Undoubtedly the question, or the rebuttal, I have heard most since part one of our TT stories is in relation to cost. There is no doubt the TT is more expensive than any of the Irish races, but with some research, common sense, or shithouse luck, the costs can be kept within reason. For this article I am basing everything off of race week, being on the island from Friday the 2nd of June, through to Saturday night, the 10th, in case the Senior TT is postponed, and run on Saturday.
(To the UK) If you live in the UK, skip this paragraph, go directly to Liverpool/The Island. From North America I am basing these flights on travelling to London, arriving on the 1st of June and returning on the 13th, leaving a decent cushion for internal travel in the UK. Flights to Manchester, and possibly even Liverpool could be sourced, but not likely direct. All flights are non stop, return, all costs in USD unless indicated.
SFO-London $750 United LAX-London $745 United YVR-London $1100 (CAD) Air Canada YYZ-London $1244 (CAD) Air Canada NYC-London $650 USD British Airways Dallas-London $1525 American Airlines Atlanta-London $1450 USD American Airlines
UK Internal Travel
If you fly into London, you are now going to need a way to the island. The standard option is a train to Liverpool, then take the ferry. Alternatively you can fly to the Island from London, or anywhere in the UK, I usually fly from Liverpool if going this route.
Flying Direct to the IOM from London -$525 (415 GBP) return- Easyjet
Heathrow Express to Paddington -$30 (24 GBP) return if purchased 90 days ahead.
Underground to Euston station-$A few fucking dollars...
Train to Liverpool Lime Street from London Euston (Return) If you book it now it would cost you $40 (33 GBP) on Virgin trains. That cost could go up as high as $377 (300 GBP) however, that is if you book late and travel at peak times. Let me prepare you now...these trains are fucking awful. If you are hoping for romance, I want to kill that notion right now.
Ferry, Steam Packet. Liverpool to IOM. This is the tricky part of the journey, right now if you get creative there are still ways to book online as a foot passenger for our desired dates...but it was tricky. In the past I have found emailing Steam Packet can produce better results than the online booking system. The foot passenger rate is $125 (100 GBP) return. For a bike and rider the cost for 2017 is $320 (255 GBP.) However, they are all long booked, but if you keep and eye on the FB pages, there will always be someone trying to unload one, you might just get lucky.
A second batch of tickets will be released March 6th, so there is hope.
The first bit of accommodation you have to factor in is easy. Unless you live in the UK, or are flying from London to the IOM, you really need a night in hotel on either side of the trip. Personally I stay in Liverpool. My reasons for this are rather personal, I spend a ton of time in London for work, so there is not much for me to see there, and it is usually more expensive. If it's your first trip to the UK, I might stay a couple nights in both. Liverpool gets a bit of a bad rap, but it has a ton of character, and there is a lot to see down by the water. Plenty within walking distance of the ferry, and the train station (Liverpool Lime Street).
The nights I enquired about were the 1st and the 12th. Liverpool had a ton of great options; starting at $55 (45 GBP.) The best option for the first timer is probably The Pullman Hotel, it is right at Albert Dock, near all the sights, close to the train station, as well as Steam Packet. At $94 (74 GBP) this four, bordering on five star hotel is tough to beat. Bonus, The Beatles Experience is right across the street.
For my money I would stay at the Titanic Hotel. $112 (89 GBP) gets you a gorgeous, massive 623 square foot room in a listed brick building, overlooking the River Mersey. This place is gorgeous, and for me it really sums up the Liverpool look. The price is great, the only drawback is location. It is a 5-10 minute cab ride from Liverpool Lime Street and Steam packet. The cab drivers in Liverpool are really good though, and relatively inexpensive.
Alternatively you could stay in London. Doing so would cost you anywhere from $80 a night for a shithole at the airport, however, a comparable joint to the Titanic would run you closer to $1000 a night, maybe more.
Now, the tough part. Accommodation on the island. This is the portion of the trip that can be difficult to plan, it has been said often that planning accommodation should be done years in advance. In the past there is little doubt this was true. But it's 2016, we have this great resource called the internet... I am sure some of you are familiar.
I am writing this article as if I was planning the trip today, so hotels are out. If you want to stay in a hotel, dust off your favourite credit card, call up the Palace Hotel and Casino,and ask about their availability for TT 2018 and get ready for a number with at least 3 zeros. I have had luck booking a hotel for practice week, The Palace actually, just 4 weeks out...But that is all luck of the draw. I was just the guy who hit refresh at the right time. Their locations are obviously great, most of them are right on the prom in Douglas, the biggest town on the island, and are walking distance to all the top restaurants and nightlife, but a fair distance from the TT course itself.
There are however other viable options which can still be booked as of today.
First, the TT classic, camping. In all honesty I have never camped, it's not that I don't like camping in a tent, I am Canadian after all, it is more that I absolutely fucking despise it. It is the easiest option to book, and certainly the cheapest. There are many places to camp on the island, dozens certainly, likely hundreds. I will highlight two, www.isleofmanttcamping.com and www.ttcampsite.com. I have personally never stayed at either, like I said, I fucking despise camping in tents, but I am aware of both of them, and like their locations. Both offer similar facilities; showers, bathrooms, change rooms, food service, TV screens, etc etc. isleofmanttcamping are based at the Braddan Football Club. It is about a 5 minute walk to the TT Grandstand and Paddock area. Its a bit of a trek to Douglas on foot, but transit and taxis are available, more on transport later. TTcampsite is based at the Douglas Rugby Club, I prefer their location. The camping area is right on the TT course, after the bikes round Quarterbrige they rip down Peel Rd towards Braddan Church/Braddan Bridge. There is a long stone wall with plenty of space for viewing. Transit is close, and the walk into Douglas is flatter than some other spots, at less than a mile to the sea front, it's easy to stumble back from the bar. Another bonus, it is right by the Nobles Hospital access road, a small tunnel under Peel Rd, which is the only way inside the course once the roads are closed. As of today you can book your stay at either site for TT 2017. www.isleofmanttcamping.com starts at $10 (8 GBP) and www.ttcampsite.com starts at $12.50 (10 GBP) a night, if you bring your own camping equipment. For $44 (35 GBP) a night ttcampsite offers a pre-erected tent, and all the other necessities.
I honestly can not believe I just fucking wrote the word "glamping" ...but I did. As of right now there are still a ton of options available for 2017, again I will highlight two. One priced within reason, the other is really cool but fuck me it is expensive.
Option one: Evolution Glamping.
For about $1500 (1149 GBP) you get a 5M Bell Tent. I have included a photo, as I had no fucking idea what that is, so its OK if you don't have a clue.
That $1500 however is based on 4 people occupying the tent...so the math says that is about $516 a piece, not too bad. This includes two air beds, all linens, chairs, lighting, and a TT program for each guest. The site is the Douglas Old Boys Football club, which is about a 10 minute walk from the TT Grandstand. Honestly, this option does intrigue me.
Option Two: Snoozebox
Snoozebox really blends the line between hotel and the aforementioned glamping. Basically you are getting a very small motel room, which can come in one of two forms; stand alone pod, or a small portion of a shipping container. For their size these things are impressive, they all have two beds, one double and one single, but I would not want to have more than two people in one of these things. They all have a toilet, a closet and a TV. I would guess they all have access to showers, but I am not positive of that fact. The number one selling point for me is the location. Unless John McGuinness lets you stay in his motorhome, you can not get any fucking closer to the paddock.
The number one drawback...the price, it is basically $500 (400 GBP) per night... let that sink in for a moment. It is cool and certainly convenient...but you have a lot more cash than I if you are forking out 500 bucks a night for a really well decorated shed.
In my opinion this is the option. It is a tradition likely as old as the TT. It has the low cost and cultural immersion of camping, with the comfort of a hotel.
Homestay starts at around $30 (25 GBP) per person, based on double occupancy, for bed and breakfast, and at the time of writing there were still a number of officially registered TT Homestay options available for raceweek. Even more on the Facebook pages, and more still if you are willing to split your stay between 2 or more hosts.
www.iomttbreaks.com is the official travel partner of the TT, and is the place to go to book a homestay. The one I have my eye on is a rural property in Crosby, $45 (35 GBP) a night (x2) for a queen bed, they even have a garage for my bike.
The last two years I have booked my accommodation for raceweek through Air B&B. Last year I booked a place in Strang, steps from Union Mills, just 3 weeks before the fortnight. We got the master suite in a very nice townhouse with a fantastic host. What did we pay for the pleasure?... about $25 (20 GBP) a night...for two people. It was the score of a lifetime most likely, I would say the chances of finding such a deal again are remote, except I made a deal to stay there every year until I can not make it over anymore, so I will be there again in 2017.
But that is the beauty of Air B&B, places are being added at anytime by new hosts, so just keep checking, something will come up.
I have found three options which are available through the site today.
The first, a two bedroom cottage in St Johns, (where the course turns right off the A1 onto the A3) is $284 (225 GBP) a night. Split between two couples that is not too bad, obviously you will need to have a car or a bike for transport, but in my opinion that is a must anyways. You get to have your own place and are just steps to the pub and TT course.
It can be found here. https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/15430792?checkin=02-06-2017&checkout=11-06-2017&adults=1&children=0&infants=0&s=G364GObe
The Second would be my pick. The downside, it is about a 25 minute drive from Douglas, it is on the A5 halfway between Castletown and Gansey. The positive, or I should say the positives; the cost $118 (94 GBP), for a two bedroom house on the ocean.
Check out the listing. The pictures say it all. https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/12029690?wl_source=list&wl_id=130198993&role=wishlist_owner&adults=1&children=0&infants=0
The third, is a single room in an apartment. Right in Douglas, apparently with gorgeous ocean views. Just $28 (22 GBP) a night, you can not really go wrong.
It can be found here. https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/15880954?adults=1&s=G364GObe&check_in=2017-06-02&check_out=2017-06-11&guests=1
Finally, the last fixed cost, but likely the most important one, transport.
The transit system on the island is actually quite good, and you can find a bus to pretty well anywhere, there is also an electric train which runs from the far end of the prom in Douglas to Ramsey. On a nice day the ride is beautiful, and certainly worth doing at least once.
The second option is obviously a taxi, the system on the island is probably great 341 days a year, but when the TT rolls into town it is shit. I have no idea why the island has yet to embrace Uber but it has to happen. Trying to catch a cab from down on the Douglas prom late night is completely fucking impossible. I would suggest walking.
Third, what you should be doing, get your own vehicle. The island is beautiful, and there are so many places to explore, but more importantly it gives you the ability to watch from anywhere on the course. Most of my favourite spots are only accessed easily if you have your own vehicle, I will be highlighting my favourites in next week's article.
I have rented both cars and bikes. Right now there are no car rentals available, however, you can still put in a request. A car is going to run you a minimum of $120 (95 GBP). If you want one, put in the request, in the past when I have done this, and placed a deposit, they have brought a car over for me, they just need to justify having it sit on the lot for a week or two before the TT.
A bike is the option we all want. There are a number of choices, a few of which I have used. Rates range from about $160 (125 GBP) up to $250 (200 GBP) a day. Just google Isle of Man Motorcycle Hire and you will get a good list of results. The most common option is Jason Griffiths, however they are at the top end of the pricing curve. I have also used Spyder Club for sportbike rentals and have been very happy with their service.
My top choice is Manx Motorcycle Hire. They specialise in vintage BMW's, but they do have some more modern machinery, including an R1100S, a DRZ400SM and couple newer bandits. Their rates are a bit better than the norm, $630 (500 GBP) a week. One draw back, you need to leave a 500 GBP cash deposit. Not a big deal, however, make sure you get this money on the mainland, if you get stuck on the last day of the trip with 500 quid in Manx notes, it will be a huge pain in the ass to dispose of them...ask me how I know. The bikes are rented out of Evomoto, a reputable shop in Ramsey, very close to transit. The guys are great, always good for a laugh and very helpful. They are my go to.
Food will be a small article in and of itself in the near future. If you are from the UK, the difference in cost is marginal. There are a number of major grocery stores, including ShopRite, Tesco, and Marks and Spencer so if you want to keep your costs down by not eating out you can. If you are from North America food will be expensive, not dramatically so, but noticeably higher.
Summary of costs
I am going to price out two trips. The cheapest possible, including a flight from North America, and my ideal trip from North America, if you are in the UK subtract 675 pounds from each for flights and trains.
Low Cost. This trip includes a flight from LAX, trains to Liverpool, two nights in Liverpool at cheap, but acceptable hotels, walk on ferry, camping, and a bus pass. All fixed costs included for $1175 USD, if you booked today. Only thing you would need to budget for is food, drink, and souvenirs.
My ideal trip. This trip includes a flight from Vancouver, which is about $100 more than the one from LAX, trains, two nights at The Titanic in Liverpool, the Waterfront House (2 Bedroom), and a motorcycle rental for the entirety of the stay on the island. All fixed costs included it comes out to $2932 USD, if you booked today.
I have done all I can to shut up the excuses, go fucking book it.
Next week I will highlight my favourite spots to view the races.