Moving to Bristol from the US

Bristol is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant cities in the UK. With its rich maritime history as one of the country’s largest ports for over a century, Bristol is a network of architectural, historical and cultural delights.

Bristol has one of the most unusual city centers with a variety of different areas, ranging from the medieval cobbled streets outside one of Britain’s oldest pub the Llandogger Trow to the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Bristol’s economy is impressive with major financial institutions, large aeronautics production, Portishead ports, and a bevy of industry in both the production and service sectors.

In addition the city enjoys a diverse artistic and cultural calendar with theaters, live music venues and a plethora of festivals throughout the year – largely driven by the burgeoning student communities of the city’s two major universities.

Job market

Despite significant setbacks to the Bristol economy since the recession, the overall economy is still very strong. There is a high demand for “knowledge intensive” jobs with 1 in 5 requiring expert levels of experience. This is largely driven by the aeronautics, defence, and financial service sectors.

At the same time, Bristol is a hot bed for start-ups and small businesses. Recent research surveys by Grant Thornton and UHY Hacker found Bristol to be creating 10 times more business per head than any other city in the UK, including London.

Unemployment in Bristol stands at 4.9% with the largest problem being the city’s lack of low skilled labour. Nevertheless the city is seeing strong economic growth on par with the national average.

Key sectors

Bristol has a very diverse service and industry economy but there are some key areas that outperform the rest in terms of job availability and economic output.

Defence – With a number of key military research centers, ministry of defence production and service centers defence is one of the largest sectors in Bristol providing almost 9,000 jobs and creating billions for the UK’s GDP output.

Aeronautics – Tied closely to the defence industries are the aeronautics industries. With Boeing and Rolls Royce amongst a long list of companies involved in the industry few cities in the UK can compete in terms of engineering and specialist aeronautics.

Import and export – Portishead, the purpose built port on the outskirts of Bristol, is one of the largest import/export destinations in the UK with the Bristol Port Company itself having a revenue exceeding $93 million per year.

Finance and service industry – The finance sector is highly significant in Bristol with some of the nation’s most established and profitable companies including Hargreaves Lansdown and Ge Capital Solutions. Coupled with the large number of hedge funds, law firms and media companies this gives Bristol a very large and highly competitive service industry market.

Health service – With two major hospitals and a slew of smaller medical institutions the health service and pharmaceutical industries are very strong in the city – employing over 10,000 people across a broad spectrum of occupations.

Bristol’s economy is diverse and growing with jobs in almost every sector at every level. Finding the right company is really the only challenge.

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Cost of living

The cost of living in Bristol is comparably lower than London, although a little bit more expensive than if you move to Manchester.


Renting is relatively inexpensive in many areas but higher than the national average in others. Areas on the outskirts offer rents for a 1 bedroom apartment from just $560 per month and houses from around $745 per month. Areas to look at are Whitchurch, Redland and Henleaze. Fishponds, Stockwood, Hartcliffe and Withywood and Redlands have bad reputations but some nice areas.

In the center a apartment will cost around $620 a month though some areas (like Whiteladies and Clifton) are much higher priced at around $931 a month. A house in the center will costs upwards of $931 a month in nicer areas. Whiteladies, Clifton and to a lesser extent Hotwells are some of the nicest areas to live in. We’d recommend avoiding St. Pauls though the Gloucester road area is the most artistic and has the best night life of the city.


The local transport infrastructure is superb with regular buses throughout the day. A monthly ticket costs around $68.25. Bristol also enjoys a rapidly growing cycling community with many designated cycle paths now traversing the city – meaning it is very easy to get around.


Going out and eating out in Bristol are relatively inexpensive. Beer costs around $3.75 a pint with cheaper options available in many central locations. Bristol has a wide range of cuisine with cheap meals out from $6.21 in St. Nicholas’s market to high end dining experiences from $50 a head. The range of options is staggering with each area of the city hosting different cuisine.

Property information

Bristol currently has a housing shortage and there is need for rapid development of new housing.

The average terraced house costs $264,765 while the average apartment sells for $225,980.

Property prices are significantly above the national average but vary wildly by area. A penthouse apartment along the river, or a Victorian terrace on Whiteladies Road will cost nearly 1 million dollars, a small city center apartment however can be had for $173,750 while an outskirts terraced house will cost $248,200. This leads many people to rent which has created a large buy-to-let market in the city.

New housing developments are being planned further outside the city which should become available in the next few years and will offer a mixture of housing prices; so it may be worth holding off to buy.


Bristol is a pretty, colorful and interesting city to look at architecturally. It’s steep hills and a wide variety of styles make it a pleasant place to live, with a thriving city center and quirky communities to explore.

Family-Friendly: Redland is situated close to Clifton and is an affluent family friendly area that you should consider if you are looking to make a long-term home.

An area such as Horfield is a mixture of families and also a student friendly place, where students often stay on after their studies have been completed.

Upmarket: Redland fits the bill in terms of upmarket properties too, with nice houses for the long-standing traditional family home. Clifton is also a gorgeous place to live, with green spaces, fantastic Georgian architecture and a village full of independent stores and cafes to explore and enjoy.

Hip & trendy:Stokes Croft is an area renowned for its many bars and restaurants that have been opening up in recent years, so this is a hotspot for a night out.

Quirky and arty areas such as Bedminster and Gloucester Road (in Bishopston) provide local art and culture on a regular basis, as does Old Market and St Paul’s.

Up & coming: Southville and Totterdown are areas South of the river, which have seen a rise in property prices in recent years. Both are family friendly areas. Affordable areas that look like they may follow the same trajectory include Brislington and Fishponds.

Cost of moving

The price of moving to Bristol is comparable to moving to other parts of the UK. For rented property you will pay two months rental up front plus estate agents fees. Bristol’s port makes shipping your belongings relatively painless if you are moving from outside the UK. The average shipping cost of moving for a family of four from the following countries to Bristol will cost approximately:

FromEstimated Cost
New York$2000

Schools and education

Bristol has an exceptional education system that includes around 150 primary schools, 30 Secondary schools, 5 colleges and 3 universities.

The top primary schools here rank amongst the best in the country and regularly top SAT league test tables. That said some of the lowest ranked schools can also be found here so you will need to thoroughly research catchment areas before moving – though there is significant overlap with most catchment areas.

The secondary schools in Bristol are generally high quality with 6 obtaining 97-100% rankings of “Five Good GCSE’s or Equivalent” in the last academic year. Many of the other secondary schools boast high track records with the independent Badminton School, Bristol Grammar School, Clifton College, Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital and Redland High School for Girls achieving the highest rankings in the city.

University education is superb in the city with the prestigious Bristol University amongst the top 5 in the country and the University of the West of England being one of the highest rated “New” universities nationwide. The student life is incredible and the academic excellence very high – especially in key areas like law, engineering and the sciences.

Ranking against the world

Bristol has become a center of artistry, famous for its street art (obligatory Banksy mention here) and its ties with the Trip Hop music of the 90s and 2000s.

It has become a starting point for young professionals and artists in the South West Region and South Wales as a cost effective alternative to renting property in London or moving north to Manchester, Leeds or Birmingham. A night out and your grocery shop will cost less than if you lived in London, but a little bit more than Manchester or Cardiff.

A day in the life

A day out in Bristol is a wonderful thing. All of your shopping needs can be taken care of in the delightful surroundings of Cabot Circus, with the center of Bristol thriving with cafes and restaurants for you to take a break in. From here you can head over to the Cabot Tower, to gain a great view of the city from a height and take in the history. For theater there is the Hippodrome and the world famous Colston Hall for music.

If you fancy a stroll along the river there are countless attractions, from the Thekla music venue in the center and the floating harbour, to Brunel’s SS Great Britain, and the bars and restaurants in Hotwells. Clifton Suspension Bridge also provides a glimpse into Bristol’s place in engineering history.

Bristol is a sports destination, so if you’re into rugby you have the Union side playing at Ashton Gate, if you’re into the round ball there are two sides to choose from! Bristol City also play at Ashton Gate whilst Bristol Rovers can be found on the opposite side of the city at the Memorial Stadium.

For residents there are always festivals to look forward to in the city, from the annual harbour festival to the kite festival and balloon fiesta. It is a wonderful place to live for students, young professionals and families.