Traveling in Scotland inspires images of lush green cascading hills dotted with purple heather, of enormous, mysterious monsters dwelling in the depths of a loch, of ancient, mystical standing stones, and of enjoying a golden, smokey whisky among the backdrop of a stormy sea. But while these scenes are enough to entice anyone to pack his or her bags and hop on the next flight to Edinburgh, many times one question comes to mind. Is Scotland expensive and how much will a trip to Scotland cost?
While the UK has certainly never been considered a destination that is particularly friendly to the budget-conscious, visiting Scotland can actually be more affordable than many other European destinations. In fact, it is possible to travel around this spectacular country on an absolute shoestring budget, while it is also possible to spend top dollar and splash out in the lap of luxury.
While Scotland might definitely be a more expensive destination compared to other European destinations, it certainly doesn’t have to break the bank to visit. You can expect an average trip to Scotland cost for travelers that want to vacation in Scotland to be £65 to £105 per person per day (approximately $90 – $140 USD). This can, however, be reduced if you plan on spending some nights camping, not doing many paid activities, and cooking most of your own meals.
If you, like us, don’t fall into the “luxury traveler” demographic and prefer to travel on a budget without sacrificing ease and experience, then this guide is for you!
Trip to Scotland Cost Guide
This guide will break down how variables such as accommodation, food, entertainment, and activities will impact your average Scotland trip cost and help you understand how expensive is Scotland.
Accommodation Prices in Scotland
Like most elsewhere in the world, accommodation will (most likely) leave the biggest dent in your Scotland travel budget. There is, however, a lot of option when it comes to budget accommodation. There tends to be at least one hostel in most larger towns and in the bigger cities — such as Edinburgh, Inverness, and Glasgow — there are multiple hostels to choose from. On average, the least expensive dorm bed in a hostel will cost roughly £20 per night.
If you would prefer not to stay in a hostel, there are a number of B&B’s dotted throughout Scotland and a room there will cost something between £60 – 100 per night.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly accommodation option without sacrificing privacy, I would definitely recommend getting a private room in an Airbnb. Depending on where you are, a room will cost somewhere between £30 – 50 per night, with the better-rated ones landing about £40 per night
You should therefore budget to spend a minimum of £20 per night per person for accommodation and around £40-50 per person per night if staying in mid-range places.
Because Scotland isn’t all that densely populated, there often aren’t a ton of Airbnb properties to choose from so it can often be a bit more expensive to spend the night in a rural area rather than in a larger city. Just something to keep in mind, especially when trying to figure out the cost of a trip to Scotland.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the most popular accommodation options in Scotland — camping. If you truly want to save money and also love to be in the great outdoors, camping is a fantastic option. The wonderful thing about Scotland is that it is also perfectly legal to wild camp in many places and that is absolutely free.
If wild camping isn’t really your thing and you would prefer to have a few more amenities at your disposal, there are many campsites throughout Scotland where plots tend to be about £8 – 10 per night. Michael and I found that spending a few nights wild camping really cut down on our overall Scotland trip cost, however, and I would highly recommend it if you’re looking, as well, for a little bit of peace and quiet.
Not a bad place to pitch a tent — just outside of Durness
Transportation Prices in Scotland
The cost of transportation is another area that one needs to consider for a Scotland travel budget. If you wish to cover a lot of ground on your own schedule and maybe add a few off-beat destinations to your list, I would highly recommend that you hire a car.
Not only is a road trip one of the best ways to see Scotland, but the average daily price of a rental car isn’t extraordinarily high, especially if you offset the cost with a few nights of wild camping, as we did. On average, you can expect to spend about £30 per day on car hire. If you plan on filling up every three days or so, you can expect to also pay an additional £20 per day or £10 per person if splitting costs between two.
Keep in mind that a manual transmission is more affordable, there are often weekly discounts, and it’s almost always cheaper to pick up and return the car at the same place. Have a look at the car hire prices at the varying airports — we originally intended to pick up the car in Inverness only to realize that it was significantly cheaper to do so in Aberdeen.
Glencoe’s Famous Mountains
To keep costs down even further, we recommend you buy a policy from iCarHireInsurance that offers full excess coverage at a fraction of that car rental companies charge.
If you don’t drive or would otherwise prefer to use public transport, it is worth bearing in mind that bus and train prices anywhere in the UK are quite high. You will almost never find a bus or train ticket, no matter the distance, for under £20 (one way) if booking on the day. The best way to save money on buses or trains is to book far in advance where prices can be significantly cheaper. if you want to unless you book extremely far in advance and on sale. We recommend using Omio to find the best savings on trains in the UK.
While both bus and train connections are good in Scotland, they’re still not ideal if you want to explore more rural areas of the country or if you want to be flexible with your itinerary, which is why I would generally recommend self-driving around Scotland.
If you’re looking to visiting some of Scotland’s many islands, you’re likely going to need to hop on a ferry to get there. Keep in mind that a ticket as a passenger is going to be significantly cheaper than if you’re bringing a vehicle with you.
Ferry prices vary depending on which islands you happen to be visiting and how long the journey is. For instance, a ferry from Aberdeen to the Shetland Islands is going to be much more expensive than a short journey from Oban to the Isle of Mull.
The charming village of Luss
Food Prices in Scotland
You have to eat multiple times every day and, unfortunately, that tends to take a toll on your wallet and your travel budget. But how much do you need to factor for food in your total trip to Scotland cost?
Scotland food prices, not surprisingly, vary depending on where you choose to eat. Like pretty much everywhere else in the world, your most budget-friendly food option would be heading to a supermarket and cooking for yourself. Grocery prices aren’t very expensive in Scotland (though there is a chance that London prices have me blinded) and there are a number of budget supermarkets to shop in such as Lidl or Aldi.
For lunch, fish and chips from a takeaway chippy is a great budget option for and you can get a large portion for around £5 outside of major cities. If you’re keen to get a nice meal during your Scotland trip, lunch is a great time to do this as many higher-end restaurants offer pretty good lunch specials where you can get a two- or three-course meal for around £15 – 20. The same meal will cost you significantly more at dinner time.
For a pub meal — be that for lunch or dinner — expect to pay about £10 – 15 for the main meal, again depending on what you get.
Therefore, you should expect to spend around £10 per person per day if cooking your own meals and closer to £20- 25 per person per day if you want to have one sit-down meal per day.
Haggis – Scotland’s most famous dish!
Activity Prices in Scotland
To be completely honest, you don’t really have to spend anything on activities and you can still get a lot out of your trip to Scotland. Many museums are free and it doesn’t cost a dime to go for a hike or wander around a quaint town or city. However, if you do want to throw in a few paid experiences to your Scotland travel budget, here’s what to expect to pay.
By far the most we spent on any activity in Scotland was when we went on a three-hour boat trip outside of Ullapool. It was £35 per person and we thought it was worth the price, but maybe that’s because we saw a massive pod of dolphins and got very excited. I generally don’t believe you need to spend anything more than this for any experience.
Another popular activity when visiting Scotland is to go on a cruise of Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, which typically will cost around £20-30 depending on the type of ticket you buy. It is worth noting that for any of these such experiences, it is good practice to book in advance if you are traveling in peak season.
If you like Scotch and you’re interested to see how the whisky is made, I would highly recommend going on at least one distillery tour. Most of the basic tours offered by distilleries will cost around £10 and will include at least one dram of whisky for a tasting. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.
While many museums in Scotland are free to enter, there are some historical sites that do charge an entry fee, such as Edinburgh Castle. They don’t tend to be more than about £10 and are almost always worth it, as they go to the general preservation of important sites.
Therefore, if you plan to do around one activity or per day you should expect to spend on average £10-15 per person per day.
Entertainment Prices in Scotland
Generally speaking, entertainment won’t add a lot to your Scotland trip cost. While that may be partly because there really isn’t much on offer for nightlife outside of the bigger cities, drink prices aren’t exorbitant. At a local pub, a pint will cost around £4 and a dram of single malt whisky will land somewhere around there as well, at about £4 – 5 depending on the vintage of the particular whisky you’ve selected.
It is, of course, worth noting that it is definitely cheaper to buy your booze at the supermarket. However, one of the best things about traveling through Scotland is experiencing the local pub culture and luckily, it doesn’t cost much to grab a pint, chill out, and perhaps listen to some live local music.
If you’re not a big drinker then you can possibly reduce this expense to zero, otherwise plan to allocate around £5 per person per day if you’d like to have a drink or two.
A pint of beer won’t set you back too much!
Average Trip to Scotland Cost
Visiting Scotland doesn’t have to be an abhorrently expensive trip and you can keep costs quite low without sacrificing the quality of your holiday. Take the time to prioritize what is important for you and make adjustments to your Scotland travel budget accordingly.
Below is more or less what you can expect to spend per person per day on a trip to Scotland on a budget to mid-range trip, assuming that you’re traveling as a couple or with friends and have rented a car and are splitting accommodation and transport costs.
Accommodation: £20 to £40 / night
Transport: £25 / day
Food: £10 to £25 / day
Activities: £10 / day
Entertainment: £0 – £5 / day
All in all, you can expect your average trip to Scotland cost to be about £65 to £105 per person per day. If you are smart and savvy about where you spend your money, you can offset your average daily costs by spending a number of your night’s wild camping, making your own breakfast every day, and cooking your own dinners many nights of the trip.
This average Scotland trip cost doesn’t factor in pre-trip expenses such as:
Travel Insurance: We like WorldNomads and use them on all our trips abroad
Another affordable option is SafetyWing which is great for travelers on a budget but it doesn’t offer as comprehensive coverage
Travel Gear: Specific items that we recommend for Scotland include a quality waterproof jacket, good hiking shoes, and an umbrella for those frequent Scottish rains!
The Standing Stones of Stenness in Orkney are free of charge to visit!
It can be hard to devise the perfect Scotland travel budget and to stick to it at that. It is definitely possible to travel to Scotland on a budget and hopefully, this article gave you a better idea as to how much a Scotland trip will cost.
By Maggie Turansky