England continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. London in particular is one of the most visited cities and draws people in with its charm, history, and pubs. England’s smaller cities, like Bath and Oxford, are equally as fascinating with a lot of culture and fewer crowds. Liverpool boasts a rich music history as the birthplace to The Beatles. The countryside has fascinating estates and natural beauty. England has a lot to do and see in it. Remember though, England with its high prices and strong currency is a place where budgets can go to die. Be frugal here. Once you get outside of London, prices drop dramatically. I personally think the best the country has to offer is outside its capital anyways.
Destination Guides for England
Accommodation – Hostels cost between 20-40 GBP a night for a dorm room. Amenities are good and usually include free internet, breakfast, a common room, TV, and laundry facilities. Budget hotels offer the same amenities and start around 70 GBP per night for a twin room. Apartment rentals begin at the same price per night.
Food – You can eat cheap in England if you really pay attention. Fish and chips or a kebab are only a couple of pounds, or about 3 GBP. Indian and Asian food can be purchased for 6 GBP for lunch entrees. A week’s worth of groceries will cost around 45 GBP. Eating out a nice restaurants will really eat into your budget if you’re not careful though. Expect to pay around 22 GBP for a restaurant meal.
Transportation – In the United Kingdom, the National Rail service is always expensive, no matter how long your trip is. It’s one thing citizens in this part of the world love to complain about. A journey from London to Liverpool can cost as little as 25 GBP or it can cost as much as 130 GBP during peak hours (mid-day). By booking your ticket with the National Rail over a week in advance and during off peak hours, you can secure you tickets for as little as 13 GBP. The cheapest way to travel around is via the Megabus, where fares start around 1 GBP. You’ll need to book at least a month in advance on popular routes to get the special fare though.
Activities – Most activities are cheap in England. Museums in England are free, though castles and other attractions entrance fees are around 10 GBP (Tower of London is about 25 GBP!). You’ll find most other activities (cycling, wine tours, ancient ruins) that last a day tend to be around 77 GBP.
Money Saving Tips
Free museums – Public museums offer free admission in every city throughout England and the United Kingdom. It’s a great way to learn about the country’s most influential artists, immerse yourself in the country’s history, and waste a rainy day without paying a cent.
Get a Taste of UK card – The Taste of the UK card offers up to 50% off and 2 for 1 deals at selected restaurants. You don’t need to be a United Kingdom resident to get the card, and the first month’s membership fee is waived, which is perfect for 99% of most travelers.
Pub food – Eating in England can get quite expensive, but for good cheap and filling meals, visit the local pubs. Most serve food, and you can get a good meal for less than 10 GBP. Plus, the pubs are a great way to meet people!
Eat the lunch specials – Another way to lower your food expenses is to stick to eating out during lunch only. Restaurants offer fabulous lunch specials where you can get multi-course meals for around 10 GBP or 2 for 1 pizza specials. I typically do my eating out during lunch and then cook my dinner to lower my food costs in England.
Visit the cathedrals – Many of England’s cathedrals are free to enter. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see some of England’s 15th-19th century architecture.
Book early – Book all transportation well in advance, even if you don’t plan to use it. Fares can be around 2 GBP with a little planning. The Megabus not only runs buses but also provides trains throughout England and is the best option for cheap travel throughout the country.
Camp in a garden – Camp in My Garden allows you to pitch a tent in someone’s backyard for free or a nominal fee (around 3 GBP). It’s very popular in England.
Top Things to See and Do in England
London – You can’t go to England without seeing London. It’s a city that requires a lot of money to really enjoy it. Bars, clubs, restaurants, and theater all drain your budget really fast. It has fascinating sites and history to take in, but in my opinion, if you really want to see England, leave London. Definitely visit London so you can see the contrast, but then get off the beaten path. Read more about London here.
Buckingham Palace – Buckingham Palace, home to the Queen of England, is a fascinating sight. Make sure to get there at 11:30 am when the changing of the guards happens.
Visit the Tower of London – Here you can see the crown jewels of England, the typical beefeater guards, and check out where England’s most famous prisoners were held. It’s expensive to visit though, about 25 GBP, and lines are long, so plan ahead.
Museum hop – All the museums in England are free, and some of them are considered the best in the world. Get your art and history fill without spending a dollar. I highly recommend the Tate Modern in London, as well as the City Museum of London.
Stonehenge – Stonehenge is located in Salisbury and is one of the oldest man made structures in the world. It dates back to 2,500 B.C.! You can’t go up to the stones anymore, but it’s quite a fascinating site, especially since we still have very little idea how they dragged the stones there. Read my guide to visiting Stonehenge.
Cornwall – Cornwall is like mini-New England, and coming here makes you see why English settlers felt at home in the new world. Cornwall has rolling hills, beautiful lakes, small towns, wonderful hiking trails, food, and even a winery. It’s one of my favorite places in England and a top destination for the English during the summer. Read more about Cornwall here.
Oxford University – There are many colleges within Oxford and all of them are beautiful. Most cost a few dollars to get a tour during your visit, and you can even see the one where they filmed Harry Potter. I thought they were beautiful, and the tours provided a fascinating history of education as Oxford is one of the oldest universities in the world. Walk through Oxford with me!
Liverpool – Liverpool has spectacular museums, but the real reason to come here is for the music, or more specifically, for The Beatles. Besides the music, Liverpool has a rich history and fun pubs, so don’t sell it short.
Attend the festivals – England is known for its festivals, especially during the summer. Come check out the famous (and muddy) Glastonbury festival. There are also a lot of big summer festivals in England, so do your research and check out the lineup.
The Lake District – Located in Northern England, this area is perfect for hiking mountain passes and sailing around lakes. It’s very popular (but more crowded) during the summer. Outside of Cornwall, it’s my favorite spot in England, and if you want to see some real beauty, start by taking a look at my guide to England’s Beautiful Lake District.
Bath – Bath is so named because of the famous mineral baths in the city. It is home to an ancient Roman bath that is marvelously well preserved. It’s pretty much the main attraction in town though the church and river are also nice to see. Personally, I liked the charm of Bath, even if it was expensive. I found the Roman ruins interesting and the audio guide by Bill Bryson even better.
Chatsworth House – Located in Derbyshire, this amazing home was originally built in 1549 for the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. While there are many beautiful houses and castles throughout the UK, this is one of the most astonishing. There are also a stunning garden and farmyard to walk around.
Portmeirion – Located on the North Wales Coast, this is a quaint little village that was constructed between 1925 and 1975. There are a hotel and several holiday cottages to stay at, as well as a tiny teahouse and a single restaurant. This is a great place for a weekend getaway, but there isn’t much going on.
Ely Cathedral – Also known as the ‘Ship of the Fens’, this cathedral is visible everywhere in Ely and from miles around. Originally built in the 12th century, it is renowned for its Romanesque architecture, complete with a stunning entrance and an octagonal lantern tower. The Lady Chapel is the largest in all of England.
Old Trafford – This stadium in Manchester contains a famous club, theatre, and sports arena. I highly recommend a visit. The tour is awesome, and takes you below the stadium seating, into the player’s lounge and even the pitch side dugout. A visit to the onsite museum will give you some soccer history as well.
Greenwich Park – Considered to be one of London’s largest parks, it is also one of the most beautiful—a perfect escape from the city bustle. There are several historic sights here, as well as a rose garden, excellent pathways, a tea house, the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime museum, a café, and even a deer park. It is the oldest enclosed royal park in London.
Brighton – This is a great little town for a weekend trip. There are lots of shops and boutique stores for shopping and several cafes. The streets are narrow and there is something intimate feeling about walking around the lanes. The city is a famous and popular summer destination for locals who come here to relax on the beach, enjoy the little sun England sees, and wander the pier, where there are amusement rides and a few carnival style stalls to check out.