The UK is often referred to as one of the most expensive countries to travel in. In part, this is due to currency conversion and whilst currently (thanks Brexit) our currency is weak, you have to spend more of your dollars or euros (or other currency) to get your hands on sterling.
What I’ll say upfront is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune!
This post will cover: attractions, local travel in Greater Manchester and Greater London and national travel. Links included to relevant websites.
In the UK there are a good number of free attractions. Most of the museums in London are free, Birmingham has a free museum and art gallery and the library’s a great place to visit (yes, that’s free too!). My nearest cities are Manchester and Liverpool, and once more there are free museums. In Liverpool you have to visit the World Museum; if you’re visiting Manchester then MOSI is one that’s absolutely NOT to be missed. Even my hometown of Wigan has a free museum (as does my birth-town, Bolton). So if you’re chasing some culture in museums then it’s all down to picking the location and doing some research.
Note: all free museums rely heavily on donations. Always be sure to pop a few quid on the collection box on the way out to make sure the museum stays free for all.
Great Britain is truly beautiful. It costs nothing (unless it’s privately owned) to walk through a park or a woodlands. This is where my bias will show as I’m always going to scream and shout for the North!
In my post Exploring My Backyard, I talked about some of the completely free beauty spots in my area. If course, these aren’t then only places to go.
Blackpool is a cheap and cheerful seaside town. It’s incredibly tourist heavy and is the number 1 location in the UK for Stag and Hen dos! If you visit here, you’ll have the opportunity to go inside a sweet factory (did I mention that it’s free?), go on some of the oldest roller coasters in the world (cheaper than Disneyland, there’s a post coming on Blackpool Pleasure Beach soon!), and take home a stick of rock with your name in it.
Southport is just down the coast from Blackpool and is a favourite seaside destination of mine. It has a theme park (smaller and cheaper than Blackpool), incredible Victorian architecture and you can also buy a stick of rock here too! Whilst it’s a seaside town, you’ll have a job and a half walking to the sea as the tide at Southport doesn’t come in all the way.
Just down the coast is Formby. I always class Formby as being a more upper class sea side town, don’t let it put you off, but be prepared to pay for parking (about £6) as it’s maintained by the National Trust (membership is a good option if you’re going to travel the UK for a long period).
It’s not all seasides and cities though!
The North of England is home to the Lake District. The Lake District pretty much does what it says on the tin. Don a pair of walking shoes/ boots and a kagoule and you’re in for some epic exploring. It’s been years since I’ve visited the Lake District (unless you count stopping off at a service station on the motorway?), but it’s always a permanent fixture on my list of places to visit in the UK!
So you’ve sorted your places to visit, but how are you going to get there?
There’s lots of cheap travel options available in the UK. If you’re travelling in Greater Manchester then make sure you head to a TravelShop and pick up a Get Me There card. This is a smart card that you add a day, week or month ticket on and you can use it on any bus. That’s travel on any bus you want in the Greater Manchester area, for just £17 per week!
What’s great about this is that it doesn’t cost me anything to travel anywhere within the county as I already buy one each week for work.
The Oyster Card in London has existed for ages, and it’d be pretty silly not to get one. In the past few years, Greater London transport have made their buses cash-free, that means you need a contacted bank card or an Oyster Card to travel on buses. There’s a daily cap on the Oyster Card so you’ll never pay more than £5 a day on transport. Just be sure to tap in and out when using the Underground so that you get charged the correct amount. Just don’t tap out getting off the bus, you may be fined.
You can order your Oyster Card online as a visitor before you go, just sign up on the website for a visitors card and you’ll pay £3 postage for the card. Unlike the Get Me There, your Oyster Card credit doesn’t expire.
As yet, I don’t know if other cities in the UK have similar system but maybe you do? Let me know below and I’ll be sure to write it up.
And don’t forget – the cheapest way to travel is on foot! Many cities in the UK are smaller enough to travel on your own two feet!
You’ve found free museums, you’ve found how to travel within the city, but what about going across the country?
I’m not going to lie, Britain’s rail system is a bit on the abysmal side most days, but it’s not the worst in the world!
Train tickets are much cheaper when bought online in advance. Even booking half a day early can save a few quid, and you get the added bonus of a guaranteed seat.
Check out thetrainline.com and virgintrains.co.uk to compare prices for your selected journey. Booking my train home from Birmingham direct with Virgin Trains gave me a 50p off a hot drink voucher. I didn’t use it, but if I’d not stopped off for a Starbucks I certainly would have!
Aged 16-25? You can save even more!
The 16-25 Young Person’s Railcard gives those ages from 16-25 a discount of 1/3 off the full price rail fare (restrictions apply in peak hours).
So there it is! A really really long guide to saving money when traveling in Great Britain!