Is Traveling in the UK Expensive? Everyone Says Yes, but the Pinched for Pennies Traveler Says No!

Before my trip to the UK I read a ton of articles, and watched a ton of youtube videos about how much money I would need to bring with me on my trip. Not only was I surprised at how wrong they were about how much I needed to bring, I was pleasantly surprised by how cheap it was! We didn’t need to scrimp, but we didn’t need to splurge either. Here’s a list of how much you realistically need for a trip to the UK on a budget told from the pinched for pennies perspective!

***Also read:“Planning a Trip on a Budget” for helpful ideas for how to travel smart savvy.

    1. Food Cost 50£ Daily for 2 people!

I was informed from multiple websites, articles, and people living in London that I would be spending about 50£ per day on food (that’s the equivalent of 65 US dollars for one person!) That just wasn’t the case in my experience. I would say that on average for 2 people I would spend about 10£ for our breakfast, 20£ for Lunch, and 20£ for dinner, for a total of 50£ per day for 2 people! Of course some days we would splurge spending a little more, but I would say you could easily budget quite nicely with 50£ per day for 2 people.

 Breakfast: For a cheap breakfast head to a convenience store (groceries are everywhere in London) to grab yogurt, bananas, a sandwich, and or juice for a healthy, cheap breakfast to start the day. I remember yogurts with fruit being as cheap as 1£ 30. 


 Lunch and Dinner: We usually went to a cafe for lunch or a restaurant/bar for dinner.

What’s nice about the food choices in London is they have the Menu’s outside so you can see the price and food options they have. We didn’t pay too much attention to the price when we decided, but when we did the bill was usually around 20£ for both of us. The portion sizes are much, much smaller than in America, I ate all my food, felt perfectly satisfied, and what’s nice is you don’t waste food.

**Get hotels that include breakfast if you can. It was easy in Manchester to get an affordable hotel with breakfast included which helped save us money.

***Organic Food is “Cheaper” in England.

Think of food in the Uk this way. It’s cheaper automatically because it’s organic. You do not have to worry about it being GMO’s, processed, or having a lot of chemicals in your food. It is always fresh, from the source, minimal ingredients and minimally processed in all of their foods. That to me is having great value. Think of paying for that kind of food in America! If Denny’s is about $25-$30 for 2 people think of what an all organic restaurant would cost!

  2. Cheapest Transportation: Walk

Transportation in London was expensive especially using the Tube across multiple zones every day. The cheapest transportation is to use the Bus for 1.5£ ($2) or ride a Bike for 2£ for the whole day ($2.60). You just don’t see the city the same way on the tube, and it’s a blissful experience you should try regardless. You could also just walk for free. 

Also, if you are traveling to other cities, prebook your train tickets in advance, They are way cheaper than if you book that day. It could mean the difference of saving about $200!

3.  Gifts and Shopping Alternatives: Shop at Grocery Stores

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Camden Market Area

There are a ton of gift shops in London for gift shopping. Camden Market is a great place to barter for great prices and Portobello Market as well. Also, shop around I guarantee that one shop might have a lot lower price than the one next to it for the same item you want.

Buying gifts and souvenirs at a museum, or historical site are the most expensive places to buy gifts, and usually not what people want, can use, or might enjoy. There are better alternatives to give gifts that are just as delightful.

***Alternative Gift ideas at Grocery Stores: you can buy tea at the grocery stores for 3£ as souvenirs, chocolate, or treats. Just make sure they don’t melt on your way home. 😉 Which is what happened to me…

4.  Museums, Parks, and Churches are Free

We went to the British Museum, The Natural History Museum, and went into beautifully crafted Churches for absolutely free. There’s so much historical value of seeing these beautiful buildings and being able to be transported in time that it’s priceless.

***Most of these free places ask for a donation, which usually we would donate 1 or 2£. It is optional. Steven donated to the National Futbol Museum 5£ which was more than they requested so you can donate what you feel fit for the things you care about.

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**Wordsworth Cottage Museum was not free in the Lake District yet it was pretty cheap going for about 13£ per person. If it’s a museum you NEED to see then spending a little money is worth it, word. (Ugh, I had just had to!)

Hyde Park- absolutely beautiful and absolutely free. Take a stroll in nature with beautiful flowers, lakes, and animals all around. Not just Hyde Park, but any park.


5. Hostels, Hotels, Airbnb, You Pick for Your Budget


Hostels are great for group trips with friends, if you are adventurous, while needing a super cheap place for about 15£ per day.

Airbnbs are the great medium when booking anywhere especially in London where for about 50-60£ per day you can get a descent place to rest and shower when you are going to be out and about  in the city anyways. You can also do laundry at airbnbs saving you money.

Hotels with Breakfast- Cities like Manchester and The Lake District book only hotels with breakfast.

So how much money do I bring?

Depends on how much you want to spend. I would say for a trip you don’t want to splurge on, but also don’t want to scrimp either to bring a total of $2000 US dollars for 2 people which is about $1000 per person.

You can easily save this by saving $100 every month aside for your trip you booked in advance.  That money includes everything from food, transportation, gifts and shopping, and extra things like site seeing or paying for Museums.

I was surprised by how cheap everything was because of what I was told by many people, articles, and the guy at the airport security. Fear no more because it simply isn’t true at least in my case. Perhaps the perspectives of the people I read about or talked to thought we were going to eat at high end restaurants everyday and that’s just not the case. Part of the adventure is in having a limited budget, while still experiencing the best.

Happy Traveling!

-<3 Sarah




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