The south east of England is a stunning area of natural beauty, historic castles and homes, modern spas and restaurants and even the UK’s top sparkling wine producers. This area combines the best of quintessentially beautiful England with boutique hotels and gastropubs.
Experience picturesque Tudor and Victorian villages, elegant gardens, historic battlefields, quaint seasides all with a modern infrastructure that makes it so easy to get around. The south-east really does encompass the best of England just a stone’s throw from London.
Kent is quite rightly known as the Garden of England. It is full of beautifully manicured gardens, stunning cathedrals, brilliant walks and great English pubs.
Canterbury has a vibrant medieval character that offers much more than just its famous Cathedral. Nearby Whitstable is famous for its fish and chips and oysters.
Famous independent artist Tracey Emin, Turner Contemporary and some great restaurants have turned Margate from a Victorian seaside town into a London hipster weekend destination. Pop into Sandwich to see the home of our favourite lunch on your way to stunning Dover.
Dover Castle and its stunning white cliffs make this a must visit. Hever Castle, Leeds Castle, and Sissinghurst Castle Garden should all round out your tour of South East England’s historic properties and gardens.
===> Explore more local itineraries via the RELATED links below.
Lovely Rye is a picturesque medieval village just two miles from the sea. Get up close with history at the home site of 1066 Battle nearby. If you are visiting in November don’t miss bonfire night in Lewes – you will feel you have returned to medieval times.
West Sussex offers up a range of England’s prettiest villages – Arundel, Chichester, and Petworth. All 3 are full of historic buildings, cathedrals and beautiful gardens.
The beautiful North Downs provide some great walking right across both counties and into next door Hampshire.
Sussex and Kent also offer several hidden gems. Several fantastic spa hotels have now opened, combining classic English architecture with 21st-century treatments. Sussex and Kent are also the epicenters of the new and growing English wine market.
The area is particularly well known for its lovely sparkling wines. There are more than enough wineries for a fantastic wine based trip. Finally, as this area was the location of so many historic battles there are still many off the beaten track military sites to visit.
Brighton is almost a mini London on the sea. The city features everything from original roast coffee to the stunning Royal Pavillion to the kitschy Brighton Pier. Along the way are some brilliant restaurants, edgy street art, fantastic shopping and contemporary art galleries. The Lanes area is well known for its quirky boutiques, trendy restaurants and bohemian feel.
Hire a bike and ride along the seafront to Smugglers for some fish and chips. Stroll the streets near the foreshore to see some stunning examples of Regency architecture. Hire a stripey deck chair and catch some rays on the famous pebbly Brighton Beach.
Just outside Brighton are some fantastic hikes and walks as well as wineries. The town of Hove is immediately west of Brighton and offers some stunning Georgian architecture and great art galleries.
Sussex and Kent are year-round destinations. Being England the weather, of course, is prone to frequent change no matter when you visit! The best time of year to go is summer – June through August. This is when you will have the highest chance of nice weather and be able to best appreciate the beautiful English countryside and gorgeous seaside towns. You might even be able to get into the sea! However, I wouldn’t count on that!
Do keep in mind that July and August is the busiest time in this area and this will be reflected in prices and availability.
Temperatures begin to warm up early April which make May and April lovely spring months to visit – particularly relevant if your key interest is Gardens. Autumn can provide some stunning scenery as the leaves change colour – particularly in the North Downs.
It can and does snow in the winter but it tends to be somewhat sporadic. As this is England you are as likely to get rain on a January day as a June day! Winter can be a wonderfully cosy time to visit and enjoy days tucked into gorgeous traditional pubs enjoying a Sunday Roast!
As this area is quite populated with locals no matter what time of year you visit you can expect attractions and restaurants etc to be open.
To thoroughly explore Kent and Sussex I would recommend spending up to a week in the area. If you only have one day I would recommend spending it in Brighton. This can be done as a day trip from London.
If you are able to spend 2-3 days in the area start with at least a day in Brighton and Hove and then drive across to lovely Rye and Battle.
On a 5 day trip I would add in driving to the cliffs of Dover and visiting Hever and Leeds Castles and Sissinghurst gardens.
A full week will give you an extra day to explore the gorgeous towns of Arundel, Chichester and/or Petworth and add in Canterbury and/or Margate in the Kent area.
Check out the South East England Tourism Site for some more ideas
High season is July and August and low season November through February. Prices don’t vary that much due to the fact that this is a heavily populated area so demand never really drops off significantly. This area is also popular with UK tourists due to its classic English beauty, seasides and warmer climate.
Hotels, restaurants, pubs, castles and stately homes will be open all year round. The key thing that will vary with the seasons is, of course, the lovely gardens in this area. If the exploring the Gardens of England is your key reason for visiting then I would recommend visiting between late April and late July.
For example, Sissinghurst Castle Gardens is closed from the end of October to Mid March. You can still visit the estate during that time. May is the busiest month of the year.
The South East is the warmest part of the United Kingdom. The weather is generally quite mild all year round and rain and grey skies are as likely in November as they are in June.
There will generally be a few days of extreme weather each year – particularly warm or particularly cold. The extreme cold can affect transport in the area such as trains and roads but this is not frequent. If you are unlucky enough to be in the region on one these few days of the year keep close to where you are staying!
Another reason to visit the area in the summer is how late it stays light. Mid July you can expect it to be light outside until 10pm – giving you many more hours to enjoy the region. However, the flip side is that it will be dark at 3.30pm if you visit over Christmas.
This is a busy area when it comes to Events! There are events running all year round. Here are a few of the biggest:
May – Brighton Festival and Brighton Foodies Festival
June – Chichester Festival
August – Margate Soul Festival
August – Brighton Pride Festival
October – Canterbury Festival
November – Don’t miss Bonfire night in Lewes – the biggest celebration of November 5 in the world!
For public holidays check this link. If you are visiting the region over the public holidays in May and August expect much bigger crowds and that it will be more difficult to get bookings in hotels and restaurants.
You will literally be in GMT – and not too far from Greenwich itself! Daylight savings happens at the end of March where the clocks go forward. The clocks go back at the end of October.
It is sensible to pack an umbrella and an anorak as you will want to be ready for rain! In general, jeans and walking trousers will suit for both men and women all year round. If you are visiting between June and August I would also suggest shorts and t-shirts as things often warm up, particularly if you are doing some walking.
Layers are critical as the weather often changes quickly. Do be prepared to strip down to a t-shirt and then back up again. Due to the mix of countryside and medieval cobblestone villages in this area you will want some sturdy walking shoes to explore.
In the winter make sure you bring hats, gloves, scarves and a warm coat and some warm shoes. A light windproof jacket all year round is also a good idea.
Due to the mix of seaside towns and villages in this area attire is more on the casual side. Few pubs have a strict dress code! You may only want your heels if you are going to hit the town in Brighton. Even then Brighton is a very laid back town so if you wear flats you will not feel underdressed!
Whilst this region is quite a bit cheaper than London things can get expensive if you’re not organised. There are many deals to be had as long as you do some planning ahead of time.
National Rail is the organisation overseeing all rail travel in the UK. They offer excellent deals when you book in advance on their website. Try to travel outside of the peak time for locals and you can pick up some fantastic deals. National Rail also works in with many major tourist sites and offers combined rail and sightseeing deals.
National Express is the UK wide coach network. Again, booking ahead and off peak can provide some fantastic deals. Both National Rail and National Express offer substantial discounts for children, students and the elderly.
The official tourism sites for this region have sections devoted to special offers for food, attractions and accommodation. When you are planning your trip visit http://www.visitsoutheastengland.com/offers and https://www.visitbrighton.com/inspire-me/competitions-and-special-offers.
Many of the attractions in the area are part of the English Heritage Association. They offer a special visitors pass based on number of days that is excellent value depending on the type of trip that you are planning. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/overseas-visitors/
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in UK Pounds (£).
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than £10 per person
$$ => UK: Tickets £10 -£20 per person
$$$ => UK: Tickets £20+ per person
Out of town/rural:
$ => Rooms less than £45 for a double
$$ => Rooms £45 – £90 for a double
$$$ =>Rooms £90+ for a double
$ => Rooms less than £75 for a double
$$ => UK: Rooms £75 – £135 for a double
$$$ => UK: Rooms £135+ for a double
$ => Up to £8 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => UK £8 – £20 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => UK £20+ for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$ => Tickets less than £20 per person
$$ => Tickets £20-£30 per person
$$$ => Tickets £30+ per person
Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings. European operators such as easyJet, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Jet2, British Airways, flybe and Lufthansa offer an extensive range of routes in Europe.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.
Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities in the UK, Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transport, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Download the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. Memberships cost about £6 a month; rentals are about £6-10 per hour; fuel and insurance are included.
Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
All the major car rental companies such as Avis, Sixt, Hertz and Europcar operate throughout Europe and the UK. It is not normally possible to rent in the UK and take the vehicle to mainland Europe or vice versa.
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) Europe goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical — Travellers within Europe from European Union member states should obtain an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card which entitles them to healthcare on the same terms as citizens from the country they are visiting. This is a reciprocal agreement which means for example that EEA visitors to the UK will receive free care in NHS hospitals in the same way that UK residents do. Some countries e.g. France make a charge known as a patient contribution for GP visits or stays in hospital for both their own citizens and visitors from the EEA. Even so, travellers are well advised to have additional medical insurance to cover for example the cost of repatriation, mountain rescue in ski resorts and other emergencies.
For travellers from outside the European Union the cost of health services in Europe, while not as high as in the US for example, can be relatively expensive for the uninsured. For this reason it is essential to consider purchasing medical insurance. If you have a Health Care Plan back home it may cover you for most situations which arise abroad but you need to check this out and in any case additional medical travel insurance will cover you for private health care or other expenses.
Some countries outside the European Union have a reciprocal agreement for healthcare with certain European countries. For example Switzerland has an agreement with all European Union countries and Australia has agreements with the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and others. It pays to check before leaving home.
Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travellers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip is expensive it’s essential and even if it isn’t it’s certainly a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Your English or other European language skills are also crucial because insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework — check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
In Europe the largest insurers are Allianz, Axa and Zurich but there are many smaller providers such as insureandgo and Direct Line.
Pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition or charge an additional premium related to the condition. Some companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
UK pounds come in £1 (Scotland and N. Ireland and used only in these two countries), £5, £10, £20 and £50 and, like euro notes, come in different sizes ranging from 135mm x 70mm (£5) to 156mm x 85mm (£50) and all are different colours. The pound is often referred to by its slang name of a ‘Quid’.
There are eight denominations of British coin: 1p (penny), 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p plus a 1£ and £2 coin. All feature Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse side and a segment of the UK Coat of Arms on the reverse side except the £2 coin which features a variety of designs. Again remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!
Many travellers like to have a small amount of local currency when they arrive in a country but this is becoming less and less important as ATMs and Bureaux de Change appear everywhere especially in transport terminals.
If you get money from an ATM machine abroad you will usually incur charges (typically 1.5 or 2% per transaction)
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout Europe.
Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card — which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.
Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.
The good news for travellers in the United Kingdom is that you don’t need to get stressed about tipping – you don’t have to do it and when you do it really should reflect good or excellent service rather than be something you are expected to do. On the whole workers in tourism are reasonably well paid and don’t depend upon tips to make up their wages. In some cases over-tipping can be embarrassing for all concerned.
Many restaurants include a ‘service’ charge in the price so check and, if it isn’t mentioned, then a tip of between 5 – 10% is quite enough. Even where it is included but you feel that you’ve had really excellent service then the same amount is adequate but ensure that your server receives this by handing it directly to them.
Other methods are to add a pound or two for each member of the party or round up the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 pounds.
In the UK many restaurants add an ‘optional’ amount to the bill when you are paying with plastic, but in many cases the servers don’t receive any of this and it simply becomes an extra profit for the owner. The server won’t mind if you decline to do this!
With taxis, just round up to the next pound for a short journey or, for a long ride, to the nearest ten. Again 10% is the maximum you should consider unless of course the driver carries your bags into the hotel or airport when a little more will be appreciated.
You may wish to give the porter a pound for each bag he carries but, while it will be appreciated, it is not normally expected. Similarly, you may wish to leave a small tip for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have been particularly helpful, but this is completely up to you.
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between £7.50 and £30 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, insect repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery, super/hypermarkets and pharmacies will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.
This area is spoilt for choice when it comes to transport links! It contains international travel points for air, sea and rail. Within the regions the roads are excellent and the area is well served by both rail and coaches. Finally, there are many paths for cycling and/or walking.
If you are coming from overseas you have multiple options. For those coming from farther afield London Gatwick airport is located in Sussex. This is a large International Airport with excellent flight options domestically in the UK as well as internationally. London Heathrow is somewhat further west but still a good port of entry to the region as is London City airport. Luton and Stansted airports are both located on the other Northern side of London. They are still options for getting to this region but expect them to increase your travel time in arriving by anywhere between 1-3 hours.
European travellers have more options in addition to flying. The Eurostar train can stop at two stations in Kent to and from its way to London St Pancras – Ashford and/or Ebbesfleet. Do check the schedule though as not all trains stop at these stations.
Finally, you can have one of the nicest tourist experiences of visiting Kent before you even arrive in the UK – see the White Cliffs of Dover by sea! Dover is a busy ferry port with up to 50 sailings daily to Dunkirk and Calais.
In Sussex you can also get a slightly longer ferry to France to Dieppe. This runs out of Newhaven which is east of Brighton.
If you are heading to the region from London trains primarily run out of London Bridge and London Victoria. Trains will sometimes originate at say St Pancras and will sometimes stop at Clapham Junction so have a look at the schedule in a bit of detail to determine the most convenient stop based on where you are staying.
For coaches to the region the primary station tends to be the London Victoria Coach Station.
Hiring a car is the easier but more expensive option. Remember that the UK drives on the left hand side of the road. It is probably easier and far less stressful to pick up the hire car at the beginning of the trip somewhere like Brighton or Canterbury or even Gatwick Airport. I would try to avoid driving in London due to congestion. Driving will allow you to explore the small laneways of the area a bit more if that is what you enjoy doing.
Having said that the train and coach/bus options are both excellent. Coaches or buses are generally the cheapest option and there are some great deals available on flexible and unlimited tickets.
South Eastern and Southern railways service the region and also offer a great way to get around. Rail stations run along the spine of Sussex and Kent. They are particularly good to use if you are travelling along the coast.
Local taxis or mini cabs are often at stations when you arrive but if you have luggage and need to get to your hotel I would recommend organising this ahead of time with your accommodation.
Many of the roads are suitable for cycling and there are also many cycling and walking paths.
And don’t forget that if time is tight most of the places listed in this section are accessible as day trips from London.
The key transport Hubs are Dover, Canterbury, Gatwick Airport and Brighton.
National Express is the main operator of coaches and buses in the UK. It offers discount coachcards to full time students and those under 26. Visiting their website and booking as far in advance as possible will also allow you access to the best fares.
National Rail is a good starting point for discounts and passes on trains throughout the UK. There are many different types of offers for those travelling with children, in groups etc. They also offer some fantastic 2 for 1 deals particularly in conjunction with some of the key tourism sites. Again, booking as far in advance as possible on their website will give you access to the best deals.
Wherever possible do avoid travelling at peak times (eg 730-930 and 500-630) in this area. It is a popular area for commuters and prices are much higher as well as trains much fuller during these times.