Top 3 Cities to Base Your Working Holiday in the UK

Every year thousands of people enter the UK on what is now known as a UK Youth Mobility Visa (formerly known as Working Holiday Visa). Many of them head straight to the bright lights of London without even considering positioning themselves in another city. This is something I feel is a great shame. Not only would your money go much further elsewhere in the country, but there is so much more to offer throughout the UK, a lot of which you just can’t get without venturing out with London. Below are my top 3 cities to base your working holiday/ youth mobility visa in the UK.


Although some may say I am slightly biased when it comes to Edinburgh, it is hard to deny the appeal that it has to long term travellers. With the largest income of international travellers out with London, Edinburgh has an exciting mix of foreign nationals and locals.

Unlike the UK’s capitol, the people of Edinburgh are a friendly bunch (except for the bus drivers, they are almost always grumpy!) The small historic city centre is very easy to navigate around by foot. Although no doubt expensive at times compared to other parts of the UK, it is still much cheaper than London for general costs of living. You’ll find a host of cheap lively bars all week round (£1 a drink on Mondays at the Tron, and Sun – Thur at the Hive) That coupled with the beautiful Victorian architecture of the old town, thriving arts scene, the largest arts/comedy festival in the world in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the fact that it is such a great launch pad for trips to the Highlands. Not only that, but there is great transport links to all the UK’s major cities, and regular ferries and flights into mainland Europe.

Although small in size, Edinburgh has so much to do all year round that can compete with any city in Europe! Even if you don’t base your trip here you should definitely not miss out a visit to the city in my opinion!


Although at first the strong “Geordie” accent may be hard to understand, Newcastle is a lively city, based in the North East of England, with a warm friendly heart. Much cheaper than the likes of London or Edinburgh, but still big enough to provide plenty of work, Newcastle is a city where you could save/earn money and still have a lively city lifestyle. Known for a good night out, the local Geordie people love to party!

Although the city’s industrial routes mean it is not as pretty as many other European cities, if you delve a little deeper into what makes this city special you will find a real down to earth charm and a thriving arts scene. You are also only a ferry ride away from Amsterdam, and less than an hour by public transport to the beautiful Scottish borders. Like its neighbour Edinburgh north of the border, Newcastle has great transport links to all major UK cities. A notable high is the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art which has held exhibitions from a variety of artists, including very recently, Yoko Ono.


Glasgow in my opinion is one of the most under rated city in the world! Often over shadowed by its better known rival Edinburgh, Glasgow is quite simply a cultural melting pot. If you step out side of the banal city centre shopping precincts, and head out to the beautiful bohemian West End, you will find a cosmopolitan city with a thriving arts, and music scene! With a variety of music venues, Glasgow plays host to a huge number of internationally established, and local independent bands on a daily basis.

The home of the legendary Old Firm, and Scotland’s national stadium, football (soccer) makes up a huge part of local Glaswegian life, and the city provides a great opportunity to catch a game. There is a huge variety of work available here for any backpackers. With over 700+ pubs, as well as many restaurants, clubs, and many thriving industries, Glasgow is probably one of the easiest places to find work right now in the UK if you are active in looking to top up your travel funds. That coupled with the fact Glasgow is renowned for some of the best pubs and clubs in Britain; you will find that a “work hard, play hard” ethos works very well here.

In the past Glasgow has got a bad reputation for crime. I can tell you however first hand, that it really isn’t any different to any other big city. Most of the crime statistics are taken from concentrated areas based on the outskirts of the city, and are not places a tourist or traveller would really ever have any need to visit. The people of Glasgow are known as some of the friendliest in the world for a reason, and if you are looking lost or in need of help people here tend to offer to lend a hand.

Not un-similar to Newcastle, many people are put off at first with Glasgow’s industrialised look. When you consider the sheer amount of things to do here, the down to earth people, great nights out, job opportunities, and all round lively atmosphere, Glasgow is a great place to base your working holiday!

London can be an incredible city to live and work in at times, but too many travellers come here, think of the small geographic size of the UK, and forget we actually have a population larger than Australia! There is so much more to the UK than just London. Not only that, but on a backpackers budget, London is not always the best place to base your travels! If I could give any advice to travellers coming to the UK it would be head north. Discover the down to earth nature of Wales, the North of England, Scotland, and experience life throughout the entire UK. You’ll find so much more variety if you just delve that little bit deeper, and you may come back with a more culturally rewarding experience.

11 Responses to “Top 3 Cities to Base Your Working Holiday in the UK”

  1. Interesting you should choose 3 locations in the North of the UK. I understand your position on London. It’s definitely not a cost effective place to live if you’re after a cheap life.

    I would however recommend Brighton which is just 50 miles or so from London and on the South Coast. While a lot of travelers go here for working holidays that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a university city so is well equipped to entertain people on tight budgets. It’s also has enough entertainment to make it feel like it is a holiday and not just working overseas.

    I admit it may not have the rural charm but it does have lots of British history and is pretty handy for flat-sharing right in the center of town.

    OK I sound like work for the tourist board. I just like Brighton is all 🙂

  2. Being from the Northof England, having lived in London for 15 years and now being settled in Edinburgh, I have to agree with the gist of Jane’s comments. However, if you are coming to the UK – do spend some time in London. It is amazing!

  3. jane says:

    @travelwithamate Brighton is actually one of the few cities I haven’t been to in the UK yet, but I can see why you recommend it. Will need to check it out sometime before I head off on my next trip 🙂

    @selfcateringonline I actually really love London, even though it may come across as a bit of London-hating in the post lol 🙂 Was more just thinking about a budget backpacker and whether London is the best place for them. I definitely think everybody should visit the city though.

  4. Erin says:

    I would recommend heading North too – MUCH cheaper than London. Manchester is another option. Although the weather is rubbish, it’s not really much better in the south. Which is why we’ve left to travel in warmer climes =)

  5. jane says:

    @erin It’s funny you should mention Manchester as I was going to put them in this list, then opted for Glasgow instead. 🙂

  6. Matt says:

    I picked Edinburgh for my six month visa in the UK and let’s just say I liked it so much, I stuck around a bit longer! A beautiful city with so much do by way of excellent pubs, music venues, hiking – and the architecture is stunning. Perfect sized for someone on a working holiday – big enough to get away if you want, but also not so big you won’t see your mate walking up the Royal Mile. Oh, I miss Edinburgh just thinking about it!

    Not sure I feel you on your other two picks though. Glasgow?! Okay for a visit, I can’t say I’d want to live there. Same goes for Newcastle … worth a stop and a pint of Newcastle Brown while you wait for your ferry to Amsterdam.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Great article. I will keep these places in mind when I get my own YMV.

  8. jane says:

    @Matt I get what you mean about Glasgow, but it really depends what part of the city you live in! 🙂 The West End is great, and is actually just as cosmopolitan as Edinburgh in my opinon.

    @Eager Existence thanks! Glad I could help 🙂

  9. Ash says:

    Hi Jane,

    Just curious- seeing as this blog post was written 5 years ago, would you have any new comments to make on these top 3 choices? Would you change them? Very curious to discover the different areas in the UK and seeking a laid back vibe with arts and culture:)


  1. […] for me Jane of recently compiled a Top 3 Cities to Base Your Working Holiday in the UK post which only further pushed my desire to not work around London for the entire 2 years I live in […]

  2. […] on the road, and making your trip last that little bit longer. The most obvious of these being the Working Holiday Visa which allows to you to work in your chosen profession in countries such as Australia, UK, and […]

Leave a Reply