Travel Cost Breakdown From Our Time in the UK and Ireland

People say to us all the time “Wow, how can you afford to travel for six months?” Travel can be expensive and, as long-term travelers, we are always very aware of our costs. Since we finished traveling in the United Kingdom and Ireland some time ago we are going to share actual numbers from our trip so you can get an idea about long-term travel costs in these generally expensive areas.

Our travel budget has one simple strategy. Write it down! If you write down every single purchase and expense while traveling – and know your spending limits – you will always know where you stand.

Molly examining trip expenses in our travel notebook

Molly calculating trip expenses in our travel notebook

Writing it down will keep you from forgetting that $2.00 coffee or falling into the ‘How much was lunch last Thursday?‘ trap. Keeping track will also allow you to do one of my favorite things: Data analysis! I broke down all of our expenses for the 32 days we spent in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland into five cost categories. These categories are lodging, food, entertainment, transportation, and miscellaneous. We use the Currency app by Jeffrey Grossman on our iPhone to convert all of our costs to USD.

Lets lay out the big number first. Our average total cost of travelling in the UK and Ireland turned out to be $131.43 per day (or, just under $66 per person per day). We have each made our $66 dollars go pretty far. In most cases we have had our own private room, eat out for lunch, pay for museums/entertainment and travel to a new location about every 4-5 days. The one expense not factored into the UK/Ireland numbers above are our flights from New York to London via Iceland. We budgeted intercontinental flights separately and will talk about these costs at the end of our trip. Travel costs for this post reflect all local travel throughout Ireland and the UK including one flight, two train trips and numerous bus trips. Every item adds up and the chart below shows how our daily costs were divided, percentage-wise, among our categories:

For our ‘once in a lifetime’ around-the-world trip we are not looking to set any records for traveling inexpensively. If you enjoy couch surfing and eating ramen noodles i’m sure you could spend less. We happen to be spending a significant amount of our budget on awesome vegan food. (Vegans – go to London, you won’t be disappointed!) We are personally traveling to see all of the great sights and experience all of the wonderful (vegan) cuisine. The occasional $15.00 entree does not have to break your entire budget if you leave room elsewhere.

It should be noted that Molly and I aren’t big drinkers. We did seek out local brews/wines/ciders wherever we were, but we purchased them from grocery stores. I think we only went out to a bar once (to watch the Chelsea vs. Manchester United soccer game while we were in London), but they happened to be pouring the cheapest cider and beer I’ve ever seen. In other words, if you plan to go out drinking all over Europe, you should adjust your budget accordingly.

Our ‘miscellaneous’ category is almost non-existent. As long-term travelers, we do not have much extra real estate in our backpacks or our budget. This means that we almost always say no to souvenirs. We have a week of clothing which we wash and only replace when needed. Our few miscellaneous purchases have been things like a beard trimmer, stamps and postcards, batteries, etc. And we are not carrying any solar-powered waving Queen Elizabeth figurines home with us in our bags.

As a result we have made our money go far. We spend almost two entire weeks in London which is one of the most expensive cities you can travel to. Dublin can be costly as well. There are places in the UK and Ireland which are more budget-friendly that we also traveled to such as Liverpool, Glasgow, and Derry. If you are willing to venture away from Dublin and London to some smaller cities you can find some great deals.  AirBnB has been one of our favorite resources to find an affordable place to stay. In most places we found that $50.00-$60.00 per day is a reasonable target for a private room.

Eating, sleeping and traveling will encompass the vast majority of your expenses. This is especially true for vegans who want to experience all of the great food in London (parts #1, #2, and #3), and Dublin, and Glasgow! Entertainment costs may actually be lower in the UK and Ireland when compared to other countries. Most major museums in the UK are free and there are a ton of affordable options. Check out our post on affordable activities in London, or our post on affordable options in Dublin, or our post on an affordable and different day in Glasgow.

I can recap the entirety of this post for you in three sentences (for those who aren’t interested in the numbers): Don’t let the strength of the Pound and Euro against the dollar scare you off from traveling to the United Kingdom and Ireland. There is plenty to do and see and eat for a budget traveler. Just be aware of the numbers and you’ll be fine!

Now get to traveling!

Our day off in Derry, Northern Ireland

If you, dear reader, ever decide to go on a trip like Dan and I are on, after a few weeks you might notice something. It’s just a general fatigue. Your legs are tired all the time from walking an average of about 8 miles a day. People keep you up at night at your hostel by coming in at 3:30 in the morning and chatting for an hour (rude…). The day tours keep adding up. You simply cannot see another church as they all begin to look the same and are all very old. What should be the greatest thing ever at all times is starting to feel a little, well, tired. How do you get the spark back in the trip?

You take a day off. Think about it. Working a full time job is exhausting even though most people generally aren’t really doing anything physical at all. You need the weekend, both for practical reasons like running errands, and also to recuperate from an exhausting work week. Well, when you are traveling long term, there are no weekends. Every day you are somewhere new and exciting so “taking a day off” would feel like wasting your precious time at whatever location you are in. Dan and I have gone over 3 weeks without a day off. I’m certainly not asking for pity (that would be crazy), I’m just explaining how travel can become exhausting when it is supposed to be awesome.

So we decided to take today and not overexert ourselves. We are lucky, Derry is a small town and we walked a lot of it yesterday. We felt like we wouldn’t be missing too much by taking it easy today.

So, what does one do on a day off? I decided that I needed a hair cut. I don’t know if you can tell from the pictures in the other posts, but my hair is long. Way too long to be anything but annoying to me. Plus traveling has damaged the crap out of it. The problem is that hair cuts are expensive! And I personally don’t think my hair is worth $50 or more… So with the help of a guy who works at the hostel we are staying at we found a hair and beauty school here. This morning, after breakfast, Dan and I walked over there. Unfortunately, they are out of class for summer so the long hair will remain until further notice. Much to my chagrin…

Then we continued our day off by checking out the Guildhall here in Derry, going to the Centre for Contemporary Arts inside the walled city, and finally we went to hear an organ concert at St. Columb’s Cathedral. (yes, I recognize that the last one is yet another church, but the recital was part of Fleadh Cheoil, an event to promote Irish culture, not just we went to the church to see the church.) I know it sounds like a lot, but really these events took place over 4 hours and none of them took up even an hour of time. It was a leisurely mid-day.

We had lunch back at the hostel, with groceries we picked up at Mark and Spencers (vegan options in Derry are slim, fyi. Best bet is to cook for yourself!), then we went out for our real Day Off activity! We went to the movies!

Minions in arcade game at Derry movie theater

Minions in the arcade game at the Derry movie theater

Things you should know about the movies in Derry: 1) It costs 4.50 pounds. For an adult ticket. That’s only $6.75!! Our movie tickets added together cost less than one ticket to a movie in NYC right now. 2) there are 20 minutes of commercials – not previews, but commercials – before the movie and then only 2 previews. A bit of a disappointment. 3) the movie times were weird. We went to a 4pm movie on a Wednesday. Who goes to a 4pm movie on a Wednesday?! The answer: No one. We had the entire theater to ourselves. Which meant we chatted and laughed very very loudly during the film. Fun!

We saw The Heat. Dan loved it, I liked it. Action movies really aren’t my thing, but at least it was funny! Regardless, it served its purpose. Our day off was a success. Plus the beauty of movies is that they are the same everywhere. We could have been at the Regal in Union Square, NYC for all we could tell once that movie was rolling. My scientific opinion is that this helps stave off home sickness as well, but who knows?

Now we will play board games and surf the web for the rest of the night and then tomorrow, back to the grind. Another long travel day as we head out of Derry by bus, bus, ferry, and a bus to Glasgow, Scotland. Thanks, Derry, for being small enough to give us a day off. We needed it!