51 ways for tourists to save money in the UK

As the old saying goes 'look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves' and it's as true today as ever. With the tourist market being a prime target for high mark-up items, there are plenty of people (and companies!) around looking to make maximum profit out of the cash rich tourists. But let's face it, not many of us have actually got cash to burn, and even if you have, who enjoys being ripped off? We've put our heads together and come up with 51 ways to save money whilst travelling in the UK.


Food is a very easy way to save huge amounts of money if you know where to go and what to do!

1. 2 for £10 meals - there are pubs in every corner of Britain that will do you 2 huge plates of good British fare for just £10 (or even less!).
2. Chip shops are fantastic for fast food on the go, a bag of chips should cost you less than £2 and keep you going all day. Make sure you find a local (not tourist!) chippy though.
3. Hotel breakfasts can easily break the bank if not already included. Our tip, find a small cafe (known in the UK as a 'greasy spoon', if you spot a workman going in it's ideal!) and get a full English breakfast to rival any hotel for a quarter of the cost.
sainsburys local4. Posh sandwich shops can cost the earth. Pop into a mini supermarket (Tesco express, Sainsbury's local or even most corner shops) and grab a meal deal out of the fridge for just a few pounds.
5. All you can eat buffets are always a winner, some are terrible many are just great and you can eat as much as you like for the price of a cheap main course in a restaurant.
6. Early-bird menu's save a fortune. Most restaurants have them for diners arriving early (usually before 7pm or 6.30pm) and this can halve the cost of your meal.
7. Drinks; Eating places in Britain almost never give you table water unless you ask. Our tap water is fresh and tasty and the law says it must be provided when asked for.
8. Avoid service stations all together. If you're driving or using the motorway, don't even think about grabbing some quick food here. They carry some of the biggest mark-ups going!
9. Drinks again; Almost everyone makes their money on drinks rather than food and not many places offer free refills on soft drinks. If you're in a town, pop into a B&M Bargains, Qualitysave or a pound shop. Here you can buy 2 litre bottles of soft drinks and multi-packs of cans for next to nothing.
10. Carry a water bottle. Unless a tap says otherwise, tap water in Britain is perfectly clean and safe so make the most of it and get your water topped up where you can!
11. Grab some pot noodles and cup-a-soups - ok they don't taste amazing but after a busy day sightseeing you get back to the hotel room late and hungry. You don't fancy going out again so eating a small packet of food that just requires hot water from the kettle in the room can be a life-saver.
12. Grab a Taste UK card, these schemes are fabulous for mid-week dining offering 2 meals for the price of 1 or 50% off at thousands of great restaurants around Britain.


This massively varies throughout Britain but it can save plenty if you know how it works!

Oyster13. Ditch the London travel card, although it may seem convenient an Oyster card will cost you far less in the long run. It's easy too, just swipe as you go through a barrier and the pay as you go credit will be deducted from the card.
14. Avoid taxi's where possible, our fuel prices are high and so are taxi's as a result. Even a 'quick trip' will have a high minimum value.
15. Buses are not as cheap as you might think, but they are usually regular and quite reliable. If you're going to be in an area for a while most buses will have a 'day saver' or a 'weekly' ticket that are excellent value for money. Outside London you pay the driver as you get on.
16. Avoid peak times, lots of our transport will charge much higher prices during 'peak' hours - particularly trains. Many cities also run a tram system which will cost far less out of peak hours.
17. BritRail is a no-brainer for overseas visitors! Non-UK residents are entitled to buy a BritRail pass which offers unlimited rail travel according to the type of ticket purchased. Compared with the cost of rail travel (particularly long distance) it can be a fraction of the price and worth buying even if you only use it once (if travelling Manchester to London at peak time for example).
18. Try the coach. If you've got time to spare and don't need to move around too quickly, coach travel can be the most cost effective way to get around. National Express and Megabus (pre-book at least 1 month before for best prices) are good examples of cheap coach travel - it just takes a lot longer than the train.
19. Compare petrol prices - the most convenient way to travel (if you're brave enough to drive on the left!) is by hire car. Our petrol prices can vary wildly so it's always worth paying attention to current prices so you can grab a good deal. Avoid motorway services and private stations and head for the supermarket stations for the best prices.
20. Drive stick, if your license allows it! For some reason hiring an automatic drive car in Britain can cost upwards of 50% more than manual drive - which the vast majority of Brits use. You do need a manual license though.
petrol21. Decline all the extras! Picking up a self-drive car can be expensive. Good sales people will convince you that you need 8 different types of additional insurance that cover's everything you can think of and costs you twice as much as the car hire! Car hire will come with adequate insurance so don't be fooled or scared into paying for what you're very very unlikely to ever need.
22. Don't take your car into London! Central London is not only big, busy and stressful to drive around, it has a large toll known as the Congestion Charge which must be paid. If you're hiring a car, arrange to pick it up on your way out of London.
23. Pay attention to speed limits, we work in MPH and there are speed cameras everywhere! If you're going too fast or go through a red light there's a good chance the car hire firm will be passing on a ticket or 2 in the near future.
24. Sort your GPS before you travel. Hiring a GPS with a car (they almost never have them already in hire cars) can cost around £8 per day (£112 on a 2 week trip!!) whereas downloading the UK map to your own GPS will cost a fraction of that. If all else fails you can pick up a good one at Curry's for less than £50.
25. We have 2 types of taxi's, metered cabs known as 'black cabs' and bookable cabs. Bookable taxi's can't be flagged down and must be pre-booked by phone. They can be much cheaper provided that you remember to agree a rate before setting off. Though many black cab drivers are good people, some may take advantage of slow traffic or take longer routes to clock up the meter and charge more.


26. Bringing an old cell phone to the UK can save you a fortune on overseas calls. A number of companies such as Lyca or Lebara will sell you a very cheap SIM card which makes overseas calls for as little as 1p per minute. Great British Trips always include a free lyca SIM with your information pack.
27. Hotels and Wi-Fi charges vary wildly. Many hotels (especially 3* and cheap hotels strangely!) will have free Wi-Fi in your room. Others offer free Wi-Fi in the lobby and others not at all. Paid Wi-Fi is often not too cheap at all but fear not. With coffee shops on every corner you won't need to go far to a Costa or Starbucks where you can enjoy a hot drink and free Wi-Fi.


london pass28. London passes are almost an essential item for London visitors. It offers free entry into over 60 major attractions. Just make sure that you plan carefully which days to use the pass on and where to go to maximise its use - London museums are generally free so don't waste time on these on the days your pass is active.
29. Other multi-attraction passes are great for the rest of the UK depending on your interests. Many historic sites are English Heritage, Historic Scotland or Cadw (Wales) owned and run and they all have their own multi-day passes. National Trust own many natural sites and historic properties and also do a great value pass.
30. Hudson Heritage Explorer Pass is a winner - the little known Hudson Pass will gain you access to many independently owned attractions. Some of these are amongst the most popular in the UK including the Roman Baths, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Shakespeare's Birthplace.
31. On-line tickets save ££s, many attractions (especially 'family' attractions and theme parks) will offer big discounts on entry tickets by booking more than 24 in advance on-line.
32. Late entry discounts; many attractions will offer entry discounts for people entering late in the day as there is less time to enjoy the attraction. This is a good tip if you want to simply pop-in to an attraction.
lesmis33. West End tickets can cost anywhere between £30 and £120+ for a popular show with good seats however it has to be on the list for all London visitors! There are several box offices in Central London that will sell the left over tickets for that day's performances at hugely knocked down rates. This is great if you're not too worried about what you see.
34. The Theatre Passport is another great way to save money on West End Shows. For just £27 the passport can be exchanged on any given day for a range of the best available seats at many shows.
35. Most museums in Britain are free to enter. This includes the British Museum, the Science Museum, The Natural History Museum and the National Portrait Gallery - displaying some of the greatest artefacts in the world. Even private museums are usually quite reasonably priced and you can spend all day in some.
36. Don't avoid church - almost all churches and cathedrals in the UK are free to enter (though some ask for a donation) and they include some of the most spectacular buildings you will ever see.
37. Walking Tours; In busy tourist cities you will find many groups taking guided walking tours. Tagging along the back of a large group is a great way to find out some local information without paying for the whole tour. A little cheeky perhaps but If you've got the guts, go for it!
38. Don't miss the Changing of the Guard! One of Britain's greatest spectacles takes place outside Buckingham Palace at 11.30am and is free to watch. It doesn't happen every day though out of summer season so be sure to check the website for exact dates.
oxford39. Oxbridge is a must, the university cities of Oxford and Cambridge are beautiful and fabulous places to explore. They each have dozens of old universities, many of which are free or cost just a couple of pounds to enter and explore. It's a must for history lovers!
40. Avebury, it's like a big Stonehenge. Since the new visitor centre at Stonehenge opened its doors entry prices have rocketed (£12.50) and whilst the stones are great to tick off, if you're genuinely interested the stone circle at nearby Avebury is the largest in the world - circling the village of Avebury. Here you can get up close and personal with the stones and it's free.
41. Don't skip the coastal towns. Many areas of the UK such as Cornwall or the North East Coast are packed with stunning, picturesque little fishing towns. These towns are wonderful to explore and often have delightful tiny gift shops and locally made crafts. Perfect for a truly enjoyable free day out.
42. Take a fishing cruise. An amazing way to see the stunning coastlines of Cornwall, South Wales and North East England for just a few pounds is by taking a short cruise on board a small fishing vessel. You don't actually need to fish (although mackerel fishing with a line is tremendous fun and will provide you with dinner) but due to the soaring restrictions and taxes placed on UK fishermen by the EU, many find that there is more money to be made by taking visitors on short marine life pleasure cruises than actually fishing. You can hop on board at many tourist focussed harbours without pre-arranging.

Other tips

43. Don't get stung on exchange rates! Many companies now offer pre-pay credit cards. These are a great thing to bring with you as almost everything in the UK can be paid for on card these days. A card already in pounds will save you pounds!
44. Be careful with cash, the exchange rates can get you on either end but you may need more cash than you thought. Most bank cash machines will give you a good deal but for a great deal, pop into a branch of the Post Office which has ForEx. You are likely to get very competitive rates here. Avoid the foreign exchange booths dotted around large city centres, if the rates arn't displayed don't even ask!
45. Try our version! You may be used to your favourite type of coffee, drink or food at home but the equivalent here may well have been imported and therefore not the cheapest around. Try a local equivalent, you never know, you might just like it!
46. Avoid the school holidays. Travelling in Britain can be way more expensive during the British school holiday season as hotels and other suppliers capitalise on the need for parents to entertain their children. Travelling outside these dates will save you pounds on hotel tariffs.
47. Tipping in restaurants is not as standard in the UK as in many countries. In restaurants with waiter service 10% is standard however this should directly reflect the service you receive. Unlike many countries, all our restaurant staff receive the National Minimum wage and are not dependent upon tips to top up wages. Tips are a bonus that are usually earned and many Brits don't tip at all, or perhaps leave a pound. They are also often split and shared so may not actually ever reach your waiter. It is not common to tip in non-sit down restaurants.
48. Tipping guides, especially if they have done a good job is hoped for but again not expected. Sometimes an entire bus/boat full of people can walk past the guide with little more than a 'thank you'. It is however polite to tip a guide and the amount should be in proportion to the quality of service received.
49. Bring plenty of clothes, it can get cold here and many tourists often end up spending money on warm clothes and umbrella's rather than souvenirs!
50. Try the local markets rather than the tourist shops! Many towns and cities have great local markets. Here you will pick up all the bits you need and had forgotten as well as great cheap food and that souvenir you've spotted for a fraction of the price!
51. Last but not least, go with Great British Trips! Not only do we take all of the above into consideration when planning your trip, we search out the best deals and best prices for you. It's in our best interest to get you the best deal on your tour so if you're taking a self-guided tour of the UK, tell Great British Trips where you want to go and wait for your personal itinerary to arrive. If you're not sure, just ask. Great British Trips allow you to plan exactly the trip that you want, on your terms, to your budget without the stress and pressure of worrying about something going wrong.

To find out more about Great British Trips and planning your own UK tour, click here.


By Ruth Lancey

Date: 2017-11-28 13:22:56