From the wild nightlife to the vast amount of historical buildings and monuments in London, the gorgeous castles in Scotland, the open landscapes of Wales, the pubs and people of Northern Ireland or the stunning Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the UK has something for every type of traveler. The UK is a perfect destination for a backpacker looking to find a good time at the pubs or the casual vacationer looking to relax on the beaches or immerse themselves in history.
Why Travel To The UK
Apart from the various kinds of rich history within this country, the UK offers visitors many reasons to explore this island country. This is a great country to find your backpacking feet if you're just getting started on a European backpacking trip, or a perfect country to explore the landscapes and relax on the beaches if you're on a quick holiday trip looking for some rest and relaxation. You can explore the castles of Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, drink like a Brit in the pubs in Manchester, relax on the beaches down south near Brighton, get lost in the many colorful areas of downtown London, take a train through the green hills of Wales, explore Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland, or get lost in the many small towns like Crewe, York or Preston. Though the UK can be an expensive country, there is always a way to do it on a budget, and with the UK being so backpacker friendly there are many ways you can explore on a budget if you're willing to put in the research.
The Nitty Gritty Facts
Almost 66 million people live in the UK and 8.8 million of them are concentrated in London, the capital.
The UK's national language is English but you will find people speaking languages from all over the world, 300 to be exact.
The National currency of the UK is the British Pound £.
The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland.
The shortest war against England was with Zanzibar in 1896. Zanzibar surrendered after 38 minutes.
London, England — Stansted, England — Bishops Stortford, England — Cambridge, England
Belfast, Northern Ireland — Antrim, Northern Ireland — Londonderry, Northern Ireland
The best way to travel within the UK is by train. Sure, you can find cheap flights or take a bus, but traveling by train is fast, efficient, relatively affordable and allows you to see the countryside and travel through towns and cities you would have otherwise never seen. The best option is to buy a BritRail Pass which will allow you to travel seamlessly throughout the country whenever you want and will take you wherever you want. To save money on accommodation, take night trains, and reserve a couchette for a good night's sleep.
Travel by train in the UK is fun and easy. Major train stations and routes are in every major city.
A BritRail Pass for 3 days within one month for the UK start at $145 USD
Budget airlines for the UK include:
The Rugged Budget
The official currency in the UK is the British Pound £ (£1 = $1.30)
Transportation for trains £30— £150 (Unless you have a train pass)
Accommodation in a 6 bed mixed dorm in most major cities in the UK usually cost around £14 - £20
Private room in a 4 star hotel in any major UK city starts around £130 ($170 USD)
Beer at a pub £6 ($7.80 USD)
Beer from a shop £2 ($2.60 USD)
Fish & Chips at a pub £8 ($13 USD)
Sit down restaurant £20 ($26 USD)
A pack of 20 cigarettes £10 ($13.00 USD)
The United Kingdom From From The Scratch My Pack Lens
Helpful Hints For Traveling In The UK
If you're looking for an inexpensive bite on the go, stop into any of the Tesco Lotus shops and get their £5 deal. It's any entree (sandwich or wrap) with a snack (chips, candy, energy bars) and a drink (soft drinks including Naked smoothies) all for only £5.
Take advantage of your resources and search for free accommodation using Couch Surf, HelpX or WWOOF.
Weigh the cost and benefits of staying in London's city center vs. outside of it. Although hostels are cheaper outside of London, the difference in price will often equal that of a stay in the center once you factor in the price of taking The Underground.
The Underground is expensive so if you can, take the bus instead. You'll be exchanging money for time as buses take longer, but you'll also get to be above ground to see the sites.
The UK uses the European plug. They have sockets using 220 - 240 V so citizens from countries such as the US, Canada, and most of South America need a voltage adapter to charge their devices.
Activities That Won’t Scratch Your Budget
Free Walking Tour, London: Free
Check out some of London's most famous tourist attractions by foot. There are loads of Free Walking tours offered in this city that will take you to some of the most sought after tourist sights. The tours usually last around three hours and will take a break for lunch. All you have to do is tip your guide at the end if you enjoyed the tour.
Pub Crawl, London: The cost is up to you
It's cheapest to get drinks from the local shops in London rather than go to the pubs, however, it is a fantastic experience to drink drafts at a pub in the UK— right of passage. So our best advice is to take advantage of the happy hour deals in town, some of them listing £3 beers and house wines until 8 pm on weekdays (Adam & Eve Bar). We also found Simmons King's Cross has £2.50 bottles of beer, spirits with a mixer, or wine from 4-9pm, Sunday to Friday.
Take a Museum Tour, London: Free
Take a tour through one of the ten free museums in the city ranging from The British Museum to The Science Museum and the national gallery.
Explore the Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: $20
Edinburgh Castle is one of the most exciting and historic sites Scotland. Located in the heart of Scotland's dynamic capital city, Edinburgh. The views from the castle are breathtaking and allow you access to see the city from a viewpoint like none other in the city. This castle is obviously very rich in history and will leave you entertained for hours as you explore the museums, hallways, art and terraces.
Stay on the Train, Wales: Price varies depending Route
Whether you are heading to Manchester from London or you just want to explore the east, make sure you take a train ride through the country of Wales. The scenery (especially by train) is breathtaking. You will see green pastures as far as the eye can see, loads of sheep and mini-horses running around, beautiful rolling hills, and stone buildings every couple of minutes. This is a very relaxed country and should definitely be explored, but at the very least, take a train through the country, listen to someone speak welsh, and have a pint in the rain.
Take a Black Taxi Tour, Belfast NI: £35 but the price gets cheaper with more people
Belfast is full of political history and culture. After 35 years of conflict, Belfast, and most of Northern Ireland have taken to expressing the conflicts through art. The black taxi tours take visitors on a controversial and detailed experience through history.
Visit The Giants Causeway, Antrim NI: Free
Make sure to take a visit north, far north, to visit the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, that result of an ancient volcanic eruption. You can tour the site for free, without a guide, and roam the lush cliff sides through guided paths.
Where Did We Stay (Accommodation We Recommend)
St. Christophers Inn, London $35/night for a 4 bed mixed dorm
Not only is the location awesome, the building itself is breathtaking. Formerly a seaman's hostel, the building was converted to an astonishing traveller’s place. Featuring a huge Bar, a courtyard, a cosy hangout area in the lobby and all amenities a backpacker could wish for. Whether you just stop in London for a couple of pints, or you're planning an extended sightseeing and shopping trip; this hostel is the place to stay. All the rooms come with comfy wooden beds, private shower, and toilet facilities and lockers for your belongings.
Budget Backpackers, Edinburgh $41/night for a 12 bed mixed dorm
Budget Backpackers is in the lively Grassmarket area, surrounded by bars and cafes and within walking distance to sites around central Edinburgh. The hostel features quiet, clean and comfortable rooms and a highly praised pub crawl and walking tour. There's lots of common areas to meet people if you're travelling on your own and are looking to party and meet people this is a great spot.