I’ve been to London before, and it’s somewhere I wouldn’t mind visiting often, it straddles the line between pastry scented cobblestones and good ol’ concrete jungle pretty well. It’s the ideal destination for a first timer from the states, a cradle of adventure and familiarity. But, sometimes the actual vastness of the UK slips my mind.
Last time I was on the not so little Island I took a road trip to Bath with a friend. This time I took a different form of transportation and headed a little more up north. Nope, try a little farther.
That’s right your girl finally got her chance to make it to not 1, not 2, but 5 cities on the cheap. And when I mean cheap, I mean CHEAP, like this might be one of my least expensive trips yet kind of cheap. Coming from the states I have a very warped sense of domestic travel. I mean unless I’m going DC to New York or DC to Philly an international flight is cheaper than going anywhere domestic a lot of times. So, whenever I go anywhere new abroad traveling too far outside the city of my departure isn’t an option.
But this trip was different, this 2-week solo trek across that big island not only dispelled the idea of domestic travel being too expensive, but it proved to me how much cheaper it could be. Y’all don’t understand. I think I spent less money, ate healthier, spent more time outside, and just lived a better life than I did most of my school year (let’s be honest that was a low bar to begin with).
So here’s how I regularly spent less than £20 a day across 5 different cities.
This was the kicker.
Sure, getting around in London was a bit pricey, but that’s not new. I spent the first day exclusively walking (my feet hated me for it… 12 miles aren’t cute if you spent the previous 25hrs in heels). Then, on my second day, I got a day pass and increased my radius. But, that was pretty much it. London underground was the one time I had to actually pay to get around. The moment I got on my train to Chester I didn’t pay for a single thing. That 2nd class BritRail pass had me feeling VIP. I simply flashed it and I was escorted through with a flurry. Even in Glasgow, I could’ve paid for the subway to get me to my Airbnb, but with the pass, I just hopped on the ScotRail for nothing extra and walked an extra 9 mins. Just PROTIP: don’t forget to make a reservation for those night train seats, they’re a hot commodity—but don’t worry, they’re free.
The best part isn’t even that I got to see 4 cities for next to nothing, no it’s that it included night trains. Which meant half of the time I was traveling between cities at night and saving even more on Airbnbs and hostels. The other half of the nights I was crashing for anything between £14-£19. In the end, I spent less than £110.
Tesco. You are my new love. I am so sorry I have to see you go.
Talk about deals. I was feasting on the regular and barely making a dent on my budget. Between Tesco and street food I was eating 3 meals a day and barely scratching £15. Coffee and breakfast treat for about £6 with a £3 meal deal picnic lunch had me well over covered for dinner which was when I went for the street food. I splurged for a full Scottish breakfast when I made it to Edinburgh, but even that was only £10.
Lesson of the Day: USA get your sh*t together and bring me Tesco.
I didn’t mind dropping a little bit of cash on this for several reasons: I would need a car to actually see all the spots we got to without a guide, I had some items I needed to check off my bucket list, plus I had already saved a ton from everything else. I made sure to make it my money’s worth and picked the longest guide with the specific things I wanted to see like Loch Ness and Glen Coe. And it was worth it.
So next time you think getting out of the city and exploring is too much of a hassle or too expensive, think again. Often outer cities are a lot cheaper and getting that 2nd class BritRail pass gives you access to the whole island—and if used right could even save you on some accommodation.
Comment below some of your favorite cities outside of London