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).
Most travelers tend to stick to London, which is understandable — it’s a great city! However, backpacking around England was one of the highlights of all my travels in Europe.
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 also drop dramatically. (I personally think the best the country has to offer is outside its capital anyways.)
Regardless of your travels tyle, this England travel guide will help you get the most out of your visit!
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in England
2. Explore the coast
5. Enjoy summertime in the Lake District
Other Things to See and Do in England
1. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, home to the Queen of England, is a fascinating sight and, at 11:30am, the changing of the guards happens. If you want to check out the palace, admission is 37 GBP ($47 USD), with discounts available for seniors, students, groups, and families. (It’s a bit too expensive for me so I just enjoy the free grounds!)
2. 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, costing 27.50 GBP ($36 USD) and lines are long so plan ahead.
3. Go to Brighton
Brighton 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. Hike Hadrian’s Wall
Declared a World 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!
13. 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.
For more information on specific cities, check out these guides!
England Travel Costs
Accommodation – Hostels cost between 10-40 GBP ($13-52 USD) 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 ($64 USD) and go up from there. Budget hotels offer the same amenities and start around 60 GBP ($77 USD) per night for a twin room. Apartment rentals (like Airbnb) cost around 35-50 GBP ($46-65 USD) per night for a shared room, while entire apartments/homes start around 75 GBP ($99 USD) per night. Campgrounds can be found all around the country, and most have basic facilities. Expect to pay around 7 GBP ($9 USD) 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 6-10 GBP ($8-13 USD) for lunch entrees. For a meal at a sit-down restaurant with table, you can expect to pay around 25 GBP ($32 USD) 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 ($57 USD). The best places to buy cheap groceries are Lidl, Aldi, and Sainsbury’s.
Activities – Most activities are cheap in England. Museums in England are free, though castles and other attractions entrance fees are around 10 GBP ($13 USD). Tower of London is 27.50 GBP ($36 USD!). You’ll find most other day activities (cycling, wine tours, tours to ancient ruins) tend to be around 80 GBP ($102 USD).
Backpacking England Suggested Budgets
England is expensive!
Even on a backpacking budget, you will need about 50 GBP ($65 USD) per day. On this, you’ll be staying in hostel dorms, Couchsurfing some, cooking all of your meals (with an occasional splurge for street food like kebabs), using public transit to get around, taking buses over trains, and taking advantage of all the free sites in the country. It’s a tight budget. If you want some more wiggle room, I’d add another 10-15 GBP per day.
On a mid-range budget of about 205 GBP ($160 USD) per day, you can stay in private hostel rooms or budget hotels, eat out at inexpensive restaurants, do some intercity travel by train (if you book early), visit some paid attractions, and take a few guided tours.
On a luxury budget of 317 GBP ($405 USD) per day or more, you can stay in luxury hotels, eat fancy meals, shop, take the theater, take private tours, not worry about train prices, and really do anything you want. If you want an expensive holiday here, it’s doable!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style.
England Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
England isn’t a cheap place to visit. While everything is cheaper once you get outside London, it’s still very easy to burn through money no matter where you are. The trains can be ridiculously expensive here. Mind-blowingly expensive. However, not all hope is lost. There are plenty of ways to save money when you’re traveling around the country. Here are my top ways to save money when you visit England:
- Take advantage of the 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 spend a rainy day without paying a cent.
- Book early – Book all transportation well in advance, even if you don’t plan to use it. Fares can be around 2 GBP ($2.55 USD) with a little planning. Megabus not only runs buses but also provides trains throughout England and is the best option for cheap travel throughout the country.
- 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 ($13 USD). Plus, the pubs are a great way to meet people!
- 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/$4 USD). 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. Just make sure to tip your guide!
- 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 ($13 USD) 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.
Where To Stay in England
Looking for a place to stay on your travels? My favorite places in England are the following:
- Astor Hyde Park (London)
- St. Christopher’s (London)
- Clink78 Hostel (London)
- Hatters at Hilton Chambers (Manchester)
- YHA Manchester (Manchester)
- YHA Bristol (Bristol)
- The Full Moon Backpackers (Bristol)
- YHA Brighton (Brighton)
- Baggies Backpackers Brighton (Brighton)
- YHA Liverpool (Liverpool)
- Embassie Liverpool Backpackers (Liverpool)
How to Get Around England
Public Transportation – England has excellent transportation in nearly every town and city, including buses, trains, and trams. Getting a travel pass is often far cheaper than buying single tickets all the time. For example, in London a one-way fare on the tube will cost you 4.90 GBP ($6.25 USD), but getting a Visitor Oyster Card will reduce peak fares to 2.90 GBP ($3.70 USD) and off-peak fares to 2.40 GBP ($3.07 USD).
There are two different taxi services in England – metered ones that can be hailed from anywhere, and minicabs which can only be called by phone (but are cheaper). Taxis cost about 6 GBP ($7.65 USD) per one mile, but the price decreases the further you go. For example, a six-mile journey will cost you around 24 GBP ($31 USD) (but more during peak hours). In smaller towns the fare is 3-5 GBP ($3.75-6.50 USD) per one mile. Uber is also available in many cities.
Train – 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 ($32 USD) or as much as 150 GBP ($192 USD) during peak hours (mid-day)! London to Brighton costs about 19 GBP ($24 USD) during off-peak hours and 25 GBP ($32 USD) at other times. Tickets from Manchester to London start from about 29 GBP ($37 USD).
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. You can use the rail website to research schedules and prices.
A Eurail Pass, which allows travelers to explore Europe by providing a set number of stops in a specific time period, might also be a good option. For more information, here’s a detailed breakdown of how Eurail passes work and can save you money.
Bus – The cheapest way to travel around the country is via the Megabus, where fares start around 1 GBP ($1.30 USD). You’ll need to book at least a month in advance but even if you miss that deal, fares are rarely more than 10-15 GBP ($13-19 USD).
National Express is the other main bus company in England, and they offer great discount passes to full-time students and people under 26 years old. The passes cost 12.50 GBP ($16 USD) and you’ll get 30% off adult fares. Travelers can also get a Skimmer pass, which is a flexible pass allowing for unlimited travel. A seven-day pass costs 69 GBP ($88 USD), a 14-day pass costs 119 GBP ($152 USD), and a 28-day pass costs 199 GBP ($254 USD). You don’t need to book in advance – just show up looking for an empty seat!
Car Rentals – Car rentals can actually be an affordable option in England, and rentals are found for as little as 125 GBP ($41 USD) per week. Don’t forget you’ll have to drive on the left, and most cars are standard rather than automatic!
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in England is very safe, but it can be a little difficult. It is not often easy to get a ride, but it’s also not impossible. HitchWiki is the best website for hitchhiking info.
When to Go to England
Thanks to its temperate climate, visiting England year-round is enjoyable as there are very few weather extremes. Summer is peak tourism season, and temperatures are the warmest during the summer – but rarely ever above 86°F (30°C). Although tourist sites and attractions will be teeming with people, there’s also a great atmosphere in the air. People make the most of the warm weather, and there are constantly tons of events and festivals happening all over the country.
Spring (late March to June) and autumn (September to November) are also fantastic times to visit, as temperatures are still warm and it’s drier than other times throughout the year. Plus with the seasons changing you’ll see either gorgeous spring flowers in bloom or the leaves turning color in the autumn. Just be prepared for a little rain here and there.
Winter lasts from December to February, and tourism crowds will thin out dramatically during this time. You can still do plenty of sightseeing, although further north (or in mountainous areas) some attractions may be closed for the season. Temperatures rarely dip below 41°F (5°C).
Keep in mind that England is famous for its gloomy, dreary weather! It can rain a lot, so make sure you pack some weather clothes and some waterproof gear.
How to Stay Safe in England
England is very safe, and the risk of violent crime is low. Scams and pick-pocketing can occur around high traffic areas, especially in London around tourist attractions like London Tower. Pick-pocketers tend to work in teams, so stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
You can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.
As a general rule, if you don’t do something at home, don’t do it in England!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
England Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to England. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all bookers.
- Rail Europe – If you are going to Europe and taking a lot of high speed or long distance trains, get a rail pass. I’ve used a rail pass three times and saved hundreds of dollars each time. The math just works.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around England, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – German based Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR ($6 USD)! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, and up to three 3 free bags.
- Bla Bla Car – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- Context Tours – One of my favorite walking tour companies, Context offers in-depth history, food, and cultural tours through cities in the world, with a speciality in Europe. This company gets experts to lead tours (i.e. a chef to lead a food tour).
- Take Walks – A day tour company in Europe. What makes them so good is they get you inside access to attractions and places you can’t get elsewhere. Their guides rock too!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
England Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading to England, here are my suggestions for the best travel backpack and tips on what to pack.
The Best Backpack for England
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for England
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier. The tap water is safe to drink here. This is just to cut down plastic bottle usage!)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
England Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson
It’s pretty impossible to not love anything Bill Bryson writes. After spending nearly 20 years living in Great Britain, Bryson decides to return to the United States. (To quote him: “I had recently read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me.”) But first he sets out on a tour of his adoptive country, delivering hilarious social commentary on the nation that brought us Shakespeare and zebra crossings.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s most popular novel is one of those classics you read and can’t ever forget about it. It’s famous for a reason. When Elizabeth Bennet meets an arrogant bachelor named Fitzwilliam Darcy, she immediately brushes him off as too conceited – and he immediately ignores her good looks and charm. Elizabeth discovers that Darcy has become involved in the disastrous relationship of his friend Bingley and her sister Jane, which further deepens her disdain. What follows is an excellent commentary on England’s snobbish middle-class life, and the dangers of judging someone by first impressions.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
This is Emily Brontë’s only novel, but itsa impact has withstood the test of time. The story focuses on Lockwood, the newest tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the Yorkshire moores who is forced to seek shelter one evening at Wuthering Heights (the home of his landlord). He soon uncovers a love story between a gypsy orphan named Heathcliff and high society’s Catherine Earnshaw. She eventually succumbs to societal pressure and marries the well-bred Edgar Linton, and Heathcliff’s bitterness is cast upon the next generation. Somehow, the couple’s heirs must escape this painful legacy.
Sorry!: The English and Their Manners, by Henry Hitchings
The Brits are notorious for their polite behavior and the importance of having proper manners, and this book from Henry Hitchings is an investigation into this phenomenon. It isn’t just holding doors open and keeping your elbows off the table, either – there’s a whole system for things like sexual conduct, hospitality, chivalry, online etiquette, and so much more. This is a funny, upbeat read about British manners and what it all says about the English character.
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
An English reading list without Charles Dickens isn’t a reading list of all! The book is about the course of orphan Pip Pirrip’s life as he is transformed from a poor boy begging for soup to the heir of a mysterious inheritance from an unknown person. Dickens takes us through Pirrip’s life as he abandons his apprenticeship to a blacksmith named Joe Gargery and then takes up a new station as a proper English gentleman. Dickens is a masterful storyteller.
My Must Have Guides for Traveling to England
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Kristin Addis writes our solo female travel column and her detailed guide gives specific advice and tips for women travelers.
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England Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling England and continue planning your trip: