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The UK is known for having some of the highest prices in Europe, so it takes a little planning if you want to visit England and Scotland on a budget. The good news is that this is perfectly doable for any sensible traveler. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how affordable my husband and I were able to make things on our trip there last summer. Even when considering the fact that the pound is worth about a third more than the US dollar!
To help you with your planning, I have put together the below sample budget to give you an idea of what to expect. This budget assumes you are two people taking a 10 day trip to Great Britain. You will be traveling around, and making stops in the following cities:
- Days 1-3: Bath
- Day 4: York
- Days 5-6: Edinburgh
- Days 7-10: London
Keep in mind that trips involving multiple cities will almost always be more expensive than staying in one place. When planning your travels, you should certainly consider whether each stop is worth it, and make sure you don’t overextend yourself.
Here is an example of a moderate England & Scotland budget for two people (in USD):
This is what I would consider to be a moderate budget for two people taking a trip to England and Scotland. These amounts factor in room for some splurges, while saving money in other areas. Let’s breakdown what all is being included here.
England & Scotland budget breakdown:
You can rent a car when visiting the UK, but you certainly don’t need to. We personally did not because we were a bit nervous about driving on the opposite side of the road while also on the opposite side of the car. Combine that with driving a manual transmission (automatic is more expensive), and we totally chickened out.
Instead, we had the exciting experience of hopping from train to train, and found them super easy to use. That being said, trains in the UK are not always the cheapest option. There is some strategy involved to avoid paying more than you need to.
For example, when I first looked up a train to London from Edinburgh, I was horrified at the prices. The initial prices I found were around 200 pounds per person, which was enough to make me want to vomit. For a second, I considered flying between these two cities, as that can actually be cheaper at times.
The good news is that I did find a way to make train travel more affordable for our trip. The key is buying nonrefundable train tickets in advance and using a railcard (as opposed to railpass). I go into much more detail in my post about navigating the Great Britain trains here.
This one is a tricky subject, and if you’re not careful, you can end up paying $1,200 per flight. I recommend not overpaying for your flights though, and think you should try to get two for the price of one like we did. So how do you do this? Here are a couple ways to find cheap flights to London:
- Be flexible about the time of year you travel and the days you travel on. If you travel on a less popular day, such as Tuesday, or in a slower time of year (aka not summer), you can certainly find lower prices.
- Be a savvy traveler and look for a credit card with rewards points. This is how we avoided paying the full price of one of our flights. At the time we were only using the Capital One Venture, but we have now added the Chase Sapphire Reserve to our repertoire.
So groceries is an optional category, although I suggest using it to save a little bit of money. If you stay in an Airbnb with a kitchen, or even just a room at an inn or hotel with a mini fridge, you have the oppportunity to buy things like cereal or sandwiches for some cheap meals. I personally like to incorporate simple options like this, so I have more room to splurge once in a while at a nicer place. Trust me – pub food may be inexpensive, but it’s usually not worth your money.
Food & Drink
Food and drink is the area where you need to be most conscientious if you are trying to stay on budget. It’s very easy to be impulsive here and lose track of what you’ve spent in a day. Even if your budget is not tight, it’s still good to plan ahead for food and drink because it’s crazy how easily you can get off track here.
You can see I’ve mostly allowed about $75/day for two people. How did we do this for two people on three meals a day you may ask? First off, we tried to stay at places that had breakfast included. Second of all, we utilized grocery stores for cereal and premade sandwiches, such as the local Waitrose grocery store while staying in London.
We generally did not do very much fine dining, and tried to find as many deals as possible. Here is how we stayed cheap while dining out:
- We went to a lot of cafes for meals, which tend to be cheaper than more formal restaurants.
- We mostly did not order drinks at restaurants, which actually saves a ton of money. The beer of Great Britain was also not our favorite, which helped us be less motivated to buy it.
- In London, we ate a lot of ethnic food, such as Indian and Vietnamese, which is usually more cost effective.
- In Bath, we ate at a nicer restaurant, Bistrot Pierre that offered a lower cost prix fixe menu for those willing to eat dinner before 6:30 pm. You still got great menu items, but at a fraction of the cost!
My lodging budget of $1,500 factors in 10 nights at an average rate of $150/night. In this price range, there are plenty of good inns and Airbnb’s available. Unfortunately, this excludes London, where it’s hard to find much for under $200 a night. That being said, it is still possible to find cheap lodging options in London. Especially if you are willing to stay in a hostel or someone’s spare room.
Sadly, the more things you do while on your trip, the more money you’re going to spend. Since this is a 10 day, multi-city trip, you’ll want to allocate a good chunk of your England and Scotland budget to activities. To keep this area under control, it’s best to try to find as many free things to do as possible, and balance that out with the expensive sights you are most excited about. So what does my budget of $475 include?
Above, I have included the highlights from each of these cities that are definitely worth your money. Keep in mind that this list does not include the many free things there are to do in England in Scotland, which I’ll list below.
Free Things to Do in England and Scotland
The below list is not all-inclusive of the many free things there are to do in England and Scotland. However, it does include our favorite free activities in each of the cities included here:
- Bath: Wandering this beautiful city to marvel its streets filled with honey-colored stone buildings is quite a treat. There is plenty of impressive architecture to admire from the outside, such as the Royal Crescent or The Circus.
- York: Do not miss the free walking tour offered daily at various times. On your own, you can also peruse The Shambles and walk on the Roman Wall for nary a penny.
- Edinburgh: No money is needed to explore the Royal Mile, or window shop on colorful Victoria Street. Pass by the famous Greyfriars Bobby statue and be sure to gently pat (not rub!) its nose for good luck. Harry Potter fans should certainly stop into the Greyfriars’s Kirkyard. This cemetery’s headstones inspired several characters’ names in the books.
- London: Many of London’s museums are free, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery, and the British Museum. However, you may notice many of the museums will still ask for optional donations. For $0 you can also enjoy some green space at the expansive Hyde Park, and pay homage at the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. Finally, you can of course watch the famous changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace completely free of charge.
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As you can see, it is certainly possible to do England and Scotland on a budget. All it takes is a little bit of planning and prioritizing, so that you are allocating your funds to the sites you’re most excited about. It’s true that the UK can be more expensive than other European countries, so your dollars may not stretch quite as far there. However, a visit to England and Scotland is absolutely still worth your time, and you do not need to go broke in order to have an amazing trip. So go on, and let yourself experience all that is historical, royal, and rugged in these two beautiful old countries.