Cheap accommodation in the UK

Travelling on a budget needn't mean cockroaches and dirty sheets. We talk you through your best options, from couchsurfing to caravans, and yurts to youth hostels.

b&b sign

Or shagging, depending on how tired you are


It may be cheap as chips and super sociable, but is staying on a stranger’s sofa really a good budget option? Many people think so, which is why several couchsurfing sites have cropped up, with the system working a lot like liftshare sites. Check out:

  • Couchsurfing – The original site, and one that aims to “create deep and meaningful connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures.”
  • Globalfreeloaders – Thousands of Hospitality Club members around the world help each other when they’re travelling – be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town.
  • Roomft – works on a similar basis to couchsurfing, but offers rooms to travellers within private houses on a short-term basis.

Be warned, there are some oddballs on the sites, and you should remember the same sort of safety measures you would with, say, a one-night stand, like letting someone else close to you know the address of where you’ll be staying.

Luckily, most reputable websites offer eBay-type customer review systems so you can see how your potential stranger has been rated by others, and avoid yet-to-be-rated members, or lone males (if a single female traveller). It’s a great way to get to know a new place from the inside, and, if you’re super nice, it’s a fantastic budgeter as food may get thrown in too.


Ah the great outdoors: the freshly manure-scented air, the toilets miles away, flooded fields. OK, so it may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but camping has come a long way in a relatively short time.

All hail the pop-up tents, tents that look like tipis, and tents that really are tipis. You can even stay in a wigwam, beach hut, gypsy caravan or luxury yurt if you’re up for a bit of a splurge (they’re definitely not as cheap as the humble tent).

A tent pitch cost can range anything from nothing up to about £10 per person per night. If you can’t cope with a bit of filth, steer clear, or make sure you pick a reputable campsite with a shower and toilet block.

Youth hostels

Not just for young German hikers, there are youth hostels across the UK offering a wide range of accommodation for any age traveller from whole mansions or castles for family gatherings to sleeping in a tipi under the stars.

The best budget options, alongside dorm beds and group bookings at the more conventional hostels, are their camping barns (stone tents), which start at £6 per person per night, and their bunkhouses, which start at £10 per person per night. Many also offer private rooms for couples at a slightly higher rate. For hostels in Scotland, visit Scottish Youth Hostel Association; in Ireland there’s the Hostelling International Northern Ireland and Irish Youth Hostel Association respectively.

Bed & Breakfasts

Brash, gossiping landladies, scratchy sheets, screaming kids and greasy fry-ups? B&Bs may have got themselves a bit of a bad rep, but search a little harder and you can find yourself some real gems. In the better ones the prices way undercut local hotels. Bonuses include themed rooms, eco-friendly options and boutique spaces, packed lunches provided on request, great views, late bookings and good beds. To suss out how good a place really is simply Google it. Everyone voices their opinions online these days. Reviews good and bad shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Photo of sign by Shutterstock

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By Susie Wild

Updated on 29-Sep-2015