UK Ireland trip expense report- 1.15 lakhs for 23 days

How much can a 3 week trip to UK cost? How can we visit one of the most expensive country on budget? A typical package tour to UK, sold by travel companies cost between 1.5 Lakh INR to 2 Lakh INR for around 7-8 days and you will still need about 50000 INR more for various expenses not covered under the package. This extrapolates to approx 3-4 lakh rupees minimum for a 3 week detailed tour of UK and Ireland. In comparison, how much do you think my 21 days trip would have cost me? This post shares my trip expense and how I could travel cheap and save on the UK trip. Of course packed tours offer better luxury and convenience in terms of stay, travel arrangements etc- I had to compromise on some of these aspects- so  comparison is not apple to apple- use your discretion.

Key highlights of my trip- Places visited over 3 weeks in UK and Ireland
Before talking about expenses I will give a quick snapshot of places visited and high level agenda/highlights of my tour. This will help setting the context/perspectives right. Below map shows cities in UK and Ireland I visited during the trip.
  • 21 days of site seeing+ 2 days in flight, 23 Total- 4 days London, 1 Day Soundend on Sea, 5 days Dublin, 3 nights Belfast, 3 nights Scotland (Edinburgh), 5 days ex-Newport (South Wales), 2 nights in airport/in-flight.
  • Visited London,Stonehenge, Southend on Sea, Dublin, Cliff of Moher, Wicklow Mountains, Belfast, Giant Causeway, Edinburgh city, Cardiff, Barry, Swansea, Bristol, Bath
  • As you can see from above map, I couldn't visit the midlands (Manchester, Liverpool area due to lack of time) and couldn't explore Scottish highlands (had plan but due to bad weather forecast didn't book a tour. Maybe during next trip, whenever that happens.
  • 10 nights spent with friends/relatives- no stay expense, reduced food expense, remaining nights in budget hostels- approx 11-13 GBP per night.
  • Mode of travel: Public transport, day tours, domestic flights, walking
High level day wise itinerary below
Day
Base city
Activity
Remarks
0
London
Arrive in London, Train to hostel
Hyde park n places near hostel
1
London
London Local
Hackney City farm, London Bridge, London Eye, Cathedrals, high streets, meeting friends etc
2
London
Day trip to Stonehenge and Salisbury

3
London
London Local
London Tower Bridge, Albert & Victoria Museum, Battlesea park, Albert Memorial etc
4
Southend
London & Southend On Sea
Buckingham Palace change of guard, Train to Southend Central, Southend pier walk
5
Southend
Southend on Sea, Flight to Dublin
Southend on Sea local walks, evening flight to Dublin
6
Dublin
Dublin city Centre
Sphere, Castle, meeting friends
7
Dublin
Day visit to Kilkenny
Castle, Churches etc
8
Dublin
Cliff of Moher day tour

9
Dublin
and evening short visit to Howth
10
Belfast
Bus to Belfast
Belfast Local
Belfast City centre, Victoria Mall
11
Belfast

12
Belfast
Belfast Local
Titanic Belfast, Belfast Castle, Cave trail, Botanical Garden
13
Edinburgh
Flight to Edinburgh,
Edinburgh city centre
Rest in hostel due to heavy rain
14
Edinburgh
Edinburgh local
Albert Peak, Carton Hill etc
15
Edinburgh
Edinburgh local
Museum of Mound, Art Gallery, Dean Village etc
16
Newport
Flight to Cardiff, Cardiff city Centre, bay

17
Newport
Swansea and Rhosilli
18
Newport
Bristol and Bath
City attractions
19
Newport
Beacon hill AONB
20
Newport
Cardiff and Barry
Nature walks
21
Newport
Newport local/rest day,
Bus to London

22
London
Return flight to India
Qatar

Major Expenses/Expense break-up of my UK/Ireland trip:
#
Expense
Amount (INR)
Remarks
1
Flight-India-UK return
 35450
Qatar
2
Domestic Flights
   7467
Ryanair SEN-DUB
Flybe Belfast-EDI, EDI-Cardiff
3
UK Visa and related
 10800
Document translation & Notary cost bit extra
4
Stay
 11280
Cheap hostels, 11 nights
5
Food Expenses
 11361

6
Site-seeing tours & day trips
 18811
Cliff of Moher, Wicklow, Giant's Causeway, Stonehenge etc
7
Local travel
 17078
Intercity, airport transfer and local commute 
8
Others
   2850
Sim card, misc

Total
115097
1.15 Lakhs INR
Note: Converted at 1 GBP=88.6 INR, 1 Euro @ INR 73

Top reasons I am able to tour UK & Ireland on extreme budget:
1. Cheap flight ticket: Normal return ticket to UK from India costs around 45-50k INR even if planned few months in advance. My ticket cost was INR 35450, booked during a Qatar Airways sale.
2. Extensive walking: I've walked an average 15-16 kms every single day during the trip- if the destination is 2-2.5 miles away I won't even think about bus or cab, usually just walk. This has helped me save precious money, though I spent a little more time walking to the destination.

3. Hostel Stay: Hostels are lot cheaper (10-15 GBP per night as against 20-30 GBP+ for hotel rooms). Hostels also offer kitchen where we can cook our own food for much less.
4. Stay with friends and relatives: About 5 nights in Dublin and 5 nights in Newport I stayed with friends. They were kind to give some packed food and serve me nice meals- this effectively saved me around 15000-20000 INR I would have otherwise spent on hostel stay and food.
5. Self-Cooking/Budget food. Managed my meals for around 3 Pounds per meal- read detailed post here. This saved a lot on food bill.
6. Avoided expensive attractions- Didn't go inside Edinburgh Castle, Kohinoor diamond, Roman Spa in Bath and other attractions that had entry tickets which I didn't feel worth or had cheaper alternatives. [Related: Free to visit attractions in Edinburgh] Most attractions had tickets of 15-19 GBP or INR 1500-1700, so had to think twice if it is worth. Did spend on day tours where necessary. Could have easily spend another 100-200 Pounds if I had visited various paid attractions tourists usually visit. I focused a lot on nature trails, walks, landscape, gardens, hiking, waterfront and other free to visit places.
7. Flexibility: Wanted to visit Birmingham but train tickets were expensive at about 80 GBP so decided not to visit. Booked domestic flights depending on what was cheap, when it is cheap. Didn't pre-book any tours, except few hostel stays as it would have hampered my flexibility (booked tours last minute depending on weather). Idea that you should book everything early to save more is not always true, particularly in off-season or when you have flexibility.
8. Cheaper Euro- Ireland works on Euro. Each Euro now costs 77 INR, but I had some Euros from my 2015 trip, acquired at around 72-73 INR. This helped me save about 5 INR per Euro in current value. This meant during Ireland trip I effectively saved about 1000 INR on some 190 Euros I spent. Of course I lost interest money if I had converted it back to INR and deposited the money in INR- then I would have had to buy Euro again at current rates.
9. Self planning:  Planned all of travel on my own, with input from friends. Did book some day tours where needed otherwise traveled using public transport as much as possible. No hop on hop off, no package tours. Many friends like Bhushavali, Swati and Sam and many other friends provided valuable tips.
10. Taking chance with weather: Weather forecast was 'Rainy' for most of the days. But in reality, I got a bit of rain, mostly cloudy and fair amount of sunshine. Had I sat at home fearing rain, it would be my loss. Did a mistake of not booking Scottish Highlands day tour in Edinburgh as weather forecast predicted heavy rains-big mistake as it was very sunny next day. Anyways Edinburgh had lots of free to visit stuffs to keep me busy during my stay there.
11. Cabin bag only: Not having a check-in bag meant I didn't have to pay extra for low cost airlines during domestic flights. Also in Dublin if I had to wait for checked bag I would have missed last bus to my destination and had to spend 50 Euro on taxi. With one backpack, I could easily walk to my hostel from bus/train station etc. [Related: What I packed for 34 days US-Canada-South America trip - similar packing for this trip as well]
12. No shopping.
13. Cheap Coffee/Tea
A typical coffee/tea in any cafe in UK costs around 2.5 Pounds onwards. Two tea/coffee per day would have cost me 2.5*2*22=110 GBP or around INR 10000. Instead I managed with ready mix- Girnar masala tea mix (retails around 14 INR per pack) and Nescafe mix- pack of 6 for GBP 1. Had to find a source of hot water and my tea/coffee would be ready for one sixth of a pound. This meant I spent only around INR 15 per cup*2 cups per day*22 days= 660 Rs on tea/coffee instead of INR 10000
14. No insurance. For US trip I had taken basic travel insurance for about INR 1600 as this trip included several countries and risk factor was high. For UK trip I didn't buy any. Insurance is often bought on fear of incurring bigger expense- at times I take my chances,own the risk and save some money. It might backfire at times, but has usually worked for me as my health is reasonably good and I exercise enough caution during trips.
15. Carried pickle from India-I took 10 Rs pickle packets, tea ready-mix and coconut water powder from India, which helped save some money.

I did do some mistakes which if I had avoided could have saved me an additional 50 odd pounds- more on a separate post.

I got lucky with a few things:
  • Got 21 GBP National Express ticket from Newport all the way till London Gatwick. Normal fare is 47 GBP. Train from Victoria to Gatwick itself cost 8 GBP so this one stop low fare worked great for me.
  • Weather was decent- didn't result in having to do nothing for entire days.
  • Two of friends invited me to stay with them- this helped save about 20000 INR I had budgeted for food and stay.
  • BIVS Visa: Indian and Chinese nationals are eligible for British-Irish Visa Scheme which allows visiting both UK and Ireland under single visa. This spared the cost and trouble of having to get another visa for Ireland.
Thus my expenses averaged to INR 5500 per day approx. Of course I could have easily spent another lakh rupees (or 5000 per day) more and done the following
- Save some time and effort by taking taxi
- Visit some of the ticketed places
- Stay at a slightly more comfortable place
- Enjoy better food

But I chose to compromise a bit and save where possible.

If you're not on super tight budget and prefer some comfort then aim to spend another 5000 INR more per day than what I spent. But if you are flexible and determined to travel on extreme budget, it is possible, even in very expensive countries.

Disclaimer: Idea is NOT to ask everyone to travel on shoestring budget, eat less, walk a lot and don't spend anything during the trip. Idea is to explain the cheaper alternatives available so that you can pick whatever aspect that suits you. Like you might wish to spend more on food or luxury stay but save on other aspects or any mix and match as your travel preferences dictate and budget permits.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Nidhi, As usual a great post! thank you man!

    I am damn sure you are proud of what you did, but few things as a traveler and as a reader I would like to express my kind thoughts. Your title is misleading and comparing the tour companies 3.5 lakhs (for 21 days) with your budget is not good and completely illogical, they provide services (great places to stay and a good English breakfast) for what they receive. Their charges are for their service and time on behalf of a traveler and there they make their money and generate employment opportunity as well.

    Out of 21 days, you spent 10 days & night with friends which reduced your food and stay cost significantly. So, ideally a 11 day tour in which you didn't go to many places considering the entrance fee, E.g. to quote few, the roman baths and Edinburgh castle are must visit places for every traveler is what I believe. Again, its all individual preferences. why I mentioned is this because I did something like this in singapore , stayed with friends, didn't go to universal kingdom, just took a photo outside but didn't experience what it is, when everyone who wanted to go to singapore asked about this kingdom i was not able to tell them, all i told it's costly and waste of money because i don't know what it is.

    You been more conscious on the money to be spent rather on visiting places and to your body needs. You did created good memories but with much walking and a starving (may be). Your health is more important to have some good food during your travel.

    My Budget if I was there like you (excluding the 10 days with friends)

    1 Flights (within london) 7831
    2 Food 21296
    3 Transit 7040
    4 Day tours (organised one) 25000
    5 Snacks 8800
    6 sim 3000
    7 stay 14520
    8 FLight 35450
    9 visa 10800
    10 Covering key places 20000
    Total - 153737
    Food, 1 day 3 times - 22 pounds *11 days*88 INR
    Transit you have covered 4 airports and each airport has to & Fro costs and one way ticket costs mininum 10 pounds
    8 trips *10 pounds * 88 INR
    One organised tour is for sure not less than 5000 INR
    Stay - 11 days @ 15 pound a day * 88 INR

    This is something I felt like sharing with you after reading your blog. The purpose of travel is different from Individuals to Individuals. At the end of the day, it's an individual view how they want to spend and sleep and eat. You did compromised a lot and many westerners do this and you did it from India which is something really great and this serves as a great travelogue for people who like to travel on budget. Not everyone has time and patience and energy , you are lucky enough to have these many days in your hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. I have shared what I did- Of course others are not bound to follow 100%. They can take whatever portion works for them and customize on other aspects.

      Food+ Stay cost was about 2000 INR per day even on days I spent on my own- have explained this. Have explained that it would costed a lakh more to do it in slightly better way.

      Airport transfer I have included in Local Travel section- 8 pounds in London Gatwick to city, 14 Euro in Dublin, 2 GBP to reach Belfast airport by train, 4.5 GBP each in EDI- airport to city and back, 5 GBP in Cardiff etc.

      Organized tours factored in site seeing section- 25 GBP for Giant's Causeway, 44 for Cliff Of Moher, Stonehenge costed max 70+ Pounds.

      Idea is not to ask everyone to travel in extreme low budget, but to illustrate cheaper options for all aspects, so that people can pick whatever works for them and save some money. If you prefer better food, pls spend more on it, if you like visiting all important places please do. If you'd like to take a taxi, sure. I am only saying there're alternatives if you wish to consider.

      Hope this helps.

      Delete
  2. That;s indeed a detailed post and wuite helpful for people who are looking forward to trips.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great to read,Very informative post on UK Trip.

    ReplyDelete

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