With rolling countryside, millenniums of well-preserved history, and cosmopolitan cities, the United Kingdom is a travel destination like no other. The weather sometimes lets it down – I’m writing this looking out of my window to a distinctly British drizzly day – but there are so many amazing things to see and do here, both indoors and outdoors, that it’s always worth a visit, no matter how expensive a trip to the UK might be. So, what are the costs of traveling in the UK?
One of the most important things to work out before a trip is its expected costs. The costs of traveling in the UK can be high compared to other destinations, but there are ways to reduce it if you want to travel to the UK on a budget.
In this post, we’ll look at UK travel costs, and I’ll give you some local tips for saving a few quid (that’s British for pounds!). Below you will find a breakdown of UK travel prices, from flights to the United Kingdom, local transportation, hotel and attractions costs.
How much does it cost to travel to the UK?
Traveling to the UK is relatively affordable. If you’re already in Europe, there are budget airlines flying to London airports from most countries. Ryanair and EasyJet are the most popular budget carriers, and while they are cheap, do be aware of hidden costs. For example, RyanAir will charge you if you don’t check in online and download your boarding pass beforehand. Flights to the UK from within Europe can cost you anything from £6 (yes, really) to £300, depending on where you are flying to and the time of year.
There are also buses serving London from cities in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and other destinations – check out Megabus or Flixbus. These are generally the same price as the cheapest budget airline tickets. You can search for buses to the UK here.
From further afield, it’s obviously pricier – but you can get some good deals. There is a lot of competition between airlines as many long-haul carriers serve London Heathrow Airport, so you’ll generally be able to find a deal from major airlines. Before, I’ve paid £400 for a round trip to Guatemala via New York, and $550 for a round trip to Asia, flying out to Cebu in the Philippines via Hong Kong and flying back from Bangkok.
Costs of traveling in the UK – prices and how to get around
If you are traveling to the UK on a budget, avoid the British rail network at all costs. It is expensive, and while some new modern trains are coming out, you will be disappointed if you are an avid train traveler. However, trains are the quickest way of getting around, so if you aren’t on a budget, you might find yourself favoring this mode of travel.
A return train ticket from London to Manchester could cost anything from £40 -£120, travel from London to Edinburgh is £80-£170 or maybe even more, and London to Bristol is between £30-£60. Even if you’re just doing day trips from London, you can still easily spend $50 on a day’s transport.
However, it’s not all bad news. Coaches in the UK are affordable and reasonably comfortable. They do take a lot longer, but the savings can be astronomical, definitely the cheapest way to travel around the UK. For example, traveling from London to Bristol can cost under £6 for a return and go up to £25 ish, and London to Manchester return can be from £12 – £40. Lots of locals get coaches – I personally can never justify spending more than fifty quid on a train!
You can use OMIO website to check the prices of trains and buses in the UK, choose the best deals and book in advance. Doing this you can keep your UK travel budget under control, and you can calculate how much you will spend on transportation even before traveling there.
Car rental is another option. Although the UK is a small country, some places aren’t that well connected, and if you want to get out to the countryside, you’ll save a considerable amount of time by renting a car. UK car rental prices start at around £12 for a day. It’s a good idea to pay extra for insurance, and of course, petrol (around £40-50 for a full tank in most cars) is an extra. You can find the best UK car rental deals on RentalCars.com (click here).
Don’t forget to buy your travel insurance before traveling to the UK!!
Prices of tourist attractions in the UK – what to do and how to save
There are, of course, plenty of things that you can spend money on in the UK. However, there are lots of free things to do in the UK as well. I’ll start with these, and then go into some of the pricier UK tourist attractions!
- Many museums, particularly in London, are completely free. The Natural History Museum is a favorite, as is the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum. Read our guide to free things to do in London here.
- National parks are free in the UK. You can drop into the visitor’s center and get some information about local walks and things to do in the area.
- If you base yourself in a town near the beach or other natural attractions, you might be able to do hikes and explore the surrounding nature. For example, there are loads of things to do in Exmouth, Devon that don’t cost a dime; here, you can walk along the famous Jurassic Coast, explore the Exe Estuary, hike in moorland and enjoy the beach!
There are, however, plenty of attractions that cost money. The National Trust is in charge of historic houses and other properties all over the UK, and entry to these costs £10 – £20. If ruins are more your thing, these properties are normally managed by the English Heritage (Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have their own programs) and cost £5-£15 for entry.
The cost of visiting a museum in the UK can be anywhere from £2 up to £25 – the pricier ones are private museums that have a certain theme or ‘experience’, such as the SS Great Britain in Bristol, which has been completely renovated to mimic what it was like when it took British migrants to Australia during the Gold Rush.
While there are plenty of free things to do in London, some of the most famous attractions – the London Eye, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey, all cost between £15-£30. These costs can add up if you are visiting a few, so if you are planning to visit more than 3 attractions in London a cheaper alternative is to buy the London Pass or a tour ticket that combines many attractions like this one.
London Pass is a great option for those who want to see a lot without expending much as it covers over 80 attractions and places to visit in London. You can choose between the 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10 Days Pass, the prices start at £79 and go up to £149. Book you London Pass in advance here and start saving for your UK trip right now.
However, what you spend on British attractions really depends on your budget and style. You could spend two weeks here and not spend any money on attractions, or you could spend over £100 per day.
UK food prices
The cost of food in the UK is another thing that can be cheap or astronomically expensive. A fancy dinner in London with a couple of drinks could easily be upwards of £150 – or you could spend less than £10 on street food at one of London’s food markets. A dinner out at a typical restaurant will generally cost you £10-£30. Of course, every extra glass of wine you have will add more to that bill!
If you’re visiting the UK on a budget but still want to eat out, consider going to Wetherspoons. These pubs are in every city, and while they aren’t exactly fine dining, they have a huge menu, decent food, and excellent prices. Here, dinner will cost you much less than £10 – and the drinks are cheap too!
For lunches, we Brits love a meal deal. You can get these in any supermarket (Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Morrisons are the main ones) or in the chemist Boots. Here, you can put together your own combo of a sandwich/ salad/ pasta pot, a snack, and a drink. These generally cost around £3, and are a great way to cut costs while exploring a city!
Accommodation in the UK – hotel prices
Hotels in the UK cities start at around £50 and go up to about £300 – of course, you get what you pay for! The cheaper hotels are generally either small guesthouses, which can be really lovely, or chains such as Ibis, Novotel, or Holiday Inn.
You will find below two links, one for luxury stays and another for cheap accommodation in the UK. Click on them and you will have an idea of the hotel prices in the UK per city, so you can plan your itinerary according to your budget and how much you want to spend on UK hotels.
You can find hotels at cheaper rates in smaller towns (sometimes the most budget-friendly thing to do is stay outside of a city and travel in), and the smaller, family-run places often include breakfast.
Hostels are available in the cities – a bed in a dorm room can cost between £10-£30 per night, so it’s a significant saving compared to hotels! Keep in mind that in London, hostel prices can be a bit higher.
Airbnb is another good platform for booking accommodation in the UK. If you are traveling with family or a group of friends you can rent an entire apartment or house which might be cheaper than booking hotel rooms or hostel beds. If you are traveling alone you can rent a room in someone’s house, it’s cheap, you can meet local people, and save by cooking for yourself.
If you don’t mind braving Britain’s unpredictable weather, camping is also an option. Campsite pitches cost around £20 per night. Holiday parks also have self-contained static caravans to rent – these are expensive in the summer but extremely cheap from October – April. Prices start from around £150 for a week! However, you will usually need your own vehicle to reach campsites and caravan sites.
Read our Accommodation Guidefor more tips on how to search and book the perfect room for your UK vacation. We share in this guide tips and tricks on how to choose a good accommodation that suits your needs and budget, from luxury to budget.
UK trip cost per day- How much money do I need to take to the UK?
It’s challenging to put together a UK daily budget because as you can see, there are ways to both save and spend a lot of money. I’ll give it my best shot, though!
If you’re traveling to the UK on a budget, staying in hostels or camping, eating meal deals/ Wetherspoons food or cooking yourself, and visiting free attractions, you could get by on £30 per day – or maybe slightly less if you’re savvy.
Daily cost of traveling in the UK on a budget – £30 per person.
A mid-range budget would include a car rental, staying in guesthouses, visiting most of the main attractions, this would cost £80-£120 per day. (Of course, if you share hotel rooms/ hire cars with one or more people, that divides the cost!)
Daily cost of traveling in the UK on a mid-range budget – £80-£120 per person.
A luxury budget would involve staying at the best hotels, seeing all of the attractions in the United Kingdom, and traveling by car or train, and would be anywhere from £150+ per day.
Daily cost of traveling in the UK on a luxury budget – £150+ per person.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you work out the costs of traveling in the UK and help you devise your own plan depending on your budget and travel tastes! For more advice on how to plan a trip, which websites to use when booking flights, hotels, activities and more read our Travel Planning page.
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Author: Claire Martin
Claire is a British travel blogger and writer. She currently runs two websites, Claire’s Footsteps and Go South West England. She is an advocate for overland travel and completed a trip from Bali to London without flying in 2019. However, she also loves experiencing the small aspects of travel, whether that is going to a local museum in her hometown or eating at an excellent restaurant. Follow Claire’s trips on Facebook.