– Written by Victoria Philpott
England is a top country for backpackers. The country is well connected, there are always cheap ways to get around if you’re prepared and in a country with so much history there’s loads to see for free too.
Of course you’ll want to visit London while you’re here and our Beginner’s Budget Guide to London has all the information you’ll ever need.
But for now I’m going to concentrate on the more elusive areas of the UK. This is not an exhaustive list of what to see in England, more a ‘If I was backpacking around England for six weeks this is where you should go’ list. I’ve also included a few cheap ways to get around the UK at the end.
You’re sure to have heard of Oxford. If not for the famous Oxford University, then from the many films that have been shot there: Harry Potter, The History Boys, An Education… It’s a beautiful city with incredible architecture and lush green open spaces. There are tens of museums and galleries to look around, including the award-winning River and Rowing Museum and The Museum of Oxford.
Top 3 on a budget
- Punting on the river – this is an absolute must.
- Chill out in the grounds of Blenheim Palace.
- Climbing one of the famous towers to view the city from above.
- Eat tea and cakes at one of the many tea rooms – the Cafe at Cafe loco is a good option.
- The Turf Tavern has some great deals on food and drink every day.
- The Oxford Covered Market is great for snack and small dinners – there’s a pie shop and deli too.
Cheap accommodation in Oxford
Right in the centre of Oxford you’ll find Central Backpackers Oxford. The street is lined with restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs and it’s less than 5 minutes’ walk from the bus and train stations, Oxford’s Prison attraction and the museums and vibrant student nightlife. You’ll also get free internet and Wi-Fi and a breakfast into the mix too.
There’s a cosy TV lounge, a large self catering kitchen and a roof top terrace with a barbecue. Dorms start at €22.71pppn. Book now!
More Oxford hostels starting at just €15.61pppn.
Brighton is all you need for the classic British seaside experience. The Pier is full of rides, sweet shops and arcade machines and go in the summer and you can even ride a donkey along the pebbly beach. There are some cool art galleries along the beach front and when the sun’s out all you need to do is flake out with a picnic. The shops and nightlife have been known to offer a good few hours of entertainment too.
Top 3 on a budget
- Walk up and down Brighton Pier and spend 2p winning loads of sweets.
- A dip in the sea – bring something warm for after!
- Walk around Brighton Lanes and window shop.
- Buy some cockles and mussels from the seafront stalls as a snack.
- The bar at The Basketmakers Arms is filled with locals ales and serves some tasty grub, or try the Hop Poles in the centre of town.
- Get a bag of fish and chips from Bardsley’s of Baker Street and eat while wave watching.
Cheap accommodation in Brighton
Wake up to views of the Royal Pavilion if you book a stay at the Kipps Hostel Brighton. It’s central to all of Brighton’s attractions, including the pier, beach, lanes and shopping area. Kipps Hostel is friendly, affordable and offers both private and dorm rooms. There’s also a roof terrace, lounge area and bar so it’s easy to meet other travellers and make friends. Shared rooms start at €18.01pppn and private rooms at €24.02pppn. Book now!
There’s no denying Newquay is a haven for 16-25 year olds looking for a good time with bars, hook ups, beachlife and clubs. Teenagers and twenty-somethings gather here for the summer holidays every year and make the most of the water sports and boozing on the beach. If you don’t fall into this category, or don’t want to, then there are plenty of art galleries, farms, aquariums and shopping in the vicinity too.
Top 3 on a budget
- Fistral Beach – for all the watersports
- Watergate Bay – there’s a spa and even more watersports here.
- Berties, The Beach and Sailors – all nightclubs and all crazy. The shy and retiring should steer clear.
- Belushi’s in the town centre is a cool place to eat and just a little of the main strip so not quite as busy. It’s also got a great view across the Newquay’s Towan Beach.
- If you want a bit of spice for your din dins check out Senor Dicks – it’s the best Mexican restaurant in Newquay and located in the centre of town.
- And you can’t be this close to the sea without sampling its produce. Get a takeaway from Flounders Fish and Chip Shop and sit on Towan Beach to scoff it.
Cheap accommodation in Newquay
Hotel Sunnyside is a cool place to stay overlooking Towan Beach. The decor is upbeat, fun and practical and clean and sleek too. All rooms are private ensuites and you can have bunk rooms for up to four people. Beds start from €21.01pppn. Book now!
Check out more hostels in Newquay.
Get some fresh air in your lungs while you’re in England and take a long walk around the Peak District. If you’re a cyclist you’ll love the Tissington Trails and any photographers will enjoy the snapping opportunities engulfing you. Visit the Peak District and you’ll also be close to Alton Towers Theme Park and Chatsworth House too.
Top 3 on a budget
- Do nothing. Just lie down and suck up the fresh air.
- Walking, cycling, climbing, riding, kite flying…
- Talk to Tourist Information about a lesson in painting, photography, or even dry stone walling!
- Check out the Farmer’s Markets and just have a picnic.
- The award winning Royal Oak Hurdlow just off the High Peak Trail is a top choice, or the Old Nags Head in Edale is renwoned as one of the 100 great pubs of England.
- The Woodbine Cafe for your full English brekkie.
Cheap accommodation in the Peak District
The YHA Ilam is a Victorian National Trust mansion in parkland with fantastic views over Dovedale. It’s ideal for families and groups visiting the area. Set in 84 acres of country parkland on the River Manifold, it’s a great base to explore Dovedale or cycle along the Tissington, Manifold or High Peak trails. There’s also a licensed bar and restaurant. Private rooms start at €30.36pppn. Book now!
Or you could book a few nights on a canal boat. The Wandering Duck is a 70ft boat moored at Bugsworth Basin on the edge of the Peak District National Park. This is your unique opportunity to sleep on a traditional narrowboat in one of the 8 berths. There’s a comfy lounge with an honesty bar so you can help yourself to the real ale while enjoying the beautiful and secluded spot off the beaten track. Shared room starts from €10.19pppn. Book now!
More hostels in the Peak District in Buxton.
Probably most famous as the birth place of The Beatles, but also for the River Mersey and the city’s dedication to football Liverpool is a vibrant and fun place to visit. Liverpudlians are known for their unique sense of style – and Scousers, as they’re known, will be easy to spot from the tourists. Liverpool is a really clean and fun city with loads of cool shops, bars and clubs for you to explore as you go.
Top 3 on a budget
- People watch at Liverpool ONE – the city’s main shopping centre.
- Walk around the Albert Docks and check out the galleries and bars.
- Explore Matthew Street where you’ll find cool shops and the all important Cavern Club.
- Italian at The Quarter restaurant and deli.
- For a feast on a budget check out The SideDoor.
- Cool tea and cakes at This is Leaf.
Cheap accommodation in Liverpool
Hatters Liverpool is in the heart of Liverpool’s city centre. They’ve got a fully equipped kitchen, free Wi-Fi, a TV lounge and a BBQ courtyard on site and secure luggage storage too.
They’re big on the social with movie nights, pizza nights, pancake nights and pub crawls too. Most rooms are en suite and dorms fit up to 12 people – private rooms are also available. Shared rooms start at €14pppn and privates at €18.50pppn. Book now!
More Liverpool hostels starting at just €13.35pppn.
More cool places in England
- Bath for quaint city shopping and the beautiful architecture.
- Birmingham for the markets and buzzing city centre.
- Manchester for shopping and football.
- Norfolk for beaches and country walks.
Cheap ways to get around
Megabus – you can get buses on a range of networks for just £1. I’ve been from Sheffield to London and London to Manchester for a quid each before – you need to book early though. Prices are still cheap as long as you book at least two in advance, then they start to rise. You can book up to three months in advance.
Cycling – there are loads of cycle lanes in England that are well sign-posted, just check out the cycle planner.
Car hire – if you’re in a group and travelling to an obscure place this can be a cheaper and more efficient option. Make sure you compare prices before you commit to one though – Travelsupermarket.com is my favourite car hire comparison website.
Domestic flights – if you want to travel a long distance in a short timescale flights can be the best option. You can fly from London to any of the airports in the UK.
Check out Visit Britain’s post on Getting Around Britain for more tips and advice. And if you fancy exploring England on someone else’s budget and in a VW camper van, check out this cool competition ‘Fan in a Van‘! You’ve got until 9 April to apply.
Thanks to Dimitry B tejvanphotos, arriba audi_insperation, Francisco Antunes, Paul Stevenson, Duncan~ for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.