Places to visit, stay, explore, food to try & more in the UK
England continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world (especially since post-Brexit, the pound has weakened and the country has become cheaper to visit).
Most travelers tend to stick to London, which is understandable it’s a great city!
However, backpacking around England was one of the highlights of all my travels in Europe.
England’s smaller cities, like Bath and Oxford, are equally as fascinating with a lot of culture and fewer crowds. Liverpool, the birthplace of The Beatles, boasts a rich musical history.
You have the beautiful mountainous north, the rolling hills of Lancaster and Cornwall, Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, and Tudor cities like Chester. The countryside has fascinating estates and natural beauty.
Once you get outside of London, prices also drop dramatically.
England Travel Costs
Accommodation – Hostels cost between 10-40 GBP ($13-52 USD) a night for a dorm room; more in the big cities, less in the countryside. Amenities usually include free internet, breakfast, a common room, TV, and laundry facilities. Private rooms in hostels (twin or double) start at around 50 GBP ($64 USD) and go up from there. Budget hotels offer the same amenities and start around 60 GBP ($77 USD) per night for a twin room. Apartment rentals (like Airbnb) cost around 35-50 GBP ($46-65 USD) per night for a shared room, while entire apartments/homes start around 75 GBP ($99 USD) per night. Campgrounds can be found all around the country, and most have basic facilities. Expect to pay around 7 GBP ($9 USD) per night for a place to pitch your tent.
Food – You can eat cheap in England if you really pay attention. Fish and chips or a kebab are only a couple of pounds. Indian and Asian food can be purchased for 6-10 GBP ($8-13 USD) for lunch entrees. For a meal at a sit-down restaurant with a table, you can expect to pay around 25 GBP ($32 USD) for a main. (Eating out at restaurants will really eat into your budget, though, so you’ll want to avoid doing so.) A week’s worth of basic groceries (fruits, veggies, pasta, chicken, sandwich stuff) will cost around 45 GBP ($57 USD). The best places to buy cheap groceries are Lidl, Aldi, and Sainsbury’s.
Activities – Most activities are cheap in England. Museums in England are free, though castles and other attractions entrance fees are around 10 GBP ($13 USD). The Tower of London is 27.50 GBP ($36 USD!). You’ll find most other day activities (cycling, wine tours, tours to ancient ruins) tend to be around 80 GBP ($102 USD).
England isn’t a cheap place to visit. While everything is cheaper once you get outside London, it’s still very easy to burn through money no matter where you are. The trains can be ridiculously expensive here. Mind-blowingly expensive. However, not all hope is lost. There are plenty of ways to save money when you’re traveling around the country. Here are my top ways to save money when you visit England:
Take advantage of the free museums – Public museums offer free admission in every city throughout England and the United Kingdom. It’s a great way to learn about the country’s most influential artists, immerse yourself in the country’s history, and spend a rainy day without paying a cent.
Book early – Book all transportation well in advance, even if you don’t plan to use it. Fares can be around 2 GBP ($2.55 USD) with a little planning. Megabus not only runs buses but also provides trains throughout England and is the best option for cheap travel throughout the country.
Get a Taste of UK card – The Taste of the UK card offers up to 50% off and 2 for 1 deal at selected restaurants. You don’t need to be a United Kingdom resident to get the card, and the first month’s membership fee is waived, which is perfect for most travelers.
Pub food – Eating in England can get quite expensive, but for good cheap and filling meals, visit the local pubs. Most serve food, and you can get a good meal for less than 10 GBP ($13 USD). Plus, the pubs are a great way to meet people!
Camp in a garden – Campinmygarden.com allows you to pitch a tent in someone’s backyard for free or a nominal fee (around 3 GBP/$4 USD). It’s very popular in England and a unique way to stay in the city.
Take a free walking tour – Most major cities in England offer free walking tours. They usually last a few hours and are a great way to see the city. Some tours even have a specific focus, such as history, food, or architecture. Just make sure to tip your guide!
Eat the lunch specials – Another way to lower your food expenses is to stick to eating out during lunch only. Restaurants offer fabulous lunch specials where you can get multi-course meals for around 10 GBP ($13 USD) or 2 for 1 pizza specials. I typically do my eating out during lunch and then cook my dinner to lower my food costs in England.
Visit the cathedrals – Many of England’s cathedrals are free to enter. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see some of England’s 15th to 19th-century architecture.
How to Get Around England
Public Transportation – England has excellent transportation in nearly every town and city, including buses, trains, and trams. Getting a travel pass is often far cheaper than buying single tickets all the time. For example, in London a one-way fare on the tube will cost you 4.90 GBP ($6.25 USD), but getting a Visitor Oyster Card will reduce peak fares to 2.90 GBP ($3.70 USD) and off-peak fares to 2.40 GBP ($3.07 USD).
There are two different taxi services in England metered ones that can be hailed from anywhere, and minicabs which can only be called by phone (but are cheaper). Taxis cost about 6 GBP ($7.65 USD) per one mile, but the price decreases the further you go. For example, a six-mile journey will cost you around 24 GBP ($31 USD) (but more during peak hours). In smaller towns the fare is 3-5 GBP ($3.75-6.50 USD) per one mile. Uber is also available in many cities.
Train – In the United Kingdom, the National Rail service is always expensive. It’s one thing citizens in this part of the world love to complain about. A journey from London to Liverpool can cost as little as 25 GBP ($32 USD) or as much as 150 GBP ($192 USD) during peak hours (mid-day)! London to Brighton costs about 19 GBP ($24 USD) during off-peak hours and 25 GBP ($32 USD) at other times. Tickets from Manchester to London start from about 29 GBP ($37 USD).
By booking your ticket with the National Rail over a week in advance and during off-peak hours, you’ll be able to find the cheaper tickets. You can use the rail website to research schedules and prices.
A Eurail Pass, which allows travelers to explore Europe by providing a set number of stops in a specific time period, might also be a good option. For more information, here’s a detailed breakdown of how Eurail passes work and can save you money.
Bus – The cheapest way to travel around the country is via the Megabus, where fares start around 1 GBP ($1.30 USD). You’ll need to book at least a month in advance but even if you miss that deal, fares are rarely more than 10-15 GBP ($13-19 USD).
National Express is the other main bus company in England, and they offer great discount passes to full-time students and people under 26 years old. The passes cost 12.50 GBP ($16 USD) and you’ll get 30% off adult fares. Travelers can also get a Skimmer pass, which is a flexible pass allowing for unlimited travel. A seven-day pass costs 69 GBP ($88 USD), a 14-day pass costs 119 GBP ($152 USD), and a 28-day pass costs 199 GBP ($254 USD). You don’t need to book in advance – just show up looking for an empty seat!
Car Rentals – Car rentals can actually be an affordable option in England, and rentals are found for as little as 125 GBP ($41 USD) per week. Don’t forget you’ll have to drive on the left, and most cars are standard rather than automatic!
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in England is very safe, but it can be a little difficult. It is not often easy to get a ride, but it’s also not impossible.