From cliff-backed beaches and quaint villages to vibrant cities and historic sights, England has plenty to entice visitors. But it can also be a fairly expensive destination, particularly in terms of accommodations, tours and sightseeing.
The good news? Many of England’s museums, natural sights and heritage attractions are free. Public transportation can be affordable when planned in advance, and plenty of wallet-friendly dining options exist: from pub lunches to the iconic takeaway fish and chips.
Even London, famously one of Europe’s most expensive cities, can be explored on a budget if you’re careful. Outside of the major tourist destinations, the rest of England becomes much more affordable, so heading off the beaten path can be particularly rewarding.
Get ready to explore the land of rolling countryside, ancient castles, and dazzling white cliffs with these top money-saving tips and a guide to daily costs.
Average daily costs in England
Hostel room: £15–30 (dorm bed)
Hotel room for two: £100
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): £70
Camping pitch: £20–30
Single bus ticket: £2.80 (can reach over £6 in rural areas)
Takeaway sandwich: £3
Dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant: £30–50
Pint at the bar: £4–6
Takeaway fish and chips: £10
Pub lunch: £12.50–25
Total average daily cost per person: £50–150
Bear in mind that travel costs – particularly accommodation – vary significantly across England depending on the destination. Prices in London and other popular cities are generally much higher than in smaller towns or rural areas.
Figure out which London airport is the cheapest to fly to
London has six major airports but transport costs into the city center – or further afield – can vary widely. To figure out which airport is cheapest to fly to in England, you should factor in the onward travel costs to your final destination.
Heathrow, London’s main and busiest airport, is on the London Underground's Piccadilly Line and the new Elizabeth Line, so travel into central London can cost as little as £5.60. Buses from Heathrow Central Bus Station can provide affordable onward travel to the rest of England.
The second largest airport, Gatwick, competes directly with Heathrow for a number of destinations, often resulting in lower flight prices. It’s not on the London Underground, but there is a train station and a bus station with connections into central London starting from £13.30 and £7 respectively. There are also good connections with other parts of England, particularly the south.
London’s Luton, Southend, and Stansted airports are popular hubs for budget airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair, though they have a longer journey time into central London. Finally, the centrally-located London City Airport is usually the most expensive to fly to, but allows for cheap and convenient onward travel within the city center.
Remember to check other destination airports
Depending on your onward travel plans, flying into London might not be your best bet. Manchester Airport is the third biggest in the UK and has flight connections with over 200 destinations worldwide. As with Heathrow and Gatwick, the amount of flight options can drive competition between airlines and result in lower prices.
Smaller airports throughout England may be better positioned for onward travel to other parts of the country. Bristol and Newquay airports are much closer to Southwest England than the London airports, for example, while Birmingham Airport might be a better option for the Midlands.
Remember to factor in the price of onward travel, as this can have a huge impact on travel costs. If you want to visit the Lake District, trains from London Heathrow to Oxenholme train station take almost 10 hours and start from £114.20. Trains from Manchester Airport to Oxenholme, by comparison, take 1h 39m and start from £6.50.
If you’re trying to get the best flight deal possible, it’s a good idea to widen your search to include all English airports and to check the onward travel options before making your decision.
Weigh up your transport options
Unfortunately, public transportation isn’t always the cheapest or most practical way of getting around England. Most cities and towns have good internal bus networks, but many rural areas and small towns have limited – or no – public transport services, and trains between cities can be pricey.
Train tickets are notoriously expensive in England, but traveling off-peak and booking around 12 weeks in advance can dramatically reduce costs. Check and compare train times and ticket options on National Rail. If you plan on traveling by train regularly, purchasing a National Rail annual railcard may help reduce costs.
The best way to travel around England for budget visitors is by coach, but journey times are often much longer than by train or car and the routes aren’t always convenient. Bus travel is cheapest when booked direct: the two main operators are National Express and Megabus. Both offer competitive prices.
If you plan on visiting multiple destinations or traveling to parts of England with limited public transport services, driving may prove the most practical way to get around. According to Kayak, car hire in the UK is £43 per day on average, although prices can be as low as £16 per day.
Book transport in advance for the best deals
If you plan to travel around England via public transport, booking in advance is almost always the cheapest option. Advance train tickets can be around 50% cheaper, while Trainline claims its customers save an average of 61% when booking in advance.
Train tickets can usually be booked around 12 weeks before the departure date, while bus tickets from National Express – the UK’s largest coach operator – go on sale up to one year in advance.
Find free parking
Park & Ride services on the outskirts of towns and cities usually offer free parking when you pay for the bus into the center. This usually works out much cheaper than paying for city center parking, not to mention congestion fees, which are becoming increasingly common in busy cities.
Street parking, where allowed, is often free in England, though sometimes only for a limited time, and rarely in city or town centers. Apps like AppyParking and Parkopedia can help you find free places to park.
Visit in spring or autumn for the best prices
June to August is the peak tourist season in the UK. Travel costs, especially accommodation, can rise dramatically during these months, as well as during school and public holidays. The shoulder seasons of April to May and September to October are often much quieter and cheaper times to visit. The weather is usually fairly mild, though changeable and with a greater chance of rain than in summer.
November to March is the off-season in England and is generally the cheapest time to visit (except Christmas). It’s worth noting that many outdoor and summer-based tourist attractions close during winter, especially in seaside resorts.
Avoid traveling during school and bank holidays
School and public holidays are the most popular travel times in England and tend to see significant price increases. To save money, avoid traveling during school holidays, which happen every six to seven weeks, if you can.
The exact dates vary across the country, but generally speaking, the longest holiday period is from the end of July and throughout August, with an additional two weeks around Christmas and Easter. There are also "half-term" holidays of one or two weeks, usually falling in February, May and October.
Additionally, there are eight Bank Holidays in England throughout the year. Extra holidays are sometimes added for national events such as Royal weddings and funerals.
Make the most of England’s free attractions
If you’re exploring England on a budget, there are plentiful free attractions to enjoy. All national parks have free entry, as do most other natural attractions such as woodlands, country parks, lakes and beaches. Likewise, there are miles of public footpaths, bridleways, and long-distance walking and biking paths to enjoy free of charge across the country.
Many museums and art galleries offer free entry, and even the ones that don’t often have a monthly free-entry day. Churches and cathedrals are usually free to explore as well, although some ask for donations from visitors.
Get 2-for-1 on attractions with National Rail
The National Rail Days Out scheme offers 2-for-1 tickets at over 300 attractions in England when you travel by train. There’s a huge variety of attractions across the country, including aquariums, zoos, football grounds, museums, gardens, and cinemas. Simply show your train ticket on entry to receive the discount.
Join English Heritage and/or the National Trust
Many of England's top heritage properties, beauty spots and historic sites are managed by either the National Trust or English Heritage charities. Stonehenge and Dover Castle are two of the most famous English Heritage sites, while the National Trust manages over 500 gardens, nature reserves, and historic houses such as Agatha Christie’s former home Greenway House in Devon.
Both charities offer annual memberships allowing free entry to all attractions as well as free car parking at a number of locations. Both charities also offer temporary memberships for short-term visitors from overseas. These can be well worth purchasing if you plan on visiting several attractions.
Look for discounts for students, seniors, groups and families
Many attractions throughout England offer discounts to students, children (usually under 18s) and seniors (usually 60+). Some also offer cheaper packages for groups and families, so check the best options online when planning your trip.
Check online for discounts
Coupons and special offers are popular in England. If you’re visiting an attraction or a restaurant, check its social media pages for any current deals that may be running. Likewise, local Facebook Groups and newspapers can be good sources for news of special offers and discounts in the area.
Book rooms in budget hotels
Accommodation can be one of the biggest costs when traveling in England. The budget hotel chains Premier Inn, Travelodge and Holiday Inn Express offer decent hotel rooms (if a little bland) at affordable prices. Guesthouses and B&Bs are usually cheaper than hotels and often have a lot more character.
Hotels on the outskirts of towns and cities can be cheaper than those in the city center, but check that there are convenient public transport options before booking, as taking taxis will quickly mitigate those savings.
Remember that hostels aren’t just for backpackers
The Youth Hostels Association (YHA) has hostels across England, some of them in extraordinary buildings, including castles! These offer budget-friendly dormitory accommodation for backpackers, but there are many other options to suit all kinds of travelers. Groups can book an entire dorm – or even the whole property – and many hostels have private and family-sized rooms, camping pitches, cabins and even glamping.
Embrace the English caravan parks
Holiday parks with static caravan accommodation are popular throughout England, particularly around tourist hot spots on the coast or in the countryside. These can be a very affordable option, especially for groups or families, although prices rise significantly during the summer holidays. Many parks have facilities such as a pool, restaurants, shops and entertainment.
Pitchup is a handy website to search and book holiday parks, caravans, campsites, and glamping sites across the UK. Keep in mind that some holiday parks can only be booked directly through the parks themselves.
Enjoy a good meal out on a budget
England’s reputation for high prices and bad cuisine is somewhat undeserved. There’s good food to be found across the country, from minimal-mile menus at country pubs to excellent seafood along the ample coastline. Food trucks are increasingly popular, especially in cities and tourist towns, and can be a great way to get a takeaway meal for less than £10. Speaking of takeaways, the famed British staple of fish and chips usually costs around £10, best eaten on the beach at sunset for a no-frills budget dinner.
For indoor dining, pubs are generally cheaper than restaurants and many offer very good food alongside local ales, ciders and other drinks. Look for gastro-pubs, where the emphasis is more on dining than drinking. Expect to pay around £12–20 for a main and even less if there’s a deal on.
Consider signing up for a Tastecard
You could also sign up for a Tastecard which offers dining discounts such as 2-for-1 meals at eateries all over the UK — including chains like Pizza Hut, Prezzo and Giraffe. Membership is £34.99 a year so this is probably only worth it during a long-term stay in England or if you plan to use the discount card a lot during your visit.
Stay in self-catered places and shop in budget supermarkets
Dining out is obviously going to eat into your budget. Consider opting for self-catering accommodation where you've got the facilities to store and prepare your own meals.
The cheapest supermarkets are Aldi and Lidl, although most supermarket brands usually have good special offers on. Supermarkets are also great places to pick up cheap lunches (many have a “meal deal” combo of a sandwich, side and drink) or put together a picnic to take with you while you’re exploring England.
Dine out on weekdays
At pubs and restaurants, weekdays are often the cheapest days to dine out. During the week, many establishments offer fixed-price set menus or deals such as 2-for-1 mains that won’t be found on weekends.