Is it possible to save of money while traveling around Scotland? Of course! You can save money no matter where you travel to with a bit of research and proper planning before you head out. Of course, the first step is finding a cheap flight, the second is planning a perfect itinerary that suits your budget, and the third is implementing ways on the road that will save you money to keep you traveling! These tips cover the entirety of Scotland from the highlands to the major cities, so no matter where you’re headed, you have tips for getting discounts and seeing incredible things that won’t cost a ton of money. No matter what type of traveler you are, I know at least a handful of these are going to help you save money on your route since they saved me a ton of money on mine. So let’s sit back, pour ourselves a dark roast brew, and crack into these money saving tips for traveling Scotland!
Looking for more resources for traveling Scotland? Check these out!
- The Perfect 10-Day Scotland Itinerary For First Timers
- The Ultimate Packing Guide For Scotland
- 6 Awesome Day Trips From Edinburgh Scotland
Eat In Local Pubs
Locals pubs are one of the best ways to chow down on the Scottish foods and enjoy a great cheap dive. One of my favorites parts about traveling is trying out the local foods and discovering some new flavors that I can cook with when I return home. These places are always going to be way cheaper than western restaurants and they’ll more than likely have some of the best food you’ll have on your trip. You can browse all of the top pubs rated by locals In Edinburgh here, or use the Like A Local website to find pubs in the area you’ll be based in. The western restaurants are catered to, well, westerns, and one of the biggest parts of traveling is all the incredible food you get to try along the way. These pubs have lively energy and they’re great spots to meet locals, fellow travelers, and lifelong friends.
Book Online In Advance
This one is pretty standard for most places, but for most tours and attractions, you’re going to end up paying more if you wait and book the day of. There are plenty of free things to do in Scotland that will be entirely worth your while like Calton Hill, Arthur’s Seat, museums, monuments, and free walking tours. However, there are also tons of incredible tours you can browse in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness that are cheap and worth spending a few pounds for. If you are curious to dive deeper into the culture and save some money on historical and cultural tours, then I recommend checking out Pages To Passport’s, ‘Best Scotland Books to Read Before You Visit‘. These books will give you a first-hand look into what makes Scotland so great, and they will get you hyped before you leave for the airport. You can purchase these books used and cheap on Thriftbooks, which is where I love recycling old stories and personally buy all my books from. Reading is a great way to get a first-hand look at the history of a country, and if you find something that suits your fancy, here is 15% off already discounted novels so you can save money and snag a great book on Scottish history.
Stay Outside The Heart Of The City
Unless you’re staying in a hostel in one of the major cities, your best option to save money is going to be choosing a place that’s a tad out of the way and isn’t in the hustle and bustle of the city. There are so many incredible Airbnb’s that you can browse through to find your perfect stay, and they even have historical apartments that you can book out for the ultimate Scottish experience. If you do stay outside the city, you’re going to get a more ‘countryside’ feel to the country, and you’ll balance out all that whiskey and pub food with a little bit of exercise as you navigate in and around the city.
Bring A Reusable Bottle
If you don’t want to waste a ton of money buying plastic water bottles all the time, a reusable bottle is going to become your lifeline on this trip. Tap water is drinkable in Scotland, so you can fill up with the faucet in your homestay or ask one of the restaurants to fill it up for you. This is an awesome way to save the planet and around ten pounds per day on drinking water. I am not picky about water, so I didn’t mind the taste, but if you are used to fancy bottled water, then you can bring a portable water filtration system if you’re desperate for a high-quality cup of H2O.
Use Public Transport
Ubers and taxis are going to swallow your budget whole when it comes to getting to and from certain places, so your best bet is going to be taking the bus system through the city and in between larger cities in Scotland like Aberdeen and Glasgow. Scotrail offers travel passes that allow you to travel over land and sea at your own pace, so you get to save money and have a flexible travel schedule if there are any last minute changes. If you plan on taking a lot of overland transportation in between larger cities or areas this is a great alternative. Inner city travel can be cost-effective by purchasing a daily bus pass for around four pounds that allows you to use it as many times as you’d like. If you plan on staying in one city, try renting a bike or opt for a longer walk. A lot can pass you by while you’re buzzing by in a taxi or bus, so save some money and see what little nooks you can find.
Craft Your Own Scottish Highlands Tour
If you want to save a bit of money during your stay in the highlands, then crafting your own itinerary is going to be your best option. The highland tours offered that leave from Edinburgh are upwards of $300 USD for three days, and if you’re not trying to sell a body part to afford this, opt for renting your own car and bringing camping equipment, or renting your own camper. I wrote about my experience in the Isle Of Skye that will be really helpful in planning the must-sees and what to leave out of your itinerary, but if I were to recommend things that you MUST see, they would be The Old Man Of Storr, Glencoe Valley, and The Quirang. You’ll save a ton of money by grabbing a few friends, renting a car, and packing some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a few days than you would if everything was already laid out for you. Plus, it’s always nice to travel on your own terms and spend more time in your favorite spots.
Stay In A Bothy
A bothy, way back when, was a form of accommodation for nomadic workers, but are now used as a form of free accommodation for travelers. Most of the bothies in Scotland are old cottages, so you’re not going to get most basic amenities, even a toilet, however, The Mountain Bothies Association has been working to spruce them up a bit with stoves and a fireplace, but it’s not guaranteed for every single one. If you decide to stay in a bothy, keep in mind that these are going to be miles and miles away from any main roads, expect shelter from wind and rain, somewhere dry to sleep, and nothing more. You cannot book these in advance as you just simply show up and set up your camp for the night. If you have more questions, the MBA has an FAQ page that you can browse for more commonly asked questions. If this type of travel suits your fancy, or even sparks a sense of curiosity and spontaneous trip planning to stay in one of these old time cottages, consider picking up the Scottish Bothy Bible, which is a published book of all the bothies maintained by the MBA, how to reach them, and some hidden gems. I want to make it out to a few of these myself one day, so this is definitely going on my bucket list when I return to Scotland!
Avoid Going In August + High Season
Summer prices shoot prices way up in Scotland, especially in Edinburgh for certain festivals they have going on, so prepare your trip for shoulder seasons where prices will be more affordable. August can still be categorized as the Summer season, so while you do have people flying in for the warmer Scottish weather, you also have tens of thousands of people flocking to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival: the largest art and culture celebration on the planet. If you plan on heading to Edinburgh for this festival specifically, then plan on the prices skyrocketing. I think it’s pretty well known to travel in the offseason to save some money also, so opt for a spring or fall trip and you’ll experience fewer crowds and cheaper prices. The fall foliage would be absolutely stunning in the highlands, so if you’re into photography, be sure to make it out there as the weather cools down. I think you experience an entirely different culture based on the season that you visit, so if you visit in the fall this time, save up a little more and then plan to go back in the summer for prime weather. No one can see it all in one go, so that’s all the more reason to return again one day!
Eat A Large Lunch + Cook Your Own Meals
This nugget is a major key to saving a ton of money in Scotland. The restaurants there will have a lunch and dinner menu, with the lunch portions being smaller than dinner and cheaper! If you have a list of restaurants that you’re dying to try out in Edinburgh, it’s best to visit mid-day so that you can try many things on the menu for a cheaper price. Another great way to save money on food cost is purchasing foods at a local farmers market or shop and cook your own meals. You’ll want to make sure that you book accommodation that has a small kitchen to use and don’t forget your reusable shopping bags! Some Airbnb’s offer a free breakfast with your stay, so you can enjoy a cup of coffee and a quick meal and then take some along for a snack if you get hungry on one of your tours. These are great ways to save money on food costs. When I was in the highlands, my guesthouse offered a free breakfast of toast and various nut butters and jellies, so I could have my breakfast and then pack an extra sandwich in case I got hungry on the road. It’s a two for the price of one dynamic and I highly recommend it!
Camp Around The Highlands
If you’re planning on taking a trip to the Scottish Highlands, which you shouldn’t miss, camping is one of the best ways to save money on accommodation. Especially if you’re traveling there in the summer months. Wild camping is legal in Scotland, so anywhere you want to pitch your tent that isn’t on private property and away from the main roads is all yours! Investing in a good set of camping equipment is going to save you big money in the long run (if it’s something you do frequently). I have purchased most if not all, my camping gear from Backcountry since they are affordable and carry high-quality brands. If camping is not something you do often, try renting out some gear for the days you’ll be there. Outdoorhire allows you to rent camping gear all around the UK at a great price, or if you prefer to purchase your gear in Scotland, check out these shops in Edinburgh: Tiso’s, Leith Army Store, GoOutdoors, Blacks, and Nordic Outdoors. After you get your gear collected, borrowed, or purchased, you can brush up on some general guidelines for wild camping here. Camping is a great way to discover secluded parts of Scotland, and since most go on guided tours of the highlands, you’ll have some epic scenes all to yourself when the sun sets and rises again. Remember to follow the rules of camping outdoors: avoid overcrowding, pick up all garbage, never cut down trees, and if you’re in doubt, ask a landowner and they may be able to point you to an even better, lesser-known camping spot.
Travel With A Group
So, you just met all these incredible Scottish friends at the hostel you’re staying at, you just so happened to be going on a trip to the highlands, and you need an awesome group to have these adventures with… See where this is going? This is one of the top ways to save money no matter where you’re traveling to, and even more so when you’re splitting the cost two, and three, and four different ways. When you travel with a group, you can also afford nicer accommodations since the cost is split and you can travel with the illusion of a higher budget, but you’re paying the same price as if you were alone. Making friends and exploring a unique part of a country is what is going to make your experience a whole lot more memorable and special when you’re looking back on all those candid photos and group shots along the way. Who knows… You may even find your closest group of friends just by reaching out!
What are some ways you traveled to Scotland on a budget? Share with me in the comments below!
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