Backpacking in United Kingdom
On a backpacker trip to England only part of the United Kingdom can be discovered. The largest island state in Europe comprises the main island Great Britain and about one sixth of Ireland. There are four independent states that characterise the United Kingdom. The largest state in the south of Great Britain is England, which extends over two thirds of the island. In the north lies the border to Scotland and in the west to Wales. England is surrounded by the Irish Sea in the west, the North Sea in the east, the English Channel in the south and the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest. In addition to the coasts, there are many natural areas to discover.
Characteristic are the lowlands, which are crossed by mountain ranges. There is the highland region like Pennies in the north, which consists of several mountain ranges and stretches from the Peak District in the north to the Cheviot Hills in the south. In the southwest there are other low mountain ranges such as Exmoor and Dartmoor. The south of England has much flatter regions, including the Isle of Purbeck, Yorkshire Wolds and Salisbury Plain.
At the same time, the country also has a lot to offer in terms of culture and historical buildings, which can be admired not only in the capital London. Many castles, palaces, churches and dilapidated castle ruins tell their own story. The traces of the English population, who were probably a people of dark skin colours, go back to the 8th century BC. Later the Celts came, before they were expelled to Ireland. Among the most famous relics from this period are the stone circles such as Stonehenge, whose age is estimated at about 3,500 years.
The largest economic centre of England, in the area of trade and services, is the capital London. It is also one of the largest foreign exchange hubs. At the same time, it is an important main trading centre for precious metals and commodities. There is a good infrastructure throughout the country. Travelling is perfect, as as a backpacker you basically get everything. There are various accommodation and catering options and good medical care.
Even if England belongs geographically to Europe, you cannot pay with Euro. The official currency and therefore official means of payment is the pound sterling (GBP/£). You can withdraw money at one of the many ATMs where you will be charged a fee. One of the most important banks is the Bank of England, where you can find ATMs everywhere. You can also pay conveniently with your EC or credit card. But for smaller amounts cash should be available. The currency exchange from Euro into British Pound is recommended in England, because there you get a better exchange rate.
If you are planning your backpacking trip in England, a trip to Scotland and Ireland is worthwhile. Both regions are dotted with fantastic and partly bizarre landscapes, lakes, impressive coastlines, as well as history and culture. The northeast of Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and certainly worth a visit. The region is peppered with dreamlike landscapes, lakes, an impressive coastal strip as well as a lot of history and culture.
In England English is spoken predominantly. The language is not regarded as an official language, but is used as the only language for official purposes. Three languages, English, Lowland Scots and Scottish Gaelic are spoken in Scotland. In Ireland, the first official language is Gaelic and the second is English. Therefore there are no problems with your English skills.
Culture in England
Although England is geographically part of Europe, it is culturally distinct from the European Union. For centuries there has been a parliamentary monarchy characterised by English domination. The influence of Western culture is indisputable and is represented by humanism, Protestantism and democracy. The colonial rule of Great Britain can be seen in many areas.
The metropolitan area of London alone is home to around 11 million people of different ethnic origins, resulting in a culturally colourful diversity. Therefore, there is also a varied mixture of culinary delicacies. They range from exotic snacks from the Caribbean to Asian cuisine and desserts from New Zealand.
British culture is characterised by courtesy, critical thinking, small talk, multiculturalism, individualism, punctuality, queuing and a love of sport. On your backpacker trip through England you’ll quickly feel the courtesy of going to a pub. The same applies if you are looking for a place to stay overnight.
More backpacking information about England
In England, the cost of living is significantly higher than the Central European average, at around 30 per cent. This applies not only to rents, but also to food, local transport and tickets for cultural events and sights.
The big cities are very cost-intensive. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. If you want to eat out in a chic restaurant, you quickly pay around 83 euros per person. But it’s also much cheaper if you choose one of the snacks, burger restaurants or typical English fast food chains like Wimpy, The Kati Roll Company, Square Pi or Chicken Shop.
With about 55 – 70 Euro per day you can cover the costs as a backpacker.
The mountain ranges and lowlands in England are a special experience due to their unique vegetation with large forest areas, which you can explore during extensive hikes. Since the climate is rather unstable, with lots of rain and cold in winter, the right time to travel should be chosen and the best clothing should be in your luggage.
On your tour through England, there are several accommodation options that you can take advantage of. Besides hotels and hostels there are also privately rented rooms. These Bed & Breakfast offers are available everywhere, even in big cities like London. They are a cheaper alternative and start at around 28 euros. There are no upper limits.
The English kitchen offers national peculiarities, like for example the English breakfast. Traditional English, for example, is lamb with mint sauce. The courts are often very greasy and substantial and have the reputation to be hardly digestible. But due to the sometimes unusual combination of different flavours it has its own special charm and should definitely be tried.
On a backpacker trip to England you will automatically get in touch with the history of the country. Because everywhere there are impressive counties, castles, palaces, cathedrals and world heritage sites to visit.
In England, travelling and living is more expensive than in other European countries. If you have a budget of 55 – 70 Euro per day, you will make a good living. The local currency is pound sterling and is called the British pound. The British pound is quite stable and is therefore held by many states, just like the euro as a currency reserve.
The prices for food are quite different. For a 3-course meal in London you have to pay at least 25 Euros per person. It gets cheaper with the Indian or Chinese snack around the corner. There you will find delicious delicacies under 10 Euro. The food is much cheaper in the suburbs of London and in more rural areas. You can find travel provisions for your trip in the various supermarkets, where you will find a large, rich selection. As in Germany, Aldi and Lidl are the cheapest. If you want to enjoy an English beer in the pub on your backpacking trip, you can pay between 3.20 and 3.90 Euros for it.
Places of interest in England
The entrance fees for museums, cultural sites and sights are quite high. To minimise costs, it is worth using the National Trust Touring Pass for your sightseeing tour of England. The National Trust manages over 300 historic buildings and gardens in England, which can be visited free of charge or at reduced admission prices. At the same time there is the British Heritage, which manages over 100 properties, castles, palaces, ruins and abbeys, but also common objects like Stonehenge together with the National Trust.
Membership is required for this. The National Trust Touring Pass is available for 7 and 14 days, is valid for one year and costs between 33.40 and 39.10 euros per person. The British Heritage Visitor Pass is available for around 36 euros with a validity of 9 or 16 days. London is cheaper as a backpacker if the London Pass is used. It is an admission ticket for more than 50 sights throughout the city.
Bus and train in England
The bus, tram and train services in England are very pleasant, as there is a good transport network. If you want to stay longer in London, you should definitely get an Oyster Card. Because a single trip in London costs minium around 5.50 euros for a short distance. With the Oyster-Card the same distance costs only about 2,70 Euro.
Since the distances between two points in England are quite small, flights are only worthwhile between London and Edinburgh, Liverpool and Manchester. But there are great train connections between the larger cities. BritRail has several fare options. For example, there are ticket packages for trips that only last a few days, up to two weeks. You can find out what a train ride costs by visiting Britrail’s website. A cheaper alternative is to take a bus to a large number of destinations in England. They take a little longer to cover the same route, but that means you’ll see a lot more on your backpacker trip.
Taxi driving in England
For a taxi ride, the kilometre prices vary considerably from city to city and are between 1.45 and 2.70 euros compared to Birmingham and London. Only the basic price of 2,70 Euro is the same everywhere.
On a backpacking tour through England you can experience the multifaceted geography and culture of the country. In addition to the vibrant capital London, there are interesting cities, sleepy villages, idyllic landscapes, mountain ranges and impressive coastlines worth a visit. Of course, it always depends on how much time you plan to spend as a backpacker. However, besides London there are some interesting cities and landscapes that you should have seen on your backpacking tour.
Route 1: The South West of England (14 – 20 days)
- 3 days London the pulsating capital with its impressive sights explore and go shopping extensively
- 3 Days Discover Bath, Bristol and Somerset
- 2-3 days exploring County Devon with national park, moorland and miles of coastline
- 2 days Cornwall
- 3-4 days Stonehenge and Wiltshire
- 2 days Dorset
Route 2: Backpacker tour intensive (from 30 days and more)
- 4 days London with sightseeing tour and shopping
- 2 days exploring Stratford upon Avon and Warwickshire
- 2 days Worcestershire with Worcester and Evesham
- 3 days Shropshire and enjoy the special beauty of the landscape
- 2 days Peak District hike, feast and take a trip to the center of the earth
- 2-4 days exploring Liverpool and Manchester
- 3-4 days Highland climbing Pennies with bizarre mountains and vegetation
- 3 days Derbyshire nature, old manor houses and museum visit included
- 2-3 Days Discover Lincoln and Lincolnshire
- 2 days Staffordshire Stoke-on-Trent and Alton
- 3 days exploring Nothingham and Nothinghamshire folklore, medieval castles, deep forests and dark caves
- 3 days in Birmingham, England’s second largest city, shopping and sightseeing included.
- 1 day Cambridge
Route 3: Around London (10 – 14 days)
- 1 day Canterbury
- 3 days sightseeing and shopping in London
- 3 Days Bedfordshire with Luton, Wobrun, Dunstable and Leighton
- 2 days at Oxford, experience the vibrant university city
- 1 day exploring Bath
- 2 days exploring Hampshire and the New Forest National Park
Travel times in England
The climate in England is determined by the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean, the influence of the Gulf Stream and the northern longitudes, which clearly affect the weather, which is very changeable and unstable. However, large temperature fluctuations are rather unusual.
The Atlantic Ocean, which brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico, has the greatest influence on the weather. This warms the coastal regions on the Atlantic, so that a mild climate prevails here. The warm currents provide a very special vegetation, so that palm trees also grow in England. The mild climate prevails mainly in the western part of England, but brings rain and wind at the same time.
In the east of the country it is usually drier, cooler and less windy. Here, however, there are the biggest temperature differences. The climate in the north is cooler and often associated with rain and temperature fluctuations. The south and southeast are under the influence of the continental, tropical air flow, which brings humidity and warmth with it.
The optimal travel time for a backpacker trip is between April and October, when the maximum temperatures are in the two-digit range between 13° and 22° Celsius. Between June and September the minimum temperatures are also in the two-digit range. Rainwear and warm clothes should be in the luggage to protect against all weather caprioles.
In England there are many different overnight accommodations that backpackers can use. Especially in the big cities the offer is almost endless. There are hotels of the upper class, which of course cost their money. Those who want to make the overnight stay cheap, reach for a bed in a simple hostel. The many hostels that do not only exist in the big cities are quite similar to the youth hostels in Germany, with lounges where you can quickly get in touch with other travellers. The prices for a bed in a hostel are as follows:
- London from 17 Euro
- Liverpool from 14 Euro
- Brigthon from 10 Euro
- Manchester from 12 Euro
- Stratford upon Avon from 12 Euro
- Stonehenge from 25 Euro
- Canterbury from 14 Euro
- Nothingham from 17 Euro
- Birmingham from 20 Euro
The prices vary considerably, because it is differentiated whether a bed in a dormitory or an own room is preferred. For a double room you pay from 35 Euro and more.
Bed & Breakfast – private room
Probably the cheapest and best known accommodation in England is the Bed & Breakfast. Usually the accommodation is on farms or in private houses. The accommodation and facilities are sometimes very simple. However, there are also those that are quite well equipped with television, telephone and bathroom.
The prices for the overnight stay include a delicious breakfast. Since not everywhere a credit card or travellers cheques are accepted, you should take enough cash with you. If you are looking for Bed & Breakfast accommodation, the regional tourist office will be happy to help you and give you a list. There is already a simple room with breakfast per person from 22 Euro. There are hardly any upper limits.
Motels at the motorway exits and on the motorways
If you are travelling by rental car, the many motels along the motorways and motorway exits are a good option for one night. But during the peak travel season it becomes difficult to get a room spontaneously, especially when you are on holiday in England. A room at a hotel chain, which you also know from Germany, you pay for one night from about 32 Euro without breakfast.
The English are very polite and expect a minimum of courtesy from you when you are a backpacker in their country. “Please” and “thank you” are two keywords that will get you quite far. At the same time, the English have a distinct, mischievous sense of humour.
When using public transport in London, there are a few things to keep in mind. On escalators, go left, stand right. If you make a mess, you’ll be pointed out rudely. In trains, make sure you never get between the doors. If these closures do, it can hurt quite a bit. When getting off, look at the distance between the train compartment and the platform. This can be up to 30 cm.
Driving a car is also quite tense on the island, as there is right-hand traffic here, which you have to get used to first. But since you get a right-hand drive when you rent a car, the topic is quickly done.
There are two prices on the price lists in some cafés and restaurants. One is for consumption in the restaurant and the other is if you want to take the food with you.
Backpacker Highlights in England
In addition to the many interesting cities with great sights, there is also the opportunity to explore nature on signposted long-distance hiking trails. Along the south coast of Cornwall is the 966 km long South West Coastal Path, which can be walked in sections. One section runs from Padstock to Falmoth. For the 262 km you have to plan 9 – 14 days.
Also interesting and very exciting is the Southdown Way with 165 km length in the southeast of England. It leads you from Eastbourne to Winchester and can also be ridden with a bike. A shopping tour in London can be very expensive and also very inexpensive. For fashion, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street is the first address. Here there are shops like Nike, Outfitter and department stores, which offer great bargains in autumn and spring.
In search of cheap clothes, Camden Town should not be missed. Because there are great markets here with cool fashion at a comparatively low price. Harrods is always worth a visit, even if you don’t want to buy designer fashion. The Royals also shop here!
Backpacker insider tips in England
Shopping and eating in Carnaby Street at Kingly Court in London is a completely different experience. It’s easy to overlook if you don’t know that Kingly Court exists. Between the buildings of Carnaby Street there is a small courtyard with trees and seats. Above it, there is a balcony complex over three floors, where you can find pubs, restaurants, cafés and shops with vintage clothes. In the evenings, a visit is particularly recommended as it is really lively.
Alternative London with art, cool restaurants and vintage markets can be found in East End. You will find exceptional street art and oriental delicacies. A tropical pearl in London are the Victorian greenhouses of Kew Gardens. You can visit the world’s largest and oldest botanical garden with more than 40,000 plant species, including some very rare, exotic specimens.
The Whiskey Trail in Scotland is similar to the Gin Trail in London, where you can explore distilleries and bars. The London Gin Trail has 12 stations. You can see gin distilleries as well as famous and innovative bars. You’ll get an insight into the gin industry, from the origins of traditional distilleries like Beefeater to new distilleries like Sipsmith. You can also enjoy gin tastings and cocktails at Happiness Forgetsoder and Duke’s Hotel.
Grantchester is close to Cambridge. It is considered a special place where poets and thinkers such as Virginia Woolf and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein chose to retreat. This small village with the river is surrounded by lush green meadows that invite you to linger, have picnics, exchange ideas and relax. In the historic tea house from 1897, tea time is at 5 o’clock sharp.
English cuisine is not exactly considered a gourmet cuisine in Europe because it is heavy, hearty, greasy and very one-sided. But as a backpacker you can’t miss the baked beans and fish and chips as well as the delicious scones that are served at tea time. But that’s not all the typical English cuisine has to offer.
Food in England
No Englishman voluntarily does without pies or the proper Sunday roast. There is fine roast beef, delicious fish and pie in many different variations. Fish and meat are always accompanied by potatoes and vegetables in various forms of preparation. Typical English desserts are crumble and trifle, which are known beyond the borders of the island state.
The colonisation and the immigration that came with it brought not only exotic spices, but also new dishes to the menus, which gave English cuisine a very special touch. One of the favourite dishes of the English is Tikka Masala, which you should definitely try on your backpacking trip.
The same goes for a Full English Breakfast. Here you’ll be served eggs, sausages, beans, bacon, mushrooms, black pudding, haddock and toast.
Drinking in England
Besides tea, beer is the national drink, making England one of the second largest beer producers in Europe. Traditionally, top-fermented beer is brewed at a temperature of 15° to 20°. The best known type of beer is “Ale”, which is called “bitter” on the island. Furthermore, there is the strongly hopped, malted “Porter”. This is also available in a stronger version and bears the name “Stout”. The beers have a sweet caramel aroma. Englishmen drink their beer without foam and room warm, which is for you as a German beer drinker certainly habit-needy. A visit to an English pub is a special experience.
Drinking tea is part of everyday life in England. Strong, unflavored teas are consumed. During preparation, the leaves are not removed from the water as usual after brewing and the tea is therefore quite bitter. The bitter taste is softened by sugar, milk and the addition of hot water.
The entry to England is quite uncomplicated for Germans. On arrival at the airports, the usual customs checks await you. The same applies if you arrive by train or ferry through the English Channel. However, there are stricter security controls in place.
Backpacker visa for England
As a German citizen you do not need a visa or entry papers for your trip to England as a backpacker. According to the entry regulations of the Federal Foreign Office, the following documents are possible:
- Identity card: Yes
- Temporary identity card: Yes
- Passport: Yes
- Temporary passport: Yes
- Children’s passport: Yes
Vaccinations and medical advice
The health agreement between Germany and England guarantees free emergency treatment by doctors and in hospitals if they are members of the NHS (National Health Service). Therefore only the health insurance card is required. However, you should have your vaccination certificate and, if available, your allergy certificate with you in order to present existing vaccinations and incompatibilities in case of emergency treatment.
You should not use travel documents that have been lost or reported stolen and recovered. This is because the loss entry in the Interpol database is not automatic and can lead to entry problems.