Colchester is a popular destination for students, home to two main universities; The University of Essex and University Centre Colchester. The city offers a vibrant and diverse student community, with a wide range of accommodation, food, drink, transport and entertainment options.
But, how much exactly does it cost to live in Colchester as a student? Like any university town, it’s important to consider the cost of living before making the move.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Colchester living costs for university students and offer tips on how to budget and save money.
With two universities, there are a wide range of student accommodation options in Colchester. For example, halls of residence, shared houses, and private rentals. When considering your overall living costs, it’s important to think about how the costs of accommodation can differ. As well, think about how accommodation costs will look throughout each year of study.
Many universities offer on-campus accommodation, which consists of shared flats. These are generally the most popular option for first-year students, and second or third-year students typically then live in private residences, such as student flats.
There are many accommodation providers in Colchester that cater to the student population. For example, our private student accommodation building, Avon Way House, offers a range of apartment options for students.
|Accommodation provider||Accommodation type||Average weekly cost|
|University of Essex student accommodation (Colchester campus)||University owned accommodation||£172.32|
|Beyond the Box student accommodation||Private accommodation||£137.42|
Food and drink
The cost of groceries and meals in Colchester can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the type of food, where it is purchased, and whether it is cooked at home or eaten out.
According to Numbeo, a website that compares the cost of living between different cities, the average cost of groceries for one person per month in Colchester is around £200-£250.
Staple foods prices, such as milk, white bread, rice, eggs and cheese, can be found below. Consider when budgeting that you might be buying some of these products once or twice a week:
|Staple Food||Average Cost|
|Milk (regular), (1 litre)||1.09|
|Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)||1.00|
|Rice (white), (1kg)||0.84|
|Eggs (regular) (12)||1.64|
|Local Cheese (1kg)||5.28|
|Chicken Fillets (1kg)||4.87|
|Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)||8.00|
|Lettuce (1 head)||0.65|
|Water (1.5 litre bottle)||1.04|
|Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)||7.00|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 litre bottle)||2.27|
|Imported Beer (0.33 litre bottle)||2.25|
If you enjoy a regular meal out, on average you could be spending anywhere between £10 and £25 for an inexpensive meal in Colchester. For mid-range, three course restaurants, you may find a meal costing an average of £30 per person. For up-to-date meal prices at popular restaurants, consider viewing our Best Restaurants in Colchester blog, and following the links to their individual menus.
If you’re going for a night out in Colchester, average prices for local beer averages at around £3.67 per pint, with imported beer averaging £4.90 a bottle. For that pick me up the next day, you’ll find cappuccinos average out at £3.31, and coke/pepsi averaging at £1.60 per bottle.
How to save money on food and drink as a student
Saving money as a student can be tricky, especially with so many activities, extracurriculars, and nights out to take part in. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to save money, helping to keep you far away from any overdraft:
- Cook from home. Cooking at home will almost always be cheaper than eating out, or buying a ready meal. It also allows for experimentation, socialising, and will set you up well for life outside of University too, so it is well worth getting to grips with the kitchen!
- Shop at budget supermarkets. There are a number of supermarkets throughout Colchester that can really help you make the most of your money, and you’ll often find same brand foods for much cheaper prices than you would find in a chain supermarket.
- Shop later in the day, and you’re more likely to find ‘reduced’ yellow sticker food. While the expiry date is usually close to these foods, if you pop them in the freezer when you get home, you then go on to cook them when you’re ready. Just be sure to defrost all food thoroughly before eating!
- Collect shopping apps from the major supermarkets, and see what offers are available each week. You’ll often find some great discounts, helping you save pennies where it counts.
- As a student, you will have access to a range of student discounts through your student card. If you’re going to a fast-food restaurant or bar, ask if any discounts are available for students.
- Plan your meals in advance, and consider batch cooking too. Having a good meal plan in mind will help prevent you from buying easy to access snacks or ready meals, which usually cost more. If you batch cook too, you can prepare meals for the week, and freeze them until you’re ready to eat. This is also a great way to save cooking time during busy workdays.
- Use apps like Too Good To Go, or Olio to make great savings on food that will otherwise go to waste. A host of stores and restaurants are signed up with these apps, so not only could you save money on a food parcel, but you could also end up with some delicious new foods you’ve never tried before.
- Create a TopCashback account and go through the site when performing your online shops. This site works with a range of popular brands like Tesco and Amazon and can offer cash back whenever you shop online. This is a fantastic and easy way to make money back on a shop.
Where to go for budget-friendly food and drink
There are some exceptional places to eat and drink in Colchester for much lower prices. Consider these spots if you’re sticking to a budget:
- Falafel and More – This beautiful vegetarian-friendly restaurant offers a range of delicious middle-eastern foods that are both healthy and affordable.
- Cowabunga Pizza – Get proper Neapolitan style pizzas at Cowabunga Pizza and enjoy a delightful meal at a good price. You will also find 10% off your meal if you order through Uber Eats or Just Eat, perfect for saving a few pounds.
- Cafe Bellissimo – This easy going cafe sells a range of delicious Italian and Mediterranean foods for a great price. It has a number of five-star testimonials regarding the delicious flavours that can be found inside, a strong recommendation!
- Taco Bell – A chain offering delicious tex-mex meals like burritos, nachos, and of course, tacos, Taco Bell offers 15% off with a valid student ID card. Perfect for a quick eat in-between lectures and seminars.
- Kaspa’s Desserts – This chain dessert restaurant is a great place to get your sweet treats on a budget! All students should show their student card when ordering one of Kaspa’s many desserts to receive 10% off.
- Turtle Bay – If you’re looking for great value cocktails, look no further than Turtle Bay. You can find two-for-one on cocktails every night from 9.30pm onwards, ideal for having a great time while sticking to your budget.
Students should also refer to Save the Student, a site that shows exactly which restaurants offer student discounts. This can be a great way to save money. If you’re planning a night out, consider taking a look at our Colchester Nightlife blog, which can point you to some of the best places to drink and party that also offer student nights.
Using public transport is a great way to reduce your living costs, especially if you own a vehicle. You can save money on petrol, repairs and maintenance, and even reduce your insurance premiums by driving less and taking public transport more.
Bus travel in Essex is a cheap and easy way to get around, and has the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions versus other traditional means of transport. Regular bus services are available too, so you can get from the University of Essex campus to central Colchester or your student accommodation without any trouble.
As a student, you have access to discounted bus travel on First Essex buses, which can help you save a lot of money when you order through the First Bus App. Discounted ticket prices range from zone to zone, but as a student you will most likely fall under Zone 1, which encompasses Colchester central, the University of Essex, and student apartments like Avon Way House.
Below you’ll find a table of discounted bus ticket price information up to date as of 2022/23.
|Zone 1||Zone 2||Zone 3|
|Ticket Type||Inner Colchester||Outer Colchester||All of Essex|
Taking the bus in general can be a great way to get about Colchester, saving you time and money.
If you need to travel in and out of Colchester frequently, taking the train is a great way to save money, and gives you the freedom of enjoying some of the sights of Essex.
Students using the train regularly can enjoy a 1/3rd off with the purchase of a 16-25 railcard, too. This railcard, which can be purchased at £30 for 1-year, or £70 for 3 years, can help you stick to your budget and get a return ticket to London for as little as £30, or an open return to Chelmsford for £13.30.
While taxis are not always the most cost-effective way to travel, they are helpful in a pinch, and can save you money and time.
Average costs of a taxi ride around Colchester naturally vary on the route and destination, but on Numbeo reveals that on average, Taxi travel starts at £3, and raises by £1.22 per kilometre travelled.
Tips on saving money with transport
Public transport is a fantastic way of saving money where you need it, and it’s even better when you can make savings, or avoid it altogether.
Season tickets can be a great help when saving money, providing the comfort of knowing that you need to only purchase once per season or per year, so you can focus on using your remaining money wisely.
Season tickets are available through the First Bus App as mentioned above, or if you need to take the train into Colchester frequently, use apps like Trainline to find season passes.
Book in advance
If you know you’ll be travelling somewhere over the next few months, always try to book in advance. Oftentimes, early bird tickets are available to help make that journey a little bit cheaper. You will also have the added benefit of having a wider selection of seat choices, if you are travelling on a mode of transport where you can reserve seats.
If your friend or classmate has a car and drives regularly, consider carpooling together with a few others. This can really help to cut down on costs, as you only need to provide petrol money every so often to keep your friend’s vehicle running.
Colchester is a small city, and easily accessible by foot. A walk from Central Colchester to the University of Essex takes approximately 40 minutes. Taking the time to walk is great not only for saving that few pounds on a bus, but also for learning the city itself, and walking also provides great exercise.
Cycling is an eco-friendly, cheap, and fast way to explore Colchester. Travelling from the University of Essex campus into central Colchester takes just 13 minutes. Perfect for a nip in to grab a bite to eat.
Take advantage of student discounts
We’ve already mentioned the brilliant discounts available to students taking the bus through the First UoE bus pass, and the 16-25 railcards available, but it is worth looking further to see what other offers are available to students. This could be particularly helpful if you live outside of Colchester, and travel in frequently.
Best places to visit by public transport
There are some fantastic visitor spots in Colchester that can be accessed by public transport. We recommend the following:
Colchester City Centre: A natural stopping point and the best place to eat, drink, shop and party, Colchester City Central is easily accessible from Colchester Town station, or if you are living at a student let like Avon Way House, by using the Number 1 or S4 buses.
Colchester Zoo: Take the number 75 bus from Colchester Central Bus Station down to Heckfordbridge, where the Colchester Zoo can be found. You can enjoy a range of activities, food and drink, and of course see the fantastic range of animals available.
Colchester Castle Museum: The Colchester Castle Museum is a great place to take visiting friends and family, offering up the history of Colchester through tours and other activities.
Highwoods Country Park: This beautiful country park is available to reach from Colchester Central bus station by the number 8 or S1 buses. Head out to this relaxing spot and enjoy three circular walking trails with friends and classmates.
Colchester Golf Club: If golf is your sport of choice, look no further than the Colchester Golf Club, which can be reached by the 754 Boomerang or S3 bus from Colchester Central bus station. As well as a great place to play golf, this club offers refreshments and membership opportunities and activities.
Entertainment and social activities
Taking part in social activities will naturally be a huge part of the university experience, but they can also chip away at your budget easily.
According to research done through Numbeo and other sites you can expect to pay:
|Staple Food||Average Cost||Estimated Cost|
|Bowling party||£12.50 p/p|
|Club Entry||£0 – £15|
|Domestic Beer (Pint)||£3.67|
|Imported Beer (0.33 Litre Bottles)||£4.00|
|Inexpensive Restaurant Meal||£15.00|
|Mid-range restaurant 3-course meal||£30.00|
|Combo meal at McDonald’s||£5.00|
Saving money on social activities is one of the most difficult issues that students face, especially when their friends and classmates are all taking part. Still, there are many ways to save money when socialising:
A lot of venues cater to students, with student discounts that cover a range of foods, drinks, and more. Use sites like Save The Student to see what restaurants, bars and other activities offer student discounts with a valid student card.
Free and Student Events
A lot of bars and clubs have free entry if you go on the right night. Keep an eye out on social media for free ticket entries.
Similarly, most bars and clubs arrange student nights that are on almost every week of the year. Find out when student nights are near you, and take advantage of them to help keep a healthy budget.
Take a look at our Colchester Nightlife blog for more information on which bars and clubs might offer student discounts.
Invite friends over to eat
Inviting friends and classmates over to eat is a great way to socialise while saving money. All you need do is pick a recipe, buy enough to feed everyone invited, and enjoy! If you coordinate with your guests, you can even have them chip in for the meal, helping you all to save a bit of extra money while enjoying each other’s company.
Book consistent events and stick to them
Consistency is key with budgeting, which is why you should try to book events in advance, and if you enjoy them, repeat for the following month. This can be anything from a regular cinema night, to a night bowling, to a trip to your favourite restaurant. Knowing when you will help you to save for that night, and ultimately keep on top of your spending.
Check out local community sites and social media groups for activities
Local community sites and social media groups almost always have social activities and events that are free to enter and offer entertainment for you and your friends. A good place to look might be your Student Union, or even Colchester’s library.
Budget-friendly entertainment and social activities
Keeping an eye out for budget-friendly entertainment and social activities will help you keep on top of your budget. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best places to check out to help you keep within your budget:
The University of Essex Student Union: The Student Union is a fantastic way to find free events across the University and Colchester. This should be your first port of call when figuring out a way to socialise on a budget.
Museums and Art Galleries: The majority of museums and art galleries around Colchester are free to enter and often host events throughout the year. Taking advantage of events from Firstsite and other spaces provides a great way to spend time with your friends and classmates while expanding your cultural horizons.
Colchester Nature Parks: There are a number of nature parks and gardens throughout Colchester that are free to enter and offer a relaxed day out. We’ve already mentioned the Highwoods Country Park, but it’s worth spending time around Castle Park and visiting Beth Chatto’s Plants & Gardens, Green Island Gardens and Markshall Estate by bus.
Entertainment: Tenpin offers fantastic student discounts to those with a valid student card, helping you to have a great night out while saving big. If you’re looking for a more active pursuit, Jump Street offers 20% with a valid student card, so is well worth checking out.
Food and Nightlife: There are a range of budget-friendly options for food and nightlife in Colchester. Take a look at our Colchester Nightlife and Best Places to Eat in Colchester blog for more information.
University of Essex cost of living support
With the recent increase in the cost of living affecting homes throughout the UK, it’s important to understand your options no matter which University you are attending in Colchester.
The University of Essex provides a range of options for students looking for financial support, and we highly recommend seeing how they can help you today.
Reaching out to your Student Union is also a great way to discuss financial support and issues. They can provide support for that and a range of other issues.
Consider also reaching out to your local council. The financial assistance they can provide might help you keep out of a difficult financial situation.
- University of Essex Financial Support
- Student Union Financial Support
- Local Council Financial Assistance
Is it expensive to live in Colchester for students?
Living in Colchester can be expensive for students, with the average costs of living in Colchester for students ranging between £1300 to £1600 a month, including student accommodation, food, clothing and transport.
As long as you take the time to research student nights, discounts and free events though, there is plenty of opportunity to have a fantastic time while keeping to a budget.
Save money with Beyond The Box Student
Student accommodation can often be one of the biggest cost factors for a budget-savvy student, but Beyond The Box Student is here to help. All of the student apartments at Avon Way House come with a blanket utility bill which lasts for the extent of your contract. This means that you won’t need to worry about rising costs in gas or electricity while you stay with us, and can put that money towards food, drink and other essentials.
If you’d like to learn more about Beyond The Box Student, get in touch with our hospitality team, or view our apartments today.