Like any major city, visiting London comes with certain unavoidable expenses such as accommodation and food and drink but a trip here can also begin to add up surprisingly quickly when you start to add in entrance fees for major attractions, travel around the city and hitting the shops. It is perhaps because of this that people tend to view London as an expensive place to visit but that really does not have to be the case. It is certainly true that you can spend a whole lot of money in London but it also true that there are plenty of ways you can save money as well and survive (and enjoy) a trip to London on a budget:
Many first time visitors to London make the mistake of getting around the city using public transport, especially the tube, without a second thought. Until they realise how much they’ve spent on travel of course. Depending on where in London you are staying and the attractions that you want to see, London is surprisingly easy to get around on foot; if you know where you are going. You could resort to picking up a paper map from one of the many newsagents dotted around the city or you could download one of the many free map apps onto your phone and use them to plot walking routes around the city. You will be pleasantly surprised by how many of London’s biggest attractions are within walking distance of one another and the best part about exploring London on foot is that you get to see parts of the city you would otherwise miss if you were heading underground to catch the tube the entire time.
Despite the fact that much of London can be discovered on foot, especially if you have booked somewhere central such as one of the hotels near Hyde Park, there are also times when you will need to make use of London’s public transport system but it needn’t cost you the earth. Don’t buy one off single tickets to catch the bus or tube but instead get a pre-paid Oyster card. These are smart cards which you scan when you enter a tube station or board a bus and you pre-load them with credit ready to be used. You can order them from the Transport for London website to arrive at your home before your trip or pick one up at most tube stations. It costs £5 for the card but this is refundable if you return the card at the end of your trip. Additionally, any leftover credit you have can be refunded to you at the end of your trip so you won’t be left out of pocket either and there is a cap on the amount you will be charged each day; currently it is £8 so once you have reached this amount in fares you won’t pay anymore to get around London that day.
Enjoy the Free Attractions
London has a wonderful number of free attractions from the likes of the Royal Parks such as Hyde Park, perfect if you are staying at the Grand Royale London Hyde Park Hotel to the museums such as the Natural History Museum, art galleries including the National Portrait Gallery and the many free events which take place all across the city on a regular basis. You might need to engage in a little online research before you arrive to see what is happening across the city but we can almost certainly guarantee there will be something exciting taking place which won’t cost you a penny to attend.
Avoid the Tourist Traps
The price discrepancy in London is actually quite astonishing; you could pay a hugely inflated price for something which had you walked 10 minutes down the road, would have cost you a fraction of the price. As a typical rule of thumb, avoid shops and restaurants near to tube stations and any major tourist attraction; it can be as easy as walking 5 minutes away from a main tourist spot in order to find a more affordable place to eat or to shop for souvenirs. You will find many of the hidden gems of London, particularly when it comes to quirky cafés and restaurants, tucked just out of sight in London and it’s worth spending that bit of extra time wandering around the area you are in, seeing what you can discover.
Ditch the Guide Book
We have gently touched on the topic above but sometimes it can be worth putting the itinerary to one side and ditching the guide book, for a short time at least, and just seeing what you come across in London. It’s true that there are many world-class attractions and landmarks in the city but there are also many hidden gems which you can only truly discover by taking some time to wander around and see where your feet lead you. You might strike out, or you might just find the best experience you’ve ever had when in London. This is particularly true if you choose to explore the City of London, where each corner is steeped in culture and history and there are many cobbled streets and seemingly off-limits areas just crying out to be investigated.
Eat on the Cheap
Dining out is an unavoidable part of any trip to London unless you have booked accommodation with a kitchen, but that doesn’t mean it has to cut into your budget. There are a decent number of supermarkets dotted around the city which offer meal deals, perfect for lunch or if you don’t mind flipping your meals around, many restaurants offer good deals for lunchtime and you could pick up a meal deal to eat once you are back in your hotel for the evening. Street food sellers are also becoming increasingly popular, especially around the main markets and often offer good value as well.