Edinburgh may not be known for its weather, but that doesn’t stop travellers from visiting this beautiful island country. Home of Braveheart, the Harry Potter Series, and Outlander, Scotland attracts all kinds of tourists looking to learn more about its history, culture, and of course to see the stunning landscapes. But, just how much does it cost to go to Scotland? Especially for Canadians given the weak exchange rate right now? Well, read on to learn more, including some tips on how to save and stretch your money further.
I have based this article on a two week trip to Scotland (14 days and 13 nights). Please note that this guide is based on the costs for a single person. If you are travelling as a couple, make sure to double these estimates (except for hotels).
Local transportation $200
Food and drink $518
Random spending $150
The above estimate is in American dollars, so please use XE.com to find out the average costs in your home country.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Express Gold Rewards Card gives you a signup bonus of up to 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points which have a minimum value of $300 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees, a sign up bonus worth $250 and it comes with airport lounge access.
Flights to Scotland can actually be found for some pretty affordable rates from North America. Especially if you are coming from the east coast. Glasgow, rather than Edinburgh, often sees the best deals for airfare and a couple of North American airlines including Air Transat and West Jet, offer seasonal flights here at affordable rates. For the purpose of this article I have compared flight prices in the spring (not yet high season, but still within the route season) and estimate that airfare to Scotland will cost you approximately $630 round trip.
While flying to Scotland may not be as expensive as to other destinations around the world, it is worth pointing out that you may be able to save a little money if you consider flying into England, specifically London, as well. Since London is such a major hub you will often find seat sales or lower year-round rates to the capital of England. From London, you can then take a shorter flight with a budget European carrier or hop on a train and see some of the countryside.
When it comes to accommodation in Ireland, you’ll have plenty of choice from backpacker hostels to luxury historic Scottish castle hotels. Like Ireland, Scotland is also known for its cozy and welcoming bed and breakfasts scattered across the countryside. These are often quite affordable and loved by couples, families, and solo travellers alike.
Costs on accommodation will also vary depending on whether you are in the city or the country, and how popular your destination of choice is.
With that in mind, if you plan on staying at mid-range hotels for your trip to Scotland you can expect to pay about $125 per night. Keep in mind this price is more for cities than countryside (you can get much nicer for this price in smaller towns, or go some something much cheaper if you don’t need anything fancy).
Looking for some accommodation recommendations? Here are some great picks in Edinburgh:
Edinburgh mid-range hotels
Edinburgh luxury hotels
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. For example, Canadians should consider the BMO World Elite Mastercard since it typically has a sign up bonus of $250 when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership. This card does have an annual fee of $150 but it’s normally waived for the first year so you’re getting $250 for free. There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months. That’s enough points for up to five free nights at some hotels which could easily have a value of over $650.
How you choose to get around Scotland really depends on what you want to see, where you want to go, and your comfort level.
Scotland is a great destination for renting a car and making your way around on your own time. The landscape is beautiful and having a car allows you plenty of freedom to stop as you please. However, Scotland’s country roads can be small, the highlands can have some pretty crazy weather (the Scots aren’t joking when they say you may see all four seasons in one day!), and they drive on the opposite road as we do here in North America.
If you don’t think you want to rent a car, you can still get around by relying on buses, trains, and even day trips to see the sites and attractions you are most interested in. ScotRail has some great transport passes for tourists with some of the most popular routes. The most inclusive option is the Spirit of Scotland ticket which gives you 8 days of unlimited travel over 15 consecutive days.
As for getting around in the city; in Edinburgh and the smaller villages, your feet will do just fine. You don’t want to be driving around in Edinburgh- the traffic will drive you mad and you’ll never find somewhere to park. If you aren’t really up to a lot of walking, then consider the Edinburgh hop on hop off bus tour in Edinburgh which will take you to all the main areas. Glasgow also has a hop on hop off bus tour so there’s no need to have a car in the city.
When travelling through Scotland, you’ll get a mix of great natural beauty stops and sightseeing that is free, along with some experiences you will need to pay for. Usually, the paid experiences are in the city and the free ones can be found in the countryside. That being said, if you don’t plan on renting a car then you will need to book day trips to sites and attractions such as Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye or other favourite spots and hiking areas in the highlands.
Must-do’s in Edinburgh include visiting Edinburgh Castle and taking a ghost tour. If you are relatively fit, you may also want to climb Scott’s Monument for a panoramic view of the city (there is a small fee to do this) or, you can hike up Arthur’s Seat (an extinct volcano) for some fantastic views as well. Harry Potter fans may also want to consider taking a Harry Potter themed tour and, of course, grabbing a drink or bite to eat in the Elephant and Castle. Buying your tickets in advance is always advised since you can usually skip the lines.
You’ll definitely want to budget a little extra for random spending when in Scotland. This may be to pick up some souvenirs (Scotland has beautiful, high-quality cashmere blankets and scarves in tartan and plaid prints that make great mementos or gifts). Or, it may be to have a couple of extra drinks in the pub. Given the higher exchange rate, you should probably set aside an extra $150 for random spending.
So how much does it cost to go to Scotland for two weeks? Based on my above estimates, you’ll need about US $3,273. While the GBP is higher than the USD (and significantly higher than the CAD) you can still get good value out of a trip to Scotland and, if you follow some of the tips and suggestions I’ve given throughout the article, you can cut down these costs even more. Either way, Scotland is an incredible country and definitely worth a visit.