I’ve noticed a lot of people have been travelling through the UK, I assume trying to take advantage of what’s left of the summer weather and breezy autumn temps before winter comes roaring into Northern Europe. However, it seems that some budget backpackers in the UK are feeling the squeeze because of Britain’s high cost of living. Here are a few “cheap travel UK” tips and suggestions for your next tour – file this away and keep it in mind. Otherwise, you might just starve.
Food and drink
- Pubs are some of the cheapest places to eat – and yes, most of them have salads and vegetarian choices, it’s not all steak pies with chips. See the specials board as you can usually get a really good deal.
- Along a similar line, most restaurants run an ‘early dining’ special. If you can get a seat sometime between 5-7pm, you can get two-for-one deals, freebies, and good discounts. If you don’t see anything on the main menu, just ask – sometimes there is a regular specials menu they don’t always put out.
- As with many countries, a few jars and a night on the town in the UK can quickly blast through even the sturdiest travel budget. Check out BYOB restaurants (though watch your corkage fees), and if you must go to the latest, hippest night club, pace yourself with those Â£6 cosmopolitans.
Travel and transport
- Public transport it is! Be sure to investigate travel cards or transport cards for big savings. For example, the Oyster Card in London can save you about 50% on all travel and pays for itself in one trip.
- While those black cabs may look like a wonderful tourist experience, you’ll pay dearly for it, especially in cities outside of London, believe it or not. Avoid taxis at all costs.
- There is usually more than one type of transport to get around, so check out the cost differences between train travel, bus, and flying. For flights, booking far ahead is best, whereas bus/rail carriers seem to post specials around two-three months prior to travel. Always check the carrier website itself (not the aggregators, whom I’ve had limited success with) for the latest specials, especially the National Express East Coast who always seem to be running a promotion. Never book trains last-minute; if you do, expect whopping walk-up fares like you see with airlines.
Shopping and souvenirs
- Want to bring home some whisky or Pimms for a friend? Skip the speciality stores and just head for a grocer. The prices are far cheaper and the selection isn’t that far different. When you’re travelling the UK, the same goes for food: shortbread lovers, this means you.
- Maybe I’m biased because I’m based here, but the UK has Europe’s best collection of tawdry, mass-produced souvenirs. Do you really need that <insert item name here> that is produced in bulk and has a cheap “Scotland” sticker slapped on the front? Skip the impulse buys.
Know where to go
While all of these tips apply wherever you go (because everywhere can be expensive), it pays to get out and explore because, well, there is more in the UK than London. Here’s a couple of suggestions:
- Manchester – with a mad nightlife scene and Europe’s largest concentration of university students, you’re bound to have a good time (without starving).
- Cardiff – often overlooked, but Wales is a lovely alternative option. You can spend your whole trip walking in the outdoors – for free!
Ask a local
My last tip is an important one and a tip I use all over the world, not just for cheap travel in the UK: ask a local. Give your followers a shout on Twitter or Facebook and ask for discount suggestions. Sometimes there is a local magazine or tourist brochure with coupons that is easy to miss, so don’t ignore the advice you can get from the folk who are on the ground.
What are your tips for not starving and Cheap UK travel?
Photo by timparkinson