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International Travel on a Budget: Scotland

When thinking of spring break, many people picture college students getting rowdy in Cancun or lounging on a beach in Miami. When I think I spring break, however, I wonder where in Europe I can go next. This years excursion happens to land us in Scotland; Edinburgh to be exact. When my best friend mentioned she was studying abroad this spring semester I jumped on the opportunity to visit her and explore a new country. Although I wish I could live lavishly while traveling abroad, it doesn’t really fit in my budget (note to reader: studying abroad is VERY expensive but VERY worth it), so here is how travelled internationally on that real college budget.

Day 1: All travel, all day. I booked my tickets through my Expedia Plus account, because they have some pretty great bundle deals for members, but this deal happened to mean a full day of travel… Monday morning I was up and out the door by 5 am to get to the airport with enough time to check in and go through the nightmare of security. Surprisingly enough, at 6:15 in the morning, the security lines are not all that long so it was easy-peasy (until my bags got pulled to the side because I’m ALWAYS that unlucky person).


After hanging out and boarding my first flight at 8 am, I was off- landing in London at approximately 6:30 pm (London time that it is). A quick two hour layover in the Heathrow airport later, I was on my connecting flight to Edinburgh, Scotland. I landed at 10 pm and was so brain dead from the day of traveling that I called an Uber. The ride cost me about £19, but there are cheaper options, such as taking the city bus that cost significantly less. After arriving at my hostel, I checked in and paid £2 to rent a towel for the week, because I tend to overpack a little and ran out of room in my suitcase (oops). After that I washed up and went to bed to get some rest for an action packed day.


Day 2: I was up and out by 10 am to meet with my friend and get some breakfast to start out our day strong. We went to a cheap cafe called Snaxs that offers a full Scottish veggie breakfast and an orange juice for just £5. That’s practically a steal for a huge breakfast that kept me full until after 3 in the afternoon. After breakfast we headed to a coffee shop to grab a quick latte for the walk to the castle. Once we got to the Royal Mile we headed up to see the Saint Giles Cathedral and see the heart on the ground that, according to Scottish legend, you cannot step on or spit on (but it’s said that a Scotts men would praise you for doing so). From there we went up to see the castle and the stunning view. To save some £££ we skipped going inside and instead kept exploring the city. We saw the graveyard where J.K Rowling found inspiration (and I may have geeked over the real Thomas Riddle grave) and saw the street in which Diagon Alley got its aesthetic from. After a Harry Potter filled day, we settled for burgers and milkshakes before heading out to trivia night at a local pub where we played frozen trivia.                        


Day 3: I caught a flight to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Once we arrived, we hopped on a bus headed to the city center where we explored and saw the astonishing city hall. After wandering for a while we went for brunch at a little restaurant in the shopping quarter. After eating a full Irish breakfast we got on a bus headed for the Titanic quarter where we went to the titanic museum and got lost in the era of glitz, glam, and when socioeconomic backgrounds mattered. After this adventure we to an Honesty Box Cafe across the street. For those of you who do not know what an Honesty Box Cafe is, it is a cafe that gets all food items donated, and you pay what you can. There is a small box that is in the corner, so no one can even see what you are putting in (we need these Boston). We headed out for a little more exploring, and then set off to the airport to catch our flight back to Edinburgh.  

Day 4: I started the day off with breakfast from Spoon, which just so happens to be where J.K Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter series (yeah I’m a huge nerd if you haven’t already figured that out). After a full Scottish breakfast (haggis and all) we headed for the National Museum of Scotland that was free! It took us a few hours to get through but was very worth it. From dinosaurs to astronomy and clothing, this museum really had it all. From there we walked the other end of the royal mile and headed over to the palace where the queen stays when she comes for a visit. This visit cost us £10 because some of the palace is being renovated. After exploring the palace and grounds we went across the street to the parliament and sat in on a budget debate. After listening for a little bit, we walked around the small exhibits they had set up and then went to grab some tea and scones at a small coffee shop inside of the building. Munching on some scones got us ready to head back out. We stopped at the Museum of Edinburgh to learn some history of the city before ending the night at a Scottish whiskey tasting held by the Scottish Whiskey Society that cost £10 (but only if you are of age, of course), and then it was off to bed before my flight home.

Day 5: Grabbed a quick breakfast at Cafe Nero and then headed to the airport in an Uber that cost only £12. It was a full day of travel, and I didn’t land in Boston until about 10 pm (thanks to my flight being delayed five times).

All in all I only spent about $275 after conversion rates. I bought a few souvenirs for my family, but the rest was just spent on food and small activities. Planning out your days and doing research to find the cheapest activities to partake in can really help you make the most out of your trip while saving money. I recommend bringing your own water bottle (especially a Brita bottle) that way you can save so much by just drinking tap water when safe. There are tons of ways to travel on a budget, but the best way is to plan ahead!                      

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