Whether you’re about to walk across those famous white cliffs of Dover or catch a ferry across to France. Why not spend some time in Dover exploring the grand castle and everything else the city has to offer, with these things to do in Dover on a budget.
Dover’s only a short distance from London, giving you an excellent opportunity to visit Dover on your way from Europe via ferry or, to explore Dover, prior to catching the ferry to Europe.
To help you visit Dover, we provide you with some of the things to do in Dover and how you can visit the town on a budget.
Our highlight of our visit to Dover, was exploring Dover Castle, learning more about Operation Dynamo as we entered the War Tunnels within the cliff rocks and looking out across the English Channel to see the coast of France.
Archaeologist have found evidence of Stone Age and Iron Age present in the area. To protect the country over the years, a fort was been built above the city to overlook the coast and protect coastline from invaders. Lighthouses have also been constructed to guide passing ships.
On the approach to England by sea, the first thing that will be seen are the bright white cliffs that overlook the sea. A famous song by Vera Lynn was written about the White Cliffs of Dover.
When to visit
The first key element of visiting Dover on a budget is when you travel.
The cheapest time to visit Dover and really save money is by visiting during the winter season. Prices will be at the lowest. However, the cold and unpredictable winter weather doesn’t make it an ideal time to travel.
If you don’t mind travelling during the cold winter months, then head to Dover between November and February.
Why not visit Dover during the shoulder months of September to October and March to May. Prices are still at the lowest, yet weather conditions will be improving.
Of course, travelling during the summer months of June to August will be the best for weather. But prices will be the most expensive. If you are travelling on a budget, then you’ll want to avoid travelling during the summer.
We would also recommend were possible, to travel outside of the school holidays. Prices skyrocket during School holidays. Travel when children are in school and you could pick up a very good offer.
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The currency used in Dover; England is the £(GBP).
Overseas travelers will need to convert their currency into the £s. We would recommend taking enough cash with you for your holiday and a little bit extra for emergencies. You can also use debit or credit cards, but always check with your bank prior to travel. There could be a fee for non-Stirling transactions (it might be labeled differently in your home country).
Things to do in Dover on a budget
Sightseeing can be a real budget killer, especially if you have to pay to enter the attraction.
We would recommend the following tips, on how to pick up free sightseeing tickets, or in some cases tickets at a fraction of the price.
- It is possible to get discounted tickets for top tourist attractions when you purchase the tickets in advance and online.
- Are there any travel cards available to purchase that allow discounted entry to certain places?
- Are there any multiple entry tickets for a number of attractions in the area?
- What tourist attractions are free, or have concessions for a certain day that is free. For example, every 4th Sunday is free entry.
To help you plan your trip to Dover on a budget, we have detailed some of the things you could do in Dover, along with information on any discounts you could pick up or free tourist attractions.
Things to do in Dover
You will need to pay an entrance fee for these things to do in Dover. Take this into account when you are budgeting for a trip to Dover. We have included any discounts applicable that you could pick up that could save you some money.
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Opening times: 10am – 5pm
Cost: £20.00 per adult when we visited
However, prices have recently changed from when this post was updated (4th April 2021).
You must purchase all tickets online, online prices are: 50% off, Adult £10.65, concessions (students or over 65’s) £9.60, child £6.40.
Family tickets are available as follows: 50% off 1 adult and 3 children £17.05,
Children under 5 goes free.
Dover Castle is one of the largest castles in England and the key to England due to its defensive significance in history.
When William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings in 1066, he marched from the battle fields to Westminster Abbey via Dover. But it wasn’t until Henry II reign that the castle started to take its shape.
The castle is a great defense, situated at the top of the White Cliffs of Dover with incredible views across the English Channel.
On the south section of the castle wall, is the interactive fire command center. Telescopes and binoculars look out over the coast to France, a morse code to crack with your partner, a telephone to listen to prerecording’s and much more.
Inside the castle were labyrinths and rooms to explore it would be so easy to get lost. On each floor are different exhibits, with original items from the period. The exhibits are about the castle’s history.
The church of ‘St Mary in Castro’ is believed to be the oldest part of the castle, dating back to the Saxon period. Wandering inside the church was so quiet and peaceful, we just could not believe this could be inside the castle grounds. It is quite easy for us to have spent hours inside the church, but the day was coming to an end and the castle was going to close.
This easily takes up the whole day and great for family adventures and learning.
The War Tunnels
Inside Dover Castle are the War Tunnels. These tunnels would have been used during the war for an air raid shelter and for the rescue of the stranded soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk, code name Operation Dynamo.
The Tour Operates every 15 minutes and can be very popular with queues gathering outside the tunnel. Entrance of the tunnels are part of the cost to get into the castle.
The first part of the tour takes you into the air raid shelter. It is cold and dim inside, but the atmosphere of the shelter, was so authentic that we felt we were back in the 1940s, taking shelter from the air raids from above. We could only imagine how cold, dark and scary it must have been, huddled in for safety along with strangers around you.
As we were led further into the tunnels, the tour guide explains the workings of the tunnels during World War II and Operation Dynamo. Many of the original desks, bedding, telephones etc, remain, just as it would have been when the tunnels were fully operational.
The tour takes about 1 hour and we would highly recommend visiting while on a trip to Dover.
Note: Watch your footing on entry to the tunnels. The authenticity of the tunnels means limited lighting which could cause you to trip and fall.
Within Dover Castle and next to the War Tunnels, is the Underground Hospital. The tunnels would have been a fully operational hospital providing medical treatment as and when required.
To make the underground hospital as authentic as possible, a fictional story unfolds whereby a wounded officer needs treatment.
As we are led through the hospital wards, the kitchens and into the operating theatre, this fictional officer requires an operation to remove a bullet. In keeping with the story and with World War II in full force, the lighting is knocked out due to the air raids above.
For a short period of time, we are left in darkness, before the tunnel lights are restored and the story continues.
In our opinion the story wasn’t well thought-out and would have benefitted from facts and information, rather than a fictional story. Whilst we didn’t enjoy this half as much as the war tunnels, we still think it is worth experiencing. The price of the underground hospital again is part of admission into the castle.
Note: As we mentioned above, the tunnels will be dim, so watch your footing on entry. To be as realistic as possible, the lighting does flicker briefly and for short periods of time you are plunged into darkness. If you are scared of the dark, have epilepsy, or have children that could become scared of the dark, then you may wish to consider missing this tour.
We would also mention, that due to the Covid pandemic, the tunnels may not be open. Always check their website when planning your trip.
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Where to stay on a budget
Accommodation can be one of the biggest things that eat into your budget.
A day trip to Dover is easiest and the cheapest way to stay on a tight budget. But for some, staying in Dover, allows them to explore the city at a slower pace.
If you wish to stay in Dover, we would normally recommend hostels. Hostels are the cheapest way to stay, but unfortunately, there’s no hostels in the town.
This could put you off staying, but if you can budget for a stay in a B&B or a guest house, you could pick up a bed for the night and in most cases breakfast for as little as £50.00 per night. While hotels can cost in excess of £80.00+ per night.
To visit Dover on a budget, be flexible with your dates and try to avoid weekends as accommodation prices are normally more expensive than mid-week. You should look for accommodation that’s in a good location and of course within your budget.
As mentioned previously, try and avoid school holidays and during the peak season, as accommodation will be more expensive.
How to get around Dover
Public transport is relatively inexpensive, but if you want to save money and enjoy your trip, we suggest walking where possible. The benefits of walking, means you can see hidden sights that you might have missed on public transport. Think of the health benefits of walking and the environment, but most importantly, how much money you are saving.
To help you plan your trip on a budget, we have details on the cheapest way to get to and around Dover.
If you are arriving by air, the closest airport to Dover is London Gatwick. London Gatwick is about 80 miles from Dover, with most travelers starting their holiday in the capital.
In our opinion, if you are arriving by air, you are better off starting your holiday in London, before planning a day trip to Dover. From London Gatwick, you’ll need to take a train from the airport into London St Pancras International, then transfer to a Thameslink train to Dover Priory.
But if you choose to go straight to Dover from the airport, via London on a train, it should take about 2 hours.
If you arrive from London Heathrow, London Stansted or London Luton, there’s a train service via London to Dover.
Prior to booking any flights to the UK, check the prices between landing at London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton and London Stansted. On many of our bookings, we have found London Gatwick and London Stansted to be a little cheaper to fly through than London Heathrow.
We would also recommend shopping around for the best deals on flights. Always remain flexible with your travel dates and as mentioned previously, avoid school holidays, to get the best deals to travel.
There’re bus services from Dover connecting with Canterbury, London Victoria, Rye and Sandwich.
Buses from London to Dover, run every 2 hours and takes about 2 and a half to 3 and a half hours. Prices start at £7.70 per adult.
You could explore more of the coast by catching a bus to Rye or Sandwich for as little as £4.00 per adult.
From Canterbury, there are 3 buses hourly, taking about 35 minutes and costs as little as £5.70 per adult.
There’s a good train service from London St Pancras, London Victoria and London Charing Cross, taking 1-3 hours. Price of a ticket will start at £37.00 per adult.
Along the coast are services between Ramsgate, Sandwich and Canterbury, starting at £8.50 per adult.
By purchasing train tickets online and in advance, could save you some money, compared to purchasing them at the train station on the day. Travelling by train compared to bus is somewhat more expensive. So, try and travel by bus where possible for the best rates.
Travelling by car is the most convenient way to visit Dover on a budget. You don’t have to rely on a timetable to get you from A to B and it could work out to be a cheaper option compared to all the train tickets or bus tickets you’ll have to purchase. Plus, you have the option of visiting more with a road trip around the UK.
Parking in Dover isn’t too expensive and parking was aplenty.
We parked at Albany Place Car Park, which is a pay and display. It was quite a safe and relatively cheap place to park our car and would recommend you to use it, if you are driving to Dover.
Our most favored method of getting around Dover is on foot. Not only is it free, it is great for the environment, but great for your health.
Dover is relatively flat apart from the walk up the hill to Dover Castle. Why purchase a bus ticket to get you around the sights in Dover, when you can walk around the town for free.
The ferry service offers great connections to France with P&O or DFDS.
Ferries depart from the Eastern docks located just below the Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover. We travelled to Dunkirk in France with DFDS and found them to be relatively inexpensive, but fares will greatly depend on the season of travel as mentioned above.
DFDS offer connections between Dunkirk and Calais, connections are between 1 and a half hours hourly and 2 hours every 2 hours.
P&O on the other hand offer connection with Calais only, taking about 1 and a half hours to reach France and every 40 to 60 minutes.
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Tips on visiting Dover on a budget
Do you ever wonder how people travel so often? Or how people travel the world full time? That’s simple! Travellers like us, plan, research, save and budget our holidays. Do you want to travel as much as possible or full time? All you have to do, is follow our simple tips on how to travel on a budget.
You’ll need to research where you want to go, when you want to travel, what you are prepared to spend on accommodation and how much you intend to spend per person per day for meals to establish your budget. Try some of these tips and techniques to be able to save more on your budget and travel more.
- Try travelling off season, as prices are often at their cheapest. By Booking off season, you could save more money compared to travelling during the summer months or school holidays.
- Book your flights in advance to pick up the best deals and book mid-week dates. Weekend travel tends to be more expensive.
- When shopping around for deals, search via incognito browser or clearing your browser history regularly. In our experience, we have shopped around for deals, before checking a week later and the price alters due to the tracking cookies from that website. If you search in incognito browser, you should have a more accurate deal.
- By registering with airlines for airmiles, you collect airmiles for every booking you make with them. As you collect the miles, you can apply the points to future trips, upgrades, or free flights.
- This links with the above, with certain credit card providers, they’ll offer points on airmiles for purchases you make on the card. The more you spend, the more points you could receive which in turn gives more savings on travel deals, upgrades, or free flights.
- Many attractions offer discounts for online ticket purchases, plan your holiday by visiting the attractions website and book tickets where appropriate.
- Check out what attractions are free, or what days are free entry, that way you could save more money, but also keeping within your budget.
- Are there any free classes in the area that you could be interested in? You could learn more about the culture, by taking up a class, but you would still have an adventure with free classes.
- Accommodation can sometimes be a real budget killer, staying in a hostel is cheaper and a great way to meet new people.
- If a hostel is not ideal for you, research what types of accommodation’s available, you could pick up a bargain by staying in a small B&B or hotel.
- Public transport can be inexpensive, especially if you can pick up a discounted public transport card. In our experience however, walking is the cheapest and best way to get around. It’s healthy for you, and environmentally friendly. But by walking you can stumble upon a hidden gem that you may have passed by on public transport.
- Prior to your trip, research the places to eat, check out their menu and price before you travel. Once you have found the places you want to eat, within your budget range, then include this in your itinerary. It’s also a good idea to have a budget in mind for how much you want to spend per person, per day, per meal. Our budget is £10.00 per person, per meal, per day, totalling £30.00 per person per day. If we can find a place that serves what we like for less, then we are saving money even before we travel, bonus.
- We would also recommend buying groceries from the local supermarket. The food is often cheaper and buying food can last for a number of days, meaning your money has gone further just on food.
Travelling really doesn’t have to be expensive, we have implemented these simple steps to allow us to still travel but have that adventure and so can you!
Where to eat on a budget
Why spend money on eating out in Dover when you could just bring a picnic. If you purchase the food from your local grocery store and make it, not only will it be a healthy option, but a good way to cut your budget in half.
We would recommend making sandwiches, pasta, salads, packing fruit and healthy snacks to go in your picnic. Most of these foods will be cheap to buy and easy to make and pack ready for your trip to Dover. If you are travelling as part of a couple or family/group, you could set your food budget for less than £10.00 for the entire trip rather than £10.00+ per person per meal.
You’re on holiday, why would you want to pack your own food, when you could eat out in a restaurant or café? If you do decide not to take a picnic or your own food with you to Dover, then make sure you set a budget on how much you want to spend on meals per person per day and keep to it. It can be easy to exceed your food budget with eating out, especially when you have to pay for the meal, the drinks and sometimes the service charge on top.
To keep within a budget, do some research on places to eat. Go online and check where you could eat and check their menus before you travel. This will give you a good idea on the prices for a main meal and drinks. If the price is above your budget, move onto the next place until you find somewhere that’s within your budget.
Don’t forget you need to maintain your hydration. This will increase your food and drinks budget. To keep things to a minimum, bring your own drinks. Water is cheap and easy to come by. We have a water pouch plus reusable water bottles that we fill to keep us hydrated.
Not everyone likes plain water, so add a little bit of fruit juice with the water, again it is cheap and the best way to stay within your budget.
You can easily set a budget of £10.00 per person per meal just as we did. Do you need ideas on where to eat in Dover that’s on a budget? Then check out these places, where you can pick up a dish for about £10.00 per person.
Dover Castle Café
There’s a café inside the castle, making it quick and easy to eat while travelling. The café has a variety of hot and cold dishes. We chose to have BBQ chicken, vegetables and potato wedges. The food was cooked well, but had very little flavour.
No day trip can avoid a classic afternoon tea, with a piece of cake. Another small café inside the castle serves tea and cake. But they didn’t have much of a selection and we didn’t enjoy the cake. It was a little dry for our liking.
We would expect the food, for where it is located to be so much better, while the price was reasonable, but in our opinion, to save some pennies, bring a picnic or head into the town centre to find something more appealing to eat.
This is not really a budget friendly place to eat but it is our favourite place.
If you haven’t heard of Nando’s before, they’re a South African fast-food chain, offering grilled chicken, and a selection of sides.
There is a small selection of vegetarian wraps, burgers or pittas along with a side.
If you can budget to eat here, it will be worth it.
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What to pack
Packing is essential when going on holiday, but you have to be smart about what to pack.
The UK is seasonal, so depending on when you travel will depend on what you will need to pack.
It isn’t just the clothing you need to consider; you’ll need to pack the correct documents such as passport and visa if this is required.
Why not head over to our post on What to Pack for the UK. In this, we provide an extensive list of all the important things to pack. You can also download, a check list to help you pack the right things and never miss an item.
We don’t want you to miss out on exploring the beautiful town of Dover, just because you feel you don’t have the finances to go. Just by following these simple tips and hacks, you’ll be visiting Dover on a budget. We hope you enjoy visiting Dover.
Have you visited Dover? What was your highlight? Did you set a budget and keep to it? Do you have any tips on how to visit Dover on a budget that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know, by leaving a comment below.
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