The UK isn’t the cheapest destination, but recent fluctuations in currency thanks to the ‘Brexit’ vote, means this is the perfect time for many people to visit my home country. And there are a few tricks that can help your hard earned cash go even further to allow you to explore more of the UK during your trip. Here I have put together some tips for how to travel around the UK on a budget:
Travelling to the UK on a Budget
Cheap Flights to the UK from Europe
Thankfully, there are plenty of cheap airlines that fly into the UK from Europe. Easyjet, Ryanair, Vueling and others all have cheap flights to the UK, depending on your starting location – but as with any airline, their prices change depending on demand. Peak times around summer holidays, Christmas and school holidays always cost more than off peak times, and can cost more than traditional airlines. Book your flights in advance when you can, and be flexible on the dates you fly to find the best deals, and use a flight comparison site like Skyscanner to find the best deals, and airports to fly into.
Cheap Flights to the UK from The USA
Travelling to the UK from the US, or other further afield destinations obviously isn’t as cheap. Look out for flight deals and so-called ‘error fares’ in advance, and try to be flexible on the dates you fly. You could also consider flying into another European city then taking a low cost European flight or bus to reach the UK. US airports on the East coast like Boston, Newark or New York tend to be cheaper to reach Europe, depending on the airline. Try searching on a flight comparison site like Skyscanner to find cheap flights to the UK from America.
Cheap Buses to the UK
There are a few international bus services, for example OuiBus and FlixBus, where you can find good deals if you are prepared for a long journey, and potential traffic jams. The buses are comfortable, are equipped with toilets, and usually free wifi and plug sockets too, although this isn’t guaranteed on FlixBus. OuiBus has European sockets, so remember to bring a converter if you need one. Travelling overnight also helps to save money on a night in a hostel or hotel, so taking a bus is usually the cheapest way to travel to the UK!
Travelling to the UK Cheaply by Ferry
Ferries to the UK operate from surrounding countries like France, Holland, Belgium, Ireland and Spain. Personally its not my favourite way to travel due to sea sickness, but booking an overnight ferry can also save you money on accommodation and become part of your trip, more than just a flight to a destination. Journeys tend to be long, and can get rough in poor weather – but in good weather, think of it as a mini cruise. I haven’t used them myself, but there are ferry journey comparison sites like Ferries.co.uk which list available routes.
Getting Around the UK on a Budget
Cheap Bus Travel in the UK
Bus travel is the cheapest way to go, in particular MegaBus which offers some routes for as low as £1. They don’t cover all routes though, so it depends on your destination, but for value they really are hard to beat! Book your tickets online, and be sure to be at the bus station in plenty of time for your journey to be first in line and get your pick of the seats.
Within towns & cities, most bus companies will offer a ‘Day Rider’ ticket which is usually cheaper than buying a return, and means you can ride anywhere on that bus company during that day. Some cities like Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle have tram and metro services which are usually easier to navigate than complex bus routes, and of course London has the underground which I’ll be honest is still a total mystery to me!
Cheap Train Travel in the UK
Train prices can vary dramatically depending on the route and the time of day you want to travel. British rail companies like you to be organised, so booking your train in advance can mean vast savings! Even booking just the day before instead of buying at the station makes a big difference. There are several websites where you can book online, and then use a ‘Fast Ticket’ machine to collect your ticket from the station, using the credit or debit card you used to purchase the tickets. I like the website First Transpennine Express as you can buy tickets for any rail company, and they don’t charge a booking fee like most of the other sites.
Peak journey times are around rush hour in the morning and afternoon, so try to avoid travelling then if you can.
If you are looking online and still find your tickets to be too expensive, try breaking up your journey. If your chosen route has a change in it, try searching for a train to the change station, and then a separate ticket to the final destination. Or mixing it up, looking at a map and seeing if you can figure out another route! I saved £20 on a single journey just by doing that.
Car Sharing in the UK: Bla Bla Car
Kind of like Airbnb for cars, Bla Bla Car is an excellent example of the Sharing Economy actually helping real people save money on their petrol costs, and allowing you to travel around the UK on a budget. Input your journey requirements and see who is going that way and can pick you up. In my experience prices are a lot cheaper than travelling by train, and if you can get the right route a lot simpler too. Try and be flexible with dates to give you more chance of finding a suitable journey, and check the reviews of potential drivers to make sure you get a responsible and safe driver. The payment is processed online, then after the journey provide your driver with your booking code to release the payment & allow you to both leave a review for each other.
Cheap Accommodation in the UK
Cheap Hotels and Hostels in the UK
The YHA is a national charity which has hostels all over the country, and helps to create opportunities for young people to experience more of the country, arranging school trips and summer camps. You can stay at one of their many hostels, donate, or even volunteer at one of the hostels if you apply on their website www.yha.org.uk.
If you are travelling in a couple, often simple bed & breakfasts can work out cheaper than two hostel beds, or only slightly more expensive – the extra privacy is often worth the extra cash. They can usually be found on booking.com as well.
Travelodge are a chain of budget hotels that are spread throughout the country, their rates tend to be cheaper during the week and for off-peak times, but prices are worth comparing as they don’t advertise on comparison sites like booking.com. Similarly, Premier Inn is a slightly more expensive, slightly higher quality Travelodge which is worth a look too.
Accommodation in London is more expensive than anywhere else in the country, and usually prices in the South of England are more expensive than the rest of the country, so you will have to adjust your budget accordingly.
Couchsurfing in the UK
Couchsurfing is available in a lot of areas of the UK; where home owners offer up their sofa for guests willing to exchange cultural knowledge and perhaps cooking a meal or two for a free place to crash for a while. Check reviews carefully before you agree to stay, and exchange a few messages with your potential host to see if you get along.
AirBnB in the UK
Airbnb offers an alternative to hotel & hostel stays where you stay in someone’s home in their spare room, or sometimes have a whole flat to yourself. Prices vary wildly depending on location and size of the space you book. It can work out cheaper especially if you are travelling in a group, or staying for a long period of time as you usually have access to a kitchen so you can cook ‘at home’ to save money on buying meals out. Again, check reviews carefully and be sure to confirm your arrival time and arrangements for picking up keys. When searching on Airbnb, the prices are quoted per night, then they will calculate the full price including service charge and cleaning fees – sometimes what looks to be a cheaper option at first look can end up being more expensive than you expected once the total cost has been calculated. To help stay in the UK on a budget, you can claim a £25 off your first stay when you open a new account with Airbnb here.
Have you been travelling around the UK on a budget? Do you have any tips and tricks to share? I’d love to hear your stories!
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Tales of a Backpacker is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: August 10, 2018