Living In Wales: 12 Things You Should Know Before Moving

Dreaming of living closer to nature among castles and mountains with stunning beaches nearby? Let's talk about living in Wales.

Living in Wales has something to offer everyone, whether you’re after a more balanced pace in beautiful surroundings, breathing room for your family or a city life without the hassle. This principality gives a generous helping of scenery and personality. 

1. Is Wales a good place to live?

Yes. If you’re looking for more access to nature, stunning views, a warm sense of community and vibrant local culture, then Wales is for you. 

Living in Wales
The Wye Valley in Monmouthshire, Wales.

From the stunning vistas and seaside villages of the Pembrokeshire coastal region to the spa towns and antiquing paradise of mid-Wales, all the way to the bright lights of Cardiff Bay and the refined coastal beauty of the Mumbles leading on to the Gower. 

Heading north, find Aberystwyth, with all the cosmopolitan benefits of a University Town and the tranquil Welsh countryside at your back. Cardigan Bay regularly features in lists of the world’s best beaches, with the chance to spot dolphins and plenty of heritage and picturesque caves along the coast. 

On Wales’ north-western edge, perches Anglesey, or Ynys Mon in Welsh. Once home to ancient druids and now home to the historic town of Beaumaris, the iconic south stack lighthouse and a thriving farmers market. 

Wales is very varied, but what all its areas have in common is a community feel and a down to earth focus on the essentials. Fresh air, good food, family time and a healthy dose of fun. 

Besides, you will get the same quality of life as in England, but at a lower cost. 

2. Is Wales expensive?

No, with a few exceptions, Wales is an inexpensive place to live and the value for money is excellent. By comparison with similar areas in England, the property is cheaper and the cost of living is low. 

Living in Wales
Aberystwyth, Wales

The overall cost of living in Wales is estimated at 15% less than the rest of the UK. Local salaries do tend to be slightly lower than the UK average, but with property prices that are around 30% below the national average, that is more than offset. 

Average house prices in the most expensive areas like Cowbridge, within commuting distance of Cardiff and with a secondary school rated the best in the country, run over £450,000, but prices in other desirable locations like Pembrokeshire averaged around £230,000 in 2021.

Even if you’re looking to live and work in central Cardiff, leafy areas like Roath offer 3 bedroom options starting from around £270,000, and you could walk to work in 20 minutes. If you’re looking for more of a rural escape, then areas like Ceredigion offer great value and a wealth of pretty villages. 

At the lower end of the price bracket, in peaceful areas around the University town of Lampeter or quiet parts of Powys, a tasteful 2-bedroom cottage can start at around £160,000. 

3. Can I immigrate to Wales?

If you have the right to live in the United Kingdom then you can move to Wales, simply by picking up and driving across the border. If you are from further afield, apply in the usual way for a visa through the UK Home Office. You can find more information on immigration issues in our Living In The UK guide.

4. Is living in Wales better than England?

If you are a dedicated city mouse, who thrives on a long commute and the anonymity of metropolitan life, then England might suit you better than Wales. It has larger cities and a bigger population. 

Living in Wales
This three-arched bridge across the River Conwy forms an elegant entrance to the town of Llanrwst in North Wales.

If you hanker after a new hill to climb, a close-knit community and a bit more growing room, then Wales has more to offer. 

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Wales has cheaper housing, easier access to areas of incredible natural beauty, a high standard of state education and a disproportionately lively cultural scene, even outside large metropolitan areas.

Transport links can be patchy in rural areas though, so check your target neighbourhoods out in advance.

Generally, the advantage of choosing Wales is that if you want to live by the sea, up a mountain, or in a pretty market square you can and your journey to your happy place will only be as long as it takes you to roll out of bed. 

England has many parks and areas of natural beauty, but with a larger population and less housing per capita, they can be more crowded and come with a premium.

LivingCost.org estimates the overall cost of living in Wales as approximately $400 (US) per year lower than in England. Enough to cover quite a few theatre and concert tickets, take the family white water rafting or patronise some of the local breweries and cider orchards. 

5. Where should I move in Wales?

Your ideal place in Wales will depend on your needs. 

If you are after career opportunities, your first port of call will be the M4 Corridor, which boasts the highest concentration of public and private-sector employers.

Living in Wales
Penarth Marina near Cardiff Bay. Penarth has been named as one of the best places to live in Wales by the Sunday Times.

With plenty of international cuisine and lively and varied nightlife, the cultural clout of the area far outstrips its size. 

For the best combination of natural surroundings, spacious housing and excellent schools, look to areas like Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. Surf, mountain bike and hike at the weekend and send the little ones off to a globally competitive education on Monday. 

Coming to Wales to retire? You will be spoilt for choice. Retiring to West Wales is the most popular option, however, there are plenty of other equally wonderful destinations.

If you’re in the market for a market town, tea shops and some light antique browsing then head for Llandovery, the haunt of the Prince of Wales, or Llandrindod and Builth Wells. Chocolate-box architecture, independent shops and easy reach of beautiful walking spots are yours to choose from. 

If you want a retirement where you get to incorporate a paddle in the sea into your daily routine, then Pembrokeshire coast, Cardigan Bay or Anglesey should be on top of your list.

Find more on the various Welsh locations in our Best Places To Live In Wales guide.

6. Does Wales have free healthcare?

Yes, for residents of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. For those moving from elsewhere, you will need to pay a surcharge for healthcare when you submit your immigration paperwork of between £470 and £624 per year for each person. 

7. Does Wales get snow?

Yes. In some places, it’s a light dusting and in others, you can rely on the chance to build a snowman every year. 

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Around the coast and in southern areas, the amount of snow is minimal and the chances of the snow sticking are low. On the other hand, if you head North, especially inland, and into Powys and Conwy you stand a better chance of a white Christmas. 

8. Is it worth buying property in Wales?

Not only is Welsh property likely to give you a great return on your investment when it comes to lifestyle, but it’s also likely to be a good decision for your wallet. 

Living in Wales
Summer morning in Tenby, Wales.

Prices in Wales have shot up over the last two years, but forecasts suggest that over the midterm, prices in Wales will continue to rise ahead of the national average. 

9. What is the poshest part of Wales?

It would be hard to settle on a single place in Wales to take the crown, so we’ll break this down into categories. 

If you want to focus on a whole county, then go for the Vale of Glamorgan with its rural feel and commuting distance to the capital. Cowbridge is a particularly popular area. 

If you want an upmarket coastal area, then go for the Pembrokeshire coast or head for Aberdyfi and the shores of Beaumaris up north.  

For a swanky city feel, in Cardiff look at areas like Lisvane, Cyncoed or head a little west to Swansea and the Mumbles. 

10. Do I need to learn the language?

The Welsh language doesn’t have a high profile outside Wales, except when it comes to making the place names hard to pronounce.

Living in Wales
Llyn Gwynant, Snowdonia (Eryri).

Where you go will make a huge difference to how much you hear the language, but anywhere in Wales, you will see Welsh words and instructions on signs. 

Learning to speak Welsh is not compulsory for any adult moving to Wales and since everyone speaks English, you’re unlikely to encounter practical difficulties if you don’t want to learn.

As with many places though, a little effort is greatly appreciated.

Learning how to say ‘Diolch’ (Thank you) or ‘Bore Da’ (Good Morning) will put a big smile on most Welsh speakers’ faces. 

Occasionally, visitors worry that when locals continue a conversation in Welsh around them, they are being talked about. Luckily, that’s normally the furthest thing from the truth.

In many parts of Wales, when native speakers are together, it is simply their default. No different to hearing French in Paris. Most people will be more than happy to switch if you need, but don’t read anything into it. 

11. Are schools good in Wales?

Welsh schools meet a high standard, but there are a few differences.

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You will notice that bilingual education is a feature of the landscape. Some schools offer education entirely through the medium of English and only teach Welsh as a second language.

Some offer an English and a Welsh stream, where you can choose, and others offer all subjects through the medium of Welsh (except English). 

There are virtually no areas where you would not be able to find an English medium or bilingual school if you prefer, so there is no reason for concern if you don’t want to put your children through a language change.

That said, Welsh-medium education is popular even among non-Welsh speaking families, and it offers children a chance of being fully bilingual. 

Ysgol Plasmawr, Cowbridge Comprehensive in Cardiff and Olchfa Secondary in Swansea routinely score near the top of national rankings.

You certainly don’t have to stay in a city to have access to exceptional schools though, with Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bro Myrddin in the town of Carmarthen, Ysgol Y Preseli in Crymych, Pembrokeshire, Ysgol Penglais in Aberystwyth and Ysgol Calon Cymru in Builth Wells producing outstanding results. 

12. Is it difficult to settle in?

As a nation, Welsh people are friendly and open. Particularly in smaller communities, you’ll find that you get to know not just your neighbours but the people running the local shop, pub, your postman and a whole cast of others.

Living in Wales
Wales Coast Path offers 870 miles/1400 kilometres of unbroken, unspoilt, coastal walking around the entire Welsh coast. This is the part of the path near Fishguard.

Wales doesn’t suffer from the restraint that is associated with the English stiff upper lip, so you can expect to be entertained with a string of anecdotes and asked plenty of questions. 

In some areas, you might find the warm welcome takes a week or two to set in. This is more likely in areas where many properties are bought as second homes, your new neighbours will be polite but less interested in holidaymakers passing through than they would be in their new friends around the corner. 

The more you engage with local groups, activities and projects, the faster you will feel fully integrated.

Integration here is so common and successful that many children born elsewhere come to consider themselves as Welsh as a bouquet of daffodils. 

Finl thoughts on living in Wales

Living in Wales opens the door to a deeper connection with the landscape, a thriving cultural community, and the physical and financial room to enjoy more of the good things in life. Wales is affordable, accessible and a perfect place to start an adventure. 

An invisible border can make a world of difference when it comes to your way of life. You could get to London by lunchtime, but with castles, climbing spots, seaside coves and creative industries on your doorstep, you won’t want to. 

You might find useful:

  • The Best Places To Live In Wales
  • Didn’t find what you were looking for or need further advice? Comment with your question below and we will do our best to help.
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Hannah Morby

Hannah is a freelance writer based in picturesque Carmarthenshire, the UK. After winding her way around the world, living in New Zealand, Yorkshire and the Home Counties, she is now settled closer to her childhood home in Wales.

Having left a career working in higher education, she now enjoys life as a copywriter, mother and chief zookeeper to a small menagerie of cats, dogs and chickens.

You can contact Hannah on LinkedIn: Hannah Morby

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