Historic, rainy, beautiful, and dynamic — London is many things, but visitors rarely think of it as cheap. That said, you’ll be happy to know that there are a few ways to save money while still enjoying a capital experience during your next trip to London.
Here are a handful of ideas for budget-conscious travelers.
See the sights
There’s no better way to explore London than via walking tour — but since the city is massive, you might want to limit yourself to seeing one neighborhood at a time. If you need inspiration on where to go, check out our favorite Instagram spots around the city, then grab your camera and don a comfortable pair of shoes.
If you’re a museum lover, you’re in for a treat. London is home to many incredible options, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, Tate Modern, the National Gallery, the Wallace Collection, and Tate Britain. Better yet, all the museums we just listed (and many more) are free — so, taking a trip to London just might be the least expensive way to get up close and personal with artwork and artifacts from around the world.
There are also incredibly lovely green spaces scattered throughout the city, which makes a lot of sense when you think about the amount of rain that falls on the British capital. If you’d like to check out beautiful landscaping, views of Kensington Palace, and a Peter Pan-themed playground, then Kensington Gardens is the locale for you. And for a laidback afternoon, you can rent a lawn chair in Hyde Park, Green Park, or St. James’s Park (where you can also watch visitors feed the park’s iconic pelicans). Just remember to cross the street and take a look at Buckingham Palace on your way out of Green Park or St. James’s Park.
And, of course, London is famous for its shopping. Visit Columbia Road to explore one of the largest flower markets in the world — the heavenly fragrances are free, and a bouquet only costs a few pounds. You could also browse antiques at Portobello Road Market, located just around the corner from picturesque Notting Hill.
Catch a show
London’s impressive theatre tradition dates back several hundred years, so you’ll want to see a show when visiting the British capital. Luckily, there are several inexpensive ways to find tickets!
First, try visiting the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for last-minute discounts on popular West End shows. You can only purchase these tickets in person; keep in mind that while the “queue” can get long, it usually moves quickly.
For an authentic 16th-century experience, you might want to invest in a standing-room ticket for a Shakespearean play at the Globe Theatre. These tickets cost only five pounds each, although you’ll have to pay more if you want the luxury of having your own designated seat!
Finally, if you have a London Pass (which combines admission to many famous London attractions into one, three-day ticket), you’re eligible for up to 40 percent off on West End tickets.
Eat your heart out
You can find nearly every type of cuisine in London. And with a huge array of delicious international options in the city, many of your meals should come fairly cheap!
Bao is famous for selling steamed Taiwanese buns that cost less than five pounds, so your lunch won’t have to set you back very far at all. If you’re in the mood for burritos, try Daddy Donkey, or, if only Indian food will satisfy your appetite, check out the Delhi Grill for their mouth-watering street food.
You can also eat your fill at the city’s many markets. There are hundreds of stalls and restaurants at Camden Lock Market, but Borough Market is the true destination for foodies and hungry travelers. There, you can chow down on food from around the world and even purchase a few groceries while you’re at it.
Of course, it’s a good idea to keep a sharp eye out for restaurants you’d like to try when walking around the neighborhood you’re staying in. Many of them have menus taped to their windows, making it easy to scope out cheap eats.
Speaking of where to stay — booking your accommodation is usually the first arrangement you should make when it comes to planning a trip, and if you’re looking for an unbeatable price at a good location in London, you’ll want to start looking as soon as possible.
Hotels.london is a great place to start your search. It allows users to filter hotels by price, rating, facilities, neighborhood, and even cancellation policy, making it easy to customize your booking. Other options include staying in a hostel, a bed-and-breakfast, or an Airbnb. Even Couchsurfing is also a valid option — who knows, you might end up staying in a neurosurgeon’s 30th-floor spare bedroom!
No matter where you stay, be sure to weigh the price against the distance from London’s city center. It’s great to save money by staying farther away, but you’ll ultimately pay the difference by spending more time and money going into the city each day.
And, finally, accommodation will almost always cost more for solo travelers, so be prepared to shell out if you’re traveling on your own — unless, of course, you decide to save by booking a bed in a hostel dorm.
London has an extensive public transportation network, making it fairly easy to navigate your way around the city. However, the transportation system offers a dizzying amount of ticket options, so you’ll want to make sure that you purchase the right one.
The Visitor Oyster card is your best bet. While the reloadable card costs five pounds, the return on investment is huge — allowing you to save 50 percent on single fares. What’s more, your daily spending will cap, so you’ll never spend more than seven pounds per day, no matter how many trips you make across central London.
Note that London’s public transportation system doesn’t accept cash, so you’ll have to buy an Oyster card no matter what. You can make the purchase online, or you can pick up a card at any train station in the city.
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Cover photo by @shadz_ig