Budget Travel

How to visit Manchester on a tight budget: for free transport to cheap eats

Manchester might be less expensive than London, but a vacation to this Northern powerhouse can still cost you a pretty penny. Visiting beyond high season and avoiding weekends when big football matches take presctiption will help keep your bank balance healthy.

There's also a bevy of other money-saving tips to keep in mind. From a free bus service that runs continuously round the city center to cheap hotel deals and half-price dining offers, here's how to enjoy Manchester on a tight budget.

Take benefit of the disposable city center bus

Manchester city center is really fairly compact and simply walkable. If you've only got a day or two to explore though, you could save some time by flagging on the free bus.

Run by Transport for Greater Manchester, there are three different route options that weave around the city. These start and end at Manchester Piccadilly station and then leave regularly every 10-20 minutes. Observe that route three only runs at night until 11.30pm.

Go on a free walking tour

Exploring a city the very first time can be a little overwhelming, and even more if you don't have much money to invest. An excellent thing to do if you're a newbie to Manchester is to make use of the Free Manchester Walking Tour. These convene daily at 11am at the Alan Turing Statue in Sackville Gardens. They're run by born and bred Mancunians who not only know their city such as the back of the hands but love it to bits, too.

Check into among the city's hostels

Choose your accommodations carefully and you may reduce your cost in your trip to Manchester. Most your budget hotels and hostels in Manchester are secure and well located. This includes a YHA a brief hop in the canal-side pubs of Castlefield. Keen in which to stay the Northern Quarter? Private rooms with cool vintage-inspired decor start at lb60 at Selina NQ1.

Visit the disposable museums

Some of the best cheap things to do in Manchester won't actually cost you a thing. Including its many museums which, like most other UK cities, are completely free to enter.

The Science and Industry Museum is packed with interactive exhibits on from Manchester's early railways – the first in the world – to modern space travel. You could also expand your understanding of women's suffrage in the Pankhurst Centre or find out more about Manchester's most notorious criminals in the Greater Manchester Police Museum.

And don't forget those free galleries, either

Have a love for the Pre-Raphaelites? Or is it Warhol's bold pop art that catches your eye? Manchester hosts a handful of galleries with permanent collections which are both impressive and free. Manchester Memorial is definitely the largest also it sits a couple of minutes from Manchester Town Hall. Alternatively, walk or bus down Oxford Route to the Whitworth Gallery that's surrounded by certainly one of Manchester's best city parks.

Students frequently get discounts

Manchester has a huge student population, so it's really no real surprise that so many businesses offer brilliant discounts for those still in education. These range from fashion stores and restaurants to coffee shops and supermarkets. You can even get 15% off escape room experiences at Escape Hunt within the Corn Exchange.

Enjoy some fresh air at Heaton Park

On the topic of parks, heading to one for any stroll or perhaps a lazy picnic is yet another budget-friendly move to make in Manchester. Heaton Park is by far the largest and it is about 6.5km (4 miles) north from the center.

Take in the views of pretty Heaton Hall, wander through regions of wild woodland, or find a private patch of grass to spread a blanket on. The park is definitely reached by tram or you could save a little bit of money with a Manchester PlusBus day pass that gives you unlimited bus travel for lb4.20.

Shop for bargains at the city's thrift stores

Many people visit Manchester to splurge, whether that's in the mammoth Trafford Focus on the advantage of the city or in the chic designer stores along King Street. If you have less cash to invest, there are also some real bargains to be found in Manchester's many thrift stores.

The Northern Quarter and East Didsbury house the best options, even though some stores have better stock than others. Oxfam Originals has some real gems including recognizable luxury labels. Afflecks Palace – a completely independent shopping emporium full of quirky boutiques – is yet another great place to pick up vintage Levi's, rare band tees, and high-quality jackets.

Visit between January and May for that cheapest deals

The ideal time to visit Manchester for cheaper hotel prices and much less crowds is between January and could. This falls away from busy festive period and before the new football season begins in late August/early September.

It's still worth booking your accommodations a month or so in advance. If you're traveling by train, cheap rail tickets to Manchester are usually released 6 weeks ahead of time by major companies like Avanti West Coast and TransPennine Express. You can also bag cheap flights to Manchester from various UK and European cities.

Look out for discounted food deals

Eating out doesn't have to be expensive. Many restaurants in Manchester offer 50% off your food bill in January, while a lot also have regular deals throughout the year.

Tuck into half-price burgers and gourmet sandwiches at the Pen and Pencil on Mondays or enjoy half-price pizza slices from buzzing music venue YES every day between 12pm and 6pm. Celebrating a special event? 20 Stories – one of Manchester's poshest restaurants with 360 degree views – has a surprisingly affordable mid-week lunch menu that has three classes for lb23.50.

Treat your taste buds on the Curry Mile

One of the greatest places to locate cheap food in Manchester is the city's so-called Curry Mile. This culinary melting pot has restaurants and takeaway outlets disseminate along Wilmslow Road in the studenty section of Rusholme.

There are over 70 venues (many award-winning) serving up fragrant delicacies from India, Pakistan, and also the Middle East. The majority are very affordable; take a look at Jaffa Restaurant for mouth-watering mezze or order spice-laden curries from no-frills Al Madina.

Enjoy the pay-per-minute coffee at Oppidan Social

Oppidan Social's pay-per-minute business model makes it an inexpensive place to meet up with friends, do a little little bit of work, or grab a coffee in between attractions. The Manchester branch is on Edge Street and feels a little bit like visiting a mature relative's house because of its eclectic mixture of cozy furnishings and tables piled high with complimentary sandwiches and cakes. Just for 8p one minute though, you can't really go wrong.

Eat for a good cause – and also to save your bank balance – at Open Kitchen

Check out the relatively recent cafe-restaurant in the lobby of the People's History Museum. Open Kitchen's ever-changing menu features things that are generally completely sustainable or have been rescued from being binned by other Manchester businesses. Meals are cheaper than your average cafe too, with small bites and sandwiches starting at lb3.50.

Plan a financial budget evening out at certainly one of Manchester's free music venues

Cheap nights out in Manchester are entirely possible and there is usually somewhere offering free entry. The Deaf Institute frequently hosts free gigs in its beautiful upstairs music hall. Alternatively, the night time & Day Cafe in the Northern Quarter stays open late and it is Saturday Loose Joints DJ sets will always be free entry.

Heaps of Manchester bars and pubs additionally host live music nights during the week. This includes jazz concerts at Matt & Phreds in the Northern Quarter and acoustic sets in the Thirsty Scholar pub next to Manchester Oxford Road station.

Daily costs in Manchester

Hostel room: lb12 -35 (dorm room)
Basic room for 2: lb50 -100
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): From lb65
Public transport ticket: lb4.20 PlusBus day ticket, Metro all zones pass lb7.10
Cup of coffee: lb2.50 -3.50
Brunch in the Northern Quarter: lb8 -12
Beer/pint at the bar: lb4 -5
Music gig tickets: lb5 -50

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