If you're planning a visit to Scotland you will no doubt be wanting to experience as many things as you can within your budget. It's still possible to have a fantastic holiday in Scotland even if your finances are limited so I thought I would share a few of my tips to help make your money go that little further.
I have broken down my tips into two parts and this blog is designed to help you save money on transport, attractions and souvenirs. Watch out for part two which will have advice on saving money on your accommodation, food and drink.
Scotland is a small country and pretty easy to get around by car, however fuel prices in the UK can be costly and any savings you can make when filling up your tank will help you travel that bit further for that bit less. The cheapest fuel prices are normally found at supermarket petrol stations and it is possible to save up to 10 pence per litre over your out of town and rural garages. The main supermarkets with petrol stations are ASDA, Morrisons and Tescos.
If you are travelling by public transport then look out for off peak travel, all day tickets and multi journey tickets which can be more economical than paying for single journey tickets. For example if you were take a return train journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh for the day, travelling at on peak times it would cost £22.50 yet an off peak ticket would only cost £12.60, off peak times can vary so check the websites or ask at the ticket office.
The main transport providers that you will probably use during your journey are Scotrail for trains, City Link for long distance buses and CalMac for ferries. You can compare ticket prices online and order in advance.
If you are travelling in Glasgow then the Subway is a cheap and easy way to get around and if you are travelling in Edinburgh then the new tram system runs from the Airport and through the city centre, again you can check the website links for the best value tickets.
There are often travel discounts on national and local transport routes for senior citizens and students so it is worth carrying your ID and asking at the booking office.
In larger Scottish cities you can also get around by taxi with a choice of either a black cab or private hire car although only black cabs can be hailed in the street, private hires must be booked in advance for a designated pick up location. Black cabs can be costly to travel in so it would be worthwhile getting the number of a local reliable private hire company from your hotel which will work out much cheaper. It's acceptable to ask your accommodation or restaurant to call a private hire taxi on your behalf.
The cheapest and best way to see a place is by walking around, even the main cities have compact centres which are easy to explore on foot. Stop by the tourist information office and pick up a free city centre map and if you get really lost a friendly local will be happy to point you in the right direction!
Many public museums are free to visit which means that you can already go sightseeing on a budget. However if you want to visit the many castles, stately homes and working museums then you will find many of them are run by Historic Scotland or National Trust for Scotland and an admission charge applies. These can add up considerably if you're visiting several of the main attractions like Edinburgh and Stirling Castle. It is well worth investigating taking out a membership for either or both of these organisations which can save you quite a bit of money if you are planning to visit a few of their sites.
Another great way of discovering and trying out some fun activities during your stay is by purchasing a discounted voucher through websites such as Itison, Groupon or Wowcher. I personally love Itison and have tried lots of new experiences such as clay pigeon shooting, boat trips and distillery visits. The vouchers normally have a short expiry date and booking is sometimes required in advance, so I would probably wait until just before your trip starts before organisation. These sites are also great places to find cheap accommodation and meal deals.
You will also find that most cities and some towns offer free walking tours and it is always worth inquiring at the local tourist information centre to find out what free activities are available. For some examples of free things to do in Glasgow have a read at my blog post.
If you are wanting to catch some live or traditional music then many pubs have free entertainment, look out for posters or check out The List which is a great resource for what's on in each area.
If you are looking to take a little bit of Scotland back home with you then it is all too tempting to purchase the first tartan clad doll or stuffed Nessie that you come across in one of the many souvenir shops that tempt you in by playing some bagpipe tunes from a CD which is also available to purchase for an over inflated price. I hate to break it too you but the dolls and the Nessie are probably made in China and the CD available online for a quarter of the price.
My advice is to avoid the spur of the moment purchases and search out a more thoughtful cost effective gift that has been lovingly made in Scotland instead. Some of the best places to find genuine Scottish products and to meet the crafters, artisans and designers is at one of the regular craft markets that take place in most cities and towns. You will find that the goods are generally of high quality and reasonably priced, you even get the added bonus of getting to meet and speak to the designer in person. Goods available range from jewellery, home-wares, textiles and art work which tend to be unique.
If you are visiting Glasgow or Edinburgh then the Makers Markets are well worth visiting. The weekly craft fair in Merchant Square Glasgow is a another place to search out locally produced gifts.
Buying items made in Scotland helps the local economy and supports the creative industries to thrive within the country.
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