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Britain on the Cheap

By  Simon Worsfold June 20, 2009

Britain can be one of the most utterly expensive places to travel, and those Canadian dollars disappear quickly. If you need to get by on a baguette budget but still want to have a blast, then read on...

Spend other nations' money

If you're spending sterling, then it's best to be earning it... leave your loonies at home. If you're 18-30 and fancy earning your keep while abroad, then check out the Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP). Get a working visa, a couple nights' accommodation and a good hard shove in the direction of a UK job, all courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood Travel CUTS.



Where and whenever possible, use campsites. Not only are they in some of the most beautiful locations, but they will also save you a packet. With hostels, be prepared to pay around $20 a night for a dormitory bed. The rule of thumb in Britain is that the further north you go, the cheaper things get.



Plan it! If you show up to a British train station and book a long distance ticket to travel that day, you will get hammered. Prices can be up to four times cheaper for the same ticket if you book just a week in advance. These are called ‘Apex' or ‘Super Advance' tickets and you can get them from www.thetrainline.com.

If you do have to travel that day, go by coach. National Express has a great network, and daily prices are comparable with advance train tickets.


Get festive for free (legally)

Summer brings some of the best bands in the world flocking to the UK, to play at amazing, multi-day outdoor music festivals. And, if you get on it quickly, you can attend any number of these for free. No less than six events outsource their stewarding to Oxfam UK. Oxfam, in turn, recruits young music-loving volunteers willing to check wristbands for a good cause. Festival line-ups and recruiting begin in the spring... so get on it early.


Food and drink

Eating out on a budget is what I think gives Britain a bad name for its food overseas. The cheapest places are all fast food outlets and - yes - fish and chips. But we Brits left this diet behind a long time ago so if you are on a budget, always try to buy, and cook, for yourself. Staying in campsites or hostels this should be no problem.

Supermarkets are very competitive in the UK and there has recently, however, been a huge resurgence of farmers' markets.

Pubs are unavoidable and a huge part of the British tradition, and outside of London the Great British pint can still be bought for a little as $3 to $4.


Free beer

The Brits and Irish take their beer seriously... one of their most notable inventions this century is the "floating widget" (that thing that makes cans of stout and bitter go fizzy, and clunks around in the bottom of empty can.) There are tens of fine brewing establishments across Britain, and many of them open their doors to the public. Some do charge for entry, and while you can't exactly leave with a six-pack, liberal sampling has been known to occur. Click here to find a tour near you.


Call in all favours

The best way to make things cheap, of course, is to visit friends. Couch-surfing with long-lost relatives will also be a great window on the local way of life. Which believe me, is remarkable diverse.


Volunteering - Get dirty

Grab your shovel and get ready to make friends and make a difference. British Trust for Conservation Volunteers brings together over 140,000 volunteers each year to work together on local environmental projects. Muck in for a day or a couple of weeks, contribute to a worthy cause and sample the local brews in the evenings.

Read more:
Backdoor Britain
Britain's Vital Statistics


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Published in Budget Traveller

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