Inverness is a really charming, smaller town. It is cute, it was cold, and it is built with a river running through it. William and I arrived in the evening during sunset so that started us off with a pretty good impression of the place. However, since it is small there is not as much to do. We chose it solely because of its location next to Loch Ness. I will be listing how we spent our time in Inverness, how much things cost, and about how much time to delegate there.
River Ness – Free
The most prominent buildings of the town are all along the river. It is really beautiful just walking down one side. There are several bridges if you need to cross from one side to the other, and the river probably is not far from where you are staying. For us, it was about a 5 minute walk if that. I got some pretty pictures during the daytime, at sunset, and at night time. You will also pass St. Andrew’s Cathedral, several churches, a few shops including a kilt shop, and the Inverness Castle (not open to visitors).
Time we spent – 1 hour
Ness Islands – Free
If you walk far enough down the river, all of the sudden there are these little islands in the middle. They are all connected by bridges, and include various nature walks through beautiful trees as well as a playground. Granted it was January, but William and I were essentially the only ones there. We enjoyed the peaceful trails and playing on the teeter-totter!
Time we spent – 30 minutes
Loch Ness – Free
We went to the very tip of Loch Ness, located in the town called Dores. We were able to take a public bus straight there from Inverness. I cannot locate the exact price of the fare, but it was very cheap (maybe $3 – 5 round trip?). First of all, the Dores Inn is a pub located right on the lake, and it has very delicious haggis. It also has the truly unique small town British pub feel. I highly recommend it. Secondly, right behind the pub is a walking trail that begins next to the giant Loch Ness sign by the lake. We didn’t follow it to the end, and there was no signage explaining where it went, but it basically followed the loch coast through the trees. It was peaceful, beautiful, and once again we were the only ones. We waked for about 30/40 minutes one way, and then returned. We also got to watch the sun set on Loch Ness which was really breathtaking. There are these higher peaks and valleys surrounding it that added to the scenery which was a surprise to me; I imagined it being more flat.
Time we spent – 3 hours (including dinner)
And that’s pretty much it. One full day in Inverness/Dores was enough to see what I wanted to see. If you like to travel at a more relaxing pace though, another day definitely would not hurt. Also, I’d like to highly recommend the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at – The Quaich. The rooms were nice, the host was kind, and the breakfast was so yummy. It really added to our pleasant Inverness experience.
If I were to go back to this area, I’d specifically want to either:
Go back to the hiking trail we found at Loch Ness, and consider camping. Either that or allow a full day of hiking in the area.
See other parts of Loch Ness. Urquhart Castle and Fort Augustus are more common Loch Ness viewing sights, but they were harder for us to get to with such little time and limited transportation.
I love food. The older I get, the worse my obsession is becoming. It’s what I like to do for fun. When I first started traveling on my own (as in, without my parents), I didn’t care about what I was eating. But over the years, I’ve increasingly dedicated more and more of my budget to trying different meals, desserts, food, tours, etc. while traveling.
Below I am listing experiences I’ve had outside of the United States where either the food was absolutely delicious, or the experience was unforgettable. These are in no specific order.
1st Memorable Meal – Scones; Bath
When William and I were in the United Kingdom, we went on a tour by bus that took us to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath all in one day. While in Bath, we basically were just dropped off to do what we pleased with our time. Our guide, David, had mentioned on the bus ride to Bath that he would be spending his time in a scone shop right behind the Bath Abbey. He said he had already called in advance to make sure they had lots of scones. He also talked about how much he loved them, how they would be fresh, etc.. My priority was seeing the Roman Baths and the Bath Abbey, so I thought we would only get to try a scone if we had enough time. Luckily, we did (barely). David was in there and we joined him with a couple of other Americans. The American guy started to use a knife to break his scone apart, and David exclaimed, “No, no, no, no, no! Jesus broke the bread with his hands; you must break the bread apart.” Sure enough, it broke perfectly in the middle. Then he taught us that you spread the jam, but just put a “dollop” of cream on top. You don’t spread the cream. All of this was apparently symbolic, and the order mattered (upon further research though, I know other parts of England put the cream on before the jam). This scone was literally not only the best scone ever, but one of the best pieces of bread I’ve ever had in my life. I think about it all the time. The rest of my trip in the UK, I kept buying scones in other places but they never were the same. I tried to buy all the ingredients here back home but failed miserably at creating even a semi-close attempt to what these were. I did not remember the name of the shop, but after walking on Google maps, I believe it is the shop called The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
2nd Memorable Meal – Anticuchos; Lima
On my trip to Peru, I had read that anticuchos (cow heart) was a popular dish there. I wasn’t sure how I felt about trying that prior to the trip, but once I had been in Peru for a week and felt really comfortable, I wanted to test it out. The only problem was I was out of time and on my way to the airport. My group and I had an excursion in Lima at the Indian Markets, and across the street there was a little mall. We tried running around to see if we could find any place selling anticuchos but failed. Then we were on the bus going back to the airport, so as a desperate last attempt I asked the guide if he knew a good place in the airport to try it. Luckily, he did. He recommended a Peruvian restaurant in the food court just after security called Manos Morenos. My friend Randy and I ordered a meal’s worth, and it essentially just looked like steak on a kebab. It came with a sauce – I have no idea what it was. BUT IT WAS GOOD. The sauce was delicious. The anticuchos was delicious. If I ever go back to Peru, I will be ordering that a lot more often. It wasn’t the best meal of my entire life, but the fact that something that seemed scary and weird was so tasty, and that I was brave enough to try it, made it very memorable for me.
3rd Memorable Meal – Food Tour; Rome
In Rome, William and I went on our first ever food tour. I highly recommend this tour, but make sure you are starving when you arrive. We all met up at a metro station and then walked to our first stop, a Sicilian coffee shop. We tried coffee there, and even though I don’t care for coffee, I actually drank my whole cup. If someone forced me to drink coffee, I guess I would prefer Italian! We also tried a cannoli and it was magical and amazing (we returned to the shop later in the trip for one!), but more on cannolis in another post. Our next stop was Bonci’s, a “fast food” pizza shop. Bonci is a famous, TV featured chef, and one of his main beliefs for making his pizza is that you should always stick to just 3 ingredients on top. However, think more outside of the box than what Americans typically put on pizza. The ingredients varied from different types of greens to macaroni and cheese. And they all were so good. Each person in the tour picked a type of pizza available at the time, and then we all got to try each other’s. There were some that sounded gross to me that ended up being amazing. William and I returned to Bonci’s because we were so impressed. We wish we had one here! A good tip for ordering pizza from these places too, is when you ask for your piece, you need to tell them an approximate weight (or at least show how big of a piece you want with your hands). It’s basically just a giant rectangular pizza and they cut off however much you want, and weigh it to price it. Continuing on, we went into a little shop to try different jams, spreads, truffles, and cheeses. I learned about the importance and deliciousness of Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese. The cheese was so fresh (for cheese anyway), and I didn’t think I would like combining the truffles and jams with the cheeses but our guide knew how to make the perfect tastes blend together. We visited a butcher and cheese shop, and then continued onward to try different meats like prosciutto. I’ve never had meat literally just melt in my mouth the way these slices did. We continued onward again to a place where we tried various pastas. I wasn’t as impressed with the pastas (I’m a red sauce kind of girl and none of these were). However, William ended up discovering Carbonara pasta. He loved it so much, he ordered it for every meal on the rest of the trip. Finally, at the end we stopped by a legitimate gelato place that makes it fresh and had a wide variety of unique flavors. I tried a blueberry with some type of Southern American chocolate. This tour was amazing, and really filled you up. Our guide was kind too, as well as the Welsh couple that joined us. We even all hugged and kissed goodbye at the end. I also loved this tour because our guide was so knowledgeable about food, the Italian laws behind food, where food came from, what different regions of Italy were known for, etc. It was so much to take in, but so absolutely interesting!
4th Memorable Meal – Grilled Cheese; Copenhagen
I visited Denmark in January, and on this particular day I had spent a lot of time outside. In the morning, I caught a bus to visit the Little Mermaid statue just off the river. Then I wandered along the coast through a park, back into the city, visited a castle, and then had been walking on wards for about 15 minutes to reach the SMK Art Museum. I was hungry, I was cold, and I was praying that the museum had food inside because I didn’t see any restaurants near me. They luckily had a café next to these giant glass windows overlooking some beautiful scenery. I ordered a grilled cheese and hot chocolate. It was such a relaxing meal. I was at peace, I was warm, and the grilled cheese is the best I’ve ever had. I think they used several different types of cheeses. The hot chocolate was on par as well.
5th Memorable Meal – Kawaii Monster Cafe; Tokyo
The Kawaii Monster Café is really touristy, I’ll admit. It is located in Harajuku in Tokyo. The food was not that great and it was expensive. However, the theming and experience were awesome! We were fortunate enough to go during a time that was not too crowded at all. The concept is that you are entering through the monster’s mouth. Then once inside, there are 4 different themed rooms you could be sitting in: Mushroom Disco, Milk Stand, Bar Experiment, or the Mel-Tea Room. We sat in the Mushroom Disco area because it looked the coolest in the pictures. They do allow people to wander the restaurant to take pictures though, so you can definitely see all the spots. There is also a giant carousel in the middle, and the various workers there are “Monster Girls” who are dressed in crazy costumes. They put on a dance like show on the carousel every so often. It wasn’t super impressive, but still fun to watch. The food and drinks are also very colorful and neat looking. William ordered a green monster burger, and I got pasta that was rainbow colored! William also ordered an alcoholic beverage that came with blue and red phials, and he had to pour them in to mix his drink while looking like a mad scientist. The Kawaii Monster Café is definitely cool to check out at least once.
I’m hoping to have several more amazing food experiences in the future. Specifically, I’ll be in Thailand next summer. If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!
Similar to my Recap post on Edinburgh, I will be listing attractions in the area we visited in order (2013), along with my overall thoughts, cost (as of 2017), and about how much time we put aside for each one.
William and I only spent one night in Cardiff. We arrived earlier in the day by train, and spent the day exploring the capital. To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with Cardiff and felt like that was plenty of time to see the main sights. From what I’ve read and heard though, getting outside of the big cities is the key to seeing some of the best of what Wales has to offer. The next day, we took a day trip to some nearby towns with castles and found this to be the case.
Central Cardiff – Free
This is an area between the central train station and the castle in the heart of Cardiff, with lots of shops and restaurants. Although nothing special, it was lively and I enjoyed strolling through the area. It’s a great spot for people watching. Even though William and I didn’t shop, we still spent quite a bit of time exploring.
Time we spent – 1 hour
St. John the Baptist Church – Free
This is the only medieval building other than Cardiff Castle in the Central Cardiff area. It’s tiny in comparison to the main cathedrals people are typically visiting in Europe (St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Peter’s Basilica, Notre-Dame, etc.). We only walked by the outside since we were a bit “churched out” at this point, but if you are already in the area, you might as well stop by.
Time we spent – 5 minutes (allow more time if touring inside)
Cardiff Castle – 12.5BP
Another attraction that we unfortunately didn’t go inside to see. It was closed! Since it is located in the middle of the city, we easily were able to walk the entire perimeter. It seemed like a great, typical medieval castle that you picture in your head when you think of that time period. I really would love the opportunity to tour inside the castle grounds; I feel like I missed out a bit by not doing so. For an additional cost, you can also go on a tour that takes you to rooms not included with regular admission.
Time we spent – 1 hour (outside only, included walk through Bute Park)
Bute Park – Free
We stumbled upon this park by pure accident when we were trying to follow the perimeter of Cardiff Castle. It was so green and lovely. It has a river that runs through it, and when I went, it featured a giant dragon head! What more can a girl ask for? If we had more time in Cardiff (and if it was summer), a picnic here would be pleasant.
Time we spent – 30 minutes
Cardiff Bay – Free
As the name suggests, this is the area of town south along the water. There are several notable buildings/monuments as well as a pretty view of the sea. The Wales Millennium Centre is here, featuring giant words that are well illuminated in the night time. The Welsh inscription says “Creating Truth Like Glass From Inspiration’s Furnace,” and the English inscription’s wording is “In These Stones Horizons Sing.” The venue features a variety of artistic acts. We just found the building to be really neat! Right next to the Centre is Roald Dahl Plass, in honor of the author who was born in Cardiff (just learned this). At the time, I just thought it was a cool plaza with pretty lights! The poles around it light up different colors at night. Standing in the plaza and looking to the right of the Centre, you can see the Pierhead Building. It has a red color to it since the exterior is made from terracotta blocks. It actually reminds me a lot of the red church in West End of downtown Dallas, with just a bit more of a gothic twist. It is one of the most iconic landmarks of Cardiff. Just past on the same grounds is Senedd, which stands for the National Assembly building. It has a very cool, modern design in complete contrast to the Pierhead. After exploring this area, we continued west along the edge for about a minute to Mermaid Quay. Mermaid Quay is full of shops, restaurants and was the liveliest part of the bay by far. However, we were walking through this area REALLY late on a Sunday night so it was still pretty quiet. I believe most places were closed.
Time we spent – 1 hour (while everything was closed)
Roald Dahl Plass
Wales Millennium Centre
Castell Coch – 6.5BP
This castle is a lot smaller in comparison to most, but it was designed by a father for his little girl. It is in the small town of Tongwynlais, which is just a short bus ride outside of Cardiff, and about a 10 minute walk from the bus station. It is situated uphill in the forest on the outskirts of the town. Very cute, but unfortunately, we didn’t realize it was closed during winter time! Still glad we made the journey though. It was a neat feeling being completely alone in a forest with the castle – there were no guards, no security, no boundaries. I could just run up and knock on the door if I wanted to. We also discovered that there was a nearby trail going further into the woods. I don’t remember if there was a sign at all, or if it was in Welsh, but we had no idea where it went and decided to follow for a bit. The moss was so green, the ground was red in certain areas, and it was beyond foggy. It felt like some weird, enchanted forest. We really enjoyed our time here in the town.
Time we spent – 2 hours (not including inside of castle)
Caerphilly Castle– 7.95BP
Caerphilly castle is in the town of Caerphilly (no way), and is another short bus ride along the way from Tongwynlais. I loved this castle! It stands out clearly in the middle of the small town, has a moat, and is huge (2nd largest in UK)! Even though I like history, I’m definitely more of a visual person in museums and attractions. I like to just look at the buildings and items and if something really catches my attention, I may read more about it. This castle did not have very many signs or information, but it let you just run wild through the whole thing. You could go up the towers, walk along the walls, explore some of the rooms, and stroll across the grass. They didn’t add a bunch of furniture or decorations to make it look like “back in the day,” they just left most of it empty. It felt more authentic that way. Some parts of the castle were never repaired, some looked to be in perfect condition. I just loved the freedom I had to explore what I wanted.
Time we spent – 2 hours
Unfortunately, that was all the time we had in Wales. We had to take the bus back to Cardiff to get to the train station after Caerphilly. If I had the chance to go back to Cardiff, I’d be most interested in going back to a couple of places I’ve already seen to an extent. They are:
Cardiff Castle – actually visiting inside and doing the tour
Mermaid Quay at Cardiff Bay – visiting during the day time
Realistically though, if I go back to Wales, I’ll be spending my time in the north part of the country around Snowdonia National Park. It will probably require me transferring in or out of Cardiff at one point, so we will just have to see how much time is available! I definitely feel like the land of greenery and sheep has more to offer me.
I’ve had a recent request about what to do in Edinburgh from my sister on behalf of her good friend, Leeann. I’ve put together the attractions we visited in order on our trip (2013), along with my overall review, cost (as of 2017), and about how much time we designated for each one.
We took a 4 hour bus ride to Edinburgh from Inverness on a Thursday. We arrived around noon, got checked in, and then took a public bus to get to the main part of the city.
Princes Street – Free
This is the street our bus dropped us off at. It’s very big, busy and full of shops and restaurants. William and I used it mainly to find our meals throughout the days. It’s nothing really special to go out of your way to see, but if you chose to walk down it, it would take about 15 minutes. I’d recommend just going to have a meal here (since it is located just downhill from most of the other attractions). I guess if you are really into shopping, there are some cool places and department stores located here.
Time we spent – 15 minutes
Scott Monument – Free
This is just a really cool, tall looking monument similar in architecture to the buildings and churches in this area. It is right off of Princes Street next to the bus stop. However, I don’t think you need to necessarily make the trek all the way over specifically just to get close to the monument. Since Edinburgh has a lot of variations in elevation, you can see the monument from almost any of the higher points in the city, such as Edinburgh Castle or Calton Hill. Since our bus stopped right next to it, we took a few minutes to take pictures and admire it but then moved right along.
Time we spent – 5 minutes
Edinburgh Castle – 17BP (British Pounds)
This was probably my favorite attraction in Edinburgh, as well as one of my favorite castles in Europe. It’s really dark, gloomy, and haunting, which is also how I felt about most of Edinburgh. However, I was also at the castle at dusk on a gloomy, rainy day in winter. There are several different rooms and buildings to explore, as well as points of interest around the grounds. When we went, we were able to join a free tour for about 30 minutes. The only downside was the tour guide’s Scottish accent was so think, we could barely understand him. You can also visit the prison. Highly recommend!
Time we spent – 2 hours
Royal Mile – Free
The Royal Mile is a can’t miss! It is a mile-long stretch of road between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. There are shops, inns, historic landmarks, and homes all along. I just love the atmosphere and look of it. William and I strolled back and forth multiple times along it as we waited for a night time tour we had booked to start.
Time we spent – 1 hour (most shops closed in evening time when we were there, but we are not avid shoppers anyway).
Mercat Tours – 13BP
There are underground vaults you can access via a tour right off of the Royal Mile in front of the St. Giles Cathedral. Through Mercat Tours, we took the Hidden and Haunted Tour, which is the only one they offer after dark. They told us some history, but mainly just creepy tales and stories. I remember in each room the guide would tell us if there was a specific ghost that “inhabited” that room, and any interactions they’ve had with guests. It was definitely eerie, and I had trouble sleeping that night! More information on the history of the underground vaults can be found here.
Time we spent – 1 hour 30 minutes
St. Giles Cathedral – Free
This cathedral is built in the classic Gothic style, and it is along the Royal Mile. It’s got beautiful stained glass windows, and is well known for the Crown Steeple on top. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, it is definitely worth a quick peek inside!
Time we spent – 15 minutes
Royal Botanic Garden – Free
This is a really beautiful, large garden area that we started our next morning at. It is a bit farther away from the main part of the city; we had to take a bus to get there. Though it is very lovely, I don’t know if it’s anything extraordinarily different from what you could see at other gardens in the US. Probably not worth going out of your way if you are short on time. Even though most of the gardens are free, the glasshouses do charge a fee.
Time we spent – 1 hour
Scottish National Gallery – Free
To be quite honest with you, I don’t remember much about this gallery! Sometimes I go to so many museums and see so much art in such short chunks of time, it starts to blend together. From what I do remember however, I enjoyed the selections. They were more classic pieces, and I wished that I had more time. It’s conveniently located between the Royal Mile and Princes Street, and there was a man playing the bagpipe right outside! If you are a super art lover, there are 2 other galleries that are free (just a bit more out of the way): The National Portrait Gallery and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
Time we spent – 1 hour (wish we had spent 2)
Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Abbey – 12.5BP
This is the official residence for the Queen in Edinburgh (and once long ago Mary Queen of Scots), and it’s filled with so much history! You get to view a lot of the rooms in their full, royal decor, and there’s a lot of information about events, past and present, available. You can also get to see the ruins of the Abbey. Audio guides are available, and though we didn’t partake, I’ve heard many visitors find them useful.
Time we spent – 1 hour 30 minutes
Arthur’s Seat – Free
This is where I nearly DIED. Since we visited the UK in January, and clearly spent a lot of time outside in the cold, I had developed a pretty bad cold myself. I couldn’t breathe and constantly needed to blow my nose. So naturally, let’s go hiking! I had seen this park on a map and pictured it being flat in my head. I liked the fact that it was supposedly tied to the legend of King Arthur (some say it got its name because Camelot was here). When we had finished the Palace of Holyroodhouse and were looking at this park from the bottom, it looked like it would only take about 20 minutes to climb up. We can do that, I thought. Then, 2 HOURS LATER, we finally got to the top. From the bottom, you couldn’t see the other larger hill terrain you have to continue climbing up. And even though normally, I could have probably hiked up in about an hour, I really struggled on this hike. We ran out of tissues for my nose, I was breathing through my mouth like crazy, and I needed constant breaks. I know it sounds miserable, but William and I really wanted to make it to the top. And the views were worth it. It really is a beautiful park, and seeing all of Edinburgh from that high up was awesome. You know what was not worth it, though? The actual “Arthur’s Seat” statue/piece of stone/maybe it’s nothing at the top. Call me crazy, I just thought maybe there would be a statue or chair or monument carved from some kind of artistic skill. Not a block.
Time we spent – 3 hours (including downhill climb and rest at top)
Calton Hill – Free
Calton Hill is mainly known to be a good area for viewing Edinburgh from above. It is much easier to climb up than Arthur’s Seat, and has a better view of the Royal Mile. It also has, what seemed to me, a really random mish-mash of monuments. One of them looks like the Parthenon in Athens. I just recently discovered that this is known as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace” because it ran out of funding to finish, but it still looks pretty cool. We probably could have appreciated this spot more if we were here during the daytime. Since we were up at night, there wasn’t a lot of lighting, and therefore we couldn’t read any signs (if there were any).
Time we spent – 30 minutes
We spent a full day and a half in Edinburgh, but I probably could have easily spent at least another full day here. If I were to go back, some attractions I’m interested in checking out are:
National Museum of Scotland – Free
Royal Yacht Britannia – 15.5BP (Ship used by the Queen and the royal family/Princess Diana had her honeymoon on this yacht)
If you have any other advice/tips on traveling in Edinburgh, please share with me! I hope that anyone traveling to the area finds this helpful. Have a great trip Leeann!
Warning: This blog post’s purpose is not to solely provide entertainment, but to present a realistic breakdown of expenses spent on a trip. The goal is to help create ideas on how to cut back, help set expectations, and to see how my money was spent based on airfare, lodging, transportation, attractions and meals.
I went to the UK back at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013. It was the very first international trip that I had ever planned! It is a good trip to breakdown on here since I had so little money (for such a big trip) to travel with at that point. If you really are bound and determined, you CAN make it happen!
Here’s a look at the dates we had our trip for reference.
12/30/12 – Flew out of DFW
12/31/12 – Arrived at LHR (London Heathrow) after a layover in Frankfurt – midday
1/1/13 – 1/3/13 – 3 Full days in London
1/4/13 – Day trip to Oxford from London
1/5/13 – Day trip on to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath from London
1/6/13 – Train to Cardiff, spent night there
1/7/13 – Day trip to Tongwynlais and Caerphilly from Cardiff, then train back to London
1/8/13 – Bus ride to Inverness, Scotland
1/9/13 – Full day in Inverness and Dores
1/10/13 – Bus to Edinburgh
1/11/13 – Full day in Edinburgh
1/12/13 – Bus back to London
1/13/13 – Fly out of LHR back home
William and I purchased the majority of our plane tickets with miles. This was before I knew anything about how they worked or how to use them…..I simply knew they existed. Somehow, my dad and I had struck up a conversation concerning them, and he offhandedly mentioned, “Oh, I have about 100,000 miles about to expire with American Airlines.”
After expressing my disbelief and bravely offering my services to put them to good use, my dad told me I could use them as long as I paid for any of the other fees. This conversation had occurred over a year before this London trip, so I used 25,000 miles to fly round trip to New York to visit one of my best friends, Juan, the previous year. We then applied the other 75,000 (probably a bit more) points towards London. We were short by a few thousand miles, and after all of the taxes and fees were factored in, it cost about $600.
Cost of airfare per person: $300.
These were the days before I knew about Airbnb, and William didn’t feel comfortable staying somewhere where we had to share a room. We definitely could have found a better accommodation looking back. In London, we stayed at the Easy Hotel. There are several locations across London, but the 2 we have experience with are the Kensington and Paddington locations. They were essentially EXACTLY the same. You get a bright orange “room” with a mattress surrounded by wall on 3 sides. There is a little patch of floor that allows you to get into your tiny bathroom that may or not may have hot water in the shower. When I first saw the room, I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to laugh or cry. William thought it was hilarious and we never spent time there anyway, so it worked out fine.
These hotels on average cost about 40 pounds a night, which roughly was about $60. We spent 8 nights in Easy Hotels.
We also stayed in one cheap hotel near the train station in Cardiff for about $40 (can’t remember the name) for one night. Breakfast was included.
In Inverness, we stayed at the cutest Bed and Breakfast called The Quaich. It’s close to the main part of town, the host was very kind, and the breakfast delicious! I also learned at this breakfast the proper way to eat a boiled egg in Scotland with a spoon. It was about $40 a night including breakfast. We stayed here for 2 nights.
Finally, in Edinburgh, we stayed at a terrible guesthouse (can’t remember name). Firstly, there was NO ONE THERE when we arrived at our check-in time. We both didn’t have international calling plans, so we walked down the street and found a local barbershop that let us use their phone to call. It turned out the poor guy had gone to the hospital after having an asthma attack. We had to wait for 30 minutes before he arrived to let us in. I know health comes first, and that’s a very legitimate excuse but it was still inconvenient that only this one person could help us.
The guy did feel bad and upgraded us to a room where we would have our own bathroom (originally supposed to share one). The stay was fine.
The main problem I have with this place though, is that they double charged us for our stay and never fixed it. When I got home, I saw both of the charges on the credit card account. I tried emailing and calling, but could never get in touch with anyone.
I probably could have been more persistent, but I eventually just gave up on getting that money back. We had stayed 2 nights here for about $60 a night after all taxes and fees.
In total, we spent about (or should have without the extra charge) $720 on lodging for 2 people.
Cost of lodging per person: $360
After reviewing the official London transportation website, it looks like things have changed slightly since I was there. However, my advice will be pretty similar. First of all, journeys on buses and the Tube are more expensive if you are buying an individual, single ticket every time. The locals use something called an Oyster card to pay for their fares. This is a card you can load money onto, or buy certain passes and have them connected to your card. At the London Heathrow airport, you can purchase an Oyster card for just 5 pounds and from there, take the Tube straight into the heart of London. You could also turn your card back in at the end of your stay, and get the 5 pounds refunded.
Your fare price will also change depending on what zones you are traveling to and from. You can take a closer look at this map here.
I did all of the math for William and I based on our itinerary using the chart of fares, and it made the most sense for us to buy a week long pass that we activated on 1/1/2013, valid only for zones 1-2 (I feel like ours may have just been zone 1, but this is not an option anymore. More details on passes here). London Heathrow is actually in zone 6, but it is the only place outside of zone 1 that we needed to get to/from. So we just paid as we went with our new oyster card to our hotel inside zone 1 on the 31st. Keep in mind also, that even though we did several day trips and a night in Wales, we still needed to use the Tube every day to get to and from the special buses, tours or train stations.
A week long pass in just zones 1-2 is currently 33 pounds. With that converted along with the other times we used the Tube, we probably spent about $65 per person on transportation in London.
William and I also used buses in Wales (to Tongwynlais, Caerphilly, and back), Inverness (to Dores and back), and throughout Edinburgh. In total, this probably ended up being about $15 per person.
We also booked most of our longer local travel through Megabus.
London to Inverness (about $20 per person, 14 hour route)
Inverness to Edinburgh (about $5 per person, 4 hour route)
Edinburgh back to London (about $15 per person, 10 hour route)
The other bus we booked was a special bus that literally just went from London to Oxford round trip for a day without any stops in between. I can’t remember the name of the company, but this was about $20 per person.
So in total, on buses outside of London, we spent $75 per person.
Finally, we did take a train round trip from London to Cardiff as a splurge. There were buses available, but this was the cheapest route available by train and William really wanted to try one out while we were there! Per person, our train travel round trip was about $60.
Drum roll please…….In total on ALL transportation, big and small, we spent about $200 per person. For 2 weeks.
William and I did pretty much everything we could possibly fit in, but a lot of the sightseeing was free.
For those things that aren’t free in London, they most likely are covered under the London Pass. You can buy a 1,2,3,6, or 10 day pass. We decided to buy the 3 day one because it would save us the most money in the end. It was about $80 per person, but when you consider that certain attractions, such as the Tower of London, are like $30 alone, it adds up quickly.
You can also add an Oyster transportation option into your London pass, but when we went, it wouldn’t save us as much money.
We paid for other attractions just at the gate (or bought tickets online), as well as booked an undergrounded haunted tour in Edinburgh. We also booked a full day tour that took us to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath. Admission to Windsor Castle and Stonehenge were included, as well as the transportation and lunch for $90 per person.
So for attractions, we spent about $250 per person in total.
This is where we REALLY cut back.
Breakfast – For breakfast in London, there was a Sainsbury grocery store down the street a few blocks. This store would always have something called a 3 pound meal deal. For 3 pounds (about $5), we could get a sandwich or some pasta, a bag of chips and a drink. Breakfast was included in Wales and Inverness at our hotel/b&b. Breakfast Total per person: $55.
Lunch and Dinner – We basically ate at KFC and McDonalds for every meal, because everything else was so expensive. Therefore, our meals totaled at about $5 per person per meal. We did branch out every once in a while, so we don’t feel like the trip was “wasted” or ruined. Food isn’t my biggest priority when traveling anyway though.
We ate at a traditional British pub and a Chinatown restaurant in London, as well as a really local neat pub in Dores, Scotland where we tried Haggis.
Total per person for Lunch and Dinner combined: $150.
Total spent on food per person for the whole trip: $205.
So the grand total is……. $1,065 per person for EVERYTHING.
Keep in mind this does depend on your priorities. Time is a priority you have to pay for. If you don’t want to take a 14 hour bus ride, it will cost you. Better meals and local fare will cost more. Taking taxis or renting a car will cost more.
But all I really care about in the end is experiencing and seeing the city I’m in. I am pretty much willing to do anything to get there. And William and I had an AMAZING time on this trip!
If that still sounds like too much for a 2 week trip across the UK, keep these tips in mind.
I did splurge on some meals
I could have bought groceries
I could have waited to have all the miles I needed for airfare (reducing the cost per person by $300)
I could have earned hotel points and had free lodging (reducing the cost per person by $360)! Or
I could have used Airbnb, alltherooms.com , or stayed in a hostel to cut back on lodging costs
I could have taken a bus instead of a train to Wales
I could have cut out certain attractions
In the end, if you want to get there, you can do it! Do your research, plan in advance, save those points. And I’m always glad to help.