

Country Min wage (USD)
Australia ,791
Canada ,181
New Zealand ,451
United Kingdom ,899
United States ,080
Source: Wikipedia — Updated: 8 March 2016

A country’s minimum wage is useful info for international students.

  1. It indicates the kind of money students can make working in unskilled and casual jobs.
  2. It also indicates the costs of basic services (such as dining and taxis).

The differences between countries are significant. Australia has a high basic wage that is more than double the minimum in the USA. Other countries are in between.

Australia vs USA

As well as a high minimum wage, the student visa for Australia supports part-time work. In the US, a student visa essentially only allows students to work on campus. The differences mean:

  • International students in Australia face high basic costs but can generate good income with part-time work.
  • In America, international students are discouraged from working but some services cost less.