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How to travel in and around the UK on a budget

Unlikely as it might seem, it is possible to explore the sights and scenes of the UK on a student budget. Here’s how.
BY Sylvia Nankivell |   28-07-2017
Photo credit by plainjane, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Most of the fun of international study is in travelling and enjoying as much as possible in the country in which you now live. Travel is the best way to embrace that new and exciting culture. There is a lot to discover in the United Kingdom, with its four different countries (Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England), and a variety of landscapes, accents, landmarks, beers, and cups of tea. Read ahead to find out how to discover this beautiful place for yourself in the cheapest way possible.

Train Travel
The train is by no means the cheapest way to travel around the UK. In fact, a 2017 survey showed the cost of a train from London to Manchester was more expensive, than a flight from London to Salzburg in Austria. It can, sometimes, be cheaper to have a quick holiday in Europe than a weekend away in a UK city. However, if you are aware of affordable alternatives, there is no reason to miss out on all that the UK offers.
 
Travel Pass
For example, there are great pass deals for regular travellers, students and international visitors. The 16-25 railcard is targeted to young people. It costs £30, lasts the whole year, and gives you a third off any train ticket purchase. You quickly win your money back. There is also the BritRail deal. This offer is for international travellers and passes can only be bought outside the country. You pay a lump sum and get unlimited journeys within an area of the country. It's an excellent option if you want to travel the UK before starting your studies!
 
Other Travel Options
There are many travel options other than trains. Megabus is a popular choice as it connects all the main cities in the country. All UK students have a love/hate relationship with it. Megabus is an amazingly low-priced travel option but it lacks the speed and comfort of a train. However, with prices as cheap as £1, a few hours of being less than comfortable could be worth it! In fact, companies such as National Express have invested in extra legroom, leather seats and free wi-fi in recent years, so you won’t exactly be roughing it.
 
Bla Bla Car is another choice to consider. It's a win-win situation for both drivers and passengers. You contribute to the cost of petrol and get a cheap ride to your destination. Ridesharing is a sustainable and social way to travel. It reduces the number of cars on the road. Plus, you can meet some interesting new people along the way! It's also one of the cheapest options as costs are based on a fair price, rather than making a profit.
 
If you're travelling between countries, air travel is one option. Ryan Air is another company with notoriously low rates, perhaps at the cost of comfort. But on such short journeys, this is no problem. If you’re travelling to Ireland, you can buy convenient train and ferry combo tickets. These are often more convenient than flights.
 
Accommodation
Once you've worked out how to get somewhere, it's time to consider accommodation. Hostels are an excellent choice for students. They have a fun, international vibe, and allow you to meet new people and offer local knowledge. Plus, dormitory beds are cheap. Once again, for the most affordable rates, book in advance.
 
If you're in the countryside, YHA hostels are usually your best bet, as options are more limited than in cities. Camping is another cheap option for budget travellers - and can be a fun way to experience the beautiful nature and wild weather of the UK.
 
Jump on the rising trend and check out Airbnb for affordable accommodation. According to recent research, you can rent entire homes in major UK cities for less than a single hotel room. In London, Airbnb rates are up to 59% lower than hotel prices. If you are travelling in a group, this is definitely a good option as splitting costs makes it even more reasonable.
 
What to Do
When deciding on what to do during your UK travels, follow the standard advice for budget travelling. Buy food at supermarkets and cook in your accommodation. Ask local students for cheap bars. Find vouchers, deals, and offers online. Research free or low-cost events, of which there can be plenty, especially in summer. Take free walking tours. Finally - avoid tourist traps. Instead, take walks, visit parks, relax in town centres and soak up the atmosphere.
 
The UK is full of charming streets, beautiful coastlines, amazing architecture and impressive monuments; all of which you can enjoy on a student budget.


Top tip for travelling the UK: book in advance! It might restrict your spontaneity but being organised pays off in the long run. Booking early is always the cheapest option. This applies to trains, buses, and flights, and also to accomodation! So, plan ahead and avoid spending astronomical prices at the last minute.

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