Scotland on a Budget: East to West | THE HOSTEL GIRL
How to Visit Scotland on a Budget
Scotland is a great place to visit because it’s full of tourist attractions and amazing food and culture. Travelling anywhere can get pretty expensive, especially if you’re taking an intercontinental flight, but Scotland can still be a great destination for those who need to keep a budget in mind. Cutting costs can be done by researching carefully and finding cheap meals, free activities, and inexpensive accommodations.
Getting to Scotland
Book your ticket from a budget airline ahead of time.Budget airline tickets tend to start at a lower baseline price and as more tickets start to sell, the price increases. This is especially common for European countries, so don’t wait for a sale that may or may not happen!
- The European budget airlines are: Vueling, TUI, Ryanair, Easyjet, Aer Lingus, WOW Air, Eurowings, Flybe, Norwegian Air, and Wizz Air.
- WOW Air and Norwegian Air are your best bet if you’re in the U.S. or Canada.
Travel during the end of December to mid March.This is off season for Scotland, so flights are a lot cheaper during this time. Winter season may not be very popular with most tourists, but it’s a great time to see the country when there’s limited crowds.
- Winter in Scotland is an opportunity to take a peek at the more authentic side of Scottish life.
Look at all your flight options.Search for budget European airlines as well as connecting, long-haul, and roundtrip flights.Consider using your airline miles, and take into account that weekday flights tend to be 10% cheaper than the weekend alternative.Map out the prices of all of your possible flights and select the best one according to your budget.
Figuring out Food, Lodging, and Transportation Logistics
Book a train ticket before the date of travel.Scotland has a great railway system, so traveling through train is the best way to enjoy some stunning countryside views. The most budget friendly way to travel through train is to book your tickets 8 to 9 weeks before the date of travel. This will save you 50%-75% of what the ticket price would be if you bought it the day of.
- You can also get railcards that offer special promotions, like the 18-25 railcard, which gives discounts to people of that age bracket.
Get around by bus and coach services if you’re going to be travelling between cities.If you’re going to cover long distances, the cheapest way to travel is by bus. Book your tickets ahead of time to find them at a significant discount from what they would be on the day of. These deals go very quickly, but keep checking the website.
- Megabus is an especially cheap coach service to travel intercity in Scotland.
- When visiting bigger cities like Glasgow or Edinburgh, look into the day-tickets which usually cost just a little more than a standard fare.
Combine train or bus travel with boat travel to save a lot of money.Scotland has 790 islands and the most popular way to reach said islands is by boat. The passenger ferries are reasonable and you get to enjoy the amazing sea views.
- Northlink and Calmak are the two biggest ferry operators in Scotland, so check out their website if travelling by boat interest you.
Choose to stay in a hostel.Scotland has a vast range of hostels that can accomodate families, groups, and individuals of all ages. Economy dormitories (they house a large amount of people in one room) are the most budget friendly. There are also hostels that provide spacious private rooms to those travelling to Scotland.
- Research the hostel location beforehand to ensure that it’s in a safe part of the city.
- If you’re a woman who is uncomfortable with sharing a space with men, there are hostels that provide only-women lodgings.
Stay in a bed & breakfast or guesthouse.These will always be cheaper than hotels while still being great lodgings. Airbnb is a good app to see accommodations like these, and the prices can be as low as per night.
Camp-out in the caravan and camping sites.There are sites to suit all budgets and preferences. You can bring your tent or motorhome, or rent a caravan holiday home on-site. There’s campsites all around Scotland and many of them are open all year long.
- Some of these camping sites have cafes, swimming pools, Wi-FI, and children play areas.
- The camping grounds are outfitted with restrooms, showers, dining kitchen, and laundry facilities.
- The price to have a tent at one of these camp sites is usually between - per night depending on the location you choose and what features it includes.
Avoid eating in city centers.The closer you get to the city (especially Edinburgh and Glasgow) the more that restaurants hike up the prices. There are great restaurants outside of the heart of cities, so look around for places that are a bit more remote.
Eat in pubs instead of sit-down restaurants.Not only do pubs offer an authentic Scottish environment, they also have great, inexpensive food. At a pub you’ll pay a fraction of the price than you would have at a restaurant.
Cook your own meals for a cheaper and healthier alternative.While it may not be as fun as going out to eat, consider making a few of your own meals to save some money. This will also give you the opportunity to have a few healthier options throughout your trip.
- This is great if you follow a special diet (vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian etc.) but are on a tight budget.
Having Fun on a Budget
Learn about the city in a free walking tour.If you want to experience the architecture and learn more about where you’re staying, consider a walking tour. All of the major Scottish cities offer them and they’re a great way to be introduced to the area.
- These tours usually only last a few hours, so they offer a lot of knowledge without taking up too much of your time.
Appreciate nature by going on hikes and visiting parks and beaches.Scotland is known for its beautiful highlands and there is no shortage of places to visit if you want to enjoy nature. The majority of Scottish parks are free to enter.
- Some free places to visit found in the highlands are: The Isles of Skye, Glencoe, Cairngorms National Park, Loch Ness, and Glenfinnan and the West Highland Line.
- If you’re a Harry Potter fan, the highlands are a great place to visit because many of the movie scenes were filmed here.
Visit the free museums and centers for an extra dose of culture.All public museums in Scotland are free, so they’re great for budget-conscious travelers who want to witness Scottish history and art.
- Aberdeen Maritime Museum and the Dundee Contemporary Arts Center are common tourist spots that happen to be free.
Go to Doors Open Day if you’re visiting in September.Every weekend in September, Scotland hosts a country wide event in which tourists are welcomed inside castles and buildings that are normally not open to the public. This happens in cities (both big and small) around the country.
- Check out the events website to see what dates correspond to each city.
Witness the Stonehaven Fireballs if you’re in Scotland for New Year’s Day.This is Stonehaven’s unique way of welcoming the new year. 40 men and women parade around the street while swinging fireballs above their heads. This event is followed by a fireworks display.
- Attending this free event is a great way to meet locals!
Make plans to attend St Andrew’s Day events if you’re in Scotland on November 30.This is Scotland’s official national day and it features Scottish music, dance, food, and drink for no charge. Events are held in Irvine, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.
- Participating in this day is a sure way to make new friends who are in a celebratory mood.
Video: Travel Scotland Trip Advice
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