Visiting the Isle of Skye on a Budget

Despite the common narrative that Skye is made inaccessible to travellers with limited budget, it not quite true. Plan and book early and you can experience the best of Skye.

'It's absolutely possible to visit the Isle of Skye on A budget'

David MacDonald
Isle of Skye Guide

Skye is becoming more and more famous every year. With that popularity comes some unwanted attention. ‘Skye is too expensive!’, is often a complaint – with some basis – rolled out into the headlines each year. And, it’s true. Skye does have a lot to offer travellers with money, but I’m here to tell you – Skye also caters to those looking for authentic experiences without breaking the bank.

Below I’ve included some budget travel hacks I would use if I didn’t have access to unlimited resources.

The Coral Beach

‘Hack 1' - Plan Accomodation Early & Book Directly.

In order to make the most of cheaper accommodation options, you need to book further out in advance that you may be used to. Skye accommodation sells out every year. As soon as you know you are coming to Skye, looking for somewhere to stay.

There’s obvious places too, like Airbnb, where you can find rooms at reasonable rates, like this one in Portree – Grianan. Rooms rather than whole homes offer the best opportunity to find something affordable.

Another option is to avoid booking platforms all together. Skye has a tourism legacy, with families running B&B’s and accommodations long before Airbnb arrived. Many of these accommodations do not list their rooms anywhere other than their own website.

The key to find them is to look beyond the first few pages of results on Google. Yes, this does take extra time but there are incredible experiences to be had when hosted by friendly locals who know the island inside and out like at Morar B&B. The rates are also often lower than via platforms and many come with Breakfast included in the price. 

These businesses are built on reputation and a history of offering great stays, they don’t need or want to use big impersonal platforms. 

‘Hack 2’ - Skye Car Hire can be cheaper than public transport

For a few reasons avoiding public transport in the highlands is beneficial. Firstly, it’s expensive to get to and from Skye on trains and buses. You could probably hire a car for 2 days for roughly the same price as it costs to take public transport from major cities to Skye.

When you are actually on Skye, you’ll want the flexibility to travel around to experiences and food places that are often off the beaten track.

In addition, if you missed the last bus or find yourself on Skye looking to explore on a Sunday you would need to hire a taxi. The island is too large for this to be economical unless as a last resort.

Use platforms like Kayak, Skyscanner and Hotwire to find cheap car deals from cities. Don’t hire your car from the airport if you can avoid it, there’s a premium on airport car rental.

There’s an interesting quirk with the car rental business. You can book cars without upfront payment, and cancel them up to 24 hours before. When I travel, I book my car months in advance, but I continue to check prices weekly up until my trip. Car rental companies pricing works on algorithms based on demand. The price constantly goes up and down, monitoring this guarantees the best price offered and I’ve saved hundreds this way, just by rechecking prices for better deals.

'Hack 3' - Save on Rental Car ‘Insurance‘

Avoid taking rental car ‘insurance’ from car rental companies directly. In the UK, your rental comes with insurance – although they love to be vague about this. When you buy rental car insurance in the UK, you are actually insuring against paying an excess repairs, not against the full cost of car damage or injury. Likely the excess will be around £1,200. So keep that in mind when considering whether or not it’s worth insuring against the excess at the rate quoted.

If you do decide to insure against this excess – go to a 3rd party like iCarHireInsurance or RentalCover . This is much cheaper, and avoid car rentals companies profiteering,

Also, double check you don’t already have insurance via your bank or credit card.

'Hack 4' - Save On Food

Skye has a thriving food scene, but also an equally thriving food truck scene. There are plenty of micro businesses that offer fantastic value – like Pizza in the Skye in Portree. You can get a fantastic fresh pizza here for around £7.

For some of the freshest seafood on the island you can head to the Oyster Shed in Carbost. Here you’ll be eating the exact same seafood as the top restaurants and hotel for a fraction of the price.

Purchase delicious sandwiches and rolls from The Mackenzie Bakery in Portree. You can get a filling lunch or breakfast for under £6

A few other Place to get great quality locally made fresh food.

Elgol Bistro
Mana Roll and Coffee shop
The Noost
Mrs Mack’s ‘wee’ Takaway
The Galley

'Hack 5' - Focus on the Freedom to Explore

Visiting Skye, particularly its renowned landmarks like the Storr, Quiraing, Fairy Pools, and Neist Point, incurs minimal expenses. A daily parking fee of £6 is the primary cost you’ll encounter. The essence of your trip will revolve around immersing yourself in Skye’s breathtaking landscapes and natural beauty, with most of your time dedicated to exploration.

The beauty of Skye is that it allows for a rich, exploratory experience. You can wander freely, engage in conversations with locals over coffee, and enjoy evenings in the island’s welcoming pubs.

An important highlight is that the experiences you’ll have here mirror those that others pay a premium for, the only significant difference being the absence of luxury services like a concierge.

Opting for a more economical approach might even enrich your experience. It opens doors to genuine interactions with local business owners and residents who are passionate about their island and your experience of it.

For an approximate budget of £300 per person, you can comfortably enjoy a 3-night, 4-day stay in June. This budget covers accommodation in Portree, 4 day car rental, and unique local dining options, including Skye’s micro cafes and food trucks renowned for their fresh seafood.

Such an approach not only ensures a comfortable stay but also promises the most authentic experience of Skye, connecting you deeply with the island’s true spirit and culture.

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