Are you planning a budget trip to Scotland in summer? Are you afraid Scotland might be out of reach because prices go up during the tourist peak season?
As a low-budget traveller, I understand your concerns. I went through the same thought process before booking my travel tickets and accommodation for a 3 weeks holiday to Scotland in August.
Scotland is not a cheap country to travel to, more so in summer during the tourist peak season. However, there are a few tricks you can implement to bring down your travel budget. And this is what I would like to share with you in this blog post.
In August 2021, I went on an 18 days trip to Scotland and got to visit the many amazing places this country has to offer. I presented the itinerary in detail across several blog posts I already published on this website. The places I visited were: Glasgow, Stirling, The West Highland Trail, Skye, Inverness and Edinburgh. You are more than welcome to have a look at any of these blog posts if you need inspiration for your own itinerary to Scotland.
When is the best time to visit Scotland?
Is it possible to plan a budget trip to Scotland in summer?
Despite what everyone says, the best time to visit Scotland is in summer. That, in the Northern Hemisphere, is during June, July and August. While no one can guarantee you only sunny and dry weather, at least you should have less rain than in the rest of the year.
Unfortunately, the summer in this part of the world means children are out of school and most people go on holiday. For years, I have been the advocate of alternative holidays. That, for me, meant to travel mostly in the low season and somehow travel against the trend too. So, in summer I would choose to travel to Northern Europe for example. When winter would come along, I would visit warmer countries like Cyprus or Spain. If you are interested in this way of travelling, there is an entire blog post I wrote on this topic:
However, this year, I had to compromise and book my holidays in August, which in Europe is the busiest month in terms of holiday bookings.
Although initially, I thought planning a budget trip to Scotland in summer might be somehow an impossible mission, I believe I managed to have quite a reasonable budget, which I want to share with you.
However, before we get there, I would like to share my top strategies for bringing down the costs of my trip to Scotland.
Travel with someone else! It will help you lower the budget for your trip to Scotland!
Travelling with someone else is an excellent way to cut down the accommodation costs. Whether you travel with a friend or your significant half, be sure you will save some money on the way.
To avoid going over the initial budget, make sure you set up a maximum amount of money you’re willing to spend per night for your accommodation. Our budget was a maximum of £50 per night for 2 people. While we opted for ensuite rooms, some of you can go with cheaper options.
Travelling during Covid-19 meant we did not want to take any risks, so we opted for ensuite rooms. We stayed in guest houses, hotels and Airbnb. The price was reasonable, considering we travelled to Scotland during summer. We’ve made all the bookings through Booking.com and Airbnb.
A few tricks I would like to mention here:
When you opt for cheap accommodation, most of the time there isn’t a flexible cancellation policy. So you will need to either take the risk, knowing that if something happens, you might not get the money back. Or get travel insurance to get you covered.
Travelling with someone else has its downsides as well. While some people are not comfortable travelling on their own, some feel at ease when they have someone with them. None of these ways of travelling is wrong or perfect. They are simply different. When travelling with someone else, you need to make sure you consider your friend’s way of doing things too. Make sure you make decisions based on their opinions as well. Travelling with a friend can be a rewarding experience as long as you know well the person you travel with. And both agree on the itinerary and activities you want to do during your trip.
Travelling by yourself
If there is no one to travel with, there are still ways around saving up money. You may opt for staying in hostels, one of the cheapest ways of accommodation for low-budget travellers out there. However, if you want to have more privacy and decide you want a private room, you can still get good deals.
This is what you can do if you want some privacy, but do not want to spend too much money on accommodation. You may choose to stay somewhere that’s further away from the city centre. I’ve explained this technique in more detail in this blog post.
While you do compromise on the location a bit, you get to enjoy an ensuite room for significantly less money than you would pay for the same room in the city centre. Plus, staying further away from the city centre comes with benefits. You may end up finding better and cheaper restaurants. There were plenty of local restaurants on the street I stayed in Edinburgh. Plus, you get to experience the local vibe of a place. Sometimes you only get to know a place if you choose to stay away from tourist attractions.
Booking your preferred accommodation is easier than ever. While I am a big fan of Booking.com because they have a large variety of hostels, occasionally I also use Airbnb. You simply need to check both platforms and any other platforms you use to book your holiday accommodation, and see which one provides a better deal. Most holiday accommodation in Scotland are on the platforms I just mentioned above.
Plan to walk as much as you can
This may sound obvious, but walking everywhere can save you some serious amounts of money. It is also very practical. I find walking the best way to discover a new place. You do everything at your pace. You can stop for breaks, or you may continue for as long as you want to.
The only advice I would give here is to make sure you get yourself a good pair of shoes. In all my years of travelling and walking around, I always found shoes to be the most important item in my wardrobe when travelling.
Although you plan to walk as much as possible, there may be times when you simply need to use public transport. To get the best deal out of it, make sure you buy a one day ticket. What I would do is I would purchase a ticket and visit all the places I cannot reach on foot on that day. This way I would make sure I got the best out of my deal.
However, other times you might realise that a one day ticket is not what you need.
That is more expensive to get a 1-day ticket instead of buying individual travel tickets. Or perhaps that is cheaper to book an organised trip to visit everything you want to cover in one day. Which is what we did in Skye to visit the places we were interested in. It’s all about making some research and taking the best decisions.
Book as much as you can in advance
Again something which might sound obvious is to book everything in advance. In Scotland, like in most places out there, the further in advance you buy your train ticket, the cheaper it will be. Like in the rest of the UK, train tickets in Scotland can be expensive. Especially during peak time. Therefore, if you can, avoid travelling during peak time to get some discount.
While the train was the first option for travelling around Scotland, there might be times when the bus is a better option. For example, if you consider travelling from Fort William to Inverness, you are better off travelling by bus as the train takes considerably more time.
Public transport in Scotland is generally very good, although there are areas where buses are limited. The Isle of Skye is such an example. No buses were running between the ferry port and the other cities of the island during the weekend. So if you ever want to visit Skye by public transport, avoid getting there on the weekend. This is only if you rely on public transport. You can book a taxi (get ready to pay somewhere between £40-£50 for the ride) or hire a private car.
The transport costs can vary greatly. Trains are expensive in the UK. However, it seems like train tickets to London and from London anywhere in the UK are generally cheaper. The UK had just launched this new train from London to Edinburgh not so long ago. Plane tickets can also vary greatly. It depends where you fly from and whether your trip to the UK involves any visa costs or not.
Look into flexible cancellation policy
We already know that most of the low-cost accommodation options are non-refundable. Therefore, it is worth looking into additional protection in case you need to cancel the trip. If you don’t want to get travel insurance, another option you might want to look into is a credit card.
Credit cards usually offer you protection against cancellations. Therefore, whenever you make purchases with your credit card, you should be protected. Another feature of credit cards is that they reward you for any purchase you decide to make with them. Through what they call cashback. There are plenty of credit cards out there to choose from, so I will not advise you which one is better to have. Personally, I chose one which does not have any fees and has a competitive cashback system. The American Express card (Platinum Cashback credit card) I chose is simple to apply for and set up. And it is fairly accepted in Scotland and within the UK.
The main thing with credit cards is to remember to pay them back in time and only spend as much as you can afford to pay back. I’ve always used a combination of travel cards and credit cards when I travel to get covered in case one of them gets rejected. In fact, my old credit card literally saved me back in the day when all my other cards got rejected. So, it’s always useful to have several cards on you when travelling.
Set up a daily budget
Setting up a daily budget can help you stay on track massively. Since accommodation and transport are costs you would usually pay for in advance, everything that’s left budgeting is food and activities. It is not impossible to travel to Scotland on a budget in summer.
Almost all UK supermarkets have meal deals which usually cost less than £4.
Some restaurants also offer discounts on certain types of foods. Unless you have special dietary requirements, I believe you can spend around £30 a day on all your 3 meals. This is considered a reasonably cheap food budget for Scotland and indeed the UK.
This does not mean you cannot splurge. Organise a special meal at the end of your trip. Go to a fancy place and have a good meal and a drink. A whisky cocktail is a must when in Scotland.
To help you budget, you may want to set up a budget for entertainment activities too. Like, for example, you won’t pay more than, let’s say, £50 a day for castle visits or any other tourist attractions that might require an entrance fee.
Make sure you do have some extra funds available for emergencies. They always pop up, and one has to be prepared.
Visit free places
One of the best things about travelling to Scotland is that most of the museums and tourist landmarks are free of charge. This means you have access to the biggest museums in the country completely free of charge.
You may find that Edinburgh and Glasgow have a great collection of museums, and most of them are free of charge. You might need to book your place in advance, but this would be the only requirement to be allowed to visit. If an online booking is required, make sure you do reserve your place a few days before the actual visit because museums can get fully booked easily. More so if you travel during tourist peak season.
I hope these budget suggestions will help you plan the best budget trip to Scotland in summer during the tourist peak season.
Planning a budget trip to Scotland in summer should not be that hard if you are flexible and willing to compromise here and there. What do you think? What other things have you done to lower your budget while touring Scotland?
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