What does a trip to Scotland cost? In this post, we break down the average costs involved in a trip to Scotland to help you budget. Scotland is one of our favorite places to travel despite the grim weather because it’s spectacular natural landscapes, rich history, proud culture, and the Scots themselves.
Seriously, the Scottish are some of the most welcoming, colorful, and proud people we have come across in our travels. It’s the Scots that have us continuing to want to return to Scotland. Anyway, we see it you’re bound to have a fantastic trip to Scotland — just try to avoid the midges in the summer.
Travel costs in Scotland fluctuate quite a bit and it’s totally possible to have an affordable trip to Scotland. Let’s get into how much a trip to Scotland costs.
What’s a Trip to Scotland Cost?
Transport in Scotland
It’s pretty straight forward to get around Scotland. You have a nice network of public transportation options including a fairly extensive train line that is well connected with local buses. The public transport options for that matter are also pretty affordable with train lines rarely costing more than £20.
However, the most effective way to travel around Scotland is in a rental car. We suggest a car because it’s a great way to explore the highlands and typically offers good value for transportation costs. You’ll also have the advantage of making use of more affordable accommodation options like Airbnb or less desirable locations.
Trains in Scotland
Scotrail makes it pretty easy to travel around Scotland which connects the majority of major towns and cities. You can use the stops along with the rail network as hubs to then reach any small town with a bus. It does exclude the Northwest which is one of Scotland’s most wild and beautiful regions to explore. It is possible to take buses as train travel is more expensive than the bus network, but it’s usually more comfortable.
For many, the trains may actually be a highlight as Scotland is home to several world-famous scenic rail journeys. The most notable train journey is The Jacobite train on the Glenfinnan Viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter film series.
ScotRail’s network connects with the rest of Great Britain so it’s even possible to catch a train from Edinburgh to London. Tickets are reasonable with the longest journey on a standard fare costing around £30 one way. You can find all of the destinations by train on ScotRail’s website here. Please keep in mind these are all tickets that are booked in advance if you buy tickets the day of you’ll likely find much higher prices.
|Edinburgh > Glasgow||£10 – £15|
|London > Edinburgh||£35 – £60|
|Glasgow > Fort Wiliam||£10 – £30|
|Stirling > Inverness||£12 – £30|
Scenic Rail Journeys in Scotland
There are several scenic rail journeys in Scotland in which you can watch the beauty of the countryside pass by. Travel across imposing mountains and bogs, deep lakes and wild coastline. There are six scenic train lines that are well-loved for the landscapes they transport passengers across.
|West Highland Line (Return)||£60 – £80|
|Kyle Line (Return)||£25 – £40|
|Far North Line (Return)||£30 – £40|
|Borders Railway (Return)||£15 – £20|
Rail Pass in Scotland
Train tickets can really start to add on to the cost of a trip to Scotland. If you plan to make the most of the train travel in Scotland and leave some flexibility in your schedule as you can hop on trains last minute. There are several options for different passes, but the most extensive is the Spirit of Scotland pass.
Rail Pass Details
|Travel Days||Period of Time||Price|
|4 Days of Unlimited Travel||8 Consecutive Days||£149|
|8 Days of Unlimited Travel||15 Consecutive Days||£189|
While the UK has one of the densest rail networks anywhere in the world, we think there’s no better way to explore Scotland than by road. This is especially true if you’re planning on heading to those parts of the country – including its many island groups, the Scottish Highlands, and the North Coast 500 route – that the railways simply don’t reach.
And while organized tours certainly have their place, we love the freedom and opportunities that self-drives offer. Rental car
These are average prices for summer rentals booked three-four months in advance out of Edinburgh. If you travel in the offseason rates are much lower with averages well under £100 a week. The real problem lies in the summer as car rentals can become scarce if not booked well in advance.
|Car Type||Weekly Rental Price|
|Standard||£100 – £180|
|Full Size||£200 – £300|
|Van||£200 – £400|
Total Cost of Rental Car
This is just an average guess of what the total cost of a car rental for a week would cost in summer. It’s based on previous trips in which we have rented a car in Scotland. It’s totally possible to go over or under these estimations.
Fuel on average is around £1.30 per liter which translates to about £4.92 a gallon. It’s not cheap, but distances are not vast in Scotland so fuel goes a long way between stops.
Overall, it’s our preferred method for exploring the countryside but keep in mind countryside roads are extremely narrow and driven on the left side of the road. If you’re not a confident driver it’s best to not rent a car, or you can read our tips on driving in Scotland here.
|Low||£170 – £250|
|Median||£250 – £400|
|High||£400 – £600|
- RentalCars.com: Provides comparisons for car rentals in Scotland.
- AutoEurope: I can often find deals here for car rentals in Europe.
- Discover Car Hire: Searches rental car prices around the globe.
Flights aren’t that practical of a way to get around Scotland and there are only a handful of routes avaialble. The only real advantage would be if you plan to explore the outer isles like the Orkney Isles or the Outer Hedbrides.
When you book in advance you can generally get a good price on tickets. Though, one should always be wary of booking budget airlines. You’ll also have to pay for check bags that can often cost as much as the flight at around £100.
Cost of Accommodation
There is some good value to be had in Scotland for accommodation. However, that occurs outside of the peak summer months of July and August. The summer has a high demand so booking must be done in many months in advance in the most popular destinations to score a deal in a desirable location.
Once you do go for bookings, you can find everything from a cozy bed and breakfast, hostels, standard hotels, lighthouses, resorts, guesthouses, castles, and everything in between. We love traveling Scotland for some of the unique accommodation options! This is where sites like Airbnb come in handy. (Read our tips on Airbnb)
Accommodation options are largely dominated by small establishments which is the charm of Scotland so don’t expect 5-star resorts or many boutique hotels. That being said there are a few very high-end golf resorts and castle/estate hotels that can deliver a luxurious holiday.
Edinburgh is a bit of anomaly when it comes to prices as the demand in the city remains high, especially in the summer months. The most demanding time is during the month of August when the city plays host to The Fringe Festival. The city is more or less guaranteed to be sold out during this time and prices will be through the roof.
Lastly, if you have plans to stay on the Isle of Skye be prepared to book well in advance due to the limited options and crazy demand. In summer months, it’s even common for police to set up a roadblock ensuring visitors have a reservation for the night.
If you’re on a budget and want to explore the highlands it’s legal to wild camp in Scotland. So you could spend several nights exploring the natural wonders of Scotland and not spend any money other than camp food. We’ll assume this not what most people expect out of a trip to Scotland
One of our favorite things in Scotland is to book with Airbnb. The platform hosts some really unique accommodation options if you do some searching. You can book things like windmills, crafter cottages, lighthouses, treehouses, converted wagons, or barns. Due to the extensive range prices vary greatly from £30 – £200 a night. For the most part, you can find a decent value.
|Hostel||£20 – £30|
|Budget Hotel||£50 – £80|
|Airbnb||£30 – £150|
|Mid Range||£80 – £150|
|Guesthouse||£50 – £100|
|Luxury||£200 – £1,000+|
Food Cost in Scotland
We love eating in Scotland, it’s certainly not a foodie scene like France or Italy. Scotland does have some great comfort food and beautiful local products like farm-fresh vegetables, salmon, cheese, whiskey, seafood, and pasture-raised meat.
Since most of the dining comes from low key restaurants and pubs expect to pay anywhere from £8 – £25 for a meal. When you add a tasty pint of beer for £4 dining in Scotland is pretty affordable.
Scottish food is similar to English food has a bit of a bad rap, but the foodie scene is alive and well. There are a number of Michelin star restaurants and fine dining establishments that uplift Scottish ingredients to a tremendous degree. We got to eat at two Michelin star restaurants in Scotland. For fine dining in Scotland expect to pay £60 – £125 a person.
If you’re backpacking, on a budget, or a family don’t fret too much if you have access to a kitchen as you’ll be able to cook affordable meals. We’ve spent a week relaxing along the coast in a cottage and spent less than £100 for a week of food and two people. A real budget saver when determining what a trip to Scotland costs.
The great part about many guesthouses, hotels, and B&Bs in Scotland is they include breakfast for free. The standard Irish breakfast includes things like eggs, salmon, toast, mushrooms, sausage, tomato, and beans. If your lodging doesn’t include breakfast expect to pay around £5-10 for breakfast.
This varies a lot because a simple sandwich from the local grocery store or a packed lunch can be had for a couple of euros. However, if you’re having a meal out the pricing is about the same as dinner so expect to pay £10 to £20.
Daily Food Costs
|Budget||£10 – £20|
|Average||£30 – £50|
|High End||£80 – £125|
Cost of Activities in Scotland
Activities in Scotland, for the most part, are reasonably priced. However, it all depends on when and where. One of the best things to do in Scotland is to simply explore. Free activities can mean hiking in Scotland, exploring forgotten Scottish castles, walking through a quaint town, picnicking by a gorgeous loch or relaxing on a craggy beach.
In Scotland, you have the “right to roam,” which provides all the freedom to access nature and not be considered trespassers. The only request is to mind the sheep and close the gates after yourself. However, it’s common for Scots to cross private property on long walks or to access hikes in the highlands. This is our favorite thing to do in Scotland as it’s totally free and an important aspect of their culture.
Scotland has been catering to visitors for years now and there are lots of great tours and activities to enjoy in Scotland. Things like bike tours, kayak tours, star gazing, cultural experiences, and distillery tours. Generally, prices range from about £10 up to £100.
Whisky distillery tours are obviously very popular and if you’re of legal drinking age we’d really recommend trying at least once. However, do keep in mind Scotland has a zero-tolerance law for drinking and driving. A typical tour costs £5 – £10 that includes a few drams of whisky to sample. Many also include the option to sample finer whiskys that will obviously impact the price.
Of course, activities are really broad and prices vary greatly! For example, if you’re coming to Scotland to golf obviously you’ll have to pay a number of green fees. The most famous courses cost around £200 to tee off, but there are a number of public courses for around £20-30 around Scotland. Golf has historically been a people’s game in Scotland and a large number of historic public golf links are affordable. Scotland also has some amazing diving, but again expect high costs on specialty activities like diving.
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|
Miscellaneous Expenses in Scotland
Flight to Scotland
Like with most travel, your flight to Scotland will be your number one expense. It’s best to book in advance if you know your travel dates. If you have flexibility with your schedule you stand a greater chance at scoring a deal. We like to use Google Flights and Skyscanner’s open search feature to find good deals to Scotland. This can drastically determine what a trip to Scotland costs.
Luggage for Scotland
You’ll need to decide if you want a backpack or suitcase for your Scotland trip. I personally like to travel with a hard shell suitcase for my clothes, and use a carry on backpack for my important electronics.
See a few of our posts here for recommendations:
Travel Insurance for Scotland
Healthcare is expensive when abroad, so make sure you have travel insurance in case anything goes wrong. We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you.
You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage. While SafetyWing is perfect for digital nomads. See our full review here!
How Much Does a Trip to Scotland Cost?
So how much spending money per day should you have in Scotland? Asides from the pre-trip expenses like airfare, luggage, and any Scotland packing list items you’ll want to buy I believe you can get by in Scotland for around £50 a day.
That’s if you’re staying in cheap accommodation, not drinking much alcohol, cooking your meals and eating paninis, and not partaking in costly activities. If you want to travel on a more modest and comfortable budget I would plan on spending £100 per day.
I should also add these costs are based on double occupancy for hotel rooms (except hostels), a solo traveler will have a higher per person cost than a couple or close friends.
Total 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|
Money-Saving Tips For Scotland
Cook Your Own Food
If your accommodation has a kitchen then it’s best to make use of 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 with delicious Italian red wine for cheap.
The grocery store provides great value especially on Italian food like pasta, prosciutto, and grapes. Don’t worry about eating local either as they’re often stocked with tons of beautiful Italians products; most Italians eat at home anyways!
Drink Tap Water
The 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
In my opinion, traveling in Scotland particularly shrines in the offseason. I don’t like crowds or high prices and that’s why I love traveling between September and May. We highlight the best time to visit Scotland in this post.
Plan & Pack for Scotland
Travel Credit Card
It should go without saying that the weather in Scotland can be a bit rainy, this is the most important item in your suitcase. You have two options for styles of rain jackets. The first one we recommend is a classic packable rain jacket made for hiking that is a solid choice for outdoor adventurers. The second option being a trench coat jacket for travel for those looking to maintain style while dodging puddles.
The fleece sweater is a perfect layer when combined with an outer shell to keep you warm. We purchased wool sweaters from independent retailers in Scotland, and good ones were fairly easy to find for a decent price. For those with less time, a little bit of online shopping for wool sweaters will suffice. We picked up sweaters from Smartwool and love our stuff from Marine Layer.
Technical pants are water-resistant and dry quickly, not to mention they’re comfortable on long walks. They also make for an awesome pair of travel pants as many have become stylish these days with cuts like normal pants.
It’s wet in Scotland and you can expect a lot of boggy weather year-round so packing a pair of good waterproof boots for hikes is crucial for protecting your feet. Good boots or hiking shoes for Scotland are essential. We’d suggest a high ankle boot, but you can go even further with “wellies” or muck boots.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem everywhere so it’s best not to contribute to the problem by buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps in Scotland is perfectly safe to drink.
We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well. However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottles for travel in our post.
Travel in Scotland
- 13 Best Road Trips in the World! (Pay Attention to #2)
- Driving in Scotland? Here are 13 Helpful Tips
- How Much Does a Trip to Scotland Cost?
- The 15 Best Hikes in Scotland (2020)
- North Coast 500 Accommodation • Where to stay on the NC500
- 34 Facts About Scotland That Will Blow Your Mind
- 15 North Coast 500 Tips to Know Before You Go
- The 30 Most Beautiful Cities in the World
- 10 Things to Know Before You Travel to Scotland
- Rental Cars in Scotland • Here are 13 MUST READ Tips!
- The Ultimate Scotland Packing List • What to Pack for Scotland (2020)
- Edinburgh’s Hogmanay • Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Scotland
- Scotland’s North Coast 500 in Video
- 20 Fun Things to do in Edinburgh on Your First Trip