I Live in the Cheapest City in the World — What It’s Really Like

  • I’ve lived in Manchester, England, for 14 years — Time Out named it the cheapest city.
  • The location of the city is perfect for travel, and there are plenty of transportation options.
  • The restaurant scene in Manchester offers a wide range of affordable and globally inspired meals.

Time Out Index named Manchester the cheapest city in the world in 2022, and I’ve lived in the bustling English spot since I was 6 or 7 years old.

The Index surveyed 27,000 city-dwellers in 2021 — one question was, “Would you describe your city as expensive?” Most Manchester locals didn’t think it cost a lot to live here, and I can certainly see why.

Here’s what it’s really like in the city, and why I think it’s the perfect place to live and visit:

Housing costs much less than London, even if it’s slowly becoming more expensive

the back of a house with a colorful mural in manchester

 

The city has a range of housing options.

Zesha Saleem

If you wanted to buy a house in Manchester, it’d cost you roughly 275,000 pounds, or about $360,000, for a semi-detached place.

If you’re looking to rent, then the price depends on where you want to live.

On average, a one-bedroom flat in the city center costs 750 pounds, or just under $1,000, a month, but outside the city center, it’s closer to £540 a month.

The location is ideal for travel around England and abroad

Manchester’s location is superb.

It’s well-served by motorways and trains that easily connect you to the rest of the country.

Liverpool (where my University is) is only 40 minutes away by car and under an hour by train. And if you want to get to London, the two-hour train on the West Coast Line is your best bet.

You can also catch a flight to pretty much anywhere in the world from Manchester International Airport. One of the reasons my family moved here is because we can easily take our yearly summer holidays to Pakistan.

Public transport is excellent, especially the Metrolink

an outside public transportation station in manchester

 

Some of the options can get a little pricey, but it’s generally easy to get around.

Zesha Saleem

Within Manchester, public transport is exceptional.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of the Metrolink — a tram network that can take you most places in and slightly outside the city. It’s simple to use, clean and efficient, and a lot faster than taking the bus or walking.

The price of your journey varies as the Metrolink is divided into zones.

To get from my tram-stop into town costs me £3.80, about $5, which is a little bit expensive, especially since prices went up in 2019. But the city is well-served by the service.

Buses are good, too, but can be very busy — especially my usual bus route, 43, which is known as the busiest bus route in Manchester. During term time, it’s sometimes impossible to find a seat with the university students getting the bus to and from the University of Manchester.

A single bus ticket costs between £1.25 and £2.00, but multi-ride passes can come to be cheaper.

Taxis are a popular mode of transport. You can grab an Uber, but we’ve always used the local Kingsway Taxi as a cheaper and more reliable option.

Cycling is also big in the city — made safer by added bike lanes over the years.

When it comes to food, you’re spoiled for choice in Manchester

plate of highly garnished french toast on a plate from a restaurant in manchester

 

There are so many different food options.

Zesha Saleem

As a Muslim, it’s very easy to go out and have dinner because there are so many halal options.

If you want authentic curry, the two areas to visit are Rusholme’s Curry Mile and Longsight.

In Longsight, you can get the best Pakistani traditional breakfast from Nafees Sweet Centre. On the Curry Mile, I’d suggest starting off with food from Jilani’s or MyLahore Manchester, followed by South Asian snacks and tea from Chit ‘n’ Chaat.

Prices are pretty decent — most meals are under £10 — and portion sizes are good, too.

If you’re looking for a lighter lunch with friends, Didsbury and Chorlton are two great suburban areas to dine in. They’re easily accessible from town via bus or tram, and they cater to a lot of tastes. For example, a very famous breakfast place, Caramello of Didsbury, serves everything from French toast to full English breakfasts.

In Chorlton, I also recommend going to Beech Road, which has great food and a wide range of independent shops where you can do everything from buy clothes to make your own pottery.

Central Manchester offers an eclectic mix of high-street restaurants (I love a good Wagamamas), but the local Scene Indian Kitchen is a firm family favorite and Evelyn’s Cafe & Bar in the Northern Quarter does a really good shakshuka.

There’s plenty to do, from exploring history to catching a show

the downtown skyline in manchester

 

There’s a mix of old and modern architecture.

Zesha Saleem

Manchester Central Library, a must-see, is a stone’s throw away from Beetham Tower, the tallest tower in Manchester.

The library is free to enter and has an impressive reading room if you want to work. Beetham Tower houses a mix of high-end restaurants, residential apartments, and a Hilton hotel.

theater showing book of morman musical in manchester

 

There are plenty of museums and theaters around the city.

Zesha Saleem

The city is also home to museums and galleries, such as the Manchester Art Gallery (free entry), the Science and Industry Museum (also free), the Football Museum (paid), and the People’s History Museum (free). Booking time slots beforehand is recommended for all.

If you want to spend the afternoon in nature, the historic Fletcher Moss Park and Botanical Gardens are free and stunning.

And if you want to visit the theater in the evening or attend an orchestra, head to Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays, the Palace Theatre, the Royal Exchange Theatre, or HOME.

Last but definitely not least, football is a huge draw (even though I’m not a fan)

I can’t really talk about Manchester without mentioning football (soccer, for Americans). The city is home to two Premier League clubs: Manchester City and Manchester United.

You can visit the Etihad and Old Trafford stadiums quite easily by public transport, and the latter even has a very impressive museum to check out.

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