Living in Cardiff - expected lifestyle changes?
July 19, 2014 2:52 AM   Subscribe

I am an academic and am likely about to take up a position at Cardiff University. I currently live in a small-ish (250K) Dutch city, which I love. I like the compact city center, I like walking everywhere (shopping, market, coffee, train station), I like the robust public transportation. I dislike car culture. What do I need to know about Cardiff?

I'm specifically interested in the following things:

1. How is the public transportation? Are there some areas that are better than others?
2. Do I need a car?
3. What are the best areas to live for an academic couple with no kids and a dog (I'm used to open air markets with fresh produce, nice cafes, green space, etc)?
4. What should I keep in mind while looking for a place to live (I'm not a Brit and have never lived in GB, so keep that in mind)?

posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Cardiff resident and former student here.

1. There is a reasonable bus service and overground train stations. Cathays is the closest train stop to the main uni. You can live in walking distance of the university and City Centre though, in Roath, Cathays, Canton and perhaps the south part of Heath. Biking makes it shorter (you might want bikes if you were in Canton or Heath). Cathays is very undergraduate, Roath is also studenty but more mixed. These are the closest neighbourhoods to the main uni, although if you are at Heath Park campus (which would probably mean you are medics)my he closest neighbourhoods would be Heath or Roath. I would avoid Grangetown and Splott and anywhere North of Maindy. Cardiff Bay is ok, but you'll have a longer walk to the uni (about 50 minutes). Or you can take the train between Cardiff Bay and Queen Street (station in the North East part of the City Centre) which is actually very expensive given the distance - £2.30 return or single.
2. Not necessary if you don't live in the outer suburbs.
3. I would go for Canton or Roath if you are not at Heath park campus. Pontcanna is nice, but it puts you a bit further from the City centre and uni. If you live in Canton or Pontcanna you will probably be commuting across Bute Park, which might not be so good in winter when it gets dark early.
4. A Cardiff specific tip - many of the houses especially in Roath are quite old and damp. Cardiff is a rainy city. It's something to be aware of when you are looking around. look out for bathroom extractor fans or at least decent windows - not every place has them. Oh, and the rubbish situation in some neighbourhoods of Cardiff is not so nice. Many houses in Cathays and Roath don't have bins. Then the seagulls peck holes in the bags and rubbish goes all over the street. But there are some nice things about Cardiff too, relative compactness and walkability being one.
Feel free to a Memail me if you want more info.
posted by mister_kaupungister at 6:13 AM on July 19, 2014

Look up the tax band of places you are considering living.

Council Tax is a hidden cost of each and every place and the assessments are often wildly out of date. My wife and I moved from a two bedroom flat to a ground floor of victorian house with a garden and finished basement and our council tax was one third lower!

English homes tend to be very poorly constructed ( a lot of cheap and cheerful and lousy builders). Look hard at windows and see if there are gaps. Beware of old sash windows.
posted by srboisvert at 6:36 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

For people who live in central Europe this often comes as a surprise but a lot of housing stock all over the UK does not have central heating but relies on electric heating solutions. Given the way electricity prices have been developing this can be really expensive, especially near the coast where the air is often damp and where the wind makes everything feel cool. And it's not only expensive, it's also not necessarily very warm.

So when you are looking for somewhere to live look out for:

- any signs of damp
- any signs of poor insulation
- lack of double glazing
- non central heating solutions

and stay clear of all the above.

Utility providers in the UK are generally privatised and utility costs can be very high compared to rent. So try to talk to the outgoing tenants to find out about their past utility costs. And as others have said confirm council tax band.

Also note that most housing stock aimed at undergraduate tenants is generally poor. So unless you are a student I'd stay clear of student housing.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:01 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry, the price information I gave for the train between Cardiff Bay and Cardiff Queen Street is not accurate- the quoted price is for a return ticket in the afternoons and the relative prices of singles and return tickets depends on the time of day. Rather than dig myself a hole trying to describe the ticket prices properly, I will just refer you to to look at train times and ticket prices for journeys anywhere in the UK.
posted by mister_kaupungister at 11:04 AM on July 19, 2014

Having lived in Cardiff for well over 20 years now, I can echo the sentiments above about dampness in houses - especially of the Victorian terraced variety. My top tip is to RUN AWAY from any rental agency which (a) caters to students and/or (b) wants to charge you a "setup" fee. In the UK, decent agencies charge the Landlord for these services, not the tenant.

I'd start with looking at where there's a fairly good train service on the Arriva Trains Wales map of Valleys & Cardiff (scroll down). In general, anywhere in Cardiff on the red, green or purples lines has a good service. The yellow (City Line) is OK, but doesn't run on a Sunday (I live between two stations on the City Line, which my husband uses for commuting to work). If anything is going to go wrong on the trains, the City Line service is the one they're going to cancel. Getting around Cardiff itself on the bus can be "interesting" in that there are very few services which don't rely on you going into the city centre first. Having said all of that, a lot of housing stock in Cardiff is generally walkable to the city centre. We used to live in Canton and a fairly gentle stroll into the very heart of the city only took about 25 minutes. Walking from one end of the city centre to the other, maybe 20 minutes tops.

If I were you, I'd focus my search towards Canton (but be prepared to see some truly dire living quarters), Pontcanna (nice, but expensive) and Llandaff (even more expensive). If you do veer to the other side of the city, someplace around the Wellfield Road area (Roath Park-ish) goes over very well with my younger colleagues from overseas (good bus routes, parks, quirky shops, coffee places etc).

Please feel free to MeMail me if you want any further details.
posted by car01 at 11:25 AM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Strongly seconding koahiatamadl's recommendation of looking carefully at the place you'll live. I live in one of those places: single glazing, no real central heating, heating does not work in multiple rooms, etc.

You may want to look into something like an electric blanket. Excellent quality goods for your house come from places like Lakeland and John Lewis. OK stuff comes from Argos.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:38 AM on July 21, 2014

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