- a thematic guide to Britain
and useful information
is reputed to be an expensive tourist destination. But it does not have
to be. For visitors on a limited budget, there are ways to
travel at a fraction of standard train fares, and find overnight
accommodation at very reasonable rates, not to mention plenty of free
attractions. And these options are
not just for students and backpackers. Many of them are open for
anyone, old and young.
in Britain at the best rates
On the roads - car, suv, minibus, truck
If you are visiting Britain by car or other road vehicle, there are not
many ways of reducing your travel costs, other than travelling shorter
distances. The only tolls on British motorways are a few toll bridges
over large estuaries, and the M6 Toll alternative route north of
Drivers coming to Britain from the continent via
France in diesel vehicles are advised to take on a full tank of diesel
in Calais or other port of departure; drivers coming on a
from Spain should fill up before leaving Spain.
Visitors planning to visit London should arrange
accommodation in the suburbs, as central London is a charge zone, with
a £11.50 daily charge (January 2020 rate). In addition,
in central London is expensive: up to £4.90 per hour for
parking in central London weekdays 8 a.m to 7 p.m. – if you
can find a space
. Off-street parking is available in many
notably those run by NCP
- but this is not cheap either, and car parks are often full.
area close to the West End with cheaper parking is Regent's Park, where
the daytime rate (2020) is £2.40 an hour, limited to 4 hours
Note: Regent's park closes at night.
- train and long-distance coach
in Britain are expensive if you travel at peak periods, but much
cheaper if you use off-peak services or slower inter-city services. For
information on cheap train tickets, see Britain
. To find the cheapest train tickets
alternative to train-travel, Britain has
many long-distance coach
These operate between most
British cities, notably London, and tickets can be a fraction of the
full train fare. Different companies run different routes, but the
largest operator of intercity coach services in the UK is National
Express . National
express are partnered with Eurolines for services to and
from lots of destinations in Continental Europe, including Paris,
Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich and many more.
major intercity routes are run by a company called Stagecoach whose
tickets are marketed online through the Megabus
website. Their routes
include bus services to London from Paris, Boulogne, Brussels and
Amsterdam - considerably cheaper than taking the Eurostar .
Check out Rome2rio's info page for more on UK coach services
Britain has plenty of low-cost flights connecting cities across the
country, notably Easyjet, Flybe and Ryanair. At London, most
low-cost flights use Stansted airport (STN), though some flights use
Gatwick. To get to your airport, take a coach (try National
Express ) not the train,
or else you could pay more, for example, to get from Central
London to Stansted than the cost of your air ticket.
Cheap places to stay
Traditional British hotels tend to be expensive, but there are
wary of cheap independent hotels, specially in cities. For
inexpensive places to stay, prefer the low-cost chain hotels, notably
the Premier Inn chain, which is
Britain's leading budget hotel chain;
other often reasonably priced hotels are Formule 1 and Ibis hotels
Click here for a large list of two
star hotels in Britain
Britain was one of the countries
that pioneered the Youth Hostel movement, and today there are still
some 200 youth
in Britain. Gone are the days when
youth hostels were only open to card-carrying members of the YHA; and
are the days when "hostelers" had to provide their own sleeping bags,
and do chores in the morning before leaving. Today's youth hostels,
many of them in the country, are open to all, and offer good value
accommodation in small dormitories and family rooms. There are even
youth hostels in London, but advance booking is essential.
are no-frills hotels, which usually provide dormitory accommodation and
for a bit extra family rooms or double rooms. they tend to be used by
students and backpackers, or budget-conscious families... but there is
no age limit.
► To find and book
hostel accommodation in Britain,
Bed and breakfast
imagine that B&B's are a cheap version of hotels. Some are,
are not. Like hotels, B&Bs can be star rated, and there are all
sorts of B&Bs, including five star B&Bs charging five
prices. Click here for a list
which often have rooms for under
£45 a night
Free tourist attractions
For London see London
other areas, the best free attractions are generally natural sites and
public museums and art galleries, many of which are free (see best art galleries
most of the free public museums are traditional art galleries
museums, there are some that are not, but are free all the same. The
two most surprising free attractions in Britain are surely
Big Pit mining mueum
at Blaenavon, south Wales, which
provides free 1
hour trips down an old coal mine, as part of the National Mining Museum
of Wales; and the National
in York, the world's largest
railway museum (and probably the only major one that is free to visit).
Another free museum is the National Museum of Slavery
Liverpool; and another free industrial heritage museum is Morwellham
in Devon (see Open
), which is free to wander round - though there is
a charge for the best bits.
Many of Britain's prehistoric
(though not Stonehenge)
free to wander round, as is Hadrian's
, in the north of England,
Britain's finest and best preserved Roman site.
Note that some of Britain's big cathedrals
such as St.
London, have an entrance fee, but others such as Salisbury, Exeter,
Durham, Chester or Wells - like many museums - are free, even
though they strongly
visitors to make a donation .... often indicating how much they would
like you to give.
Eat well on
Some general tips.
Chinese and Indian restaurants often do very good value three-course
meals at lunch time. Many pubs also do quite good value
and the servings are often generous. However, the price and quality of
pub food varies enormously. Look out for country pubs offering home
made food... but check the prices first.
food: (does not really come under "eat well"
but .... )
there are of course plenty of McDonald's, Burger King's, KFCs and other
fast food outlets all over Britain, if that is your taste; and
sandwiches are available in most food stores except the smallest, as
well as in garages and specialist outlets. But if you want fast food,
don't forget to try a fish 'n' chips takeaway - the world's original
carry-out fast food. For take-and-eat sandwiches, reputedly of good
quality, try Prêt-à-Manger
: try the fruit and deli counters in medium-size or large supermarkets.
You can get a great choice of ready-to-eat salads and cold meats to go
with them. Two British specialities that have to be sampled (either
from a supermarket or from a small specialist shop or stand) are Pork
Pies (the best ones are Melton Mowbray pies), best eaten cold, and
Cornish Pasties (pastry with a filling of spiced minced lamb and
potato) best eaten hot.
For information about trains in and around
London, see London
travel for visitors