Guide to living in Leeds


Leeds is a small British city in Yorkshire, a city that in the last 10 years has experienced a demographic, cultural and economic rise thanks to a booming industrial sector.

England is very much a multicultural country, and for us Spaniards, it's always surprising to see how many of its large economic centres are populated by a large number of people from a variety of different countries.

My stay in Leeds wasn't a long one by any means, however I was able to learn a lot of things that would've have been great to know for when I first arrived, and that's the reason I'm writing this post.

The City

Once you touch down in Leeds, you should head towards the centre of the city, and to do so you need to take the 757 bus, which costs about £3, or even grab a taxi from Amber's Cars (of which I'm going to talk about later on). The city centre isn't too big, you can walk to most places, and there is a series of crossroads where you'll find all the main shops and city landmarks: Vicar Lane, Brigatte, and Headrow.

There are also many other suburban areas, and for these you're probably going to need to take the bus. Public transport is expensive, about £3 a journey, but there are other ways to get around. My advice is that you buy (from any bus) a Green Zone pass, a pass that costs £13 and gives you unlimited travel for the week. There's also a monthly pass you can buy, and one more that lets you go further than Zone 1.

Personally, despite the city undoubtedly having it's own charm, it's not the best thing to look at, but if I had to point out a few things they would be the parks and the canals. The churches too are stunning, completely different to the Spanish style, St. John's is particularly good, you'll find it near New Briggate (don't confuse it with Brigatte). The ground at the entrance of the church is made from the tombs of those who died in Leeds during the 18th and 19th centuries, something really strange and just as shocking, definitely worth visiting for yourself. This is something common in church parks in some English cities, Leeds being one of them.

When the weather is nice and you fancy spending some time outside, Hyde Park is a great place to visit. There are loads of recreational sports to get involved with, or just sit on the grass and relax (careful though, it could be wet! ).

If you fancy going to visit another city, getting the bus is your cheapest option. You'll find the station right next to Vicar Lane.

How much?

England is more expensive than Spain, but when comparing Leeds to other cities in England, it's actually not that bad.

In terms of how much you can expect to pay for rent, the average is between £250 and £350. There are certain neighbourhoods that are famous, or infamous I should say, for being quite rough. In my case, I lived in Chapeltown (a Jamaican area) and didn't have any problems. Rent here is pretty cheap, and as long as you're careful you won't have any problems either.

Even so, the city is fairly calm and this 'problem' only affects a few places, so don't worry. I do know one area that you should avoid however, and that's Little London, but at the same time I've never actually been there so it's just hearsay.

Some students choose to live in Uni residences. They are great for meeting new people and making friends and are nice places to live, but you'll have to fork out around about £500 a month for the privilege.

In terms of the food, I've already written a post about the Leeds Market specifically (a great place to go and very cheap) so here I'll talk about some other options. The best English supermarkets are Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury's. I prefer Morrisons myself as they have loads of 2 for 1 offers. All three are similar in price and have good options if you can't be bothered to cook. You can get a lot of frozen ready meals (Indian, Chinese, English, Italian) and all you need to do is pop them in the oven/microwave and wait. However, if you want to buy your own meat to cook yourself, don't buy it here, go to the market instead as it will be of a much better quality.

If you wan't to eat out there are loads of restaurants (there is a lot of Asian food, but these are usually expensive). New Brigatte is one of the main places for cheap fast food. 99p Burger is just an example of the many different options you have. My favourite is Chico's as they have great food for just £2.

For your day-to-day needs: books, pens, deodorant, shower stuff; you won't have to spend much. Poundland and The 99p Store are two places you can find all of these things, and as their name suggests, everything is £1.

Language

One of the bad things about Leeds is that they have a fairy difficult accent to understand. After a while you'll be fine and even if not, there are loads of people from all over the place, so you'll find people that you will be able to understand.

Leeds has loads of cheap language schools too, and the one I liked the best was Action English in Woodgate, ahead of Cervantes Institute (although here you can find a noticeboard offering different language exchanges).

Action English has two different prices, although I don't actually know if they have changed or not.

  1. £10 per week: daily 2 hour afternoon classes.
  2. £25 per week: unlimited classes, day or afternoon.

All the classes are done by teachers in training and are a great way to meet new people and improve your English.

Culture

There are tons of different museums, the history and art museums are particularly good and both are free entry. The art museum has special exhibitions each month. The library is open to the public (connected to the art museum) and you can take a look without a library card, but if you want to take any out you'll need one, however it is also free to do so. On the top floor there is a really nice art specific area.

At the entrance to the library, this is one of my favourite things about the city, there is a giant chess board where you can play against other people passing by. They play a lot in Leeds and whenever you pass by there'll always be a game going on, whether they are complete beginners or players of the highest level.

In terms of going out and the bars in Leeds, I'm going to write a separate post dedicated to this area. I will say however that as a general rule, Brigatte has a lot of places to go, small pubs as well as some larger clubs.

If you live in one of the city suburbs, you shouldn't ever walk back, and as such you need to be aware there are no night buses from after 23:00. You can grab a black cab, although they are usually quite expensive, so it's better to use the official companies. The most popular is Amber's Cars, just give them a ring then they'll come and pick you up. Also, if you share with your friends it'll be even cheaper.

Worth going?

Yes, Leeds is a city with it's own unique charm and is an affordable place to live. There are also loads of jobs you can find to help you fund the trip.

If you get the opportunity to go, don't hesitate. Go and visit, and if you can, stay there!



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