Scotland on a dime and other budget travel tips


One of the biggest excuses I hear from people about not traveling is that it’s “too expensive.” Well, I’m here to share with you some tips and ideas about traveling on a budget. On my recent trip to Edinburgh, Scotland I kept my eye out for fun and free things to keep me occupied and I was not disappointed. As I use my latest trip as an example of the many opportunities available for little or no cost keep in mind that these deals are available across the globe.

First of all, wherever you go keep an eye out for a city pass. This gives you access to many attractions for one flat rate. In Edinburgh, a 3-day city pass is 48 pounds and includes admission to over 30 top attractions. You also get discounts at certain restaurants, pubs, and retail outlets along with unlimited bus service in the city. Most major cities offer these types of passes and can add up to big savings.

While a city pass may put some extra cash in your pocket keep an eye out for places that will keep it there. Who says you can’t get anything for free? There are tons of fun activities that cost absolutely nothing. From New York to Hong Kong, there are an abundance of things that will keep your wallet full and your senses sharp.

For example, the National Museum of Scotland, located on Chambers street, consists of two buildings and holds a massive collection of Scottish heritage. From an actual Viking grave, to the guillotine used for the city’s executions, the museum chronicles Scottish life from the earliest settlers, through the industrial period, and into present day life. It would easily take a day to absorb everything there is to see there. Volunteers even give guided 45-minute tours and every bit of it is free! You’d be surprised how many museums all over the world offer free admission. Countries are proud of their heritage and are eager to share it with visitors; all you have to do is take advantage.

The National Museum of Scotland is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to free entertainment. Parliament Hall costs zip to explore and is an amazing 17th century building where the original Scottish Parliament met before it was dissolved in 1707.

St. Giles Cathedral is a stone’s throw away and is where revolutionist John Knox used to preach. Founded in the 1120’s it has some of the most beautiful stained glass windows and if you’re lucky you may even walk in on organ practice. They ask for two pounds if you’d like to take photos, but other than that it’s absolutely free to explore.

Begin walking down the royal mile and on your right the Museum of Childhood is just as nostalgic as it sounds. Founded in 1955, this museum houses a vast collection of toys, dolls and games from Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian times as well as the present. As you continue toward the palace you’ll come to The Peoples Story.

This museum tells the story of the people of Edinburgh throughout the years. With unique displays including a servant at work, a prison cell, and what a 1940’s kitchen looked like, you’ll learn about how the people of the city worked and played. Just past The Peoples Museum is a church and a centuries old graveyard that you may stroll through. It should be noted that there were so many free opportunities that I did not get a chance to see them all.

One is the Writer’s Museum dedicated to Scotland’s famous author’s Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Everywhere you turned there was an opportunity to learn about the Country while holding on to your cash

Even when you’re away you want to keep in touch and Internet access can get expensive when you’re traveling. While most cafes offer wireless Internet it can really add up. Needless to say, I was excited when I found out that the National Library of Scotland, located right off the royal mile, offers free Internet access.

All you have to do is make a purchase at the cafe and show your receipt to the receptionist. That means for less than two pounds you can get a latte and two hours of web surfing. Believe me, this adds up to huge savings. Keep an eye out for these kinds of deals wherever you go. Public libraries are in every major city and can be a peaceful and cheap place to stay connected while you’re away.

As I write about all of these activities I must remind you that the atmosphere costs absolutely nothing. Any city you go to has its own flare and uniqueness filled with interesting people, sights and sounds. In Edinburgh you can sit at Princes Street Gardens, an old lake that was drained in the early 19th century and is now a beautiful city park.

Take a book and just enjoy the sound of bagpipes in the distance or look up and see Edinburgh Castle towering over the city. The chances are endless wherever you go. Walk through a town market and take in the many foods, textiles, jewelry and other goods available. There’s nothing wrong with looking, right?

Attend a festival and see how the locals celebrate or take in a street performance. There are endless ways for you to fill your days wherever you may be. One of my favorite things to do is to simply talk to the people. You’d be surprised at how eager people are to talk about their hometown as well as learn about where you’re from.

Another money draining activity while traveling is buying gifts for others. I know firsthand how tempting it is to give into souvenir shopping but does Aunt Joyce really need that Eiffel Tower pencil sharpener? Not only does this drain your bank account but also your time and luggage space.

Keep it personal and let your family and friends know you’re thinking about them by mailing them a post card. Buy them in bulk and write a few lines as you sip your latte at a sidewalk cafe. Another idea is to have some of your personal photos printed and framed once you get home.

Just remember that seeing the world can become a reality. All it takes is discipline and research. Before you depart for your destination study the history and culture. Also, read what others have to say about where you’re going. Above all enjoy the experience of being in a new and different place.

One thing I’ve noticed is that people love to share their money-saving tips when it comes to travel. I’d love to hear what you guys do to save money while on the road. Please share your ideas and advice in the comments section. I wish everyone safe and interesting travels in the years to come.

Published by Ashley Zoerner

I'm originally from New Orleans, LA and grew up in the nearby town of Waveland, MS. I graduated from Georgia State University with a communications degree in 2010. Since then I've traveled the country and world meeting the most interesting people. My dream is to tell people's stories and share my passions with the world.

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