Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the Island of Great Britain, Scotland has a 96 mile border with England. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a 96-mile border with England to the southeast.
Whilst it may be small in size, with a total population of 55.5 million, Scotland has something for everyone. From the bustling capital city of Edinburgh, home to the famous Arthur's Seat and Edinburgh Castle, to the magic of the Scottish Highlands, the quirkyness of Glasgow and the remoteness of her islands, she offers adventure at every turn.
Climate In Scotland
Scotland's temperature is largely dependent on where you go. If you are venturing into the Scottish highlands or over to the islands, then it can get very cold. But on average, expect temperatures to range from 0°C (32°F) during the Winter months (colder higher up in the mountains) to 17°C in the Summer months. There is frequent rain all year round and in Autumn and Winter, snow is common. The coldest months are December, January and February, whilst the warmest months tend to be July and August.
Currency In Scotland
The currency in Scotland is the British pound (£). At the time of writing the conversion rate from pounds to euros and dollars is as follows:
£1 = €1.15 / $1.30 USD
Scotland has a great banking system and plenty of ATMs in the cities and towns. ATMs accept Visa and Mastercard. The main banks you will see are:
Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale, Royal Bank of Scotland andTSB Bank
Most of the ATMs listed above will charge but there are some that offer free withdrawals to customers who bank with partner institution. Do your homework beforehand and try and avoid these unnecessary fees. Also, always choose to pay in the local currency rather than your home currency and this includes when withdrawing money as well as paying for things over the counter. This will avoid extreme charges and poor exchange rates. My advice is to try and pay using your debit card as much as possible, rather than withdrawal fees to avoid charges and make sure you always have identification on you. If you need to change your money, you can do this at the airport, any major hotel, the Post Office, at the bank or an exchange office.
I used the Monzo card when I was travelling which allowed me to withdraw £250 free of charge per month and no charge incurred when I paid for purchases using my card, although this may change so please check their policy information. Another option is the Sterling Card. I would suggest taking two bank cards with you, or one bank and one credit card and store them separately, so if you lose one, you will always have a back up.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Always let you bank know beforehand that you are travelling abroad. This will prevent them from freezing your card which they will do if they think it has been stolen.
Getting Around Scotland
Scotland has four main airports: Aberdeen International Airport, Edinburgh Airport, Glasgow Airport and Glasgow Prestwick Airport.
Buses within cities/towns:
Buses within the cities and towns are super affordable and a great way to explore. You can either buy your ticket at the station beforehand or pay the driver when you get on the bus. You will usually board the bus from the front and exit through the side or back door. The buses have a bell system that you press if you would like to get off. I suggest downloading maps.me which allows you to follow your journey and location offline - make sure you download the area you are exploring when in Wifi and before you set off, unless you can use your data. For the major cities, use Citymapper which is invaluable when it comes to planning your transportation. Buses run regularly throughout the day in major towns and cities between 6am-11pm, but in small villages they will be much more infrequent.
Long distance buses:
Traveling around Scotland via bus is much cheaper than taking a train. The main long distance bus services are with: National Express, Lothian Buses, Stage Coach and Mega bus. You can also use Check My Bus to compare fares across different bus companies.
National Express: With a nationwide bus network, the National Express has frequent services between all major cities. Fares vary, if you book in advance they are considerably cheaper. The most expensive time to travel is on a Friday afternoon. Discounts are offered to full time students and under 26 year olds. For non UK Citizens, the National Express offers Skimmer passes, allowing unlimited travel for 7/14/28 days for between £69-£199. No need to book your seats in advance if you have this pass.
Scotland has a great rail network run by the National Rail. However if you are travelling in winter where snow is likely, expect frequent disruptions. A variety of trains connect all of the 7 major cities in Scotland. You can book online with National Express or The Trainline.com and if you book in advance you can get some great deals. Simple type in where you are coming from and where you would like to go, and they will give you a selection of trains that are running at set times. Prices vary depending on your journey and what class you book (standard or 1st Class). For more information, check out the Man in Seat 61 blog, he offers incredibly detailed information on destinations, how to book, what to expect and so much more. If you are travelling from England, there is a fantastic sleeper train that travels between London and Edinburgh offering magical views and a completely unique experience.
Hiring a car or campervan:
If you wanted to explore Scotland on your own terms and visit some of the more remote areas, which I highly recommend, hiring a car or campervan is a great option. If you plan in advance you can get some really good deals, but remember you will need to pay a deposit and extra for the insurance. I would strongly advise booking this in advance and picking the car up where ever you are flying into or driving from.
Travel Insurance for Scotland
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries and it is the only travel insurance we will ever use! It is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong and specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support. The WorldNomads.com prices are some of the most competitive online and if you need to change plans, you can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you're already travelling. They also offer travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub and WorldNomads.com members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
Medical Advice For Scotland
The World Health Organisation recommends that you should take some precautions before visiting Scotland. These can be booked through your doctor. If you would like more information, check out Fit for Travel.
What To Pack For Scotland
- Long sleeved tops and long comfortable walking trousers if you are hiking
- Strong and sturdy walking boots
- Warm clothes for the evenings (it gets very cold!)
- Waterproof clothing / rain poncho - I suggest both!
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Battery pack / electronics / adapters
- First aid kit
- Book / journal for bus journeys
- Packing cubes from Amazon. Go for different colours to separate your clean and dirty clothes!
- Zip lock bags for traveling with leftover food items / prevent liquid items from spilling
Safety Considerations For Scotland
I have travelled around Scotland on my own and I have never experienced any problems or felt unsafe, at any time. However, it is always good to remain cautious, especially in the larger cities such as Glasgow and Aberdeen.
- Always keep your valuables hidden or locked away.
- Always keep your valuables in your small backpack and wear it on your front
- If you are travelling on buses, do not store your backpack overhead or in the back of the bus, keep it on you at all times. For extra security, put your passport, money and phone in a money belt around your waist, under your clothes. You can buy these from anywhere; I bought mine from Amazon
- When travelling on buses, always padlock your big bag.
- Do not walk around at night on your own, always take a taxi, even if it is a short distance.
- Always ask your hostel about the area and for safety advice.
- Keep your bank cards separate, so if anything happens, you have a second source of money.
- Always have a photocopy of your passport, so if you lose your passport, you still have a copy of it
- Bring another form of identification with you (drivers license).
- Never leave your drinks unattended at night.
Budget For Scotland
This is completely subjective and dependent on what you do whilst exploring Scotland. If you are exploring multiple areas, transport costs will add up but there are plenty of budget friendly hostels in the major towns and cities and good guest houses in the more rural areas. There are also plenty of house sitting opportunities all over Scotland where you can grab free accommodation. However, if you are visiting castles, museums, famous sights, eating out, partying etc your expenditure soon adds up. If you are travelling as a backpackers, £80 ($90) per day should be about right but it depends on whether you have your own car or campervan or you are travelling by public transport and staying in hostels.