15th Century spire of Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk, England. VisitBritain/Rod Edwards
The Summer Olympic Games in London, England have gone a long way to placing travel to Britain on the front burner for many travellers, especially those who have not visited the country for some time or ever in their lives. Post-Olympics will be a great time to explore this island nation, perennially one of the most popular destinations of modern times. Sharing insider tips that highlight accommodation alternatives, efficient transportation options throughout the country, visitor passes and discounts to many attractions and events, VisitBritain is providing encouragement for even the most budget-minded traveller to give the British Isles a try.
Scots Guards during Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London. VisitBritain/Pawel Libera
Jacobite steam train travels the Highlands of Scotland. VisitBritain/Rod Edwards
In most major cities in Britain, you can find serviced apartments that are cheaper than staying at a hotel. Some apartments even have hotel-style benefits such as internet access. Here are just two of the creative options: For just $60 a night, stay at Great Dover Street Apartments in London’s historic Southwark neighbourhood. Or head to northern England and stay in the 14th century Durham Castle, which also doubles as a residence hall for local college students. When school’s out, travelers can stay at the castle from as little as $40 a night!
Save with BritRail Transit
BritRail gives visitors exceptional value for money and the flexibility to explore and travel by train within Britain. Pick up a BritRail pass for unlimited and flexible rail travel and enjoy discounts for families, groups, seniors, youth and off-season travel.
Left: Traditional stone cottages in a peaceful Cotswold village in Gloucestershire. VisitBritain/Tony Pleavin
Right: Caravanning/RVing is a relaxing, inexpensive way to enjoy Britain’s more rural areas. VisitBritain/Rod Edwards
Oyster Cards and Visitor Transit Passes
In London, the Visitor Oyster Card is a “pay as you go” travel card that caps your daily costs at the cheapest price available. Families save even more: kids under 11 years old ride for free when travelling with an adult. The Visitor Oyster Card is valid on the Underground (subway), buses, trams and the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) in London. Many other cities offer DaySaver tickets which allow unlimited travel for the day for as little as $5. Save time and money before you arrive in the UK by logging on to www.visitbritainshop.com.
What better way to take in a city then cycling through the streets? Bike shares offer bikes for short term rental: a wonderful way to get from point A to B at minimal cost. Many bike shares even offer the first half hour for free. Rent a bike from Barclays Cycle Hire (more commonly known as Boris Bikes, after the current mayor of London) in London’s zone 1 for just £1 (about US$1.60) for the day! Similar bike shares can be found all across the UK, such as OYbike in Reading and Farnborough, Hire-a-Bike in Blackpool and Bike2Go in Dumfries.
Passes from VisitBritain’s Online Shop
VisitBritain’s online shop offers various discount passes for visitors to the UK. Buy a London Sightseeing Pass for about $50 and get free access to over 55 of London’s hottest attractions – a savings of up to 94 per cent on entrance fees alone! Save time too: this pass gets you priority access to the front of the line at some of the busiest attractions! Or explore beyond London with the English Heritage Pass. For less than $40, get unlimited access to over 100 of the most important places in English history, including World Heritage Sites Stonehenge and Hadrian’s Wall, castles, abbeys and more.
A self-drive cruise on Britain’s canals or rivers is adventurous and affordable. VisitBritain-Britain on View
Discounted Theater Tickets
Just like its Manhattan brother, TKTS London sells half-price, same-day tickets to theater lovers in London’s Leicester Square. They offer substantial savings on tickets to dozens of top West End shows, such as sell-outs Chicago, Ghost or Wicked. Offers change daily and demand is always high. Line up early!
Free Entry to Museums and Galleries
From must-see free museums and galleries in London to historical walking tours in medieval York, Britain has plenty of activities to offer tourists that don’t cost a dime! The Millennium Centre in Cardiff offers a splash of arts and culture with its free daily performances including choir concerts and thought-provoking book readings twice a day. Enjoy the collections at London’s Tate Modern or the Lowry Gallery in Manchester. Or see the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum or the Burrell Collection in Glasgow – all absolutely free of charge.
Cattle graze by Broadway Tower in Worcestershire. VisitBritain-Britain on View
Tourist Board Recommendations & Discounts
Most cities in the United Kingdom have tourist boards which are partners of VisitBritain. Visit their websites to learn more about wherever you are visiting and some highly-recommended attractions and activities. Most tourist boards list offers, so be sure to take advantage of the discounts. For example, if you travel by train, VisitBath offers great 2 for 1 discounts including museum admissions, Thermae Bath Spa sessions, restaurant deals and comedy clubs.
British Traditions on a Budget
There are classic experiences you never knew you could do in Britain… and for cheap! Helping the Beefeaters (Yeoman Warders) lock up the Tower of London at night in the Ceremony of the Keys is free of charge. Savor a spot of afternoon tea at Kensington Palace for only $20. Or chow down on fish and chips for $6 at Anstruther Fish Bar in Scotland – an award-winning eatery and one of Prince William’s favourite spots.
A Beefeater at the Tower of London. VisitBritain-Britain on View
VAT Refunds for Visitors to the UK
In the United Kingdom, a 20 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged on many goods and services. As a visitor however, you qualify for a VAT refund if you live outside the European Union (EU) and leave the UK for a destination outside the EU with the goods you bought within three months of purchase. Just show customs officials the goods, your receipts and a completed VAT refund document when you leave the EU. Keep more cash in your pocket and get a VAT refund for most things on which you pay VAT in the UK!
VisitBritain, www.visitbritain.com, is Britain’s national tourism agency. The VisitBritain Shop is the one-stop shop for all British attractions, events, shows, travel and transport – all the essentials for a fantastic affordable vacation to Britain, helping visitors plan their travel in advance and saving money and precious time from having to wait in long lines. With an historically low exchange rate against the US dollar and Euro, Britain is definitely a value vacation destination.
Also see our feature article highlighting eight of Britain’s exceptional restaurants in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England where the view is as spectacular as the food.