I've been going to the UK every year since 2016 and I lived there from August 2017 to June 2018 on a student visa so I thought it might be helpful to write some travel tips that I've discovered from my experiences.
2. Parking and Public Transport
I was so shocked when I first went to the UK and found out that you have to pay for almost all parking. In the US, you can park for free in a lot of places, with exceptions for places like Los Angeles or New York. But in the UK, there is almost no free parking, the main exception is parking at grocery stores like Asda or Tesco.
If you are planning on renting a car in the UK, it's important to always have coins on you for parking! A great way to save money is to use the extensive public transit available in the UK. Buses, rail, train, tube.... there's always Uber! You can buy bus passes, rail passes, etc. You can save money if you are under 26 or a student, so look into that if it applies to you. Do some research but here's a bit to get you started:
3. Student Discounts
To piggy back off of #2, bring your student ID if you are a student. I can't guarantee it will get you discounts if it is from a non-UK university but the worst they can say is no. Why not try if you can save money? I still have my student ID from studying in the UK and I am bringing it on my next trip which I leave for on Saturday. You can use a Student ID to get discounts from museums, attractions, some restaurants, etc.
4. Go to Free Places
There are loads of great places to visit in the UK that don't require an admission fee. Some museums, art galleries, castles, and other historical sites are completely free. Mother Nature! It's important to research the area you are going to in the UK and see what's available. Don't be afraid to catch a bus or train around the UK either! Cathedrals are often free as well, with a recommended donation, usually around £3.
5. Bring your own snacks
I would say try British snacks 100%, but if there are certain American snacks (or wherever you're from!) that you have to have, bring them. It will save you a lot of money. I lived there for about a year and buying goods imported from the US is not cheap. My luggage is currently packed with Sour Cream & Onion Pringles, Skinny Pop Pocporn, Cliff Bars, Chester's Hot Fries, and Oreos. I'm staying for two months so I shouldn't have to spend too much money on snacks the first few weeks!
My favorite snacks in the UK are French Fries (it's chips, or crisps as the British say), Wotsits (like, better cheetos), Aero bars (minty chocolate), and Tea Cakes. I recommend all of these!
6. Bring Re-Usable Bags or Buy them in the UK
Okay so, this one is important because it can really cut into your budget! In the UK (and other places in Europe), you have to pay for plastic bags. This is to combat the plastic waste. I recommend bringing/buying one or two reusable bags at least if you are going to be buying stuff . Otherwise, prepare to pay between 5P and 15P per a bag! So if you go to the UK for a month and plan on cooking a decent amount, this little cost can really add up.
I the UK, tax is built into the cost of the items in most places. It's SUPER easy to budget and stay on track when grocery shopping. The amount on the shelf is the amount you pay at the register (till). So if I buy Pepsi for £4.99 and Pasta for £.80, the total at the register is going to be £5.79.
I walk around the store with my calculator on my phone and add the shelf prices of the stuff I grab, that way I know exactly how much I'm going to pay and can stay on budget. I absolutely love this about the UK because it is so much easier to stay on budget than in the US.
8. Early Closures on Sundays
So, in some places in the UK, not everywhere, shops like ASDA or restaurants close early like, 4PM or something like that. I remember quite a few Sundays we drove to ASDA and the parking lot was empty and I was like "Crap it's Sunday." Just be aware so you don't need something and have to wait!
9. Get a TasteCard
A TasteCard is a UK discount card that can help you save a lot of money if you're eating out frequently! You can get 50% off or 2 for 1 meal deals. You can try it for 60 days for only a £1. I'm using it on my next trip. Check out the website to see the 60,000+ places it can be used. Not bad for a quid!
10. Speaking of eating out:
This was a another culture shock scenario for me. In the US, we go to a restaurant, sit down, the waiter comes, we order...you know. Well, in the UK you go to the counter, order your food and pay, and then it gets brought to you. Want to order more? Go back up to the counter and repeat. There's not really table-side service except for maybe fancier places. Another important note: NO FREE REFILLS. You have to pay for each drink. This was something I hated because I usually drink 3 or 4 drinks a meal cause I'm thirsty, HA. Beware!
11. Currency - Avoid Fees!
I always like to enter a new country with funds so I exchange some money at the Travelex in ATL Hartsfield-Jackson. However, I would not recommend exchanging a lot of money this way, just enough for a day or two. The fees and rates are pretty bad. Most US banks have partners with banks around the world. Withdrawing money from a partner bank can save you money!
I bank with Bank of America. Go to your banks foreign transaction information page, here's Bank of America's. Bank of America is partnered with Barclays bank in the UK (one of the biggest). If I use my debit card at a Barclays ATM, I pay NO ATM fee and only a 3% foreign transaction fee. Important: when withdrawing money in another country, the ATM will say something like "we can convert the currency for you" click NO. The bank with have a much better currency exchange rate!
Comment below: do you have any UK travel tips? Did you learn anything new in this post?
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