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Novice Traveler


In November of 2019 I am planning a trip to England and Scotland. I am such a novice traveler and will be on a budget. Is it better to stay in London/Edinburgh then take public transit to different areas or stay outside of the cities? In addition, are there lodgings that are affordable in the cities of London/Edinburgh?

Thank you very much

Posted by
8198 posts


First of all, you will have a great time.

Second, you would really benefit from a good guidebook, and while there are others, the Rick Steves Europe through the Back Door is a good overview of traveling skills (money, phones, language) and "how-tos". Then his more specific country guides give you a great first-timers guide to visiting somewhere. There are other guides with more info like Lonely Planet and the Rough Guides. Let's Go: Britain is one that is focused on real budget travel and is what I used when I first went there solo many years ago.

Third, just a very general answer is that many people prefer to mix up the big cities and the smaller towns/countryside, but it really depends on what your interests are: theater (theatre), art, music, food, architecture, history, hiking, scenery, etc. The guidebooks will give you some choices. The real problem is there is too much to see in one trip.

Just know that it is easy to get around and while the language is a bit different, talking to people and reading signs are not problems.

Take a look at the Travel Tips on the menu on the left side of the page, and you might find you have other questions

Posted by
13210 posts

Oh, much, much better to stay in the cities and take public transport especially in November when you will be losing light early. In London and Edinburgh if you are near the center of town you can walk a lot as well. When you say "take public transit to different areas" are you thinking within the cities OR for day trips?

Since you are planning well in advance you should be able to get your choice of well-located but less expensive lodging. Do you have the RS guide book for UK or the London and Scotland ones if you are just doing those areas?

Have you come up with a nightly budget for your lodging yet? If you have, people will be able to tell you if it's reasonable or not.

Posted by
7822 posts

Premier Inns is a chain of hotels in the UK that gives good value for your money and has multiple locations. Check them out as you are planning. When you stay in the city, you can still access much of the surrounding area by public transportation. It is all I ever use in the UK. In addition, there is always the option to join a bus day tour to sights you might be interested in.

Posted by
1316 posts

You've got plenty of time to plan, so I'd suggest reading guidebooks, reading this forum and other travel forums, and watching youtube videos of the UK.

With a November trip, you're probably going to want to stick to cities and have indoor activities planned. I"m not sure where you're from, but I'd bring some warmer clothes than you might expect. I'm from Chicago and the cold in late November and early December impressed me.

There are Premier Inns and Hub by Premier Inns in both cities. You can get an idea of their pricing by looking at rates for November of 2018. The best rates will require prepayment and have no cancellations, changes, or refunds. If you're a solo traveler, the Hubs are great, I'd only recommend them for a couple if you're a very close couple.

Posted by
2310 posts

If you pre-book ahead with Travelodge chain, you should get affordable decent accommodation.
Also consider Premier Inn. If you are not hiring a car, make sure that your accommodation is located near to railway stations/bus routes. will give you train times and schedules. For longer journeys, it is much cheaper to pre-book specific trains. London tends to be dearer for accommodation.

I would not go mid November + - it is a miserable month with short hours of daylight - especially in Scotland. It also tends to be wet and all the leaves are off the trees and the parks are devoid of flowers. Some leaves might still be on the trees in the south up to about the 10th of November. The last week of October is usually a school holiday so accommodation in tourist destinations might be more expensive.
Buses >

Long distance coaches :> /

Posted by
533 posts

Travelodge and Premier Inn have a lot of fans around here, but they're far from your only reasonably priced options for places to stay, and they're far from the cheapest options. Some of the cheaper options are a little bit scary-looking and are best avoided, but there are some real hidden gems out there. If you don't mind things like a small room, a small bed, and having the bathroom down the hall, you can stay just about anywhere in the UK for a very reasonable price (which I define as "cheaper than it would cost you to stay in a similarly good location in a major US city").

If you want to see London, don't even think of staying outside London. But "in London" covers a huge range of areas, from right in the middle of it all to outer neighborhoods with a more residential and suburban character. One way to save some money is to stay a little way outside the city center in an area with good public transit connections.

Sites like let you search accommodations by price, location, and what other travelers thought of them. Have a look around to see what your options are. If you need more specific advice on particular places or neighborhoods, we can help you with that.

And there's no reason not to go in November, if that's what your schedule allows. Yes, daylight hours will be short, and it will be gray and quite possibly rainy. It will probably not be as cold as Chicago. A warm sweater and a waterproof jacket with a hood will protect you against most weather you're likely to encounter. On the plus side, crowds will be a lot thinner and hotel prices will be lower. You don't have to worry about whether your hotel has air conditioning. And I, for one, think Britain can be quite beautiful under brooding, cloudy skies.

Posted by
11294 posts

You have plenty of time, so start with basics. First get a copy of Rick Steves Europe Through The Back Door (library or used bookstore copy is fine, as it need not be the most recent edition). This will have a lot of the "nuts and bolts" of European travel - how to handle money, food, transportation, etc.

Next, do as much research on UK destinations as you can. Figure out what places draw you the most. Look at as many different UK travel books as you can (raid your library). Watch travel videos; to see Rick's videos, scroll down and click Great Britain:

Rick's books are very selective. What they cover, they cover in great detail - and they omit everything else in a country. So, while he will be very helpful for a first time visitor to London and Edinburgh, do look at other sources to find other places you may want to visit, that he doesn't cover. Also note that his England and Scotland books have some destinations that his Great Britain book does not; again, for research, make sure to look at the separate books.

For seeing London and Edinburgh, it's definitely better to stay in the cities themselves. I'll join the chorus in recommending Premier Inn and Hub by Premier Inn. In addition to being predictable and good value, one other benefit is that this is where lots of British people stay when they travel within their country, so you will meet lots of locals in the breakfast room! Of course, there are other places to stay as well. As for "affordable," do note that London is more expensive than Edinburgh, and Edinburgh in turn is probably more expensive than many other places in the UK. For instance, for my upcoming September 2018 trip, I'm paying an average of £103 per night for London (Hub by Premier Inn, including £5 extra per day for breakfast), £64 per night for York (Travelodge, including £3 per day for internet), and £86 per night in Edinburgh (Travelodge, including £3 per day for internet). As you see, you do have to watch the "upcharges" with hotels, but even with these, they can be a good deal. Do note the comment that the regular room at a Hub by Premier Inn is SMALL; even for one person, it can be claustrophobic, and for two it's definitely tinier than I'd want. The non-Hub locations of Premier Inn have more "standard size" rooms (still small by US standards, but not claustrophobic for two).

Some places are easy to see as daytrips from London or Edinburgh, while others are better as a separate stay. For instance, you can certainly do a quick visit to Liverpool as a daytrip from London, but there is more than one day of sights there - if they interest you. So, where to say will be determined by what you want to see.

How long is your trip? What is your home airport? You definitely want to try to fly into London and out of Scotland, or vice versa, to avoid backtracking. Even if this "costs more" (and it may not), you save time and money not backtracking. To find these flights (it's too early for November 2019, as flights become available about 330 days out), use the "multi city" or "multiple destinations" option on flight websites like Kayak, Google Flights, airline websites, etc.

Posted by
8249 posts

November is my preferred travel month to England. Go nearly every year. Days are shorter with sun setting around 4-4:30pm. Christmas lights are often up which always makes me smile. The hordes aren't as massive at the popular iconic sites, ( Tower of London, Westminister Cathedral, St. Paul's).

Buying Xmas stocking gifts from vendors at the street markets is fun. Portobello Rd is my favorite as I stay close by.

As far as accommodations take a look at AirBnB. I've stayed a three and all were well priced, conveniently located and all owners have become friends. We stay in touch.

As others have mentioned the RS guidebooks for London and England have a wealth of excellent and practical information which a first time traveler should know.

To save money using public transport get the Oyster card and try to rent your accommodation within zones 1&2. Check out the tube zone map.

A great way to "see" London is sitting in the front seats on the upper level of a bus. The windows are nearly floor to ceiling. It's an especially nice POV of Regent and Oxford streets Christmas lights. Traffic is clogged so plenty of time to observe.

Temps have been in the 40's the last five sojourns. A few cooler days, some days of rain but no downpours of lasting significance. Dressing in layers works. For me that means jeans, keen brand hiking shoes and a pair of slipons, Lightweight fleece pullovers, scarf, slouchie, lightweight waterproof jacket with a hood and gloves. Also pack a second pair of lightweight slacks.

Plenty of time to plan and for me and countless others on this Forum planning is half the fun. Be sure to reference Time Out London online now and especially few months before you depart. Filled with lots of information.

Great city.

Posted by
107 posts

We have been to the UK 8 times and are returning again in September. We plan these things down to the last dime and travel pretty much like you would have done if you went while still in high school.

There are two general schools of thought, staying in a large city and taking day trips vs staying in small towns and moving hotels every couple of days. Both have plusses and negatives. For a first time visitor I
I'm going to recommend staying in al large city and taking day trips.

I say this because not having to change hotels will simplify the logistics enormously, and for a first trip this can be extremely helpful. Just identifying the hotels you wish to stay in to begin with can be time consuming. And the rail system is so pervasive and easy to use that day trips to just about anywhere a first time traveler wishes to visit is easy. Some research on the National Rail website will help you decide whether to buy point to point tickets or a rail pass. Investigate the Oyster Card for using the Tube. Chances are that if you day trip out to the most interesting places you won't even have to make a train change.

Just as a WAG I'm going to assume you are traveling from the US, which means you are going to fly into Heathrow. Take the Heathrow Express for a 15 min ride into London and arrive at Paddington Station. There is a nearby hotel in the Bayswater area which I have used several times, the London House Hotel. Clean, 15 min walk from Paddington station, 5 - 10 minute walk to two Tube stations.

My favorite way to visit Edinburgh is by taking the night train. If you've never slept on a train you might wish to visit the website for It leaves a bit before midnight and arrives in Edinburgh around 07:00. You can return the same way. It will be raining in Edinburgh :) and two nights will be quite sufficient. Maybe take a train out from Edinburgh to visit Stirling Castle. Motel 1, inspire of the uninspiring name, is clean, well kept, and cheap. You can almost see it from the rail station and is about half way to the Castle.

Posted by
4079 posts

You are very smart to start planning this early.

In addition to the very useful Travel Tips, you can explore England and Scotland in the Explore Europe section of this RS website.

You've gotten some good specific suggestions for lodging. You might also try using to search for places to stay. You don't say how long you will be traveling, but if you're going to be in London or Edinburgh long enough, an apartment could be a reasonable alternative. You can find all kinds of lodging on including hotels, B&Bs and apartments. Even if you don't choose something and book through them, you can at least get a feel for costs. If you do find something you like, you can Google it and see if you can get a better price by dealing with the place directly.

I want to echo what others have said about the November weather. Expect cold and wet and pack accordingly. Shoot, I experienced that in England and Scotland in May-June, 2016!

Posted by
273 posts

First of all, have a great time, and do what's most important to you :) If countryside is important to you, it can be done, just a bit more planning. But I'd spend a load of time in London, so very much to do there. I lived and worked there for 2 months, went again for a week a few years later, and still have a BIG long list of things I never was able to do. :) Tower for crown jewels, and that big Sky garden in the new building near the St Paul's Cathedral are on the list, with Ben Franklin's house and many other things.

For a new traveler, I suggest always having an extra credit card with you, in case you're lost and need to be rescued by a taxi. It's happened to me several times, long stories, being flexible and just paying for a solution was necessary. And just let it go, I couldn't berate myself for it, I was in a different set of rules and options, and had to just solve it. It's OK. Yes watch budget, but also have options :)

I find that this You Tube channel has many useful walking tours, to give you an idea of what you'd like to do and see.

This is a good channel too, there are several videos on which words differ in American vs British English. This one teaches how to pronounce locations' names:

I like Travelodge, as mentioned in an earlier post. There's a new one in Acton area of London, not that far from Kensington Palace, that I hope to try out next time.

You'll probably need to post details, like what you prefer to see, how long the visit will be, if there's something happening in Nov that you're going for in particular, whatever other things you'd like to know, then it'll be easier for people to answer them.

There are many college dorms that are also renting rooms on like the Gardens near King's Cross, and hostels like Pax Lodge in Hampstead (Girl Scouts world center, where I lived and worked)

and this network that has locations all over:

But pretty much you can decide what you want to see, run a Google Maps search for hotels near those places, check several sources for reviews (including here), and pick the best price/highest review that you can :) I think the next time I go, I'll get the express from Heathrow to Paddington (the trip in from the airport's always way longer than I'm in the mood for after flying that far, and standing in the passport-people line for way too long), and then taxi to hotel. Otherwise I hit exhaustion if I try to get cheap about it :)

Have fun making up your wish list :) British Library's Treasure Room is usually a must, so much history that I didn't know really still existed :) Have a great time, planning for a while ! There's so much to learn.