Help! First time traveller to UK

Nov 3rd, 2009, 06:47 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2009
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Help! First time traveller to UK

I am planning a trip to UK in Nov/Dec. I am a complete novice with no idea whatsoever of what would be the things to do and see in the UK. I am adventurous by nature and not easily fazed by unexpected situations. That said, I would appreciate a few pointers on where to stay, what to see. I plan on doing it on a low to very low budget.
laeti is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 06:56 PM
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How much time do you have (3 nights is entirely different from 18 nights)? What do you consider low budget (everyone has a different persepective on this one)? Do you already have flights booked? Are you traveling alone? Do you have any interests... i.e. art, plays, opera, museums, hiking, churches/cathedrals, misc history, etc? What drew you to the UK in the first place? Are you comfortable driving in the UK?

We need a bit more information to help point you in the right direction.

I loved London and plan to return after Christmas. The Tower, Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral are a few of my favorites in London. There are tons of museums, art galleries, operas and plays, if that's something you're interested in.

When I was in Scotland, I absolutely fell in love with the scenery and the people. Everywhere I went throughout the UK the people were wonderfully friendly. Loch Ness was amazing, but in November/December that's likely to be a different story with the weather.

Give us a bit more information and we can try to help.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 07:11 PM
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Get a guidebook.
Pegontheroad is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 07:19 PM
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If you can not afford a guidebook (you shouldn't be going) go to your local library and check out some books, travel dvd, etc. to get a feel for what you might want to do and see. Do your homework first, and then come back with some specific question we can respond to.

Also, keep in mind, the dollar is weak and London is either the first or second most expensive city in the world. Low to very low budget maynot be a reasonable expectation.
fmpden is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 08:09 PM
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By "UK" do you mean London, or are you planning to visit other places in the UK?

Are you used to cold weather? Northern England and Scotland will be quite cold in November and December. (And do you mean *this* November and December?)

People are happy to help, but as you've noticed, more specifics are helpful. What do you consider your budget (actual pound or dollar amount per night) for lodging?

London is actually fairly easy to visit inexpensively with some planning and information (I've done it several times!). Definitely do get or check out a guidebook and see what interests *you* - the trip I plan may not be the trip you'd plan. With more information about what you are interested in, people can make better suggestions.
jent103 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 08:18 PM
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You have given us absolutely nothing to work w/.

Sort of like "I'm going to the USA and I have no idea where to go or what to see. I'm on a budget."

• Where are you flying in/out of?
• How many days?
• You chose the UK for some reason(s) so what research/decisions have you done?
• UK? That's a lot of territory. Do you mean England, and/or Scotland, and/or Wales, and/or Northern Ireland?
• Where to stay? Well that sort of depends on where and what your budget is?
• If you plan on traveling around - what sort of transport would you consider?

Give us something -- there are LOTS of us who can help you refine a basic itinerary. But we can't create one for you unless we know what you like . . . .
janisj is online now  
Nov 4th, 2009, 03:40 AM
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Agree we need alot more information to be helpful. Telling us why you picked the UK would help as well.

To get you started here is a link on London:

Once you know what you want to see come back and we can help you with the details.
jamikins is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 05:09 AM
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As a starting point, there is a Destination page at this site for London, to get you going.

I'm assuming you have not booked flights. An option on those is Open Jaw. This is where you fly into one city but leave from another. This avoids having to backtrack to your original landing spot.

London could be a base, with a few sidetrips built in (Hampton Court, Oxford, York, Bath,etc..)

And, as others have stated, since you picked the UK, what is attracting you? This will help define a trip.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 08:54 AM
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Guys, now I really do feel stupid! I am entering the UK on 26 Nov and leave again from Heathrow on 2 Jan. I like crafts, cycling, although I know that will not be an option at this time of the year. I would like to see more of the country side and not so much of London itself. I will be travelling alone and I am from South Africa. I have a budget of round about 400 pounds per week - you think I would be able to survive? And I haven't traveled ever before!!
laeti is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 10:11 AM
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That helps a lot

Now - does your £400 a week include everything (except airfare of course)? Accommodations, food, transport, sightseeing - everything?

If so it will be very tight. £57 a day -- if you are able to average £30 a day for accommodations that only leaves £27 a day for food/transport/sites. Not really enough. Some days that would be fine, but most of the time, just lunch, dinner (assuming breakfast will be included w/ your rooms) and a site or two will eat up £35-£40. Even if you stay exclusively in hostels you'll still average £25 a day or so. Now, there definitely are ways to economize - eat picnic lunches, make your own dinners. But dead of winter really isn't the best for picnic weather, and having cooking facilities isn't a given, even in hostels.

Or - do you already have a rail pass and the £400 doesn't have to include transport? That would stretch your money for sure.

Otherwise, it'll be tough.

You have a month+ so you could spend a week in London and 4 weeks touring around the countryside. You'd need to plan ahead since walk up train fares are very expensive. There are inter-city coaches that are cheap, so that would help a lot.

Are you planning on just England - or does Scotland/Wales sound interesting too?

Also, days will be VERY short (light at 9AM/dark at 3:30PM).
janisj is online now  
Nov 4th, 2009, 10:51 AM
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If all you have is 400 pounds per week I really think that you need to reduce the length of your trip in order to see anything. That can cover lodging (a bed in a dorm room in a hostel) but will not be enough to cover food (unless you eat practically nothing) and local transit - never mind transit from place to place and any sightseeing.

While there are some major museums that are free - most sights are not. Just visiting the Tower of London, for example, costs 17 pounds.

And touring the countryside in cold, damp weather with very limited daylight hours will not be a lot of fun.

I would have a serious look at specific costs for hostels, major sights and put in a reasonable amount for food (even assuming you buy things from supermarkets) and then calculate how far your total budget will go. For super basic/student travel tips have a look at the Let's Go Guides or the Thorntree section of the Lonely Planet web site.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 10:53 AM
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Yes, what exactly does that £400 cover? My guess is also that it's everything. If that's true, you're definitely on a hostel budget. I've stayed in two of the Astor hostels in London ( and thought they were great - not 5* quality, obviously, but safe and clean. The Museum location is my personal favorite; the cheapest winter rate there is £15/night in a 12-person dorm. Those hostels do have kitchen facilities, or at least the Museum and Victoria one do, and they were always quite clean.

One advantage of London is that lots of things are free - most of the museums, walking around to see Big Ben and Piccadilly Circus, that sort of thing. There are several Tesco and Sainsbury's branches in central London (including a Sainsbury's quite close to the Museum hostel), so you can get groceries or inexpensive prepared foods there.

Advance train fares are the way to go if you plan to take the train; I haven't taken coaches so can't help there, but it's worth looking into. The less you move around, the less transport you'll have to pay for, obviously. The nice thing about flying in and out of Heathrow is that you can take the tube into and out of London, which is very inexpensive.

I'm less help in the countryside. I do love the Lake District, and once stayed at a great hostel there in Grasmere ( There's also a YHA hostel in Ambleside. The lakes have some great hikes and beautiful scenery. However, I don't know how much will be open (or beautiful) in the winter, particularly if you're there over Christmas - if you're interested in the Lakes hopefully someone else can provide more input. The Peak District and/or the Cotswolds might also be places to check into. I'm assuming a rental car isn't in your budget, so you'll need to base in towns with decent public transport.

Remember - being in the UK over Christmas will take some planning ahead. Trains and Tube won't run, and many restaurants and attractions will be closed.
jent103 is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 10:57 AM
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nytraveler's comment made me re-think - I was assuming, based on your dates, that your plane tickets are already purchased (which means you may be sort of stuck with the time frame, unless change fees aren't very expensive). Is that the case? If not, she's right that shortening your trip would give you more flexibility with costs. You can still see a lot in 3 weeks, for example, and that would give you £20 or so more per day.
jent103 is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 11:00 AM
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Can accomodations be found in London for this budget?
Michel_Paris is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 11:34 AM
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laeti - Unless you come from Cape town, your first real shock is going to be the cold, damp and very short days (actually, your 2nd shock, the first will be how expensive everything is).

Accomodation at a price you can afford may well be an issue - look seriously at the Youth hostel association (I am assuming because of your chosen name that you are fairly young - but even if not, the hostels are still a good idea).

Cycling may not be out of the question - riding on a mountain bike around moderately muddy paths. or out on quiet country roads on a crisp winters day is actually one of my favourite forms of the sport. Some country parks will rent moutain bikes out for a few hours at a time.

Craft fairs and Christmas markets are very common - there is often a big Christmas market in Bath - a place well worth visiting in its own right.

I have had several visitors from South Africa in the last few years, so a few things they have enjoyed:

Pubs - yes we do drink warm beer - it is an acquired taste, and colds fizzy lager is always available.

Castles - some are expensive others very cheap - my personal favourite is Dover, but even "small" castles like Portchester near Portsmouth can be excellent.

Cathedrals and their associated towns - Winchester, Salisbury, Cantabury to name a few.

Football matches. It needn't be premier league - go and watch a championship or 1st division game just to soak up the atmosphere.

Stonehenge - It may be just a pile of rocks, but many visitors love it.

Museums - The Natural history museum, the Science Museum, The V&A - all within a small distance from each other. You could easily spend a day in each and not get to see half of the displays.

London - You needn't spend much money - just get a map and spend some time walking around the attractions - you will be amazed how many of the "Famous places" are in very close proximity to each other - The Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Horse guards parade and downing street are all close. Walk from the houses of Parliament, across the river, past the festival hall and down the Tate Modern, the Globe, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Walk back via St Paul's (or cheat and get a tube).

There are thousands of things to do, and providing the weather doesn't get you down, you should have a great time.
willit is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 12:44 PM
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Don't feel stupid, many many people post asking for help and give as little information as you did to begin with. You're learning, it's okay!

Depending on the hostel, sometimes you can use a community kitchen to cook your own meals as a way to save money. When you do eat out, lunch is often much cheaper than dinner so to save money you may want to eat a larger lunch and have a smaller meal for your evening meal.

You'll likely have access to a teapot, coffee pot, or similar to heat water. I don't know what's available in the UK, but around here we have "Cup 'o Noodle" (dried noodles and veggies with a little bit of flavoring, in a styrofoam cup). These are insanely cheap and can be very filling, all you need to add is very hot water. I use the coffee pot in hotel rooms for this all the time when I travel for work.

There are a ton of amazing attractions in London that are free. You could spend days in some of the museums and still be enthralled. One option might be to stay a little bit out from the city center and bus in (get advice on an Oyster card if you do wish to be in London for any length of time). Hostels at a bit of a distance may be cheaper than those in the main touristy area.

Lack of time is not an issue for you, so you don't need to be concerned about getting somewhere fast. I don't know what long distance bus tickets cost, or are even available, but that might be a cheaper alternative than train tickets.

Once you get out of London, many prices will drop but so too will some of your options for free entertainment. If you can get up there (I don't know the public transit options or prices) Edinburough is a lot of fun, and Loch Ness is beautiful.

You don't have a lot of time before you leave, so do remember that if you get online while you're traveling the people here can always try to answer questions while you're there. Remember to give as much info as possible to begin with.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 01:57 PM
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Long distance buses:


If you're a student still, check out whether having student ID such as the ISIC will get you discounts.
PatrickLondon is online now  
Nov 4th, 2009, 02:17 PM
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Oh - I did want to add a quick comment --- you will be in country over Christmas. You will definitely need to make some advance arrangements/reservations for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/Boxing Day. Transport is cut back - practically non-existent on Christmas Day, sites are mostly closed, and the same w/ many budget accommodations.
janisj is online now  
Nov 4th, 2009, 05:27 PM
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Some of the above makes sense - such as staying in a hostel where you can cook your own meals. but I honestly cannot reco than anyone try to subsist on cup o noodles unless you have the appetite of a bird. You can to to markets and get pasta and sauce - or things to make sandwiches with - but even that is not free (coming from the US I'm always surprised about how expensive food is in England - even things directly from the market - in comparison to what we pay even in NYC). And while beer in pubs is cheap it's not free - and any other sort of nightlife - esp involving hard liquor is VERY expensive.

If it were me I would make a shorter trip and know that I wouldn't have to spend the last week with no money to pay for food.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 06:12 PM
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nytraveler, the cup o noodles suggestion was as a snack, as a dinner after a lunch, or you eat a couple of them. It wasn't meant as a meal plan. Sorry if I didn't explain that part well.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  

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