Backpacking the UK can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. From jumping on mega buses to couch surfing your way around – there are so many different penny saving methods to help you all the way from the tip of the Scottish Highlands to the sunny coasts of the South. What better place to start your money saving research, than with a couple of British backpackers sharing their secrets.
As you travel around the UK you’ll soon realize that prices vary greatly from county to county and country to country. London for example is almost a mini-country of it’s own. People who work in the English capital are usually provided with a ‘London wage’ – effectively they are given an extra few pounds to compensate for the higher cost of living. Backpacking your way down Oxford St. and visiting Buckingham palace are on near enough everyone’s bucket list. Unfortunately there are some experiences where you have to be prepared to dig deep into your pocket – I guess that’s when you work out if you really want to do it or not. With that in mind, let’s get our 10 tips for backpacking the UK on the road.
1) Plan Your Way Around
This might seem obvious, but you’d be amazed just how many people we’ve met who don’t fully plan their trip to the UK, only to be left without a place to stay or a train to catch. The old saying that failing to plan is planning to fail really rings true when it comes to backpacking the UK. It’s not hard to do either. Follow our tutorial on how to create a Google travel map, to plot what cities and sights you want to see. Knowing where you are going and when you are going to be there means you can forward book your transport and accommodation, normally saving yourself money along the way. The earlier the better with this so what are you waiting for!
2) Get Your Chef On
While no trip to the UK would be complete without a traditional slap up Fish and Chips, eating out will soon ‘eat’ in to your budget. This isn’t South-East Asia, so there aren’t any £1 noodle dishes to be had along the street – the closest you’ll get to that is a burger van along a motorway and even then it’ll set you back around £5. Instead get yourself down to a supermarket, preferably one of the cheaper chains like Aldi or Lidl. You’ll soon find yourself saving heaps of cash by sourcing your own ingredients and cooking your own dishes. Eating healthily is also a lot easier when you’re rustling something up yourself – so heat up the oven and turn on the hob, it’s time to get cooking.
3) Accommodation Can Be Costly
Consider how you want to travel when you visit. If you are wanting to live in luxury (er, why are you here?) – or slum it out with the cheapest option, preparing yourself beforehand is key to avoid disappointment when you’re here. We strongly recommend looking at the popular Couchsurfing website to find locals who are willing to put you up on their sofa or sometimes in their spare room. Work Away also seems to have quite a few hosts in the UK, where people offer you boarding and food in return for a few hours work a day. This can range from teaching a language to washing dishes – but it always saves you cash and remember, that’s why you started reading this in the first place.
4) Don’t Fuss It, Bus It
There is absolutely no reason why you should be spending loads of money on transport while backpacking the UK. Yes you may have to purchase a £30 flight over to Dublin, if that’s on your bucket list, but you should stick to cheap methods of transport on the mainline. That means sticking to public transport, buses, bikes and trains – though be careful with the latter as sometimes train fares can be extortionate. MegaBus is a great place to start if you’re looking for longer distance travel and you can sometimes get some great deals.
5) Earn While You Burn
Why does it all have to be about spending less money? If you’re staying in the country for a little longer than a few weeks – consider looking for some part-time work. There are loads of potential jobs available; teaching a particular skill you have, working behind a bar or doing some web development – whatever your skill, there will be someone who could use it! Try advertising locally, sites likes Gumtree and the Friday-ad are good places to start. Word of mouth always helps and if you’re staying in a hostel they might even have work going there! If you don’t ask you don’t get, so top up your funds with a little bit of hard work – it’ll be worth the extra few weeks.
6) Do You Need To Shop
Look, we all love to buy that new shirt to wear out or that new lens for your DSLR, but do you really need it? On the whole, buying products in the UK is far more expensive than your more traditional backpacking go-to’s, so a little resilience will go along way when you hit the shopping centers. If you find yourself really in need of some warmer clothing, we all know how cold (and wet) the UK can get, don’t head straight for the designer shop. Charity shops line British high streets and are great places to find bargains – while you can also be satisfied that the money you’re handing over is going towards a good cause, not some fat cat’s back pocket.
7) Choose Activities Wisely
Visiting a Premier League football match circa £100, heading to a Glastonbury £500+ or even heading out for a swanky meal in a posh restaurant (minimum £30 per person) – activities cost money. Swap out that big football match for a local non-league game and you’re looking at £7.50 not £75. Of course the quality of football is going to be very different, but you’ll still get an insight into how the sport is played in the country it was created. That being said, if you’ve always dreamt of watching a Premier League match, do it! What’s the point in missing out? After all, backpacking the UK doesn’t mean not having fun! Just know that unless you have a bottomless bank account, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do everything on your wish list. Choosing your activities wisely can help you significantly with your finances.
8) Do It With Friends
As with any Backpacking or travel trip for that matter, backpacking the UK in a group can drastically reduce your overheads. From sharing a double room to getting discounted entry into museums – you’ll find that there are plenty of scenarios where clubbing together can save you money. Even if you aren’t travelling with friends, head to the communal kitchen in your hostel and offer to cook everyone a meal if everyone clubs in – you may even be able to squeeze out your portion without paying anything! Likewise, talk to other travelers and locals about what they’re up to; you never know, you might be able to catch a lift with a local to your next destination.
9) You Could Be A Target
While the UK isn’t famed for being a place where you need to watch your back, don’t be lulled into a sense that nothing can wrong. It can and if you don’t believe that, it probably will. Large cities are hot-spots for pickpockets. Not everyone who frequents a nightclub is there to enjoy the music and have a boogey – watch your drinks and don’t leave them unattended – the spiking of drinks, especially womens’ ones, is not uncommon. Take care at ATMs too. A little awareness goes a long way when you’re taking out cash; don’t get caught out with a big wad in your pocket. Don’t let this put you off, but just be aware that you still need to be wary at times!
10) Enjoy Yourself
Finally and most importantly, no amount of money can give you enjoyment. If it’s going to cost you a certain amount to do something you want to do, then crack on. Do it. You haven’t gone travelling to ‘almost’ do things, you’re doing it because you want to experience new cultures, see wonderful sights and taste unusual dishes. Sometimes these things don’t come cheap, but that doesn’t mean they are not worth doing. Don’t put off your trip to the UK because you’re worried about funds. Britain has so much to offer and the size of your wallet won’t be as important as you might be thinking it is. Take the leap, buy the ticket and start backpacking the UK!