England continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world (especially since post-Brexit, the pound has weakened and the country has become cheaper to visit). 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, birthplace of The Beatles, boasts a rich musical history. You have the beautiful mountainous north, the rolling hills of Lancaster and Cornwall, Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, and Tudor cities like Chester! The countryside has fascinating estates and natural beauty. Once you get outside of London, prices drop dramatically. I personally think the best the country has to offer is outside its capital anyways.
Accommodation – Hostels cost between 15-40 GBP a night for a dorm room; more in the big cities, less in the countryside. Amenities usually include free internet, breakfast, a common room, TV, and laundry facilities. Private rooms in hostels (twin or double) start at around 50 GBP and go up from there. Budget hotels offer the same amenities and start around 60 GBP per night for a twin room. Apartment rentals (like Airbnb) cost around 30-40 GBP per night for a shared room, while entire apartments/homes start around 70 GBP per night. Campgrounds can be found all around the country, and most have basic facilities. Expect to pay around 7 GBP per night for a place to pitch your tent.
Food – You can eat cheap in England if you really pay attention. Fish and chips or a kebab are only a couple of pounds. Indian and Asian food can be purchased for 6 GBP for lunch entrees. For a meal at a sit-down restaurant with table, you can expect to pay around 25 GBP for a main. (Eating out at restaurants will really eat into your budget, though, so you’ll want to avoid doing so.) A week’s worth of basic groceries (fruits, veggies, pasta, chicken, sandwich stuff) will cost around 45 GBP. The best places to buy cheap groceries are Lidl, Waitrose, and Sainsbury’s.
Transportation – In the United Kingdom, the National Rail service is always expensive. 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 as much as 150 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’ll be able to find the cheaper tickets. The cheapest way to travel around the country is via the Megabus, where fares start around 1 GBP. You’ll need to book at least a month in advance but even if you miss that deal, fares are really more than 10-15 GBP. Car rentals can be found for as little as 125 GBP per week, though don’t forget you’ll have to drive on the left!
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 day activities (cycling, wine tours, tours to ancient ruins) tend to be around 80 GBP.
Suggested daily budget – 50 GBP / 62 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
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 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 to 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 – Campinmygarden.com 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 and a unique way to stay in the city.
- Take a free walking tour – Most major cities in England offer free walking tours. They usually last a few hours and are a great way to see the city. Some tours even have a specific focus, such as history, food, or architecture.
Top Things to See and Do in England
- London – You can’t go to England without seeing London (especially since you are 99% likely to fly into it!). It’s a city that requires a lot of money to really enjoy it though. Bars, clubs, restaurants, and theater all drain your budget really fast. But, despite its costs, there’s a plethora of free markets, museums, and park and a lot of history to take in. I love London!
- Watch the ceremonial guard change at Buckingham Palace – Buckingham Palace, home to the Queen of England, is a fascinating sight and, at 11:30 am, the changing of the guards happens. If you want to check out the palace, admission is 37 GBP, with discounts available for seniors, students, groups, and families. (It’s a bit too expensive for me so I just enjoy the free grounds!)
- 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, at 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.
- Stonehenge – Stonehenge, located in Salisbury, 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. The audio tour is definitely worth getting so you can get some historical context to the stones.
- Visit Cornwall – Cornwall is like mini-New England, and coming here makes you see why English settlers felt at home in the new world. Just like New England, Cornwall has rolling hills, beautiful lakes, small towns, wonderful hiking trails, great food and even a winery. It’s one of my favorite places in England. Don’t miss it!
- 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.
- Learn in 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. Be sure to 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.
- Summertime in 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 region in England.
- Bathe (or don’t bathe) in 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.
- Check out the 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’s 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.
- Gaze in awe at 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’s 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, theater, 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.
- Relax in 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, boutiques, cafes. The streets are narrow, creating an intimate atmosphere as you walk around the lanes. The city is a famous and a popular summer destination for locals who come here to relax on the beach, enjoy the fleeting summer sun, and wander the pier where there are amusement rides and a few carnival style stalls to check out.
- Hike Hadrian’s Wall- Declared a Word Heritage Site in 1987, Hadrian’s wall has been standing since the 2nd century. It was used to keep out the Celts from Roman England (it didn’t work so well). While you can make a brief visit to see the fortifications and ancient wall in many spots of the country, if you’re up for it, you can also hike the entire 135km length of the wall itself!