Edinburgh on a student budget

Edinburgh is the perfect destination if you are looking for somewhere to travel in the UK. I went at Christmas and it was magical, there was so much to do and we had such a lovely time. Read on to see what my top picks of things to do are!

Christmas Markets: these of course only run at Christmas so not really an option for if you go any other time of the year. If you do go at Christmas, however, the markets really are a must. They usually run from mid-November to early January but you’ll be able to check online for exact dates each year. We got some really pretty pictures and good food while we were there. Things are a bit more expensive so if you plan to go I’d put aside a bit extra but the crepes were amazing. I’d definitely recommend going in the week, we tried both, went in the week and at the weekend and it was a completely different experience. It was packed at the weekend but in the week it was quiet, we could move around easily and there wasn’t really much queuing.

Mary King’s Close: If you’re into history, this is a really interesting guided tour. You are able to explore the old streets of Edinburgh situated under the Royal Mile. It is enclosed as you are underground so do consider this if this is something you struggle with. A student ticket is just £15.95 and the tour lasts approximately an hour.

Edinburgh Castle: we went and had a look at the castle though didn’t go inside (we had other things we wanted to fit in while we were there). Though if you do wish to venture inside it will cost you £15.50. We were able to take some really nice photos outside and because its on elevated ground there were some lovely views of the rest of Edinburgh.

Camera Obscura: This was so much fun it was full of really fun optical illusions. Not only this but it the balcony made for a really good view of the castle below. Students pay only £13.05 for entry and it was definitely worth it for the laughs we had. Plus, it was inside which is great when you consider the weather in Edinburgh isn’t always great.

The Royal Mile: we actually stayed in a hostel just off the royal mile which put us in prime position for many things. I would recommend taking a walk down the Royal Mile as it features many shops and cafes, many of which are independent and is just really pretty to look at. We ate out a few times and it was so lovely to try out the different cafes.

Visiting Budapest on a budget

This is honestly one of my favourite cities, it has everything you need for a city break when you’re on a student budget. There is culture, history, a great night life, places to relax and was pretty cheap.

Bike Tour: On the first day we did a three-hour bike tour and though it was long and tiring towards the end it meant we got to see everything. From doing this we got to know our way around and knew what sights we wanted to go back to and explore further. It will cost you £20/£25 and I would definitely recommend booking in advance.

The Thermal Baths: This is the perfect place to relax. Not only can you try the baths but you can also enjoy the sauna. With baths both inside and out, of all temperatures, it is a great destination whatever the weather. If you feel like treating yourself there is also the option of booking a massage. Though there are multiple thermal baths across Budapest, we only tried the Szechenyi baths and it was definitely worth it. Different baths have different prices but to give you an idea of cost, Szechenyi charges 6800 HUF (about £17.79) for an all day ticket in the week and 7200 HUF (about £18.83) for the weekend.

House of Terror: If you’re into history like am (I’m literally doing a degree in it) you should find this extremely interesting. As it’s inside, it’s also perfect for if the weather isn’t so good, though if you go in the summer fingers crossed you’ll have amazing weather like we did. The museum itself contains exhibits that relate to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th century Hungary. It took a good few hours to get around the museum and I would recommend it if you want to add a bit of education to your holiday. Full price admission is only 3000 HUF (about 7.85).

Ruin Bars: If you want to make the most of the night life in Budapest you need to go to a ruin bar, in particular Szimpla Kert. The atmosphere in these bars are amazing and you should try some of Hungary’s famous herbal liquor Unicum. It’s also a relatively cheap night out and a great place to meet other travellers.

Street Food Karavan: For amazing food you should definitely try out Karavan. It’s great for food and drink. Not only this, it has a great atmosphere and looks amazing.

Margret Island: This is an amazing place if you love nature. We went the day after a night out and it was perfect because there was food and fresh air. I would say it would also be a great destination for a picnic as it really is beautiful.

These are my top picks of what to do in Budapest, so if you plan to go be sure to check them out.

Exploring Paris on a budget

View from the Pompidou

Me and my friends had a great time in Paris last summer and it is full of tourist attractions you will want to visit. I’ve talked through the ones that stuck with me to help you plan what you can do if you visit. While it’s not the cheapest city, it’s still possible to visit on a budget!

The Eiffel Tower : an obvious one but definitely worth it. We could see it from the apartment we stayed in making it feel a very Parisian experience. I would recommend seeing it in the day and at night. In the evening we would head down with our strawberries, chocolate and pink gin and sit on the grass in front of the tower and watch it light up. I would also recommend going up it for some amazing views and to have the full experience. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought with adult prices starting at 10,40€. We chose to climb the stairs which was an experience in its self and honestly not that tiring and there’s plenty of places to sit down when you reach the top. Though, you can pay a bit extra to go up in the lift if climbing 704 steps to the second floor really isn’t for you.

Arc de Triomphe: it may seem just like a big arch but seeing it in real life was extremely impressive and it’s a lot bigger than I expected it to be. Also, I finally found out how to get over to the island without risking your life by crossing through the traffic. There is a tunnel that goes underground which brings you out onto the island and it’s just stunning.

The art galleries and museums: I’ve been the the Musée d’Orsay which was just beautiful. Even without looking at the art the building in itself is breathtaking. It used to be a train station and there are these huge clocks at each end. I would definitely recommend going and having a look, you may even qualify for free entry otherwise it’s only 11€. We also went to look at the glass pyramids of the Louvre but the queues were so big we just didn’t have time to go in but it was a great photo opportunity. Again with this you may qualify for free admission otherwise it’s only 15€. Instead we went to the Pompidou centre which housed modern and contemporary art which was interesting. I liked the fact the escalators were in see through tubes on the front of the building giving amazing views as you ascended. This was also the perfect place for views of the city with the Eiffel Tower in (which you obviously can’t see when you’re in the tower itself) on the outside viewing decks. This one is 14€ but check out if you qualify for free admission before you go.

Mont Matre– this was such a lovely walk as we went through the small streets until we arrived at the summit where we found the sacre couer. On the way up we also saw the Moulin Rouge which was exciting for me as it’s my favourite film. I would recommend going here not just for the main attractions but because there is so much to see as you walk up and down the hill; little cafes and independent shops you can stop off in.

Champs Élysées – I would only do this if you’ve done everything else you wanted to do or if you’re extremely into your shopping. While it was one of those things I felt you should see while in Paris it was very overcrowded and full of shops you could find elsewhere that wouldn’t be so packed.

Just explore: yes, I got us lost at one point but it meant we were able to explore the small side streets of Paris which were gorgeous.

My ultimate guide of what to take on holiday

Travelling can be so much fun but there are some aspects that aren’t so exciting. Knowing what to take and actually packing and fitting everything into your suitcase can be a chore.  As I’ve said in previous posts, I tend to take only a cabin bag to avoid having to pay for a bag in the hold as I usually travel on a budget. Having a small bag means you need be sensible with what you pack to fit it all in. 

Clothes: This is the big one, I always like to take my favourite pieces from my wardrobe with me because I love taking so many photos on holiday. The first step to deciding what to take is to look at what sort of weather you’ll be having.  I definitely prefer hot weather on holiday so that I can wear my summer dresses and crop top and shorts combos, but I will usually take a few pieces for if the weather isn’t as good on a few days. A good idea would be if you plan to take some layers, to wear them on the way to free up space in the suitcase.  Also, shoes, if you plan to take more than one pair, I’d wear the chunkier pair on the flight, though you may not need more than one. If you are going on a city break, make sure to wear comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking.  You’ll also need pyjamas and dependant on where you’re going maybe a bikini or swimsuit.  

Toiletries: Make sure you don’t forget your toothbrush! You may want to take things with you, but it might work out better to buy it once you get there.  You’ll want to remember shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face products, sun cream, toothpaste, deodorant and sanitary products. I also, like to take a bit of make-up, you won’t need your full collection (unless you have a collection of just the essentials). As with everything, work out what you will actually need and only take those things to save space. Don’t forget your hair, if you’re taking hair straighteners or a hair dryer maybe communicate with the others you are travelling with and only take one set of each to share. You’ll also want a hairbrush and maybe a few products but remember liquid restrictions on flights.

Electronics: You’ll most likely want to take your phone so don’t forget you’ll also need a charger. I forgot mine when I travelled last summer and it was such a pain. You may also want to take a camera, obviously not an essential especially as your phone will have one anyway. But if you do want to take your proper camera to get better quality pictures make sure to take all the bits you’ll need with that. 

Travel documents: This is the most important one and you should pack these so that you have them to hand at the airport. Your passport is of course the one thing you really can’t forget and make sure you have any Visas you might need to enter the country you are travelling to. Also, boarding passes for you flights and any documentation you need for hotels or other things you have booked for while you’re there. Check about the currency and whether it is recommended to exchange it at home or when you arrive in the country. You could also look into getting a debit/credit card that doesn’t charge you to be used abroad if you want that extra security. 

For when you’re out and about: Think about what you’ll need when you’re there. You’ll want a secure bag for when you’re exploring with a good amount of space for a drink and maybe a packed lunch. A reusable water bottle is also a good idea. You may even want a portable charger just in case so that you don’t get stuck with a dead battery in an unfamiliar country. 

Travelling on a budget: While you are there

So, you’ve booked your holiday, or you need to make sure you have the budget to even go on holiday. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of budgeting for the preparation, the flights and hotel, but forget that you’ll actually have to have a good chunk saved for when you get there.  The best way to do this is figure out an approximation of how much you plan to spend while your there and then take just a bit extra for emergencies or if you end up spending a bit more than planned. 

Food: Probably the most important thing to think about. If you’re going all inclusive you may not need to worry about this as much because it will be included in the price you paid for the hotel. If you are self-catered, you need to budget for the amount of food you’ll have while you’re there. As I recommended in my previous travel post it’s a good idea to choose accommodation with a kitchen so you can easily do a shop at the supermarket but remember food may be priced a bit differently abroad to how it would be in an English supermarket. I usually like to have a meal out on one of the days to try the country’s cuisine as a little treat so this is something you should definitely budget for if you plan to do. 

Transport: Think to yourself how you are going to get around while you’re there.  You will have booked your flights and hopefully an airport transfer but as you explore the city you’re going to have to get around. Most cities have great transport links so check out the metro and bus system as these are usually the cheapest option. This is something you’ll want to make sure you have the money for but shouldn’t burn a huge hole in your pocket especially if you plan your trip so that you’re doing things in a similar area each day. 

Attractions: I would recommend planning what attractions you want to visit and what you want to see before you go even without thinking about budgeting. This will ensure you have time to actually do what you want to do and so you don’t spend all your time while you’re actually there working out what you want to do. From this you can do a bit of research to work out how much things will cost, and you may have to book some attractions in advance to make sure you get to visit.  Dependant on what you’re planning to do, this could be what you spend most of this budget on, especially if you’re on a city break  This is something, however, you don’t want to compromise on as while you’re there you’ll want to make the most of it. 

Going out: whether you’re planning a meal or a big night out this is something to budget for. Some cities have an incredible nightlife, and this is something you won’t want to miss out on. Especially, if you’re planning to go and get drunk this will be something to bear in mind as alcohol is often not cheap and you don’t want to blow your whole budget in one night!  

Souvenirs: you may want to pick up a couple of bits while you’re there to remember your trip. Personally, I collect a mug from every country I visit as a little memento. 

Emergency fund: You never know when you might need a bit of extra cash and you don’t want to be caught short in a foreign country. My best bit of advice is to put aside some money that you can use in an emergency; you may have forgotten to budget something, things may be a bit more expensive than planned or you may want to treat yourself while you’re there. It’s always best to be on the safe side. 

I hope these tips help you out. If you missed my blog post on how to budget in preparation of the holiday go check that out!  In the next few weeks I’ll be posting about my favourite get aways for budget travel so keep an eye out for that. 

Travelling on a budget: Booking your holiday

With the lockdown restrictions lifting in England you may be starting to think about getting away some time soon. I know me and my friends have already started to think about where will go next summer after our holiday this year was cancelled. Whether you are booking a holiday soon or just thinking about a far-off trip knowing how to budget will be vital. Having an estimate on how much it will cost will mean you can make sure it’s affordable and you’ll know how much you need to save. I’ve outlined my top tips of how to travel on a budget from my own experiences. 

Chose a destination: First step in working out a budget is choosing a destination. I’ll be posting a blog post next week on how I budget for spending when I’m actually on holiday, but it is a good idea to check how much an average day in your destination will cost before you commit. There are some cities and countries that are notoriously more expensive and so these may not be the best places to go when on a budget. One of my top picks would be Budapest, if you’re looking for a city break, as it’s beautiful and has so much to do while not breaking the bank. Me and my friends loved it so much we are thinking of going again next year. Also, work out how far away you want to go. Me and my friends have had some great holidays in the UK, which makes things a bit cheaper as you’re not travelling as far but you can also get great deals on flights within Europe. 

Travel: My top tip here is don’t just go for the first option that comes to mind.  You may automatically think flying will be a lot more expensive than any other mode of transport, but this may not always be the case. When we went to Edinburgh from Birmingham we chose to fly for convenience as it was only a bit more expensive than the train and a good few hours’ time difference. We did the same when flying to Paris, as to take the Eurotunnel or Ferry would have meant getting to the London or the Ferry port when it was a lot more convenient to get to Birmingham airport and just flying from there. If you go for a budget airline and fly at the right time you can get an absolute steal. A tip would also be if you are going to be flying check whether it is cheaper to fly one-way both ways with different airlines as opposed to just getting a return ticket as from my experience this can turn out cheaper. Also remember no matter how you get to the other country you will need to sort transport to your accommodation and you’ll find this to be cheaper if you book in advance rather than get their equivalent of a ‘black cab’ when you arrive in a new country.  Of course, public transport will usually be cheaper but dependant on when you’re flying and where you are staying this may not be possible. Doing that extra bit of research can help you to find good deals on coaches, taxis or shuttle buses. Do check the reviews though before you book and ask friends and family what they have used in the past as they may even have vouchers or referral codes you can use to get some money off. 

Accommodation: Now this is where you will make or break your budget. I feel with the transport the difference in price between options is not overly staggering (unless you decide to do everything business class with all the upgrades). However, deciding on the type of accommodation you want will really be dependent on your budget and dependant on what type of holiday you want.  There’s no point paying for an all-inclusive resort if you’re going on a city break and will be out most of the day however, if you are going on a party holiday it might be worth staying at one of these where alcohol is included. My favourite accommodation when travelling on a budget is a hostel with a kitchen as they’re cheap to stay in and you can cook your own food from the supermarket. This gives you the flexibility that if you want to go out for a meal you can and you’re not missing out on a pre-paid meal, but you can also cook what you want when you want.  You can also use the kitchen to make a packed lunch to take with you on your day out meaning you won’t have to pay to eat out for lunch every day.  Hostels can be used by solo and group travellers alike for a cheap place to stay in a prime tourist area. By putting in the research you can find a place with good transport connections whether it is close to public transport or within walking distance of key places you want to visit. Remember the better you plan the placement of your accommodation the more money you will save when you are actually on holiday. You don’t want to have to be spending loads of money on transport when you can find somewhere to stay that will have better and cheaper transport links. Similar to hostels, are apartments and Airbnb that have the facilities for self-catering so make sure to check-out different options to see what works best for where you want to stay and how many of you are travelling. 

Luggage and travel essentials: It’s always best to plan what you will need to take with you and what you can buy when you arrive. Rather than paying extra for hold luggage me and my friends opt to just take a cabin bag as I have found you can fit everything you need for a holiday in one of these. Be sure to check the dimension requirements before you fly as airlines can be very strict on these and I have had to pay a large sum for my bag to be put in the hold for being just a couple of centimetres too big.  Also remember, there are restrictions on what can be taken in cabin baggage and that all liquids must be under 100ml. It might be a good idea to just buy these when you get over there rather than take miniatures of shampoo, conditioner and body wash which are often overpriced for the amount you get. We usually just get a big bottle of these between us when we arrive which works out cheaper and we don’t have to worry about it taking up room in our liquid’s bags. 

I hope these tips help for when you are looking to book a holiday on a budget. If you want some advice on how to budget while on holiday and how much you should take, look out for my post next week!