You need to know a few Scotland travel tips before you travel to Scotland. With two amazing and historic cities in Glasgow and Edinburgh and more opportunities for outdoor activities, there is something for everyone when they travel to Scotland as long as some unpredictable cloud coverage with a chance of rain is not minded.
We had more than just a little fun in Scotland’s charismatic and stunning highlands. Scotland has history, stunning landscapes, great food, and charismatic locals. It doesn’t matter if you are a regular or first-time traveler. These are a few things you should know before you travel to Scotland. The rest I’m sure you will figure out when you get there!
What to Know When You Travel to Scotland
Where is Scotland
Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It shares a border with England to the Southeast and is surrounded by sea to the northeast, north, and west.
Most Scottish live on the mainland and in the center of Scotland, though there are nearly 800 islands off the coast! Scotland features wild coastlines, beautiful white sand beaches, stunning mountains, and rolling hills.
Getting to Scotland
Many international flights are best served via the Edinburgh Airport (EDI), though many European cities connect well to Aberdeen International Airport, Glasgow International Airport, and Glasgow Prestwick International Airport.
Glasgow Prestwick is the only airport in Scotland connected to the rail network. Those traveling to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow International must use the bus service to the city center or take a taxi. All airports have rental car centers.
Travelers from England can connect to Scotland’s Railway System, so arriving in Scotland from London will not be complex.
Driving in Scotland
The best way to travel around Scotland is with a rental car, especially if you’re traveling with a group. All with an international driving license can drive in Scotland. Driving in Scotland is no joke, and it’s essential to realize that before renting a vehicle. For starters, the Scots drive on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right.
Second, instead of stoplights, most of the roads in Scotland run smoothly because of roundabouts. Yes, roundabouts. Those are the circle streets you may get a wee bit nervous about driving on if you’re not used to them.
Third and most important – the roads in many parts of the country, including the highlands, are often small single-track roads fit for just one vehicle at a time. Every 400 meters or so, there are passing points to let oncoming traffic get through. The car closest to a passing point should be the one to yield.
If you book early enough, you can score a great rate at one of Scotland’s many car rental centers! Renting a car in Scotland is one of the best ways to explore. This allows you to go where you want, and always stop for a beautiful view whenever you want!
Is Scotland Safe?
Scotland is an incredibly safe and warm place to visit. The Scottish people are some of the friendliest people we have met on our travels. This does not mean to let loose in major cities at night, as petty crime and pickpockets are still a problem in urban areas.
If you are ever in danger, call 999 (or 112) and ask for the police, ambulance, etc.
What is the currency in Scotland?
Scotland is part of the UK, and uses the Pound Sterling (£). Though all major credit cards can also be used across Scotland, and we have never had trouble using our credit card just about anywhere.
Lochs, Bens, and Munros
If you’ll be spending a lot of time outside and hiking in Scotland one of my top Scotland travel tips is to familiarize yourself with a few terms. A loch is a lake, a munro is a mountain over 3000 ft, and you can usually find the word “Ben” in any mountain peak name.
Where to Stay When You Travel to Scotland?
There are plenty of places to stay in Scotland. In major cities, you’ll find internationally recognized hotel chains like Marriott, IHG and Airbnbs. While in the countryside, you’re looking at staying at small boutique hotels and b&bs.
Our favorite places to stay in Scotland are in guesthouses run by local families, which you can find all over Airbnb and VRBO!
Tipping in Scotland
Tipping in Scotland is not like tipping in the United States, though if you go out to eat at a restaurant, it is still common practice to leave a tip of around 10%. There is no need to tip in casual situations like getting a beer at a hairstylist or nail salon.
What Plug Do They Use in Scotland?
Scotland uses the same plugs as the rest of the United Kingdom which is the plug type is G (three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern). This is different from the standard Europlug. We recommend purchasing a good travel adaptor before your trip to Scotland.
Is the Tap Water in Scotland Safe to Drink?
The tap water around Scotland is very safe to drink and delicious. There is no need to buy plastic bottles, so we recommend grabbing an awesome travel water bottle to refill and stay hydrated.
A Few Fun Facts About Scotland
- A Scottish Guy Invented The Steam Engine: His name? James Watt. He also gives his name to a unit of energy and is credited with coming up with the measurement of horsepower.
- There Are 790 Islands That Are Part Of Scottish Land: There are four main groups: the Inner Hebrides, the Outer Hebrides, Shetland, and Orkney.
- Edinburgh Castle is On An Extinct Volcano: To be precise, the castle sits on a volcanic plug called Castle Rock. It’s been the site of a royal castle ever since the 12th century, but with fortresses existing here before then, and was very important to the Kingdom of Scotland. In its 1,100 year history, it’s had 26 identified sieges.
What to Eat in Scotland
Scottish food, at its core, is all about the ingredient and Scottish foods vary by location. Though Scotland’s national dish is haggis, a savory meat pudding, the national drink is of course, whisky.
Other Scottish foods to try are Scotch pie, Cullen skink, neeps and tatties, and fresh salmon!
When we travel Scotland we love all the fresh food and can often find hand-dived scallops, smoked salmon, aged whisky, stilton, croquettes, cheddar, dry-aged beef, duck, wild mushrooms, venison, grouse, lamb, aubergines, hand-picked herbs, and craft distilled gin.
The Atlantic Ocean supplies a copious amount of amazing seafood to Scotland. Fish and chips may be a classic dish, but there is a lot more to food in Scotland these days than a fried piece of cod.
Look for amazing smoked salmon, fresh oysters, langoustine, trout, scallops, and even sea urchins. We had some fantastic meals on our Scotland trip. You can check out the best of our Scottish food here.
Typical Costs For Traveling Scotland?
Scotland is far from the most expensive destination, but being in the UK it may be more than you expect.
Average Two-Week Trip to Scotland Cost (pp)
|Backpacker||£600 – £800|
|Basic||£800 – £1,500|
|Mid Range||£1,500 – £2,500|
|High End||£3,000 – £6,000|
Popular Activities/Tours in Scotland
|Highlands Tour From Edinburgh||£47|
|Edinburgh Castle Tour||£34|
|Orkney Islands Tour From Inverness||£78|
|St. Andrews Green Fees||£195|
|Kinghorn Green Fees||£12|
How to Save Money in Scotland?
- Cook Your Own Food: If your accommodation has a kitchen, then our one of our Scotland travel tips is to use it. We save money this way when traveling around Scotland. Grocery stores in Scotland are amazing and well-stocked, and one can easily cook an amazing meal for cheap.
- Drink Tap Water: Tap water in Scotland is perfectly fine to drink, so best not to waste money or plastic on one-time-use water bottles. Get yourself a travel water bottle and keep refilling it!
- Travel During the Offseason: I think traveling in Scotland, particularly shrines, in the offseason. I don’t like crowds or high prices, so I love traveling between September and May. We highlight the best time to visit Scotland in this post.
Just a Wee Drink
When you travel to Scotland, there are two things you need to know about the people of Scotland. They are some of the friendliest people on earth and they like to drink. Don’t be surprised when you hear the classic line “oh, it’s just a wee drink” or “how ’bout a wee dram o’ whisky.”
Although Scotch is of national pride and a fantastic spirit it is not what the Scottish drink every day. The most popular drink these days is gin and beer. So, we got to make friends and relive our days of African safari with some gin & tonics.
If you travel to Scotland, you better try at least a little of their national drink just once. There are plenty of amazing Scottish distilleries to tour as well!
Keep in mind that drinking and driving in Scotland is a big no no. The current limit is 22 microgrammes (mcg) of alcohol in 100 ml of breath, which is less than a beer for some people. Keep this in mind when drinking in Scotland.
When you travel Scotland, you should get used to saying wow if you are planning a road trip around Scotland! The rugged mountains that appear to be older than time are cloaked in thick heather that washes across the landscape in a sea of green and purple. In all the places we have traveled the Scottish Highlands is one of the most beautiful regions we have ever seen.
We weren’t prepared for the beauty of the highlands or the Isle of Skye and knew nothing about the landscape of Scotland before arriving. It only took an hour of driving out of Edinburgh before we were out of the car, snapping photos.
Freedom to Roam
One thing to know when you travel Scotland is that there is no trespassing. Everyone has the right to roam along the countryside, including farms. The “freedom to roam” is the public’s right to access public or privately owned land for recreation.
This doesn’t include houses, gardens, or military bases, so don’t go squatting on someone’s porch, but it does allow people to enjoy the land and inland water for their well-being. The only stipulation is that you must do so responsibly and safely and stay a reasonable distance from home. In general, you must respect other people’s interests, care for the environment, and take responsibility for your actions. You can read more about it here.
So, mind the sheep and close the gate!
Cloudy With a Chance of Sun
Despite what you may see in countless photos and videos (we’re guilty), Scotland has some notorious weather. An important Scotland travel tip to know is that you should expect clouds, rain, wind, sideways rain, fog, and the occasional sun even in the summer.
In Scotland, the saying goes, “a dry day is a good day.” If you’re coming to Scotland for a suntan, you may want to rebook your flights to Greece. You should come prepared with at least a lightweight rain jacket and waterproof boots.
Forget the umbrella! Wind + Umbrella = Not Good If you want to know more, we’ve got a packing post for Scotland!
Beware the Midges
You need to know about the midges before you travel to Scotland. If there is one terrible, terrible, terrible thing about Scotland, it is the bloody midges – and the Scots will agree!
We’ve dealt with many insects in our travels, but none as bad as midges (which includes our year in Africa). They are tiny flying insects that are attracted to your nose, eyes, mouth, and every exposed piece of skin.
Oh, and they fly in swarms, and they bite. You will know if you run across a patch of these flying demons.
The best defense is some bug spray and clothes that cover your skin. We saw some photographers with fly nets over their face which might be worthwhile investments. You can also purchase midge spray in many markets in Scotland.
Aye Lassie and Lads
Loch, hill, ben, and glen are just a few names you’ll need to learn when traveling to Scotland. These aren’t names of people but various natural features you’ll find throughout the country.
Lochs are what the rest of the English-speaking world refers to as lakes. Hill or Ben can refer to a mountain, and glen means valley. Also, I’m convinced all pirate talk in movies is just a bunch of Scots. Aye, lassie!
There are a Few Narrow Roads
Wondering how to travel in Scotland? Well, one of the best ways is to drive yourself! If you plan to drive through the Scottish Highlands or the North Coast 500, be prepared for some single-track roads. The vast majority of roads in Scotland are one lane with a small passing area to allow to oncoming cars to pass.
These passing points are roughly every 400 meters or so to let oncoming traffic get through. The car closest to a passing point should be the one to yield. That does not mean crossing the path of another vehicle into the passing point. If the passing place is on your side of the road you move over, if it is on their side you wait for them to approach you.
Watch Out for Shaggy Cows and Black Sheep
There are more sheep in the Scottish Highlands than there are people. In other words, there is a lot of sheep, like a ton; Scotland thank you for supplying the world with wool.
They also gave us an animal with probably the best hairdo in the world. The Highland Cow, ‘ighland coo,’ shaggy cow, or kyloe. If you’re traveling Scotland spotting one of these iconic animals is an absolute must.
The Best Places to Visit in Scotland
You could spend months traveling around Scotland and never get bored. A few of the best places to visit are:
- Edinburgh: The beautiful capital of Scotland
- Glasgow: Scotland’s fun city packed with interesting architecture and a unique culture.
- North Coast 500: A scenic 500 mile road trip through the Scottish Highlands. A must if you love road trips.
- Isle of Skye: Unreal scenery on the west coast. Book in advance, this is the most popular vacation destination in Scotland.
- Ben Nevis: The highest peak in the UK, and a popular Scotland hike you can check off your list.
- Orkney Islands: Group of islands off the north coast.
- Cairngorms National Park: In the Scottish Highlands is the UK’s largest National Park, with plenty of hikes, lochs, and even snowsports!
Staying Connected in Scotland
If you want to stay connected while in Scotland, I recommend picking up a Sim card and purchasing data when you arrive. We purchased 12 GB of data for £20 with Three.
Their coverage extended into patches of the highlands and allowed us to at the very least check our emails, Instagram, and Facebook each day. Other comparable telecom companies in the UK include O2 and Vodafone.
When is the Best Season to Travel Scotland?
High season (July-September):
Like most European places, Scotland’s high season runs from July to mid-September. This is when you will find the best weather, as noted above, but also crowds. Days are longer, the weather is warmer, and hotel and car rental prices are at their highest.
Shoulder Season (May-June and Late September-November)
We’ve traveled to Scotland during the shoulder season and loved it. The weather is cool, the leaves are orange and yellow, and the vibe in the air is wonderful. This is also when we’ve found great deals on car rentals and guesthouses. However, famous places like Glasgow and Skye were hectic. We saw sunny days but also had many rainy Scotland overcast days.
Low Season (Late November-April)
The temperatures are cooler during the low season in Scotland, and you stand a solid chance of getting caught in the rain (or snow) storm. If you plan to travel to Scotland during this time you absolutely need a packable rain jacket, travel umbrella, and waterproof boots.
The upside is you’ll find low prices and low numbers of tourists. If you are in Scotland over the holidays make sure to participate in the festivals around the cities!
What to Pack When You Travel to Scotland
Wondering what to wear when you travel to Scotland? The country’s weather is pretty notorious so it’s only natural that the question of what to pack for Scotland comes up a lot.
With that in mind, you should be prepared as you’ll spend much of your time in Scotland outside, enjoying its beautiful cities and breathtaking landscapes.
READ MORE SCOTLAND TRAVEL TIPS
- 13 Car Rental Scotland Tips To Know BeforeYou Go
- Scotland Packing List • What to Pack for Scotland
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Scotland?
- Driving in Scotland? Here are 13 Helpful Tips
- 12 Best Things to do in Brora (Scotland)
- The Best Places To Eat In Scotland
- 15 BEST Stops on the North Coast 500 Route (Scotland)
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get low.
- Book a Rental Car: We use Discover Car to book all our rental cars! You can also read our top tips for renting a car abroad here.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.