BARGAIN BRITAIN

Written by root. Posted in FEATURES

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Published on July 01, 2015 with No Comments

Quintessential English experiences that won’t hurt your wallet!

Words SURIANI ARIFF

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Trafalgar Square has been a central meeting place since the Middle Ages! Credit: VisitEngland

 

Who says UK travel has to be expensive? It takes a little bit of imagination and research to help you get the most of your pound. Much of that has to do with doing what the locals do.

For instance, one of the most underrated experiences not known to visitors is taking in London’s sights on a bus tour. But when we say bus tour, we mean a regular bus taken by Londoners and tourists alike. The number 24 is hard to beat: get on at Westminster Abbey, wave to the British Prime Minister as you pass Downing Street, balk at Trafalgar Square, hop off at the theatre district for a half-price show (see below), then continue on to Camden, famous for its cheap kebabs, or to the end of the route at Hampstead. There you can loll about on the heath or take a dip in its pools.

The number 9 is another great route and good for seeing how London’s rich and royal live from aboard an old-style Routemaster bus. The trip begins at Somerset House, takes in Trafalgar Square (get off for the free – and excellent – National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery), continues through Knightsbridge where you can window shop at Harrods from your passenger seat, then passes the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace, the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Shortly before it ends at Hammersmith, the bus stops at Holland Park. Have a picnic here in the Japanese garden and admire the resident peacocks. Tip: get a Visitor Oyster Card before you arrive in Britain and save money and time – start using as soon as you land.

And what’s London without catching a West End show? If you head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square, you could get your hands on excellent on-the-day deals and half price bargains. Those travelling early in January and February should make the most of the Get Into London Theatre scheme, which sees more than 65 top shows selling tickets for £10, £20, £30 or £40. Booking starts in December.

For the quintessential English afternoon pastime, a visit to London must include an Afternoon Tea. A combination of Britishness and deliciousness, the best teas are towering with delights both sweet and savoury: sandwiches on the bottom, then scones, then cakes, and all washed down with a pot of Earl Grey (or whatever leaf floats your boat). Afternoon Tea can be taken in many places throughout Britain, but those in the know always head to London’s Fan Museum that consistently wins praise for its ‘best value’ afternoon tea, priced unbelievably at only £7.

If you’re around for Wimbledon season, did you know that Grounds Admission tickets for south-west London’s Wimbledon Championships can be surprisingly cheap – as little as £15 buys you access to Courts 3-19 (and Henman Hill) for an entire day? This drops to £11 if you enter after 5pm with prices differing depending on the date. For instance, it’s cheaper to go during the second week of the tournament. You do have to queue up for tickets, but the atmosphere is great and queuing is indeed a very British experience in itself.

Round up your London stay with some discounted shopping. When you buy something on the VisitBritain shop (a good idea if you want to make savings on attractions like Madame Tussauds, London Dungeon and the London Aquarium) you get a VIP pass to Westfield London or Westfield Stratford City offering up to 20% off your purchases. Both Westfields have a mixture of high street and designer stores, as well as fun non-shopping activities like an All Star Lanes bowling alley at the Stratford City branch.

Now let’s look at other ways you can maximise fun on a minimum budget around Britain.

Watch Glyndebourne’s world class opera for less than you think
Going to Glyndebourne is, for some, a summer tradition – and for others a unique, one-off chance to dip into British high society, picnic in sumptuous grounds and dressing in black tie before settling down to world class opera. Yes, some people pay £250 for the privilege, but there are standing tickets available from £10, and if you’re under 30, you can get excellent seats for just £30. The Glyndebourne tour takes in several UK venues, but always starts at Glyndebourne itself, so you can enjoy the grounds in the autumn and get a flavour of the festival for a fraction of the price. Glyndebourne is in Lewes, South East England, approximately an hour by train from London.

Enjoy the footy
If, like millions of people around the world, you follow the Barclays Premier League, there is nothing like actually experiencing a match for yourself in Britain, and grabbing the opportunity to indulge your passion for the Beautiful Game on stadium tours and more. Going to a match can be cheaper than you think: Thomas Cook Sport Match Break packages start from £89 (which includes a match ticket and a hotel stay). Meanwhile, stadium tours are a fantastic way for footy fans to go ‘backstage’ and even run through the players’ tunnel out onto the pitch. Manchester City’s tour is £14 on the VisitBritain shop. Manchester is also home to the free National Football Museum, where you can try out a penalty shoot-out and even smell the players’ socks (!) should you wish. It is home to the world’s greatest collection of football collection.

Lord it up in a stately home or a castle
Britain is spoiled with hundreds of gorgeous castles and stately homes, which tell the story of lords and ladies, knights and battles, pomp, pageantry and upstairs-downstairs scandals and histories. And so many of them are intact and ready to be explored just as though their former inhabitants had popped out for tea with a neighbour – or indeed, in many cases, the owners still live there (but don’t mind you coming to visit). The VisitBritain shop sells passes that let you visit multiple properties and save money in the process. The National Trust touring pass, which costs £25, pays for itself after a couple of visits to properties, so go to a third and you’re saving. And there are plenty to choose between – Winston Churchill’s home, Chartwell, in Kent (South East England), Game of Thrones filming location Castle Ward in Northern Ireland’s County Down, and magical Welsh castle and world famous gardens at Powis Castle and Garden. Scotland has its own National Trust Discover Ticket, priced £22.50. It lasts 14 days, and if you visit one attraction each day you save over £100. Choose from Culzean Castle, the Glencoe Visitor Centre (Glencoe was a Skyfall filming location) and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

Walk into a postcard in Wales
Wales is the only country in the world with a continuous path around its entire coastline – aptly named The Wales Coast Path – and to walk around it will cost you nothing. Head to the Isle of Anglesey to walk the beautiful north Wales and fall in love with the landscape, just like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did when they lived there. There are more than 600 castles in Wales, and Beaumaris in Anglesey is said to be ‘the most technically perfect castle in Britain’, and only costs £5.25 to visit. Accommodation need not mean a huge expense, and it can mean a totally unique experience.

 

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies London daily via Dubai.

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