If you’re coming to the UK on vacation or live here and are planning to tour around the country you might be curious as to what the best options are for your budget and how to find the cheapest accommodation. There are so many different and affordable accommodation options in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and each one will be of benefit to different kinds of travellers.
I have used every one of these options over my time in the UK as even though we’re natives here, we’ve done a whole load of travelling around this country ourselves. Cheap, budget accommodation in the UK is not completely hard to come by – you just need to know where to look!
Useful links for finding cheap and budget accommodation in the UK:
HotelsCombined (compare hotels, hostels and some vacation rentals)
Booking.com (my favourite as they have good cancellation policies and often you can pay when you arrive)
VRBO (vacation rentals)
Trusted Housesitters (get free accommodation in exchange for looking after animals. Highly recommend this if you can do it – we’ve done it lots!)
What to consider when booking budget accommodation in the UK
You’ll need to consider a number of things when deciding on what and where to stay in the UK. Here are a few factors that I’d be considering to get the cheapest prices:
- your overall budget – what is cheap to a one person might not be for others! Also, a solo young adult’s budget may not be budget for a family when you have more people to accommodate
- how long you want to stay
- where you plan to visit
- your transport availability
- whether you want to self cater or not
- how many of you are in your party – a couple may be able to find good hotel options as they can share where a family might find apartments better
- what time of year you’re visiting – school holidays and the summer months will always be more expensive. School holidays vary but are often in February, Easter, May (last week after the Bank Holiday) and October. Summer break generally starts in mid-July and goes to the end of August.
- What experience you’re looking to have
Perfect for almost all travellers are budget hotels. There are cheap hotels in every city and if you time it right you can get some amazing bargains. My first port of call when looking to stay somewhere is to check out HotelsCombined – it’s a really good tool for checking what is available in an area and the best bit is that it will tell you which booking site has that hotel the cheapest!
After checking out what hotels are on the booking sites I often check the following two budget chains as well – Travelodge and Premier Inn. They don’t always appear on the booking sites but they are great value, basic hotels and you can find them all over the country and they also do family rooms. As well as being in cities and towns all over you can also find them alongside motorways and main roads – we’ve stayed in a few like that and they can be super cheap, but not always the quietest and often not really near anywhere so bear that in mind. They can work really well if you’re doing a budget road trip around the UK.
Sometimes these cheap hotels include breakfast or can provide it for a small fee. Almost all will have a kettle and some tea and coffee provided but fridges aren’t always a feature. If you like to buy your own food then be aware that you’ll often not have storage for any cold items.
Solo travellers love hostels but increasingly they are being a good option for couples and even families (although I’d make sure it’s not a party type hostel before booking – we had a bad experience a few years ago in Edinburgh!).
Hostels are great for people looking to get to more remote places in the country too without having to pay the hotel or bed and breakfast prices. There’s a national youth hostel association and they run some great places to stay all over the country and not just in the big cities too.
You’ll find them in the national parks, on popular walking routes and by the coast in some of the most beautiful areas of the UK. Standards are high in these and they often have family rooms and private rooms as well as dorm style accommodation.
Of course, there are many private hostels too – again I like to check out Hotels Combined as they’ll often have hostels included in the searches.
Bed and Breakfasts (B&B) or Guest Houses
Also known as guest houses or B&Bs, a Bed and Breakfast is normally a large house with individual rooms for guests and a communal area for breakfast which tends to be included in the price. They are fantastic options for anyone wishing to get to know the people of the country a bit more because the owners tend to be extremely welcoming, can direct you to all sorts of off the beaten path places and might even serve up local food.
They are almost always small individual businesses and so it’s a much nicer experience than a hotel! Sometimes you’ll find options as part of inns or pubs in villages too which can sort your entertainment out as well!
Bed and Breakfasts can be a little on the pricier side and they are good for couples or singles. It’s not something we did much as a family but now our kids are older we’ll be back to using them!
You’ll find them all over the country and if you’re visiting out of the way villages and towns with little choice for hotels you’ll still likely find some guesthouses so perfect for off the beaten path vacations.
Either search Google for B&Bs in the area of your choosing or check out the hotel comparison sites as many are listed there too.
Apartments and AirBnBs
My favourite accommodation option is always self-catering – I like my own space, to be able to come and go as I please and to be able to eat when I like. It’s perfect for me!
For single travellers or even couples, you might find that the costs are higher than hotels.
They also aren’t so good for people who want to interact with others and the locals, although some may have the owners nearby where you can get to know them.
They are great if you are travelling out of season, staying in one place for a week or more and if there’s a group of you.
Many places also take pets – we now have a dog so this also helps it be my favourite!
We’ve done our fair share of camping over the years – it’s a great way to see the British countryside and really get immersed in it. I’ll say now though that the costs of camping has gone up quite a lot over the years and it’s no longer the complete budget option, especially if you’re travelling in peak season! But you can still get some gems and we’ve had some amazing places to stay that were less than £10 per night for the 4 of us – it just takes a bit of searching around.
I like to use PitchUp for searching. If you don’t have your own camping equipment you might like to check out some glamping options – many of them are very much budget orientated and you might just need to bring a sleeping bag for overnight and many you won’t even need that. I like to look at VRBO for some quirky options in this area!
Scotland allows people to wild camp and it’s a good option for those who want solitude and are travelling solo or as a couple. Check out this website if you’re wondering about adding in some wild camping away from everyone else!
Initial costs for hiring a motorhome can be a bit daunting, but if you’re planning to explore Scotland then I’d highly recommend it because there are lots of areas you can do wild camping up there and not need campsite costs.
If you want to do it in England and Wales be aware that you can’t officially wild camp (although many do) and you’ll need to factor in campsite costs which can still be quite significant, especially in high season. Overall it could still be a really good budget option – we haven’t ever hired a van, but we’ve done lots of travelling around the UK in our own (pictured above) and we were always on a tight budget!
It’s a perfect option if you are looking to do a more rural vacation with plenty of walking and exploring the countryside.
It’s great for families and couples and since you can cook for yourself in the van too you might find your food costs can keep low. Some places may even be able to hire for pet owners too so if you’re planning a trip with your dog it might work out great!
Be aware of any costs you may incur for any damages and make sure you’re fully insured. A good site we were tempted to try out last year (but ended up buying a van to convert ourselves!) was Quirky Campers – if you fancy a nice rustic van conversion they have many options. For more regular motorhomes and campervans check out JustGo.
It would be remiss of me to leave out house sitting as an option when coming to the UK – there are a wealth of opportunities in this area and even as a family we were able to take advantage of this.
We’ve spent a month in Scotland on two separate occasions, enjoying the Highlands and areas I’d never been to as well as a month in London and you can just imagine the savings on costs there!
House sitting normally has you looking after pets in their owners home while they go on holiday. Sometimes people can get paid for this, but there’s a new wave of people doing it on an exchange basis. You look after pets and in return you get free accommodation – it can work really well.
You do need to know it’s not just a free holiday, it is work, but if you love animals it can work out great and you can really enjoy areas of the UK just like a local.
I recommend checking out Trusted Housesitters – there is a cost to join but you can see opportunities available and there are so many on there. If you can get a gig it will pay for itself straight away! It’s the one site we got all our sits on and never had any issues.
Another to check out if you’re solely looking to do sits in the UK is House Sitters UK
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