Updated: May 21, 2019
If you've traveled to Ireland, you'll definitely want to check out it's twin sister, Scotland. They have the green rolling hills, Scottish Highlands, and historic cities. If you're interested in Ireland, too, then check out my post and top destinations.
Tyler and I were able to travel to four separate countries in May of 2018 for as little as $1100. And that's not just plane tickets, that is the entire trip. Food, Car, transportation, plane, and excursions.
Usually, we use packages such as Vacation Packages for different countries and destinations. These are wonderful, less of a hassle for planning, and are a set price. However, this time around we wanted to try and back pack, hit multiple cities of our choice, and cut costs of food. There are so many options when it comes to traveling at low costs, but we wanted to explore our options to see which is best for us. I would suggest anyone to do the same, but if it's your first time traveling internationally, then stick with the easiest route of Vacation Packages.
We initially were going to just explore Scotland, but our friend, Paryn, had moved to France for a few months so we wanted to visit him as well. We ended up going to Iceland, Scotland, London, and Paris. Our flight was a total of $536 round trip, included our back packs of which is an entire new post because we packed a lot in such a small space, and left from D.C. and landed in Edinburgh (pronounced, Edin-BRAH). We heard of this new Icelandic airline called, Wow Air. A few friends had used it before us and had no problems, so we thought we were give it a go. They charge for each way, so to there and back, and then you also pay for each seat on each flight. So that was $7 seat for four flights (we had connecting flights). Adding checked bags and carry-ons costed extra, but a backpack was free as it counted as a personal item. We also got away with wearing a few jackets and Tyler had a foldable bag he stored in his backpack for after we were on the flight or traveling by bus. Shoving things in your pockets or hanging shoes from the straps is also a nice trick I learned while traveling. Still, in total, the flight was $536 each. There was no extra meal, so pack snacks for the six-hour flight.
UPDATE: As of Thursday, March 28, 2019, WOW Air has gone out of business. Pay no mind, though. Cheap flights still exist. I suggest downloading Hopper, Sky Air, and Kayak for alerts on cheap flights and price predictions. Also, using the travel packages linked are fantastic deals with airfare included!
Fortunate enough for us, we had a good friend, Kaitlyn, living in that area. She was able to drive us from her place, where we parked our car for the 13 day trip, to the airport. Some essentials to bring on the international trip were universal plugs and making sure we informed our banks where and when we were going. I find it so much easier to pay everything by card than cash. Not many places required cash only unless it was an art festival. To be honest, I am so bad about exchanging cash back to US dollars. It's been nearly a year later and I still have about $6 in pounds chilling in my wallet. Now if you do decide to do a cash exchange, do it through their ATM. They don't charge a fee and if they do, most banks like USAA will refund the fee amount.
For packing purposes, I packed lightly. Mix matching clothes that can go together means I was able to get a weeks worth of outfits for only three shirts and three pants. Sometimes you can get more. The only thing to pack more than three of would be underwear, and they are so small it's barely noticeable. Having only a backpack made traveling from place to place so much easier and efficient than our Ireland trip.
For places to stay, it's so worth it to bunk in a hostel. Hostels get such a bad rep, and I feel like it's just because of Hollywood classic horror movies such as Hostel. But honestly, it was the best and my favorite place we stayed at. For fourteen pounds a night, we stayed at The Castle Rock Hostel in Edinburgh. It's right across the street from the Edinburgh Castle, is amazing inside and out, and they hold nightly group activities such as beer pong tournaments, trivia nights at local pubs, ghost tours, and so much more. Also by staying there, local restaurants give discounts, especially for the pubs and drinks. More detail on the hostel can be found here.
The best way to eat, besides out, in Scotland, was to buy at the local Aldi or Lidl. They are the best and when Tyler passed one he was like, "OMG they have Lidl here!" forgetting they originated in Germany. Compared to the prices in the US, the Lidls were much cheaper. We were able to grab three days of food, three meals, for two, for fifteen US dollars. The Hostels have community kitchens and it's the duty of the tenants to keep the areas and dishes cleaned. This was a great hostel, and most tenants were our age. This allowed us to save big bucks when it came to food.
When it came to travel, the trains weren't awful if you stayed within the country. Tickets the day of were about twelve dollars each way, max thirty round trip depending on the time you booked. We got away with booking the day of. Sometimes it was more expensive to book early, and we were winging most of our plans. Otherwise, we walked everywhere or took a bus. The bus fare was between two dollars and five each way, which wasn't awful if you road it once or twice. Navigation was easy, but since we had only wifi within the pubs or hostel, we downloaded maps ahead of time. This is best with google maps. That being said, Scotland and edinburgh especially, is very hilly. Wear sensible shoes and don't be a twit and try to be fashionable. You'll regret it. We averaged 16,000 steps a day.
To reach the highlands, we rented a car through Sixt. We found their deals from using expedia, kayak, and travelocity. Each site gave us different prices, so we of course used the best one. It's a bummer Tyler was one year shy of being 25, so we had an additional fee for being young. It was a day trip to the highlands, and the roads were just as narrow as Ireland, except we were on the edge of cliffs and mountains, so the anxiety was skyrocketing for the both of us. The car rental alone was an additional $70 each, but well worth the views.
Up in the highlands was one of the most magical places of all. The Hogwarts Express. If we had gone to Scotland and didn't see this magical steam train, then it would have been all for nothing. It was something like a dream, not just because I am a huge Harry Potter fan, but because the area was pure beauty and magical in itself. It cost nothing to view the train, but if anyone wanted to splurge a bit on tourist items or souvenirs, they could in the small shop that accompanied the site. Of course I had to grab a magnet and a few jewelry items.
When our days were up in Edinburgh, we did take a train to Glasgow. I'm not quite sure how to describe Glasgow as other than a Portsmouth, Va kind of area. Some places were safe, and others looked dangerous at all times of the day. We didn't find much to do in Glasgow, and thus was why we made an impromptu trip to the Highlands. Our hostel in Glasgow wasn't awful. It was safe, but not nearly as wonderful as the one in Edinburgh. However, the workers and owners were very sweet.
Scotland overall was wonderful. We got lucky with the weather (as it seems we always do) and it remained sunny and 70's for us the entire time we were there. That was May 18th-23rd or so. It's not too cold, nor too warm. In that area, May and early June seem to be good times to go.
What are some things you would like to know about Scotland or traveling there that I may have not answered? Please leave comments below!