Since my previous post on traveling UK on a £400 budget hit over tens of thousands views within days, some readers have been asking to see more of the photos of my trip. My favourite part is definitely the Scottish Highland.
The trip started off in Snowdonia National Park, Wales. We arrived late due to traffic and didn’t get to Llanberis as planned.
Snowdonia is full of hiking routes, making it a hiker’s paradise.
View over the valley
GBP15 for a car and a tent at Baysbrown farm site, there are numerous campgrounds in Lake District.
Baysbrown is a large camp site which is perfect for star gazing because it is unblocked 360 degrees.
Summer nights, watch the stars and occasionally a shooting star.
One of the better hiking routes at Honister Pass
Enjoy the stunning sunset at Ambleside.
Explore the Tarn Hows area for some easy hikes
These sheep are frequent sightings in Lake District.
Visit the incredibly ancient yet beautiful Glasgow University.
Glasgow is a nice lively city where it maintains the Scottish feel.
Loch Shiel aka Black Lake near Hogwarts.
Glenfinnan Viaduct from the parking lot, you can grab views of the train tracks and Loch Shiel here.
Take this trail to go under the Glenfinnan Viaduct where the Jacobite train goes to Hogwarts.
Head to the Eileen Donan Castle before going on to Isle of Skye
Don’t miss Glencoe and its ice-cream
Be prepared for the stunning views of Isle of Skye
Spot the sheep!
About an hour into the hike to the top of the Old Man of Storr.
Looking up to the Old Man
The view becomes more gorgeous as you get higher.
The hike to the top takes about 1 – 2 hours one way, depending on your physical ability.
Kilt Rock Falls
Take a side trip to Edinburgh. Get to Arthur’s Seat to get a view of the lovely city.
Visit York for the authentic feel of British history.
University of Oxford
Take a walk around Oxford where the people and buildings are lovely to watch.
Mayfield Lavender, they are only open during summer.
Trip ain’t complete without London! Visit the Big Ben, London Eye, Soho, famous restaurants and the free British museums!
I came back from a UK road trip with about GBP400 lesser in my pocket, but gained experiences that are worth many folds more. This budget is exclusive of the air tickets, so add in the cost of airfare from which ever country you are flying from to the UK. The cost of traveling in the UK is definitely not on the cheap side as compared to backpacking Southeast Asia or South America. This can put a big dent in any budget traveller’s pocket. In view of the significant drop in sterling pound against major currencies, it makes a trip to the UK less expensive. My advice is to get away from the big cities and you would not just feel friendlier prices, but people too. Before you carry on to read the breakdown of the road trip cost, I need to emphasise that SCOTLAND IS BEAUTIFUL.
The Old Man of Storr
Rough pit stops of the trip
This is the most important part of the journey and you would want to get this cost as low as possible. I rented a 2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta S with a 2.0 diesel engine from Sixt at GBP270, with pick-up at Birmingham and drop off at London. This comes to around GBP27 per day. I chose the cheapest of the automatic cars and was absolutely blessed to get this sporty hatchback. The optimum number of people sharing the car is 2-3, depending on how much of space is a priority to you. Also, try to get cars with diesel engines because they are more fuel-efficient. I spent about GBP200 for 2100 miles driven. Gas prices are not cheap compared to the US. It is at an average of GBP1.1 per litre, similar to Singapore. I went with the basic insurance that was included with the price, those extras could add up significantly. Most of the cheap car rentals that you can find provide manual cars. This appears to be the case in UK, Europe perhaps. For manual car drivers, you are in luck because automatic car rentals can cost almost twice. This is in contrast with car rentals in the US where they provide mostly automatic cars. I got an automatic one because there are heaps of hilly terrains in the UK. There are not much toll roads in the UK except for the congestion charge in central London. Parking cost can add up and is unavoidable in big cities. Always spend some time to look for free street parking because they might be just one street away. The shortcut is to ask the local residents.
Baysbrown campsite, Lake District
For these 9 nights, there were 3 days of camping, 3 days of Airbnb and 3 days of my dorm. The cheapest form of accommodation is camping. The average cost for camping is around GBP15 a night for a tent and a car. I highly recommend camping because you get a chance to experience the wilderness. The average cost of Airbnb is around GBP30 a night for two person. Consider putting Airbnb nights in between camping days to freshen up. One big advantage of this is that you are able to do your laundry at the host apartment instead of paying for it at public areas. My camping experience in Scotland was ruined by the ridiculous sand flies attacks. Apparently, they are dominant in summer months, especially in Isle of Skye. You may want to take this into account by preparing full clothing or sand flies repellent.
Sunset at Ambleside, Lake District
Trail at Honister Pass
Places to go
The highlights of my trip are mainly the great outdoors and brief visits to the cities. Snowdonia National Park in Wales is recommended for hikers because it has an extensive network of trails. Lake District in North-West England is one of the most popular parks in the UK. It is huge so be prepared to spend a few days exploring there. On the way up to the incredible Isle of Skye, spend a night exploring the Fort William/Ben Nevis region because it is absolutely beautiful. Visit Glenfinnan Viaduct to catch the famous Harry Potter Jacobite train passing through. There are some nice hiking trails to get different views of the train tracks. Once you get to Isle of Skye, the landscape changes to National-Geographic-like. You need at least 3 days to get a feel of the Isle of Skye. One of the must-go is the Old Man of Storr. The trail up is moderate but the view from the top is breathtaking. There are lots of sand flies near the parking area and the starting part of the trail, so wear light coloured clothes and cover yourself up. Set up the base in the Portree because of its central location. It has a photogenic harbour with nice restaurants. The nice cities among these national parks are Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, York, Oxford and of course London. If you are itchy for some cheap outlet shopping, head to Bicester Village or Cheshire Oaks. My advice is to stick to European brands instead of American ones.
The trail up to The Old Man of Storr
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
Summer night at Lake District
Eating out is definitely not cheap in the UK, an asian takeout is about GBP 6-8. If you are running longer camping trips, it pays to cook at the campsite. Groceries are cheap at supermarkets such Tesco and Sainsbury’s. I cannot emphasise further how much these supermarkets helped in reducing food cost. Look out for the deli section, they have reduced roasted whole chicken at GBP 2-3. If you take the public buses around in the UK, there are fast food outlet coupons behind the ticket which will help to save some money. These outlets are such as Macdonalds and Burger King. It costs GBP2 for a Big Mac and regular fries with the coupon, definitely a steal.
If you are looking for a data card, think about if you really need it. Most of the highways and national parks have no reception or just support calling, at least for Giffgaff and O2. I paid GBP15 for 4GB of data and 1000 minutes of talk time. Places with wifi are plentiful in cities. Affordable camping gears can be bought from stores like GO Outdoors and SportsDirect. Sleeping bags and tents are crucial to protect from the outdoors elements and cold nights, even during summer months.
Final breakdown based on per person (twin sharing)
Gas for 2100 miles: 100.20
Airbnb for 3 nights: 44.5
Camping for 3 nights: 24.15
Data plan: 7.5
Tent and sleeping bag: 15
This is the rough breakdown of my spending that I deemed crucial to my fellow travellers in planning their budget for a UK road trip. Take note that 3 nights of my accommodation was spent in my dorm as a base to explore London and Oxford. Meanwhile, enjoy some of my pictures from the trip before my photography post.
Eating out in London is expensive and is considered one of the highest in the world. Unfortunately, paying more does not mean nicer food all the time. While the equation might or might not hold, what if you have a limit amount of time in London and only that much stomach capacity? Here, I have a list of tasting eating places that is affordable to most people out there, including students.I am assuming four meals, two lunches and two dinners. Most of these places do not open before 12pm, so grab something for breakfast instead. The list is created based on my own tasting experiences on top of a price-tasty index that I use.
Burger & Lobster
I chose the whole lobster option, not Burger & Lobster (if you get the pun). You have the choice of steamed or on the grill. I had mine grilled.
The famous Burger & Lobster is one of the must-try in London, there is a number of branches in the city but the one on Dean Street is the biggest. I have heard heaps of students talking about it, notably Asians. Apparently, it is like a big gastronomy thing for people from the East. Now that I have tried it and I think it deserves the hype. The menu is downright simple and get people what they came for. It has three options for the main; The Burger, The Lobster Roll and The Whole Lobster. For £20, you get to choose one of the mains, they come served with fries and salad. The greens are refreshing and are good complements with the lobster. The fries are good as well, as English as they get, potato-lovers will not be disappointed. They do not take reservations so be there early if you don’t wait stay in line for long. I went there on a weekday lunch right before opening and got a seat immediately when it opened.
Price: £20 + discretionary service charge of 12.5%
A closer look at the juicy lobster meat.
If you ever get steak cravings, or even when you don’t, head to Flat Iron. At this steak joint, you get a serving of steak, a salad side and popcorn for £10. It is definitely one of the best steak around for its price. You can get your steak fix without going on a bread diet for the rest of the week. The steak is slightly seasoned with salt and comes with a juicy tinge of milky fragrance in the mouth as you chew it. You need to eat it to believe the sheer delight in its flavours. Once again, this popular joint does not take reservations. My experience is that once you get there and if there is a queue, the host will get your name and mobile number. You will then receive a text when your turn is up so that you can hang around the area instead of plainly waiting and watching people chew on their steak.
9 Denmark St, Soho, London WC2H 8LS
Price: £10 + discretionary service charge of 12.5%
This is one serving of medium rare steak. It does not look like a big serving but a second serving might get you tired of the taste. Hence, they do a good job in determining the serving size over there.
There is a beefy taste in the popcorn, might have something to do with beef oil.
Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant has one of the best roasted duck around in the business, at least in London, probably UK. There are four outlets in London and the oldest one being at Queenway, it is located a few steps away from Bayswater tube station. Literally, it is a Chinese restaurant that is outrageously famous for roasted duck. I did not see any tables without a serving of roasted duck during my visit there. The pure roasted duck dish comes in three portions; whole, half, per portion, £22, £12.50 and £9.50 respectively. In my opinion, this is a very reasonable price, especially in London. If you compare it to the roasted duck at the Four Seasons Capitol Piazza in Singapore, the ones over there are about 50% more expensive. The signature roasted duck comes with the bone or boneless option, they cost the same though. The meat is smooth and well marinated. It comes with sweet soy sauce which is a perfect complement to the slightly salted roast taste. The skin is crispy but not to the extend of being crackling crispy and dry. Originally, we wanted a vegetable side dish but a hefty £8 price tag for just vegetables did not justify it. I recommend the crispy pork belly which is of utterly delicious standard. Add a quid more for mixed combination of barbecue meat. We had the combination of Char Siew and crispy pork belly which set us back by £9.50. The portion was very generous, hence making the price very reasonable.
84 Queenway, Bayswater, London W2 3RL
Check out their website for opening hours at the other outlets
Price: About £15 (depending on the orders) + discretionary service charge of 12.5%
Four Seasons, Queenway
This man looked disgruntled probably due to his cravings for roasted duck. He turned out to be a regular who did not even look at the menu and quickly devoured his plate of Hong Kong noodles with roasted duck.
The roasted duck comes with the sweet gravy which you can have it over your rice for best tasting experience, truly asian. £12.50.
Man, don’t just look, come in and join the eating party.
Crispy pork belly and barbecue meat (Char Siew). £9.50.
Total bill for two. Ridiculous pricing for rice but there is no way of getting around it. This was more than enough meat for two full-grown man. A meaty feast indeed. Thanks for Ray for the treat though! In any case you guys are wondering what is the discretionary service charge, in the UK, it is usually added to the total bill at restaurants. There is no need to leave additional tips unless you are really happy with a particular service. Having said that, it is optional to pay the discretionary service charge though you need a valid reason to not pay it.
One of the best take out for fish and chips is Fish! Kitchen at Borough Market. There are a few selections of fish such as haddock, hake and cod. Prices are the same for each kind of fish, £8.95, just that they vary in sizes. Different fish have different meat texture so it depends on individual preferences. Personally, I like haddock the best. The price is inclusive of chips. Both the fish and chips come in huge portions. All the fish are bought daily from the market to ensure ultimate freshness. The crispy batter takes the whole experience to the next level. You will be guaranteed to feel satisfied with the fish and chips at Fish! Kitchen. For the price, this is a complete steal.