The countries in Britain aren’t the cheapest places on Earth. In fact, parts of Britain and the UK are amongst the most expensive places to live or visit anywhere in the world.
London is one of the cultural jewels of Europe, crammed with art, architecture, fantastic food and music, but you pay for what you get. Londoners earn accordingly more, so they can generally afford it, but for people visiting from other areas, London can just be too expensive, even with all the free museums and galleries.
Thankfully, what is true for London is not the same for the rest of Britain. Travel west out to Devon and Cornwall and things are much cheaper, calmer and more beautiful. The same is true if you head up north to Yorkshire and Northumberland, though you couldn’t say the terrain or the people are the same. Britain is a small island but it is full of variety, most of which is available on a budget.
If you’re wanting to get most out of your pounds in Britain, there are quite a few things you do to make sure you have the best time possible without breaking the bank.
Probably the cheapest way to enjoy the British countryside (and to many, the best), is to go camping. You can find campsites in nearly every village and town in the land, weBrits are mad for it. Popular with European visitors, the vast majority of British campsites have full amenities, so that includes hot showers, charging points, clean toilets and road access. This can be difficult for some disabled travellers but if you call ahead, you’ll find that most sites have access and will be very willing to help.
Another, similarly priced, way of exploring Britain and the countryside is in hostels. The Youth Hostel network is extensive and offers cheap, cheerful and clean accommodation to travellers of all ages on a budget. Usually not much more than a kitchen you can use, a bathroom and a room to sleep in, hostelling is a very social and enjoyable experience for those that enjoy meeting new people. Many lifelong friendships and relationships have been formed at hostels (including this author’s soul mate), so give it a go.
Budget hotels are everywhere in Britain. There are some in the American motel style, but generally they are tower blocks or converted houses in cities and towns that, if you’re willing to do a bit of shopping around, can offer a very cheap way to stay warm and dry in Britain. All the major international chains can be found in all the major cities, so a traveller can take advantage of loyalty cards or special promotions.
Bed and Breakfasts are a very British way of offering accommodation to weary travellers. Often found in tourist spots and at the seaside, a B&B offers a room for the night and a nourishing meal for breakfast. B&B’s are usually family run affairs and give a homely feel to your stay, with advice and a sympathetic ear if you’re lucky.
Things to Do
Britain has an unusually high number of free museums and art galleries, many of them founded by Queen Victoria and her descendants. London itself has a large number of them, there’s the V&A, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and Britain, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and more. If you can get cheap accommodation outside London, getting the tube in for the day and wandering around the museums for free (they’re all fairly close together) is a brilliant way of spending a few days in London (especially with children in tow) without spending your entire holiday budget.
As an island, Britain has a vast amount of coastline. From the wide sweeps of Pendine Sands (worth checking out the vintage hot rod race) to the vast crags of the Scottish islands, there is more than a lifetime’s exploring on the British coast. Small towns like St. Ives, Whitby, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and Pennan retain their character while giving a cheap and enjoyable experience for children, walkers, sailors, explorers and artists alike.
Walking is a cheap way of getting around Britain, whose hills are not too hilly and whose valleys are not too deep. Britain has a gentle landscape in general, and while it can be very wet and cold, it is possible to walk on nearly every part of it. The countryside is liberally criss-crossed with public footpaths and the rights of walkers are fiercely protected. Just be sure to keep any dogs on leads when it’s lambing time.
Britain is known for its pubs and fine ales. The recent explosion in the number of microbreweries has led to a revolution in beer variety and quality, so when you see a pub on a walk, drop in and ask the landlord what’s good on tap. Most pubs are child friendly, especially on walking or hiking trails, and many now serve good food. There is often music performed live in the local pubs, which can make for a great (not to mention cheap) night of entertainment.
The Brits might moan a lot about their public transport system but it is actually very extensive and, while it’s not the cheapest in the world, it can be the best budget choice. Trains and busses link all major cities, towns and most villages, so you should be able to get around fairly cheaply. Other if you fancy doing a bit of driving in Britain yourself you could always hire a car.