When you think of a vacation to Scotland, what comes to your mind?
Based on my recent experiences, I think about the city of Inverness aka the Capital of the Highlands, the Right to Roam, wild camping, the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, and massive deforestation. (Hey, I never was going to say only the good things. :))
But before you plan your own visit to Scotland, there is some information that you will need to know.
First off, if you are camping anywhere (especially in the Western Portion), you will need to be prepared for sudden rain storms. Thankfully, you can prepare for them and (usually) see them coming. However, there will not always be any trees for shelter. (But there may be bothies!)
Second, Scotland CAN be very expensive. It is much cheaper than its southern counterpart, England. However, the exchange rate for most people is what makes the sticker shock of Scotland. Let’s say you are coming from Italy as I was.
The initial cost of an item at a pub in Scotland is similar to a price at a restaurant in Milan. However, the cost of the pub in Scotland is about 20% higher due to the exchange rate.
Third and Final: If you have the financial means to rent a car in Scotland, do it! The train will never take you to the places you want to see, and unless you join a guided tour, navigating the beautiful North Coast 500 is near impossible!
Now let’s get to everything you need for a trip to Scotland!
For the United Kingdom, it is required that your passport is valid for six months, AND you need to have at least two blank pages.
2. Passport Cover
Mainly to protect your passport when it rains. If you are hiking, I suggest something that is actually waterproof. (Not water resistant)
- Proof of Onward Travel
Scotland can be one of the most difficult countries to enter along with the United States, Germany and a few others. (In my personal experiences)
If you are selected for additional screening at the airport, you will either
A) show your bank account balances and this will act as proof of you being able to support yourself.
B) Have Proof of Onward Travel.
Proof of Onward Travel is something as simple as purchasing a RyanAir flight from Glasgow to Amsterdam that will be in two months or so. Or you could show your itinerary too.
Now, if you’re lucky, you will be able to walk into the country and not talk to anyone. (Americans, for example, get 6 months of visa-free travel. Proof of onward travel is still required.)
However, most other travelers are not that fortunate.
Please see this link to the UK government’s website to see which country’s need a visa for tourism purposes.
UK visas will cost up to one hundred pounds for a six-month visa, and the earliest you can apply is 3 months before your arrival date.
5. Pictures of Passport & Credit Cards
For safety reasons, have pictures of your passport/credit card(s) in the unfortunate event of theft.
(Back your pictures up in the cloud for peace of mind! I recommend DropBox or Amazon Photos.)
Reminder: If your passport is stolen/lost, please contact your local embassy or consulate. Technically, passports are property of your home country’s government.
Embassy Location: London
Some cities that might have a consulate in England include: Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, or Birmingham.
Some cities that might have a consulate in Northern Ireland include: Belfast.
Some cities that might have a consulate in Scotland include: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, or Aberdeen.
Some cities that might have a consulate in Wales include: Cardiff.
Please Note: This is not exhaustive list of all cities that might have a consulate in the UK.
Best type of Luggage for Scotland
Most roads outside of the city center will be asphalt, concrete, and occasionally a gravel/dirt mix.
However, most tourists will hopefully deal with the occasional cobblestone road within city centers AND concrete for the sidewalks.
Because of this, backpacks might be preferred by most. However, they are necessary. So, feel free to bring either a
6. Suitcase OR Backpack
Please note: If you are planning on using the train, you will need to be able to lift your personal luggage up and down the stairs. So, be careful with how much luggage you pack!
Also, the hotels are sometimes a bit far from the train station. So, only pack what you can reasonably carry on public transportation.
Clothing for Visiting Scotland in the Summer
7. 3 Pair of Pants
Scotland is not supposed to get too hot during the summer.
And although the temperature in the South is warmer than the North, don’t expect it to get above 21 degrees regularly. (70 Fahrenheit)
Even if the day’s temperature is comfortable, you will need a jacket for the evenings. If you pick something that is water-resistant, that’s even better.
9. 2 Pair of Shorts
You might not be wearing shorts as much as you think, as it’s going to be a bit cold. However, two pair of shorts is going to be more than enough.
I also cannot think of any place you cannot wear shorts due to building/entry restrictions. (i.e. like churches or mosques)
Look, there are better places for beaches in Europe. But if you must know, a lot of the best beaches in Scotland are located on the Isles.
11. 5 T-Shirts or Tops
Something a little bit thicker than a polyester blend t-shirt is going to be needed.
12. 5 Pair of Socks
4 pair of socks and one extra in case something happens.
In my opinion, a good pair of socks can make a huge difference.
13. Dress Clothing
London has some of the best restaurants in the world, but Scotland is not known for its cuisine outside of haggis. (Side Note: It’s not too bad, actually.) However, I will let you decide if you need formal attire for your trip to Scotland.
If you are planning on golfing at St. Andrews or any of the other establishment, please prepare accordingly.
Clothing for a Scottish Winter Holiday
Scotland’s weather is quite mild compared to other countries located at its latitude. The jet stream keeps temperatures above 0 degrees celsius (32 Fahrenheit.)
It will occasionally snow as well; however, you are much more likely to encounter sleet and cold rain. If you are walking outside a lot, this will be very dangerous for most travelers. (including myself)
Cold and wet always means sick and sicker if you are not prepared, so let’s now talk about what you need for a trip to Scotland in the winter.
- 4 Pair of Pants
Unless there is an extreme heatwave, expect to wear pants. As mentioned above, the rainy environment might influence the type of pants that you choose to bring.
Jeans and denim take longer to dry than cotton or synthetic fibers. If you intend to spend time hiking, I would suggest packing something that could be placed over your pants.
- 1 or 2 jackets
In the evening/night, it will be cold. If I were you, I would bring a jacket for the daytime and a coat for the evening.
- 5 T-Shirts/Tops
Warm tops such as wool sound like a great idea at first. However, the issue is drying time. Probably better to pack something light in regards to tops and a heavier, water resistant coat.
- 0 Pair of Shorts
Won’t need this.
Hot Tubbing? Probably not… But who knows. You might decide to go swimming in a creek at 3 AM in the morning.
- 5 Pair of Socks
I always suggest buying a good pair of socks (or 2!) Pick something that will dry fast like Merino wool. Or pick a synthetic blend and pack layers.
- Dress/Fancy Clothing
To each their own.
- Under-Clothing Leggings & Tops
Anytime I travel, I always pack some form of under-layered clothings such as UnderArmour.
If it’s moisture wicking, that’s even better because you will need it. It’s not always the moisture wicking part, but also sweat.
Honestly, when it comes to cold weather, it’s just always to be hot than cold in regards to body temperature.
- Comfortable Walking Shoes
Sandals are my go-to travel shoe, and they are acceptable in Scotland. However, they got a little cold.
Pick something that provides ankle support. In Scotland, there are a lot of uneven surfaces.
- Second Pair of Shoes
A second pair of tennis shoes could become important. If you plan on hiking, a pair of hiking boots that provides a lot of ankle support is a must.
What is Boots in Scotland?
There are a couple of places to buy toiletries in Scotland, like Tesco and Boots.
Boots, if you are an American, belongs to the same corporate family as Walgreens.
Fun Fact: The Walgreens stock ticker is WBA. This is actually Walgreen- Boots Alliance.
Extra Items Needed for the Perfect Scottish Holiday
- Reusable Water Bottle with Filter
The water in Scotland is drinkable. So, use your reusable water bottle.
(If you are camping, you might want to make sure you carry a water filter for micro-particles and pesticides from streams and rivers. Or just boil your water. )
- Daypack/Backpack & Raincover
You will need something to carry your photography equipment, snacks, a few other things. For most people, this means your daypack should not be over 15L.
If you are carrying even less equipment, a sling bag might be the perfect daypack.
- Sunscreen & Chapstick
The days in Scotland are long during the summer. In winter, although the sun might not make an appearance, the wind will be frigid and harsh.
If you want me to show me your best photos from Scotland, tag me on Instagram. @worldembark is my handle
The official currency of Scotland is the Pound. And if you do visit some of the smaller towns, you WILL need to carry some paper currency. Some restaurants, especially the family-run restaurants, only accept cash.
So, expect to carry about 100 pounds. Then, an extra 20 pounds per person is reasonable.
(In my experience, most ATM’s in England & Scotland don’t charge fees. London, after all, is a major banking hub.)
Although 100 pounds might seem a bit excessive. This is mainly due to ATM’s are few-and-far between in Scotland.
If you do plan on using a credit/debit card in Scotland, the two most-accepted payment systems in Scotland are Visa and Mastercard. American Express is accepted in the UK, but at a less frequent rate. (Especially outside of major cities.)
- Travel Insurance
You will not want a bill from the NHS, as they aren’t exactly cheap for non-British nationals. (Think American Healthcare system!)
So, it’s best to always have travel insurance.
- Sim Cards
Simcards in Scotland are not horribly expensive. I purchased a 20 GB (1 Month Plan) that was only data in England. It cost about 10 pounds per month. However, I brought my own device.
If you are American, phone plans are almost always cheaper in country than purchasing international roaming plans.
Backpacking Essentials for Scottish
I use the Peak Design 35 L Travel backpack. It’s water resistant, so I never had to put the rain cover on.
When it comes to backpacking, the most difficult item to replace is always your backpack.
- Earplugs and Sleeping Mask
Essential items for a good night sleep in a hostel.
For those times you forget to put on sunscreen.
For those times when you don’t want to put on sunscreen.
If may not seem like you will need sunscreen in the cloudy weather, but you can still burn. Trust me.
- Sleeping Bag
My friend always carried a sleeping bag AND a tent. I would never do that. Very few hostels allow sleeping bags/bring your own bedding due to the possibility of unseen bugs.
Now, if you want to go camping or take advantage of the Right to Roam, I completely get it.
- Some Sort of Emergency blanket
This is probably not needed for its purpose, but you might need to repel some water at any point in your trip. (Think poncho)
- Portable Charger
You will want a battery pack, also known as a portable charger, to keep you on the go. Most buses and trains I rode on have plug-ins. However, it’s for the day-to-day events like exploring cities and hiking.
- More Pairs of Socks
Can never have too many. Especially if you are backpacking.
- Microfiber Towel
Nothing fancy. But having a microfiber towel does dry quicker. Most hostels I have stayed at in Scotland haven’t included a towel, or it cost a few pounds extra.
- Travel Lock
I carry a few travel locks, and I recommend you do too. Even if it’s just for keeping your zippers together on your daypack.
That’s all I can think of to make sure you have the best Scottish Holiday!
Enjoy the jaw-dropping views, interesting history, and haggis with your baked beans in the morning for breakfast (and of course the people) as those are the things that make Scotland a great place to visit!
Just make sure to have a plan for the rain!